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Indigenous Peoples

new internationalist
issue 237 - November 1992



Smoke screen of success
Vicious circle of tobacco

In a year of acute drought, tobacco remains Zimbabwe's most important agricultural export: the Tobacco Marketing Board recently announced that tobacco sales have topped the one billion Zimbabwe dollar mark.

There seems little prospect of a slump in demand for tobacco despite the recession. In fact the glossy reports of the International Tobacco Growers' Association make much of the 1989 UN Food and Agriculture Organization's projection that demand will 'increase at an average rate of some two per cent through to the year 2000'.

Women are providing the new slack in the market. Faced with falling cigarette sales among adult men, who have for generations been its traditional market, the Western world's tobacco industry has been cleverly tailoring its advertising campaigns during the last few years to induce women to smoke, often through the pages of women's magazines.

Meanwhile the ploys of advertising companies have worked and in many countries of the European Community today, more teenage girls smoke than teenage boys, along with around 40 per cent of pregnant women.

Consequently increasing numbers of women are falling victim to smoking-related disease like heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer. In Scotland, for example, more women now die from lung cancer than from breast cancer.

There is now growing pressure on Health Ministers to ban advertising, particularly since recent reports from Canada, Norway and New Zealand reveal that cigarette consumption fell in those coun-tries after advertising was prohibited.

Meanwhile in Zimbabwe, among daily drought-induced closures of sugar and cotton factories, tobacco is the only bright spot on the commercial scene. And here too, it casts a long shadow over the country's health.

In a statement for No Smoking Day recently, the Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZIMA) anticipated a 'rapid increase in mortality from smoking-related disease' not only in Zimbabwe, but in all Third World countries. Many ordinary Zim-babweans are beginning to ask how, in this time of drought, tobacco-growing fits in with food production. Obviously the billion dollar exports help the Government pay its massive food import bill. But how much of the bill is due to tobacco growers cutting their maize hectarage?

The maize-tobacco equation is difficult because maize is more vulnerable to drought than tobacco. Nevertheless, even the President of Zimbabwe's Tobacco Association, Michael Taggart, warned the annual general meeting that members must grow more food crops.

Despite the growing health lobby in Zimbabwe, it will be difficult to convince anyone to stop growing the 'loathsome weed' so long as it remains so profitable.

Sanjiva Wijesinha and Ronald Watts/Gemini

[image, unknown]

Why kids run away
About 43,000 young people under 17 ran away from home over 100,000 times during 1990 in the UK, according to an informed estimate by the British National Children's Homes. True, only two per cent left their local area, most returned of their own accord, and a disproportionate number fled residential care. Nevertheless the trends are alarming and the question 'When can I leave home?' is the most common question the Children's Legal Centre is asked by young people. Listed below are the reasons why children in the UK run away:

· Physical abuse
· Sexual abuse
· Absence of love or adequate care
· Rows with parents
· To escape sanctions such as 'grounding' (being forbidden to go out)
· After parents split up
· Problems at school
· To avoid trouble (like a criminal charge)
· To live with someone else
· To go home or the home area (leaving residential care)
· A call for attention
· No job, no future, bored, fed up...

From Childright, No. 88, 1992



Aboriginal victory
Australian court returns native people's land in historic ruling.

It might look like a dot on the map, but for the Australian Aboriginals, Murray Island has enormous importance. After a 10-year legal struggle the Murray Islanders have won back land taken from them by white settlers.

For the 200-300 people living on Murray Island, which sits in the middle of the Torres Straits between Australia and Papua New Guinea, the case was a matter of life and death. They feared that their small community would be torn apart by mining or fenced-off as cattle ranches.

The chances of legal success were not good. For in 1971 Aboriginal rights were effectively nullified by the Gove Lands Case, where tribes attempted to stop a mining company from operating in the Gove peninsula. The tribes claimed that they had a 'native title' to the land which their ancestors had occupied for centuries. However the Courts decided that because Aborigines were nomadic and had not built settlements in any particular area, they could not lay claim to own land. The Courts declared that the land was terra nullius or uninhabited desert and the mining companies were given a free hand to send in the bulldozers.

But on 3 June of this year, Canberra's High Court agreed that the previous ruling was wrong. The judge described the way in which the Aborigines were dispossessed as 'the darkest aspect of the history of the nation,' adding that there must be an end to 'past injustices'. The court ruled that Murray Island be handed back to the indigenous inhabitants for their 'possession, occupation, use and enjoyment' under 'communal native title'.

But the ruling is strictly limited. Fearing a flood of applications, the Court ruled that this sort of native title can be removed by the Queensland Parliament if it acts under what is described as a 'valid exercise of powers'.

However it could help block developments, especially by the mining companies. And these companies, predictably, have been upset by the decision. John Clunes, public affairs officer of the Chamber of Mines and Energy, feels that the Aborigines are being given too much power: 'We're not against land rights for Aboriginals. We are opposed to a specific group being given rights superior to those of other groups'.

Other land rights cases are now in the pipeline. The Kimberly Aboriginal people in the Utemorrah Case are asking for rights over 120,000 square kilometres of land and an equal amount of sea. Who knows? They just might win.

Sarah Brownsdon, Perth/
The Weekly Journal, Issue 17

Royal favours
Those bored by the public press exposés of Fergie, Princess Diana and other British royals might be more interested in their annual salaries from the state - which are untaxed.

[image, unknown]

Elizabeth, Queen
Charles, Prince of Wales
Elizabeth, Queen Mother
Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Andrew, Duke of York
Anne, Princess Royal
Princess Margaret
Prince Edward
Princess Alice


However the Queen does pay $1,272,000 to be shared between the Dukes of Gloucester and Kent and Princess Alexandra. Charles' income is received tax-free from 75 per cent of the revenue of the Duchy of Cornwall.

From Report of the Royal Trustees, 1990, quoted in The Economist, Vol 324, No 7774, 1992

[image, unknown] Eve's revenge
Biblical 'woman' has generally been considered a second-class citizen since her creation from one of Adam's ribs. But the recent publication of The Women's Bible Commentary sets the record straight with an interpretation of the Bible from a feminist perspective. Suddenly, Eve is no longer easy prey for a lying snake but a heroine - the necessary protagonist for a story that required sexual awareness in order to create the human race.

The Garden of Eden was a sterile place without birth or death before Eve ate from the tree of knowledge, and her decision to take the apple was a conscious act which brought knowledge and culture to her and her family. By contrast Adam is seen as a passive bystander who takes the fruit from Eve without question and pathetically absolves himself from all responsibility for the act when God accuses him of disobedience, saying simply that the fruit was given to him by the woman God had provided.

The Women's Bible Commentary edited by Carol A Newsom and Sharon H Ringe is published by The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), London. Price in UK £20.

Stefani Langenegger/Gemini



Ticket to ride
An extraordinary train brings hope to India's poor.

Latest medical advances steam to the rescue.

The crowds on the platform of the Farah railway station in India arrived before dawn, limping on makeshift crutches, leading the blind, carrying the sick, all gathering in the hope of a miracle. They peer down the track as a small white train trundles into view and grinds to a halt. The Lifeline Express, Jeevan Rekha as it is known in Hindi, is a fully-equipped hospital which was launched last year through funding from Impact India, a New York-based aid organization, to travel the length and breadth of India, halting at remote villages.

In its sophisticated operating theatre teams of expert doctors bring the latest medical advances to the heart of the impoverished Indian countryside, treating a host of common ailments from cataracts to polio. Crowds gather wherever the train stops.

India's immense railway network of over 65,000 kilometres of track makes the train an ideal way of reaching such inaccessible rural districts as Farah, where locals are cut off from medical help and too poor to make the long journey to a city hospital.

Sadly though, there are too many cases for even a miracle train to cope with. In the first few days at Farah the train is swamped by over 3,500 cases. And as word spreads, thousands more flock to the train.

'I don't like turning people away but what can we do? To make a significant impact, India would need ten or twenty trains like this,' says Impact India calliper specialist, Bhishan Hemade.

Critics argue that the money spent on equipping the train would be better spent opening ten or twenty basic clinics. With its operating theatre idle in transit for long periods, the train's efficiency is thrown into question. And officials at under-staffed local hospitals argue that the train cannot provide post-surgery care, leaving them charged with the responsibility of following up operations.

But the train's doctors say that the enormous outreach of the Lifeline Express more than compensates for its deficiencies. While operating time is limited, the train also gives doctors an ideal opportunity to teach the rural poor the importance of hygiene, basic health care and vaccination.

And for the lucky few, like ten-year-old Solinda Kumar, the 'Cure on Wheels' can transform a life. Experimenting with a new calliper he grins broadly and exclaims: 'I can walk'.

Tony Smith/Newsvision International

[image, unknown]

from Paradise to Hell - via Brighton! Controversial monkey ad banned
A powerful advert highlighting the suffering of thousands of monkeys supplied to UK research laboratories by Sussex firm Shamrock (GB) Ltd, has been banned by advertisers on the grounds that it is too 'controversial'. Booking agencies National Solos Sites Ltd and More O'Ferrall Adshel refused to accept the full colour poster which featured a photograph of two caged macaque monkeys, with the slogan 'From Paradise to Hell via Brighton'. It was part of a campaign run by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) intended to draw attention to the mental and physical suffering of wild monkeys cap-tured from the forests and jungles of Asia and Africa to endure death in Britain's research laboratories. The advertising campaign in Brighton was aimed at highlighting Shamrock (GB) Ltd's central role in this trade.

News from British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, July 1992


I just can't wait till this campaign is over so I can say:
"Bob, open the garage door and get out the Maserati !
Open the safe and get out the jewels."

Georgette Mosbacher, wife of Robert Mosbacher,
George Bush's campaign

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