Monday, June 7, 2010

Status of Women in Contemporary World

Status of Women in Contemporary World

Without a well defined, high-profile issue that clearly demonstrates discrimination against women, and is susceptible to a concrete remedy, political mobilization of women will not take place. Women have, in the past, mobilized politically for some well-defined causes when definite corrective measures were achievable. Despite high levels of resentment about the general status of women, most women today are not inclined toward political action because they do not perceive the problem as being susceptible to civil remedies. It would, therefore, take a clearly defined form of discrimination, that had a practical remedy, for women to mobilize.
Notable instances of the political mobilization of women include the Suffrage movement, the pro- and anti-ERA movements, and the electoral response to the Clarence Thomas hearings in several states. In each instance the issues appeared to be clearly defined to those women who mobilized to promote or defeat issues or candidates. Regardless of whether or not the issues truly were well-defined, or even whether supporters actually understood the issues, the proponents of particular viewpoints believed that they were so defined. In each case there was also a goal that, when accomplished, would be taken to mean that their ends had been achieved: obtaining the vote, passing or defeating the ERA, and electing or defeating political candidates.
Regardless of which side women took on these issues they were mobilized by the belief

that a wro

Status of women in India. 2. Women in the Muslim world. 3.
Women in SAARC countries. 4. Women in global picture.
5. Asian women in Britain. 6. The Russian women.
7. Women's liberation in China. 8. Women and religion.
9. Social issues. 10. Purdah and public space. 11. Women in Islam.
12. Widow remarriage. 13. Women and women's issues.
14. Studying and working women. 15. Women's organisations and
movements. 16. Structural adjustment of female workers.
17. Amendment of Dowry Prohibition Act. Index.

"The status of woman refers to the position women are granted as
individuals in the social structure, defined by their designated rights
and obligations. We shall try and explore the status in terms of a role,
or the pattern or behaviour expected of the occupant of the status--
the woman. The diverse roles she performs in society, as stated earlier,
are those of a daughter, a wife, a mother and a career woman. In order
to have a global picture of women's status, let us make a quick review
of some of the developed, developing and under-developed countries
in terms of the position occupied by women in different social structures,
and try to determine ways and means to enhance their position through
the most powerful media: education.

"The western woman has also lived, almost always, as the subordinate
member of the two sexes, and has been biologically and physically
regarded as the weaker sex who, at best, can either be protected or
neglected. This relationship between woman and man has been
accepted--civilization after civilization. She has been labelled the last
of the human beings on earth to challenge civilized life for achieving
humanity towards her. Woman has been invisible in the history of
human life." (jacket)

Status of Women in Asian Countries

Status of Women in Asian Countries

Women planning to teach in Asia can expect gender attitudes that are
outdated by Western social standards. East Asian cultures are based
on a traditional societal hierarchy in which women are the lowest
members and must show deference to males.
Not long ago, Japanese women under forty were
not allowed out of the
house without good reason, and women were required to use a more
humble form of language than men.

What is the status for women in present-day East Asia? Women have
been making great strides in society and the workplace. More and more
young women are going to college and pursuing careers. In fact, a
woman named Takako Doi headed the popular Japanese Socialist
Party, and the newly crowned Japanese princess, Masako Owada,
graduated magna cum laude from Harvard, speaks three languages
fluently, and is a respected international diplomat.

In spite of these examples, the nation's day-to-day mentality about
equality remains largely unchanged. The phrases "sexual harassment"
and "equal rights" are only now being introduced to Asian vocabularies.

Antiquated and insulting comparisons still exist, including the Japanese
"Christmas Cake Syndrome." Christmas cakes are sold on December 25
, and after that date the cakes are thrown away because they are no
longer fresh. The same is said to be true of women: If a woman is over
twenty-five and still single, then she should worry about her
depreciating value in the marriage market. Along these lines, women are
expected to work until age twenty-five and then retire to a life of
Although this mindset is gradually changing, don't be surprised if you
are politely questioned about your age and marital status.

Also be aware that in some cultures, Western women are considered
"easy" and immoral. This notion was most likely created by the media
portrayals that make it over to Asia. Nowhere is this perception more
widely held than in South Korea. We have had letters from women
teaching in South Korea who suggest that female teachers, unless
secure and independent, might want to look elsewhere for employment.
Some of them have been hassled simply because they are Western

Despite these challenges, women shouldn't lose faith in their ability to
teach. Instead, keep a healthy attitude; realize that the system is another
element of Asian culture and look at it as an opportunity to educate
your students on the status of women in your own country.

Whatever your viewpoint, remember that you are a guest in a foreign
land. Gender roles are created over thousands of years and evolve
according to social norms. Try to play a positive role in understanding
and acclimating to your new culture. You might not always agree with
cultural standards abroad, but if you take them in stride you'll certainly
enhance your learning experience.

Women in Israel

Women in Israel

A report on the status of women in Israel in 2004 presented recently
by the Israel Women's Network to the Knesset Committee for the
Advancement of the Status of Women indicates that Israeli women
have the highest average number of children in the Western world.
The Israeli average is 2.89 compared to 2.5 in Turkey and 2 in the U.S.

Women represent 50.7% of Israel's population, meaning that for every
100 men there are 103 women, whereas in the world at large there are
99 women for every 100 men. One of the reasons that women
outnumber men in Israel is that they live longer. The average life span
for women is 81.2 years compared to 77.3 years for men.

The average marrying age for Jewish women is 24.5, and for Muslim
women 20.5. In Europe the average marrying age for women is 27.

Of mothers in Israel, some 97,000 are single parents, and 64% of them
are Jewish. Single mothers head 10% of families in Israel compared to
17% in other Western countries.

Approximately 22% of Israel's women have 13-15 years of formal
education compared to 20% of men, but conversely 4.5% of women
have no schooling compared to 1.8% of men.

Of the current crop of high school students, 74% of the girls and 65%
of the boys are candidates for bagrut.

The female ratio of students is also high in institutions of higher learning
with an overall average of 55.9%. Israel ranks seventh in the Western
world with regard to the percentage of women who are studying in
higher education facilities.

Women comprise:
* 81% of students in teaching courses;
* 79.3% in nursing and other forms of medical assistance;

* 23.5% of students in courses such as engineering and architecture;
* 31.4% of students studying mathematics, statistics and computer sciences; and
* 24% of university faculty; and

* 49% of Israel's work force.

Since the establishment of the state the ratio of unemployment among
females has always been higher than that of males. In 2003, 11.3% of
women who wanted to work were unemployed compared to 10.2% of

Women are less inclined to be self-employed than men — 91.4% of
working women are salaried employees compared to 82.4% of men.
Only 4.4% of salaried women are in executive roles, compared to
11.6% of men. Men also earn more in monthly salaries and more in
jobs paid by an hourly rate.

Of 121 countries in which women are included in the legislature, Israel,
despite having once been led by a woman prime minister, ranks 66th.
Women comprise only 15% of Israel's 120-member Knesset, placing
Israel somewhere between the Arab world and developing countries
in its attitude to female politicians. The female ratio among
Scandinavian legislators is 40% and rising. Among the member
states of the European Union, the average is 17.6%. In Arab countries
it is 6.4%.

Under the current Israeli administration there has been an increase in
the number of women ministers from 11% to 13%, but the ratio dropped
again with the resignation of Environment Minister Yehudit Naot,
whose battle with cancer precluded her from continuing in office.

Only ten women have served in Israel's governments since the creation
of the state. They include Golda Meir, Shoshana Arbeli Almoslino,
Shulamit Aloni, Sara Doron, Ora Namir, Limor Livnat, Dalia Itzik, Yuli
Tamir, Tzippy Livni and Yehudit Naot.

The ratio of women in the local councils of Even Yehuda and Omer
is 44.4%. Ra'anana comes next with 36.8%, Kochav Yair with 36% and
Ramat Hasharon 35.6%. Of the larger municipalities, Tel Aviv-Jaffa is
in the lead, with women comprising 35.5% of the city council.

Only nine women have served as mayors. Today there are two heading
city councils – Yael German in Herzliya and Miriam Fierberg in Netanya.
In addition, Daniella Weiss heads the Kedumim local council, and Ora
Hacham, Yael Shaltieli and Lilach Morgan respectively head the regional
councils of Effal, the Beit She'an Valley and the Central Arava.

Ancient india and women

Ancient india and women

Scholars believe that in ancient India, the women enjoyed equal status
with men in all fields of life. However, some others hold contrasting
views.Works by ancient Indian grammarians such as Patanjali and
Katyayana suggest that women were educated in the early Vedic
period Rigvedic verses suggest that the women married at a
mature age and were probably free to select their husband.
Scriptures such as Rig Veda and Upanishads mention several women
sages and seers, notably Gargi and Maitreyi.

Some kingdoms in the ancient India had traditions such as nagarvadhu
("bride of the city"). Women competed to win the coveted title of the
nagarvadhu. Amrapali is the most famous example of a nagarvadhu.

According to studies, women enjoyed equal status and rights during
the early Vedic period. However, later (approximately 500 B.C.),
the status of women began to decline with the Smritis (esp. Manusmriti)
and with the Islamic invasion of Babur and the Mughal empire and later
Christianity curtailing women's freedom and rights.

Although reformatory movements such as Jainism allowed women
to be admitted to the religious order, by and large, the women in India
faced confinement and restrictions. The practice of child marriages
is believed to have started from around sixth century.

Medieval period and women

Medieval period and womenAdd Image

Krishna at Goddesss Radharani's feetThe Indian woman's position in
the society further deteriorated during the medieval periodwhen
Sati, child marriages and a ban on widow remarriages became part
of social life in India. The Muslim conquest in the Indian subcontinent
brought the purdah practice in the Indian society. Among the Rajputs
of Rajasthan, the Jauhar was practised. In some parts of India, the
Devadasis or the temple women were sexually exploited. Polygamy
was widely practised esp. among Hindu Kshatriya rulers. In many
Muslim families, women were restricted to Zenana areas.

In spite of these conditions, some women execeled in the fields of
politics, literature, education and religion. Razia Sultana became
the only woman monarch to have ever ruled Delhi. The Gond queen
Durgavati ruled for fifteen years, before she lost her life in a battle with
Mughal emperor Akbar's general Asaf Khan in 1564. Chand Bibi
defended Ahmednagar against the mighty Mughal forces of Akbar
in 1590s. Jehangir's wife Nur Jehan effectively wielded imperial power
and was recognized as the real force behind the Mughal throne.
The Mughal princesses Jahanara and Zebunnissa were well-known
poets, and also influenced the ruling administration Shivaji's mother,
Jijabai was deputed as queen regent, because of her ability as a warrior
and an administrator. In South India, many women administered
villages, towns, divisions and heralded social and religious institutions.

The Bhakti movements tried to restore women's status and questioned
some of the forms of oppression. Mirabai, a female saint-poet, was
one of the most important Bhakti movement figures. Some other female
saint-poets from this period include Akka Mahadevi, Rami Janabai and
Lal Ded. Bhakti sects within Hinduism such as the Mahanubhav, Varkari
and many others were principle movements within the Hindu fold to
openly advocate social justice and equality between men and women.

Shortly after the Bhakti movement, Guru Nanak, the first Guru of Sikhs
also preached the message of equality between men and women.
He advocated that women be allowed to lead religious assemblies;
to perform and lead congregational hymn singing called Kirtan or
Bhajan; become members of religious management committees; to
lead armies on the battlefield; have equality in marriage, and equality
in Amrit (Baptism). Other Sikh Gurus also preached against the
discrimination against women.

Women in Sikhism

Women in Sikhism
Historical practices
Traditions such as sati, jauhar, and devadasi have been banned and are
largely defunct in modern India. However, some cases of these
practices are still found in remote parts of India. The purdah is still
practiced by many Indian women, and child marriage remains
prevalent despite it being an illegal practice, especially under current
Indian laws.



Devadasi is a religious practice in some parts of southern India,
in which women are "married" to a deity or temple. The ritual was well
established by the 10th century A.D. In the later period, the
illegitimate sexual exploitation of the devadasi's became a norm in some
parts of India.



Purdah is the practice of requiring women to cover their bodies so as
to cover their skin and conceal their form. It imposes restrictions on the
mobility of women, it curtails their right to interact freely and it is a
symbol of the subordination of women. It does not reflect the religious
teachings of either Hinduism or Islam, contrary to common belief,
although misconception has occurred due to the ignorance and
prejudices of religious leaders of both faiths.


Jauhar refers to the practice of the voluntary immolation of all the wives
and daughters of defeated warriors, in order to avoid capture and
consequent molestation by the enemy. The practice was followed by
the wives of defeated Rajput rulers, who are known to place a high
premium on honour.

What is Sati

What is Sati ?
Sati is an old, largely defunct custom, in which the widow was
immolated alive on her husband's funeral pyre. Although the act was
supposed to be a voluntary on the widow's part, it is believed to have
been sometimes forced on the widow. It was abolished by the British
in 1829. There have been around forty reported cases of sati since
independence. In 1987, the Roop Kanwar case of Rajasthan led to
The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act.


Sati i.e. widow burning would normally be looked upon as a negative
aspect of culture. When confronted with questions as to why such a
Practice should have existed, a student of history with misplaced
national pride would try to explain awasy such practices.

Today Sati is illegal, it is also generally looked down upon but it
continues to exist in the rural corners of our country. One- still does
hear of stray incidents of woman being forced to or trying to commit
Sati. The country owes the abolition of this deplorable practice to the
crusading efforts of Raja Rammohan Roy the 18th century social

The reason why this inhuman practice could hae come into being are
many. But the principal among them could be identified in the same
mileu which which gave birth to dowry. Closer examination of this
practice of widow-burning supports this inference. Widow-burning as
a widely prevalent practice can be seen only since the mediaeval period
but there are reasons which trace its origins in antiquity.

Even a casual observer will notice that widow-brning is more prevalent
among the higher martial caste. Among the lower castes and aboriginal
tribes it is nearly absent. The prevalence of Sati among the higher
castes is no co-incidence.

As mentioned earlier, among the higher castes, a bride was looked
upon as a burden as she represented a drain On the family's income
while not contributing anything towards it. If this was her status as a
bride, it is not surprising that if she had the misfortune to become a
widow, her presence in the family was dreaded. And apart from being
considered an object of ill omc , her presence after her husband
demise was a dead weight to her in-laws family.

A widow's status as an unwanted burden was also a result of the taboos
that prevented a wicow from participating in the house-hold work as
her touch, her voice, her very appearance was considered unholy,
impure and something that was to be shunned and abhorred. Thus
without her husbandRa woman's existence was not tolerated and an
extreme but logical outcome of this was widow-burning.

Other auxiliary reasons also went into making widow burning a
prevalent practice. The near impossibility of widow re-marriage arising
from the taboos and prejudices that santified virginity of a bride was
an important reason. Another reason could be the non-recognition
of the individuality of a woman who was considered part and parcel
of her husband, without whom she was a nullity.

This attitude of looking at women is visible in the legal literature
(Dharmashastra) of antiquity. The Manusmriti considered to be one
of the most important legal texts guiding ancient Indian polity has
injunctions which reflect this attitude. It says "a woman is undeserving
for indepancemsce" (Ne stree svatantyam arahathi). Beliefs that a wido,
especially a young one would fall into immoral practices for sensual ple
asures was also used to stoke the fires of Sati. Strangely enough this
logic was never applied to the stronger sex. Widowers were never an
under-priviledged lot.

But the most visible factor that perpetrated Sati was the 'halo of
honour' given to it. Especially in the medieavel ages Sati was given
the status of an act of honour. This was mainly so among the Rajput
martial caste of northern India among whom Sati took the form of a
collective suicide after a battle in which male members had suffered
death at the enemy's hands.

Sati was even committed by women before their husbands were
actually death when their city or town was beseiged by the enemy
and faced certain defeat. This form of Sati was more popularly known
as Jouhar. The Jouhar committed by Rant Padmini of Chittor when
faced by the prospect of dishonour at the hands of a Sultan from
Delhi has been immortalised in Indian history.

In those days North India was under foreign subjugation. The most
powerful kingdomset up by the invaders was the Sultanate of Delhi.

But in RaJputana, the RaJputs had defiantly preserved their writ by
resisting the Delhi Sultans. One such Rajput kingdom was at Chittor.
In those days of the aribitrary feudal power structure, any feudal lord
who took a fancy for any lady would claim her for himself even at the
cost of killing her husband if she happened to be married or even by
waging a war if she was queen or princess. one such lady of
unsurpassable beauty was the Rana of Chittor named Padmini.

Chittor was under the Rule of King Ratnasen, a brave and noble
warrior-king. Apart, from being a loving husband and a just ruler,
Ratnasen was also a patron of the arts. In his court were many talented
People one of whom was a musician named Raghav Chetan. But
unknown to anybody, Raghav Chetan was also a sorcerer. He used
his evil talents to run down his rivals and unfortunately for him was
caught red-handed in his dirty act of arousing evil spirits.

On hearing this King Ratnasen was furious and he banished Raghav
Chetan from his kingdom after blackening his face with face and
making him ride a donkey. This harsh Punishment earned king
Ratansen an uncompromising enemy. Sulking after his humiliation,
Raghav Chetan made his way towards Delhi with -the aim of trying to
incite the Sultan of Delhi Ala-ud-din Khilji to attack Chittor.

On approaching Delhi, Raghav Chetan settled down in one of the
forests nearby Delhi which the Sultan used to frequent for hunting
deer. One day on hearing the Sultan's hunt party entering the forest,
Raghav-Chetan started playing a melodious tone on his flute. When
the alluring notes of Raghav-Chetan flute reached the Sultan's party
they were surprised as to who could be playing a flute in such a
masterly way in a forlorn forest.

The Sultan dispatched his soldiers to fetch the person and when
Raghav-Chetan was brought before him, the Sultan Ala-ud-din Khilji
asked him to come to his court at Delhi. The cunning Raghav-Chetan
asked the king as to why he wants to have a ordinary musician like
himself when there were many other beautiful objects to be had.
Wondering what Raghav-Chetan meant, Ala-ud-din asked him to
clarify. Upon being told of Rani Padmini's beauty, Ala-ud-din's lust
was aroused and immediately on returning to his capital he gave
orders to his army to march on Chittor.

But to his dismay, on reaching Chittor, Ala-ud-din found the fort to
be heavily defended. Desperate to have a look at the legendary beauty
of Padmini, he sent word to King Ratnasen that he looked upon
Padmini as his sister and wanted to meet her. On hearing this, the
unsuspecting Ratnasen asked Padmini to see the 'brother'. But
Padmini was more wordly-wise and she refused to meet the lustful
Sultan personally.

But on being persuaded she consented to allow Ala-ud-din to see her
only in a mirror. On the word being sent to Ala-ud-din that Padmini
would see him he came to the fort with his selected his best warriors
who secretly made a careful examination of the fort's defences on
their way to the Palace.

On seeing Padmini, the lustful 'brother' decided that he should secure
Padmini for himself. While returning to his camp, Ala-ud-din was
accompanied for some way by King Ratnasen. Taking this opportunity,
the wily Sultan treacherously kidnapped Ratnasen and took him as a
prisoner into his camp.

Ala--ud-din showed his true colours and demanded , that Padmini be
given to him and in return Ratnasen was to get his liberty. Word was
sent into the palace about the Sultan's demand.

The Rajput generals decided to beast the Sultan at his own game and
sent back a word that Padmini would be given to Ala-ud-din the
nextmorning. On the following dat at the crack of dawn, one hundred
and fifity palaquins (covered cases in which royal ladies were carried
in medieveal times) left the fort and made their way towards Ala-ud-
din's camps The palanquins stopped before the tent where king
Ratnasen was being held prisoner. . Seeing that the palanquins had
come from Chittor; and thinking that they had brought alongwith them
his queen, king Ratnasen was mortified. But to his surprise from the
palanquins came out, not his queen and her women servants but fully
armed soilders, who quickly freed ; Ratnasen and galloped away
towards Chittor on horses grabbed from Ala-ud-din's stables.

On hearing that his designs had been frustrated, the lustful Sultan was
furious and ordered his army to storm Chittor. But hard as they tried
the Sultans army could not break into the fort. Then Ala-ud-din decided
to lay seige to the fort. The seige was a long drawn one and gradually
supplied within the fort were depleted. Finally King Ratnasen gave
orders that the Rajputs would open the gates and fight to finish with
the besieging troops. On hearing of this decision, Padmini decided
that with their menfolk going into the unequal struggle with the
Sultan's army in which they were sure to perish, the women of
Chittor had either to commit suicides or face dishonour at the hands
of the victorious enemy.

The choice was in favour of suicide through Jauhar. A huge pyre
was lit and followed by their queen, all the women of Chittor jumped
into the flames and deceived the lustful enemy waiting outside. With
their womenfolk dead, the men of Chittor had nothing to live for.
Their charged out of the fort and fought on furiously with the vastly
Powerful array of the Sultan, till all of them perished. After this phyrrhic
victory the Sultan's troops entered the fort only to be confronted with
ashes and burnt bones of the women whose honour they were going
to violate to satisfy their lust.

These women who committed Jawhar had to perish but theirmemory
has been kept alive till today by bards and songs which glorify their
act which was right in those days and circumstances. Thus a halo of
honour is given to their supreme sacrifice.

But this halo of honour has to be seen in the light of the above
complusions of alien rule in Inda during the medieveal ages. From the
13th century onwards upto the coming of the British, the position of
women was insecure due to the arbitrary power structure associated
with the feudal society and the rule of the Sultans of Delhi. Although
during the reign of the later Mughals the situation had improved
relatively, women in the medieaval ages were often exposed to the
lust of feudal overlords. Their insecurity increased after the demise
of their husbands. This compulsion which was resultant of a particular
age was by far the most important reason for the prevalence of Sati
during the middle ages.

Although the Moghal emperor Akbar tried to curb this practice, he
could not eradicate it completely. As long as circumstances made
necessary the existence of such an anomalous and inhuman practice,
all efforts to stamp it out were bound to fail. But with the passing of
the feudal power structure and entry of the industrial age under the
British, the compulsions of the medieaval age which helped the
existence of Sati were no longer there. Hence the efforts of Raja
Rammohan Roy succeeded while those of emperor Akbar could not.

One last reason that needs to be mentioned in this context is that of
grief and remorse experienced by a widowed lady. Women as such
are more sensitive and emotional than menu This explains in part the
readiness of some woman to commit Sati. But it should be borne in
mind that the proportion of voluntary Sati was far less and the reasons
behind voluntary Sati Though facts were blown out of proportion to
justify this practice. However, in conclusion it can be observed thet a
complexity of factors contributed over different periods to make Sati a
prevalent custom.

Family planning and Land and property rights

Family planning and Land
and property rights

Family planning

The average woman in rural areas of India has little or no control over
her reproductivity. Women, particularly women in rural areas, do not
have access to safe and self-controlled methods of contraception.
The public health system emphasises permanent methods like
sterilisation, or long-term methods like IUDs that do not need follow-up.
Sterilization accounts for more than 75% of total contraception,
with female sterilisation accounting for almost 95% of all sterilisations

Land and property rights

In most Indian families , women do not own any property in their own
names, and do not get a share of parental property.Due to weak
enforcement of laws protecting them, women continue to have little
access to land and property.In fact, some of the laws discriminate
against women, when it comes to land and property rights.

The Hindu personal laws of mid-1956s (applied to Hindus, Buddhists,
Sikhs and Jains) gave women rights to inheritance. However, the sons
had an independent share in the ancestral property, while the
daughters' shares were based on the share received by their father.
Hence, a father could effectively disinherit a daughter by renouncing
his share of the ancestral property, but the son will continue to have a
share in his own right. Additionally, married daughters, even those
facing marital harassment, had no residential rights in the ancestral
home. After amendment of Hindu laws in 2005, now women in have
been provided the same status as that of men.

In 1986, the Supreme Court of India ruled that Shah Bano, an old
divorced Muslim woman was eligible for maintenance money. However,
the decision was vociferously opposed by fundamentalist Muslim
leaders, who alleged that the court was interfering in their personal law.
The Union Government subsequently passed the Muslim Women's
(Protection of Rights Upon Divorce) Act.

Similarly, the Christian women have struggled over years for equal
rights of divorce and succession. In 1994, all the churches, jointly with
women's organisations, drew up a draft law called the Christian
Marriage and Matrimonial Causes Bill. However, the government has
still not amended the relevant laws.

Health and Women

Health and Women

The average female life expectancy today in India is low compared to
many countries, but it has shown gradual improvement over the years.
In many families, especially rural ones, the girls and women face
nutritional discrimination within the family, and are anaemic and

The maternal mortality in India is the second highest in the world.
Only 42% of births in the country are supervised by health
professionals. Most women deliver with help from women in the
family who often lack the skills and resources to save the mother's
life if it is in danger. According to UNDP Human Development
Report (1997), 88% of pregnant women (age 15-49) were found to be
suffering from anemia.
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