Archive for the ‘Publication’ Category
In the experience of women’s rights activists around the world, religious fundamentalists strategically use physical and psychological violence to undermine those who oppose their policies. Fundamentalist violence can range from highly visible attacks against abortion doctors or LGBT people to the support of military actions to excusing domestic violence.
Religious fundamentalisms are on the rise in every region of the world, and can be found in every religion. In the experience of 8 out 10 women’s rights activists worldwide, religious fundamentalisms have had a negative impact on the rights of women. But activists are fighting back.
In a ground-breaking new publication, AWID presents feminist strategies of resisting and challenging religious fundamentalisms, based on research that draws examples from across regions and different religious traditions. Building on this extensive research, the report examines the factors that help religious fundamentalisms grow and the strategies fundamentalists use to promote their vision and strengthen their social and political power. It unmasks those strategies through feminist analysis and provides proposals and examples of how women’s rights activists and their allies in other movements can work effectively towards a future without fundamentalisms.
Download the report “Towards a Future without Fundamentalisms” in pdf 1.23 MB http://awid.org/eng/content/download/93090/1041955/file/Towards%20a%20Future%20without%20Fundamentalisms.pdf
One year after the earthquake which killed 230,000 people and injured 300,000 on 11 January 2010, more than one million people still live in appalling conditions in tent cities in the capital Port-au-Prince and in the south of Haiti, where women are at serious risk of sexual attacks. Those responsible are predominately armed men who roam the camps after dark.
More than 250 cases of rape in several camps were reported in the first 150 days after January’s earthquake, according to Amnesty International’s 39-page report, Aftershocks: Women speak out against sexual violence in Haiti’s camps. (Download as a pdf file http://www.amnesty.org.uk/uploads/documents/doc_21131.pdf)
One year on, rape survivors continue to arrive at the office of a local women’s support group almost every other day.
Gerardo Ducos, Amnesty International Haiti researcher, said: “Women already struggling to come to terms with losing their loved ones, homes and livelihoods in the earthquake, now face the additional trauma of living under the constant threat of sexual attack. For the prevalence of sexual violence to end, the incoming government must ensure that the protection of women and girls in the camps is a priority. This has so far been largely ignored in the response to the wider humanitarian crisis.”
Sexual violence was widespread in Haiti before January 2010 but this has been exacerbated by the conditions since the earthquake, said Amnesty. The limited assistance the authorities previously provided has been undermined by the destruction of police stations and court houses. This has made it more difficult to report sexual violence.
Over 50 survivors of sexual violence shared their experiences with Amnesty International for the study.
One 14-year-old girl, Machou, lives in a makeshift camp for displaced people in Carrefour Feuilles, south-west Port-au-Prince. She was raped in March when she went to the toilet. She told Amnesty:
“A boy came in after me and opened the door. He gagged me with his hand and did what he wanted to do… He hit me. He punched me. I didn’t go to the police because I don’t know the boy, it wouldn’t help. I feel really sad all the time…I’m afraid it will happen again.”
One woman, Suzie, recounted how she was living in a makeshift shelter with her two sons and a friend when they were attacked around 1am on 8 May. Suzie and her friend were both blindfolded and raped in front of their children by a gang of men who forced their way into their shelter. Suzie told Amnesty:
“After they left I didn’t do anything. I didn’t have any reaction… Women victims of rape should go to hospital but I didn’t because I didn’t have any money… I don’t know where there is a clinic offering treatment for victims of violence.”
Suzie lost her parents, brothers and husband in the January earthquake. Her home was also destroyed.
Amnesty’s report highlights how the lack of security and policing in and around the camps is a major factor for the increase in attacks over the past year.
The response by police officers to survivors of rape is described as inadequate. Many survivors of rape have said that when they sought police help they were told officers could do nothing.
Gerardo Ducos added: “There has been a complete breakdown in Haiti’s already fragile law and order system since the earthquake with women living in insecure overcrowded camps. There is no security for the women and girls in the camps. They feel abandoned and vulnerable to being attacked. Armed gangs attack at will; safe in the knowledge that there is still little prospect that they will be brought to justice.”
Amnesty is calling for the new Haitian government to urgently take steps to end violence against women as part of a wider plan to address the humanitarian effort. Amnesty’s report insists that women in the camps must be fully involved in developing any such plan.
Immediate steps should include improving security in the camps and ensuring that police are able to respond effectively and that those responsible are prosecuted.
Research into ‘honour-based’ violence (HBV) and killings in Iraqi Kurdistan and the UK by Professor Aisha Gill (Roehampton University) with colleagues from Bristol University has earned plaudits from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the UN.
Criminologist Dr Aisha Gill has called for an urgent consolidation of the legal provisions for robust legal, policing and prosecution procedures in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The new research by researchers at University of Bristol and Roehampton University, has found a need for dedicated service and policy development to demonstrate that the issue is taken seriously and that ‘honour’ based violence (HBV) and killings are no longer acceptable in the way that they may have been in the past.
Researchers from the Centre for Research on Gender and Violence, University of Bristol and Roehampton University are calling on the Kurdish Regional Government in Northern Iraq and the Coalition Government in the UK urgently to address violence against women in the name of ‘honour’ in response to a growing concern about alarming levels of violence against women and girls in Kurdish communities.
Dr Gill, Project Manager for the UK section of the research, said: “States across the world have duties under international law to respect, protect and support women’s rights, including taking steps to tackle violence against women.
“Although abuses that occur in the private sphere, such as so-called ‘honour’ killings, are crimes under the domestic laws of most countries, many states around the world continue to fail to demonstrate due diligence in this regard. Even now in the 21st Century, they still fail to prevent or investigate all such crimes, and fail to hold perpetrators to account.
“Thus, although legislation exists to protect women in theory, social tolerance of violence, cultural norms and a lack of political will often combine to nullify the law in practice. Further, cultural practices that have the effect of rendering women “invisible” create the conditions in which they suffer “invisible violence”, and may allow violators to act with impunity.”
Research from women’s organisations working closely with victims and survivors of HBV in Northern Iraq and in the Kurdish Diaspora, highlights the need for ongoing training and support, improved prosecution of individual perpetrators and support projects for victims, together with comprehensive awareness-raising and public education in culturally sensitive ways.
Dr Aisha Gill said: “Our findings call for improved international response. Globally, all states must ensure that victims who have encountered this form of gendered violence and those who have been threatened with or experienced HBV, receive immediate, confidential and comprehensive assistance, including access to legal help, and psychological and social support.”
Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt joined Dr Gill in Iraq to discuss her research and said he was pleased to add his support to this comprehensive study on the honour-based violence (HBV) and honour-based killings in Iraqi-Kurdistan and in the Kurdish Diaspora in the UK.
“Honour crimes have no place in a modern society and I have been heartened by the Kurdistan Regional Government’s efforts to crack down on them. No matter how unacceptable, traditions will always be difficult to change. Dealing with these crimes requires courage and determination and I welcome the KRG’s leadership and commitment to bring an end to impunity in this area. I am proud that, through Roehampton and Bristol Universities, the UK is supporting such crucial work,” he said.
“This report marks an important step. The recommendations offer a roadmap to combating honour-based violence in Iraqi Kurdistan. The UK will continue to work with the Kurdistan Regional Government in realising this goal.”
Details of the project in both English and Kurdish are available from Dr Aisha Gill.
A woman dies from domestic violence every 63 minutes in Russia, with more than 650,000 women beaten by their husbands and other relatives each year, a non-governmental organisation reported earlier in December.
The violence “results in the death of 14,000 women each year” in Russia, the ANNA women’s support group said in a report.
“In other words, this translates into another woman being killed by her husband once every 63 minutes,” the organisation’s president Marina Pisklakova told AFP.
She said the rate had remained relatively stable since 1995, although the interior ministry only began issuing official domestic violence figures in 2008.
For comparison, a woman is killed in a British domestic violence case once every three days, according to the Refuge women’s centre.
Pisklakova said the violence in Russia could be partially explained by a patriarchal society “in which women are accustomed to violence, which they treat as simple marital conflict.”
Though aware of the problem, Russian authorities have done little to help, Pisklakova said.
“There is one 35-bed (female) shelter in a Russian capital of 10 million inhabitants,” she said.
‘Control and Sexuality’ by Ziba Mir-Hosseini & Vanja Hamzić
The International Solidarity Network, Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) is pleased to announce the publication of Control and Sexuality: The Revival of Zina Laws in Muslim Contexts by Ziba Mir-Hosseini and Vanja Hamzić. Copies can be purchased in the WLUML webshop for £12.00, and if you follow the link, you can download a sample chapter (the introduction) here: http://www.wluml.org/node/6869
Control and Sexuality by Ziba Mir-Hosseini and Vanja Hamzić examines zina laws in some Muslim contexts and communities in order to explore connections between the criminalisation of sexuality, gender-based violence and women’s rights activism. The Violence is Not Our Culture Campaign and the Women Living Under Muslim Laws network present this comparative study and feminist analysis of zina laws as a contribution to the broader objective of ending violence in the name of ‘culture’. It is hoped that the publication will help activists, policy-makers, researchers and other civil society actors acquire a better understanding of how culture and/or religion are invoked to justify laws that criminalise women’s sexuality and subject them to cruel, inhuman and degrading forms of punishment.
“It is most timely that this publication should emerge when issues of culture and human rights are being debated in many venues in the international arena: within the United Nations; in national and transnational, mainstream and alternative media outlets; and across social and political movements. Some cultural practices may be particularly detrimental to the rights of women and girls. All harmful practices, regardless of provenance and justification, must be eliminated. All human rights are universal, indivisible and inter-related. It is my hope that by building upon the progressive, equitable and just aspects of culture which are inherent to all, this book can make a substantial contribution towards the promotion of rights, under law and custom.” Farida Shaheed, UN Independent Expert on Cultural Rights
This Report Card presents a first overview of inequalities in child well-being for 24 of the world’s richest countries. Three dimensions of inequality are examined: material well-being, education, and health. In each case and for each country, the question asked is ‘how far behind are children being allowed to fall?’
The report argues that children deserve the best possible start, that early experience can cast a long shadow, and that children are not to be held responsible for the circumstances into which they are born. In this sense the metric used – the degree of bottom-end inequality in child well-being – is a measure of the progress being made towards a fairer society. Bringing in data from the majority of OECD countries, the report attempts to show which of them are allowing children to fall behind by more than is necessary in education, health and material well-being (using the best performing countries as a minimum standard for what can be achieved).
In drawing attention to the depth of disparities revealed, and in summarizing what is known about the consequences, it argues that ‘falling behind’ is a critical issue not only for millions of individual children today but for the economic and social future of their nations tomorrow.
Download report in PDF:
• (pdf) Full text – Kb 1512 http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/rc9_eng.pdf
• (zip) Compressed – Kb 752 http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/rc9_eng.zip
In This Issue
- UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet Addresses Security Council
- Global Open Day on Women, Peace and Security
- Women Matter for Building Peace: Petition on UNSCR 1325
- Gender Justice: Key to Achieving the Millennium Development Goals
- UNIFEM around the World
- o UN Trust Fund Announces Additional US$10 Million in Grants
- o New Awards for Public Sector Efforts to Provide Gender-Responsive Service Delivery
- o Global Virtual Knowledge Centre – New Features
- o Liberia: First Women’s Radio Station Opened
- o Tanzania: Supporting Women’s Participation as Candidates and Voters
- o Mexico: Young Women’s Forum at the World Youth Conference
- o Mexico: High-Level Meeting on Prioritizing the Rights of Women Migrant Workers
- o Pakistan: Responding to the Humanitarian Emergency
- o UNIFEM National Committee Members Visit Programme Partners
- o Georgia: Women Connecting for Peace
- Recent Speeches & Statements
- Recent Publications
- Featured UNIFEM Videos
- Job Vacancies
One small study by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, rather than take on the whole industry, the institute only focuses on what’s produced for children and who’s involved in those productions.
Over the years, the institute’s studies have shattered any illusion that children’s programming doesn’t share the same prejudices of adult entertainment.
The institute’s most recent study is the largest content survey ever done of U.S.-produced children’s films. And since the United States produces 80 per cent of all movies in the world, it’s the largest ever, anywhere. (Download http://www.thegeenadavisinstitute.org/downloads/FullStudy_GenderDisparityFamilyFilms.pdf)
It was done by Stacy Smith and Marc Choueiti at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, who analyzed films released in the United States and Canada between Sept. 5, 2006, and Sept. 7, 2009.
They and more than 80 students looked at all G-rated, English-language fictional narratives and the 50 top grossing PG and PG-13 movies.
What they found is that the world portrayed in kids’ shows is dominated by men — or at least males, since some of the kids’ characters are animals and even cars.
Of the 5,554 speaking roles, 71 per cent of the characters had men’s or boy’s voices.
But in three years’ worth of children’s movies ranging from fictional narratives to dramas and cartoons, the most shocking conclusion is how the few female characters are portrayed.
Whether they’re fish, penguins, stuffed animals or people, the female characters are mostly young, sexy, beautiful and passive sidekicks. Eye candy.
A quarter of the female characters wore sexy attire. One in five was partly nude.
The tiny-waisted female bodies depicted veer so substantially from the norm that researchers noted there is “little room for a womb or for any other internal organ.”
Even in their small numbers, female characters are disproportionately young. One in five is under 21, nearly double the number of male characters that age. But after 40? Women fall off the cliff, says Smith, who presented her research at Vancouver’s SexMediaMoney symposium.
Smith and the Davis Institute aren’t just interested in how females are depicted in children’s programming, they want to know why and how to change it. Again, they’ve got the statistics to make their case.
Women behind the scenes — the content creators who include producers, directors, writers, camera operators and so on — are even rarer than females onscreen. Again, the statistics seem shocking in an age when people have come to believe that the equality battles have all been won.
In those three years’ worth of children’s movies, the content creators were almost all men. They comprised 93 per cent of the directors, 87 per cent of the writers, 80 per cent of the producers.
So why does that matter? Because even where there was a single female director or writer, the percentage of female characters rose.
But here’s the more significant statistic — and it’s the point that Madeline Di Nonno, the Davis Institute’s executive director, drives home in meetings with media executives. When there are two or more women behind the scenes, the number of onscreen female characters jumps.
Two seems to be a tipping point akin to the 30 per cent that female politicians say is necessary for their voices and issues to be heard and taken seriously.
So why should it matter whether there’s a strong female character in Finding Nemo, Madagascar or Ice Age? Why does it matter if the female characters in children’s shows are hyper-sexualized?
A multi-year study by Rand Corp. found, for example, that the teens who watch the most sex on television are the first to have sex and the first to get pregnant.
Like little boys, girls need strong role models, too. They need more than just Dora the Explorer and teeny-bikini-clad Little Mermaid. And the way to get there is to provide more opportunities for those children’s mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and even grandmothers to write and produce those characters for them.
Women’s groups across Italy are angered by the news that the country ranks 74 in the new report of 2010 World Economic Forum on gender equality ranking.
The report shows Italy ranks worst in the whole of Europe for equality between men and women and behind countries such as Ghana and Malawi, and Vietnam from the developing world.
“I think it’s in theory we are moving in the right way but then in practice there is still much to be done. The thing is more cultural than legal. For example women still face some troubles in working, specially at some levels, and combining their private lives as mothers and their lives as workers,” Maria Stasi, an Italian lawyer, told a Press TV correspondent.
The report which says how income, resources, and opportunities are distributed between the sexes also gave particular praise to the Philippines in Asia, and Lesotho in Africa which were both in world’s top ten.
Italy dropped two places from 2009 and the report is particular critical of the fewer opportunities available to women in business and politics. The report comes as little surprise to many businesswomen in Italy who claim their earnings and promotion prospects are not as high as those of men and that they are treated worse than their male counterparts.
Currently over half of university graduates in Italy are female. But for those levels to be translated into leaders in the work place and politics significant steps still need to be taken.
The world economic forum report placed Iceland, Norway, and Finland as its top three countries, with high rankings for fellow European nations Sweden, Switzerland, and Germany.
Pakistan, Chad, and Yemen were at the bottom of the 134-nation forum rankings.
Women literacy rate higher than men in UAE
Abu Dhabi, Oct 13 (IANS/WAM) The literacy rate of women is higher than men in the UAE, a report said Tuesday. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global …
Nordics lead in eliminating gender inequality
NEW YORK — Four Nordic countries lead the world in eliminating inequality between men and women and the United States entered the top 20 nations for the …
Canada back among top 20 in gender gap
Canadian women are narrowing the gap with men, but Canada was still ranked behind the United States in an annual Global Gender Gap survey released Tuesday. …
Korea Flounders Near Bottom in Gender Equality
Korea climbed 11 notches on the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index as an increasing number of women hold senior government posts, but the country still …
RP’s Gender Gap Ranking Highest in Asia â€” WEF Survey
MANILA, Oct. 12 (PNA) — The Philippines’ ranking in a survey that measures the gap between men and women remained the highest country from Asia, …
‘Motherhood Gap’ in wages hits women hard
Women who exit and re-enter the workforce to have children tend to experience wage losses of three per cent per year of absence, says a new TD Economics …
Global Gender Gap Index: Iceland tops, France drops, and US breaks into top 20
Iceland is No. 1 and Yemen is ranked last in the World Economic Forum’s 2010 Global Gender Gap Index, which measures gender equality. …
The authors of a new book, Half the Sky, say the slavery and abuse of women is the greatest moral outrage of our century
In it, they argue that the world is in the grip of a massive moral outrage no less egregious in scale or in the intensity of despair than the African slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries or the genocides of the 20th. They believe this outrage is a key factor behind many of the most pressing economic and political issues today, from famine in Africa to Islamist terrorism and climate change. Yet they say the phenomenon is largely hidden, invisible to most of us and passing relatively unreported. At worst it is actively tolerated; at best it is ignored.
The fodder of this latterday trade in human suffering is not African people, but women. Which is why they call it “gendercide”. If the supreme moral challenge of the 19th century was slavery, and of the 20th century the fight against totalitarianism, then, they write, “in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality in the developing world”.
The contention is as startling as the idea of a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist buying up prostitutes. I put it to them that, to some people, the claim will seem overblown. After all, you don’t go lightly comparing the plight of women in developing countries today with slavery or, by implication, the Holocaust.
“This idea is a couple of decades in gestation,” Kristof says. “Over those years, we reluctantly came to the conclusion that this really is the greatest moral challenge of this century.”
“When you hear that 60 to 100 million females are missing in the current population, we thought that number compares in the scope and size. And then you compare the slave trade at its peek in the 1780s, when there were 80,000 slaves transported from Africa to the New World, and you see there are now 10 times that amount of women trafficked across international borders, so you start to think you are talking about comparable weight.”
Yet this huge injustice was going on under their noses, largely unreported, dismissed as “women’s issues” by the mainstream media. “We’ve thought a lot about the failure to see this,” says WuDunn. “Partly, it’s because the news is defined by what happens on a particular day, and a lot of the most important things in the world don’t happen on a particular day . . .”
“And it’s partly that our definition of what constitutes news is a legacy of the perspective of middle-aged men,” adds Kristof. “It may well be that one major reason why high-school girls drop out of school around the world is that they have trouble managing menstruation, and probably one reason nobody has cottoned on to this is that people who run aid organisations and write about it have never menstruated.”
At the end of the book, in similar vein, they give a list of action points that readers can take within 10 minutes to make a difference. And they set us a personal challenge: will we join a historical movement to eradicate sex slavery, honour killings and acid attacks, or are we content to remain detached bystanders? It is the 21st-century equivalent of that ultimately probing 20th-century question: “What did you do in the war, Daddy?”
Part of a longer article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/aug/19/women-slavery-half-the-sky
“Six months after the earthquake in Haiti, we see a continued crisis of safety and security in the displacement camps that has exacerbated the already grave problem of sexual violence. In May and June, MADRE joined delegations coordinated by the Lawyers’ Earthquake Response Network (LERN) to Haiti to investigate the problem of rape and other gender-based violence in the camps. We found that women are being raped at an alarming rate-every day-in camps throughout Port-au-Prince. The Haitian Government, the UN and others in the international community have failed to adequately address the situation. Women, especially poor women, have been excluded from full participation and leadership in the relief effort.
The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), MADRE, TransAfrica Forum and the Universities of Minnesota and Virginia law schools released this Report, Our Bodies Are Still Trembling: Haitian Women’s Fight Against Rape. The report aims to bring to light the crisis and guide governments, international organizations and other stakeholders in providing for even more effective protection and promotion of women’s human rights in Haiti.”
To access the report, please click on this link http://www.madre.org/images/uploads/misc/1283377138_2010.07.26%20-%20HAITI%20GBV%20REPORT%20FINAL.pdf
For further information, please visit MADRE http://www.madre.org/index.php
From the Editors
How are women faring on “equality”? What remains unequal? And is equality really the summit for progressives and feminists, or only one more mountain to climb?
With the 90th anniversary of women’s right to vote upon us — and August 26th is designated as Women’s Equality Day – On The Issues Magazine invited writers, artists and poets to consider the elusive search for equality and its flip side, double standards in our lives, for “EQUALITY: How much further away?”
Despite impressive gains, women in the U.S. and around the world are still seeking full equality in political, religious, civic, social, personal, work, financial and artistic realms. But if equality were to arrive or women were to arrive at it, will our goals as feminists and progressives be met? Before her death in 1998, former U.S.Congressional Rep. Bella Abzug said that women should change “the nature of power,” rather than power changing “the nature of women.” But with rare exceptions, the reality is that women still don’t hold the reins of power.
Even the suffragists who labored for women’s voting rights had more in mind. In 1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments, listing a range of injustices encountered by women. Borrowing from the Declaration of Independence, she wrote of the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal,” she wrote. Among her 16 “injuries and usurpations” are some still deeply relevant – relegating women to subordinate positions in church and State, applying a different code of morals to men and women, and attempting to destroy women’s “confidence in her own powers.”
After securing the vote in 1920, activists immediately turned to organizing in other spheres, writing the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (still not passed), and using the courts and legislatures to end discriminatory practices. The work, of course, is not done. In this edition, Carolyn Cook writes about how Hillary Clinton’s presidential run drew her to get involved in a new campaign for the ERA Say “I Do”: Constitutional Equality is Forever. Cindy Cooper explores the laws and still-pending concerns on sex discrimination in Gender Equality: Devil in the Details, while Beverly Neufeld writes about a refreshed movement for equal pay in Best City for Working Women: In Our Checkbooks.
In our first video essay, Ann Farmer looks at nontraditional employment, stepping into the garage with a woman mechanic in Equality Under the Hood: Car Repair is Women’s Work.
But there are many areas in the U.S. that the law does not reach at all. Religion is one. Angela Bonavoglia, an author who has researched extensively the Catholic Church and women, explains not only how the Vatican is using an iron fist against woman of faith but why it matters to those outside its purview, in Women Challenge Gender Apartheid in the Catholic Church. Eleanor Bader looks at the ways that women in conservative Jewish communities are quietly removing gender barriers in Snood by Snood, Tight-Knit Orthodox Piety Loosens Up.
Marcy Bloom and Ariel Dougherty remind us of two other areas that are beyond the scope of the government. In Health Inequality: Gates Foundation Bans Abortion, Bloom describes how one decision of a generous donor will sentence some women to ugly deaths. Dougherty writes in Girls Kick: Moving the Media’s World Cup Goal Posts that girls’ sports dreams are squelched by pathetically low media coverage.
Loretta Ross, a frequent writer for On The Issues Magazine, applies a multifaceted (“intersectional” to academics) analysis to the goals of the women’s movement from her perspective as an African American feminist. In the struggle against oppression, equality is but one marker along the way to undivided justice for all peoples of the world, she writes in A Feminist Vision: No Justice-No Equity.
Other contributors take a sharp aim at double standards, often with a good dose of humor.
Megan Carpentier dissects the suddenly-popular (if unproven) notion that it’s the male gender that is facing bias in Alright Then, Let Men Compete, while Elizabeth Black writes in bittersweet terms about the ways that women are still criticized for sexual enjoyment in Good Girls, Bad Girls: The Kinkiness of Slut-Shaming.
Marie Shear takes on dozens of linguistic slights and putdowns in “Little Marie”: The Daily Toll of Sexist Language. (Her essay brought to mind a comment by the crusading medical writer Barbara Seaman, who declared that she could not understand why researchers on women’s sexuality described “hard” and “soft” data; more appropriate, she said, would be “wet” and “dry” data.)
Other articles apply a long view. Lu Bailey finds hope in the common sense of parents who bristle at Hollywood stereotyping in Defeating Racism and Sexism with the Politics of Authenticity. Mary Lou Greenberg explains her view that the concept of equality does not go nearly far enough in addressing the degradation of a consumerist and capitalist society in Beyond Equality to Liberation.
Our art and poetry sections bring especially unique perspectives. Co-Poetry Editor Judith Arcana selects works from four poets who eloquently portray the lives of women, real and mythological, as they circle the edges of their lives and try to find places to breathe. Maria Padhila, Penelope Scambly Schott, Wendy Vardaman and Sondra Zeidenstein share the rugged dilemmas and not-so-delicate dances that women encounter.
“The Art Perspective,” curated by Art Editor Linda Stein, features a retrospective of a highly acclaimed international artist who frequently addresses inequities in wealth, labor and gender roles in Regina Frank Is Present. In multiple-part audio and video displays, Frank describes how she creates her works, often placing herself as a physical presence inside the art.
The work of other artists is represented throughout the magazine, including Roz Dimon, seen here and here, Robin Gaynes-Bachman, Barbara Lubliner, Kathleen Migliore-Newton, seen here and here, Victoria Pacimeo, Mark Phillips, Inga Poslitar, Marjorie Price and Deborah Ugoretz.
Lastly, we take a look at ten stories on equality from our archives (print, 1983-99; Online, 2008-present), including an investigation by Sally Roesch Wagner into the shared-power experienced by Native American women in pre-colonial societies, Merle Hoffman’s concept of Roe v. Wade as the Medical Equal Rights Amendment for Women, the links between Right-wing anti-gay and anti-women’s rights propaganda, and the vivid description of a “pee-in” to protest the lack of women’s toilets at Harvard. These and other writings are described and linked in From Our Files on Equality.
Equality, and what it means, turns out to be a rich and layered subject, with each question leading to another. We will continue to explore new perspectives on it in the Café of On The Issues Magazine, and we invite your articles, essays and creative thinking, as well as your letters and comments. Write to: On the Issues at email@example.com. In addition, we invite you to send us short videos on the topic of nontraditional employment. Send inquiries to On the Issues at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pornography had started influencing us long before it came out of the underground and crept into Wall Street boardrooms a couple of decades ago.
But now, with porn stars bagging the status of ‘crossover artistes’, XXX has seeped into our very sexual identities, convincing obsessive users that the art of lovemaking begins and ends like the way it is shown on screen. Gail Dines, American anti-porn activist and professor of sociology, exchanges notes with Arghya Ganguly about her new book, ‘Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality’ and how the multibillion-dollar industry is shaping people’s lives, sexuality and relationships …
In your book, you say that in American society, porn is probably the most articulate teller of sexual stories for men. In your land of vibrant literature, it’s a bold statement to make…
Yes. It is bold, but it’s a statement I stand by. Boys are not going to great works of literature or art to learn about sex; they are going to porn. They first learn about sex in a culture steeped in porn imagery, so they develop a pornographic way of looking at women’s bodies at a young age. Just watching TV, going to the movies, or playing video games introduces boys to images that reduce women to sex objects. With this pornographic gaze well established by adolescence, boys graduate to actual porn. Most porn on the internet is hardcore, and boys are catapulted into a world of body-punishing sex that is based on the dehumanisation of women. We have no alternative images in the culture that counter this way of looking at women, so this one becomes dominant.
The message porn sends to men is that they are entitled to access women’s bodies. In porn, the man makes hate to the woman, as each sex act is designed to deliver the maximum amount of degradation. Whether it be choking her or brutal intercourse, the goal of porn is to illustrate how much power he has over her. The narrative about women is that they are all whores by nature, ready and willing to do whatever men want. In this world, women are never concerned about pregnancy, STDs, or damage to the body, and are astonishingly indifferent to being called whores. This is an uncomplicated world where women don’t need equal pay, healthcare, retirement plans, or good schools for their children. It is a world filled with one-dimensional women, who are nothing more than a collection of holes.
The story pornography tells about men is much simpler than the one about women, since men in porn are depicted as nothing more than soulless, amoral life-support systems for erect penises who are entitled to use women in any way they want. No matter how uncomfortable or in pain the woman looks, these men are utterly oblivious to her as a person. She is to them just a set of orifices. These stories get delivered to men’s brains via the penis. The younger the boy is when he first views porn – the average age of first viewing is 11 – the more likely these stories are going to form the core of his sexual identity.
You also talk about how women have internalised the men’s gaze and they spend hours in front of the mirror due to it. ‘Porn penises’ have also become the standard against which men judge themselves. Do you suppose it will be a good idea to rehabilitate the youth by showing Renaissance art – for instance, Michelangelo’s ‘David’ – which mostly feature modestly endowed men?
Unfortunately, we live in a world in which culture is commercialised through the mass media, so there is little room for fine art. A better idea would be for men to stop using porn. They do measure themselves against male porn performers, and many feel like sexual losers. Their penises are not as big, nor can they perform the same way as the Viagra-fortified penises in porn. Many feel let down by actual sex, because they get used to masturbating to industrial-strength sex that is supposed to give their partners screaming orgasms. Next to this, real sex looks and feels bland and boring. I don’t think we need to ‘rehabilitate’ men; rather we need to raise their consciousness as to the harm of porn. I believe that the more men learn about the ways in which porn affects their sexual identity, the more they will think before clicking on a porn site. Girls and women have indeed internalised men’s gaze, and they are increasingly turning themselves into objects. This makes absolute sense when you think about the images that they are bombarded with. Flip through the pages of popular women’s magazines and you’ll see slight variations on a theme: a heavily made-up, young, attractive, technologically perfected woman devoid of body hair, cellulite, age lines or physical disabilities. She’s minimally clothed, with a seductive look plastered on her face. Whether it be an almost naked Britney Spears writhing around on stage or a Victoria’s Secret model clad in a plunging bra and thong, women and girls today are overwhelmed by images of themselves as sex objects whose worth is measured only by their ‘hotness.’
Do you agree with the historical argument that if the Great Depression and WW II didn’t occur then Playboy wouldn’t have been able to successfully advertise its anti-woman ideology?
Yes. It was no accident that Playboy became so successful in the 1950s.The obvious question here is how a porn magazine became a best seller in what was one of the most conservative decades of the second half of the twentieth century. To understand this, it is pivotal to map out some of the economic and cultural themes that marked this era. The post-World War II America required a consumer population that would spend money to build the economy. However, the targeted group – the emerging white suburban middle class – was born during a depression and raised during a war, circumstances that lead to frugality. To nurture consumerism, businesses adopted a number of techniques, not the least of which was a massive marketing campaign, to turn frugal people into spenders. The expansion of television helped spread the ideology of consumerism through advertisements and sit-coms, which were often thirty-minute ads for how to furnish a suburban home. However, women were typically targeted by television, so there were few avenues for luring men into buying products they did not need.
Enter Hugh Hefner, a failed cartoonist who – by design or accident – hit on an idea that meshed beautifully with the needs of capitalism. He created a lifestyle magazine for men that placed consumerism at the centre of the new identity of the upwardly mobile male. Playboy spent much of its early years crafting a magazine that taught men what clothes to wear, what furniture to buy for the office, what food to cook, and, most important, how to consume to a level that would attract women, whose goal was to marry out of the working class. Playboy promised men that if they bought the products they would get the real prize: lots of women, just like the ones in the centerfolds. Playboy thus not only commodified sexuality, it also sexualised commodities.
Why has the US government been insouciant with respect to porn? Is it because ‘Pornland’ is a capitalist’s dream?
Porn is indeed a capitalist’s dream, since it is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year machine with ties to other major industries. This is a business with considerable political clout, with the capacity to lobby politicians, engage in expensive legal battles, and use public relations to influence debate. The porn industry sells the idea that women who enter the industry do so because they love sex and enjoy what they are doing. What we don’t hear about are their economic circumstances. Jenna Jameson is a major recruitment tool for the porn industry. She is a walking ad for what a woman can supposedly achieve by doing porn. I don’t think the solution to porn will come through the government. In a capitalist society, the role of the government is to protect the rights of corporations, not the people. If we are going to tackle this problem, it has to be through a mass movement.
Is it fair to conclude that dinners, vanilla sex and post-coital affection are passe due to capitalism and its tag team partner, porn?
I would say what we are witnessing is a move away from relationships toward a hook-up culture where sex, rather than an ongoing relationship, is the expectation. The increasing pornification of our society has been instrumental in shifting heterosexual relationships. Given its lack of commitment and intimate connection, hookup sex is a lot like porn sex, and it is being played out in the real world. If porn and women’s media are to be believed, these women are having as good a time as the men. But research is finding that women do hope for more than just sex from a hook-up – many express a desire for the encounter to evolve into a relationship. Sociologist Kathleen Bogle, for example, found in her study of college-age students that many of the women ‘were interested in turning hook-up partners into boyfriends’, while the men preferred it ‘with no strings attached’.
Do you approve of film schools having porn in their curriculum?
I don’t think educational institutions should support the porn industry in any way. I do, however, believe courses on porn are appropriate for a college classroom as long as they critically explore different ways of thinking about porn, not just ones that celebrate it. Showing movies or stills can be tricky, given the effect it may have on students. In my classes, I show stills, but only after much discussion and the establishment of a clear set of guidelines that allow students to not attend or to leave if they feel uncomfortable or upset. I also worry about students who have a history of abuse, since such images can trigger memories. Given that we live in a porn culture, we should be providing our students with media literacy skills.
Do you reckon that feminists fighting for sexual liberation in the ’60s and ’70s erred somewhere, because all they got is sexuality that has its roots in porn?
Feminism fought for a sexuality based on equality and respect, and what we got was a pornified, plasticised, formulaic sexuality that is an industrial product rather than a reflection of women’s authentic desires. This is not the fault of the feminist movement, but the result of a predatory porn industry that has become the main producer and disseminator of sexual images, ideologies, and messages. I have been doing work in this area for over twenty years, and I never expected porn to get so mainstream or cruel and brutal so quickly. Remember also that the feminism of the ’60s and ’70s was not just about sex, but about radical economic, political, and social change. This feminism understood that without equal access to material resources, women would always be oppressed. Today, feminism talks a lot about sex, but not much about the economic and social conditions of women’s lives.
- The XXX effect
The global porn industry was estimated to be worth around $96 billion in 2006 with the US market worth around $13 billion. Each year, over 13,000 porn films are released and, despite their modest budgets, pornography revenues rival those of all the major Hollywood studios
A key factor driving the growth of the porn market has been the development of technologies. There are 420 million internet porn pages, 4.2 million porn web sites and 68 million search engine requests for porn daily. However, officials estimate DVD sales were down by 50 per cent in the last year due to a weak economy, piracy and free or cheap porn on the Internet.
Slack Implementation and Lack of Oversight Causes Suffering and Death
Thousands of women and girls in Argentina suffer needlessly every year because of negligent or abusive reproductive health care, Human Rights Watch said in a report released earlier this week.
The 53-page report, “Illusions of Care: Lack of Accountability for Reproductive Rights in Argentina“, documents the many obstacles women and girls face in getting the reproductive health care services to which they are entitled, such as contraception, voluntary sterilization procedures, and abortion after rape. The most common barriers to care include long delays in providing services, unnecessary referrals to other clinics, demands for spousal permission contrary to law, financial barriers, and in some cases outright denial of care. http://www.hrw.org/node/92124
“Women need dependable care throughout their reproductive lives,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “But in Argentina, it’s more like a lottery: you might be lucky enough to get decent care but you are more likely to be stuck with deficient – or even abusive – services.”
As a direct result of these barriers, women and girls in Argentina often cannot make independent decisions about their health, and many face unwanted or unhealthy pregnancies as a result. Forty percent of pregnancies in Argentina end in abortions, which are often unsafe. Unsafe abortion has been the leading cause of maternal mortality in the country for decades.
The report identifies a lack of oversight and accountability for carrying out existing laws and policies as the main problems in the persistent denial of proper care. Doctors and other medical personnel who deny women services to which they are entitled, or who apply arbitrary conditions for receiving the services, rarely – if ever – are investigated or penalized.
“Argentina’s reproductive health policies are certainly not perfect, but if they were implemented they would prevent quite a lot of the suffering I saw in researching for this report,” Vivanco said. “The government needs to put a lot more effort into monitoring how these policies are carried out and punishing abuse.”
Human Rights Watch’s report also criticizes Argentina’s reproductive health policies for ignoring key constituencies such as women and girls with disabilities. With its recent ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Argentina has taken on specific international obligations in this area that are not being met, Human Rights Watch said.
“Women and girls with disabilities face all the same barriers as women without disabilities, and then some,” Vivanco said. “Apart from straight-up access issues - are there ramps at clinics, or is information translated into Braille or sign language, for example - there is a larger question of prejudice. Some doctors just don’t think women with visual or hearing disabilities, have sexual relationships or can remember to take their contraception.”
The Argentine government has recently taken steps to remedy some of the issues highlighted in “Illusions of Care,” though some of the policy changes were later retracted. In May, the National Health Ministry created a free call-in number to answer questions about where to find reproductive health care services and register complaints. In July, the ministry announced its intention to make sure that abortions are carried out for women and girls whose lives or health are threatened by their pregnancies, or who have been raped. The day after the announcement, however, the government retracted its statements, noting that it did not intend to guarantee access after all.
“The Argentine government seems to be slowly waking up to the notion that laws on reproductive health mean nothing unless they are enforced,” Vivanco said. “But unless changes are constant and clear, women and girls will continue to suffer and, in some cases, die.”
Women in Afghanistan suffer “extremely high rates of domestic violence” which include forced marriages and physical attacks, Afghan and United Nations officials announced one week after a report by a top Afghan health advisor revealed that suicide among Afghan women had increased about 20 times since the 1970s.
Nearly 2,000 cases of violence against women were reported between October 2006 and mid-2009, according to an updated Violence against Women Primary Database Report launched on Thursday by the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), with support from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Afghanistan Information Management System (AIMS).
The database includes information on incidences of physical attacks and emotional abuse, rape and kidnapping, forced sexual intercourse by a husband, polygamy, forced engagement and forced marriage, and restricted mobility and curtailment of women’s participation in public life.
Of the reported cases, nearly a quarter showed that women had temporary physical injuries; in more than 20 per cent of the cases, the woman ran away and 2.5 per cent of the cases resulted in death or attempted suicide.
Approximately 40 per cent of the reported cases in the database showed that no follow up was done and the outcome of the violence was “unknown.”
Among the recommendations, the authors of the report based on the database findings called for “zero tolerance” of men in positions of power who mistreat or abuse women, particularly those in police and military who are approached for assistance by women already victimized.
Speaking at the report launch, MoWA Acting Minister Dr Husn Banu Ghazanfar and UNIFEM Country Director Christine Ouellette praised the revised database and the resulting report.
“The availability of this database…in addition to the special emphasis given to gender equality and empowerment of women during the recently held Kabul Conference, are testimony to the concerted efforts of the Government and other stakeholders to address violence against women,” Ouellette said, noting the 20 July conference where the Government of Afghanistan launched a series of national priorities and programmes in the areas of security, governance, social and economic development and better service delivery to citizens.
The launch of the revised violence against women database comes one week after a report authored by a health affairs advisor for President Hamid Karzai revealed that suicide among Afghan women had increased by some 20 times over the past 40 years, counter to the international suicide rates which have remained stable.
“Evidence suggests an increasing trend of suicide in Afghanistan, especially among women, and using the method of self-immolation,” Faizullah Kakar wrote in The Elevated Prevalence of Depression and Risk of Suicide among Afghan Women.
Nearly one-third of Afghan women between 15 and 35 years of age suffer from depression and psychological problems, Kakar said.
He blamed “war-related stress, displacement stress, repatriation stress, insecurity and addictions to hashish and opium,” as well as a culture of traditional marriage.
“For these women, social stresses such as forced marriages turn into the proverbial ‘straw that broke the camel’s back,’” Kakar concluded.
Among his recommendations to the Government of Afghanistan to counter this trend is an “effective and coherent national strategy” which provides social support to high-risk individuals.
A United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) report has highlighted the world’s failure to include women in decision-making in the HIV and AIDS response, despite a significant rise in the epidemic among women.
According to Ines Alberdi, executive director of UNIFEM, accelerating progress in the response to HIV is impossible when women are invisible in decision-making.
“Through our work on the ground we have repeatedly heard the voices of women as they provide concrete examples of what can work on the ground in preventing or reducing the epidemic, but these voices are missing in policy responses,” said Alberdi.
Entitled Transforming the National AIDS Response: Advancing Women’s Leadership and Participation, the report provides a clear assessment of the challenges women — particularly HIV-positive women — face in fully participating in policy-setting mechanisms and identified strategies which can be adopted to advance their involvement.
Alberdi further highlighted the importance of effective participation of women, especially HIV-positive women, in being part of the solutions and in finding sustainable, effective strategies to address HIV and AIDS.
Almost half of the 31.3 million HIV-positive adults in the world are women, with the numbers rising rapidly each day.
According to the report, 60 per cent of adults living with the disease in Sub-Saharan Africa are women, while in the Caribbean HIV prevalence rates among women have increased from 46 per cent in 2001 to 53 per cent in 2008, making it the second most affected region after sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, about 40 per cent of newly reported HIV cases in Eastern Europe and Central Asia in 2006 were among women.
But in spite of this rising trend, and women often being at the front-line of the epidemic, several factors restrict women’s engagement in finding solutions to the pandemic.
According to the UNIFEM report, the women interviewed cited stigma, lack of access to information, the burden of care giving and women’s multiple responsibilities in the home as well as illiteracy, as contributing factors.
“As this report demonstrates, getting a seat at the table where decisions are made on issues like how to access treatment in remote villages, how to educate communities about prevention of HIV, how to reach out to women who often face violence or discrimination if they reveal their status, is often next to impossible for an HIV-positive woman,” said Tyler Crone, lead author of the report.
On the opening day of the XV111 International Conference, a panel of 10 HIV infected women made recommendations as a roadmap for governments, donors, civil society and others involved in the AIDS response to ensure women’s participation.
Among the recommendations are for infected women, home-based caregivers and young women be recognised as key stakeholders in the AIDS response. They also recommended that there be reserved formal places for full participation and leadership in decision-making bodies.
It was also recommended that investments be made in organisations and initiatives led by HIV-positive women, especially community-based ones.
A U.S.-based rights group has urged the Philippines to reform a tough anti-abortion law that it says has spawned widespread underground procedures that kill about 1,000 women each year in the predominantly Roman Catholic country.
An estimated 560,000 women in the Philippines in 2008 sought abortion involving crude and painful methods such as intense abdominal massages by traditional midwives or inserting catheters into the uterus, said a report by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights.
About 90,000 women suffer from abortion complications and an estimated 1,000 die each year, the report said, adding that complications are among the top 10 reasons women seek hospital care.
The Roman Catholic church in the Philippines has stridently opposed the use of contraceptives and abortion. The existing law forbids abortion and is unclear about any exceptions in which it might be permitted, effectively making it a total ban, the report said. The law imposes up to six years imprisonment for women who commit intentional abortion and for doctors or midwives who help them.
And while post-abortion services are legal, women who seek them are often harassed or stigmatized even by health care workers, the report said.
The Center for Reproductive Rights is an advocacy group that says it works to advance reproductive freedom as a human right. It said its report was based on interviews with women who had had abortions, hospital authorities, political leaders, law enforcers and secondary data. A 2008 report by the U.S.-based nonprofit Guttmacher Institute in cooperation with the University of the Philippines Population Institute, cited the same figures as Monday’s report.
Philippine health and justice officials did not immediately respond Monday to requests for comment.
Melissa Upreti, one of the new report’s authors, said the Philippines is among a handful of countries including Nicaragua, Chile and El Salvador to prohibit and criminally punish abortion without providing clear legal exceptions including when a pregnancy poses a risk to the woman’s health, if the woman is a victim of rape or incest, or in cases of fetal impairment.
Even Spain, whose 1870 Penal Code provision on abortion became the basis of the Philippines’ 1930 law, has reformed its laws to recognize abortion on several grounds, said Upreti, the Center’s Asia program regional manager.
The World Health Organization says worldwide, the impact of unsafe abortion was “a major health concern” that claims the lives of 67,000 women yearly. It has urged countries to deal with the preventable problem that stems from reasons including unmet family planning needs and restricted access to safe abortion services.
“Access to safe, legal abortion is a fundamental right of women,” a WHO journal added.
“The Philippine government has created a dire human rights crisis in the country,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights
She said it was “time to break the silence around abortion in the Philippines and for the human rights community to put pressure on the government to decriminalize abortion and immediately improve the medical care that women receive.”
Florence Tadiar, a physician who heads the Institute for Social Studies and Action, said the ban has scared doctors and health workers from performing abortion even for medical reasons. Women who have had unsafe abortion, meanwhile, “will not go to the hospital unless they are dying.”
Alfredo Tadiar, a former judge and adviser to an international lawyers’ group said while women have been charged for abortion in the country, he has not heard of anyone actually sentenced or sent to jail.
Officials Should Investigate and Close Government Centers Where Abuses Occur
The Cambodian government should act quickly to end violence against sex workers and permanently close the government centers where these workers have been unlawfully detained and abused, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. Human Rights Watch also urged the Cambodian government to suspend provisions in the 2008 Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation that facilitate police harassment and abuses.
Human Rights Watch’s 76-page report, “Off the Streets: Arbitrary Detention and Other Abuses against Sex Workers in Cambodia,” is based on more than 90 interviews and group discussions with female and transgender sex workers in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, and Siem Reap. It describes how sex workers face a wide range of abuses, including beatings, extortion, and rape at the hands of authorities, particularly in Phnom Penh.
“For far too long, police and other authorities have unlawfully locked up sex workers, beaten and sexually abused them, and looted their money and other possessions,” said Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Cambodian government should order a prompt and thorough independent investigation into these systematic violations of sex workers’ human rights and shut down the centers where these people have been abused.”
Police arrest sex workers in regular sweeps on the streets and parks of Phnom Penh. Some of the violence is opportunistic, while other abuses commonly occur in periodic crackdowns and raids by police and district authorities, at times targeting sex workers specifically and other times picking up sex workers along with other groups of marginalized people on the streets.
Police abuse sex workers with impunity. Sex workers told Human Rights Watch that police officers beat them with their fists, sticks, wooden handles, and electric shock batons. In several instances, police officers raped sex workers while they were in police detention. Every sex worker that Human Rights Watch spoke to had to pay bribes or had money stolen from them by police officers.
A 2008 Cambodian law on trafficking and sexual exploitation criminalized all forms of trafficking, including forced labor. Human Rights Watch found that police officers at times can use those sections of the law that criminalize “solicitation” and “procurement” of commercial sex to justify harassment of sex workers. The provisions are also broad enough that they can be used to criminalize advocacy and outreach activities by sex worker groups and those who support them.
Human Rights Watch urged the Cambodian government to consult with sex worker groups, United Nations agencies, and organizations working on human rights, trafficking, and health to review and address the impact on the human rights of those engaged in sex work of provisions in the 2008 law on trafficking and sexual exploitation, before implementing those provisions.
“In an environment where police already act with impunity, the Cambodian government needs to recognize that criminalizing soliciting is a recipe for continuing human rights abuse,” said Pearson. “The government should go back to the drawing board – starting first by consulting extensively with sex workers and other groups – before continuing to implement the provisions which have been abused by police.”
In Phnom Penh, police refer sex workers to the municipal Office of Social Affairs and from there to NGOs or the government Social Affairs center, Prey Speu. Conditions in Prey Speu are abysmal. Sex workers, beggars, drug users, street children, and homeless people held at Prey Speu have reported how staff members at the center have beaten, raped, and mistreated detainees, including children. Local human rights workers, citing eyewitness accounts, allege that at least three people, and possibly more, were beaten to death by guards at Prey Speu between 2006 and 2008.
Following advocacy by Cambodian and international organizations, in 2009 and 2010 the municipal Social Affairs office began sending most sex workers picked up in sweeps to the custody of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) rather than Prey Speu. However, since May 2010, at least eight sex workers have been detained there. Sex workers detained in Prey Speu in June 2010 were locked in their rooms, only allowed to leave their rooms to bathe twice a day in dirty pond water, or, accompanied by a guard, to go to the toilet.
Human Rights Watch called on the Cambodian government to permanently close Social Affairs centers such as Prey Speu where people are being unlawfully detained. In a January 2010 report, “Skin on the Cable,” Human Rights Watch also documented horrific abuses at drug detention facilities in Cambodia against people who use drugs. The Cambodian government should also establish a special commission to investigate abuses thoroughly and independently, and hold the perpetrators accountable. So far, police and other authorities have evaded accountability for these abuses.
“The Cambodian government should immediately and permanently close down detention centers such as Prey Speu where people are being unlawfully detained, beaten up, and abused,” said Pearson. “Prosecuting those who commit these crimes will send a strong message that abuses against sex workers are not tolerated.”
Donors supporting anti-trafficking efforts and police training, especially the US, Australia, Japan, the European Union, and the UN, should review funding to the police and Ministry of Social Affairs until there is a full independent investigation into allegations of abuses and prosecutions of those found responsible and the Social Affairs centers such as Prey Speu are permanently closed. Despite years of training for police, police abuses continue, even by units that have been trained with international donor support, such as specialized anti-trafficking police units.
“Donors should not spend their money on training abusive officials, but instead take steps that will promote accountability from the Cambodian government,” said Pearson.
Part of a longer article at http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/07/16/cambodia-sex-workers-face-unlawful-arrests-and-detention
Download Off the Streets – Arbitrary Detention and Other Abuses against Sex Workers in Cambodia from http://www.hrw.org/node/91629
Tens of thousands of Kenyan women and girls suffer from obstetric fistula, a childbirth injury causing leakage of urine and feces, a direct result of inadequate health services and failed government policies, Human Rights Watch said in a report released earlier this month.
The 82-page report, “‘I Am Not Dead, But I Am Not Living’: Barriers to Fistula Prevention and Treatment in Kenya,” describes the devastating condition facing women with fistula in Kenya and the wide gap between government’s policies to address reproductive health and the reality of women’s daily lives. It documents health system failures in five areas: education and information on reproductive and maternal health; school-based sex education; access to emergency obstetric care, including referral and transport systems; affordable maternity care and fistula repair; and health system accountability. It also documents stigma and violence many fistula sufferers face.
“Many women and girls with fistula endure lives of shame, misery, violence, and poverty,” said Agnes Odhiambo, Africa women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Preventing fistula and restoring women’s health and dignity requires more than good policies on paper. Kenya needs to keep its promise of decent health care for all.”
The risk of obstetric fistula often begins when young girls get pregnant or marry early, before their bodies are safely able to sustain a pregnancy. This can result in obstructed labor, and if emergency care – often a Caesarean section – is not accessible, the long labor results in destruction of vaginal tissue and causes a hole – a fistula – and incontinence. One of the factors leading to early pregnancy and childbearing is the lack of accurate information about sexuality. Human Rights Watch interviewed many girls with virtually no knowledge about reproductive processes or health.
Kwamboka W., who got pregnant at 13 while in primary school, told Human Rights Watch: “I didn’t know anything about family planning or condoms. I just went once and got pregnant. I still have no idea about contraceptives.”
Others told Human Rights Watch they had unprotected sex but thought they would not get pregnant because it was their first time or because they had irregular menstrual periods.
The report is based on field research conducted by Human Rights Watch in November and December 2009 in hospitals in Kisumu, Nairobi, Kisii, and Machakos, as well as in Dadaab in March 2010. Researchers interviewed 55 women and girls ranging in age from 14 to 73, 53 of whom had fistula. Twelve of those with fistula were between the ages of 14 and 18. Human Rights Watch also interviewed obstetric fistula surgeons, nurses working in hospital fistula wards, hospital administrators, representatives of nongovernmental organizations working on health and women’s rights, government officials, representatives of professional associations for doctors and nurses, international donors, United Nations representatives, and primary and secondary school teachers.
Kwamboka W. described her life after she developed a fistula: “I thought I should kill myself. You can’t walk with people. They laugh at you. You can’t travel; you are constantly in pain. It is so uncomfortable when you sleep. You go near people and they say urine smells, and they are looking directly at you and talking in low tones. It hurt so much I thought I should die. You can’t work because you are in pain; you are always wet and washing clothes. Your work is just washing pieces of rugs.”
Human Rights Watch found that even though the government has introduced sex education in schools, teachers often don’t take the time to teach it because it is not part of the syllabus.
The report also said that health care user fees are a significant barrier to maternity care and fistula surgery. Many of the women who suffer from fistula are poor. Women told Human Rights Watch how difficult it was to raise money for surgery. The Kenya government made a great stride when it began offering free maternity care in dispensaries and health centers, Human Rights Watch said. But this does not help the women who develop complications requiring care in hospitals, where fees are still charged. These fees deter poor women from seeking skilled maternity care.
Government hospitals are supposed to offer fee waivers for indigent patients, but the report identified critical shortcomings in the waiver process. These include lack of awareness of the policy among patients and some health providers; the reluctance of some facilities to publicize the waivers and deliberate withholding of information requested by patients; vague implementation guidelines, including the criteria for determining a patient’s financial needs; and lack of oversight and monitoring to ensure that hospitals grant waivers to qualifying patients. None of the women and girls interviewed by Human Rights Watch had received a waiver.
“Poor, rural, and illiterate women and girls are often the ones who develop obstetric fistula or die during pregnancy and childbirth,” Odhiambo said. “Important information and services are not reaching them, and this shows that government policies that promise health care equality are not being carried out.”
Strengthening health system accountability – giving people accessible and effective ways to provide feedback and lodge complaints, and ensuring that the feedback leads to improvements – can greatly enhance the health system, Human Rights Watch said. The current system of suggestion boxes is ineffective, especially for illiterate women, the report found. Several women and girls interviewed by Human Rights Watch had experienced abuse in health facilities, yet did not lodge complaints because they did not know how or feared retaliation.
“Camps” funded by international donors a few weeks a year in a number of towns offer surgical repairs to a small percentage of fistula sufferers, but even those who have successful surgery may still face stigma in their families and communities.
After years, sometimes decades, of isolation, many women and girls need help reintegrating into their communities. They need social and psychological support to regain self-esteem and confidence, to encourage participation in social and religious life, to regain fertility and an opportunity for a normal sexual life, and to ensure future safe childbirth. These women also need help to become financially self-sufficient.
The Kenyan government should develop and implement a national strategy to prevent fistula and provide needed services to those who have the injury, Human Rights Watch said. The effort should include a public awareness campaign about the causes of fistula, the need for childbirth to take place in properly equipped facilities, and the availability of treatment. The government should make comprehensive sex education part of the school syllabus to ensure that teachers allocate time to teach it.
The government also urgently needs to improve access to fistula surgery by subsidizing routine repairs in hospitals and providing free surgery for indigent patients, Human Rights Watch said. It should expand the exemptions from user fees to include all maternal health care, not just childbirth in dispensaries and health centers, and the government should urgently improve the quality of and access to emergency obstetric care.
Download the report from “I Am Not Dead, But I Am Not Living” – Barriers to Fistula Prevention and Treatment in Kenya from http://www.hrw.org/node/91514
A Swedish law punishing the purchase not the sale of sex, has been so effective it has reduced street prostitution in half, but the Scandinavian country is still facing a growing problem of sex sold over the Internet, a report recently published has said.
“The evaluation shows that the ban on the purchase of sexual services has had the intended effect and is an important instrument in preventing and combating prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes,” the report said.
The report, handed to Justice Minister Beatrice Ask yesterday, maintained “that prostitution in Sweden, unlike in comparable countries, has not in any case increased since the introduction of the ban” on buying sexual services went into effect in 1999.
While the law punishing the client rather than the prostitute may not have caused a dramatic drop in prostitution as a whole, its true triumph, according to the report, is that “street prostitution in Sweden has been halved.”