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Haitian earthquake effect on girls and young women

January 17, 2010 2 comments

Women and girls have always carried the brunt of natural disasters. They become more vulnerable than they may already be. They become more impoverished, due to the fact that they were probably in a worse-off financial situation beforehand. Since they’re generally the primary caretakers, they have other people to take care of, so they don’t put their own needs first. Also, the countries are usually rebuilt on the shoulders of women. You get the picture. Obviously nature disasters effect men in negative ways, but women just carry the brunt of negative effects.

When I heard about the earthquake, I was immediately thinking about how women and girls were going to be effected, and now there is actually an acknowledgment that young women and girls are in more danger now than ever before in Haiti.

As of right now, relief efforts are being put into Haiti, and many have said that things like security is just not something that is important at this moment. However, Gerardo Ducos, a Haitian researcher for Amnesty International states,

“My worry is we put a lot of effort into bringing relief, but we have to have some protective measures to benefit women and girls to avoid their being victimized and sexually assaulted. It was already difficult in ordinary times.”

As Ducos said, it was already difficult during ordinary times. There are various reported numbers, but so many girls and young women do not report their rapes or other sexual assaults. During this time of crisis, this issue is just going to get worse. Yifat Susskind, policy and communications director for MADRE, says that women need more support during this time, but this is what happenings:

“They need support commensurate to the burden they are carrying. Instead, we see women and girls are targeted in all sorts of way, especially gender violence.”

She also mentioned that there are simply more losses for girls and young women, by stating,

“Her grandmother, the one person (a girl) could go to for protection or solace – she doesn’t know if she is dead or alive. Her school, the one safe place she could go every day is destroyed. … “

Ultimately, this earthquake has been such a huge hit for everyone, and it’s wonderful that the world is really stepping up and pouring out love to Haiti. We just can’t forget that women and girls are the ones that are going to be effected by this the most in the short and long run.

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Sexism in South Africa

January 12, 2010 3 comments

A recent study in South Africa shows that sexism is alive and well, and very pervasive. And this is among men and women. Remember, we usually see things through the dominant groups lens. This is one reason why women and girls do get sucked into agreeing with some sexist things and whatnot. Here’s the breakdown:

It is acceptable for a man to beat his wife – 6% of men think yes/5% of women think yes
A boy has more right to an education than a girl – 11% of men think yes/8% of women think yes
A woman’s place is in the house – 20% of men think yes/14% of women think yes
When jobs are scarce, men should have more right to jobs than women – 38% of men think yes/22% of women think yes
Men make better political leaders than women do – 41% of men think yes/25% of women think yes

The article also mentions that 1 out of 4 men in South Africa have admitted to committing rape; some admitted to doing it multiple times. Wow. And that’s just the amount that has admitted to it. Of course, we do know that South Africa has the highest amount of rapes per capita, but even knowing that doesn’t lend itself to the rape stats being less shocking.

What do you think about these stats? Do you think that there would be some similarities if we did the same questions in North America?

Portugal passes same-sex marriage bill

January 8, 2010 1 comment

Great news coming from Portugal! Today, they passed a bill allowing same-sex marriage. Portugal is the 6th European country to allow same-sex marriage. The bill simply removes the reference to marriage being between two people of the opposite sex.

”It’s a slight change to the law, it’s true,” Socrates, the prime minister, said. ”But it is a very important and symbolic step towards fully ensuring respect for values that are essential in any democratic, open and tolerant society: the values of freedom, equality and non-discrimination.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Very exciting news!

Ugandan woman forced to breastfeed pups

January 4, 2010 2 comments

What a horrific story to start off the new year. While I read the article featuring the story of a Ugandan woman whose husband forced her to breastfeed their pups, my jaw dropped open and I covered my mouth with my hands in horror. Add this to another reason as to why I am a feminist and not ashamed to say it.

Jennipher Alupot has been receiving this cruel, unusual and dehumanizing abuse for 7 years and now that her story is out, it is sending waves across Uganda about domestic abuse, and people are quite frankly horrified by this. So what exactly does this abuse entail? Well, her husband, Nathan Alowoi would “appear at the marital bed, bind his young wife’s legs and hands together and force the mewling animals to her nipple.” He apparently did this because he had given her family two cows for the “bride price”, and so, he no longer had milk for the pups. Jennipher explains more, “I had to feed them all through the night; then in the morning he would untie me.

Eventually they started having children, and their third child had to share the breast milk with the pups. Eventually their son “started having fits and foaming at the mouth,” and died just before he was two. Jennipher says that she most likely believes that it had something to do with the pups also breastfeeding at the same time. Um, yeah.

Jennipher tried reaching out for help. She wasn’t silent; however, no one would listen to her.

She had a fourth child this past March and was hoping that after their son had died, her husband would stop the abuse. However, that’s not what happened. It got more violent, and “one night when she protested, her husband pierced her with a spear under the chin.” That was it for her, and she fled to the women’s refuge center in Pallisa.

Since Jennipher fled, she is now taking legal action against her husband. As well, a Ugandan bill that was centered on domestic violence was passed this last month after being on the table for years. Many are saying that it was Jennipher’s case that made that bill pass. Why must this abuse happen before a bill tightening domestic violence laws to be passed? It’s sad and in no way preventative.

Ultimately, this is a shocking and horrifying thing that no one would wish on anyone (I would hope). Domestic violence is something that remains prevalent all around the world, but is something is kept hush hush. Although horrifying, these stories need to continue to be brought to the forefront to show people around the world that so many women receive horrible treatment from their partners.

I’m still in complete shock over this story.

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

December 9, 2009 Leave a comment

I cannot even express in words how much shock and anger came upon me when I heard about this extremely disgusting, homophobic bill proposal. RH Reality Check explains,

The bill proposes a seven-year jail term for anyone who “attempts to commit the offence” or who “aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage in acts of homosexuality.” Under the proposed law, “promotion of homosexuality,” including publishing information or providing funds, premises for activities, or other resources, is also punishable by a seven-year sentence or a fine of US$50,000. The bill seeks to apply the death penalty handed down for the crime of “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as a sexual assault committed against a member of the same sex who is under 18 or disabled. An HIV test would be forced upon anyone found guilt of the offense of “homosexuality.”

No one in their right mind would think this would pass, correct? Well, many gay rights activists in Uganda are saying that this is something that most likely will pass. David Cato, a gay rights activist in Uganda, says that there has been more of a gay rights movement in Uganda lately, which means that these laws are being put into place.

“It’s a question of visibility,” said David Cato, who became an activist after he was beaten up four times, arrested twice, fired from his teaching job and outed in the press because he is gay. “When we come out and ask for our rights, they pass laws against us.”

I for one sincerely hope that this bill does not get passed. There is a lot of international pressure on Uganda right now because of this bill, but only time will tell if this pressure will influence Uganda in any way.

AIDS and Gender

December 1, 2009 Leave a comment

With the recent finding that HIV/AIDS is the biggest killer among women in their reproductive age, we know that there are some serious issues that need to be looked at in terms of this disease and gender.

We know that for most women (an estimated 98% of all women affected by HIV/AIDS live in developing countries), treatment, prevention and ultimately, equality, are things that they do not have access too. Let’s talk about gender inequality for a moment, shall we? Gender norms are a part of this inequality and accounts for much of the spreading of this disease. UNAIDS states,

Gender norms, for example, often dictate that women and girls should be ignorant and passive about sex, leaving them unable to negotiate safer sex or access appropriate services. Gender norms in many societies also reinforce a belief that men should seek multiple sexual partners, take risks and be self-reliant.

And let’s not forget, they also mention how in in many cultures, violence against women is condoned. So looking at the gender norms of men, it’s apparent that women automatically become more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. These uber masculine gender norms continue to hurt women in many ways, but especially in this area. And of course, when women and girls are supposed to be “passive” towards men about sex, it doesn’t prevent the spreading of HIV/AIDS. A way to hurdle this is to of course promote gender equality, empower women to know more about their bodies and sex, and teach men that these norms aren’t good for women, or themselves. And of course we can’t forget, if there is going to be consensual sex, use a condom!

The WHO talks about another issue that comes up with gender norms. They call it “gender-related barriers” for services, or treatment.

Women may face barriers due to their lack of access to and control over resources, child-care responsibilities, restricted mobility and limited decision-making power.

Socialization of men may mean that they will not seek HIV services due to a fear of stigma and discrimination, losing their jobs and of being perceived as “weak” or “unmanly”.

How true. For women of course, it appears that they are not in control of the decision to go seek out services or treatments. How horrible, but true. Women once against face the brunt of this disease, because of their lack of options. Men on the other hand probably do have much more access to services or treatment, but because of their societal gender norms, they refuse to get treatment. This hurts men. This hurts men a lot. Any cultural idea of what hegemonic masculinity should look like, usually hurts men and it can be seen here that men also pay the price.

I’m not going to sit back here and think I know the solution to all of this. I don’t think anyone actually does; and even if they do, solutions are a very hard thing to put in place and people will still continue to live with HIV/AIDS and die from it. However, I do say that promoting gender equality is a must (it’s a must anyway, but I digress). Through promoting gender equality, women and girls will have more rights, as well as have an understanding about their bodies and understand that consensual sex is where it’s at. Now, I’m not saying that women and girls always have the choice of consensual sex. A lot of times they don’t. But for them to know that that is what kind of sex should be happening, is a must.

Women and girls do unfortunately bare the greater responsibility and consequences of sex many, many times. After all, we are the ones that get pregnant and we are the ones that are more vulnerable to STIs. It shouldn’t be our complete responsibility, however, it sometimes ends up like that. Women and girls must be educated about safe sex and the possibility of HIV/AIDS. Many women and girls are in the dark about this because they have not had access to this kind of education. Of course, this still will not prevent HIV/AIDS, because some men will insist that no condom be used.

And this brings me right back around to promoting gender equality. When women are able to make decisions and choices about their bodies and sex, we will see a decrease in HIV/AIDS, in both women and men.

If you want to read more about AIDS and gender, visit AVERT.

World AIDS Day

December 1, 2009 Leave a comment

Today, December 1st, is World AIDS Day. Today we need to talk about AIDS. We need to encourage dialogue about it. We need to debunk myths. We need to get the facts straight. We need to support those who do have HIV/AIDS. We need to fight against AIDS prejudice.

The stats, courtesy of UNAIDS:

There are 33.4 million people living with HIV worldwide.
Out of that, 15.7 million of these are women.
In 2008, 2.7 million people got HIV.
In the same year, 2 million people died in HIV-related deaths.

These statistics clearly show that this is a huge issue. However, it’s not something that has exactly been dealt with properly. Watch this video talking about treatment, prevention and action for HIV/AIDS from AVERT.