International Roundup: Mother’s Day Around the World

Mother’s Day honors mothers and their influence in society; it also celebrates the maternal bond. While the United States celebrates Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May, it is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, most commonly in March, April, or May. And depending on the country, Mother’s Day can reflect one of the worst moments of its history, or serve a current women’s struggle:

In Mexico, Mother’s Day is serious business

A Times of India group fetes mothers

A look at the origins of Mother’s Day

In Taipei, mothers work to close nuclear power plants

Opinion: Mother’s Day in Africa

STD Awareness Month: International Roundup

STD awareness month in the USA is the occasion to recall that all inhabitants of the Planet are concerned by STDs. Even if what is at stake can change more or less, depending on the countries, STD awareness stays intrinsically linked to the woman’s condition. There are too many laws which the only purpose is to control human body. Sexual education is a pivot in this awareness: when people don’t receive an appropriate sex education, they are much exposed to STD.

What is at stake:
USA: Sex, Teens and Risk: Conservatives Have It Wrong
Africa: Study Notes Strategies to Lower HIV Risk for Sex Workers
Brazil: Brazil’s economy may be thriving, but its attitude towards children shows it is still lagging behind

Sex education:
USA: Utah’s Abstinence-Only Sex Education Bill is Dangerous for Teens
Asia: China introduces sex education in primary schools

Focus on Maternal Mortality in Tanzania

In our focus on the attacks on women’s health here in the United States, we often forget that women in developing countries have it much worse than we do. Take Tanzania for instance. A new article in Ms. Magazine explains that:

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 13,000 women die each year in Tanzania due to labor and pregnancy-related complications, and more than a quarter million more suffer disabling conditions. The country ranks 21st highest maternal mortality rate among African nations. Like its neighbor Uganda, Tanzania is one of the world’s poorest countries, and 75 percent of its population lives in rural areas. Transportation is spotty and health-care facilities are often miles away from local communities, making it extremely difficult for women who experience pregnancy complications—which can include severe hemorrhage, infections, anemia and obstructed labor—to access skilled health care.

Belle Taylor-McGhee, the author of the Ms. article and a board member of EngenderHealth, a nonprofit aimed at increasing women’s access to family planning services worldwide, says that when she visited Tanzania and other sub-Saharan African countries to write the story for Ms., she was astonished by what she saw.

“I have worked on reproductive health care for some time,” says Taylor-McGhee. “My first trip to Africa was part of an EngenderHealth visit to Ethiopia. We were going there to look at women’s access to reproductive health care, the challenges health care providers face, and how those challenges are being addressed by the government and NGOs. The trip was a real eye opener for me. It was the first time that I actually met women who had experienced fistula. Most of the women at the fistula hospital we visited were quite young, under twenty years old, and some were as young as fourteen or fifteen years old.”

Fistula occurs when there is a tear in the vaginal area. Tearing can occur during childbirth, especially if labor is prolonged or there are other complications during childbirth. Fistula is very uncommon in developed countries, but it can occur frequently in countries where women do not have access to quality childbirth facilities. Vaginal tearing can lead to infections, and if this is left untreated, women can die. [Read more...]

Malawi Judge Convicts Gay Couple of Unnatural Acts With a Possible Sentence of 14 Years in Prison

Homophobia is incredibly rampant throughout the continent of Africa. As evidenced by the ‘Kill the gays’ bill in Uganda, the lives of LGBT citizens are incredibly precarious around the world. A similar case of legal persecution has surfaced in Malawi, where a Judge has convicted a gay couple of indecency for conducting a public ceremony celebrating their engagement to one another. That’s right folks; two men face years of prison time for publicly expressing their love to one another. Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, both in their twenties, were arrested a day after they celebrated their engagement with a party.

Undule Mwakasungula, a gay rights activist in Malawi, said the couple’s decision to declare their relationship with an engagement ceremony appears to have been personal, not political. Others have been prosecuted under the law but this case was different because the two men were open about their homosexuality, Mwakasungula said.

The couple were convicted of unnatural acts and gross indecency under laws dating from the colonial era. Blantyre Chief Resident Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa said the sentencing will take place on Thursday and they could be imprisoned for up to 14 years. [Read more...]

Abortion Law Harms Kenyan Women and Girls

Anyone who believes that making abortion illegal saves lives has probably never experienced desperation or been affected by misinformation. When access to safe abortion is denied, women turn to dangerous back alley and at-home methods of abortion. Women in countries that outlaw abortions will drink turpentine or bleach, jump from stairs or a rooftop and place foreign bodies such as the classic clothes hanger into their uterus in order to end a pregnancy. 

Any of these methods and others used by women around the world can cause injury and even death. The Center for Reproductive Rights released the report In Harm’s Way: The impact of Kenya’s restrictive abortion law, which details how women are dying because of fuzzy legal language and the criminalization of abortion.

Women in Africa are not more or less likely to have an abortion than any other women in the world. However, women in Africa are more likely to have unsafe abortions and Kenya has one of the highest rates of abortion related deaths. “In Kenya, 35% of maternal deaths are attributable to unsafe abortion.”

Kenya’s current law about abortion states:

Any person who, with intent to procure miscarriage of a woman…unlawfully administers to her or causes her to take any poison…or uses force of any kind, or uses any other means whatever, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.”
[Read more...]

Clitoridectomy: Repressive or Empowering?

ClitoridectomyWhile doing research on the Sande, a secret society of women in Africa dating back to at least the 1600s, I came across something interesting – the idea that the practice of clitoridectomy could be a source of female bonding and empowerment.

Clitoridectomy is the surgical removal of the clitoris and sometimes parts of the labia as well; also known as female circumcision and female genital mutilation. Not to be confused with infibulation, which is when the vulva is sewn together, leaving only a small opening to pee from, to ensure a girl remains a virgin before marriage (although clitoridectomies are typically preformed with infibulations).

From Susan Sered’sPriestess, Mother, Sacred Sister: Religions Dominated by Women:

According to [Carol] MacCormack, the gender ideology taught by Sande stresses sex distinction (women and men are clearly different), respect for women’s bodies, dependence on fellow women, preserving women’s secret knowledge and power, and a cultural rather than a purely biological understanding of fertility. Sande training stresses their value as women to society. ‘In this institutional setting women dramatically pass on a strong, positive self-image to other women’ (MacCormack 1977, 98).

[Read more...]

PBS Reports the Real News Behind Clinton’s Africa Visit

JimLNewsPBS news again covers real news and not a sensationalized misunderstanding. The recent annoyed reaction by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has overshadowed the purpose for her African tour and the message of human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Rape and sexual slavery are frequently being used as weapons in the fighting of the DRC. These warfare actions need to be seen and treated as crimes against humanity. Clinton told Congolese Preside Joseph Kabila there shouldn’t be “impunity for sexual and gender-based violence.” Her visit brings attention to a problem that many women’s rights and peace activists have been outraged about for some time.
[Read more...]

Female Genital Circumcision: Uganda, Sudan and Western Debate

Uganda has moved to ban female circumcision with support from President Yoweri Museveni. The law will award the death penalty to anyone who performs on a circumcision on a girl who ends up dying from the process.

Female genital circumcision (FGC), also often referred to as female genital cutting or mutilation, happens in some communities in Asia, Middle East, Americas and Europe. However, the majority of cases occur in various African countries. The process involves partial or total removal of external female genitalia.

 It is often performed as a rite of passage into womanhood. Many parents enforce the practice in order to ensure their daughters are marriage material. The procedure is done on girls from infancy to approximately 15 years of age. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 100-140 million girls and women have been circumcised and millions more are at risk each year. [Read more...]

Mozambique and the U.S. Continue Fight Against Domestic Violence

Mozambique has taken a significant step in the fight to stop violence against women. Parliament recently passed the first reading of legislation establishing domestic violence as a crime separate from simple assault. This is the first of its kind in the country and could increase the penalties for committing violence against an intimate partner by a third.

 The law will establish domestic violence as a public crime. Therefore, any witness can bring it to the attention of authorities. A victim doesn’t have to press charges in order for legal action to be taken against perpetrators of domestic violence. In addition, the law will allow the courts to issue restraining orders and suspend parental rights.  

As Mozambique progresses in their fight against domestic violence so does the United States. We are fortunate to be starting from more established policies regarding issues of violence against women. Recently there has been an additional advancement with the appointment of a White House Advisor on violence against women. Former executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Lynn Rosenthal is the first to assume this new created position. [Read more...]

Time to Implement the AU’s Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa

The heads of state of the African Union met in Libya for the 13th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union. Agriculture and its relation to economic growth and security was at center stage for the conference. Prior to the conference, a group of women’s rights advocates met to discuss the status of women in Africa.

Tumuslime discussed aspects of the history of women’s status in Africa and stressed the necessity of the AU to effectively address these issues, especially regarding agricultural production and food security. In many African countries women are responsible for the production of 80 percent or more of the food supply, yet women’s decision-making authority falls far short of their overall economic contribution to society.
“The women have always been there and they starve in order to feed their husbands. They starve in order to feed their children, and they starve in order to look after the sick, to look out for the HIV people in the hospitals. Without women, I don’t think, we would be anywhere,” Tumuslime stated in her address. (VOA, June 18)

[Read more...]