In this article, a sociology student (!) in Liberia is organizing to stop a common practices: young women pressured to exchange sex for grades. Yes, this happens in the United States as well, as we discussed in class this week. It appears that it has not been publicized as a problem in sub-Saharan Africa until now:
This article is very depressing and reflective of many of the issues we have been discussing regarding the book, Half the Sky. When I read this article I experienced a variety of emotions ranging from disgust, anger, sadness, and astonishment. The references to elderly women being raped in their late 80′s and 90′s was almost too much too much to stomach. This is the kind of article that demands some type of immediate action if it is no more than posting this article on social media sites and blogs to hopefully draw attention to the epidemic that seems to be not just impacting South Africa, but many countries throughout the world.
Here is an article that appeared in Foreign Policy, which sent Twitter, FB, and all forms of social media buzzing: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/04/23/why_do_they_hate_us?page=0,0 discussing “the real war on women.”
For an example of a response, see http://neocolonialthoughts.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/a-response-to-mona-el-tahawy/
In an interview with al-Jazeera, a Qatari author discusses the (non)impact the Arab Spring on women: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/talktojazeera/2012/04/201242111373249723.html .
Somalia is a small country in East Africa where female genital mutilation is widespread and consists of the most severe form of female circumcision. This violent act of removing the clitoris, or parts of it, has grown to be a public health issue because the practice has severe physical and mental health consequences for women. The custom has an ancient origin but there are many different reasons and rationales for its practice. These range from religion, to a rite of passage for womanhood, to the preservation of female chastity and purity. Given its complexity, there are no easy solutions for ending the practice. However, raising awareness outside of Somalia and urging all women to join together to effect change, is an important first step closer to helping the girls of Somalia.
Female genital mutilation exists in three forms of cutting. The first is known as Type 1 in which the the precipice, surrounding the clitoris is removed. Type 2 involves removal of the clitoris as well as parts of labia minora. Type 3 is known as Pharaonic circumcision, the most severe form, in which all exterior parts are removed and then closed by rejoining the cut edges of the labia. The practice of Pharaonic circumcision or infibulations is the most widespread practice in Somalia, and it has severe physical and psychological effects on the girls who undergo the procedure.
Some of the physical short term effects are pain, severe hemorrhage from clitoral artery, shock due to hemorrhage, and urinary retention (Ford). Long-term effects include the development of inclusion cysts, dysmenorrhea (painful cramps during menstruation), infertility, and painful intercourse. Furthermore, the vaginal areas of women with infibulations have to be re-opened for the first experience of sexual intercourse and for each birth. Afterward, they have to be restitched, leading to the formation of painful scar tissues as well as to difficulties with urination and menstruation.
The harmful physical effects are obvious but there are also negative psychological effects that these girls in Somalia face because of genital mutilation. Many may experience posttraumatic stress disorder or anxiety along with nightmares to haunt them for the rest of their lives. These girls are victims to a culture that labels women inferior and unworthy if not physically mutilated. Feelings of insecurity, helplessness, loneliness, and fear are just a few that girls will go through throughout their lifetime after being a victim to female genital mutilation.
Girls in Somalia may not accept that their worth is solely in their reproductive system, yet, they have no voice in their own country. Outsiders can help but first they must raise awareness, which can cause issues among the community itself for fear of devaluation in their customs. My Voice is a feminist organization at East Carolina University that focuses on equal rights for all women. They raise awareness on campus and reach out to the community with a goal to raise money for particular issues affecting women and minorities. By joining the club and speaking of the issues facing Somalia, the group can create awareness on campus and get members to fundraise money for the cause as well as getting more students involved.
Waris Dirie is a supermodel in the U.S. but is from Somalia. She has created a video to bring awareness to the horrors of Female Genital Mutilation. In her video, she addresses her personal experience with genital mutilation and explains how it changed her life forever. Dirie was a victim to this cruel act and she advocates stopping Female Genital Mutilation worldwide with her foundation called Desert Flower. By showing this video, we can create awareness and then the next step we need to take is to take action.
An active role we can play as ECU students after watching the film is to raise money for the Desert Flower foundation through My Voice organization. By raising money, we can help these girls in Somalia so that they can live a life free of fear from genital mutilation. ECU students, like many, say they are too busy to help because of homework, exams, and work. My response to these students: there will always be work and things one must do, but if we do not help give a voice to these girls, we have already failed as human beings. We need to push our negative thoughts to the side and fight for equality for these girls so that they may one day have a positive future like Waris Dirie.
This article examines how public toilets and latrines in slums in Kenya are not only hazardous due to their unsanitary conditions, but also because the women who use them are very often raped in the process. Many times women go to use the facilities and are attacked and raped, often brutally and by multiple offenders. One women interviewed in this article even contracted HIV from her assault. The article discusses how some humanitarian groups have been trying to invent new ways for women to be able to relieve themselves in safety, but also without creating further public health hazards. A Dutch inventor has created a kind of bag that turns human waste into compost after a few, alleviating the problem of human waste being thrown from the houses where these women are very literally imprisoned in order to remain safe. It leaves to question…is even having access to a toilet a basic human right? Apparently not for women. Lena Jones
Hundreds of thousands of women are taken from their homes every year and forced to have sex for money. Sex-trafficking is defined by the US State Department as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for sexual exploitation through the use of fraud, force, or coercion” (Strege, 2008:98). There are approximately 800,000 women and children bought and sold annually worldwide. Nearly 200,000 of these come from Nigeria.
Trafficking of Nigerian women has been going on since the late 1980s and they are being sent to countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Benin, Guinea, Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, and Venezuela. An estimated sixty percent of these women wind up in Italy.
There are many different groups involved in the trafficking of women and children in Nigeria. Examples include: (1) forgers, (2) lawyers, (3) juju priests, (4) government officials, (5) sorcerers, (6) evangelists, (7) embassy officials, (8) police, (9) state officials, (10) border and immigration officials, (11) transporters, (12) receivers, (13) p imps, and (14) brothel-keepers. Abroad, the traffickers have established mafia-like organizations making it very difficult to infiltrate and take down these groups.
Many of these women are unaware that they will be working as prostitutes. They are told they will have legitimate jobs overseas such as nursing, baby sitting, maid, cooking, or other service-related jobs. Others are told they are being taken to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage. Once they arrive in the destination country, their forged documents are taken from them and they are sold to a madam where they must work off a debt of up to fifty-thousand dollars in order to gain their freedom. In addition, they are required to pay rent, contribute money for food and the purchase of exotic clothing, and give gifts to their madam each month making it take even longer to pay off their debt.
Nigerian traffickers use a very unique method to control these women: religion. Rather than use physical force, they have the girls undergo traditional juju rights. Parts of their bodies such as hair, nails, menstrual blood, and pieces of their underwear are taken and placed before a traditional shrine where the girls are made to swear an oath of secrecy. These rites are conducted by a juju priest or sorcerer. The women believe these people can control their bodies from a distance or kill them and their families if they break their oath. Churches have also been known to take oaths to ensure the women’s loyalties.
There are many theories as to the reasons for sex-trafficking in Nigeria. The theory most often given is poverty. Due to unemployment, or working in a marginal job, these women do not make enough money to adequately support themselves. Many also lack the education and skills needed to obtain a job or earn more pay and so are vulnerable to trafficking which promises high-paying jobs outside of Nigeria. Other factors suggested are corruption, in that government officials take bribes to look the other way; and the idea of polygyny found in many traditional African cultures. Once the dowry money runs out, these women are often left to fend for them and their children on their own. Another reason is the idea that sex with a virgin cures HIV resulting in a high demand for virgins that traffickers can fulfill.
Many European countries have tried to help prevent human trafficking by introducing provisions for equality between men and women in their countries. However, I feel that until these programs attack the source of sex-trafficking, this problem will continue unabated. It is women and children that are the most common victims and, therefore, they should be made a part of the process. Helping women gain an education may make them less vulnerable to trafficking. This would allow them to obtain higher paying jobs and thus make them less desperate for money. Perhaps offering free education to women would encourage them to seek higher education. Helping them obtain jobs after graduation would also help. Another suggestion would be to educate government officials about the problem and try to reduce the incidence of bribe-taking. Until the lives of Nigerian women are improved, the trafficking of them will continue no matter what methods destination countries enact to help prevent this problem.
Leila McInnis is a graduate student in cultural anthropology concentrating in development and applied anthropology. She intends to go into international disaster relief following graduation.
This article from Women’s E-News discusses the rise of the strip club industry in Kenya. Although the practice is illegal, owners circumvent the laws by registering the businesses as bars. Interestingly, there is a comment saying that they want their patrons to feel “like they feel in Atlanta”. From my standpoint, the strip club industry is not something we want to be sending across borders, particularly to a country that is struggling with the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Even though men and women equally participated in the revolution of overthrowing Mubarak, women are not being represented in the transitional process. No women are on the constitutional drafting team, and there are not any women assigned as cabinet ministers. This is very important because this will lead to having the interests of women ignored in laws the male officials are creating. The UN is putting pressure on Egypt to allow women to have a voice in the creation of the new government, and in pushing for women to run for political offices. The women of Egypt know that this moment in history could transform the rights women have if their voices are heard.