Category Archives: governance

We Can’t Have a Post-2015 Agenda Without SRHR

In 2000, the creators of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) completely overlooked sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), a mistake that, if repeated, would cripple the dreams of millions of young girls and women for years and generations to come.

 

Access to SRHR enables individuals to choose whether, when, and with whom to engage in sexual activity; to choose whether and when to have children; and to access the information and means to do so. To some, these rights may be considered an everyday reality. However, that is not the case for millions of young people in the world – particularly girls and women.

 

On Tuesday night, I had the fantastic opportunity to listen to some of the foremost global leaders speak on behalf of ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health and rights in the post-2015 agenda. The benefits of ensuring SRHR are society wide and inevitably translate into improved education, economic growth, health, gender equality, and even environment.

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Education

 

“At my high school, you would be expelled if found with a condom.” – Samuel Kissi, former President, Curious Minds Ghana

 

When girls are healthy and their rights are fulfilled, they have the opportunity to attend school, learn life skills, and grow into empowered young women. Wherever girls’ SRHR are ignored, major educational barriers follow. Child marriage and early pregnancy are major contributors to school dropout rates. In South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, girls are married before age 18 at an alarming 50 percent and 40 percent respectively. And in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 90 percent of adolescent pregnancies occur in marriage, it is safe to assume that not all those sexual acts were consensual and not all those pregnancies were planned.

 

Economic Benefits

 

“Initially I used to oppose family planning, but now I fully support. I support it because my wife has more time to work and earn money.” – The Honorable Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Minster of Foreign Affairs for the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, sharing the story of an Ethiopian man’s changed opinion regarding the importance of SRHR

 

Protecting SRHR not only saves lives and empowers people, but it also leads to significant economic gains for individuals and for the community as a whole. As previously stated, ensuring SRHR helps to decrease school dropout rates and, as a result, leads to a more productive and healthy workforce as each additional year of schooling for girls increases their employment opportunities and future earnings by nearly 10 percent.

 

Broader Health Agenda

 

“We cannot eliminate new HIV infections without providing SRHR services to women so they can make informed decisions to protect themselves and their children in the future. Yes, we will end the AIDS epidemic, but first we need to respect the dignity and the equality of women and young girls.” – Dr. Luiz Loures, Deputy Executive Director, UNAIDS

 

Access to SRHR guarantees quality family planning services, counseling and health information. These services are critical, particularly because women are often victims of gender-based violence and sexual assault and thereby face greater risks for sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS. Failing to secure and uphold SRHR dooms women and girls with an increased risk of unsafe, non-consensual sex and maternal mortality.

 

Gender Equality

 

“How can you control your life if you cannot control your fertility?” – Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator

 

When a woman can easily plan her family, she is more equipped to participate in the economy alongside her male colleagues. When the sexual rights of a woman or girl are fulfilled, she will experience decreased rates of sexual violence and enjoy a healthy relationship with a respectful partner. When a woman or girl does not fall victim to child marriage and early pregnancy, she can stay in school and achieve anything she puts her mind to.

 

Environment

 

“The woman continues to bring life, to bring up the next generation, to stand before you and say, ‘I am ready to embrace my rights and to deliver a better planet to humanity.’” – Joy Phumaphi, former Minister of Health, Botswana; Chair, Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health

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A 2012 study found that community water and sanitation projects designed and run by women are more sustainable and effective than those that are not. Similarly, women produce 60 to 80 percent of food in developing countries and, with the economic and educational gains that coincide with secured SRHR, a woman is better equipped to effectively manage her land.

 

The post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals will not happen without SRHR being addressed. So far, the world has failed to recognize that SRHR are equally as fundamental to global development as finance and trade. We can no longer afford to view SRHR as a taboo or promiscuous topic. When 90% of first births in low-income countries are to girls under 18; when the leading cause of death among adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 is pregnancy and childbirth; when two-thirds of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa are among adolescent girls; and when 200 million women want to use family planning methods but lack access, the young girls and women of the world do not have a promiscuity problem – they have a human rights problem.

 

By Elisabeth Epstein

25 September 2014

Source: http://girlsglobe.org/2014/09/25/we-cant-have-a-post-2015-agenda-without-srhr/

UN Human Rights Council votes to support LGBT rights

L27 UNHRC Ntsoaki Nhlapo

The UN Human Rights Council ( UNHRC) voted on Friday to pass a resolution supporting LGBT rights around the world, condemning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. India abstained from voting on the resolution.

 

The Human Rights Council resolution—led by Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Uruguay—followed a resolution in 2011 on the same topic led by South Africa and asks the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to gather and publish information on how best to overcome discrimination and violence.

 

Opponents of the resolution employed procedural tactics to defeat the text, by presenting a total of 7 amendments that would have eliminated all reference to sexual orientation and gender identity from the text, and made it applicable only to countries who proactively declare support for sexual diversity and rights. These amendments were defeated by vote.

 

The resolution passed by 25 votes in favor, 14 against, and 7 abstentions. India abstained from voting, and so did Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Kazakhstan, Namibia and Sierra Leone. Pakistan, Indonesia, Russia and Saudi Arabia were the notable ones among 14 to oppose.

 

LGBT activists and allies from around the world have advocated strongly to bring about a resolution that would ensure regular attention at the Human Rights Council to violations based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

An earlier version of the resolution had reflected more of that vision, requiring the OHCHR to report biannually. The regular reporting requirement was stricken from the text during negotiations. On Friday, while some expressed disappointment with the limitations of the resolution, activists from across the world celebrated its symbolic value.

 

27 September 2014

Source: http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report-un-human-rights-council-votes-to-support-lgbt-rights-india-abstains-from-voting-2021923

SIGN ON CALL FOR SOUTH AFRICA TO TAKE LEADERSHIP IN SAFEGUARDING SOGI RIGHTS AT THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

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As you may know this is the last week of the 27th ordinary session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)for 2014 taking place in Geneva, Switzerland.

 

This is an important session and with huge implications for SOGI work and SOGI activists. Chile, Uruguay, Colombia and Brazil have tabled a follow up SOGI Resolution 27/L27 to Resolution 17/19 of 2011. This resolution seeks to affirm state’s commitments to safeguarding the rights and freedoms of African people with non-conforming sexualities and gender identities and expressions.

 

This week, some states seek to amend the language in this resolution, which will attempt to remove all language directly referencing issues of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, and replace SOGI language with language equal or roughly equal to “race, colour, sex, language, religion or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”. Other states altogether seek to vote against the new and proposed SOGI resolution.

 

Our work, as civil society and human rights defenders is to ensure that instruments such as the United Nations Human Rights Council work to uphold the rights of ALL people, including gender non-conforming and trans-identifying African women and men.

 

CAL along with other civil society organisations are calling upon South Africa to ensure that the SOGI language is maintained and that the follow up resolution protecting SOGI rights is passed. We are requesting that South Africa show leadership, as they have in the past, and vote YES for the follow up SOGI resolution.

 

It is for this purpose that we are calling on our members, feminist allies and friends, as organisations and individuals to sign onto the attached letter which we will be sending the Minister of Foreign Affairs to South Africa, Hon. Maite Nkoana.

 

This is an URGENT and extremely IMPORTANT action, and we kindly ask that your organisation signs onto this letter before or by 18h00 today-Tuesday 23 September 2014.

 

We look forward to your solidarity and your quick action on this issue.

 

What can you do?

  1. Sign on to the letter that SA votes YES!: email your name, organisation and country to signon@aidsaccountability.org.
  2. Change your profile pic and cover photo on facebook and twitter. See example here.
  3. Post your selfie message of support on Facebook.
  4. Follow @DemandAccountabilitySA on twitter.
  5. Sign the Petition to still set the date for the regional meeting.
  6. Forward this email to colleagues.

South Africa, Which Once Led On Promoting LGBT Rights Abroad, Could Become A Roadblock

Advocates fear South Africa might turn against an LGBT rights resolution at the UN that it sponsored three years ago.

 

South Africa was once the essential nation to advancing LGBTI rights in international diplomacy. Now it has become a potential roadblock.

 

Back in 2011, South Africa sponsored a resolution before the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) that, for the first time, recognized LGBTI rights as human rights. Other nations, especially from Latin America, had been working to advance LGBTI rights in less high-profile ways for several years before, but South Africa’s leadership was critical to taking the effort to the level of a formal resolution. Such a proposal had to have at least one prominent African backer, its supporters believed. Otherwise, it would play into the hands of LGBTI rights opponents in Africa and other parts of the world that had once been colonized who argue that homosexuality was a Western perversion brought by colonial powers.

 

An updated version of the resolution was tabled Thursday at a Human Rights Council meeting underway in Geneva. It was sponsored by Brazil, Colombia, Chile, and Uruguay. A vote is expected next week.

 

Not only is South Africa’s name not on it, but some LGBTI rights supporters tell BuzzFeed News that South Africa’s diplomats are behaving so strangely in negotiations that they worry the country could even turn against the resolution. A South African defection might not only help torpedo the proposal, it would also be a stunning symbolic reversal for a country that set the standard for protecting LGBTI rights. When South Africa adopted its first post-apartheid constitution in 1993, it became the world’s first nation to protect LGBTI rights in its fundamental rights declaration. This came out of a commitment to fighting a broad range of oppression, and it commanded even greater moral authority because it was rooted in the experience of fighting white supremacy.

 

So some LGBTI rights supporters are looking at South Africa’s reluctance to clearly support the new resolution as a fundamental betrayal.

 

“We currently have leadership that fails to represent the ethos of what the constitution says and the equality principles they have to uphold,” said Mmapeseka Steve Letsike, a lesbian activist who chairs the South African National AIDS Council’s Civil Society Forum. “We have leadership going out of this country putting their personal beliefs before its own people. We have leaders that fail to protect their own.”

 

South Africa’s pullback on LGBTI rights internationally comes as homophobia has become an increasingly common political tool across Africa, framed as a form of standing up to the West. Nigeria and Uganda both passed sweeping bills criminalizing LGBTI rights advocacy this winter, the governments of The Gambia and Chad both have pending proposals to stiffen laws against homosexuality, and LGBTI people are being targeted by police from Zimbabwe to Egypt to Senegal.

 

“Silence in the context of the African Bloc suggests a kind of complicity with the homophobic rhetoric,” said Graeme Reid, a South African who directs Human Rights Watch’s LGBT program. “It speaks of a kind of misplaced solidarity … not aligning with the [LGBTI] people who are the victims of human rights abuse, but with the perpetrators under the rhetoric of supporting our ‘African brothers and sisters.’”

 

LGBTI rights supporters were also hopeful that some smaller African countries could be persuaded to abstain on the vote — a kind of soft yes — and one or two might even be convinced to back it. This could tip the balance if the vote is close. The 2011 resolution was a nail-biter, passing 23-19 with three abstentions. But that becomes very hard if South Africa can’t counterbalance conservative continental heavyweights that might be lobbying the smaller countries.

 

“As soon as [South Africa] pulls back, it gives countries like Nigeria and Egypt room to bully and push the smaller countries,” said an LGBTI rights advocate from another southern African country who asked to speak anonymously in order to avoid a backlash in negotiations. “We need South Africa to maintain the same position if not better” than in 2011.

 

It’s hard to see why this resolution is so important by reading the plain language — all it really does is order a bi-annual study of LGBTI rights by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. But there are only a few places where language referring to LGBTI rights exists in any international agreements. This small resolution is a way of giving U.N. staff authority to work on LGBTI issues and means that it will be a regular focus of discussion in Geneva. And it will be a precedent that can be used to broaden the inclusion of LGBTI rights in other human rights agreements.

 

Most LGBTI rights supporters came into the negotiations that began last week assuming that South Africa would be supportive even if it no longer wanted its name on the resolution. Regional coalitions are very important in the U.N., and other major powers within the Africa bloc, especially Nigeria and Egypt, have been at the forefront of pushing anti-LGBTI policies. South Africa had taken a lot of heat for the 2011 resolution, and many LGBTI supporters might have understood if officials chose not to take a public role in support this year.

 

But they’ve withheld their support even in private discussions, say sources familiar with the negotiations. The head of South Africa’s Geneva delegation, Ambassador Abdul Samad Minty, took the unusual step of coming personally to an informal meeting on Wednesday, something usually left to staff. But he said virtually nothing in the meeting, said a source in the room, which showed other nations that South Africa isn’t about to go to bat for the proposal.

 

This posture follows a move by South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party to block a parliamentary motion to condemn anti-LGBTI legislation enacted by Uganda in February (which has since been struck down by the court). It also comes after a vote by South Africa during the June HRC session that stunned LGBTI rights supporters: South Africa joined with conservative nations on a procedural vote to exclude a sentence stating “various forms of the family exist” in an Egyptian-led resolution on the “Protection of the Family.” The resolution passed without this language, and LGBTI rights supporters were concerned that the language could be used as precedent for excluding families from protections under international law if they are not led by a heterosexual couple.

 

“In the room they’re being a little bit weird,” said a diplomat from a Western country working on the resolution, referring to South Africa’s behavior in the negotiations. But this isn’t entirely new. “They’ve been behaving weird for two or three years on this,” the diplomat said.

 

The diplomat attributed that more to a change in personnel than an intentional shift in policy: Jerry Matjila, who was South Africa’s ambassador to the Human Rights Council when work began on the 2011 resolution, has since returned to Pretoria to take a senior post in the Department of International Relations and Co-operation. His replacement, Ambassador Minty, lacks his personal commitment to the issue, say sources who have worked with the delegation.

 

South Africa’s Geneva mission and the Department of International Relations and Co-operation in Pretoria did not respond to requests for comment.

 

But some South African activists see this dilution of South Africa’s commitment to LGBTI rights internationally as part of a larger trend in the country’s leadership. The late Nelson Mandela and other leaders of the African National Congress embraced LGBTI rights as part of a commitment to fighting a broad range of oppression as they brought South Africa out of apartheid — Matjila is seen as part of that school. But that commitment is not as strong among the younger generation of leaders, most notably President Jacob Zuma, who called same-sex marriage “a disgrace to the nation and to God” around the time the unions won legal recognition in the country.

 

The shift doesn’t mean South Africa has done a 180 on LGBTI rights. Rather, it’s led to a kind of schizophrenia that is frustrating to LGBTI rights supporters. The lack of support for this resolution is all the more confusing because it comes at a time that there is a new commitment from the government to fighting anti-LGBTI hate crimes inside the country, spurred by a series of horrific rapes and murders of black lesbians.

 

“Domestically, there is a sense of a real commitment and energy and political will,” said Human Rights Watch’s Graeme Reid. But the international stance is incoherent — the Latin Americans only introduced the resolution at the last minute because South Africa wouldn’t let go of its ownership of the issue until just before the Human Rights Council session began earlier this month.

 

“There is an air of uncertainty about their position because they have been dragging their feet on this for the last three years, not moving on the resolution and not dropping it,” Reid said.

 

The resolution’s supporters are optimistic that they will have the votes to pass the resolution if it gets an up or down vote next week, and no one who spoke to BuzzFeed News for this story said they thought it was possible that South Africa would vote against the resolution on the final vote. It could abstain on a final vote, a possibility that some of the resolution’s supporters fear is more likely as the negotiations wear on. Or it could vote for a procedural motion that would kill the resolution by denying an up or down vote — exactly what it did to keep the inclusive language out of the Protection of the Family resolution in June.

 

“It would be unacceptable, incomprehensible, and almost unconscionable for a relatively new democracy like South Africa to support shutting down debate at the UN’s human rights body [to affirm a principle] that’s in its own constitution,” said Marianne Møllman, program director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, in an interview from Geneva.

 

By J. Lester Feder

19 September 2014

Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/south-africa-which-once-led-on-promoting-lgbt-rights-abroad#2dmkbjy

17 Lies We Need to Stop Teaching Girls About Sex

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Whether it’s the constant fretting over Miley Cyrus’ influence on school girls or the growing (and troubling) tradition of Purity Balls, it’s clear that society has a fascination with young women’s sexuality — especially when it comes to controlling it. But what are we actually teaching today’s girls about sex?

 

Fueled by outdated ideals of gender roles and the sense that female sexuality is somehow shameful, there seem to be certain pernicious myths about girls and sex that just won’t die. That sex education in America has gaping holes in its curriculum hasn’t helped much, either; in a recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report just 6 out of 10 girls said that their schools’ sex ed program included information on how to say no to sex. This lack of personal agency was reflected in a forthcoming study by sociologist Heather Hlavka at Marquette University as well, which found that many young girls think of sex simply as something that is “done to them.”

 

Knowledge is power, and we can promote a healthier relationship with sex by encouraging a more open dialogue, teaching girls to feel comfortable with their sexuality and, most importantly, emphasizing that their bodies are theirs and theirs alone. But first, we’re going to need to stop perpetuating the following 17 myths about female sexuality.

 

1. Virginity exists.

 

Therese Shechter’s 2013 documentary How To Lose Your Virginity asks a seemingly simple question: What is a virgin? The answer is actually pretty complicated. The common idea of virginity is focused on a heteronormative, male-centric definition of intercourse — that is, penis-in-vagina penetration. But this definition ignores LGBTQ couples, oral and anal sex, instances where it “didn’t go all the way in,” rape and emotional intimacy.

 

The cultural obsession with virginity is more about keeping girls pure than anything else, and because the term begins to crumble upon close inspection, it doesn’t have to carry such weight. There’s no clear universal concept of virginity, and people should be able to define meaningful markers of intimacy for themselves.

 

2. Hymens are a sign of virginity.

 

Given that the entire notion of virginity is dubious at best, it’s not all that surprising that there is actually no medical way to tell if someone is a virgin or not. This includes a broken hymen. Hymens usually become worn down throughout adolescence, and can be torn by everything from jumping on a trampoline, to horseback riding, to simply playing sports. Some women aren’t born with one at all.

 

Despite the fact that more than half of women don’t bleed the first time they have penetrative sex, blood on the sheets has remained a signifier of losing one’s virginity throughout history. The persistence of this myth surrounding a basically irrelevant anatomical feature has even spawned a market for artificial hymens and reconstructive surgery to “restore” virginity. More disturbingly, girls around the world are often subject to degrading, invasive virginity “tests” to ensure their purity.

 

3. All women are born with vaginas.

 

Some items on this list focus on the anatomy of those assigned female at birth in an effort to illuminate issues that many girls don’t get to talk about enough, but the purpose is never to be exclusionary. Gender identity is different from biological sex, and trans women are women, period.

 

4. The first time is going to hurt — a lot.

 

Much of the pain young women are taught to expect during their first sexual experience actually comes from increased muscle tension due to nervousness. Blood usually comes from vaginal tissue tearing due to lack of lubrication and, ahem, inexperienced love making — not the hymen breaking. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, really; maybe if we stop telling girls to be terrified of the excruciating pain of their first time, things would be a little more comfortable for everyone.

 

5. If someone buys you something, you owe him or her sex.

 

It doesn’t matter if it’s a drink or a diamond necklace: You never “owe” someone sex. Ever.

 

6. Too much sex will stretch you out.

 

Nothing like the old “hot dog down a hallway” analogy to scare young women away from safe, consensual promiscuity. The truth is, women differ in size just like men do. The vagina is like a rubber band, and unless you’re regularly getting down with fire hose, you should be fine.

 

Similarly, having a baby will not “ruin” your vagina. Many women report feeling different down there after childbirth (the post-baby healing process depends on a variety of factors like age, the size of the baby and your commitment to Kegels), but we should really be teaching girls to accept their differences as normal and natural — not as new-found flaws.

 

7. Women don’t think about sex very much.

 

Many sexologists have arrived at the same conclusion: Women want sex just as much as men. This isn’t some new trend, either; science is just learning to ask the right questions about female desire.

 

So why does this myth of the undersexed female persist? It certainly doesn’t help that women often are taught that thinking about sex is boyish or juvenile. Entertainment media also frequently likes to portray women as the more responsible party in a relationship (think: nagging wife, childish husband).

 

The flip side of this thinking is the idea that “real” men should always have a voracious sexual appetite. But the saying “men think about sex every seven seconds” is just not true. Society’s focus on young men’s libido has created a sort of caricature of male sexuality, one that treats an occasional lack of desire or displays of emotion as not being masculine enough. And that’s not fair to them, either.

 

8. Women don’t like casual sex.

 

Not only do women want sex, but as journalist Daniel Bergner points out in What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, their desire is “not, for the most part, sparked or sustained by emotional intimacy and safety.” This means that, contrary to popular belief, women can most definitely have sex without getting emotionally attached. Studies of sexual desire have actually shown that plenty of ladies want casual sex more than the average guy, and many guys want it less than the average lady.

 

Much of this desire appears to be socially conditioned, anyway: Gendered differences in desire have been shown to diminish over time with more progressive generations, in countries with more equitable distributions of power and when the perceived stigma of being slut-shamed is controlled for in female subjects.

 

Moral of the story? It’s a personal preference, and blanket generalizations aren’t helping anyone.

 

9. Boys buy the condoms.

 

You don’t need to depend on anyone else for your protection. Girls can be prepared, too.

 

10. “Frigid” wives make cheating husbands.

 

The myth of the frigid wife plays off outdated notions of women who are too uninterested in sex to keep their men satisfied. But instead of lazily blaming infidelity on gender stereotypes, let’s encourage a sense of personal responsibility. Besides, men deserve more than to be treated like animals who can’t control themselves.

 

11. You have to wax.

 

Despite ads that try to convince women life can only be fully enjoyed stubble-free, you do not have an obligation to do anything to your body that you don’t want to do. After all, hair removal is still an industry, designed like every other to exploit people’s insecurities to make the most money possible.

 

It’s working, too: Hair removal is a $2.1 billion industry in the U.S., and over the course of a lifetime the average woman will spend an estimated $10,000 on shaving products. You should do what works for you, whether or not that means buying in.

 

12. You can’t have sex on your period.

 

If it grosses you out, no pressure. (Seriously though, is period blood really that much grosser than regular sexy-time fluids?) But such an act is both physically possible and safe. In fact, sex during your period can improve menstrual cramps, and some women even report having a shorter period overall when they get busy during that time of the month. Be warned, however: It is still possible to get pregnant or spread an STI while on your period, so don’t forgo the condom.

 

13. Sex is supposed to hurt sometimes.

 

Sex is not supposed to hurt, but for many women, it does. If your muscles aren’t ready, things can get painful. It can take 20 minutes of foreplay for a woman’s vaginal muscles to relax enough to be truly ready for penetrative sex.

 

For some women, however, foreplay isn’t the issue at all. Conditions like vaginismus and vulvodynia are very real, albeit unfortunately not very well known. The result is that many women suffering from these conditions don’t realize that there is help available. If sex hurts, it’s worth finding a specialist who can talk you through your options.

 

14. Once you start having sex, you’re not allowed to say “stop.”

 

You can change your mind at any time during sex, and your partner must respect that. It doesn’t matter if blue balls are real or not. Know that your voice must be heard.

 

15. Women don’t watch porn.

 

The hatred many women feel towards porn is understandable, given that so much of it promotes unrealistic or downright unhealthy attitudes about female sexuality. The problem is, as the Kinsey Institute’s Debby Herbenick points out, “Most mainstream porn is made by men with other men in mind.”

 

This doesn’t mean that many women don’t enjoy porn, nor that there’s not a market for more female-friendly fare. Researchers have shown that men and women respond comparably to sexually explicit material, and that the increase in women’s brainwave activity when looking at erotic images is just as strong as the increase in men’s.

 

16. Sexual harassment is normal.

 

A disturbing new study concluded that many young women consider sexual harassment and violence to be part of everyday life. Girls shouldn’t have to think of this treatment as expected. Sexual violations of any kind are unacceptable, and the dismissive “boys being boys” defense is both ridiculous and damaging to all genders. Sorry, personal bodily autonomy is not up for debate.

 

17. Everybody’s doing it.

 

The average American loses his or her virginity, for lack of a better term, at age 17. Plenty of people don’t start having sex until later (or earlier) in life, and that’s okay, too. Some people don’t have much of an interest in sex at all. Being sex positive isn’t about encouraging everyone to have tons of sex all the time; it’s about understanding that sex should be safe, shame-free and above all, based on informed, personal choices.

 

By Julianne Ross

April 2014

Source: http://mic.com/articles/88029/17-lies-we-need-to-stop-teaching-girls-about-sex

African Union to immediately receive close to USD 18.5 Million direct support to its Ebola operation ASEOWA

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia–08 September 2014: The African Union and partners met Monday on the side lines of the emergency meeting of the African Union Executive Council to announce pledges by the African Union Partners Group (AUPG) to the African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak (Operation ASEOWA).

 

The United States Government announced USD10 million and the European Union 5 million euros to be made available immediately to support the African Union Operation to end the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The Republic of China last week announced USD 2 million to ASEOWA.

 

The Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Erastus Mwencha, expressed gratitude to partners for the generous response to support the African Union operation ASEOWA and for all the concerted efforts to respond rapidly to the outbreak.

 

“The focus should be on containing the epidemic to make sure that it does not spread further, improve the capacity of health facilities, which have been overstretched and monitor contacts and manage the confirmed cases”, the AUC Deputy Chairperson said.

 

The African Union this week received the assessment report from the mission that it sent to the affected countries which will inform its path breaking response.

 

“The United States is absolutely committed to working with the international community to increase response efforts in West Africa and help bring this outbreak under control”, said Ambassador Reuben E. Brigety, adding “We commend the AU for sending an assessment team and welcome its findings and we urge the AU to ensure that its mission is working through its operations on the ground and in accord with WHO Ebola response roadmap”.

 

The ASEOWA operation aims at filling the existing gap in international efforts and will work with the African Humanitarian Action in mobilising medical and public health volunteers across the continent and will compliment ongoing efforts by various humanitarian actors who are already on the ground.

 

The African Union made a historic decision end of August by declaring Ebola a threat to peace and security in Africa invoking article 6 (f) relating to its mandate with regard to humanitarian action and disaster management at its 450th meeting. The meeting authorised the immediate deployment of a joint AU-led military and civilian humanitarian mission to tackle the emergency situation caused by the Ebola outbreak. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that about USD600 million is needed to put the epidemic under control.

 

Click here to read: African Union’s Executive Council Urges Lifting of Travel Restrictions Related to Ebola Outbreak

Click here to read: ASEOWA Pledge

Click here to read: African Union Urges Member States to Find Collective Response to Ebola Outbreak and Show Solidarity with Affected Countries

Gambia’s President Jammeh asked to reject anti-gay law

Gambia President

Leading rights groups have called on Gambian President Yahya Jammeh not to approve tough new anti-gay legislation.

 

Homosexual acts are already illegal in The Gambia, but MPs passed a bill on 25 August imposing life sentences for “aggravated homosexuality”.

 

The bill promoted “state-sponsored homophobia”, the rights groups said.

 

Mr Jammeh is known for his strong opposition to gay rights. He has called gay people “vermin” and once threatened to behead them.

 

Uganda’s Constitutional Court struck down a similar law last month on the grounds that it was passed by MPs without a quorum.

 

‘Deep fear’

Its ruling followed an outcry from rights groups and Western governments – US President Barack Obama described the legislation as “odious”.

 

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the definition of “aggravated homosexuality” was vague in The Gambian bill.

 

Among those who could be given the life sentence were “repeat offenders” and people living with HIV who are suspected to be gay or lesbians, they said in a joint statement.

 

A person who had homosexual relations with a minor could also be convicted of “aggravated homosexuality”, Reuters news agency reports.

 

“President Jammeh should not approve this profoundly damaging act that violates international human rights law,” said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for West and Central Africa.

 

Graeme Reid of HRW said it would “only heap further stigma on people who are already marginalised and living in a climate of deep fear and hate in Gambia”.

 

Under current laws, homosexual acts are already punishable by up to 14 years in prison in The Gambia.

 

Mr Jammeh has 30 days from the date the bill was passed to sign it into law or return it to parliament for further review.

 

The Gambia is a popular tourist destination, famous for its beaches.

 

By BBC News Africa

10 September 2014

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-29145397

Ebola: How bad can it get?

How bad can it get 1

This isn't just the worst single Ebola outbreak in history, it has now killed more than all the others combined.

 

Healthcare workers are visibly struggling, the response to the outbreak has been damned as "lethally inadequate" and the situation is showing signs of getting considerably worse.

 

The outbreak has been running all year, but the latest in a stream of worrying statistics shows 40% of all the deaths have been in just the past three weeks.

 

So what can we expect in the months, and possibly years, to come?

 

Taking off

 

Crystal-ball gazing can be a dangerous affair, particularly as this is uncharted territory.

 

Previous outbreaks have been rapidly contained, affecting just dozens of people; this one has already infected more than 3,900.

 

But the first clues are in the current data.

 

Dr Christopher Dye, the director of strategy in the office of the director general at the World Health Organization, has the difficult challenge of predicting what will happen next.

 

He told the BBC: "We're quite worried, I have to say, about the latest data we've just gathered."

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Up until a couple of weeks ago, the outbreak was raging in Liberia especially close to the epicentre of the outbreak in Lofa County and in the capital Monrovia.

 

However, the two other countries primarily hit by the outbreak, Sierra Leone and Guinea, had been relatively stable. Numbers of new cases were not falling, but they were not soaring either.

 

That is no longer true, with a surge in cases everywhere except some parts of rural Sierra Leone in the districts of Kenema and Kailahun.

 

"In most other areas, cases and deaths appear to be rising. That came as a shock to me," said Dr Dye.

 

Cumulative deaths – up to 5 September

How bad can it get 3

Only going up

 

The stories of healthcare workers being stretched beyond breaking point are countless.

 

A lack of basic protective gear such as gloves has been widely reported.

 

The charity Medecins Sans Frontieres has an isolation facility with 160 beds in Monrovia. But it says the queues are growing and they need another 800 beds to deal with the number of people who are already sick.

 

This is not a scenario for containing an epidemic, but fuelling one.

 

Dr Dye's tentative forecasts are grim: "At the moment we're seeing about 500 new cases each week. Those numbers appear to be increasing.

 

"I've just projected about five weeks into the future and if current trends persist we would be seeing not hundreds of cases per week, but thousands of cases per week and that is terribly disturbing.

 

"The situation is bad and we have to prepare for it getting worse."

 

The World Health Organization is using an educated guess of 20,000 cases before the end, in order to plan the scale of the response.

 

But the true potential of the outbreak is unknown and the WHO figure has been described to me as optimistic by some scientists.

 

International spread?

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The outbreak started in Gueckedou in Guinea, on the border with Liberia and Sierra Leone.

 

But it has spread significantly with the WHO reporting that "for the first time since the outbreak began" that the majority of cases in the past week were outside of that epicentre with the capital cities becoming major centres of Ebola.

 

Additionally one person took the infection to Nigeria, where it has since spread in a small cluster and there has been an isolated case in Senegal.

 

Prof Simon Hay, from the University of Oxford, will publish his scientific analysis of the changing face of Ebola outbreaks in the next week.

 

He warns that as the total number of cases increases, so does the risk of international spread.

 

He told me: "I think you're going to have more and more of these individual cases seeding into new areas, continued flows into Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, and all the countries in between, so I'm not very optimistic at the moment that we're containing this epidemic."

How bad can it get 5

There is always the risk that one of these cases could arrive in Europe or North America.

 

However, richer countries have the facilities to prevent an isolated case becoming an uncontrolled outbreak.

 

The worry is that other African countries with poor resources would not cope and find themselves in a similar situation to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

 

"Nigeria is the one I look at with great concern. If things started to get out of control in Nigeria I really think that, because of its connectedness and size, that could be quite alarming," said Prof Hay.

 

End game?

 

It is also unclear when this outbreak will be over.

 

Officially the World Health Organization is saying the outbreak can be contained in six to nine months. But that is based on getting the resources to tackle the outbreak, which are currently stretched too thinly to contain Ebola as it stands.

 

There have been nearly 4,000 cases so far, cases are increasing exponentially and there is a potentially vulnerable population in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea in excess of 20 million.

 

Prof Neil Ferguson, the director of the UK Medical Research Council's centre for outbreak analysis and modelling at Imperial College London, is providing data analysis for the World Health Organization.

 

He is convinced that the three countries will eventually get on top of the outbreak, but not without help from the rest of the world.

 

"The authorities are completely overwhelmed. All the trends are the epidemic is increasing, it's still growing exponentially, so there's certainly no reason for optimism.

 

"It is hard to make a long-term prognosis, but this is certainly something we'll be dealing with in 2015.

 

"I can well imagine that unless there is a ramp-up of the response on the ground, we'll have flare-ups of cases for several months and possibly years."

 

It is certainly a timeframe that could see an experimental Ebola vaccine, which began safety testing this week, being used on the front line.

 

If the early trials are successful then healthcare workers could be vaccinated in November this year.

 

Here forever

 

But there are is also a fear being raised by some virologists that Ebola may never be contained.

 

Prof Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham, describes the situation as "desperate".

 

His concern is that the virus is being given its first major opportunity to adapt to thrive in people, due to the large number of human-to-human transmissions of the virus during this outbreak of unprecedented scale.

How bad can it get 7

Ebola is thought to come from fruit bats; humans are not its preferred host.

 

But like HIV and influenza, Ebola's genetic code is a strand of RNA. Think of RNA as the less stable cousin of DNA, which is where we keep our genetic information.

 

It means Ebola virus has a high rate of mutation and with mutation comes the possibility of adapting.

 

Prof Ball argues: "It is increasing exponentially and the fatality rate seems to be decreasing, but why?

 

"Is it better medical care, earlier intervention or is the virus adapting to humans and becoming less pathogenic? As a virologist that's what I think is happening."

 

There is a relationship between how deadly a virus is and how easily it spreads. Generally speaking if a virus is less likely to kill you, then you are more likely to spread it – although smallpox was a notable exception.

 

Prof Ball said "it really wouldn't surprise me" if Ebola adapted, the death rate fell to around 5% and the outbreak never really ended.

 

"It is like HIV, which has been knocking away at human-to-human transmission for hundreds of years before eventually finding the right combo of beneficial mutations to spread through human populations."

 

Collateral damage

How bad can it get 8

It is also easy to focus just on Ebola when the outbreak is having a much wider impact on these countries.

 

The malaria season, which is generally in September and October in West Africa, is now starting.

 

This will present a number of issues. Will there be capacity to treat patients with malaria? Will people infected with malaria seek treatment if the nearest hospital is rammed with suspected Ebola cases? How will healthcare workers cope when malaria and Ebola both present with similar symptoms.

 

And that nervousness about the safety of Ebola-rife hospitals could damage care yet further. Will pregnant women go to hospital to give birth or stay at home where any complications could be more deadly.

 

The collateral damage from Ebola is unlikely to be assessed until after the outbreak.

 

No matter where you look there is not much cause for optimism.

 

The biggest unknown in all of this is when there will be sufficient resources to properly tackle the outbreak.

 

Prof Neil Ferguson concludes: "This summer has there have been many globally important news stories in Ukraine and the Middle East, but what we see unfolding in West Africa is a catastrophe to the population, killing thousands in the region now and we're seeing a breakdown of the fragile healthcare system.

 

"So I think it needs to move up the political agenda rather more rapidly than it has."

 

Ebola virus disease (EVD)

How bad can it get 9

·         Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage

·         Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva

·         Fatality rate can reach 90% – but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 55%

·         Incubation period is two to 21 days

·         There is no proven vaccine or cure

·         Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery

·         Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus's natural host

 

By James Gallagher

6 September 2014

Source: www.bbc.com/news/health-29060239

LGBT Visibility in Africa Also Brings Backlash

homosexuality.jpg4

Eighteen-year-old Gift Makau enjoyed playing and refereeing football games in her neighbourhood in the North West Province of South Africa. She had come out to her parents as a lesbian and had never been heckled by her community, according to her cousin.

 

On Aug. 15 she was found by her mother in a back alley, where she had been raped, tortured and killed.

Shehnilla Mohamed, Africa director for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGHLRC), said that Gift’s murder was part of a disturbing trend in which gender-nonconforming individuals are targeted for so-called corrective rape.

 

“Corrective rape is really the attempt of the society to try to punish the person for acting outside the norm,” Mohamed said.

 

In the past 10 years in South Africa, 31 lesbians have been reported killed as the result of corrective rape, she said.  A charity called Luleki Sizwe estimates that 10 lesbians are raped or gang raped a week in Cape Town alone.

 

Transgender, gay or effeminate men are also the subject of corrective rape, but they are less likely to be murdered and are less likely to report it.

If this is happening in South Africa, the only mainland African country to allow legal same-sex marriage, what is it like to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) elsewhere on the continent?

 

“The type of brutality that you see happening to lesbians and to homosexuals in parts of Africa is just beyond comprehension,” Mohamed told IPS. “It’s like your worst horror movie, and even worse than that.”

 

More than two-thirds of African countries have laws criminalising consensual same-sex acts, according to IGLHRC.

 

“Overall what we’ve seen is a fairly bleak picture that’s emerging,” said Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT Program at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

 

Africa is seeing “an intensification of the political use of homophobia,” he said.

 

Nigeria and Uganda made headlines in early 2014 when they signed anti-homosexuality bills that handed out long prison sentences for being homosexual or for refusing to turn in a known homosexual.

 

On Aug. 1, Uganda’s law was declared unconstitutional on procedural grounds by its supreme court, but Shehnilla Mohamed expects that it will be back on the table again once international attention shifts away.

 

Long-time African leaders who wish to extend their stay in office often try to whip up anti-homosexuality sentiment.

 

“Homophobia becomes both a ruse and a distraction from other real substantive issues, whether those are economic or political,” Graeme Reid said.

Chalwe Mwansa, a Zambian activist and IGHLRC fellow, told IPS that in his country, politicians equate cases of pedophilia and incest with homosexuality, fabricating sensational stories to inflame the public. This strategy diverts attention away from problems with unemployment, poverty, health and education.

 

Some leaders also claim that homosexuality is an un-African, Western imposition. Mohamed believes it is the exact opposite.

 

Homosexuality “existed in a lot of the African cultures and a lot of the African traditions,” she told IPS. “It was quite an accepted pattern.”

 

Same-sex relationships did not begin to develop a negative connotation until after colonisation brought Western religion, she said.

 

In an environment of antipathy, LGBT individuals have few places to turn to for help. The police station is often not a sanctuary for those who have been raped.

 

Mohamed recently spoke to a transgender man in South Africa who was accosted in the lobby of his block of apartments by a group of men who thought he was a woman. When they found out he was a man they raped and “beat him so badly that he was totally unrecognisable,” she said.

 

The man ended up contracting HIV/AIDS.

 

In South Africa, after being raped, a person is supposed to report it to the police and receive a free post-exposure prophylaxis within 72 hours to minimise the risk of transmission. However, this man was too afraid to go into the station, knowing that the police would most likely feel that he had deserved it.

 

The problem is even worse in countries like Nigeria that have criminalised homosexuality. According to Michael Ighodaro, a fellow at IGLHRC from Nigeria, after its anti-homosexuality bill was passed in January, 90 percent of gay men who were on medications stopped going to clinics to receive them, out of fear that they would be arrested.

 

Even at home, LGBT individuals in Africa face an uphill struggle. Anti-homosexuality laws do have a current of support throughout society. LGBT people often fear ostracisation by their families, so hide their sexual or gender identity.

 

The increased prominence of LGBT issues in national debates in Africa in the past decade has inspired a bit of a backlash.

 

Njeri Gateru, a legal officer at the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission of Kenya, says that Kenya lies in a tricky balance. Society does not actively persecute LGBT individuals if they outwardly conform to sexual and gender norms, but “problems would arise if people marched in the streets or there was an article in the press.”

 

“We cannot continue to live in a balance where we are muzzled and we are comfortable being muzzled,” Gateru said at a HRW event in New York.

 

Religion plays a significant role in the lack of acceptance of gender non-conforming groups in Africa.

 

IGLHRC’s Mohamed said that even “people with master’s degrees, who are highly educated, who work in white collar jobs will say ‘God does not like this.’”

 

“I think pointing out that LGBTI people are human beings, are God’s creation just like everybody else is really something that we’ll keep on pushing,” she said.

 

According to Gateru, even when churches open their doors to LGBT groups, they sometimes do it for the wrong reasons.

 

A year or so ago, a group of Kenyan evangelical leaders announced that they were going to stop turning LGBT individuals away from churches because, in their words, ‘Jesus came for the sinners, not the righteous.’

 

The churches are “welcoming you to change you or to pray for you so you can change, which is really not what we want,” said Gateru. “But I think it’s a very tiny step.”

 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has repeatedly and consistently criticised discrimination against LGBT groups and condemned new anti-homosexuality laws.

 

Activist groups welcome the support of prominent religious leaders such as Tutu, and are planning a conference in February to bring together pastors, imams and rabbis to discuss LGBT issues and religion in Africa.

 

In general, LGBT activist organisations have their work cut out for them.

 

LGBT advocacy groups “most of the time are working undercover, are working underground, or if they are registered and are working as an NGO, are constantly being harassed by the authorities or by society,” Mohamed said.

 

IGLHRC was founded in 1990, and helps local LGBT advocacy groups around the world fight for their rights through grant making and work on the ground.

 

“What we really need is to mainstream homosexual rights, LGBTI rights into the basic human rights discourse,” said Mohamed.

 

During August’s U.S.-Africa summit in Washington, IGLHRC urged the U.S. to hold African leaders to account.

 

Depending on the country, the U.S. does have an ability to advance human rights through external pressure. Mohamed speculated that the striking down of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill just days before the summit was a public relations stunt by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, since he wanted a warm reception by the White House.

 

Nigeria, the other country to introduce a new law in 2014, is more difficult to influence than Uganda, according to Michael Ighodaro. Because of its oil wealth, the Nigerian government would not care if the United States were to pull funding.

 

The U.S.-African summit, since it was focused on business, offered an opportunity for LGBT advocacy groups to point out the economic costs of sidelining an entire sector of the population.

 

Mohamed said that LGBT individuals are often “too scared to apply for certain jobs because of how they would be treated. If they did apply they probably would never get the jobs because of the stigmas attached.”

 

Despite the difficult journey to come, supporters of LGBT rights in Africa can look back to see that some progress has been made.

 

HRW’s Reid said that the LGBT movement was practically invisible in Africa just 20 years ago.

 

“In a sense this very vocal reaction against LGBT visibility can also be seen as a measure of the strength and growth of a movement over the last two decades,” he said.

 

Things may get a little tougher before they get better, Njeri Gateru told IPS, but “history is on our side.”

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 9 2014 (IPS) 

Edited by Kitty Stapp

By Joel Jaeger

10 Septermber 2014

Source: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/lgbt-visibility-in-africa-also-brings-backlash/

Ebola death toll reaches 2,288, says World Health Organization

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed 2,288 people, with half of them dying in the last three weeks, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

Ebola 1

It said that 47% of the deaths and 49% of the total 4,269 cases had come in the 21 days leading up to 6 September.

The health agency warned that thousands more cases could occur in Liberia, which has had the most fatalities.

The outbreak, which was first reported in Guinea in March this year, has also spread to Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

In Nigeria, eight people have died out of 21 cases, while one case of Ebola has been confirmed in Senegal, the WHO said in its latest update.

ebola 2

'Latter-day plague'

On Monday, the agency called on organisations combating the outbreak in Liberia to scale up efforts to control the outbreak "three-to-four fold".

Ebola spreads between humans by direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs, or indirectly through contact with contaminated environments.

However, the WHO says conventional means of controlling the outbreak, which include avoiding close physical contact with those infected and wearing personal protective equipment, were not working well in Liberia.

ebola 3

The reason for this remains unclear; however, experts say it could be linked to burial practices, which can include touching the body and eating a meal near it.

There are also not enough beds to treat Ebola patients, particularly in the capital Monrovia, with many people told to go back home, where they may spread the virus.

Sophie-Jane Madden, of aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres, told the BBC that health workers at the largest treatment centre in Monrovia were completely overwhelmed: "Our teams are every day turning away people who are desperately seeking healthcare."

ebola 4

Meanwhile, the US says it will help the African Union mobilise 100 African health workers to the region and contribute an additional $10m (£6.2m) in funds to deal with the outbreak.

The announcement comes as a fourth US aid worker infected with the deadly virus was transported to a hospital in Atlanta for treatment.

The identity of the aid worker has not yet been revealed.

Two other aid workers who were treated at the same hospital have since recovered from an Ebola infection.

Separately on Tuesday, the UN's envoy in Liberia said at least 80 Liberian health workers had died from Ebola, according to the Associated Press.

Karin Landgren described the outbreak as a "latter-day plague" that was growing exponentially. She added that health workers were operating without proper protective equipment, training or pay, in comments to the UN Security Council.

By BBC News Africa

9 September 2014

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-29131065