January 2010


A talk about porn culture organised by Editorial Intelligence raised some interesting questions about how we engage with the issue of not only pornography but also an increasingly sexualised culture.
Susie Orbach touched on issues she raises in her new book Bodies which identifies how women’s relationship with their bodies is changing: we increasingly view our bodies as a mirror of how we view ourselves so that the body has become the measure of our worth.
Articles, interviews and reviews about Bodies are here.
Natasha Walter in her new book Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism also looks at how culture has become hyper-sexualised and how the language of empowerment has been hijacked.
Articles and book reviews here.

Photo credit: fireballk2588 through a Creative Commons licence.

Links for stories about women and the particular difficulties they face in Haiti can be found here on Trailfire.
The Sun reports that orphans are falling prey to child-trafficking gangs.
The United Nations mission in Haiti has also said it is concerned that gangsters and child traffickers will try to exploit Haiti’s chaotic social conditions.
The Malaysia Sun picks up on the dangers women face with 7,000 prisoners escaped from prison and reports that:

The United Nations mission in Haiti has also said it is concerned that gangsters and child traffickers will try to exploit Haiti’s chaotic social conditions.

Photo credit: United Nations Photo’s photostream via a Creative Commons licence

Orla Guerin in Port-au-Prince found a group of women holding an open-air service outside their damaged church to keep the gangs away.
Already a dangerous country for women the danger is no doubt increased by the fact that more than 4,000 prisoners escaped from the capital’s main jail.
Sarah Spencer, currently in Haiti working for the aid agency International Rescue Committee, and a specialist in supporting women in emergency situations, told Woman’s Hour about the difficulties women in particular face in the aftermath of such disasters.

Photo credit: UNICEFSverige through a Creative Commons licence

The London conference where the prospect of talks with the Taliban has been high on the agenda has been dismissed as “irrelevant” in Afghanistan.
Plans to reintegrate Taliban fighters through internationally funded development projects.
The Taliban has dismissed the conference and this new strategy but a report in the Guardian also highlights concerns among women’s rights campaigners that they could lose some of the rights they have gained since the fall of Taliban.
The report adds that the US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke has said women’s rights would be one of the international community’s “red lines” in any future peace negotiations with the Taliban.
Any Taliban who back al-Qaida, or support the group’s harsh treatment of women, would not be accommodated, Holbrooke has said.
But the situation remains complex: a report by Nima Elbagir for Channel 4 News highlights the fact that violence against women has risen to pre-Taliban levels and that women are resorting to self-immolation to escape violent marriages.
Opium farmers unable to repay debts they owe to drug lords are selling their daughters.

Photo Credit: Kawetijoru through a Creative Commons Licence

CNN reports on the death of three founders of Haiti’s most important organisations working on behalf of women and girls.

Myriam Merlet an author, had been Chief of Staff of the Haitian Ministry of Women and was an outspoken feminist who helped draw international attention to the use of rape as a political weapon reports Democracy Now!
Magalie Marcelin was a lawyer and actress who established Kay Fanm, a women’s rights organisation set up to tackle domestic violence, offering shelter and microcredits, or loans to women.
Anne Marie Coriolan was a top adviser to the women’s rights ministry and founder of Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen.
Carolle Charles chair of Dwa Fanm, is quoted by CNN saying that the three women were instrumental in challenging attitudes towards rape, which before 2005 was considered no more than a “crime of passion”.

Up to 37,000 pregnant women are among those with no access to safe drinking water, food and medical care in Hait.
With hospitals and medical centres destroyed women are giving birth in the street a representative from CARE has said.
Haiti already has the highest rates maternal mortality in the Western hemisphere, according to UNICEF.
Lucinda Marshall writes about the need for specific aid for women and Amie Newman highlights the need for action to make sure women’s health needs do not “fall through the cracks”.
In the press, one US aid effort to help pregnant women and newborn women is reported on here.

Photo credit: US Coast Guard (Creative Commons Licence)

Long term efforts to rebuild Haiti must include safety of women as a priority one charity has warned.
Particular problems facing women and girls in Haiti have been highlighted by ActionAid. With an estimated 1.5 million people homeless women and children are vulnerable to abuse, a press release says, with women forced to exchange sex for food a concern as well as the dangers they face without rule of law.
Community action in one camp is evident where women have got together to organise a nightly guard for vulnerable women and a daily visit from a Haitian police officer has also kept levels of attack down.
Taina Bien-Aime, executive director of Equality Now examines some of the threats women face in times of crisis on the Huffington Post and is quoted on CNN writing in an email:

From where we stand, the most critical and urgent issue is what, if any, contingencies the relief/humanitarian agencies are putting in place not only to ensure that women have easy access to food, water and medical care, but to guarantee their protection.

The “shocking levels” of rape and violence against girls by armed gangs were highlighted in a report by Amnesty International in 2008.
Amnesty has also called on the United Nations to take steps to protect women and children, warning that their increased vulnerability after the quake “creates the perfect environment for human rights abuses and crimes such as rape and sexual abuse”.
More about the dangers faced by women and children before and after the earthquake here.

Photo credit: US Army (Creative Commons Licence)

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