Posts Tagged ‘gender’

Why men stopped going to the moon

Posted: June 8, 2011 in society
Tags: ,

Isabel Allende tells tales of passion.

She’s not only a brilliant writer but also an activist, a feminist and a wonderful story teller. It’s a talk that, when you listen to it with your heart, makes you laugh, cry and, at least for a moment, very passionate. Allende easily outshines most of the other TED talks I have listened to so far!

Click here to go to the TED website to listen to the talk.

Nearly 700,000 people so far have take action to stop ‘corrective rape’ and activists in South Africa have forced the government into talks. Let’s urgently reach a million and ramp up the pressure for concrete action — click below to sign and forward this email to everyone:

Dear friends,

‘Corrective rape’, the vicious practice of raping lesbians to ‘cure’ their sexuality, is becoming a crisis in South Africa. Activists on the ground are risking their lives to stop this brutal crime and have got the government’s attention. Let’s support them — a global outcry now could force the government to take concrete and urgent action. Sign the petition and send it to friends!

Sign the petition!

Thembi (name changed) was pulled from a taxi near her home, beaten and raped by a man who crowed that he was ‘curing’ her of her lesbianism.

Thembi is not alone — this vicious crime is recurrent in South Africa, where lesbians live in terror of attack. But no one has ever been convicted of ‘corrective rape’. Amazingly, from a tiny Cape Town safehouse a few brave activists are risking their lives to ensure that this heinous practice is stopped and their massive campaign has forced the government into talks.

If we shine a light on this horror from all corners of the world — and enough of us join in we can escalate the pressure, and help make sure these talks lead to concrete and urgent action. Let’s call on President Zuma and the Minister of Justice to publicly condemn ‘corrective rape’, criminalise hate crimes, and ensure immediate enforcement, public education and protection for survivors. Sign the petition now and share it with everyone — when we reach one million signers we’ll deliver it to the South African government with unmissable and hard hitting actions:

South Africa, often called the Rainbow Nation, is revered globally for its post-apartheid efforts to protect against discrimination. It was thefirst country to constitutionally protect citizens from discrimination based on sexuality. But local organisations record multiple ‘corrective rapes’ every week, and impunity reigns.

‘Corrective rape’ is based on the outrageous and utterly false notion that a lesbian woman can be raped to ‘make her straight’, but this heinous act is not even classified as a hate crime in South Africa. The victims are often black, poor, lesbian women, and profoundly marginalised. But even the 2008 gang rape and murder of Eudy Simelane, the national hero and former star of the South Africa women’s national football team, did not turn the tide. Despite this high profile case, Minister Radebe insists that motive is irrelevant in crimes like ‘corrective rape.’

South Africa is the rape capital of the world. A South African girl born today is more likely to be raped than she is to learn to read. Astoundingly, one quarter of South African girls are raped before turning 16. This has many roots: masculine entitlement (62 per cent of boys over 11 believe that forcing someone to have sex is not an act of violence), poverty, crammed settlements, unemployed and disenfranchised men, community acceptance — and, for the few cases that are courageously reported to authorities, a dismal police response and lax sentencing.

This is a human catastrophe. But courageous South Africans and partners at have opened a window of hope to get action on targeted sexual violence and hate crimes. They have got the government’s attention, now if the whole world weighs in, together we could get justice for the victims and concrete and urgent action to end ‘corrective rape’:

This is ultimately a battle with poverty, patriarchy, and homophobia. Ending the tide of rape will require bold leadership and concerted action to spearhead transformative change in South Africa and across the continent. President Zuma is a a Zulu traditionalist, who has himself stood trial for rape. But he condemned the arrest of a gay couple in Malawi last year, and, after massive national and international civic pressure, South Africa finally approved a UN resolution opposing extra-judicial killing in relation to sexual orientation.

If enough of us join this global call for action, we could push Zuma to speak out, drive much-needed government action, and help a national conversation that could fundamentally shift public attitudes toward rape and homophobia in South Africa. Sign on now and spread the word:

A case like Thembi’s makes it easy to lose hope. But when citizens come together with one voice, we can succeed in shifting fundamentally unjust, but deeply ingrained practices and norms. Last year, in Uganda, we succeeded in building such a massive wave of public pressure that the government was forced to shelve legislation that would have sentenced gay Ugandans to death. And it was global pressure in support of bold national activists that pushed South African leaders to address the AIDS crisis that was engulfing their country. Let’s join together now and speak out for a world where each and every human being can live without fear of abuse.

With hope and determination,

Alice, Ricken, Maria Paz, David and the rest of the Avaaz team


South Africans decry rape of Lesbians (AP)

‘Corrective Rape’: Fighting a South African Scourge (Time),8599,2057744,00.html blog post on local campaign

Protest against ‘corrective rape’ (The Sowetan)

“South Africa’s shame: the rise of child rape” (The Independent)

“Exploring homophobic victimisation in Gauteng, South Africa: issues, impacts, and responses” (Centre for Applied Psychology, University of South Africa)

“We have a major problem in South Africa” (The Guardian)

“South Africa: Rape Facts” (Channel 4)

“Understanding men’s health and use of violence: interface of rape and HIV in South Africa” (Medical Research Council)

“Preventing Rape and Violence in South Africa” (Medical Research Council)

Support the Avaaz community! We’re entirely funded by donations and receive no money from governments or corporations. Our dedicated team ensures even the smallest contributions go a long way — donate here.


I don’t want to chime in to all the Western finger pointing at Iran. First: I know too little about the background of the elections; second: the West does not exactly have a clean record when it comes to protecting democratic rights. But: assuming there is a link in the above case between sexist or any other form of perpetrated violence and the current demonstrations against the election results, women like the one pictured do deserve full support and admiration.

erotic sex
Detailed Khajuraho Sex Temple sandstone bas-relief of voluptuous woman having sex, accompanied by masturbating man and woman (Source: Anthony Maw)

In the current debate about sex in society three topics seems to dominate statements, headlines and write-ups: footy culture, sexual practices and consent. Each of them is  both highly complex contentious in itself, and all of them are interrelated and linked to much larger issues, especially the aspects constituting our society and cultures. Within that sticky and messy complexity, individual opinions are the voices that shape debate and progression; I for example think that footy culture is just the tip of the hidden iceberg of general Australian male culture, and that the discussion of what is and what is not allowed in sex is still too much chained to some distant puritanical notions of sexual permissiveness.

Some of these voices are pretty repetitive and their utterance seems to do nothing but to cement the status quo. But there are some to some minds, like mine, that really not just add value to the debate but could lead to transformational changes in the way we relate to one another. One of them was raised yesterday by Adele Horin in her opinion piece for the Herald: that consent is only the first step. The second one is for those engaging in sex to make sure that ALL participating in it actually get pleasure out of their games. So, how about guys having to make sure that they don’t just have consent of the woman (women) they’re having sex with but also having to ensure that their sex partner(s) also get pleasure out of their experience? I think Horin puts forward some convincing arguments:


Witches owed an apology

Posted: April 21, 2009 in society
Tags: , , ,

The Catholic church has a lot to apologise for, especially the ways it always dealt with dissenters and other faiths, and the crusades and inquisition are probably the most glaring examples of the barbarism this religion allowed itself to sink into despite proselytizing the virtue of selflessly loving your neighbour. Starhawk posted the following article on the On Faith website maintained by the Washington Post/Newsweek, making a reference to the horrific time of the inquisition and on how that past still has repercussions in our our time.


Witches Would Like an Apology
By Starhawk

I’ve always thought that the ability to apologize gracefully is a mark of a good leader.  We all make mistakes—even popes, and whole religious traditions.  An apology is a way to take responsibility, to signal a change, and to assure the world that it won’t happen again.

And if apologies are being given out, Witches would like one. It’s more than time that the Catholic and Protestant Churches both apologized for centuries of persecution of Witches, Pagans and those they deemed ‘heretics’ for believing something different than standard dogma.  How about an apology for the Papal Bull of Pope Innocent the Eighth, in 1484, that made Witchcraft an heresy and unleashed the Inquisition against traditional healers, midwives, and any woman unpopular with her neighbors for being too uppity? It’s high past time to apologize for the Malleus Maleficarum, a vicious document written by two Dominican priests in 1486 that created a whole mythology of Satan worship, attributed it mostly to women, and unleashed a wave of accusations, torture, and judicial murder that have haunted us ever since.  An apology won’t do much good, now, to those accused, tormented, and destroyed because someone coveted their property or needed a local scapegoat, nor to their children left motherless or fatherless centuries ago.  But it might clear some air.

One of the reasons many of us modern-day Wiccans still proudly call ourselves Witches is to consciously identify with the victims of those persecutions.  The Witch persecutions are a suppressed history of abuse.  Just as suppressed memories of childhood abuse can hamper us in adult life, suppressed cultural histories still constrain our emotions and our imagination in subtle ways.  The Witch persecutions left a residue of fear inside women—that if we speak too loudly or too forcefully, become too strong or visible, we will be attacked. They made imagination, intuition, and magic suspect.  They set a pattern that judicial torture is sanctified once your enemy has been labeled ‘evil’.  And they made nature herself something a dangerous and suspect.

We use the word “Witch” consciously, as a way of reclaiming our power as women and as men.  We reclaim the sacredness of our bodies and our sexuality, the healing traditions rooted in an understanding of the natural world, the power of intuition and imagination, the respect for nature and the love for all living things. As long as there’s a word someone can use to shut down thought, we’re not free.  Claim the word, shed light on the hidden history, lance the wound, and we can begin to heal.

So yes, it’s time for an apology.  The viability of all nature’s life support systems are threatened today by what our civilization has become.  What better time for the religions of the book to signal a new respect for the religions of nature?

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In the previous post I talked about violence against women, including the practice of Sati, a funeral practice among Hindu communities in which a recently-widowed woman would either voluntarily or by use of force made to immolate herself on her husbands funeral pyre. This woman apparently was tortured and in the end killed by her tribesmen in Delhi; her crime was that she refused to perform Sati.

No culturally relativistic argument can justify such an act of brutal violence; no virtuosity of semantics or cultural self-defence can condone such acts of nihilism and debasement. Any cultural tradition that sanctifies the death or humiliation of a human being is totally unacceptable.


Violence against women still is universal, and while it has many roots, especially in cultural tradition and customs, it is gender inequality that lies at the cross-cultural heart of violent practices. Violence against women is deeply embedded in human history and its universal perpetration through social and cultural norms serves the main purpose of reinforcing male-dominated power structures.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls for “equal and inalienable rights” for all people, “without distinction of  any kind.” It requests the right to security of person, the right not to be held in slavery or subjected to inhuman treatment, the right to equal protection before the law, and the right to equality in marriage. But weak excuses such as that of cultural relativism coupled with discriminatory social norms and practices, the under-representation of women in decision making structures and processes, a lack of resources to fight for women’s rights and, above all, the absence of societal and/or political will provide strong impediments to giving women the same Human Rights that men enjoy.

Some of the violence traditions that women have to face are life-threatening. There are for example customs such sati, which forces many Hindu women to immolate themselves on top of the funeral pyres created for their deceased husbands (there’s no sati for males of course), or women in some African countries being subjected to violent exorcism rites or even being killed after being accused of witchcraft. Many of these culturally sanctioned crimes are financially motivated, eliminating the wife as the inheritress of her husband’s estate and having it being transferred instead to the couple’s sons or the father’s family.

A different way of abusing women’s Human Rights takes place in many African countries, including Kenya, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Uganda, where women actually become part of their husband’s estate – supposedly in the widow’s interest to offer her security and protection. An act of humiliation itself, the inheritance of women also culturally approves acts of “widow cleansing”.


Wow, a great ZNet article by Cynthia Peters about the intimacy of women in a Moroccan hammam (steam bath), and a contemplation on how different women relate to their own and other women’s bodies in our so ‘progressive’ Western culture.


By Cynthia Peters, Apr 05, 2009
Cynthia Peters’s ZSpace Page / ZSpace

At a public bath in Morocco, I watched a young adolescent bathe her grandmother. She picked up each limb, moved her breasts this way and that, and shifted her belly about to reach every crevice. She stood over her, squatted next to her, and sat alongside her as she put a fair amount of muscle into scrubbing her grandmother clean. The black soap made from olive oil oozed from the coarse cloth she used to slough off the dead skin and dirt. The grandmother lolled on the tiled floor in a reverie.

Nearby, two middle-aged women took turns scrubbing each other. One lay on the floor while the other worked over every inch of her body – attentively, gently, and thoroughly. Afterwards, the recipient of all the attention pulled herself up and kissed her friend as if to say thank you. Then they switched roles, the scrubber moving into a prone position on the floor and the ritual was reversed.

Through the steam, you could see dozens of  women, some wearing underpants and some not, sitting in pairs or small groups – all very matter-of-factly but tenderly cleaning each other. For these Moroccan women, a visit to the hammam is a weekly ritual that allows not only for deep cleaning but for socializing as well. For me, a westerner accustomed to private showers and no public nudity, the hammam was a revelation. If it’s impolite to stare under regular circumstances, it must be even more so when everyone around you is naked, but still it was difficult not to let my eyes linger. I have never seen so much female flesh.

It made me realize that the only female bodies I am really familiar with are my own and the billboard version, and since the billboard version offers only one type of female body (young, tall, and impossibly thin), that means I have a pretty limited awareness of what’s going on under women’s clothes.


corrective-rapeA new ActionAid report describes the chilling rise of “corrective” rape in South Africa – in which South African lesbians are being raped in an effort to “cure” them of their sexual orientation.

This shocking act of sexual violence must also be considered a hate crime

Support groups in Cape Town say they see 10 new cases of “corrective” rape every week. And it’s even more widespread around the rest of the country.

Many perpetrators of rape already go unpunished in South Africa, but the situation is even worse for lesbian women. Indeed, 31 lesbian women have been murdered in homophobic attacks since 1998, but in only one of these cases has there been a conviction.

Although South Africa’s constitution recognizes rights of gay and lesbian people, its legal system does not view crimes committed against gay and lesbians on the basis of sexual orientation to be hate crimes. The South African legal system must recognize “corrective” rape as a hate crime in addition to a rape in order to establish a greater punishment for this brutal and widespread crime.

Urge South African President Kgalema Motlanthe to deem “corrective” rape a hate crime!

Please sign a petition!