When I was living in Botswana, every citizen and expatriate knew the laws on homosexuality: it is illegal to have homosexual sex. This law was rarely enforced.
Now, the government is calling for a campaign against gay men and sex workers in the country, in an attempt to curb the HIV infection rate. Suspected gay men and sex workers will now be arrested and detained, while foreigners of these groups can be detained and/or deported. Read the full story here.
I am infuriated by this so-called “HIV prevention strategy.” I truly loved living in Botswana and was aware of many injustices and discriminatory policies, but this is the worst. Not only does this violate the Constitution of Botswana, but it is simply not a legitimate strategy for reducing the infection rates of HIV. While the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among sex workers is high, arresting them in certainly not the answer. Prostitution in Botswana is highest in the refugee camp and amongst the most vulnerable groups, and the government should be addressing the underlying issues that lead to prostitution – as well as the severe gender inequality that leads to women (especially sex workers) to be disempowered to insist on condom use. Furthermore, the prevalence rate among men who have sex with men is significantly lower than the national average (9% vs. 17.6%).
I am absolutely disgusted by the government of Botswana right now. I urge everyone to oppose Member of Parliament John Toto who made an anti-gay speech last week, and to encourage human rights groups like Ditshwanelo and BONELA to stand against this campaign.
I am appalled that this needs to be explained, but taking a stereotype of a different culture or race and then dressing up as it for Halloween or a party is unacceptable. It is racist.
I saw this post on Buzzfeed the other day about a woman in Australia who had an “African” themed party – and her guests came dressed as animals, in “tribal” prints and in blackface – someone even came as a KKK member! Then the host posted an “apology” on Tumblr, saying that ” this was to celebrate the amazing country and people.”
After I got over my incredulity at all the glaring racism, I wanted to scream (for the second time this week) “Africa is NOT a country!” My Facebook friend posted a great link to her page the other day, about a campaign students in Ohio were running. The campaign We’re a Culture, not a Costume was run in 2011 with the tagline “This is NOT who I am, and this is NOT okay,” and in 2012 with the tagline “You wear the costume for ONE night, I wear the stigma for LIFE.” Each poster features the picture of a student as well as a picture of someone dressed as a stereotype from their culture or race.
It is a brilliant and powerful campaign, that is obviously necessary, because below is the thread of comments on my friend’s page. Pay special attention to the comments made by Red (I have colour-blocked everyone’s pictures and names for their privacy).
I honestly can’t believe the level of racism and ignorance that still exists in our society. It is abhorrent and unacceptable.
With Halloween approaching, I ask all my friends, family and readers to think about the costumes you wear, to call others out for the behaviour, and to spread the message of We’re a Culture, Not a Costume.
There is a lot of hype surround UN Women’s new ad campaign. It utilizes Google Search’s autocomplete feature and takes a screenshot of what happens when you search “women cannot”, “women should”, “women shouldn’t” and “women need to”. They are very powerful images, and it places the screenshot of the search over a woman’s mouth.
Something to note is that Google Search has different results for different people – Google personalizes your search results based on web history.
So, I typed in the above searches for both men and women, and these were my results (click to image to view full-size).
Not only is this a brilliant ad campaign, but it shows just how entrenched patriarchy and sexism are in our society. When we do the same searches for men, we can see how patriarchy negatively affects men as well. “Men shouldn’t cry” and “men need to man up” are some examples of how patriarchy is a human problem, not a woman’s problem. “Men cannot be feminists” shows us how much we really need men in the feminist movement.
What happens when you do these searches? What are your reactions?