Tag Archives: gender

Homophobic Policies in Botswana

29 Oct

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. 

Advertisements

Where’s the line on street harassment?

30 Sep

Women face street harassment all the time – even on a daily basis. So, where’s the line?

Feminist Philosophers

Soraya Chemaly argues that violence is a natural end-result of the same principles which operate in what we ordinarily refer to as street harassment:

Earlier this week a man in a car pulled up next to a 14-year old girl on a street in Florida and offered to pay her $200 to have sex with him.  [. . .] The girl said no. So what does this guy do? He reaches out, drags her, by her hair, into his car, chokes her until she blacks out, tosses her out of the car and then, not done yet, he runs her over several times.  Bystanders watched the entire episode in shock. He almost killed her, but she lived and ID’d him in a line up and he’s been arrested and charged with Attempted Murder, Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon and False Imprisonment.  What was the Deadly Weapon referred to in the…

View original post 471 more words

Passion Killings: A Festering Sore on the Conscience of the Nation by Dr. M. Dikobe

6 Aug

I had this article passed to me. It is an article by a gender activist in Botswana on “passion killings”. It also references the practice of lobola (bride price). To read more on this issue in Botswana, read my blog about it

A number of reasons have been put forward in explaining high incidences of passion killings in Botswana, the most obvious one being the unequal power dynamics in relationships between men and women; woman are often perceived as minors who need to be disciplined from time to time. Another is entrenched cultural practices and patterns of socialisation. Further, to a certain extent, some Tswana folksongs can help us understand the way in which passion killings are regarded – as well as the responses to these murders. Many people use their culture, traditions or religion as a way to control women. In Setswana culture, as is similar in many countries in southern Africa, when one gets married the man pays lobola (bride price), mainly in the form of cattle and money, to the woman’s family.

The concept of having ‘purchased a wife’ has been cited as a reason for the belief by some men that they have the licence to beat their wives. These beliefs are further reinforced by the lyrics of some wedding songs, such as the one which includes the words, “mosadi wame ke mo rekile ka dikgomo”, loosely translated as, “my wife I have bought her with cattle”. The causes of passion killings are manifold and a lot of research on this issue is needed to better understand both the cultural and socio-political implications of its causes. Among them, increasing poverty levels and youth unemployment have been cited as contributing factors to the proliferation of inter generational dating as young girls trade sexual favours for a luxurious life. Socialisation too, plays a major factor. Men are socialised to be providers and women, the ones provided for. This creates dependency where women expect financial support and gifts from men, and the provider in turn expects loyalty and love once he has ‘bought’ the girl. Once the relationship goes sour, and the girl tries to leave, the man who feels that he has been taken advantage of does not take no for an answer, sometimes leading to violence, and at times, murder.

 Solutions

The Government of Botswana and other stakeholders have embarked on initiatives aimed at curbing violence against girls and women. Botswana is signatory to agreements to protect women’s rights, among them the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the SADC Declaration on Gender, and the Sexual Offence Bill among others. Despite increases in equality at legislative level, gender-based violence remains problematic in Botswana. To date there is no formalized mechanism to monitor and evaluate gender based violence. Some community mobilising and awareness- raising remains crucial.

There is still only one shelter for victims of gender and domestic violence and rape which is in Gaborone, the capital, with another centre – Women Against Rape (WAR) – in Maun in the north-east. There is a call to increase the number of such centres across the country and to make them accessible to women and girls. There is also a need to mobilise public opinion against the broader injustices of femicide. Everyone should say “NO” to violence against women.

The state has to ratify and enforce existing laws and ensure that there is zero tolerance towards violence against girls and women. The Government of Botswana is also currently looking at setting up national consultative workshops where the whole country can be sensitised about the issues of women’s vulnerability to abuse. Dialogue among various stakeholders, including NGOs, Civil Society and traditional and religious leaders, to find solutions and interventions to mitigate the impact of violence against women in the country is also encouraged. In particular, there is need for stiffer sentences for perpetrators so that they do not walk the streets scot free and prey on other young women.

Passion killings: “a festering sore on the conscience of the nation”

Crimes of “passion” are common worldwide, but several incidents of passion killings – where a number of young girls were killed by their lovers around Botswana in a short space of time – have attracted international media attention. Although men and boys are sometimes victims of passion killings, women and girls in Botswana are the ones who mainly suffer the consequences of this type of gender-based violence. The former President of Botswana, Festus Mogae noted at the National Conference on Crimes of Passion Among the Youth in Botswana in 2008 that “these crimes are new to Botswana and are not part of our culture as a peaceful and compassionate nation”. He noted further that, “crimes of passion are a festering sore on the conscience of our nation… they are eating into the fabric of the society”. The former President’s comments are close to the concerns of youth and adults alike in Botswana, who express the urgency of curbing ‘femicide’ – or passion killings as they are commonly referred to – before they get further out of control.

Dr. Maude Dikobe is a gender activist and Lecture of Literature and the Expressive Arts of the African Diaspora at the University of Botswana. She is a Fulbright scholar and holds a Phd. in African Diaspora Studies from UC Berkeley, United States.

How to be an Ally

31 Jul

I am a female feminist. I am also white, heterosexual and cis (my gender matches the sex I was assigned at birth), and I recognize the privileges that come with those attributes – not to mention being from a middle-class Canadian family. I strive to be an ally for people of the LQBTQQ community and for people of colour, and navigating the best way to do that can at times be difficult. Michael Urbina wrote a fantastic article titled 101 Everyday Ways for Men to be Allies to Women. I recommend reading the article in its entirety, especially for my male readers, but I am going to highlight some of my favourite points that I think are applicable to anyone who wants to be an ally to women, people of colour, and the LGBTQQ community. I added some personal comments in italics.

  • Recognize your privileges, especially your male privilege (and white privilege if applicable).
  • Make a daily effort to acknowledge and then challenge your privilege.
  • Recognize that your male privilege (among other privileges) may in fact blind you to others’ experiences.
  • Stop catcalling. Seriously, just stop! 
  • If you’re going to be chivalrous (on dates) or in everyday life, do it for everyone out of kindness, not just for women or people you think are not capable of doing things themselves. Also known as: be a kind and respectful person.
  • Monitor your use of words.
  • Never force your opinions on other people.
  • Be conscious of your words and the effects it could have on others.
  • Be pro-choice.
  • Acknowledge the lived experiences of women and LGBT-identified people. (And I will add people of colour to this).
  • Support same-sex marriage. Given.
  • Challenge everyday sexism in your life.
  • Call out your friends on oppressive behaviors, jokes, or comments. This can be difficult; I cannot count the amount of times I have argued with my brothers over their usage of “That’s so gay.” This can especially be difficult if safety is at risk. Last weekend a white male called my black friend a n*gger at the club very quietly and I called him out not at all quietly – it nearly ended in a brawl. 
  • Support musicians and artists that do not degrade women (or others) in their music and lyrics. – Have you read the lyrics or seen the video for Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines?! 
  • Claim the feminist label. Read my post about why this is important here
  • Don’t be the hero, savior, or knight in shining armor. Allyship isn’t about rescuing people from their oppressors, as if they couldn’t do it on their own. Allyship is about standing in solidarity and working together to collectively tackle a social problem.
  • Support other people who advocate for gender equality (and all forms of equality).
  • Be willing to listen and know when to refer people to other resources.
  • Be an active bystander. If you witness harassment, do something about it.
  • Learn and use appropriate vocabulary.
  • Advocate for more inclusive policies, rules, or procedures in your school or workplace.
  • Be proud to be an ally.
  • Seek out children’s books for your kids that challenge traditional gender roles. (My amazing mother read The Paper Bag Princess to me soooo many times, and my wonderful self-identified feminist father was always there to act it out with me! For other titles, go here.)
  • Challenge entitlement (read my previous blog post and personal experience about this here.)
  • This might go without saying, but be conscious of other social problems and issues! All oppression is connected.
  • Support and vote for political candidates who advocate policies beneficial to women, LGBT people, and other marginalized groups of people.
  • Travel to unfamiliar places.
  • Ask questions (but not too many)!

What are your thoughts on being an ally? What other ways can someone be an ally?

Sexism, Power and Entitlement

15 Jul

This post is about an incident that happened to me Friday night that absolutely infuriated me and that I cannot stop thinking about. 

Friday night, I went out to a club with some friends. While there, one of my friends (let us call him J) introduced me to someone he knew (let us call him M). J is from Senegal, we had a few mutual friends, and we bonded over my ability to communicate with him in his first language – and I also liked hanging out with him. M is from Sudan, loved to show off his wealth and was very physically imposing (if I had to guess his height I would say 6″8, and a BIG man too). 

All night M was flashing his money around (literally opening his wallet and showing it to people), annoyed every single one of my friends and was progressively getting belligerently drunk – I saw him get into at least 2 arguments with mild physical contact before my incident with him. 

We eventually left to another club, but unfortunately M was there too. I was talking to J when M came over and starting hitting on me – very, very persistently. I kept saying no, I wasn’t interested, and J also told him to back off and leave me alone. Then, M says to me “Look, I am a very wealthy man and I want you tonight. How much do I have to pay you to have you for the night?” 

I was so taken aback. I didn’t even know what to say. If I wasn’t genuinely concerned that he might hurt me (and was somewhere where I knew 100% that security would back me up), I would have slapped him across the face. I just walked away, stunned, to my other friends. 

The more I think about it, the more infuriated I get. This man felt so entitled that he thought he deserved my body. I was not a person with feelings, rights, and power over myself to him. I was just another object that he wanted and assumed that he could buy for the right price. I have never felt so objectified in my life. And while this behaviour is the most extreme sexual entitlement I have ever encountered, it is by no means the only. I have had my butt grabbed by strangers in Canadian clubs. I had a man call me a bitch for saying I wasn’t interested in Botswana. When my friend and I ignored two men’s catcalls from their car in Ethiopia one of them called me a fat slut. An American man with a high status put his hand down my friend’s pants against her will and I was the only one outraged with her. When I called him out for being disrespectful he laughed and said “I like power, but don’t worry I’m harmless.” 

This male sexual empowerment is one part of the rape culture we live in all around the world. Male sexuality is valued and is seen as inevitable and sometimes uncontrollable, while female sexuality is seen to exist for male pleasure. 

I am still worked up about this incident and don’t know how to put my thoughts into proper sentences, but I recommend reading a few other posts about sexual entitlement here, here and it’s follow up here

To put everyone at ease though (Mom, I know you won’t be happy when you read this!) I do have some wonderful friends here that would never put me in those situations, and indeed would help me out of them. For the record, my friend J was also visibly very upset and I saw him yelling at M for a solid 20 minutes before forcing him out the door to go home. 

I do not intend this post to be a criticism of all men. It is a criticism of the culture we live in that allows some men to think and behave in this way and for the majority of people to accept it as normal. 

More than a Woman’s Issue

1 Jul

I read a great article about a woman’s experience talking with rape and genocide survivors in Rwanda, highlighting why rape is more than a woman’s issue.

“In Rwanda, a majority of Rwandans still say “a man’s tears run within his stomach,” which suggests that emotions should be encased. In the United States, it’s the same. Emotion is weak and feminine and not a legitimate source for proof or argumentation. In Rwanda, rape survivors are marginalized. In the U.S., rape survivors are marginalized.

In both countries, rape is “a woman’s issue.”

Read the full article here

The “F” Word

21 Jun

I have many friends, acquaintances and even family members (I’m looking at my brothers) that will say “I believe in equality for men and women… but I’m not a feminist!”

So why has the word feminist become dirty? Why are people scared to call themselves feminists?

The first reason could be that the root of the word applies to females, and so males have trouble identifying with it. When we look back in history, the feminist movement was primarily women – because it had to be. Men weren’t going to just give women equal pay or the vote, so women had to stand up. But now the feminist movement has shifted, and it’s important to have male allies as part of it. Indeed, most feminists I know also realize that gender stereotypes adversely affect boys and men (“Be a man,” “Grow some balls,” “Boys don’t cry,” etc.) – males need feminism and can be feminists too.

The second, and probably most common, reason is that we are often shown a negative portrayal or representation of feminist. Many still see “feminist” as synonymous with “man-hater, angry and radical” – because that’s what people who keep females down WANT you to think. I typed “feminism meme” into Google Images, and these are some of the wonderful things that popped up (for more, just try it yourself):

anti-feminist1 anti-feminist2 anti-feminist3 anti-feminist4 anti-feminist5 anti-feminist6 anti-feminist7

Believe it or not, I chose some of the least-offensive.

 

But in reality, feminism is simply the ideology that advocates for the social, economic and political equality of the genders.

So do you think that men and women deserve the same rights? Congratulations, you are a feminist. Standing up for women’s rights is standing up for human rights, so be proud to be a feminist! The more people that proudly claim to be feminist, the more we can rid the word of negative connotations and actually work towards equality.

And for all of you who tell me that there is no need for feminism in our society (and for everyone interested), please check out Who Needs Feminism?  It is a great blog that shows the everyday realities of being a girl or woman.