Tag Archives: women

What’s Culture Go To Do With It?

8 Nov

I had the amazing opportunity to attend a forum on Reinvigorating the Gender Movement in Botswana this week. It was a really valuable experience and I got to hear some great and open debate, learn more about the history of the gender movement in Botswana and meet some really interesting people.

BUT (because there is always a but) there were two comments that just irked me.

The first was: “Women have more power than men because they can say no in the bedroom. Men will never say no!” Excuse me?! In what world can women always say no? Marital rape is a sad reality. Also, maybe she would want to have sex if her pleasure was put on an equal level as his. And maybe she would want to have sex if she wasn’t tired from working two jobs every single day – her paid work and the unpaid work she does at home. Of course, I too am making assumptions with these statements, but I just want to make it obvious that a woman does not always have the power to say no, and when she does have the power – well, why shouldn’t she? And to speak to my personal experience regarding the power dynamic in Botswana – when a man hits on me by asking me how many cows my parents want, that shows me that he has put the power on him and on my parents (likely mostly my father) while giving me none of the power.

Also – why should a woman’s power be connected to her sexuality? Men are judged on their intelligence, on their work, on their ideas – so why aren’t women?

The second comment was: “I married a Kalanga woman because I think she is still more controllable. It is still in the Kalanga culture to raise a girl to be a woman that will take care of her husband.”

This reminded me a comment on my Facebook that I choose not to address at the time. Here it is:

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How long are we going to blame culture for human rights violations?! Oppression does NOT equal culture. I am tired of skirting around it – but the “culture” excuse a shitty and pathetic excuse. Cultures are socially constructed and therefore are molded and changed over time. We need to carry the best parts of culture forward into the future while leaving the harmful parts in the past.  

New HIV law in Canada: Too Strict or Too Lenient?

7 Nov

This article was originally published by the International Women’s Initiative Survivors’ Blog.

A court ruling in 1998 stated that it was a crime for HIV carriers in Canada to not reveal their status to a sexual partner if there was a significant risk of transmission. Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada updated this law. The Supreme Court ruled that people with low levels of HIV do not need to disclose their condition to sexual partners if they use condoms. This was decided because “the realistic possibility of transmission of HIV is negated” when the carrier has a low viral load and a condom is used. In all other situations, HIV carriers must disclose their status to their partner. HIV carriers who do not meet these conditions and do not tell their partners can be charged with aggravated and sexual assault. 

To read the rest of my post, please go here

 

The High Incidence Rate of HIV in Botswana

31 Oct

Botswana is an upper-middle income country with a strong push for education from the government. All students can attend a public, or government sponsored, school until Form 3 (equivalent of Grade 10) and then they write examinations. Students with passing grades are then sponsored by the government to go to Senior Secondary School for Form 4 and Form 5. Students may then apply to attend the University of Botswana, and successful applicants are sponsored by the government. The Government of Botswana spends 8.9% of its GDP on education (compared to 4.9% in Canada).

So why does this educated country with a strong economy have the second highest HIV prevalence rate in the world? Even after both private and public sector attempts to educate the population and mitigate the spread of the disease, why is the incidence rate of new infections a staggering 2.9%? I asked “In your opinion, why does Botswana still have such a high HIV infection rate?” to coworkers, friends, and acquaintances. I tried to ask a mixture of both men and women, but I only felt comfortable asking a select few men, so only 3 of the 11 responses are from men. These are the answers I received:

  • “Our culture promotes cheating.”
  • “People, men especially, don’t feel guilty about cheating.”
  • “It’s almost like people have gotten so used to it that they’re proud of it.”
  • “Men rely on women to get tested – if their partner is negative, they assume that they are also negative. If their partner is positive, they just assume that they are positive as well.”
  • “The free condoms that the government gives out are crappy condoms.”
  • “Men don’t like wearing condoms.”
  • “Men take off the condom in the middle of sex.”
  • “Men are smooth-talkers and try to convince you to have sex with them because they don’t have HIV. If you ask them to go to the clinic, then they will just stop talking to you.”
  • “People will use a condom when they are having affairs, but they think that they don’t have to use one when they have sex with their main partner.”
  • “If a woman asks her boyfriend or husband to use a condom, then he will assume that it is because she is cheating on him. So she doesn’t ask because she is afraid she will be beaten.”
  • “Even if you go to the clinic with your partner, the test is 3 months old, so one of you might be positive and you wouldn’t know. Then you have sex with your partner and get infected,” (in Botswana, the HIV test given at clinics tests for the antibodies not the actual virus, which generally take about 3 months to become present in the blood stream).

The two trends I noticed in the answers were: people have multiple sexual partners, and women do not feel safe to negotiate safe sex. I have been told that both of these are “cultural”. Are they cultural, or is that just an excuse to continue the behaviour? How can this mindset (or culture, if you buy that) be changed?

I don’t have any of the answers, but I look forward to discussing this issue, among others, next week. I have the opportunity to represent Gantsi Craft at the forum for Reinvigorating the Gender Movement in Botswana. This national forum is a chance for organizations across the country to discuss and collaborate gender issues within the country. I am hoping to come away with a greater understanding of the issues facing Botswana and ideas on how to facilitate gender and HIV workshops within the producer settlements.

*Statistics on Education Expenditures from the CIA World Factbook

Breastfeeding and the Vertical Transmission of HIV in Botswana

27 Sep

I originally wrote this blog for the International Women’s Initiative

HIV/AIDS is one of the most significant development challenges facing Botswana, a sparsely populated country in southern Africa. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Botswana is nearly 25% among adults, which puts Botswana as the second highest HIV/AIDS prevalent country in the world. The virus is spread mainly through heterosexual transmission among adolescents and adults and vertical transmission from mother-to-child.

The government of Botswana has put several measures in place to mitigate the spread of HIV. Particular focus has been put on reducing the new infections of infants through vertical transmission. Antiretrovirals (ARVs) are provided to women from when they are seven months pregnant, through childbirth and until they stop breastfeeding. However, there is still a lot of controversy surrounding HIV-positive mothers and breastfeeding, especially in Botswana.

Please go here to read the rest of this article. 

Vote NO to M312

20 Sep

I want to share the wonderful reply I got from Elizabeth May’s office to my e-mail about voting NO to M312. This motion, proposed by Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth, would essentially reopen the debate on the definition of a human being under the Canadian Criminal Code. This could affect many reproductive rights of women, including abortion, contraception, and rights throughout pregnancy. 

“Thank you for your letter regarding the debate of the legal status of abortion in Canada, which has been re-opened by Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth in a motion called M-312. I am very disturbed by Mr. Woodworth`s back-door attempt to re-open an abortion debate in Canada.

The Green Party opposes any possible move by the Harper Conservatives to diminish the right of a woman to a safe, legal abortion. We fully support a woman’s right to choose.

Through our “pro-life, pro-choice” position, we are also committed to expanding programs in reproductive rights and education to avoid unwanted pregnancies in the first place and thus reduce the number of abortions in Canada. We have also advocated the expansion of supports for low-income mothers who wish to have a child, but may consider abortion due to lack of resources.

It is vital that safe, legal abortions be available to the women of Canada – and the world. We support federally-funded maternal health programmes to ensure access to family planning and primary health care, including access to safe, legal abortions.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P.
Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands
Leader of the Green Party of Canada”

To read more about this motion, please visit here, here and here. See what Stephen Woodworth has to say about it on his website here

Encourage your local MP to follow Elizabeth May’s lead and vote NO tomorrow!

Legitimate Rape

31 Aug

The female body just shuts that whole thing down in the case of legitimate rape. That is, according to Missouri Congressman Todd Akin.

 What exactly is “legitimate” rape?  Silly me I guess, because I was always under the assumption that rape was rape. If a woman is wearing revealing clothing was she inviting her rapist so it’s not really rape? Do some women secretly want to be forced to have sex against their will so that makes it illegitimate? Are women required to never say no to their husbands, so marital rape is illegitimate? I guess I have been living in ignorance; Mr. Akin, can you please teach me which forms of rape are illegitimate?

 Next, thank you so much Mr. Akin for teaching me about my body. I don’t know how my mother, teachers, nurses and doctors failed to teach me this one, but I’m so happy that now I know that my body will just shut the whole thing down if I’m legitimately raped. 

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Todd Akin is a man with the power to make decisions about a woman’s body. If people like Todd Akin continue to gain political and decision-making power then I fear that women will see their rights be stripped from them little by little. We can’t let this happen. 

2 Aug

Should women play the game or change the game?

16 Jul

My mom always told me that if we weren’t careful, the rights that our mothers and grandmothers fought for would be taken away. If this story (blogged by my classmate Steph) doesn’t convince you on the war on women, nothing will.

finding development

Who knew that simply HAVING some of those items in the image to the left could be grounds for being arrested? I sure didn’t, but it seems that authorities in several cities in the USA disagree with me.

When I saw in the news that aid and health agencies were handing out condoms to sex workers to help minimize the risk of HIV and STI transmission (as well as the risk of pregnancy) I thought; “that’s amazing! Finally moving past stigmas and making decisions based on basic human health needs.” Then I saw that police and public authorities were confiscating those condoms essentially giving women the option to hand the condoms over or go to jail and I was enraged. I was even more enraged when I found out that this was happening in the USA – which in my opinion is a country that is quickly and systematically…

View original post 192 more words

Real Women, Real Pictures

5 Jul

Seventeen Magazine has pledged to no longer air-brush the models in their pages. The entire staff has also signed a pledge to celebrate all kinds of beauty with a range of skin tones, body types, heights and hair textures. See the letter from Seventeen’s editor in chief here and check out their behind the scenes here.

This is also a huge win for the Miss Representation campaign and shows the power of social media. 14-year old Julia Bluhm asked Seventeen to post one unaltered spread in each issue – and the campaign took off. SPARK teamed up with Miss Representation, LoveSocial and I Am That Girl for the #KeepItRealCampaign. This gained support from thousands of people on Twitter, Instagram and blogs asking women’s and girls’ magazines to stop Photoshopping women’s bodies. And the masses won.

So what now?

Get Teen Vogue on board by signing this petition.

Take the Miss Representation pledge “to use my voice to spread the message of Miss Representation and challenge the media’s limiting portrayal of women and girls” and ACT on it.

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Vagina.

25 Jun

Vagina.

Does the word “vagina” make you feel uncomfortable? Does it feel weirder to say than “penis”? Should the word be banned in the State House of Representatives? What other word should representatives use when discussing female reproductive issues? Are there any negative connotations associated with the word? Why?