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This weekend, my class and I attended a Human Trafficking Awareness charity event that we established.  It was a great experience all around, as we were all able to gain an emotional perspective on the tragedy of human trafficking.

During the event, a press conference was held that included a survivor of human trafficking, who discussed her struggles during her horrific experiences, and you can really hear a pen drop when she was speaking. Every member attending this charity event was able to connect with the speaker, and show true awareness towards the cause.

I feel as a member of BCYC, its important to gain perspective towards issues like Human Trafficking, because it only makes me more passionate on sensitive topics that really affect safe reproduction. During this event I was able to meet a special representative on the awareness of Human Trafficking named Stephanie Bell, and we discussed my involvement with BCYC, and how maybe she can partner with us on any Human Trafficking event we decide to participate in.

I really enjoyed this because events like this were I can meet people who share the same dedication and awareness as I do, and sort of work together for the same cause and get the word across are important experiences to me. This was a really good event!!

Categories: Human Trafficking
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We are all feminist!
People fight for every girls right,–whether in secret
or not. We have once said no to those people who,
one way or another have adjusted the beauty of the
“Girl Child.”
Life made things easy, but our new story-telling,
and blueprint-art, shaped the way things used to
be. It is quite beautiful to say we have tried our best
to influence most of the affairs of girls living in
rural areas–“to put a smile on gaunt faces.”
Today, there’s a task on each of us to help raise
awareness and #Write4Girls ; to ring the bell, and
set prosperous margins for them to follow.
In Cotonou, the Republic of Benin; teenage girls are
going through a lot of pains–from hunger strike in
major rural areas, to sexually transmitted
infections, and rape! Most of these girls have no
parents, only few of them have access to hospitals
and parental care. The selfsame happens in
Ekpoma, Edo state, Nigeria (…my state of origin);
girls have turned coated wires, nude. From peer
group relationship to hotel services. Almost 15% of
teenage girls in my environment from (14-17) are
pregnant, 10% are already mothers,–the story goes
From these circumstances “Feminism” becomes a
dwindled act, because majority of the girls we fight
for–(to get quality education, parental care and
reproductive health services…),–are knowingly
doing the wrong things.
But aside from any heart feelings, we are still
And There’s always a heart that wants to put a smile on
wrinkled faces. While “Malala,” is working on education for
every girl child, we too can do our best.
Today, there’s a new definition, the renaissance of a
new hope; thoughts that begets’ essence, and
notions that raises the bowels that once lay flat.
Our words, written or spoken, can influence and
reach the farthest places. Faults may emerge, and
we may have to shrink to environmental and
governmental laws; but the grace to move on will
spring forth, if we decide to take a stand.
This is for those girls that have lost all, those girls
that have been shut out, raped, coerced for
pleasure, used as slaves, Infected with Sexually Transmitted Infections, and made to hawk fruits
in the market.
We can do a lot more if we #Write4Girls, and
channel or thoughts to the development of every girl child.

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We had a lot to say and rail about when Mipsterz releases its
“Somewhere in America” video with hip hijab-wearing ladies. We talked about slut-shaming and music being haram (or not) and everything in between. Then on International Women’s Day when Sheikh Abu Eesa Niamatullah made extremely inappropriate jokes towards women, the global Muslim community rose to fire opinions back and forth on that too.
And when the Honesty Policy released its “British Muslim” video for “Happy,” we had a lot to say then, too. And yes, those issues are important in their own rights. There is growth to be had, stereotypes to be unpacked wrongs to be righted. But can we be fired up as well over the April 15 kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian school girls by the terrorist group Boko Haram – 276 of whom still remain in captivity? Girls whom the leader of Boko Haram is threatening to sell into slavery? (“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” a man claiming to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video first obtained by Agence France-Presse.”)
Maybe hashtag activism is all we have right now.
Maybe that’s a crock. But maybe that’s where it
starts. And international pressure builds, and then
pressure will be put on the Nigerian government, and
then someone will do something to help those girls.
Staying quiet isn’t getting us nowhere, and it
certainly isn’t doing squat to help 276 girls held by a
terrorist group.
As friend and colleague Professor Omid Safi says in
his blog , “ What Would Muhammad Do,” to the
leader of Boko Haram:
The time comes to put aside intellectual exchange:
You repulsive vomitous excuse of a man. Human
beings are not for sale. The girls belong to their own
selves, belong to their own families and communities.
You are nothing short of a thief.
This is a bastardization of Islam, of decency, of
liberation, of all that is good and beautiful.
We are dealing with people’s children here. If we
were dealing with property, it would be akin to
someone breaking into another person’s home,
stealing their property, and then stating that they are
willing to sell the stolen material.
Except that we are not dealing with property. We are
talking about human beings.
Boko Haram stands for “Western Education is haram
(forbidden).” You know what’s haram? Stealing
people’s children…Trying to sell human beings. You,
Boko Haram, you are haram. You are vile and
repulsive, the very antithesis of all that is beautiful
and merciful. Your action have made the lives of 276
school girls a living hell, and brought untold anguish
to thousands of their family members.


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I have seen people change and at the same vein witnessed a retrograde in youths. I have been around areas where there\’s no hope for light and peace, but in this same situation some people still survive.

I have been around youths – Boys and Girls, that have made life difficult for themselves due to lack of knowledge. And my countenance has dwindled, because I have witnessed a holocaust of ruined lives in the past, even now.

I love peace and the prospect it brings. I love sanctuary – a foundation laid on the rocks of simplicity and the Arm of Justice.
I stand against the illegal acts displayed by the so-called Governmental body. I stand against rape, child abuse and its associated acts. I stand against the malfunctioning of child rights and value – I stand for a change, as an \”Advocate\”.

I stand as a Youth, Not a man, alone. But with men – the colony of change.
\”A man cannot be a faculty, men can. The necessity of change begins with not one man, but with the uniformity of all\”.
(Victor Omovbude Brown)

I stand against – Child punishment, Tribalism, criticism, Discrimination, and Queer visions. I stand for change, which is my first goal. As a youth, I stand for Unity, Peace and Progress.

I stand for a free and transparent Health service attributed to (children,youths and adults) – I stand against unequal rights and segregation in roles.
I stand for Quality Education – Void of preferential treatment, equal for all.
I stand against poor governance.

I am an \”Advocate For Youth\”.

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I have seen people change and at the same vein witnessed a retrograde in youths. I have been around areas where there’s no hope for light and peace, but in this same situation some people still survive.

I have been around youths – Boys and Girls, that have made life difficult for themselves due to lack of knowledge. And my countenance has dwindled, because I have witnessed a holocaust of ruined lives in the past, even now.

I love peace and the prospect it brings. I love sanctuary – a foundation laid on the rocks of simplicity and the Arm of Justice.
I stand against the illegal acts displayed by the so-called Governmental body. I stand against rape, child abuse and its associated acts. I stand against the malfunctioning of child rights and value – I stand for a change, as an “Advocate”.

I stand as a Youth, Not a man, alone. But with men – the colony of change.
“A man cannot be a faculty, men can. The necessity of change begins with not one man, but with the uniformity of all”.
(Victor Omovbude Brown)

I stand against – Child punishment, Tribalism, criticism, Discrimination, and Queer visions. I stand for change, which is my first goal. As a youth, I stand for Unity, Peace and Progress.

I stand for a free and transparent Health service attributed to (children,youths and adults) – I stand against unequal rights and segregation in roles.
I stand for Quality Education – Void of preferential treatment, equal for all.
I stand against poor governance.

I am an “Advocate For Youth”.

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The American porn industry: a world of opportunity for both actors and consumers. Everyone wins, right? Actors and actresses with “desired features” have sex and get paid for their performances; meanwhile, consumers happily perpetuate a market with an estimated value of between $10 and $13 billion, which boosts our nation’s economy. By virtue of increased access to pornographic content through the Internet, the industry has permeated American culture so much that the average person views their first pornographic image at the age of 11. Moreover, by 2006, pornographic videos were released on an average of one every half hour.

This is how capitalists would describe the porn industry. They love it because it’s profitable… and it’s also seemingly becoming more “normal.” But while it can be easy to “normalize” the porn industry in light of statistics like the ones above, the porn industry is far from normal. Notably, the actors and actresses who star in pornographic films are subject to abnormal, oftentimes degrading treatment by the same people who consume their products. This fact may not be readily apparent for most of us – how many pornographic actors do we know personally? More than likely, we know none. Porn actors per capita in an arguably moral nation like the U.S. are few; moreover, those who do star in pornography use stage names – most of the time to protect their anonymity. However, for one freshman at Duke University, the struggle to function in society while performing in pornographic films took a serious turn when her anonymity as a porn star was stripped away from her.

Most of America knows her by her stage name, “Belle Knox.”  Her real name is Miriam Weeks, but she has only recently divulged her birth name – out of fear. This 18 year-old Duke University freshman has starred in over 30 pornographic films. Weeks has claimed that starring in pornography brings her both confidence and economic stability. On the one hand, Weeks says that as a degree-seeking 18 year-old, no other job could provide her with enough income to pay for her education – a hefty $50,000 per year bill. On the other hand, Weeks states that freely doing pornography is a part of her agenda as a person – she confidently approaches the adult film industry as a way for her to express herself as a woman and to take a stand against the way sex workers are ostracized.

However, after a fellow Duke student “outed” her name to her classmates, Weeks’ struggle as a pornographic actress trying to live a normal life has spiraled. Her ideals and her dignity have been shattered by threats of rape and death, opinions of her perceived economic freedom, critiques of her morality, and objectifications of her body above consideration of her personal ideals. Intense public scrutiny of her aspirations of becoming a respected member of society while working in the porn industry have done an injustice to the human worth of Miriam Weeks and highlight several important problems with the way this country treats sex workers.

By virtue of our technological society, it is much harder for sex workers to remain anonymous. And when these workers are put in the spotlight, our culture’s perpetual stigmatization of their profession leads to many negative, unwarranted responses on a large scale. Disagreeing with sex work is one matter. However, “slut shaming,” often in the form of death threats, rape threats, belittling, bullying, and objectification are unwarranted but present byproducts of being “outed” as a sex worker in our morally conscious culture. While it can be easy for us to think that sex workers have the ability to shrug off degrading comments because of their knowledge of how many people perceive their work, studies have proven otherwise: Extensive literature on the psychological state of sex workers has shown that the suicide rate among sex workers is six times that of the rest of the population. Clearly, these degrading comments are unsurprisingly degrading the mental and emotional state of sex workers at an unconscionable rate.

A second issue at stake for men and women like Miriam Weeks is society’s perception of the true freedom of sex workers. In Weeks’ case, many have argued that the pressure of paying for college has “coerced” the Duke freshman to seek sex work as a means to survive in a country that often prioritizes the value of an education. This is simply not true, according to Weeks, who claims that the money is only one of several reasons why she loves staring in adult films. However, although Weeks has asserted that she feels completely free to choose to do porn, it is not fair to say that all sex workers engage in their work purely out of their own free will. Sometimes, we hear stories of men and women in disparaging economic circumstances, who resort to sex work as a means to stay alive.

But why do some of us instantly typify Miriam Weeks as one of these people who do sex work as a “last resort” – a way to survive economically? Maybe its because when it comes to sex work, many of us are sharply divided on the issue, even though all of us are trained by society to find compassion for others, especially the “marginalized” members of our community (e.g., sex workers, as you probably guessed.) It’s not necessarily our fault: as soon as a conversation about porn starts, so starts the stigma, and instead of believing the possibility that a human being could ever want to do sex work, some of us tell ourselves that the person is just short on money. They’re just getting by until some other opportunity comes up. We excuse them for making the decision to sell their bodies. But when we perceive sex workers collectively as un-free workers, we all too often put words in their mouths. We rob them collectively of the value of their ability to choose. We rob them of their dignity as a rational human being.

Dignity: a word normally not associated with sex workers. But is there any inherent dignity working as a porn star? Miriam Weeks argues that this question is perceived with great bias by a majority of our society. I couldn’t agree more. There is an inherent dichotomy in the ways in which our society thinks about pornography. Although roughly 50% of American citizens freely admit to watching porn regularly, Weeks thinks that society at large has a tendency to shame pornographic actors and actresses publically and professionally while they cannot get enough of it privately. I cannot help but agree with Weeks that this enigma is one of the great plagues of our society. We jerk off with one hand, and we point our fingers with the other.

Breaking down this dichotomy will be a fundamentally challenging but necessary step to search for justice in the many issues surrounding our perception of sex workers. But the struggle for fair treatment of sex workers only begins there. We as a society also need to stop slut shaming as a means of expressing our discontent with someone’s profession. We need to realize that nobody likes being degraded; even if we consider someone derogatory, they are still a human, equally deserving of dignity and respect. Moreover, we need to give back the freedom of choice that we oftentimes take away from sex workers. Instead of being content with telling ourselves that sex workers as a whole are economically disabled, we should work to ensure that all sex workers are economically enabled. We should help those who are not as fortunate as Miriam Weeks and are struggling economically to be able to choose a career just like everyone else.

In closing, I’d like to address that I say “we” throughout this article because this issue affects all of us. Even if you have never watched pornography (I will be a little skeptical of that, but I will take your word for it) or you have not engaged in sex work, I’m sure someone you know has directly or indirectly struggled with the sex-negativity that so pervades our culture. We need to break the stigma surrounding sex work in our society because the reality is that some of us desire to engage in sex work. And no human being deserves to hear that their desires are disgusting.

By: Eric Thomas Roy


1.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pornography_in_the_United_States#Economics and


2.  http://www.internetsafety101.org/Pornographystatistics.htm

3.  http://www.internetsafety101.org/Pornographystatistics.htm

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Every time we blame male for all the negative things happens with female. Though our country is not feminist but 90% male are feminist even they worship their wife thinking that female are the God.

Yes, male said that every thing only they can do. If they want they can. Suppose if a married woman wants to do the job of driver they can and many married woman are driving the Tempo (three wheeler Vehicle ) in fact for to learn and for every thing their husbands are helping.

Only rare male doesn\\\’t allow their wife to do the job it doesn\\\’t mean they are dominating the female. In fact male are helping the female for the development change. They are inspiring them to do the work they are protecting the female.

Some girls says that female are the one  who dominate the other female and this is the true fact in the context of Nepal. In this case boys are helping to stop dominating or stop dominate by being the mediator.

Girls often get chance more than boys but they are the one to reject that and that opportunity will grave by the male and again, \\\”female said I\\\’m dominated by them\\\” . What is your opinion ???

Categories: Human Trafficking
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“Nothing decisive,Nothing sustainable,can be done in our country as long as this important part of ourselves remains in the oppression imposed on them by different systems of exploitation….the true empowerment of women is that which makes the woman responsible,that includes her in productive activities, and in the fight against the different challenges faced by our people. The true emancipation of women is that which forces consideration and respect from men”
Though these words may sounds like those of a convinced women’s rights activist of the second decade of the 21st century, they aren’t. These are words from Burkinabe revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara to women gathered to celebrate International Women’s day on March 8th 1987 a few months before his assassination.
The above was not only an appeal for women to never lose sight of the fundamental role they play in the progress of a society, but above all, a call to men and society as a whole to support them as they selflessly invest in the nation’s future at times through acts of courage that are often taken for granted or ignored such as beautifully balancing their role as mother, caretaker of the family, and increasingly bread winner for most families in my part of the world.
Rural Women deserve more……
 The brave women of the rural areas of Cameroonlive what I call “A life of service to the community” by waking up early to prepare the children for school; prepare breakfast for the family; toil all day in farms; return home late and despite the hard day’s work prepare dinner for the family. This makes me so proud of these women and reinforces my conviction that they merit more attention than is currently being accorded them by politicians and policy makers in the far away capital cities and comfortable skyscrapers in Yaounde, Addis Ababa, and NewYork.
Women make up more than half of Cameroon’s vastly youthful population. A majority of this very “important part of ourselves” live in the most ignoble of conditions in its rural areas and are on a daily basis subjected to torture, rape, and abuses of all sorts by men who are themselves oppressed by a society in which the gap between the very rich and the very poor is ever widening.
Economic Injustice is an Effective fertilizer for the Oppression of Women
Yes, a man who is powerless in the face of  his family’s inability to eat to their fill; cannot pay  health bills for his family; and cannot afford to send his children to school,  transfers the injustice done  him by society to his wife, sister, and daughteronly  in the face of whom he feels  “a real man”.Non-inclusive redistribution of a country’s resources therefore leads not only to economic inequality among a nation’s citizens but aggravates the already existing inequality through abuses of all sorts on women and girls.
Achievement of Millennium Development Goals is impossible without women 
Thus, greater economic opportunity is to be extended to rural area dwellers if the Millennium Development Goals to which this year’s International Women’s Day is dedicated are to ever be achieved and this cannot be done without the brave women who though living in these socially challenged areas, have put their lives “at the service of the community”

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When we hear about politicians making unqualified and uneducated statements about abortion and reproductive/sexual health, we just shake our heads, asking ourselves and our peers, “How does someone like that get into office?”

Not to diminish your faith in humanity, but less than a couple weeks ago, Brian Nieves, a Republican state senator of Missouri, commented in a Facebook argument to a pro-choice priest, “‘Life of the Mother?’ Your own argument proves it is a matter of convenience!”  State senator Brian Nieves later denied that he said this.  But the denial wouldn’t do him any good since his comments have been screencapped and the comment is still on the Facebook page.

There are people who treat this like it’s an isolated incident.  Like it’s nothing to worry about, but you’d have to imagine the kind of culture it takes to condition people to be able to say these things.  You don’t even have to imagine because that’s the culture we’re living in.  It’s not just one old, white male politician.  It’s several.  And they’re not necessarily always white men.

Brace yourself.  This is pretty triggering.

“These Planned Parenthood women, the Code Pink women, and all of these women have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness…We are not going to have our men become subservient.”

— Florida Rep. Allen West expresses a clear understanding of how oppression and privilege works.

“In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.”

— Texas state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, discussing why there shouldn’t be a rape or incest exception in bills restricting reproductive health care because clearly she understands how health care works.

“I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen.”  —Richard Mourdock, an Indiana state senator candidate who fortunately did not win.

“Understand though, that when we talk about exceptions, we talk about rape, incest, health of a woman, life of a woman. Life of the woman is not an exception.”

—Joe Walsh, former Illinois congressman revealing just how “pro-life” he really is.

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

—Missouri Representative Todd Akin basically sharing how much he doesn’t know about a female body in one terrible sentence.

“The facts show that people who are raped —who are truly raped—the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant. Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever.”

—former North Carolina Rep. Henry Aldridge using imaginary doctors as his sources.

“As long as it’s inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”

—Clayton Williams regarding rape, he was a former Texas Republican gubernatorial contender and a past fundraiser for John McCain.

This is one of the many reasons why I’m in total support of Advocates for Youth.  The politicians I’ve listed are the kind of people who have been supporting legislation that not only hurts people who need abortions, but rape victims and teens in desperate need of comprehensive sex education.  It hurts people who need access to contraception, affordable health care, and everything else a person would need to live a quality life.  And it’s not going to stop until we change the culture and institutions that allows it to happen.  So, we advocate for the youth.  We have a responsibility to them to ensure that they have their rights and are to be respected.

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Young sexual and reproductive rights advocates continue to push for the full integration of a rights-based approach in relation to advancing population and development goals. That was the overarching message of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) Regional Youth Summit.

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, where activists representing over 40 international organizations gathered and developed a Call to Action, ensuring young people sexual and reproductive rights continue to be integrated in development agendas.

The summit brought together a diverse group of 40 young people from Eastern Europe, North America, Central Asia and Israel (EECARO region), to discuss and develop priority goals. During the summit, we organized ourselves into three sessions based on interest and expertise

  1. Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development,
  2. Families, Sexual and Reproductive Health over the Life Course,
  3. Inequalities, Social Inclusion and Rights.

After lengthy conversations, each group came up with a number of recommendations to share with the entire forum for us all to debate and finalize. The culmination of our work was translated into a solid document that represents what the youth from the EECARO region want elected officials and  leaders to take into consideration. You can access the full document here.

The outcome of the summit embodied the youth vision and development priorities for the region over the next decade and was presented at the Regional Conference in Geneva. Fifteen delegates from our group (bearing in mind equal representation) attended the Geneva Conference and shared our declaration (Youth Call to Action). The speech, delivered by Grace Wilentz from YouAct (European Youth Network on Sexual and Reproductive Rights) and Jakub Skrzypczyk from Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights can be found here.

On a personal note, I had a great time interacting with all the youth participants at the Regional Youth Forum and learning more about the EECARO region. It became clearer to me that the same sexual and reproductive health and rights issues we are advocating for in the US are found in other parts of the world. I was happy to discover that we are not alone in this battle. Young people from all over the world are rising up to the challenge, demanding greater youth representation in world affairs and better human rights conditions for all.



About United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA)

Tasked with the mission of delivering “a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person’s potential is fulfilled,” UNFPA is a UN organization whose efforts are guided by two main frameworks, 1) the Program of Action adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and 2) the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which are eight targets to reduce extreme poverty by 2015.

With the date for achieving these goals fast approaching, UNFPA and its partners, such as the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), have been working together to ramp up their efforts. UNFPA and UNECE have been involved in the Beyond 2014 Review, an effort to engage world leaders from governments and civil society in drafting a new global commitment to create a more equal and more sustainable world.

The ICPD Operational Review has been taking place as part of the Beyond 2014 Review, and UNFPA and UNECE have been facilitating this process. Within this process, UNFPA and UNECE organized three thematic meetings on the following topics:

  1. “Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development”,
  2. “Reducing Inequities, Fostering Social Inclusion” and
  3. “Life Course, Sexual and Reproductive Health, and Families”.

As a culminating event, the agencies planned for a two-day Regional Conference entitled “Enabling Choices: Population Priorities for the 21st Century,” which was just held in Geneva (1-2 July), gathering leaders from all over the EECARO region (Europe, North America, Central Asia and Israel).

Young people are at the core of the UNFPA’s mandate, offering an essential voice to help shape the future development agenda. Therefore, young people have participated in the operational review at the country level and in all the thematic meetings mentioned above. In order to continue their involvement, UNFPA EECARO has organized the Regional Youth Forum in Istanbul (30-31 May) and in which I participated, representing Advocates for Youth and the US at large.

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Recently in Lakewood, NJ authorities arrested six individuals who had allegedly trafficked women and placed them in high-volume prostitution. The women migrated to the US under false promises of jobs as house cleaners or babysitters from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Those arrested are all undocumented Mexican nationals who exploited the women’s fears of also having the terms of their migration revealed to legal authorities.

This is just one example of human trafficking. Trafficking is a global injustice that is not isolated to low- and middle-income countries. Despite the US’s attempt to distance itself from trafficking, an estimated 14,500-17,500 persons are trafficked into the US each year, many who are women and children. [1]

NJ Attorney general John Hoffman stated that he and others expect an influx of human trafficking in the NJ/NY area as the next Super Bowl approaches. The effects of the mass event, happening in 198 days, hopefully will provoke conversations by law enforcers on a larger scale. Better yet, further action to work towards eliminating human trafficking and the laws and systems that turn a blind eye to it.

1 http://www.f-4-c.org/statistics/

Categories: Human Trafficking
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BREAKING NEWS: Today, the US Supreme Court ruled 6-2 that the Anti-Prostitution Pledge (or the Anti-Prostitution Loyalty Oath—APLO) is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment’s free speech clause.

As way of background, the APLO is a provision in PEPFAR’s authorizing legislation (our global HIV/AIDS program) which requires NGOs receiving PEPFAR funds to explicitly oppose prostitution and sex trafficking as a condition of receiving those funds.  The Court ruled that the government cannot do this because it requires NGOs to adopt the government’s viewpoint in violation of its free speech rights.  “The Policy Requirement goes beyond preventing recipients from using private funds in a way that would undermine the federal program. It requires them to pledge allegiance to the Government’s policy of eradicating prostitution.” Chief Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion ruling the policy unconstitutional and was joined by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, and Sotomayor.

Justice Scalia wrote a dissenting opinion which was joined by Justice Thomas.  In their dissenting opinion, they stated that compelling the affirmation of a belief as a condition of funding is not compulsion, but “the reasonable price of admission to a limited government-spending program that each organization remains free to accept or reject.” In other words, if you don’t want to accept conditions on funding, don’t apply for the funding.

And, you’ll notice that the ruling was 6-2 so you’re probably wondering about the 9th Justice.   Justice Kagan recused herself from the case because she was involved in the lower court decision.

The case was brought by the Alliance for Open Society International, Pathfinder International, the Global Health Council, and InterAction.

This is a VERY good day for US foreign policy advocates!

You can read the opinion here: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-10_21p3.pdf

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WD time is now

What if all the empathy that transpired in the speeches and talks of policy makers I listened to today at the Women Deliver pre-youth conference could immediately be converted to action? This is the question I asked myself during my reflection on the pre-youth conference that ok place on the 27th May 2013 in Kuala Lumpur.

Passion, enthusiasm, and determination were perceptible in the way the policy makers I listened to and spoke with today spoke about how painful, frustrating, and humiliating the consequences of inequalities that exist in todays world are.   But does this mean these people have finally heeded to the call of social activists to act now for inequality to be eradicated? Only time will tell as youths will be keeping a keen eye on these people to ensure that all the promises they will make this time around are kept and within the minimum possible time frame.

The biggest risk to the continuity of humanity is inequality, declared UNFPAs deputy Director; Kate Gilmore during an intervention at the Women Deliver pre-youth conference. Conscious of this, it is unavoidably true that, by delivering on their promises to not only reduce but eradicate inequalities and injustices of every nature, policy makers will be contributing to the continuity of humanity. Therefore by failing to deliver for Girls, women, and Youths, policy makers of this generation will be committing a crime that present and future generations will not pardon.

But well, we the youths of this generation wont sit arms folded to see you commit such heinous crimes, because our silence-that of Girls, Women, and Youths is a roar that will degenerate into something worse if not listened to.

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I have seen this post circulate on Facebook and loved its message. I apologizing for not crediting it since I am not sure who put it together. There is absolutely no way to sugar coat the rape stories that are happening today and we should keep doing our great work loud and proud until we no longer hear about these savage crimes happening in our world. It is about time we teach our fellow humans NOT TO RAPE. Full Stop.

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Technology has become more integral to our daily lives, so it’s no surprise that millions use online dating websites and social apps in search of friendships, romance, and sex. This reality continues to bring individuals closer while removing personal communication as well as creating controversial news headlines.

For many LGBTQ youth, using their internet devices to interact with others is both convenient and comfortable, especially for those who are in the closet about their sexual or gender identity. While most of these youths are skilled at using electronics and social media networks, they are also unaware of the potential risks that come with meeting strangers and sharing extremely personal information.

Just recently, a 16-year-old Broward County student contracted HIV after having unprotected sex with two older men he met through a social app. Stories like this as well as rapes, abductions, and murders have been in the news, where young teens meet unknown persons through websites as popular as Myspace and Facebook, yet end in tragedy.

More than ever, it’s become a necessity for teens and adults to become informed about bullying, privacy, and sexuality so they can actively defend themselves from cyberbullying, predators, and sexually transmitted diseases.

As a young queer male, I’ve studied the habits of friends and pop culture trends.  While South Florida has a rich network of resources for the LGBTQ population, a large portion prefer to join websites like Craigslist, Manhunt, Plenty Of Fish, BGCLive or download apps like Adam4Adam, Grindr, and Jack’d seeking a new friend, love, or a one night stand.

These websites and apps (especially those catering to LGBTQ persons) emphasize shallowness (you can filter users based their physical appearance, age, and ethnicity) and reinforce unrealistic social standards (many profiles will write phrases like “No Fats, No Fems, No Blacks, No Old”).

I don’t suffer from social anxiety or instant gratification and declare myself an online dating skeptic. In the past, I browsed these websites to understand the psychology of online dating and was shocked at how the members had no hesitation in revealing their partially or fully nude bodies and used explicit or unintelligent language in messages.

When I downloaded an app 2 weeks ago, I revisited the same behaviors I encountered on those sites, except it’s more invasive: you can see how many miles each user is from you. I was messaged daily from users aged 18 to 45, of various racial groups, hobbies, and intentions.

Not only did these last 2 weeks teach me that we’re too dependent on technology, but that it’s important to maintain meaningful and personal contact with each other. Online dating has its upside, but with the increasing lack of privacy and dangers associated with chatting to strangers, you never know who is on the other side of that laptop or iPhone.

We may be more connected than ever, but we must be more safe and protected than ever.

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Gender discrimination places girls at greater risk of being trafficked than boys. The trafficking of girls from Nepal into India for forced prostitution is one of the busiest route for slave trafficking anywhere in the world. Every year 5000-10,000 Nepali girls are trafficked to India.Not only in India many of the young girls and women are trafficked for sexual exploitation within Nepal in the areas like cabin/dance restaurant,massage parlour and in the places within tourism sector.The girls are taken to the India in the assurance of good job,false marriage, approaching indebted parents to sell their daughters to pay their debt. The most vulnerable are illiterate women and girls who are deserted by their husbands or families and who are extremely poor. The majority of the Nepali in brothel of India especially in Mumbai are teenage girls and even the small children.

 Nepali girls are especially desirable as prostitutes in India because their virginity is believed to be able to cure AIDS which is totally a misconception. Also the clients in brothel are attracted to the lighter skin color of Nepali girls thus Nepali girls become the victim of trafficking. The traffickers often are recognized as the close relatives of the victim or the person living in the same localities whom the victim knows as the neighbor or friend. In addition, the open border between Nepal and India has made this illegal trade even more easier. Despite of the fact of tight security check in the boarder this trade is growing even more bigger because the government police officials are often corrupt and maintain close relation with the traffickers to earn the easy money.

Different NGOs in Nepal are working against human trafficking,some of the well known ones are Maiti Nepal,ABC Nepal and Shakti Samuha. Time and again this organization in collaboration with government police of Nepal raids in the brothel and rescue numbers of young girls, women and children. Even if the victims survive and are  able to get out of trafficking,it is very challenging task to rehabilitate them into their own community. Because of prolonged abuse,victims often suffers  from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,anxiety,depression and the major area of concern is sexually transmitted disease(STIs)and HIV/AIDS.  Studies shows that 30-40% of sex trafficking are HIV positive. Extreme difficulty occur when they are not allowed to reintegrate in the society due to stigma they face being previous sex workers regardless of the fact they are forced into it.  When the girls are not allowed for reintegration they take marriage as a step to reintegrate in the society and thus hide the fact of previously being sex worker and the HIV status to their husband as a result high chance to infect HIV to her husband and their child too. There is a major problem in Nepal to provide the victim with the  quality skills and education and employment opportunities to provide the basis for source of income,because of which the survivors re-enter the sex work.

Nepal has different legislation against trafficking which address girl trafficking, like: the Human Trafficking Control Act of Nepal of 1986, National Human Right Commission Act of 1993. The Human Trafficking Control Act of Nepal criminalize the selling and buying of human being and provision for rehabilitation and reintegration for victims In addition the Nepali government added National Plan of Action against trafficking of women and children in sexual and labor exploitation in 1998 which was revised in 2001. Despite of the legislation against trafficking lack of enforcement is highest hurdles to combat trafficking in Nepal. The government and society tend to judge the woman guilty of prostitution and minimize the traffickers role in this crime. The traffickers have strong relation with the police officers,politicians,businessman thus they are never criminalized for their offense.

 But here the question is who care about the victim,she is neglected by her family, relatives and even the government of Nepal,who is responsible to provide justice to her? In this circumstances many of the girls either commit suicide,become drug users or enter to sex work again.


Categories: Human Trafficking
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The reason on why I decided to talk about this because its becoming a big issue in Florida. This also ties in with the statistics of teen pregnancies, STD’s, and STI’s. Human Trafficking is Persons as   the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. When I did my own personal research on this matter I was disgusted and saddened at how these children were being forced against their own will. I am happy to see that there are alot of measures either put in place or going to be put in place by the Local, State, and National Government  to end this. There are also different organizations and communities also coming together to end this spread of trafficking.

Categories: Human Trafficking
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One Billion Rising

Valentine’s Time’s Day has always been a weird holiday for me for lack of a better word. This Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2013 I decided to do something different, something I will never forget – I attended One Billion Rising. The event was put on by Girls For Gender Equity (GGE) Youth organizers, a Brooklyn-based intergenerational grassroots organization dedicated to promoting the physical, psychological, social and economic well-being of girls, women and their communities. GGE partnered with the Brooklyn YWCA and Vibe Theater Experience, a performing arts organization that empowers teen girls through the creation and production of original performances.

Many others and I were invited to Strike, Dance and Rise with millions of women across the globe to demand an end to gender-based violence. I had no idea what that meant or how that would look when I RSVPed for the event. After leaving the event, I realized that the element of what we were doing could not be imagined but instead must be lived.

What I wasn’t planning to see was the large variety in ages present in the room. The youngest of us RISING, STRIKING and DANCING was seven years old. The room was filled with middle schoolers, high school youth organizers from GGE and the Sadie Nash Leadership Institute, adult organizers, and older women who were residents of YWCA.

SIS Practicing for One Billion Rising Dance at the Alumnae Reunion

After a game of GGE’s rendition of BINGO we were invited to learn the One Billion Rising Breaking the Chains Dance. Always taking the opportunity to get some aerobic exercise I decided to join in. After the umteenth step I decided it was better for me to take a seat and watch. I watched teenagers teaching both children and older women this dance. When someone missed a step complete strangers in the audience were there cheering them on. I even observed two teen women who had never met each before that day helping each other learn the steps. I highlight this because as an organizer who works with bullying and horizontal hostility, I can’t express the significant value of seeing two young women join hands to break the chains that seek to restrain them from achieving their potential to succeed in this world.

After dancing we were invited to share words on why we RISE today. Women and men of all ages took the floor to speak on why they were present. A young woman from Vibe Theater Experience spoke about wishing she could be there for a friend who had bruises “that were so strategically placed” in seventh grade. She expressed that she listened to everything her friend was saying, but not was she wasn’t saying. A resident of YWCA rose for her friend that died at the hand of her abuser in 1973. She made it a point to tell us “that sometimes we have make it our business.” Participants rose for their sisters, their mothers, their classmates and their friends. One of the youngest to rise was in middle school. She rose to commemorate the third anniversary of her sister who was killed by her boyfriend. Another middle schooler talked about being bullied in school and how that affected her. She left us with an important message about finding our space and how not only do we have to be there for each other but for also for ourselves. She said, “I have my room, and there I’m not nerd, I’m not geek, I’m just my beautiful self.” As a person who is at least twelve years older than her, those words still resonate with me and touched the 10-year old in me growing up in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn. Exactly one day after the Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act was passed in the Senate, it is extremely clear that violence against women is very well alive and present right here in Brooklyn, NY. Like Natalie Gyte, I was skeptical about coming together for yet another Eve Ensler movement to “dance” away violence. Gyte says  that the movement does not acknowledge the “root causes” of violence like patriarchy and the control and subjugation of women’s bodies. I argue that my experience with One Billion Rising did in fact address a major issue that leads to the maintenance and perpetuation of gender-based violence –Silence!

This event was a space where no one’s experiences were dismissed or discounted. I do not know a space where 10-year olds can stand in front of complete strangers and voice their reasons for rising against violence. I don’t know of many spaces where women of different colors, creeds and ages feel that their experiences are validated, seen as authentic and an integral part of what we need to move forward. A space where our elders murmur in agreement with a teenager in a pair of  Jordan XIII’s when she talks about racing up a flight of stairs in her junior high school prom dress and ringing all the doorbells in attempt to save a friend involved in sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. So no this was not a space where women just “danced”! It was a space were we worked collaboratively, shared impromptu teachable moments, cried, laughed, took up space and demanded that our voices be heard.  It was the space, where some of us did not have to speak because of our sisters shared our stories, although we had never met before. We were somehow singing the same song, in our own voices, each taking a different verse but always in harmony. My experience in breaking the chains was a divine moment in breaking the silence that Audre Lorde says will not protect [us]! It was the energy in that room that caused us to rise in voice, in song, in movement (a first language for some), in love, in vision and in solidarity.

Nearing the end of the event I convinced our birthday girl, a beautiful bright-eyed seven-year old to cupid-shuffle with me. It was while I held her hand to kick, kick when I realized why I do this work. Brushing a tear away from my face and walking it out, I realized that she is why I go hard in the paint everyday so that girls like her can live in communities free from violence. Where young black girls voices and experiences are validated. Where she has complete control over her body and the right to lead a self-determined healthy life!

“It is our Duty to fight….It is our duty to win. We must love… and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

– Assata Shakur


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six year old

I once read a book in high school involving a sequence of events that highlighted a certain detective’s fight against sexual offenders interested in the participation of child as sexual objects physically while they filmed the act and distributed it to the black market. At one time, the detective watched a video where this poor little girl was cajoled into entering the pool or hot tub with this man, where he did things to her, and subsequently ended her life – while still in the water with him. That is how I recalled that book. And I pitied the detective. I felt so sorry that he had to see that and he was unshaken. I felt sorry for him that he’d spent years of his career seeing things like that as a pice of his soul chipped away when he saw young, innocent 6 years old being used, abused and murdered for some pervert’s pleasure and entertainment.

The possession of and distribution of child pornography is a criminal offense, so says the World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.

The child is groomed, in some instances to deliberately befriend and establishing an emotional connection with the child, to lowering their inhibitions, preparing them for the sexual activity to come. Exploiting their innocence. Damaging them, maybe irrevocably.

In Nigeria, it is the common belief that the sexual exploitation of a child, or at least a minor is often done in the hands of someone the child knows well, or at least, someone with access to the child without the reservations of the family. What’s worse, it is sometimes seen as the norm.
When I was a little girl, my best friend Anna and I knew this man who would always try to grab us and take us inside as a way of playing with us. He never caught me, but Anna did mention that the one time he drag her to his room, he tried to touch where she usually used to go to the bathroom to pee. We never thought anything of it; we even thought he was a bit strange, playing with little girls almost twenty years older than he was. Now that I think about it, if I were Anna’s mom, that guy would be missing the part of his body his kids would come out from.

In a country where some cultures have no problem with marrying still developing young girls, its not hard to find things like this happening. I am just thankful that we were somewhat protected (believe it or not) and weren’t exposed to worse violations.

The fact was, we didn’t know any better. And I am glad that more twisted things didn’t happen. But every day, one hears news about some poor girl being molested and abused by her father, or uncle or cousin and nothing being done about it. In Nigeria, I’m sure if women compared notes about growing up and the role of sex was assessed, we’d be really shocked about the similarities we had and forgot about.

Sometimes…playing isn’t just playing. Man has a dark side to them. And I hope our children never get to see the extent of which the darkness can reach. If they do, what innocence would we find, then.

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Talking about young people in the part of the world where I come is already a sensitive issue and adding ‘rights’ which is another very explosive issue to this makes advocacy for the placing of youth rights at the heart of development a very difficult but not an impossible task. Behind these words lies the fears, doubts, and optimism of a participant at the just ended International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)-Beyond 2014 Global youth Forum (GYF) which held from the 4th to the 6th December 2012.They are also the words that come to my mind whenever I think about this forum and the impact its outcomes will have on the future of young people and therefore our world as a whole. The fruits of the optimism raised and the hopes re-enkindled by the ICPD-Beyond 2014 GYF not only in the young persons that attended this event but above all in the lives of the millions of young persons that are marginalized, down trodden, and persecuted because of their gender, age, political choices, and sexual orientation, will no doubt become reality as youths irrespective of their social status, religious beliefs, and gender have been empowered and energized by this forum. With most of the recommendations from the ICPD-Beyond 2014 GYF urging governments, international bodies, and civil societies to recognize the rights of all young persons especially the marginalized, suffering and persecuted(the girl child, sexual minorities, rural dwellers, the uneducated) and establish an enabling environment for the potentials of every young person to be unleashed and his/her dreams fulfilled, the forum is ended but has opened an avenue for youths to claim what is theirs and take their places in decision making cycles in their various countries. Enlightened, empowered, and inspired by the passion and enthusiasm I witnessed in Bali, the following words came to my mind in the evening of the 6th of December as the forum ended: ‘What happens when it comes time to part? Well you know how when you’re listening to music from another room and you’re singing along, because it’s a tune you really love, when the door closes, or a train passes, and you can’t hear the music anymore, but you sing along anyway?’ Just like the song described in this scene from the movie, ‘Music from Another Room’, the journey towards achieving youths rights might have begun long ago, Bali marked a new beginning in this fight for the rights of young people in all their diversity to be recognized and respected in the society where they live.

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Another day has come and gone over Bali ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum.But as days come and go, the discussion intensifies and young people are more demanding to their governments, religious and traditional authorities, parents, and society at large.

Universal access to education,inclusive education, relevant education, quality education ,financing and partnerships, as well as ccomprehensive sexuality education were identified by participants at the ICPD beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum participants as being vital for comprehensive education to become a reality in our world and were thus recommended in that other for discussion by the United Nations and possible inclusion in its post-2015 international  development agenda.

Transitions to decent work, and famiies,youth Rights and well being are the themes which were on the discussion table today.These being of course issues which are relevant to every young person irrespective of  where he/she hails, the debate in the plenary was so intense and continued into the various work groups.

During the plenary on transitions to decent employment, it was revealed by the International Labour Organisation’s representative that we now have the highest number of unemployed youths that the world has ever. Also, during this plenary it was disclosed that 1 in 9 young workers in Africa are in the informal sector, 4 out of 10 young workers are working on a temporary basis, and 5 in 10 low paid persons are youths.

Productivity, fairness, and rewarding are the major characteristics of a decent job as defined by the International Labour Organisation(ILO). If one is to go by this definition, one will have no choice but agree with the above statistics. One other area in which there was total agree is on the fact that  stronger families, respect of  youth rights, and the well being of youths are the basis for any society and so for  a world at peace with itself, there was need for these issues to be tackled with maximum care.

According to Mr.Anatole Makosso, the president to the conference of African youth ministers and youth minister of Congo Brazzaville, there exist three reasons for governments to carefully consider the above mentioned issues and ensure that the needs of youths are met: They are the majority, they are the future, they will not identify with any decisions taken without them.

Another day is come and gone,  and the desire for action by youths on the part of their governments has not faultered Youths want to make the Bali declaration not only a declaration but a platform for action. Hear our voices!

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What a long awaited and historic day for mankind has today being. The ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum was officially opened today. In the presence of   close to a thousand participants, Indonesian officials, and  representatives of governments the world over, Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA’s executive Director , in his speech  decried the  situation in which so many young people, especially those in the global south, live in before pointing  out the importance of this event, and then inviting  representatives of governments and those he termed “Seniors” to look  at the  young people around them and  challenge  how they  relate to them, and then think of how they can release  the potentials of these young people.

Further setting the context of the Bali ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum, the Indonesian minister for people’s welfare, declared that: we believe that a meaningful dialogue is necessary on the means and ways of engaging young people to release their potential. He further emphasized that , young people need to understand the values of life that will make them  stay healthy, be educated, foster family life, actively participate in building the  world they have always dreamed of.

Staying healthy, comprehensive education, transition to  decent work for youth, Families, youth rights and well being, leadership and meaningful youth participation, and realizing youth rights are the themes which will be discussed and recommendations made by the over 650 participants for  discussion and adoption  by the UN member states as one of its post-2015 agenda.


Staying healthy and comprehensive education were tackled today in discussion groups (world Cafés) and recommendations made on the former. Access to data, putting in place of an enabling environment for youths by governments, religious and traditional authorities, access to   quality, affordable, and comprehensive health services, and finally  the abolition of laws and policies that   that hinder youth empowerment   are the recommendations that came out from the 15 sort of work groups that brainstormed on this topic. The recommendations on the comprehensive education will be presented  tomorrow, Wednesday December 5th 2012.

It should be noted that the above recommendations were arrived at by participants including representatives of governments, UN agencies, and civil society in a very interactive, safe, and open environment  after attending the plenary session that addressed  the issue of staying healthy for a young person. At this plenary Advocate for Youth’s Meredith Waters acting in her capacity as young person commentator for this theme, declared amid thunderous applause from the audience  that: the Global Youth Forum is a great way to start but not enough. Dr Nafsia Mboi, Indonesian minister of health, answering to questions from the participants declared to conclude the plenary that: Every person, I repeat every person including young people has the right to health.

Good as the speeches may be, world leaders should be conscious that young people are tired of speeches and want to see concrete actions being taken solve the pile of problems in which young people from all part of our beloved world are drowning. World leaders! Take action now or be fired! We are ready for the fight and I assure you we will always out power you; for we are the majority.

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by Deb Hauser
President, Advocates for Youth

Advocates for Youth congratulates President Barack Obama on his historic reelection. We also celebrate the amazing role that young people played within his administration and his reelection, and we recognize the growing power of youth to drive social and cultural change for a better world. Young people represented approximately 19 percent of the electorate yesterday—a larger percentage even than in 2008!

In the years ahead, we call on President Obama to stand with us in recognition of every young person’s right to honest sexual health education, safe and affordable sexual health services, and an equity of social, educational, and economic opportunity – the type of opportunity that builds healthy lives and strong communities.


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Boom. The International Youth Leadership Council is looking for college students in the DC metro area to apply to be new council members to start this January.

Need some background?

Advocates for Youth sponsors a project called the International Youth Leadership Council (IYLC), which is designed to develop youth leaders in the areas of international sexual and reproductive health and rights, abortion access, global HIV and AIDS, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and other sexual orientation and gender identity rights. The Council currently consists of seven members who are a diverse group of young people with backgrounds from around the world.  Members attend colleges or universities in the Washington, DC Metro area.


IYLC members work with the staff of the Policy Department and The Youth Activist Network to increase U.S. support and leadership for improving young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights globally and domestically. As members of the council, they develop an understanding of a broad range of issues, including international family planning; maternal health and adolescent maternal mortality; gender inequality; harmful traditional practices, such as child marriage; HIV and AIDS; and LGBT rights. They in turn become familiar with related U.S. domestic and foreign policy, and international agreements that address youth sexual and reproductive health and rights.


Throughout the school year, council members serve as youth educators, advocates, and spokespeople on sexual and reproductive health issues and polices that affect young people around the world. They organize campus events, utilize online and traditional media outlets, conduct educational workshops, attend conferences, and lobby policy makers at the national and international level.

To Summarize:
-opportunities to shape policy from the local to international level

-resources to mobilize your communities

-meet some pretty fantastic people

-be fancy

Be a part of a movement to make youth voices heard!

Apply Now!


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 Child is considered as the future of the nation but their present is always been in shadow. They were never the subject of people talks or development gossips because they never raise their voice to poke the concerned authority and stakeholder.

Children constitute more than 2 billion of world population, 614 million children in South Asia, 75 per cent of whom suffering from a kind of violence such as sexual abuse and exploitation, child labour, trafficking, corporal punishment, early and unequal marriage. They are dying every day because of mal-nutrition, violence, lack of health Service, poor care and service by their parents and government. According to UNICEF, 20,000 children die each day due to poverty. About 72 million children of primary school age in the developing world were not in schools in 2005. As a whole majority of children didn’t pass the secondary level education. The total cost of enrolling children to the school is less than 1 percent that world used for weapon every year but still children are not getting basic education. Worldwide, 2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunized, 15 million children orphaned due to HIV/AIDS (similar to the total children population in Germany or United Kingdom), UNICEF.

Nepal – The Country of Himalayan and Poverty which we can see and hear in different writings and speeches. The truth of poverty is still the same whereas Himalayans are only in the speech and writings due to global warming. This article main concern is to give stress on the status of children in Nepal. According to United Nation Convention on the Right of Child (UNCRC), 1989, Child is the minor age below 18 and Nepal ratified it on 1990 where as contradictory to it on 1992, Nepal passed the Child Act which states that child means a minor not having age of 16 years.

The status of children in Nepal is very poor. A research in 2000 had revealed the terrified state of children in Nepal with 2.2 million children workers, of which 0.5 million were forced to work at very risky places. Around 59,500 children were brick-klin labourers. As many as 55,000 were domestic workers with 22,000 in the Kathmandu Valley alone. Over 32,000 children worked in mines and refineries, whereas 11,000 laboured in the entertainment and sex industry.

Government has passed the Child Act on 1992, on which Article 19 states "States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child." and also ratified SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution but study done by Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Centre (CWIN) in 2011 found that 75 percent of the street children in the Kathmandu Valley are victims of sexual abuse. The study revealed that 74.8 percent of the respondents—all boys living in the streets in the 10-18 age brackets—says they knew at least three of their friends who had had non-consensual sex.

Nepal has formulated the program “Education for All” and also has the major goal to achieve the universal education to primary level on Millennium Development Goal by 2015 but huge numbers of children are out of schools. Government allocate more than 17 percent budget for education but children education status is very poor as compare with very programs and fund at local, national and international level. Government and other organizations have shown the data that more than 90 percent of children are enrolled in school at primary level but they can’t justify why only 50 percent of them get enrol in lower secondary level Education of Children is like, they admitted the children in schools and increase the data on the graph and they didn’t give any concern about it.

Nepal has adopted National Health Policy (1991) and is also on the path way of MDGs with three major goals related with health: 1) Reduce child mortality, 2) Improve maternal health and 3) Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Along with that National Strategy on School Health and Nutrition was approved by the Cabinet in 2006 thanks to a formidable partnership among the Ministry of Education (MoE), Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), external development partners and INGOs. The strategy is based on four strategic components: 1) school-based health and nutrition services, 2) a healthy, safe and secure learning environment, 3) skills-based health education and 4) health-related school policies. Its overall goal is to “develop the physical, mental, emotional and educational status of school children”. Despite of the huge plan and program due to lack of proper implementation and high privileging corruption the health status of children less than average. One in every two children in Nepal is undernourished placing the country at the 10th position among countries with the highest prevalence of stunting. Though infant mortality has decreased (from 61 percent in 2004 to 43 percent in 2007), the rate is still considered frighteningly high. The Department of Health Services (DOHS) Nutrition Report Card released last month reveals a disturbing fact that 74 percent of children below two years in Nepal suffer from anaemia and 49 percent from chronic malnutrition (measured by stunting rates).

This article has tried to explore the three aspects of children life, their health, education and exploitation. The data and figure mentioned above clearly show that how critical is the situation of children in Nepal. We always talk about New Nepal, sustainable development, and eradicating poverty; taking country towards industrialization from agriculture, bring peace and prosperity and many more highly furnished words of development. Is it possible if children are not empowered?

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Millions of people worldwide are injecting drug users (IDUs), and blood transfer through the sharing of drug taking equipment, particularly infected needles, is an extremely effective way of transmitting HIV. Around 30% of global HIV infections outside of sub-Saharan Africa are caused by the use of injecting drugs, and it accounts for an ever growing proportion of those living with the virus. Drugs can be taken in a variety of ways including drinking, smoking, snorting and rubbing, but it is the injection of drugs that creates the biggest risk of HIV transmission.
The most commonly injected drugs are heroin and other opiates, cocaine and amphetamines, and the prevalence of each is likely to vary according to location and population group. Though heroin is the most common injecting drug in most Western European nations, in France it is buprenorphine. In South Korea it is methamphetamine, and across Latin America, with the exception of Mexico, cocaine is the most prevalent injected drug.                                             Cocaine is the most widely used injecting drug due to the drug’s shorter lasting effect, thereby increasing the risk of HIV transmission.                                                                                                                           People take drugs, both legal and illegal, for a variety of reasons that will differ from person to person and from drug to drug. Individuals may enjoy the sense of detachment or euphoria that drugs create, their relaxing or energy-inducing properties, the heightened alertness or sensitivity they produce, and their medicinal qualities. Peer pressure or habit may be other reasons, and if they are chemically dependent, addicts will feel they cannot operate without them. These reasons will depend on an individual’s own background and socio-economic circumstances.
In Nigeria, for example, the last 10 to 15 years has seen a shift from the inhalation and smoking of heroin, to the injecting of heroin and synthetic drugs. Injectors of heroin are an ever growing proportion of total heroin users rising from less than 2 percent in 1993 to 15 percent in 2000 to more than a quarter in 2007. This is largely attributed to aggressive drug control measures that have reduced supply, boosted the cost, and made injecting a more economically viable method of consumption. There are several possible reasons as to why drugs are injected rather than taken in other forms, based on the availability of drugs that can be injected, linked to production locations and trafficking routes; that it is a cheaper and more rapidly acting method; the sharing of knowledge about such techniques that comes from migrating drug users; and so none of the drug becomes lost in smoke, especially when drug control efforts reduce its availability.
• A number of factors can be associated with, though will not necessarily cause, injecting drug use. These could include an individual’s involvement in crime, family breakdown, social upheaval, poor healthcare, low income, homelessness,poverty, joblessness, use of other drugs, depression, alienation or other personality traits.
• Many factors specific to individual IDUs and countries influence or cause needle sharing. For many users sterile syringes are not readily available and drug paraphernalia laws in some countries make it an offence to distribute or possess syringes for non-medical purposes.
• A lack of awareness or education about safe injecting can also lead to needle sharing.
• Other possible reasons are that it is a social and cultural norm, and that it can act as a form of bonding. Roughly one tenth of new HIV infections result from needle sharing, with this figure rising to just under a third outside of sub-Saharan.
People who inject drugs are perhaps the most marginalized group at risk of HIV infection. 70 percent of the world’s drug users are under 25, and at least half in urban areas start injecting in their teens, very few programs target young people at risk of injecting drug use.27 In particular, few reach out to vulnerable youth to prevent them from starting to inject or help them to end their addiction if they have already started. Moreover, prevention programs do not specifically address the issues that vulnerable young people face, such as peer pressure, unstable family homes or exclusion from school. Needle exchange programs are one of the main harm reduction measures that aim to curb the spread of blood-borne viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis C among injecting drug users (IDUs). With an estimated 1 in 5 injecting drug users worldwide infected with HIV and 30 percent of HIV infections outside sub-Saharan Africa resulting from injecting drug use, such programs are key to bringing the global epidemic under control. This would also lessen the chance of transmitting HIV to other population groups through the overlap with sex work and unsafe sex in general.

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 Cameroon with an HIV prevalence of 5.1% amongst the general population is one of the 22 countries with the highest HIV prevalence in the World. The young people aged 15and above, constitute about 46% of all new infections and the young women are at the highest risk of infection among their peers. Young women aged 15-24 years are 2.5 times as likely to be infected with HIV as compared to their male peers.
Factors Driving the Epidemic amongst Young People

• Early sexual debut: In Cameroon the average age of first sexual intercourse is 14 years.
• Multiple and concurrent sexual partners.
• Low level of consistent condom use.
• Challenges in changing sexual behaviour.
• Cross generational sex.
• Transactional sex.
• Sexual transmissible marks.
• Peer Pressure.
• Sponsoring.
• Poverty.
• Incest and rape.
• Unemployment.
• Prostitution.
• Migration and mobility.

High Risk Groups
• Vulnerable children (Orphans, Street Children, hawkers, House helps, child trafficking………)
• Call box service providers
• Uniform Officers
• Distant truck drivers
• Adolescent Sex Workers
• Bike Riders
• Students.
Impact of HIV Campaigns
Cameroon has just begun the implementation of its 3rd National strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS for 2011-2015.

National prevention strategy for youths and Adolescent for HIV prevention is to support sexual and reproductive health education in youth centres to reach out-of-school youth; through health clubs, to reach youths in school; youth focused HIV testing campaigns organized during specific events and festivities such as the International Day of the child, Youth days, Holiday Free of AIDS Campaigns, the National Week/International AIDS Days and the like. These are aimed at enhancing the participation of young people as well as promoting income generating activities for out-of-school youth.

The campaigns have contributed to behaviour changes, as more and more young people are going in for HIV testing to know their status during HIV campaigns. Among the 123,504 young people mobilized for HIV prevention by the youths in 2011, over 10,880 of them went in for the HIV test and knew their HIV status.

Compiled By Eric Mbotiji

Youth Blogger from Cameroon

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According to the International Labour Organisation, more than 600 000 children (Most of whom are girls) were victims of child trafficking in 2005.Most of these victims are girls who do not go to school or are school dropouts. Horizon Jeunesse (Youth Horizon), an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) based in Yaoundé (Cameroon’s capital city) claims that, about three million the Cameroonian children are working or being trafficked in conditions of near slavery (http://ipsnews.net/africa/nota.asp?idnews=34063).These children are often taken away from their parents by their relatives who promise to provide the children education and training but once in town these children are forced to prostitute, hawk and in most cases end up as street children.

Child trafficking in Cameroon is most rampant in its rural areas. Child trafficking like forced/premature marriages, child labour, massive rural exodus, high rate of school drop outs, drastic drop in agricultural productivity, high vulnerability to diseases due to poor sanitation and housing conditions and a high child mortality rate are results of the neglect and abandonment of rural areas by policy makers and are a consequence of the inadequacy of current policies for the fight against poverty, disease, and illiteracy in rural areas-when these even exist .This explains why parents of victims and the victims themselves are ready to pay any price to see greener pastures which they have been promised by human traffickers.

Summer holidays constitute the peak period for child trafficking in Cameroon. The month of May marks the end of the academic year in Cameroon and therefore the massive exodus of pupils and students from rural to urban areas in search of greener pastures. I am then not surprised that movement into major urban centers in Cameroon has scaled up in recent weeks.

In fact, I have noticed that, as years go by, the number of children leaving their villages to ‘work their school fees’, as this is referred to in Cameroon, is ever increasing while the average age of these children, who while on holiday, hawk, peddle, and carry out all sorts of activities that will enable them go back home with something with which to pay their school fees and buy their school needs, has sensibly reduced.

While I understand that agriculture is the main means of subsistence for a majority of people living in rural communities of Cameroon, and that the fact that agriculture is in crisis, has greatly contributed in making them more powerless and vulnerable to disease, and climate change, I am also completely opposed to the practice of using children as a source of revenue for the family. I am wounded in my soul whenever I find a child who carries a load which out weights him/her just because they are selling one thing or the other so that his/her family can survive.

Also, the fact that Sexual abuse and rape are on the rise during summer holidays in Cameroon is an indicator that with the desire to make their ends and those of their families meet comes exposure of these tender souls to horrible acts such as rape and other forms of sexual assaults. In fact it is no longer news in Cameroon when information that a rapist who, with the pretext of buying 2 pieces of Chewing Gum (costing less than 5 cents),lure these children to isolated areas or into their homes and sexually assault them.

Acts like those described above are not only criminal but destructive and wicked because of the trauma and long lasting negative effects they have on the reputation, self –esteem and on the sexual and reproductive health of the victims. While these despicable acts call for the toughest and harshest action against its perpetrators, prevention remains a better cure. Enough is enough! I am tired of seeing the future of the children of Cameroon given to rapists on a platter of Gold. Let’s be responsible enough to stop sacrificing the happiness of these children on an Alter of the ‘fight for survival’.

The government, parents, and all those involved in child trafficking should not ignore the heavy psychological and health burden that the enslavement of their children represents. Children are the future of our world and merit to be treated better. No degree of poverty, pain, and suffering should ever justify their enslavement. Vigilance of the government and civil society organisations has to be heightened at this moment for this summer holidays to be free of human trafficking and forced child labour. An abused child is not only simply abused; he/she is denied the right to happiness and is robbed of all dignity.

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Two days ago, I received an e-mail from YouthRise google group sharing about Narco News’ latest video entitled This Is Maria: She Will End the War on Drugs. The story of Maria and her missing son Juan reflects the seemingly endless bloodshed in Mexico’s War on Drugs and how countless innocent civilians, youth, men and women, child and old alike, and regardless of gender preference have been victims of this war. It is an ongoing armed conflict between rival drug cartels fighting each other for regional control, and Mexican government forces. The government’s principal goal has been to put down the drug-related violence that was raging between different drug cartels before any military intervention was made according to Operation Mihoacan, the joint operation by Federal Police, and the Mexican military, to eliminate drug plantations and to combat drug trafficking. In addition, the Mexican government has claimed that their primary focus is on dismantling the powerful drug cartels, rather than on drug trafficking prevention, which is left to U.S. functionaries according to President Felipe Calderon.

The arrests of key cartel leaders, particularly in the Tijuana and Gulf cartels, have led to increasing drug violence as cartels fight for control of the trafficking routes into the United States as reported by Associated Press. Even teachers in the resort paradise of Acapulco region were reportedly "extorted, kidnapped and intimidated" by cartels, including death threats demanding money that they were forced to conduct a strike in 2011 to demand government protection. Analysts estimate that wholesale earnings from illicit drug sales range from $13.6 billion to $49.4 billion annually according to CRS findings. The story of Maria produced by Narco News captured the problem of Mexico’s "failed policy" on illegal narcotics according to former Presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and César Gaviria of Colombia, who remarked that the United States-led drug war is pushing Latin America into a downward spiral. Mr. Cardoso said in a conference that "the available evidence indicates that the war on drugs is a failed war" as quoted by Jose De Cordoba for The Wall Street Journal.

The US drug control policies in Mexico that have been adopted to prevent drug trafficking via Mexico and to eliminate the power of the drug cartels that bring about corruption, terror and violence have adversely affected the human rights situation in Mexico. These policies have given the responsibilities for civilian drug control to the military, which has the power to not only carry out anti-drug and public security operations but also enact policy. According to the United States Department of State, the police and the military in Mexico were accused of committing serious human rights violations as they carried out government efforts to combat drug cartels according to the U.S. State Department, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Immense power in the executive branch and corruption in the legislative and judiciary branches also contribute to the worsening of Mexico’s human rights situation, leading to such problems as police forces violating basic human rights through torture and threats, the autonomy of the military and its consequences and the ineffectiveness of the judiciary in upholding and preserving basic human rights. Some of the forms of human rights violations in recent years presented by human rights organizations include illegal arrests, secret and prolonged detention, torture, rape, extrajudicial execution, and fabrication of evidence according to Human Rights Watch report in 2001 entitled Military Injustice: Mexico’s Failure to Punish Army Abuses. The US Drug Policy fails to target high-level traffickers. In the 1970s, as part of Operation Condor, the Mexican government sent 10,000 soldiers and police to a poverty-stricken region in northern Mexico plagued by drug production and leftist insurgency. Hundreds of peasants were arrested, tortured, and jailed, but not a single big drug trafficker was captured as reported by Luis Astorga in his discussion paper on Drug Trafficking in Mexico: A First General Assessment, Management of Social Transformations (MOST).

The emergence of internal federal agencies that are often unregulated and unaccountable also contributes to the occurrence of human rights violations. It has been found that the Federal Investigations Agency (AFI) of Mexico had been involved with numerous human rights violation cases involving torture and corruption. One well-known case is the death of a detainee, Guillermo Velez Mendoza while in the custody of AFI agents. The AFI agent implicated in his death was arrested but he escaped after being released on bail according to a document released by the Government of Mexico. Similarly, nearly all AFI agents evaded punishment and arrest due to the corrupt executive and judiciary system and the supremacy of these agencies. The AFI was finally declared a failure and was disbanded in 2009. Moreover, ethnic prejudices have also emerged in the drug war, and poor and helpless indigenous communities have been targeted by the police, military, drug traffickers and the justice system. According to the National Human Rights Commission (Mexico), nearly one-third of the indigenous prisoners in Mexico in 2001 were in prison for federal crimes, which are mostly drug related in a statistics compiled by the Government of Mexico.

Another major concern is the lack of implementation of the Leahy Law in U.S. and the consequences of that in worsening the human rights situation in Mexico. Under this U.S. law (which has two versions by the way), no member or unit of a foreign security force that is credibly alleged to have committed a human rights violation may receive U.S. security training. It basically prohibits U.S. military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity. There are allegations that the U.S., by training the military and police force in Mexico, is in violation of the Leahy Law. In this case, the U.S. embassy officials in Mexico in charge of human rights and drug control programs are blamed with aiding and abetting these violations. In December 1997, a group of heavily armed Mexican special forces soldiers kidnapped twenty young men in Ocotlan, Jalisco, brutally torturing them and killing one. Six of the implicated officers had received U.S. training as part of the Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales (GAFE) training program according to La Jornada. The law itself is being criticized for its major weaknesses such as the capacity of the U.S. government and the government of the recipient country to circumvent the law that can avoid legal oversight.

The cartels engage in kidnapping, ransom and extortion of migrants and force them to join their organizations. A portion of the murders appear to be the result of mass kidnapping and robbery of migrants. Mass graves have been discovered in Mexico containing bodies of migrants according to Los Angeles Times. The cartels have also infiltrated the Mexican government’s immigration agencies, and attacked and threatened immigration officers according to BBC Correspondent Linda Pressly. The National Human Rights Commission of Mexico (CNDH) said that 11,000 migrants had been kidnapped in 6 months in 2010 by drug cartels. The panel of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy Commission stated that the countries involved in this war should remove the "taboos" and re-examine its anti-drug programs. Latin American governments have followed the advice of the U.S. to combat the drug war, but the policies had little effect. The commission made some recommendations to President Obama to consider new policies, such as decriminalization of marijuana and to treat drug use as a public health problem and not as a security problem. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs states it is time to seriously consider drug decriminalization and legalization, a policy initiative that would be in direct opposition to the interests of criminal gangs. According to Research and Development (RAND) studies released in the mid-1990s found that using drug user treatment to reduce drug consumption in the United States is seven times more cost effective than law enforcement efforts alone, and it could potentially cut consumption by a third as being pointed out by the Center for American Progress. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, the Obama Administration requests approximately $5.6 billion to support demand reduction. This includes a 13% increase for prevention and a nearly 4% increase for treatment. The overall FY 2011 counter-drug request for supply reduction and domestic law enforcement is $15.5 billion with $521.1 million in new funding in figures presented by the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara.

Maria is one of the hundreds if not thousands of mothers in Mexico still puzzled as to the whereabouts of their children missing or lost in Mexico’s War on Drugs. I am very much reminded of the same plight of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo in Argentina who are in search of their missing grandchildren abducted by the military regime of Jorge Rafael Videla during the infamous Dirty War. Mexico and Argentina may be in a different kind of war, but the victims of these wars are the same innocent citizens of their own respective countries. One might remember of Jennifer Lopez’s flap 2006 movie Bordertown, the story of female homicides (or alternatively known as femicide or feminicide) in Ciudad Juarez. According to a study conducted by Julia Monarrez Fragoso in 2008 using the Feminicide Database 1993–2007 at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte, which documented incidents of feminicide that occurred in Ciudad Juarez from 1993–2007, 9.1% of the murders of females were attributed to organized crime and drug trafficking activities. It goes to show that the war on drugs and feminicide are intertwined with each other. Women become victim of “sexual homicides” due to very little institutional protections and misogyny is a common trait of drug cartel activity.

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Editor’s Note: Rachel Lloyd is the Executive Director and Founder of Girls Education & Mentoring Services (GEMS), a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting girls and young women survivors of commercial sexual exploitation in the United States. She played an instrumental role in the passage of New York’s Safe Harbor Act for Sexually Exploited Youth, the first U.S. law of its kind to end the prosecution of child victims of sex trafficking.

Rachel is also the author of Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale – A Memoir (the book just came out in paperback — click here to buy it), which recounts her own experiences as a sexually exploited youth and her subsequent founding of GEMS.

We wanted to thank Rachel for taking the time to answer our questions about her work and activism:

1. For those who haven’t read your book yet, can you describe how your personal experiences led you to found GEMS?

I came to New York in 1997 to work with adult women in the sex industry. As a survivor of commercial sexual exploitation in Europe, I realized as I was meeting girls and young women on the streets and jail that we’d had very similar experiences — lack of family support, early trauma, homelessness, etc. — and that there was a complete absence of services and support for them. I started GEMS, literally on my kitchen table, because I felt like it was my calling in life and ultimately it made sense of all the difficult experiences that I’d previously had.

2. How does GEMS help victims of sexual exploitation? How do you prepare them for a life after they leave sex work?

It’s an inherent contradiction to talk about this as ‘sex work’ when we’re talking about girls who often aren’t even old enough to consent to sex and who are overwhelmingly under the violent control of a pimp. In supporting girls and young women who are exiting, and in many cases escaping, the commercial sex industry, GEMS provides a variety of services, to meet girls at various stages of their journey. Services include crisis care, housing, counseling, education, court advocacy, employment, healthcare and leadership training. In addition to the practical services, providing girls and young women with a community that is non-judgmental, loving, and empowering is critical for girls’ healing.

3. Can you talk about Safe Harbor laws and their role in protecting commercial sexual exploitation victims?

In 2008, New York State passed the first Safe Harbor law that defined commercially sexually exploited children and youth as victims not criminals. Since then six other states have followed suit. We can’t say that girls are victims of trafficking under federal law but then lock that same child up under state law charged with an act of prostitution — even though she’s not even old enough to consent to sex. It’s ludicrous that we charge the exploited child with a crime even though she’s been bought and sold by adults to adults.

4. What other changes in policy and culture do you think are needed to bring an end to the commercial sexual exploitation of children and youth?

We need to be able to address the factors that make young people so vulnerable in the first place — poverty, the impact of sexism, racism and classism, lack of appropriate resources and services for children who are victims of child sexual abuse or domestic violence, the gaps in our child welfare system, the oversexualization of girls in our culture, the lack of economic options for low-income youth and many other factors. Commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking doesn’t happen in a vacuum — it’s a part of the continuum of gender-based violence and affects children and youth who are the most vulnerable in our society.

We also need to address the demand side and the fact that purchasing women and girls is still seen as socially acceptable — although the women and girls themselves are still stigmatized. And we need to change our attitudes towards women and girls in the sex industry and stop dehumanizing them. In short — there’s a lot to do and we have a long way to go!

5. Sometimes we encounter the attitude among young people that the young women who are trafficked should have known better or been better. How do you counter that, especially when it is a fellow young person making the comment?

I think it’s really a lack of understanding about the issue that leads both youth and adults to be judgmental towards girls who are trafficked and exploited. Educating people about the real meaning of choice — i.e., what do your choices realistically look like at 13, 14, even 17, 18 particularly when you’ve grown up in a home filled with abuse, when you’ve already begun to believe that your worth is defined by your sexuality and when an adult man sets their sights on making you totally compliant through both seduction and violence. Once people hear directly from survivors and hear how easy it is to become caught up and how difficult it is to escape, I think it’s rare that they still believe that its a question of true ‘choice.’

6. Some people regard sex work as a valid employment choice among other employment choices, and even as a woman’s right. How do you feel about that debate?

I believe that there are a handful of adult women in the commercial sex industry for whom it may be an employment choice among other employment choices. I can’t speak for them or their experiences. However for millions of girls and women, (and boys and transgender youth) around the world, it’s less about choice than it is about lack of choice. If we lived in a totally equitable world, where everyone started off with the same opportunities; where racism, sexism, violence, poverty, sexual abuse and rape didn’t exist; and where everyone had the exact same access to education, employment, housing, childcare and healthcare; and where the sex industry didn’t attract pimps; and traffickers and where johns didn’t see women in the industry as disposable objects and subject them to violence, I’d be happy to engage in that debate. As it is, I’d rather spend my time fighting the injustices and inequities that leave so many women and girls vulnerable to a sex industry that is destructive and harmful and keeps so many people trapped.

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It is true that Nepal is independent, multi-linguistic, and multi-cultural country. Looking at past, women were taken as means for sexual enjoyment and reproduction. Whether it is in belief or it is in practices, women are just for housekeeping. Issues, related to the equality and equity, are new concepts in Nepalese scenario. Though there is 33 percent reservation in most of agendas in development, this has become a business, and means for progress among women living at urban areas. Maoist insurgency had increased the use of women and children during 10 years. Problems of early marriages and trafficking were thought to have increased since then.

In Nepal, Tamang community is the number one in supplying and selling their daughters to India. As there are open borders between India and Nepal, trafficking is increasing day to day. "In the late 17th century, the brothel area of Kamathipura was first established to service British troops in what was then called Bombay, India. In 2004, the cost to buy a sex-trafficked girl from Nepal in what is now called Mumbai, has risen to 100,000 – 120,000 Indian rupees (approx $2,004 – 2,405 USD). Girls trafficked from Nepal are known as a “tsukris.” They are those who have been indentured (forced) to work under a “never ending” contract commonly found with human trafficking. The industry in the trafficking of Nepali girls is a very lucrative business. It can include forced labor, domestic and factory work. Young girls who are teenagers are often used in the sex-trafficking industries, though, because of the extreme profit for traffickers and the very low incidence of law enforcement arrests against sex-industry racketeers. Sex sells and girls from villages like Ichowk, Mahankal and Talmarang in the Sindhupalchowk district in northern central Nepal are full of girls who are more than anxious for a better life. “Annually, according to U.S. Government-sponsored research completed in 2006, approximately 800,000 people are trafficked across national borders, which does not include millions trafficked within their own countries. Approximately 80 percent of transnational victims are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors,” reports the US Department of State in a 2008 study.

Girls who are victims of sex-trafficking in Nepal often come from the very poorest regions of Nepal. Without education or opportunity they often live with their families on the poorest outcast edge of society. Often food may be scarce or clean water unavailable. Missing girls can be as young as 8 or 9, but are most often 14 – 18 yrs of age. They often come from the very lowest caste in Nepali society, where hardship is the norm, although current trends in trafficking are showing higher-caste girls who are also being bought and sold by traffickers.

For the last decade it has been estimated that 6,000 – 7,000 girls are trafficked out of Nepal each year. But these numbers have recently risen substantially. Current numbers for girls trafficked out of the country are now 10,000 to 15,000 yearly. This is compounded as the US Central Intelligence Agency states that most trafficked girls are currently worth, in their span as a sex-worker, approx $250,000 (USD) on the sex-trades market. 2005 data from case records documented by six rehabilitation centers in Nepal of sex-trafficked women show that most (72.7%) rural girls who are trafficked are Hindu by religion. 59.9% are unmarried. 46.5% are 16-18 yrs of age and 77.2% have no to little education.

“It is estimated that 50 percent of Nepalese sex workers in Mumbai brothels are HIV positive,” says a World Bank 2004 report. The youngest victims of sex-trafficking are those most likely to be directly exposed to HIV/AIDS. There is an “increased risk among those trafficked prior to age 15 years,” says a 2007 the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) – American Medical Association report. Coming home with an HIV/AIDS diagnosis causes most trafficked girls to suffer intense judgement. Often Nepal society blames the victims of sex-trafficking, not the traffickers, for choosing a “life of immorality.”

According to JAMA, “Sexuality is a taboo in Nepal; discussing sex and sexuality is beyond the social morality,” states a FWLD – Forum for Women Law and Development (Kathmandu) report. “Sex work is considered ‘deviant’ behavior and is unacceptable (in Nepal). As a result, sex workers retain highly marginalized status in the society.” After all, organizations like Maiti-Nepal actively involved in checking out girl trafficking. But, it’s not only the subject of an organization; it is combined effort from all of us; in a sense of humanism.

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Pampering is not a new pastime in the lives of young women and men across the globe. My friends gawk at the opportunity to go and get their nails and hair done on a weekly basis…and I do mean weekly! Hypothetically speaking, you are walking with two or three of your best buddies down a strip in Myrtle Beach; you decide to get your nails done at one of the nail salons in the area. According to the popular Rap artist, Drake, every female desires to have their “nails done, hair done, everything did right?” But what if on this particular day, you see that the salon is closed because it is under the investigation of money laundering and human trafficking? Couldn’t believe it? Well, neither could I. According to David Wren, a writer with the Sun News out of Myrtle Beach, 12 nail salons are currently under investigation of illegal immigration and human trafficking charges. The story developed based on the increase of fraudulent licenses that were being distributed to locals in return for illegal activity including immigration and human trafficking. The price of being fancy is a lot more than you think! Furthermore, The National Human Trafficking Resource Center has postulated an estimated 170 cases of human trafficking were reported in 2011. We cannot continue to avoid this issue.

We are not implicating that every nail salon you visit are to be looked at with the side eye or that you should boycott listening to Drake, but as activist we hope to raise information on the prevalence of human trafficking in the state of South Carolina through insightful articles as these, advocacy for stricter laws and punishments, and community awareness.

With an increase of teenage pregnancy and young adults entering prostitution, it is important to understand that if you are not apart of this population, you have a right and a choice to participate in safe sex. Always remember to practice safe sex and encourage others to be just as prepared as you are! Check out amplifyyourvoice.org for more information on safe sex, contraceptive resources, and other information. We are here to help you maintain a more healthier YOU! 

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     Violence against women is everywhere, it can be found in every culture and can be found in every corner of the world. Unfortunately, in a much more developed world today, one in three women is subject to gender-based violence. In the movie named “From Fear to Freedom: Ending Violence against Women” produced by WLP, it clearly shows the culture behind this unfair violence against women.
     Even though the ration one in three is kind of hard to believe since someone may argue that how could this happen in a world with laws, justice and education, however, this is true and it is true no matter in Asia or America, and this is true and it is experienced by women in our everyday life. I used to hear a saying that being a girl is subjecting to higher risk, and I definitely believe this is true. Even though for me, a college-educated girl, thing such as child marriage or human trafficking are not possible, however, I still feel inferior in the society and experience the violence, a kind of psychological violence against women. Violence against women can be psychological and can take the verbal form. It seems that the society approves guys to judge our appearances and bodies and say some dirty things about our bodies without feeling shame. When I was spending my summer back home, I was wearing a T-shirt and short shorts. And then when I walked pass a cab, the diver in it looked at my breast directly and said something dirty about it near my ears. I was so scared and when I told this to my mom, she blamed me and said I should not wear the T-shirt again. Even though the man hurt me, society seemed to approve it and I myself became the one to be blamed. This kind of psychological assault is everywhere and it hurts. One of my friend entered a model competition, she was forced to be depicted as sexual and under her picture (online), there were random guys chatting dirty thing such as they wanted to have sex with her. And when she got scared, the society just blamed her again that this was her fault to enter this competition.

     So violence against women is culturally approved since women are viewed as weaker people and sometimes women are even viewed as bad people so that violence against women is OK. In almost every culture around the world, men are viewed as powerful and women are just one of men’s subject. Since women need men to raise them, so that when men are not feeling good, they can transfer their bad mood to women by violence. The power and gender identity determines this tragedy. I always hear people talking DV in the way that since the women enjoy their husbands’ money so that they should not blame their husbands for DV. Women, no matter what we do, are viewed as inferior. There was one woman in the movie said that she have seen women with PhD still behaved inferior in the relationship. This is so true since we are socially defined as inferior. Even though my parents give me the chance to study in the U.S. and they pay for my education, however, my parents’ goal for me is not asking me to be powerful but want me to have more leverage to find a good man and just rely on him. They got so angry when I told them that I am right now just want to focus on my study and career and do not want a boyfriend.

     Besides women are culturally viewed as inferior, women who suffered from violence are also subject to the deadly science of the social justice system. Since most DV comes from their family members, most of time their husbands, societies of most time ignore and do not believe DV as crimes. 

     From my point of view, stop violence against women should be done by empowering women. Women should be educated and they should have bigger economic independence since economic independence gives women higher leverage in relationship. Also, in order to stop the violence, not only women should be educated, however, men should also be educated. Men should understand that women are not inferior and women are not men’s goods.

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by Bianca Laureano

This February marks the 2nd anniversary of an virtual online project that I co-created called The LatiNegr@s Project.  I’ve been reflecting on how this project has grown and evolved and wanted to write a 2-year review of the project. It seemed fitting that I post this reflection here on the Media Justice column because it was here that I very publicly started to think and work  on how to create and implement such a project. Because of this website, column, and the interaction with readers in the comments I was able to work with a good friend and create The LatiNegr@s Project.

Three years ago I was so frustrated! My main frustration was with a story about Latin@s and the ending events for Latin@ Heritage Month and how one-dimensional these discussions, presentations, and festivities were. It really stuck with me until the end of the year in a way it had not before. This was at a time when social media was evolving rapidly and people were creating spaces for Black and Latin@ communities but not for Black Latin@s. I felt overwhelmingly excluded, isolated, like I had to pick a part of me, but it couldn’t be all of me. I also felt tired. Tired of always having to “school” Latin@s on our Black and African roots, reminding them that their anti-Black exclusion of us is very much a racist act. I also felt the same irritation and exhaustion with Black communities and spaces often not including us as members of the community because our ethnicity is one that is connected to Latinidad.

It was from this space of exhaustion, anger, frustration that I went to Twitter and wrote something such as “I’m going to do something about the underrepresentation of LatiNegr@s in Latin@ and Black spaces” (I can’t remember the exact thing I wrote, but this captures the essence). One person responded. That one person is Anthony, a homeboy that I had yet to meet in 3D but had followed online and whose blog I read. Anthony blogs under the name Latinegro and he said he would be interested in doing something similar and we should definitely collaborate. A few other folks demonstrated some interest in creating a project and were present with some of the initial posts we created on our respective blogs for Black History Month (BHM). When BHM ended it was still Anthony and I committed to the project.

Afrolatinos from Marlene Peralta on Vimeo.

That first month we reached out to everyone in our network. We shared with them that we were working on a project to include LatiNegr@s, Blaktin@s, Afr@Latin@s in Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Pride Month, Latino Heritage Month, and basically year round! Our goal was to use the virtual platform of Tumblr, which at that time was very heavily based on visual content such as images and fotos. It was a huge learning curve, but I found guidance and encouragement from the work that my homegirl Maegan Ortiz of Vivir Latino had done in creating a Latino Heritage Month tumblr in 2009. 

Surprisingly, (or not?) only a few of my friends I reached out to agreed to participate. It took a lot of work to get content, post calls for submissions, and get to know the tumblr platform. There were even some of our friends who we reached out to who told us that they were not going to contribute because our ideas were not new, other organizations were already doing what we were hoping to do, and that there was no leadership.

What can I say, Anthony and I dream big in a collective non-hierarchical way.

And we kept dreaming. We worked our tails off, posting often during BHM to our blogs, interviewing folks, and providing highlights on LatiNegr@s to know about. Before BHM was over, we were asked to be on a TV series discussing the work we were doing. This was to be on CUNY TV’s Independent Sources, a television show that focuses on issues and topics that impact people living specifically in NYC. Producer Marlene Peralta asked us to participate in her series on Black Latin@s. Preparing for the exchange was a bit of a challenge, we had a snow storm that day, I was not sure how to dress or what make-up, colors, or jewelry to wear that would be best captured on film. Marlene’s team was amazing. They never attempted to change or alter my appearance in any way, and they were very professional, supportive, and all people of Color which made me feel even more at ease to see that this story was really a community effort. When her segment was created our virtual project received some amazing support and views! Below is the segment:

Those folks who had told us our ideas and goals were less than exceptional all of a sudden wanted to participate. Go figure! I share this because at that time I thought to myself “of course they want to jump on the wagon now that we thought about it, put it together, got it moving, and now it’s being appreciated. They want ‘in’ when all the hard structural work is done!” Now, after working on the project for 2 years, I realize that there are folks who will come and go and share what they can. That each of us plays a role and that I can value them for the role they are present to provide.

Last year The LatiNegr@s Project grew. We had two new members join our team  and The LatiNegr@s Project has moved in directions that both Anthony and I find exhilarating. Kismet and Vio have given The LatiNegr@s Project new energy, fresh ideas, security, and has helped us dream even bigger. We are talking non-profit organization bigger (not there yet but it’s one of the big dreams for now)! We have a Twitter account,  a Facebook page,  and opened up our Ask feature  on tumblr and have been receiving amazing questions. We have also begun our first survey,  have over 2000 items posted and over 850 followers!

We are doing radio shows, receiving invitations to speak at events, and will be discussing our evolution, challenges, and successes at the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association People of Color Track  on Friday March 30, 2012 (stop by and say hello if you are in the area!).

A few things that I think make The LatiNegr@s Project stand out from the other amazing projects focusing on Black Latin@s, Afr@Latin@, pride, and inclusion are the following:

• The platform is virtual. We offer the opportunity for folks to contribute what they believe is important by submitting http://www.lati-negros.tumblr.com/submit an image, video, quote, link, or writing something that connects to the LatiNegr@ identity. This makes our space interactive all the time and not just on special occasions or events. Plus, it helps to reach folks from all over the world who have access to the internet, not just those in the areas where Anthony and I are physically located.

• The LatiNegr@s Project centers social media and elements of youth culture where young people are at the center of their usage and evolution. I would not have heard of tumblr if the students I work with not mentioned the platform to me. I would also not have learned about the options and opportunities that existed using the platform had it not been for young people. Many of the items on The LatiNegr@s Project are primarily from youth (under 25 years old), about youth, for youth, or discusses youth and how much we value them. I can’t remember the last time an organization focusing on Afr@Latin@s centered young people. And not just centering what our challenges are, but how we learn and evolve from the youth in our community and how their contributions are vital to all of us.

• The LatiNegr@s Project was built on the ideas of inclusivity. We have always focused on including various aspects of our identities that are often ignored. For example, we actively seek to support, challenge oppressions, and have represented LatiNegr@s with different abilities, who identify as transgender, who have various socio-economic statuses, are more than artists or entertainers, are youth, single mami’s and papi’s, local activists, various sexual orientations and gender expressions, and that are not just from the US. The LatiNegr@s Project shows all of our complexities.

Some challenges or areas for improvement from my perspective include:

• More content that in other languages besides English. Right now the site is predominately English-based and I’d love to have translations, more inclusive languages we speak beyond Spanish and Portuguese included. Sometimes this is a difficult task to accomplish as many of our items are user submitted, but I have confidence we’ll find a solution to this very soon.

• Approving and posting “controversial” topics. This goes back to our complexities. We’ve had users submit some content that some of us may not agree with personally. At the same time it’s important to have a dialogue about gender roles and expectations and how they impact us, how sex tourism and sex trafficking impact our homelands and families, and what immigration policies and border security means for LatiNegr@s. IT’s not all fun and jolly posts we have. There are many that speak out against the systemic racism, sexism, xenophobia, transmisogyny, ableism, and anti-immigrant hate (to name just a few). For many of us seeing these stories and images reminds us we are not alone and that there are others who witness our lives. For others these stories are triggering, devastating, or affirming. It’s all about promoting the dialogue and pushing ourselves to really examine what self-determination, self-identification, and liberation means.

I encourage you to check out The LatiNegr@s Project  and consider how you may use some of our content in your Black History Month, Women’s History Month, etc. observations and celebrations. There is so much to see, read, and hear and I hope each visitor leaves finding something new out about themselves, their community, and LatiNegr@s.

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"When we too are armed and trained, we can convince men that we have hands, feet, and a heart like yours; and although we may be delicate and soft, some men who are delicate are also strong; and others, coarse and harsh, are cowards. Women have not yet realized this, for if they should decide to do so, they would be able to fight you until death; and to prove that I speak the truth, amongst so many women, I will be the first to act, setting an example for them to follow."
—Veronica Franco

It is a widely accepted belief that prostitution is the oldest job in the world and has been an existing for of profession even before Christianity and Islam was introduced to humanity but the least appreciated profession. Words like "Prosti", "Harlot", "Pimp", "Puta", "Prostituta", "Courtesan", "Pokpok", and "Bugaw" are words from different languages of countries around the world have been  associated with prostitution. It has taken many forms and gimmicks and it has now even penetrated the internet and cyberworld. The names of Veronica Franco, Nell Gwynne, Madame du Barry, Eliza Lynch, and Mata Hari are some of the famous women involved in this profession.

In modern day setting, prostitution has always been pinpointed by authorities as one of the reasons of the prevalence of human trafficking and sexual slavery of women. According to the report of Under Special Investigation (USI) T.V. program, approximately $72USD billion is the yearly revenue of people involved in human trafficking. Most of their victims came from developing countries wherein most people are wallowing in poverty, lack of access to education, no job opportunities, wide disparity between the rich and the poor, and the deeply-rooted corruption in the government that made them incapable of providing these basic social services to the people.

Tonight in USI, the T.V. program presented a disturbing story of women in prostitution in the garbage dump sites in Tondo, Manila. Entitled "Palit Kalakal" (In Exchange of Goods), the show documents on how women living in the dump sites, mostly scavengers are forcing themselves into prostitution to garbage collectors in exchange of a sack of garbage goods (i.e. plastics, metal objects, and newspapers) that they can sell to the junk shops in order to support their families and for them to survive their eveyday living. They blatantly sell themselves before the passing garbage dump trucks that passes on the road leading to the dump site.

A local garbage collector in Manila profits up to Php700 pesos night if they are diligent with their garbage collection. These garbage goods are the target of the women in "Palit Kalakal". The transaction is simple. When the woman in sex work and the garbage collector agrees to the deal of exchanging garbage goods for sex, the woman is lead to the dark part of the site, even in the dump truck, behind the curtain, or even at the mountain top of the pile of garbages. Unfortunately, some are even abused and not compensated with the meager good that they were just asking.

I hope that this documentary by T.V. host Paolo Bediones will be a wake-up call for the government to hear the sad plight of these women in Palit Kalakal and to have some immediate action to their problem. Moreover, there should be a long-term solution to the problem of women and child involved in trafficking and prostitution. Band aid solution is not the solution to a social issue that deeply wounded. I agree that job-creations within the country is one of the solution in solving the issue. The Philippines should not only focus to its labor-exporting policy. Though it has saved the economy of the country, a lot is still wallowing in poverty.

Lastly, we should end the stigmatization of women in prostitution. Although there is a high-incidence of human trafficking of women  and children in prostitution like the one featured in the documentary, most are working because it is their own choice even if job opportunities in other field of profession is available for them. Also, society must now recognize that sex work is work. Because it is with our stigamtization and discrimination, that we allow their employers and customers to abuse and exploit them. Giving respect to their work is what we can contribute to be able to uplift their dignity in our own way.

You can view the video trailer on this link: www.youtube.com/watch

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by BIanca Laureano

By now you’ve heard of the ABC television show “Work It.” A triflin’ and low rating show that features two middle aged men (one racially white another Latino) who dress up as women to secure employment in the US. Yes, you read that correctly; at a time when women still don’t make as much as men (and where transgender people don’t make as much at all!), when the feminization of poverty is still a part of our society and world, and when transgender people are still the most oppressed, underemployedmurdered, invisible and erased members of our communities.

ABC Chief Paul Lee states he “doesn’t get” the big deal about how harmful “Work It” is based on GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign’s activism around the show and their efforts to challenge it coming to air. Lee states he doesn’t “get it” because he loved the movie “Tootsie.”

What Lee and others fail to see is that these are characters that are created so that we can laugh at them. These characters are performing stereotypes and misconceptions of what we assume to be a challenge when people “dress up” as the opposite gender. The characters perpetuate a gender binary. These characters are making a choice to dress up which gives the illusion that sex and gender are choices that people can simply change their mind about.

Others that fail to see this problem: some Puerto Rican activists. For the past week I’ve received so many emails about how Puerto Ricans are represented on “Work It” by Latino character Amaury Nolasco, who plays a Puerto Rican character. The “dehumanizing” and “blatantly offensive” comment where the “culture was attacked by an insensitive stereotype”  by Nolasco’s character who states: “I’m Puerto Rican, I would be great at selling drugs.”

This statement took less than 10 seconds to say and hear. Because of that 10 seconds a huge storm of protest has erupted among Puerto Ricans.

My heart breaks here. All of this mobilizing and protesting for one line by a character, yet NOTHING from any of the grassroots organizations, such as Boricuas For A Positive Image, celebrities or community activists that have jumped on this protest about how Puerto Rican and Latin@ transgender people are impacted by this show. There is an overwhelming silence. Where is the alliance building with transgender activists? Where is the joining with GLAAD and HRC? Where is the mobilization beyond targeting me as a Puerto Rican, but not as a human being that values all members of our community, especially those who are harmed the most?

The images and video that have been created around the challenging of ABC by Puerto Rican activists are very single issue when we are not a single issue people! The messages being sent: Transmisogyny is alive and well. We don’t care about your gender we care more about your ethnicity (and only if it is Puerto Rican). We don’t care how something may harm and dehumanize the Puerto Rican transgender community unless it impacts us directly.

I understand this response especially since Puerto Rico has been struggling with drug trafficking, drug use and abuse, and drug related crimes for decades. One of my most vivid memories of Puerto Rico was in 1995 when armed US military would line the streets and randomly pull cars over and check for drugs. It was a scary time, and those times remain today, especially with the high murder rate in Puerto Rico  (and a number of those murders are of transgender Puerto Ricans and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer Puerto Ricans) and when the stop and frisk experiences of Latin@ and Black youth living in NYC and in-school arrests are ridiculously high.

What I don’t understand is how can “activists” separate these issues so easily? If we stood with our transgender community in fighting this show when it was being created and knew it centered a Puerto Rican actor who was misrepresenting Puerto Rican transgender women, would we be here today? It’s possible we would, it’s also possible our voices as Puerto Rican consumers, Puerto Rican media makers, and Puerto Rican people would have resulted in a similar apology and a more quick removal of the offensive show. When we partner together to support and make change for our most oppressed members of our community we all benefit.

My hope is that Puerto Rican activists today learn about the anti-oppression legacy that civil rights activist Sylvia Rivera,  a Puerto Rican-Venezuelan New Yorker, has left us. And then share her legacy and not keep it just for ourselves, but speak on it to youth, our elders, other Latin@s, everybody! To learn how you can support the Sylvia Rivera Law Project visit their website

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The issue of Gender based violence has been around for quite some time now but it indeed interests me to think that this issue is being raised at such as time as this. The world just ended the 16 days of activism against Violence against Women or lets just say Gender Based Violence (November 25 – December 10) and I must say that gone are the days when we talk about abuse and gender based violence generally and we think of women first, as though it starts and ends with women. Now, we are beginning to realize that it goes beyond the women; we really need to address the men who are the main perpetrators of this injustice.

It is also important to note that gender based violence isn’t just about beating a man or a woman. That limits it to physical violence. It also includes sexual violence, which consists of rape, incest, starvation of sex, stalking, sexual abuse etc, physical violation; battery, trafficking, kidnapping, abduction, etc. Others include taunting and other means of psychological abuse.

Funny enough, there have been a few cases of men being violated against but like I said, “Few cases”. It is not common. I chose to talk about the cases of men so it wouldn’t appear like I’m being sentimental. I’m female, you know. However, I want us to know that when we talk of gender, we don’t only refer to women, we refer to men too. We even refer to boys and girls as well; not only the grownups.

Having a programme like the one that came up on Friday, 2nd December, 2011 tagged “Young men against Gender Based Violence” by Education as a Vaccine and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Abuja, Nigeria really excited me. I had high hopes prior to the event. I looked forward to commitments from young men to join the fight against Gender Based Violence and not limit it to a “women’s thing”. I was really glad when it turned out so. It wasn’t only the young men, but even Nigerian celebrities like Jude Abaga aka M.I and Audu Maikori of Chocolate City Group were there to grace the occasion as ambassadors of the campaign.

I sincerely hope that the commitments that the young men made would extend beyond that event. That way, we would be sure that Nigerian men are really rising up to the challenge to protect women and girls. If you are a man, then you shouldn’t try to prove it by beating up or raping a woman or young girl; you should prove it by protecting them with the strength you claim to have.

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Police on Wednesday arrested a man in Nuwakot Nepal on the charge of selling his teenage daughter.

Podey Tamang of Balkumari Village Development Committee-8 allegedly sold his 15-year-old daughter to three unidentified men for Rs 10,000 in Kathmandu on October 16.

The girl was reportedly being trafficked to Mumbai via Pune in India. She was, however, rescued by a group of youths from her village, who were working in Pune.

Tamang’s alleged crime came to light after his daughter returned home and reported the incident to the police.

In another incident, police arrested one Madhukar Kunwar for selling his sister-in-law.

The involvement of family members and close relatives in human trafficking in Nuwakot is on the rise, said an officer at the District Police Office.

Asmita Thapa, an anti-trafficking activist, said the involvement of parents and relatives has come up a major challenge in controlling the crime.

Human trafficking agents, whose activities have largely been discouraged by anti-trafficking campaigns launched by various organisations, are using parents and relatives to carry out the racket in rural areas of Nuwakot, Thapa said.

Published in The kathmandu Post.


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 Understanding the Sex trade in Nepalese context

“Sex trade is defined to include all efforts to trade sex for something of value or something of value for sex.” International criminals are now moving away from ‘guns and drugs’ to marketing women. With as many as 2 million women worldwide forced into sexual slavery, the sex trade seems to have replaced narcotics as the favored illegal trade activity. Reasons for such excessive involvement in this trade include:
_ High demand of esp. women in sex trade.
_ Easy income for the workers and procurers.
_ Poverty and unemployment on the side of the victims.
_ Easy escape of the legal implications in comparison to other illegal trade.
_ Increased tourism – Sex tourism.
Situation Analysis
_ During the last couple of decades, prostitution and sex trafficking has reached an alarming magnitude throughout the world.
_ It is estimated that Thailand has around 2 million women and children in prostitution.
_ There are around 200,000 Bangladeshi women and girls in sex bondage in Pakistan.
_ There are estimates to suggest the participation of ‘2.3 million women in prostitution in India’ alone.
_ Each year 5000 to 6000 Nepali women and children, some as young as 9, are trafficked into India.
_ It is estimated that there are about 160,000 Nepali prostitutes working in the brothels of India.
_ Sex trade is considered as one of the factor for the increasing prevalence of STDs and HIV/AIDS.
_ In Nepal, the first AIDS case is said to be brought in by prostitutes.

Elements of Sex Trade:

• Customer (sex tourists, military personnel etc.)
• The Trade Benefit (procurers, traffickers, brothel owners etc.)
• Sex Workers (prostitutes – male or female; Madame etc.)

“Trafficking is the recruitment and/or transportation of persons by others using violence or threats of violence, abuse of authority or dominant position, deception or other forms of coercion, for the purpose of exploiting them sexually or economically for the profit or advantages of others, such as, recruiters, procurers, traffickers, intermediaries, brothel owners and other employers, customers, or crime syndicates.”

The demand comes from:
_ Those who purchase the bodies of prostitutes for minutes or for hours.
_ Those who purchase pornography.
_ Those who purchase their wives, children or servants.
_ Sex tourists.
_ Military personnel.

On the supply side, victims come from:
_ Poor women and children going to rich men.
_ Women willing to marry a man as to give more opportunities to children.
_ Women willing to experience life in different countries.
_ Women who are married off by their families to men abroad.

Trafficking Routes
1) International trafficking routes:
_ From Latin America to Europe and the Middle East.
_ From South East Asia to Northern Europe and the Middle East.
_ A European regional market.
_ An Arab Regional market

2) Routes within Asia
_ Myanmar to Thailand.
_ Southern China to Thailand via Myanmar.
_ Combodia and Vietnam to Thailand.
_ Nepal and Bangladesh to India.
The most lucrative child trafficking routes are:
From South-East Asia to Japan and Hawaii via Hong Kong.
From South Asia (India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh) to the Middle East.

3) Routes from Nepal and Bangladesh to India. (Consequent paces in route are spaced by comma)
• Village, Kathmandu, Siliguri , Calcutta.
• Village, Jogbari ,Sitamarhi,Mumbai.
• Village ,Nuwakot, Kathmandu , Jogbari, Patna,Delhi.
• Village, Nuwakot, Kathmandu , Sunauli , Gorakhpur , Delhi , Dholpur, Alwar _ Mumbai , Bangladesh to India.

3) Routes within Nepal
(The Road to the Brothels)

_ The beginning of the journey
Since the rule of the Ranas upto the mid fifties, Sindhupalchowk and Nuwakot have been the most notorious places for girl trafficking. The villages of Ichowk and Mahankal in Sindhupalchowk are extensively haunted by trafficking. A newspaper article reported that “3138 young girls have been trafficked from 19 VDCs of Nuwakot districts”and that “400 girls were sold from one single village called Gyanphedi of the same district.” (Pradhan 1996). The neighbouring districts of Rasuwa, Dhading, Kavre, Ramechap, Nawalparasi, Makwanpur and Sindhuli have become equally vulnerable to the trade, as well as districts of Eastern Nepal, Sunsari and Morang have also begun to show signs of increased trafficking.

Apart from the villages, other notorious haunting grounds for traffickers are Kathmandu’s many sub-urban carpet and garment factories such as Gaushala, Bouddha, Jorpati or Balaju.

_ Recruitment
There are numerous methods that are used to traffic girls into prostitution.

Hard trafficking Soft trafficking
• By luring girls for jobs, movies; by giving gifts; by buying her things or by being friendly with her. • With the family’s complicity and knowledge about prostitution.
• By fake marriages
• By approaching families who are desperate enough to let their daughter leave.

However, it is very difficult to draw a clear line as to ‘how many girls and women are actually tricked or forced into the trade or how many went into the business of their free own will.’ The influence of poverty, family pressure, cast and gender discrimination have to be taken into account i.e. lack of a viable alternative.

_ Destinations
1) India
India is the main destination for girls being trafficked from Nepal.
In most cases the location has been Mumbai’s red light area Kamathipurawith a population of 100,000 prostitutes. Half of it is comprised of Nepali girls. Songachhi, Calcutta’s red light area is said to house 40,000 prostitutes, the majority being Nepali.
There seems to be a shift in destinations. The focus is now on the outskirts of big Indian cities such as Patna, lucknow, New Delhi and Mumbai or on smaller towns like Gorakhpur or Jogbani.

The population of Nepali prostitutes in some big cities of India are:
• Delhi – 20,000
• Chennai – 3,500
• Gorakhpur – 4,000
• Patna – 4,000

2) Intra- country trafficking
The journey does not always end to India.
According to the ILO, there are an estimated 25,000 prostitutes in Nepal of whom 5000 are under the age of 16. Among them, about 1000 work in Kathmandu alone esp. in guest houses and lodges in Sundhara, New Road, Lagankhel etc.

3) The Gulf and South East Asia
Nepali girls are also found to be trafficked to the Gulf and South East Asian regions esp. to Saudi Arabia , Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. The girls usually seem to go to these regions with a hope of getting jobs and a better life.

1.Situation Report on Trafficking of Children for Prostitution; Department of Women and Child Development, MHRD, UNICEF and UNIFEM.
2.Shadow Report; on initial report of Govt. of Nepal on CEDAW, Forum for Women, Law and Development 1999.
3.Girl trafficking for Prostitution in Nepal; A report by Schubert Anisha, Bremen, Germany 1999.

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The Oxford Dictionary defines the term “Poor” as “having very little money; of low standard or quality; lacking in and deserving in pity or sympathy.” Development is defined as “a new stage in a changing situation.”

In 2000, 147 heads of state and government at the United Nations agreed to eight Millennium Development Goals. Among these goals was halting the spread of HIV/AIDS. Other goals included the reduction of poverty, reduction of hunger, universal primary education, improved child health and the achievement of gender equality. These goals were recognized as significantly threatened by the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, especially in some Lesser Developed or Developing Countries (LDCs).

The United Nations in its report titled Population, Development and HIV/AIDS with particular emphasis on Poverty stated, “By the end of 2004 there were an estimated 39 million people living with HIV/AIDS, an increase from 37 million in 2002. Among the persons infected with HIV, 25 million lived in Sub-Saharan Africa, 7.1 million in South and Southeastern Asia and over 2 million in Latin America and the Caribbean. Thus 64 per cent of HIV infected persons were located in countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, while this region was home to only 11 per cent of the world’s population.”

The disease while affecting persons in all age groups is said to be more prevalent among the 15 – 49 age group. The UN has stated that HIV prevalence has exceeded 1.9 per cent among persons in this age group. “Of the 48 countries with the high HIV prevalence, 38 are in Africa, 3 are in Asia and 7 are in Latin America and the Caribbean. Almost 60 per cent of them (28 countries) are in the group of Least Developed Countries, including 27 in Sub-Saharan Africa and one (Haiti) in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

HIV/AIDS has been constructed as a disease of poverty, which seriously reduce the likelihood of meaningful development. Countries that experience slow or no development, usually have an education system that is stymied or collapsing. Reduced economic growth, falling food production, serious gender inequalities, deepening poverty, a high adult and child mortality rate and an overstretched health services sector are also healthy contributors.

Education is seen by most countries and peoples of the world as one way to change their status in life. It is also seen as a large government employer. Economic development in all countries that are termed “developed” came on the back of a strong education system. Trained minds are needed to assist in making crucial decisions and to assist these countries on the development path. However, these are threatened by HIV/AIDS. In many countries, hope for a better education is reduced owing to the death of teachers and parents. “UNICEF estimates that 860,000 children in Africa have already lost their teachers to HIV/AIDS. In Botswana, death rates among primary school teachers rose from 0.7 per 1000 in 1994 to 7.1 in 1999.” (HIV/AIDS, Implications for Poverty Reduction) In many homes where both parents are afflicted with the disease, primary school age children have had to instead of being in school, caring for their parents, reversing what has been a societal norm of children being cared for by adults.

Governments are expected to assist with the health care needs of their people. Considering where the disease is most prevalent, HIV/AIDS has put severe strain on these countries already meager resources. Health care workers have become stressed, leading to absenteeism. Shortage of staff has resulted in persons self medicating, which also pose additional dangers, thereby further burdening an ill-equipped sector.
Over the years, new drugs have come on to the market, assisting persons infected with the virus to live-longer and healthier. Most of these countries however, cannot afford to purchase these drugs owing to their already poor economic status.

Most developing or underdeveloped countries depend on foreign investments for some economic growth. HIV/AIDS seriously undermines the efforts of these governments to attract such investments. The disease results in not only a reduction in the supply of labour, but also its quality. There is loss of skills and experience and also longer periods of absenteeism mainly due to ill-health. The result of all these factors is a slowing down of many economies. “It is estimated that in the 1990’s AIDS reduced Africa’s per capita annual growth by 0.8 per cent.” (HIV/AIDS, Implications for Poverty Reduction, page 7, June 2001)The economic effects are also felt at the micro level of businesses, as individuals may spend less on some goods.

HIV/AIDS has also help to deepen the problem of poverty among persons in some of the worst affected countries. Many persons who would normally be involved in production have to switch to being caregivers. These are often the most vulnerable in the society and from those countries that are largely agriculture base. “In Ethiopia, labour losses reduced time spent on Agriculture from 33.6 hours per week for non AIDS-affected households to between 11.6 to 16.4 hours for those affected by AIDS. In Zimbabwe, while adult death from all causes led to small farm maize outputs to fall by 45%, when AIDS was the cause of death, this increased to 61%.”

The disease affects other things such as housing tenure and employment in many of these poorer countries, resulting in persons or entire households moving from relative security to hopelessness. Zambia has been cited as one of the countries hardest hit with the situation of rapid growth in poverty. “In two thirds of families where the father died, monthly disposable income fell by more than 80 per cent.” (HIV/AIDS, Implications for Poverty Reduction, page 10, June 2001) These households despite the reduction in income still have to find money to spend on medical care and funerals. “Households are reported to spend up to 50 per cent more on funerals than on medical care in both Thailand and Tanzania.” Page 10

The rate of infection in the 15 – 49 age group has had a direct impact on the extraordinary increase in the adult and child mortality rate in some states, especially in Africa. AIDS is said to be responsible “for a quarter of the all deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa, compared to malaria that now accounts for less than one tenth.” ((HIV/AIDS, Implications for Poverty Reduction, page 7, June 2001) While death is a natural phenomenon, countries depend on births to aid population growth and ultimately development. This is severely affected by increased deaths and a reduction in the number of births. As mentioned earlier, many of these countries that are afflicted with the disease depend on Agriculture. Illness and death very often disrupts the farming cycle and puts households under pressure to not only to produce, but also to purchase food. Some persons because of illness may change their line of business. Farmers depend on livestock for such things as eggs, meat and milk. Many are forced to sell, resulting in not only a loss of assets, but also a source of manure for their crops. Shifts in agricultural production to often less quality foods, also put HIV/AIDS victims at greater risk. Their immune system becomes deficient in vital nutrients such as iron, zinc and vitamins.

Women have been identified as the most vulnerable group to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This so as they generally “have less secure employment, lower incomes, less access to formal social security, less entitlement to assets and savings and little power to negotiate sex. They are more likely to be poorly educated and have uncertain access to land, credit and education.” (HIV/AIDS, Implications for Poverty Reduction, page 11, June 2001)

No country can grow and develop where there is lawlessness and disorder. In this regard, HIV/AIDS puts many countries at risk. Where children have to grow by themselves, lacking proper parental guidance or where parents are so busy trying to keep themselves alive anarchy is likely. “A recent CIA report on the threat of HIV/AIDS to national security concluded that AIDS…will produce a huge and impoverished orphan cohort unable to cope and vulnerable to exploitation and radicalization.” (HIV/AIDS, Implications for Poverty Reduction, page 7, June 2001) The disease has made interaction at a community level less likely. Households have to be busy looking about their own welfare, hence a significantly reduced social cohesion in many affected countries.

Solutions and Responses to the Challenges
Responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic have been in the form of programmes gear toward prevention, treatment and care. Insofar as prevention is concerned, most governments have implemented a raft of strategies. These include provision of more information about the disease through education and communication campaigns, programmes to modify sexual behavior, promotion of condom use and voluntary testing. Preventing the collapse of key public services must be an imperative. The sectors of health and education are important partners in this fight, as would have been indicated based on the strategies mentioned earlier.

Reducing poverty is a goal of most LDCs. This reduction must take into consideration the realities of HIV/AIDS. The health services sector must be more accessible to these persons. Cost recovery plans should consider the plight of those afflicted by the disease who cannot afford to pay. Access to their education, especially among female students must be protected. Communities should be supported in their bid to care for households that are so affected.
Education is an investment is an old adage. Where persons are trained, but are lost to HIV/AIDS, there is very little return, if any. Ensuring that vulnerable persons spend more time in schools is crucial in the fight against the disease. “In the absence of a vaccine against HIV infection, we have at our disposal a social vaccine, the vaccine of education.” Page 17

Quantum thinking is needed if progress is to be made in those countries where HIV/AIDS has robbed schools of teachers. Retirees, community persons may all have to be called on to assist in educating the children. Schools should be safe for all children. Sexual abuse should not be tolerated and institutions such as churches should be called upon to assist where students have dropped out of school.

Since HIV/AIDS is killing the most productive persons, strategies relating to not only prevention, but also caring for those at the workplace should be implemented. Anti Retro-viral Drugs (ARVs) have become cheaper. More companies can now assist their employees in purchasing these drugs, thereby extending their productive lives.

Women are most vulnerable where HIV/AIDS is concerned. Strategies to reduce the effects on this group must be considered. Such things as access to education and training, removal of restrictions to employment will have to be part of the programme. There will have to be national policies to promote gender equity in relation to social norms and economic issues that promote the spread of the disease. The elimination of violence against women will have to be part of a national legal framework. This should speak to issues such as rape and human trafficking. They will also have to be taught the importance or how to negotiate condom use.

Clearly, without a investment in prevention and care and national support for the reduction/eradication of poverty, HIV/AIDS will continue to make development an elusive dream for many countries. Without support from all levels of society the disease will continue, to wreak havoc on households, communities and countries worldwide.

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Gender-based violence is violence directed against a person on the basis of gender or sex. While both males and females are subject to gender-based violence, women and girls are the main victims. Gender-based violence can include sexual violence, domestic violence, emotional and psychological abuse, forced prostitution, trafficking for forced labor or prostitution, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, harmful traditional practices (e.g. female genital mutilation and forced marriage), and discriminatory practices based on gender.

Domestic violence, also called “intimate partner abuse,” “battering,” or “wife-beating,” refers to physical, sexual, psychological, and economic abuse that takes place in the context of an intimate relationship, including marriage. Domestic violence is one of the most common forms of gender-based violence and is often characterized by long-term patterns of abusive behavior and control. Sexual exploitation is any abuse that takes place when a perpetrator exploits a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust for sexual purposes; this includes profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another.

Nearly one in four women around the world experiences sexual violence during her lifetime, according to the World Health Organization. Up to a third of all women have been physically assaulted by an intimate male partner. Survivors of gender-based violence often underreport their experiences because of social stigma, fears about their safety, and lack of appropriate response from institutions meant to protect them

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Years have passed and each day that unfolds before me brings with it the recognition that knowledge is indeed the greatest ice breaker of an iced up world. I say iced up because a lot of things which should have been active are being frozen for a right time. And I ask, when will the time come? To be honest, there is no such thing as right time for it never , seems to come. For every so-called ‘’right time’’ that people held on to be finally the time, it was because someone had willed for it to be called the ‘’right time’’. Someone had gone to the future ahead of time and kidnapped ‘’right time’’ which is the only child of procrastination and brought it to ‘’NOW’’ Well, for me, I realized that my own right time had come. A time where I am fully aware of the potentials within my reach, a time where I am in full control of the opportunities that come my way. It’s a fifty- fifty chance that is, whether I take the chance that opportunity throws at me or not, it doesn’t change the fact that it had once dined with me in the parlours of my youthful life. So I dare to throw open the doors of my chambers to the very stranger that I and my generations have long waited for. As I write this, I had decided to take my mind on a stroll down memory streets and in the course of my stroll, I realized that I had watched and not seen, I had heard and not listened and so I bite my lips in frustration. I know now that all these issues had always lived with me and even shared my bed without my knowledge, evil and barbarism chatted with me and even threw feasts for me, all of which I declined not. I had seen a lot of FGM, child abuse, even trafficking but because of my limited knowledge I hadn’t considered them anything worth fighting or speaking out for. It was normal especially TRAFFICKING.
Some years ago, I had come in contact with an experience; one I didn’t know would be of use to anyone not even I. I had a neighbor who had a saloon to her credit. As I recall now, the saloon was always unusually busy. Well, I know it is not unusual because a saloon is supposed to be busy and in fact if it is not busy then I guess its bad luck on the side of the owner. I call it unusual because things never used to be that way. My neighbor was just an ordinary woman who had challenges like every other person. She had a shop and seemed to be comfortably married until things took a different turn in her life and the life of her family. Her husband was sacked at his place of work and then life insisted that they switched roles and so she did. She became the bread winner of the family. She used to maintain the family with the little proceeds from her business until she realized that at the pace she was going, she was never going to cross the finish line and so she realized that she had to think of a more creative and lucrative idea that would fetch her the needed break or forever live a pitiful life. A life where her hands and the hands of her family would be tied by fate. A life where she would watch her children lack and suffer because of the decisions she had failed to make and so she set to work and began to construct something in her shop. At first, I didn’t know what to think but as time went on, it took shape and alas, a mini room had been carved out. Things got more interesting every day because she started to have more visitors and I could see that she also began to harbour some girls of different ages who were poorly dressed and had all their dresses so I guessed and all that they owned in life in a single polythene bag. Their hairs were dirty and looked malnourished and they had plaited their hairs into ugly looking braids and looked quite unattractive. I wondered who those girls were. At first I thought they were the new apprentices and now that I looked back, am sure they thought they were too! My neighbour suddenly became full of activities when her odd customers came around. She would take them to the inner chambers and after a long while, I would see her coming out, then talking one of those girls aside and try to pep them up because most of them wore sad, long faces and when she succeeded in getting their smile, she would go back inside and I guess tell them that their ‘’goods’’ were ready for shipping. Those customers would then come out and try to take a few minutes to familiarize with those girls before carrying them off. Then, what baffled me most was the fact that after these visitors left, she was always counting large amounts of money and was usually excited afterwards. She relished the money counting moments. The customers never seem to end and she worked round the clock to satisfy the needs of her customers and only went home to freshen up. In fact, I finally discovered that those girls usually slept in the shop and would have their baths in the open space behind her shop which she later covered with slabs gotten from the carpenter’s shop and whose carpentry was poorly done. They would take turns to have their baths in the small opening behind the shop as early as 4am before the real activity for the day started and before the world opened its eyes to the sun. Some mornings, it was so cold especially during the harmattans and I wondered how they coped in the early mornings. I soon realized that the times she decided to go home for the night, she would lock them all in her shop and later take a stroll to her shop at 4am to open it for them to have their baths. Before my eyes, I had seen girls being taken away while others were brought back and another customer buying them again. It was trading all day long! I never knew the fate of those girls because I knew that she was hiding them away from the eyes of the law and I never seemed to understand why. Sometimes she would her tell her hairdressing girls ‘’ make una no forget to lock this shop o! abeg no put me for mopol trouble I get family for house o!’’ she would tell them not to forget to lock the shop and that they should exercise care because she didn’t want to be caught by the police and that she had a family to cater for.
This continued for years until we moved away from that location and I wondered who those girls were. But now, I don’t wonder who they were anymore because I know who they were. They were victims. Instead, I wonder who they are and what they have become. Have they lost their identities and dreams to the selfishness of another? Or perhaps they have lost their youthful vigour in the pursuit of a freedom they do not think would be theirs. All this thing I wonder and I know that necessity is laid upon me to preach the gospel against trafficking, forced sex and human rights degradation. I realize that it starts from me and so I put down my hands first and I ask, Would we as young people put our hands on top of each other’s to form a coalition that will help push this motion and thus be proud to push forward a logo that says ‘’let’s dialogue so that we may come to a point of mutual understanding of our rights and responsibilities’’.

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by Bianca Laureano

This is a series of posts from the sexuality course I am teaching this summer. Check out the first, second and third  weeks. If you are interested in receiving some of the readings, syllabus, and workbook assignments please leave a comment with a way to contact you.

The last week of class has a series of guest speakers discussing topics that range from sex work, HIV and AIDS, sexually transmitted infections (STI) and our final class will be an evaluation of the course, turning in of the final projects (information below of those) and a conversation with author and artists Ivan Velez, Jr. regarding his book Tales of the Closet.

There are two options for the final project: either a traditional research paper on the topic of the student’s choice or rewriting a form of media to represent inclusivity, responsibility, and accountability regarding sexual health, sexuality, and reproductive justice from the student’s perspective which is accompanied by an analysis. The final post will be about our conversation with Ivan Velez, Jr., what questions folks had for him and how he responded to them and I’ll share some of the topics students chose to (re)write about. Because we spend a good amount of time discussing the final project this week’s discussion and notes are not as long as the previous ones but still include good information and highlights of our conversations!

Day 9
Sex Work

This class discussion required students to do some reading in their textbook as well as a chapter from the book Sun, Sex and Gold: Tourism and Sex Work in the Caribbean, an anthology by Kamala Kempadoo. This anthology was one of the first by Caribbean scholars discussing and addressing gender, race, class, ethnicity, im/migration, citizenship, and how it intersects with sex work in the Caribbean. They read Joan Phillips article “The Case of the Beach Boy and White Female Tourist” which focuses on a historical analysis of sex work in Barbados from colonization to present. Her article turns the stereotype that primarily women engage in sex work and men as their clients by sharing her qualitative data of Bajan men who court and partner with racially White women (mostly from Europe) who are on vacation in exchange for profit. The profit in this case may be food, shelter, alcohol, access to places only tourists and their company may enter, clothing, and sometimes money.

Students were also asked to watch the first 15 minutes of the documentary “Rent A Rasta” which discusses the same exchange Phillips discusses, however the sex tourism occurs in Jamaica. The second part of the documentary focuses on Rastafarian religion and connections to exploiting the identity of being a Rasta based on stereotypes people living abroad may have. The film is also narrated in a way that is, in my opinion, misogynistic and sexist. It is one thing to state how this is a social issue and how it is impacted and influenced by colonization, racism, classism and religious inequality versus identifying the women in the film in degrading ways. The film is a useful example for folks who “don’t believe” the Philips article is true or relevant today and a useful tool in deconstructing and being a critical media consumer.

RENT A RASTA from cinepobre.com on Vimeo.

At the beginning of this lecture I write the following terms on the board: “Sex Worker,” “Prostitute,” and “Trafficking.” I begin by asking students how they would define the term “prostitute.” I start with this term because it is the terms that out of the three, folks have a working understanding or knowledge of. Because this is an upper level course, students have very inclusive definitions for “prostitute.” Students came up with the definition of “exchanging sex/ual services for profit/shelter/food/security/clothing/etc.” Students did not come to an agreement as to if this term was only applicable to street prostitution or “high end escorts” (similar to whom government officials/politicians have been connected to). From this conversation I was able to discuss a hierarchy that exists not just in our society and community, but also within the sex work field. It is not uncommon to hear that street prostitution is the “lowest” form of sex work, being connected to ideas of class, access, race, ethnicity, documentation status, ability, gender, and age.

I then introduced the term “sex worker” as a self-identifier that many sex workers have come to use as a term to identify themselves (this is of course personal choice/preference for each individual sex worker). The term has a few points that are important to understand, especially for people who may work with this population. It is:

1. A term some use to self-identify
2. A term that challenges ideas on what work is and to recognize that sex work is a form of labor and work (i.e. working certain hours, being organized, having the tools of the trade (i.e. condoms, barrier methods, safety outlets, healthcare), professionalism, negotiation, etc.)
3. Inclusive of a range of types of work in the sex field (listed below from our conversation)
4. Recognizes that sex workers are not just their job/career. That sex workers are more than just sex workers –  they are activists, parents, writers, artists, partners, children, siblings, etc. This one identity does not describe the entire person.

I then asked students what types of work they think would be included in the term “sex work” and her is a list they came up with: video dancer, nude model, exotic dancer/”stripper,” phone operator, cyber sex, massaging, dominatrix, escort, street prostitution, and pornography.

We then discussed the difference between “sex work” and “trafficking.”  Students had heard of the term “trafficking” and I made clear that people who are trafficked are:
1. NOT consenting, but forced to engage in such work
2. Often considered kidnapped or held hostage against their will
3. May be drugged or manipulated in other abusive ways
4. May be considered missing in their homeland/location of origin
5. Are victims/survivors of a crime, as trafficking is a crime
6. Also trafficked for other types of work, such as forced labor in unsafe and unsanitary conditions

For many students it was necessary to make clear that sex workers make conscious decisions to engage in the work they are doing. Even if their options and choices are minimal, sex workers may make a choice to do that particular work. Whereas, people who are trafficked are not making a choice, that choice is being taken from them and this is an example of sexualization in a negative way from when we discussed the Circles of Sexuality.

At this time we had a guest speaker join us. She helped me co-lecture on a few additional points I wanted to make about sex work. We discussed how sex work in some forms, such as street prostitution is a crime in the US. We discussed how this is a good example of the social construction of crime: how crimes are determined by societies and thus given certain types of punishments. In the US, many argue that sex work is a “quality of life crime,” something that in NYC has a very specific history. 

I had mentioned again the three camps that emerged from the Feminist Sex Wars in the US. These included anti-pornography, anti-censorship, and pro-sex. I shared how for many folks in these spaces, they fall in the same space when it comes to sex work: anti-pornography folks may often argue that sex work and prostitution must be criminalized and remain illegal. Some ideas connected to this are that sex work harms women; it is not “good” for women, and focusing on using police resources to limit this is a good thing. Folks who identified as anti-censorship may fall in a similar space in that some people may argue that people who engage in sex work should not be targeted as criminals, especially for consenting encounters, and often make this point for folks who are over 18 years old. Pro-sex folks may argue that sex workers must be supported, provided with resources that are useful for them at that time and not centered on recruiting them out of their field (unless they indicate that they wish for that themselves). There is also a focus on de-criminalizing sex work with the idea that police resources can be used more effectively on other crimes beyond consensual sexual encounters among adults. Again, I shared that some students may find themselves falling into one of these three categories, but there are others as well, such as being in between certain categories, and that our opinions and ideas do shift and change and people have been known to be on one side of the debate and after having a particular experience or knowledge they shift to another.

I shared some data that indicates that women are arrested at higher rates for sex work when all genders go into sex work at equal rates. We discussed why the focus would be on women and some of the comments by students included:
1. gender stereotypes about women and men, masculinity and femininity
2. fear of safety
3. to curb violence
4. ideas that boys/men can protect themselves (goes back to gender stereotypes)
5. patriarchal views of women needing to be “saved” and “protected”
6. Homophobia by police (in that policemen will go undercover as clients for sex workers who are women, but will not do the same for sex workers that are men when they are expected to “uphold the law” for everyone, not just women)

I mentioned briefly the Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act in New York will provide specific services for youth who are trafficked and/or sexually exploited. This law (which was passed) in NY provides youth with services versus incarceration via the juvenile justice system. It may provide youth with social workers, shelter via foster care, and Medicaid (to name a few specifics), which are many of the resources that are already offered to youth who are considered “persons in need of supervision” (PINS).

Most of the guest speaker’s presentation focused on current experiences and laws that have been enacted in the US regarding sex work. She spoke about the “Craigslist Killer”  who was targeting women who posted ads on Craigslist and identified as escorts. A good discussion of how the media represents such crimes emerged; along with the ways women (especially women of Color, immigrant women, working class women, and women with disabilities) are portrayed by the media when they come forward regarding experiencing abuse and violence. Two NY-specific examples were shared and these include: the case of reported sexual assault by Dominique Strauss-Kahn towards a Guinean hotel worker and the two NYC police officers that were recently acquitted of raping a fashion executive who was intoxicated (the officers were convicted of police misconduct and sentenced to a year in prison). 

Our guest speaker also discussed how technology and the internet have changed the way our society views sex work and criminalizes and protects us. For example, we have not always had specific laws regarding online encounters, harassment, stalking, and violence. As our society evolves our need to examine, implement, and update our laws and protections shifts as well. The class made connections to the Phillips reading and how women are treated when they come forward regarding abuse, as the men interviewed by Phillips did not have any positive statements to make about Bajan women in their communities. They saw these as examples of gender discrimination.

Day 10

This class solely focused on HIV and AIDS in the US and worldwide, rates of infection, ways HIV is transmitted, media impact on messaging regarding HIV, and ways to live healthy if people are living positive, and how to stay HIV negative. I lectured for an hour before we were joined by two presenters from Love Heals, the Allison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education .

Students were asked to watch the entire PBS Frontline series online: The Age of AIDS.
 The documentary is extremely thorough and gives a good background to the origins and history of HIV in the US and around the world. If you too want to watch this documentary make sure to turn your pop-up blockers off as another screen is needed to view the films by chapter. They also read the article: As AIDS Turns 30, Fewer Americans Feel At Risk, which highlights how long HIV has been known to have existed in the US.

To start I asked students what new information they learned from watching the documentary The Age of AIDS. Students shared that they learned how scientists first began to understand the disease, how the disease is spread through IV drug use/syringes, the media’s role in HIV messaging, and stigma still attached to people living with HIV. I began by sharing how there are many beliefs from many different people about how HIV came to exist among us. Many students were familiar with the ideas of HIV being a government conspiracy against certain populations as a form of population control and eugenics; HIV being a curse for some past decision/experience a person made. I shared that regardless of how folks believe HIV to have arrived, it is here and it is our individual and collective job to know about it and how to prevent ourselves from contracting HIV and living healthy if we are living positive with HIV.

I shared that scientists believe, as stated in the film (part four “Scientific Breakthroughs”), that HIV is a virus that originated through hunter gathering communities (those that hunted their own food and cooked it). The belief is that some primates that were eaten had the virus and because they were consumed in ways that their meat was not completely cooked (perhaps raw) that the mucus membranes in our mouth, throat, and esophagus absorbed that virus and it mutated into a form that impacted humans in a specific way.

When HIV was first seen in the US the population that were dying were overwhelmingly gay white men. It is homophobia that lead to the first name for HIV which was GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency)  which narrowly and inaccurately gave the impression only gay men can contract the virus. US doctors and government knew that this diagnosis and label was incorrect because all over the world people with similar illnesses were arriving at hospitals and seeking treatment. Heterosexual women in Haiti who were mothers, wives, daughters; heterosexual men in Angola, men and women in Europe, of all sexual orientations were exhibiting the exact same immune deficiencies as the gay white men in the US. However, our government chose to promote a message that it only impacted certain communities by ignoring what the rest of the world was experiencing.

Shortly after an increase in the numbers of IV drug users who use syringes for drugs were found to be a community at risk and experiencing similar immune deficiencies. Thus the name GRID was no longer applicable and the term HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) emerged. I shared how the rates of HIV infection for this population have gone down dramatically. Today more than 95% of new HIV infections in the US are contracted through unprotected sexual activities. Much of the reason why IV drug users rates have declined is because of harm reduction approaches that teach users how to clean their needles, provide needle exchange programs, and support for folks in need at any given time. Even though such harm reductionists approaches have worked for that population, they have not been implemented for other groups at risk for contracting HIV in the same way.

The number of newly infected people each year includes women, women of Color, heterosexual women, and older adults. All of these people report contracting HIV through unprotected sex. We then discussed the NPR article regarding stigma. I shared that they have all lived in a world where HIV has existed, that for many of their parents and professors and older people in their lives, this is not the case; we remember times when there was never any HIV. I asked why they think people in the US do not think they are at risk for HIV infection and their reasons included: stigma, denial, ignorance, fear, stereotypes, lack of education, age, cultural beliefs, and believing it “can’t happen to them.” We discussed each in detail. For example, when discussing denial, students mentioned how choosing to be in denial about HIV and the risk of infection means that people don’t have to be prepared, or get tested, or know their options.

At this time our two guest speakers from Love Heals arrived and they provided much needed HIV 101 regarding how HIV is transmitted, what bodily fluids transmit HIV (semen, vaginal secretions, pre-ejaculatory fluid, blood, and breast milk) and which do not (sweat, saliva). Sharing a statistic that every hour two young people in the US are infected with HIV, they discussed the difference between HIV (the virus) and AIDS (the syndrome) and how in the US an AIDS diagnosis is given when a person is living with less than 200 T-cells/white blood cells. They also discussed what T-cells/white blood cells are (fighter cells in our immune system) and how they impact HIV status (HIV destroys them lowering the immune system). They also discussed modes of protection for contracting HIV (abstinence, getting tested, using barrier methods, communication, and education) and took other questions as they came up.

As Love Heals often does, they partner a health educator who provides the HIV 101 with a speaker who is living positive with HIV. Students heard the other speaker share their story of infection, which occurred during their first sexual encounter where a barrier method was not used. The speaker shared their experience discovering their status, getting tested, disclosing to family and friends, finding support, and living healthy today. There were many questions for the positive speaker, such as why they chose not to use a barrier method, how are they coping with family issues, how does this impact their dating life today, and what goals do they have in the future.

After the speakers left students shared that this was one of the best presentations they have had regarding HIV, and as a group they have seen a lot of presentations! NYC has an HIV mandate that requires public schools (and charter schools) to provide a certain amount of HIV education to students. They shared that hearing a personal account of living with HIV helped them understand and humanize the virus, they felt that the presentation was conversation, it was a discussion not a lecture where they were being talked at, but talked to, and that they were encouraged to talk to their friends and family members about HIV.

Day 11
Sexually Transmitted Infections

This session focused on all other STIs (sexually transmitted infections) which the textbook highlights in a very accessible way and includes, transmission, symptoms, and ways some STIs may be cured. An additional reading for this class was Guatemalans Sue Over US Syphilis Tests  which highlights how Guatemalans were deliberately infected with Syphilis and gonorrhea are seeking compensation.

I asked if there were any questions about HIV from last class that may have come up after class that they wanted to discuss. There were several questions! Students asked if there are laws regarding someone who does not disclose their status but has unprotected sex with someone, can the HIV positive person be prosecuted. In NY there are no laws, however in other states there are, but these laws are often focused on proving the person who is living positive had intent to infect other people. There must be an understanding of responsibility for all people involved. If a person who is HIV negative does not ask about their partner’s status, does not choose to use barrier methods, and then wants to claim their partner may have infected them, that person must take responsibility for their actions. This person chose to engage in sexual activity that was consensual, they chose not to use a barrier method, and they chose not to ask about their partners sexual health history and HIV status. This is one of the reasons communication, education, barrier methods and waiting to have sex work very well to limit HIV infection.

Other questions included how HIV positive people can give birth to HIV negative babies, how HIV can be transmitted via oral sex, and specific questions about getting tested. We had a good conversation about HIV and the connections to class and wealth. Many students know that the former NBA basketball player Magic Johnson is living positive with HIV, but they had heard he was no longer testing positive for the virus. I shared that he has a low viral load,  but he still has the virus in his body, can still transmit it to his wife, and that they probably will use barrier methods for the remainder of their marriage when they have sex. Many students believe that his viral load is low because of his wealth. We discussed this as one possibility. As someone who can afford to live in environmentally safe and healthy spaces, can eat organic and locally grown foods, and afford the newest and most effective HIV medications, he has a great advantage in comparison to folks without his status and wealth.

This great dialogue took up a majority of the time I had planned to lecture before our guest speaker arrived. I quickly listed the following STIs by categories: Viral: HIV, HPV, Herpes, Hepatitis B &C; Bacterial: Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Urinary Tract Infections; Parasites: Crabs, Scabies and Lice; Fungal: Yeast Infections (for all genders, yes people with penis’ can get yeast infections!). Although these are not all of the STIs these are some of the most common that I wanted to highlight.

For viral infections I shared how these are always with someone once they contract the virus. That some medications can help with symptoms of the virus (i.e. herpes outbreaks) but that does not mean it is a cure for the virus, it is just helping alleviate the symptoms. Bacterial infections are all curable, but they require a diagnosis, which means access to a medical provider. The first two STIs: Gonorrhea and Chlamydia are the most common not only on college campuses but also in NYC. If a person is diagnosed with either of these they can take a dosage of medication, which can be administered either orally or via a injection. This person must also share with their partner(s) who must also get tested and treated. If this does not occur re-infection is likely.

When discussing Syphilis I highlighted the reading they did for this session on Guatemalans being given this illness and connected this to the Tuskegee Experiments which monitored the affects of Syphilis on Black men in Alabama over a forty year period beginning in 1932. I shared that during this time a cure for Syphilis was discovered, but a racist and classist agenda was still being used to see how Syphilis impacted racially Black people versus racially white people. This experiment is one reason why we have informed consent for medical and health practices. It may also be one of the reasons some communities have difficulty trusting medical providers and professionals.

We spoke about crabs briefly, and I shared how this is also a curable STI and some symptoms include intense itching, redness and sometimes a rash for some people. The treatment may include foam for the pubic hair to be washed and an oral pill as well. There were questions about if urinary tract infections can be transmitted to a partner and if herbal remedies can cure some of the fungal issues. I shared that some folks believe that drinking 100% pure cranberry juice (not the name brand stuff with tons of sugar), eating yogurt, and drinking some forms of tea do help in curbing some illnesses like yeast and tract infections. However, it is likely that if a person goes to a Western medical doctor, the doctor will most likely encourage the patient to use medication and then go about preventative measures after using the medication and healing.

Our guest speaker for this hour joined us. Pattie Murillo-Casa is the NYC Chapter President of Tamika and Friends, Inc. a national organization that has a focus to eliminate cervical cancer through HPV education. Pattie is a survivor of cervical cancer, which she was diagnosed with 3 years ago. She is a NYer and a retired NY police officer. She shared her personal story of being diagnosed with the HPV strain that causes cervical cancer, her chemotherapy and radiation treatments, healing, coping, and her marriage to her husband.

Patti wanted all the students to know that cervical cancer is preventable! She went through how HPV is transmitted (via skin to skin contact) and that just because someone has an HPV diagnosis does NOT mean they are promiscuous as HPV can remain dormant in the body for 10-15 years after exposure. She shared the four strains we know lead to genital warts (9 & 10) and the ones that lead to cervical cancer (16 & 18) as being considered “high risk” out of the hundreds of HPV strains. Patti made it clear that HPV is something that all sexually active people may come into contact with and compared it to the common cold. Just as our bodies and immune system can heal itself from a cold, our bodies may do the same with other strains of HPV.

Currently, there is only an HPV test for women and people with vulvas, even though men and people with penis’ are carriers as well. She discussed the two vaccines that are available for young men and women. The most popular being Gardasil www.gardasil.com which helps protect against the four strains above and has been approved for all genders ages 9-26. She also discussed Cervarix  which only focuses on strains 16 & 18 so it is only for people with vulvas and cervix. She also discussed that the vaccines are controversial as are all vaccines and it is a conversation to have with a medical provider before deciding to obtain the vaccine.

She spent some time talking about how HPV can lead to cancers that impact men and people with penis’ because penile and throat cancer are caused by strains of HPV. Patti spoke about how historically throat cancer was linked to smoking, but today we are seeing a link to HPV infection. She used the actor Michael Douglass as an example of a throat cancer survivor and that throat cancer is on the rise due to HPV infection in the throat linked to oral sex. She also shared a folder of information on how to talk to a medical provider about HPV and requesting an HPV test (they are different from pap smears as they are an additional test with samples from the cervix). Also included were resources for young people living with cancer.

Questions from the class regarding HPV were great! Students wanted to know that if HPV was passed via skin-to-skin contact could it be passed through kissing. Patti answered that at this time there is little research that indicates that but more research is being done to give us better insight. Other questions focused on ideas of being “intimate” while limiting potential HPV infection. Patti and I shared that depending on how people define abstinence, for some it may mean no penetrative intercourse, but activities such as showering together, nude cuddling, body massage near/on genitals, or rubbing of the genitals against one another may be forms of intimacy that some folks consider forms of abstinence as well, but the risk for HPV is still present.

As is the usual Tamika & Friends, Inc, way, Patti had a raffle of items for the students and one was randomly selected and given a bag of goodies that included a water bottle, jewelry, and the Pearl of Wisdom.  All other students received small gift bags of the cervical cancer rubber bracelet, buttons and pens. It was a great way to end a class about illness and symptoms. I think students learned a lot from Patti’s personal story and the information she gave them about HPV.

Patti’s goal is to reach as many NYers as possible and educate the on HPV. If you would like to have Pattie visit your community, classroom, or organization you may contact her via the Tamika & Friends, Inc. website. She is currently preparing and planning for the Walk for Cervical Cancer in NY on September 17 2011. To register for the walk or learn more about it visit the website.

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This post is part of the World Population Week blogathon.

India’s dichotomous nature is visible in all aspects of its economic, social and political growth. India is rapidly developing into an economic super-power, yet its development is not well rounded. This is reflected in the status of women in the Indian society. A 21st century Indian girl is smart, educated and equal, yet this picture represents a very small percentage of the Indian female population. Women leaders may be ruling the roost, directly or indirectly, the women’s reservation bill may see the light of the day soon, prestigious national and state level exams may be cracked by female candidates; yet these developments have failed to transform India into a country which is perceived as a safe birth place for a girl child or a haven for a woman.

A global survey released by TrustLaw, a Thomson Reuters Foundation service in June, states that India is the world’s fourth most dangerous country for someone to be born as a woman (http://www.trust.org/trustlaw/news/special-coverage-the-worlds-most-dangerous-countries-for-women/). 100 million Indian women and girls are estimated to be involved in trafficking, while 50 million girls are called ‘missing’ over the past century due to female infanticide and foeticide. These findings were preceded by reports of a growing number of affluent, educated and fertile Indians going to foreign destinations where doctors use a method which involves producing embryos through IVF and implanting only those of the desired gender (male) into the womb (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis-PGD).

An even more shocking scenario which was highlighted by a report published by Hindustan Times in the last week of June, describing how genitoplasty (surgery to make female genitals appear male) was being performed on hundreds of girls, including some who were as young as one, every day on the instructions of wealthy parents from Delhi and Mumbai – despite the warning that the “converted boy” would be infertile. Indian laws prohibit sex determination tests during pregnancy so as to help stamp out the practice of women aborting female foetuses, but procedures like these side step such legal issues. These procedures sacrifice the rights of a child who is barely old enough to speak to choose her own gender, underscoring that girls/women face very pronounced dangers and discrimination that starts before birth.

Abortion of female foetuses, violence and neglect exerted against girls because of dowries and discrimination against women are internationally recognised as a human rights violation which can cause severe physical and psychological damage and even death.

There is a lack of political will, money and human resources for gender policies and laws. Hopefully these new reports will act as alarm bells for waking the government, people and the civil society, such that they double their efforts in standing up for women’s rights and supporting policies which empower women rather than disenfranchising them.

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US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday honoured Nepali anti-trafficking hero, Charimaya Tamang, with the 2011 Hero Acting to End Modern-Day Slavery Award. Tamang was honoured during the release of 2011 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report at the State Department in Washington. Born into a poor family, made poorer by the death of her father, Charimaya was 16 years old when she was trafficked to India. She spent 22 months in a brothel before the Indian government rescued her along with over 200 other Nepali women in 1996. Upon her return to Nepal, Tamang was ostracised by her community.

However, she filed a case against her traffickers, becoming the first person to file personally a trafficking case at the district police. In 1997, the District Court—in a landmark decision—convicted and sentenced eight offenders involved in her case. Later in 2000, Tamang and 15 other survivors established Shakti Samuha, an anti-trafficking NGO. In that role, Tamang raised the importance of including survivors in each district-level working group. There are now five trafficking survivors serving as members at the district-level committees around the country. Releasing the report, Secretary of State Clinton recognized ten TIP Heroes from around the world for their efforts in combating human trafficking. Stating that Nepal has improved anti-human trafficking efforts despite limited resources, the report pointed out the need to fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

“While the Government of Nepal established the Central Crime Investigation Bureau’s special unit to investigate trafficking and increased its direct financial support for protection services in Nepal and abroad, the lack of proactive victim identification was cited in the report as a persistent serious problem,” read a statement released by the US Embassy here.
The report recommended that the government improve anti-trafficking efforts. The recommendations include increased law enforcement against all kinds of trafficking, establishment of a formal procedure to identify victims and promotion of legal awareness programme among potential victims and government officials. The US government has been supporting various initiatives to combat human trafficking in Nepal.

These initiatives, among others, include a five-year project funded by USAID to strengthen protection services for TIP survivors, capacity building of the judiciary and law enforcement agencies and awareness programmes among groups that are vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking.

Posted on: 2011-06-29 08:470 in The Kathmandu Post

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Each week, I’ll be posting a list of the most news-worthy and/or inspirational, informative, well-written, thought-provoking, and/or unique posts of the week. While every post and every contributor is valuable to our community, these are the blogs that I feel are must-reads.

May 22- May 28

Stats for this week: 66 posts by 28 writers

Cruelty Beyond Measure: The North Carolina Anti-Abortion Bill’s 21 Tactics for Terrorizing Women- by AFY_Nikki

Inside this post;

The bill…stipulates no fewer than 21 government-imposed obstacles that women, their families, and their doctors must confront before said women are considered "informed" enough to receive abortion care.

Religious Ideology, Poverty, and Sex Slavery- by dandaman6007

Dan talks about involuntary sex trafficking out of Nigeria, and explains the connection between poverty and religion that keeps this practice thriving.

The Precedent of Silence- by Bkemp93

Inside this post:

Learn how Tennessee’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill contributes to LGBTQ youth being ostracized and how the “tyranny of silence” reaches beyond schools.

Response to “Who Runs the World (Girls)” song and video- by ashthom

Inside this post:

Ashley shares a video that explains why Beyonce’s new song is an absolute lie.

New Campaign: “The Time Is Now: Climate Change and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights- by Liz

Inside this post:

Liz introduces us to the new campaign from Advocates for Youth called “The Time is Now,” and explains the connection between climate change and youth SRHR issues. If you’ve wondered about the intersection of these issues before, this will help answer some of your questions.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

My posts for this week:
Kansas state rep compares getting raped to getting a flat tire
Lt. Dan Choi beaten and arrested at Moscow Pride

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Social mobilization is a major part of all activities taken up by Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation, which aims at creating a major thrust to solve problems of individuals, families or concerning social magnitude by promoting participation of all possible sectors and civil society, mobilization of local resources, use of indigenous knowledge and enhancement of people’s creativity and productivity through mass campaign. The concept has an extreme positive significance where a real change could be initiated by orchestrating joint efforts against the alarming health & education situation. To face the serious alarming scenario in health, education and some other areas, Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation realized that the standard of living could be raised through an overall improvement of socio-economic and demographic conditions by undertaking an integrated social mobilization program with components of information (providing), health and basic education as the major components.

To promote and improve the socio-economic status and demographic conditions, promotional activities have been facilitated in the intervention areas through different forums. Young men in impoverished communities have many needs. Sometimes the only means of income available involves strenuous manual labor, low job security and little or no control over working conditions. Though such type of work may not have a risk of HIV infection in itself, but can lead to intense frustration. The lack of personal satisfaction may turn into adopting escapist behaviors like excessive drinking, taking drugs or sexual association with prostitutes/sex workers and so on. Therefore, the youth groups of the society fall easy victims to HIV infection. With this understanding, Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation promotes sex education targeting the vulnerable youths and women through different communication materials and thought provoking activities.

Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation believes that the focus on HIV/AIDS and other general & reproductive health issues must be expanded to the youth groups. But it has been observed that resources and attention are limited to protect young women from falling victims to HIV infection. This point is correlated with women’s rights and reproductive health. Before adopting any approach for preventing HIV/AIDS, it should be acknowledged that young women are far more vulnerable than young men in this regard. Therefore, initiatives have been taken for raising awareness and highlighting the means those perpetuate the power relations in different societies and cultures to exploit the disadvantaged women at all levels. The endeavors are still being put in to eradicate the violence against women.

It should be admitted that still the women in our country have less opportunity, lower status and less access to any skill development training and resources and hence perpetuate their lower socio-economic status. The women are the main sufferers of trafficking, victims of sexual violence and pervasive illiteracy. Their representation in different forums is insignificant which also leads to a weak voice from them when it comes to decision-making.

All these facts and findings urged Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation to empower women and to prevent and control HIV/AIDS. We provide services to women vulnerable to HIV infection, especially those aged 15-40 years. This includes women working as low-paid industrial or house workers and women living in slum areas. Services include Behavior Change Communication strategies on HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, condom promotion, referral to reproductive health services, advocacy to local officials and agencies and; linkages with other development and HIV prevention activities. Now these women are becoming aware of these sensitive issues and trying to protect themselves from being forced against any sort of sexual violence or any chance afflicted with HIV/AIDS. They also have started taking up their own responsibilities and their own choices for their lives.

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Bangladeshi girls and women are trafficked to India in maximum number by the several district of Bangladesh such as Kustia, Jessore, Rajshahnd even from other districts. As this country is one of the victim countries for internationally trafficked persons primarily women, girls and children. Trafficking in young women and children are matter of great concern all over the world. Several thousand women and girls are trafficked annually from Bangladesh for the purpose of sexual exploitation, primarily to India, Pakistan, and the Middle East. Most trafficking girls and women are sexually abused; often they also experience other forms of physical and psychological brutality. They are in high risk of being infected with STD’s including HIV/AIDS and they are by the surrounding society seen upon as unchaste and lowest ranked group in the society. One of our surveys at Goalondo brothel under Rajbari district in Bangladesh found out that almost 53% of sex workers enter the profession before the age of 20 years, and 30% do so between 20 to 25 years of age, and some of them get into this profession through deceptions of the traffickers. Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation started Anti Trafficking movement on 2006. In this long run, we have been able to bring in several organizations in Anti-trafficking movements, through our comprehensive training.

Bangladesh is one of them victim countries for international trafficking, primarily the women, girls and children. Several thousand women and girls are trafficked annually from Bangladesh for the purpose of sexual exploitation, primarily to India, Pakistan, and the Middle East. Most trafficking girls and women are sexually abused; often they also experience other forms of physical and psychological violence. They are in high risk of becoming infected with STD’s including HIV/AIDS and they are by the surrounding society seen upon as non-pure and considered among the lowest ranked in the society.

Alongside extreme limit of poverty, gender inequality plays a vital role too behind all these; also frustration and risky behavior cause a major damage behind the scene. The link between poverty and gender inequality helps the decline of the socio-economic progress. This link creates several anti-social and fatal issues too; such as, trafficking for prostitution, selling of sex for livelihood, breaking down of family norms to create frustration and driven drug point etc.

It is not just the problem of girls; even little boys and women are victimized to trafficking to countries like India. They are trafficked even within Bangladesh, often from the villages to the major metropolis areas with the promise of work opportunity and a better life. These little boys and girls are then forcefully involved in physical labor at rich households, child labor, pick pocketing, illegal drug selling, criminal activities, thieving, commercial sexual selling and many other unfair jobs etc. India is one of the major markets for trafficking as people from most of the countries are trafficked here. Bangladesh is a big market where from these victims are trafficked.

Bangladeshi girls and women are trafficked to India in maximum number from these districts of Bangladesh- Kushtia, Jessore, Rajshahi and also from other districts. India shares 4,222 kilometers of border with 28 districts of Bangladesh, most of which are open with rivers running across. So, Bangladeshi trafficking groups have been able to build up powerful bases in the border districts of India in West Bengal and Assam, to the north and west, and these have now become favorite transit points of trafficked women.

One of our surveys at Goalondo brothel under Rajbari district in Bangladesh, it has been found out that almost 53% of sex workers enter the profession before the age of 20 years, and 30% do so between 20 to 25 years of age, and some of them get into this profession through deceptions of the traffickers. Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation started Anti Trafficking movement on 2006. In this long run, we have been able to include ten organizations in these activities. By mid 2007, our team of experts trained Anti-trafficking actions among some NGOs working in the border areas.

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Bangladesh consists in the most traditional background that gender discrimination is common feature, less job opportunity; economic dependency and abuse of women’s right and illicit trafficking of girls and women are major reasons leading to increase discrimination against women. Women are disproportional infected with HIV/AIDS for biological, social and economical reasons. Adolescent’s girls are much more oppressed. The low social status women in many poor countries encourage gender discrimination, domestic and sexual violence and psychological abuse. In Bangladesh, women constitute almost half the total population (48.5%), 85% of them live in the rural areas and are usually kept apart from men other than their family. Here the men dominate women in both rural and urban areas, regardless of their class identity. Gender awareness and women’s legal right activities under Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation are initiated with the objectives of increasing social awareness on gender related issues and to extend the legal supports to its target beneficiaries to establish women’s legal rights for eliminating all types of discrimination against women. The economic, gender discrimination, social and physical right imbalance between men and women contribute to the luck of safety in sexual relationships and the difficulty for many women in negotiating safer sex. The right differentiates between men and women. Compounded by age differences, subordination in education, employment, social and legal status makes women more vulnerable to any infections. Women who have limited access to financial resources are more likely to become economically dependent on men, relegated to the subsistence sectors or forces into commercial sex works.

The objective of this project is to establish gender equality, women human rights and local level good governance involving local people. They were imparted series orientation and training to work on the 6 issues: Increase Birth Registration, Increase Marriage Registration, Protect Early Marriage, Protect Violence against Women, Reduce Family Violence, Increase Women Participation in decision making process. All these activities contributed to women empowerment and protection family violence and violence against women as a whole.

Good governance is necessary to keep balance in gender equality, rights, health and nutrition etc. if it is possible to scale all women and men with same consideration then it must be possible to eradicate the gender discrimination from our society. Imbalance attitude towards women must lower their latin skill to bloom. So it is necessary to have good governess in every sector. We have to look and keep consideration on women legal rights; they should not be deprived from the advantages that come out from our society, country and from the world. So we should maintain good governess to keep balance status of a nation.

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Nigerian sex traffickers lure young girls (ages 12-18) into sex slavery in Europe. There are over 100,000 Nigerians in the sex trade in Europe, mainly in Italy and England. Around 80% come from Edo, a southern state that is home to only three percent of Nigeria’s population. It is the trafficking capital of Africa, and home of the traditional West African religion known as Juju. (Modern Ghanha)

While sex workers face struggles for power and rights when their work is voluntary, the struggles are even more heartbreaking when women are forced into the work. It is normal for trafficked women and girls to have sex with 10 or 12 men a day. They must work even when they feel ill, are on their period, or have been beaten and severely injured by their clients. Women involved in the sex trade have a very high risk of contracting HIV, and face stigmatization for their positive status upon returning home.

Why do girls end up in these tragic situations? Some suggest for purely economic reasons: they are promised a lot of money, and sometimes a girl’s family or even boyfriend or husband will encourage her to work in the sex trade in Europe for several years. They will expect her to return home with a large sum of money.

However, some reasons transcend the purely economic.

Nigerian traffickers often approach girls from families with little education and economic means, and promise her transportation to and work opportunities in Europe. And to make sure that she doesn’t bail on their plan once she realizes what she will be forced to do, they make her take an oath based on traditional “Juju” practices:

“The girl is taken to a shrine or a cemetery in the middle of the night, her finger nails are cut off, her pubic hair is shaved, a menstrual pad containing her blood is taken away, and then a piece of her clothing is removed," said Orakwue Arinze, a spokesman for the Nigerian National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP)
"These are deposited in a shrine with wicked incantations that this girl should die and her family be wiped out in the event that she runs away or [exposes] these criminal practices," he added.” (BBC)

So how large scale is this horrific abuse of human rights? An estimated 20,000 to 40,000 women are trafficked into sex slavery from Nigeria each year. Worldwide, the U.S. Congressional Research Service estimates that every year two million people are trafficked against their will to work in some form of servitude. Annually, about 50,000 women and girls are trafficked into the United States alone. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that trafficking in human beings is a $5 to $7 billion industry worldwide (American University).

As the global community tries to find a solution, we must recognize that poverty and sex trafficking for hand in hand. In order to combat sex slavery, we need to combat global poverty aggressively.

"Trafficking is inextricably linked to poverty. Wherever privation and economic hardship prevail, there will be those destitute and desperate enough to enter into the fraudulent employment schemes that are the most common intake systems in the world of trafficking.” -USAID Office of Women in Development

Globalization and income disparity between the wealthy and the poor have huge costs, especially to these vulnerable women. Working to reduce poverty in developing nations is crucial to combatting sex slavery. Helping and fully funding developing countries’ educational programs should be a high priority for the international community. This type of funding helps young girls can stay in school longer and escape being preyed upon. But, like any business, sex work and forced sex trafficking will only continue if there are clients willing to pay for it. It is as much the westerner’s fault for paying for sex with these abused women, as it is the Nigerian traffickers who bring them to Europe.
It is important to look past the data and understand that these trafficking victims are real people:

Rachel was living in Benin City with her sister when she was approached by a man who asked if she would like to go abroad and earn money. After a long and roundabout route she arrived in Rome, where she met her pimp, named "Madam Agnes." She was shocked to learn that she was expected to earn $50,000 dollars from prostitution, or be denounced to the police as an illegal immigrant. At the going rate that would have meant sex with several partners a day for three years.

Rachel tried to escape, but to no avail. After three weeks on the streets, a client drove her to the patch of empty ground. After having sex with Rachel in his car, he told her to hand over all of her earnings from the day. She kept her earnings in a sock and gave him an empty purse. He started to curse and hit her, whereupon she managed to open the door and start running. He started the car and drove it right at her, knocking her down. Luckily he then drove off, because as she knows only too well, she could have been killed. Covered in blood and crying, Rachel then walked back to the corner where she worked. In retrospect, it seems amazing that she returned. It shows how totally cowed she had been by her experience and by the fearsome Madam Agnes.

Rachel was rescued by a group of modern Samaritans from the Catholic group Caritas, who patrol the streets of Rome every Wednesday in an attempt to check up on the prostitutes. They quickly realized that Rachel was sick and asked her to go to a hospital with them. At first Rachel refused: "I thought I would not be able to afford treatment." They insisted gently and told her that the treatment would be free. Even ensconced in a hospital bed, Rachel was reluctant to sleep, afraid of how Madam would react. The staff carried out medical tests, which presumably included a test for sexually transmitted diseases and even HIV-AIDS.

Rachel’s five days in the hospital finally broke the grip of Madam Agnes. The Caritas group asked if Rachel wanted to return to Nigeria and offered to help. She was taken to a convent in Rome, where she stayed for several days with two other girls. She then went to the Nigerian embassy in Rome and to the office of the International Organization of Migration, to collect the necessary documents and ticket. In one final act of pure malice, Madam Agnes had phoned Rachel’s family after she had escaped and told them that she had been killed. When Rachel returned home, alive and well, they were overjoyed. They were also bitterly angry-so angry, in fact, that they went in person to confront the brother of Agnes. He was living in Benin City and had arranged for the departure of their child two months earlier.

Rachel’s story rings true for most Nigerians, and it is only one of thousands of stories just like it that radiate from all over the world. (via http://www1.american.edu/ted/italian-trafficking.htm)

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A Picture of Girls’ Health in Nepal

Nepal; a developing country has been doing a lot of progress in meeting health care needs of population and the millennium development goals. But despite the vigorous effort and lot of expenditure of money from national and international sources, the adolescent and youth health status in Nepal is undoubtedly poor. It is a common fact that youth and adolescent health status especially that of girls is mostly ignored in front of huge problems of maternal and neonatal health problems in developing country.
That is a typical picture of girl’s population in Nepal. Girls Population in Nepal consist 49% of the total child population. The Literacy rate among the girls is 42.8% as compared to 65% in the boys. In Nepal, primary school going girls is 74% compared to 86% with the boys. The child marriage practices is rampant in Nepal, 21% of total marriages in Nepal is held with girls below 16 years and 7% of child marriages are held with children below 10 years; 41% of girls give birth to a child before the age of 19.
Girls bear the heaviest burden of work in home, most of the household chores and child rearing activities are the responsibility of girls. Girls aged between 10-14 works double as compared to boys in the same age group. In Nepal, 26 lakh (10 lakh=1 million) children are working in different fields of labor. Among this, 56% are reported to be girls.
Girls trafficking form Nepal to different adjacent cities of India and even in the cities of country has been growing especially from rural districts of Nepal. Girls are trafficked for different purposes including sex trade, domestic work, and marriage, carpet weaving and for forced beggary. About 20% (i.e. 40,000) of the total trafficked women for sex trade are girls below 16 years. Around 12,000 girl children are trafficked in a year. Almost 60% of survivors of child sex abuse and rape are girls below 18 years. Most of them are abused either at home, educational institution, work place or any given place. They are insecure in all these places.
Living standard survey of Nepal has revealed that 31% of Nepalese population is below the poverty line. The burden of poverty is especially heavier in girls and women. Malnutrition in Nepal is 56.2% in which the state of girls is more vulnerable than boys. Biologically boys are vulnerable to diseases but because of the societal behavior, girls tend to be vulnerable. Because of decade long conflicts and associated problems of poverty and ignorance, the problem of street children is growing especially in cities and towns. Out of total 5000 street children in Nepal around 5% are girls.
The stereotypical male roles and patriarchal societal structure, discrimination of girls is rampant in every sector of society including education, economy, health care and work wage. Women and girls are regarded as "untouchable during menstrual period. In some parts of far western Nepal, they are not even allowed to stay inside home and forced to stay outside, mostly in the cattle house. Despite legal prohibition, sexual exploitation of girls in the form of traditional and religious customs, such as Deuki, Badi, Jhuma still exists in Nepal.
Armed Conflict In past 12 years, 475 children have died due to internal armed conflict. Among them 139 are girls. In the course of armed conflict many incidences of sexual abuse of girls has been made public. Similarly, many children including girls have been displaced to city areas and are involved in exploitative labor sectors.
After the peace process, the consequent interim constitution of Nepal has been drafted with health right of people as fundamental rights. The free health care services have become a boon for the poor and needy proportion of population to enjoy the health rights. Among them girls has benefited a lot, but still because of the structure of health setting and lack of skill in health care providers in providing health care services, girls feel shy and uncomfortable in reaching and getting health services.So there has to be done serious exercise in policy, organizational and functional level to make the health care services girls friendly and society conducive to women’s health in all sense.

References: UNICEF, Central Bureau of Statistics, CWIN National Recourse Centre

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The first workshop I attended during last weekend’s Civil Liberties and Public Policy Conference was called Sex Work and Feminism. It began with an exercise led by Jenna Mellor and Meredith Zoltick of HIPS (Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive) in D.C. They asked us to clear our minds, and then read a list of statements about sex work and sex workers and asked us to rate the truth of the statement on a scale of 1-5, 1 being “no way” and 5 being “right on.” The statements included things like, “It is riskier to have sex with a prostitute than it is to have sex with someone else,” and “All pimps are abusive.” We then had a short discussion about which statements stood out to us, which ones were clear 1s or 5s, and what assumptions or judgments about sex work we had that influenced how we felt about these statements.

As Jenna and Meredith explained, when talking about sex work or the sex trade, it’s so important to check at the door any presumptions we may have. It is better to have an open mind and learn from people with experience or from your own experience as you gain it.

The three panelists spoke next. They were Deon Haywood, Executive Director of Women With a Vision in New Orleans, and Shira Hassan and C. Angel Torres with the Young Women’s Empowerment Project in Chicago.

Deon spoke about their ongoing lawsuit against Governor Bobby Jindal and the state of Louisana about the unfair “Crime Against Nature” statute that, as enforced, discriminates against gay men and women of color. In February of this year, Deon’s organization, along with lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights, filed a federal civil rights complaint in the United States District Court Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights:

The Crime Against Nature statue harshly punishes individuals who offer or agree to have oral or anal sex- acts historically associated with homosexuality- for money by requiring them to register as a sex offender upon conviction.

This is the only instance in which an offense that does not involve children, the use of force, violence, a weapon, or lack of consent requires registration.

They call this statute a modern day Scarlett Letter and say that the state must change its out-dated law.

The lawsuit alleges that being forced to register as a sex offender because of a Crime Against Nature…serves no legitimate purpose whatsoever. As such, it is unjustifiable and unconstitutional. CCR further contends that the only reason our clients are registered sex offenders is that they were convicted under the provisions of a 200-year-old statute that condemns non-procreative sex acts and sex acts traditionally associated with homosexuality, solely on grounds of moral disapproval.

Shira and Angel spoke next, about their work with the Young Women’s Empowerment Project.

Our mission as the Young Women’s Empowerment Project is to offer safe, respectful, free-of-judgment spaces for girls and young women impacted by the sex trade and street economies to recognize their goals, dreams and desires. We are run by girls and women with life experience in the sex trade and street economies. We are a youth leadership organization grounded in harm reduction and social justice organizing by and for girls and young women (ages 12-23) impacted by the sex trade and street economies.

What is also really impressive and cool about YWEP is the youth-led training and outreach programs, where the girls are paid for their work. These include projects like Girls in Charge (a leadership group that organizes workshops and fundraisers), peer education and outreach (a 40-hour training course “designed to be interactive and builds on the knowledge the girls already possess), and popular education and skill building.

Our workshops on the sex trade with girls offer practical information like on myths and realities but mostly we are engaged in a process with young people across the city to question why the sex trade exists, why girls are involved and what can be done about it?

This workshop also made me think more about the difference between the terms sex trafficking, sex trade, and sex work, but I’ll save that for another post! I think that this topic is a lot more complex and three-dimensional than most people paint it. I understand and accept that there are abusive and harmful aspects involved, but I’m not willing to stereotype an entire population. There are many stories in the sex trade, and each one is different. It’s important to listen to the people involved and value what they are saying and what they want and need, and remember that it’s their sex life, not ours.

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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As a rule, I am not a fan of beauty pageants. I believe that each person has their own natural, essential beauty that they show as individuals. It is unique to them because it is more than just their physical appearance- it is their personality, their style, their vibe.

You may have met someone who looked attractive at first, but then after talking with them and finding them to be rude or disrespectful, they suddenly didn’t seem as attractive anymore. Or, maybe you met someone who is mildly attractive, but as you got to know them over time, you started to notice things about them that you found very attractive. Basically, what makes someone wonderful or terrible or inconsequential is not how they look- it’s how they make you feel.

How we judge a person’s worth, our measure of “Yes, I think you’re totally awesome,” can’t be dependent on how that person looks. Their physical appearance has nothing to do with how cool they actually are. Whether we should or should not want to spend time in their presence really does depend more one how we judge who they are, how they feel, how they make us feel- not how they look.

But beauty pageants tell us that value and worth are judged by physical appearance alone. They send the message that what’s “totally awesome” about you isn’t the fact that you want to be a surgeon or you can name all 44 Presidents or you started a GSA at your school that organized a lobby visit to your state representative’s office- whatever you did or whatever you plan to do, all that the judges are judging your worth as an awesome, kick-ass human being on is how good you look in a bikini. I mean, my god, are you serious?!? There are way better reasons to like a person.

Beauty pageants tell people (which often include very young children) that their most important or valuable quality, or the only quality that matters, is how they look, and I think that’s incredibly damaging. People can become so focused on their outside appearance so much so that they loose sight of the parts inside them that, when nourished and expressed, are what would make them truly beautiful.

What really matters to their peers, to the people they interact with on a daily basis, from friends to classmates to teachers to coworkers, to the people they will form romantic relationships with, is not how many inches around their waist is or how shiny their hair is. Your friend is beautiful when they smile and when they hold your hand and when they stand up to a bully and when they get up on stage, even though they’re nervous, and sing or dance (or whatever talent your friend has) or when they tell you that no matter what they’re going to be there for you. That’s when your friend is beautiful.

Okay, now how the heck do Siberian women’s prisons fit into this?

Actually, technically, it’s not Siberian women’s prisons, plural, it’s just one: UF-91/9 in Novosibirsk, Siberia. Since 1990, they have held an annual beauty pageant. Inmates participate in three categories: imaginary uniforms, Greek goddess costumes, and flower gowns. They are judged by a panel of guards and administrative personnel. The winner is crowned Miss Spring, and the runners up receive the title of Miss Charm and Miss Grace.

I kid you not. The whole thing is supposed to improve morale, give them an opportunity to reconnect with their femininity, and be a chance to show some “good behavior” when they go before the parole board.

How do I know this? Well, I was asked to review a film about it! In 2006, producers Irina Vodar and Raphaela Neihausen and director Maria Yatskova decided that a beauty pageant in a Siberian women’s prison would make captivating material for a film. “Miss Gulag” was the result. It premiered at the 57th Berlin International Film Festival. It follows the stories of three women: Yulia (in the middle of serving 4 years for drug trafficking), Tatiana (up for parole, after 7 years, for armed robbery), and Natasha (who was recently released after 14 years for armed assault).

Here is the trailer:

So how do these worlds combine? And what does it mean when they do? Does putting on a beauty pageant every year help the women of UF- 91/9? Do you think if the men at the male prisons put on a show they would feel better about themselves? Participation in the pageant seems to help some of the women display good behavior so they can get shorter sentences, and I’m sure some of the women enjoy being able to put on colorful clothes and makeup and doing their hair- I’m sure for some of them it’s a welcome and exciting change from the way things usually are. But is a beauty pageant what these women really need?

These women are facing serious issues, and the administration’s response was: “Let’s slap on some makeup and wrap ‘em in dresses! That’ll make those gals feel like they’re supposed to!”

Are you kidding?! Just because they’re women doesn’t mean they need lipstick and heels to feel like normal, functioning persons. They’re in UF- 91/9 because something went wrong. Maybe you should find out what that is before you help her pick out which flower she wants to base her pageant gown off of.

The “Miss Gulag” film does not address this issue, and I wish it had. It tells the stories of these three women, including how each found herself at UF- 91/9, and that really opens your eyes to the humanity of these women. It really makes you understand where they’re coming from and sympathize for them, and see them as more than just “inmates” or “prisoners.” They are people whose lives have taken unfortunate turns. Is a beauty pageant really the “shove in the right direction” that they need?

Look, I can understand where it wasn’t the filmmakers’ place to judge the beauty pageant themselves, but the women were never asked about it. The merits of holding the pageant never came up. Did no one wonder about this? I get that the point of the film wasn’t to analyze how effective the pageant was at boosting morale, but if the reason your film crew is there is because there is a beauty pageant going on in an unusual place, shouldn’t you maybe ask the women participating what it feels like for them?

“Miss Gulag” as a film is more about the struggles of women in post-Soviet Russia than it is about beauty pageants. I wish it had been more critical of the ideals/standards/implications of pageantry , but in all honesty, if you were going to make a film about these women, wouldn’t you focus more on their individual struggles and their relationships with their families, rather than asking them if wearing a tulip dress makes them feel like a “real woman”?

I’m glad that I saw this film because it opened my eyes to complex situations and circumstances that surround the lives of people who find themselves in prison. I was surprised, because I expected some interesting commentary on standards of beauty, expressions of style and personality, and how a community of women were finding ways to redefine or reinvent ideas of beauty and femininity for women who are generally thought of as being unfeminine, or being in an environment where the common gendered expression of femininity is so suppressed.

Instead, I witnessed something quite different. But I learned something too. I enjoyed catching a glimpse into the lives of women whose lives, opportunities, and outlooks are so different than mine. Yet, in listening to their stories, it was interesting to search for the pieces I related to- the things inside of those women that made them more than just “inmates” and “prisoners”- the pieces inside them that, take my word for it from having seen the movie, were visible to the audience not during the pageant scenes, but during the personal interviews.

I do recognize that the women of UF- 91/9, being in prison, are in a different environment than most people participating in pageants, and for them, it’s probably more about having a break from their monotonous routine than it is about being judged on their looks, so I can’t in good conscience want to deny them something that may bring a little color to their lives, but I do wish we could find a way of expanding the definition of what it feels like to “be a woman” to more than what we see in beauty pageants.

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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Last week my colleague Emily wrote about some far-right activists’ stupid and illogical "expose videos" of Planned Parenthood.

Much of the news media have focused on the shamelessly false gotcha tactics of Lila Rose and Live Action Films, the fundamenalist outfit that recorded and released these videos. In a way, though, this is unfortunate, since the real focus should be on this group’s complete, deep-rooted hate for women’s health and rights.

If you haven’t already, check out RH Reality Check Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson’s commentary on this story (I’ve included it below), which underlines the important point about these videos: they simply show Planned Parenthood clinic workers following the protocols and ethic of care that they’ve always followed.

By Jodi Jacobson
Editor-in-Chief, RH Reality Check

(Originally published here.)

Lila Rose and Live Action Films have released a second video in their promised expose of Planned Parenthood.

And the only thing shocking about this video is that Rose and her cohorts think there is something shocking about it.

It exposes…..wait for it……a health care worker providing information about health care.

It’s the most shocking thing I’ve encountered since the mailman delivered my mail today.

In the video and in the transcript, the clinic worker is seen and heard calmly doing her job. She is assisting her clients and answering their questions about testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, about contraceptive methods and unintended pregnancy.  No minor is present in the room.  When asked about abortion, she calmly discusses the options a minor in need of abortion might have, such as judicial bypass, which lest anyone be confused, is the perfectly legal recourse provided to minors who face an unintended and untenable pregnancy and who can not for whatever reasons secure their parents’ "permission" to procure an abortion.  Parental consent laws are widespread but have been shown in study after study to be useless in their supposed efforts to dissuade minors in need from seeking abortion.  Moreover, as extensively noted by the Department of Justice, minors involved in sex work or who have been trafficked into sex work often are abandoned by their families, so they are not likely to be seeking out their parents’ permission for much.

These children "generally come from homes where they have been abused, or from families that have abandoned them. They often become involved in prostitution as a way to support themselves financially or to get the things they want or need."

After the visit, this clinic worker and her colleagues in other sites where the "sex traffickers" sought services reported these visits to their supervisors, who in turn reported to Planned Parenthood Federation’s head office which, in turn reported this to the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

So they did things exactly right. Sought to meet the immediate health needs of the patient while in turn reporting suspicious activity to the police.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood Federation of America said:

Today, Live Action, an anti-abortion groups led by Lila Rose, a self-described
“extremist,” who has called for abortions to take place in public and has vowed to “take down” Planned Parenthood, released videotapes secretly taped at Planned Parenthood Health Centers in Virginia.

In a recent round of secret videotaping in January 2011, at least four health centers in Virginia received visits in a short period of time from persons claiming to be involved in the sex trade, involving vulnerable minors. Local authorities, as well as federal authorities, were alerted to these visits. In this morning’s publicized tape, the Planned Parenthood staff member reacted professionally to a highly unusual person posing as a patient. After the encounter, the staff member immediately notified her supervisor, who subsequently notified members of Planned Parenthood’s national security team, who are working with the FBI, which is investigating these visits.

Come to think of it, this might be even less shocking than the fact that a half inch of snow can close schools across Montgomery County, Maryland.

That a health care worker at a Planned Parenthood would be offering clear, concise and evidence-based information on testing and treatment of infections, contraception and abortion is kinda the antithesis of shocking, really, because in case Lila missed it, these are the services that sexual and reproductive health clinics provide.

The fact that a health worker would be doing so in a manner that earns the trust of the client is not only normal, but a central ethic of health care and medicine.

The fact that she didn’t say: "Hey traffickers, sit yourselves down and have a cup of coffee while I go call the police," but instead ended the visit and reported to her supervisors also is exactly the protocol she is supposed to follow.

 The American Medical Association states, for example:

Physicians have always had a duty to keep their patients’ confidences. In essence, the physician’s duty to maintain confidentiality means that a physician may not disclose any medical information revealed by a patient or discovered by a physician in connection with the treatment of a patient. In general, AMA’s Code of Medical Ethics states that the information disclosed to a physician during the course of the patient-physician relationship is confidential to the utmost degree. As explained by the AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, the purpose of a physician’s ethical duty to maintain patient confidentiality is to allow the patient to feel free to make a full and frank disclosure of information to the physician with the knowledge that the physician will protect the confidential nature of the information disclosed. Full disclosure enables the physician to diagnose conditions properly and to treat the patient appropriately. In return for the patient’s honesty, the physician generally should not reveal confidential communications or information without the patient’s express consent unless required to disclose the information by law.

In fact, when it comes to sexual health and to the sexual health of minors in particular, the emphasis is first placed on the needs of the patient, and on confidentiality, and later on legal issues.  See this paper on sexual health disclosure in the military for example  and this from the Office of Adolescent Health of the State of Oregon.

The process to ensure health care access, confidentiality and privacy can be quite complex when it pertains to minors. Every day, health care providers are attempting to figure out: (1) which services a minor can obtain without parental consent; (2) when a parent can access a minor’s health information; and (3) when minor consent must be obtained before the provider can share the minor’s health information. State statutes, federal laws and regulations provide a complicated patchwork of requirements that often do not fit neatly together and may be challenging to interpret and implement.

Unfortunately, no single rule can be applied to all situations. However, a good place to start is with a resource like this that compiles all the requirements. Great care has been taken to present accurate information that is as clear as possible with citations to the entire text of the law or regulation. We encourage anyone wrestling with these issues to use this document as a starting place while establishing a process that will encourage minors to seek care while maximizing their confidentiality and privacy.

The fundamentalist right in this country wants to criminalize sexual behavior of all kinds and turn doctors into investigators.  This is the essence of all sorts of laws seeking to limit teen access to comprehensive sexual health education, contraceptive methods, safe abortion services and so on.  It is and was the essence of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in regard to health care. As Dr. Kenneth Katz pointed out in an article for RH Reality Check last year, this was indeed the same dilemma he faced in treating patients under DADT and the ways in which restrictions on sex and in this case sexual identity affected his ability to serve his clients and make sure they were healthy. 

So I repeat, there is nothing shocking–whatsoever–about a health care worker addressing a patient with respect and respectfully answering their questions.  And then, later, reporting to their supervisor if in fact there is suspicion. In fact, it is protocol.

Rose keeps asking in her voice overs: "Will Planned Parenthood comply with the law?"  Only she doesn’t want to give you the answer to that question–yes–by also reporting that indeed PPFA reported the suspected trafficking to the authorities.  That would ruin the whole thing!

The point is this: Health care workers are there to guard individual and public health.  In doing so, they face dilemmas on a daily basis. Anyone who thinks otherwise is neither interested in the health of minors nor of trafficked minors, does not understand either public health or medicine, and is not interested in ethical behavior. 

But we already knew that about Lila and her colleagues. And that is not very shocking at all.

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There’s a lot of handwringing going on out there about the  Lila Rose/LiveAction supposed expose videos of Planned Parenthood clinic workers, committing the shocking act of providing medical care.

Sure, these journalists activists far right publicity junkies with a stated agenda of going to any lengths to close down Planned Parenthood caught one woman committing the awful crime of saying some things. She’s been fired.

But now they continue to issue breathless press releases about videos which, frankly, are boring.  Like, hey, did you ever want to see a person’s routine medical consultation about birth control and STI prevention options?  Did you want to see some ladies in scrubs matter-of-factly  and with professional reserve stating the law, including  declining some requests because the law bans them?  How about some mentions of pamphlets, and the reading of same?   Then by all means, watch these videos.  

Watch them: and know that these workers walked right out of that room into a supervisor’s office to tell that supervisor that a weird shady pimp was just here asking questions about minors, and that those supervisors reported it up the ladder, and that Planned Parenthood reported it to the attorney general. No one here took child prostitution lightly – except Lila Rose and LiveAction, of course. 

Far-right columnists have expressed shock: one pearl-clutcher said:

[They provide information and care] even to sex workers. The picture that seems to be becoming clear in these videos — and we see it again this morning, also in Virginia, in three separate clinics: A Planned Parenthood worker provides confidential information to whomever walks into one of its clinics. 

Ummyeah.  That is exactly  what the hell they do.  That is in fact WHAT THE LAW REQUIRES THEM TO DO.  I urge you to read Jodi Jacobson’s epic blog discussing the legal issues immediately.

Then ask yourself: In my own job, do I give care to women and men from every walk of life?  In my own job, do I provide on-site, potentially lifesaving care?  Do I directly protect women’s well-being, autonomy and health?   Does my work provide women an alternative to gruesome and deadly back-alley alternatives?

Do I do my job, which involves providing legal and lifesaving services, under near-daily condemnation from the highest-ranked church and government officials?  

Does my own job require me to deal with a hostile crowd screaming terrible epithets at me, and calling me a murderer?

Have people been murdered because they did my job? 

Know that every Planned Parenthood or other reproductive health clinic worker is answering yes to all of those questions.  They truly are the thin blue-scrubs line between millions of people and unwanted pregnancy/deadly disease.  Yes, "whomever walks into one of its clinics."  Yes, so-called "illegals."  Yes, sex workers.  

Abortion clinic workers are heroes. Abortion providers are heroes. 

These videos aren’t anything.  They’re not groundbreaking, they’re not shocking.  If you’re against abortion, you probably find these discussions of how to obtain an abortion upsetting. If you’re not, then you will probably find them to be profoundly underwhelming.   Either way, they contribute nothing to the dialogue and make no steps toward a solution to our nation’s division over the issue of abortion. 

Lila Rose will probably do a bunch of interviews and sit around checking her YouTube views today.  Meanwhile, at 820 Planned Parenthood health centers, the doors will open as usual.

Just another day providing vital care to the nation’s most vulnerable.

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Originally published on RH Reality Check:

Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day and RH Reality Check is featuring a series in collaboration with Race Talk to pay respect to those who’ve experienced this severe human rights abuse.

The series, edited by Juhu Thukral, includes a look back at the history of anti-trafficking efforts and where they have led us, and thinking about the most effective path forward to prevent others from being trafficked.

As Juhu writes in her introduction to the series:

In order to think proactively about solutions to the problem of human trafficking, it is crucial to answer the most basic question of all: What exactly is trafficking in persons? Experts will weigh in with their answers and their ideas for future efforts, including some of the leading voices, thinkers, and practitioners on the issue of trafficking in persons. They include lawyers who represent trafficked persons on a daily basis, advocates who have pushed forward innovative policies over the last decade and more, and activists who have incorporated anti-trafficking issues into their intersecting fields.

I watch and listen to the advocacy of human trafficking at rallies, on web sites, in government reports and NGO reports. The research and statistics on human trafficking in America are ambiguous, especially in relation to race and ethnicity. We need to explicitly recognize the connections between trafficking, poverty, migration, gender, racism and racial discrimination to adequately battle and destroy human trafficking in the U.S.

Trafficking persons is inherently discriminatory. Since an overwhelming majority of trafficked persons are women, trafficking in most circles is usually considered a gender issue, especially in the United States (the majority of trafficking in the U.S. is sex trafficking). In the U.S., most state human trafficking laws explicitly and directly address sexual exploitation, ignoring or vaguely covering other types of trafficking (myths of trafficking).

However, a link that is rarely discussed in open forums about human trafficking is racial discrimination. A question that I don’t hear enough is, “Does race and ethnicity contribute to the likelihood of people becoming victims of trafficking?” I say, “Yes.” Furthermore, I believe that not only does race and ethnicity constitute a risk factor for trafficking, it may also determine the treatment those victims’ experience.

The Polaris Project, who does outstanding work in combating human trafficking, stated the majority of trafficked persons come from vulnerable populations, including undocumented migrants, runaways and at-risk youth, oppressed or marginalized groups, and the poor; specifically because they are easiest to recruit and control. In the U.S., statistically speaking, people of color more than fit this criterion.

Available Statistics by Race

A large majority of trafficked persons in the U.S. for the purposes of labor and sexual exploitation are people of color. Domestically, 50 percent of trafficked victims are children and an overwhelmingly are girls, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Most foreign nationals are women, children and men from Mexico and East Asia, as well as from South Asia, Central America, Africa, and Europe, about 17,500 each year, according to statistics complied by the Polaris Project and 2009 TIP report.

Seventy-seven percent of victims in alleged human trafficking incidents reported in the U.S. were people of color, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics Report. An example of BJS’s ambiguity is that 747 out of 1,442 reported incidents recorded no racial or ethnic origin.

Racism is deeply embedded in human trafficking and must be racially inclusive and explicitly included in its literature, statistics and advocacy. To combat this modern-day slavery, the trafficking cycle should recognize explicitly the connections between trafficking, migration, poverty, racism, gender and racial discrimination.

We need to urge and support our NGOs, national and state governments to adequately report trafficking incidents. It is important to know the origin of the victims and the suspected traffickers, race and ethnic backgrounds to better understand the vulnerabilities and how traffickers exploit opportunities.

I am advocating that we remove and uncover the ambiguity of the characteristics of trafficked persons and the traffickers and be explicit about who they are and what populations in America are most affected so we can make specific and measurable progress. The notion that anyone can be a victim of human trafficking is true, however, the fact that the majority of victims are people of color should not be undermined or understated.

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Nearly a year ago, I wrote a blog here called “Why Men Rule the World: A Serious Look At Why Feminism Still Matters.” I wrote it after being inspired by reading two fantastic books, “Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape” and “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.” In the post, I address several domestic and international issues that show that feminism (the idea that men and women should be treated equally) is still relevant in today’s world. The issues I wrote about included the pay gap between men and women’s earnings, maternity leave, abstinence-only education, marriage, rape culture, health insurance, the conscience clause, abortion, unemployment/poor working conditions, slave labor/sex trafficking, lack of education, infant and maternal mortality rates, etc. It’s a long post, but part of my entire point was that there is still a lot to talk about. Feminism still matters. As I said at the end of the post:  

So, when someone says “women rule the world”…what world are they living in?

This is why gender inequality is not a small or irrelevant issue. This is why feminism isn’t dead. This is why when you experience, or even hear about, an instance of gender inequality or an abuse toward females, even when it’s a “small” instance, you have to do something about it. You owe it to yourself, and every woman, to stand up, speak up, and keep being a “loud, angry feminist” until someone takes you seriously. It’s time to take women and girls seriously.

The post, (you can read it in full here) got a lot of great responses at the time, and I really appreciate that. But this past Saturday, nicosuave decided he needed to say something too. When I first read his very long comment, I was troubled. While not overtly violent, there was anger in it, and I found his views, though bordering on comical in their lack of legitimacy or validity, to be dangerous.  I didn’t like that a comment like this was on the site, but I didn’t think that it necessarily violated our terms of use, so instead of deleting it, I hid the comment and sent an e-mail to some of my fellow Advocates for Youth staff to get their opinions on what to do. After a lot of discussion, it was decided to “err onthe side of open dialogue and to respond rather than censor.” I restored the comment, which you can read in full by following the link to the post. 

And now for my full response.

Women….ok not all women but only 100% of the ones I have interacted with…

You want equality but we are not allowed to hit you when you say or do things that…if a guy said he would get his face caved in.

100% of the women in your life? Really? Your mother and/or step-mother, grandmother, aunts, sisters, nieces, female teachers, tutors, mentors, coaches? Are these the women you’re complaining about not being allowed to hit? If you have a daughter one day, should a man be allowed to beat her if she steps out of line? Did you really mean that men should be allowed to hit all women? 100% of women? If you punch a woman, that’s someone’s sister, that’s someone’s daughter. So why not your sister? Why not your daughter?

 Because violence is wrong! No one’s sister, daughter, brother, or son should be a victim of violence! Relationship violence is degrading and harmful, physically, mentally, and emotionally, no matter your gender.  It is wrong when a male does it and it is wrong when a female does it, and it is wrong when both are violent with each other. Let me make myself very clear that no one is “allowed” to hit anyone, no matter how much equality they want. 

Girls just don’t care as much, they can go out and get a new guy by snapping their fingers.  

Common misogynist misconceptions # 1) Women and heartless, and 2) Men are easily replaceable. These first two come up a lot in your comment, and I must say, they are utterly false. While it may make you feel better to believe that the reason a woman rejects you is because she’s a cold, heartless bitch who moves from man to man without a thought for your feelings, I can tell you that women are flesh and blood people too and that, individual differences aside, women and men really do experience matters of the heart similarly. 

Women have always had the sexual power, while we have to fall over each other trying to impress you enough to say yes to us. 

Common misogynist misconception #3) The Gatekeeper Theory. Very annoying, very harmful.  Perpetuated by abstinence-only education, this theory says that sex is something that women have that men must either take from them or trick them into giving away. It’s not a very romantic theory, and it involves a lot of work. Plus, it kind of devalues male sexuality too, doesn’t it, because it assumes that the female is the one who is wanted, not the male- that her desire is passive and must be won through manipulation. Frankly, it’s not a healthy way to go about finding a partner.

Society has removed us men from importance: our physical strength is moot: by a gun, carry mace, and go to the grocery store (no hunting or protection required). Now that you are in the majority at colleges you have already begun to edge us out of the money making dominance. Now that you don’t need us for that either, what is it you need us for? Now, a quick trip to the dildo store and the sperm bank, and presto we are OUT of the picture.  

Common misogynist misconception #4) Feminism has made men useless. I’m sorry to hear about your self-esteem problem, but let’s get serious here. 

A) You did not just criticize a woman’s ability to go to the grocery store. I don’t need an escort to go buy some Wheat Thins. 

B) Hunting and protection…well, it has been about 4 millions years since I had mastodon for dinner, but if I get a craving, I’ll know who to call. 

C) It’s true that there are currently more women than men enrolled in college in the U.S. Data from the Population Reference Bureau shows that, as of 2005, women made up 54% of college enrollment. Not something to have a panic attack over if you ask me, especially when you consider that women have only started to come into the majority at colleges and universities in the past 15-20 years. Everyone deserves access to a quality education, so what’s the real problem here?

D) The dildo store and the sperm bank? This made me think, “What if there really was a store that was just called The Dildo Store? Like, that’s what the sign outside said. Then I thought, No, no town would allow that. It would have to be online.” So I Googled it. Also, I am not offended by dildos or men who donate their sperm so that women or couples who are unable to have their own children are able to get pregnant, so there’s no need to say DILDO and SPERM to try to be crude. 

You are all OUT OF CONTROL. You are frothing at the mouth to make up for the "oppression" of your mothers and grandmothers. You have been given all these modern freedoms and you are abusing the crap out of them.

You put oppression in quotation marks. As if it was fake. Not real. Didn’t happen. Wasn’t a big deal. Was an exaggeration. A myth. An overreaction. You put oppression in quotation marks. How much do you know about history? Did you even read my post at all before you responded to it? Since in your entire comment you do not reference any of the points I bring up specifically, I can’t tell if you actually read it. In my post, I list several examples of current difficulties and inequalities that women face, and here you have brought up the oppression of women of previous generations, which, with the presence of the quotation marks, implies a falsehood, meaning then that any current complaint would hold even less water. 

I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you know that it was less than one hundred years ago that women in this country were given the right to vote. That’s still pretty recent history. What’s also recent is the legalization of birth control pills in 1965 and the legalization of abortion in 1973. If I couldn’t vote, couldn’t prevent pregnancy, and couldn’t end a pregnancy I didn’t want, then what the hell else should I have called it but oppression?

Facebook….We don’t CARE that you have 700 friends, or that half of them are named Raul from Portugal…

*Note: Get ready to hear a lot about Facebook and “Raul from Portugal.”

facebook and the internet in general makes men expendable, it lets women flirt and cheat, and it lets you brag about it to your 700 fake facebook friends. Never in the history of humanity have women had such easy access to tools which destroy their moral compass, the feelings of men, and their own virtue. 

I didn’t know I had a moral compass. Do I also have a talking polar bear that will let me ride around on its back? 

Also now you have all these security settings and oh boy aren’t you ladies tricky with the settings. You might have 600 friends we can’t see, or secret flirts we are oblivious to.

I’m sure your girlfriend just didn’t realize that her Facebook actually belonged to you. How inappropriate of her to assume that she should set some privacy settings on her social networking profile. I don’t know where she even heard such a crazy, unnecessary idea. 

You might say guys have the same access to the same security settings but we are not that devious or complicated! We don’t mess with those settings, only you do as a ploy to screw around behind our back.

If you’re this naive, I don’t need a ploy. 

But then in your heart somewhere you must know that it is wrong to have guy friends that you flirt with while in a relationship and keeping it secret, or denying it’s flirtation and getting all upset because we are trying to "control" you, when in reality it is YOU who need something else to focus your energy on other than flirting and messing around, or validating your physical attractiveness to yourself with slutty facebook pictures, posts and flirtations.

I wish this wasn’t such a long sentence so it was easier to tear apart. But here I go.

But then in your heart somewhere you must know that it is wrong… 
This is the kind of language you use when talking down to someone when trying to shame them.  It’s not appropriate when speaking to a partner. Actually, you shouldn’t talk to anyone like this.  

…it is wrong to have guy friends that you flirt with while in a relationship…
Why? Because you want to be the only guy in her life? Are you threatened? Intimidated? If you’re having relationship problems, it’s really better to talk it out than to restrict her access to other human beings. And what’s the definition of flirting? That’s something else that couples should talk about. 

…and keeping it secret, or denying it’s flirtation and getting all upset because we are trying to "control" you,
…Actually, what could be upsetting her is your lack of self-awareness, and frankly, self-control.

 …when in reality it is YOU who need something else to focus your energy on other than flirting and messing around, or validating your physical attractiveness to yourself with slutty facebook pictures, posts and flirtations.
If only flirting and messing around didn’t take so much energy, maybe I could run for President. Damn my need to validate my physical attractiveness online! How it has held me back in life! 

Being facebook friends with a girlfriend is HELL.

Being Facebook friends with a stalker is HELL.

Every time a guy asks her a question and she responds you have to ask who is that, and then it turns out to be an ex-boyfriend 90% of the time. Then she hides everything with her settings and you can only imagine what she is doing behind your back, all you know is that she is not there with you, only with you, she is also off in la la facebook land with her ex-boyfriends and Raul from Portugal.

I find this to be one of your more disturbing passages. You have to ask who it is? It’s an ex-boyfriend 90% of the time? She hides everything? You imagine what she’s doing behind your back? She should be only with you? You imagine that she’s with ex-boyfriends (plural) and “Raul from Portugal” (a clearly sexualized character)? Why? 

Then you have the laws…don’t get me started on chivalry, and you wonder why it’s dead ha! 

Actually, I’m wondering what chivalry has to do with the laws…? You made a mental leap there that I just don’t follow. 

This is like the wall street bankers, once they get an inch they want a mile and there is nothing we can do to keep them from robbing us into the dark ages. The truth is, like the wall street bankers, you have been given too much power for you to handle and you are out of control. You are out of control and need to be reigned in.

You clearly and grossly misunderstand the power of feminism. An empowered woman is not greedy and vindictive. She is not selfish or narcissistic. The power that feminism has given women is the self-confidence to know that she is as capable and as deserving as any man and of any honor. To say that women have been given too much is to say that women are too much. A person’s power comes from within. So really, the power that women have, the power that you seem so sure needs to be taken back, was never yours to begin with. Our power has always been ours. Feminism has allowed us to use it. 

 Because of the hormones and physiology alone women are "Crazy" by default and they NEED to be subjugated, or THIS happens. It was a great experiment, now we know what happens, but it is a FAILED experiment. 

And by “THIS” you’re referring to the fact that you OBVIOUSLY just got dumped for “Raul from Portugal”?

I’ll let you in on a little secret! Feminism was allowed by the government and men in general because America has only 300 million people, vs China and India, Russia etc having billions. How can our economy compete with that unless we double our consumer and productivity base by giving women equality? Now you can make money, buy cars, and screw things up with the rest of us. Congratulations.

Now this theory I have never heard before. Has anyone heard this theory before? I have not heard this one. Seriously, has anyone heard this one before? How did you come up with this? Did you think of this yourself, or did you read this somewhere? How does this even begin to makes sense? 

Please remember your place!!! Go iron my shirt and make me breakfast, because I need to go to work now!!!

Weak sauce. Please, how typical and commonplace. I can hardly manage an eye roll at this. You were more creative with your Wall Street banker analogy.

So there you have it. That’s what he wrote (or most of it, anyway) that’s what I have to say. I’m sure you can see why I questioned having such misogynist comments on the site, but also why I ultimately felt the need to respond. I realize that, unfortunately, comments and sentiments like this are still common both on blogs, but also, and more hazardously, in personal relationships. If you are questioning the health of your relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or if you are looking for ways to better communicate with your partner, check out Amplify’s relationships page.
Amplify is, largely, a safe space for you to be the powerful, beautiful, capable person that you are. It’s a community where we share stories, experiences, and news from our home towns and from around the world- where we learn from each other a little more about our world and, hopefully, a little more about ourselves. Sometimes, there will be people who will say hurtful or ignorant things, but when that happens, we have a community of powerful, beautiful, capable people to show them that they’re wrong. 

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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Can you hear that high-pitched siren? See those flashing lights? Unlike the emergency broadcasts you sometimes see on t.v., this time you won’t hear that common refrain, “This is a test. This is only a test.” That’s because we’re experiencing a real emergency here. The U.S. is about to self-destruct and it’s all because of women. Yeah, women! Who knew? I mean, I know we’re powerful and all, but I had no idea that we could single-handedly destroy the universe.

Well, that’s what conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation believe. For the first time in eight long years, the U.S. Senate held a hearing on U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, or the Women’s Treaty). During the hearing, Steven Groves from the Heritage Foundation testified about all the evils that would be bestowed upon us if the U.S. took the radical approach of joining 186 other nations in supporting CEDAW. Apparently ratifying a treaty to protect and promote women’s rights simultaneously undermines and threatens those same rights. Wait, what? That is the most circular logic I’ve ever heard. Since when does access to educational opportunities, the right to vote, and the ability to own and inherit property pose a threat to women? How do laws protecting women from violence, sex trafficking, child marriage, and female genital cutting undermine women’s rights? Oh right, I forgot…we’d be subjecting ourselves to “scrutiny by a committee of gender experts that has established a record of promoting policies that do not comport with existing American norms and that encourages national governments to engage in social engineering on a massive scale.” I can’t believe I forgot that promoting the participation of women in the political process was counter to existing American norms! Who’s going to tell that to the millions of women who voted in the mid-terms? And how could I not realize that ratifying CEDAW would require the U.S. to abandon Mother’s Day? Silly me!

Think you’ve had enough? Not so fast, there’s more. Groves went on to testify that the U.S. already does a pretty good job of protecting and promoting women’s rights so there’s really no need to ratify CEDAW. He painstakingly points out all the federal laws that have helped advance women’s access to employment, compensation, housing, and education. So, what’s the problem? Why not just ratify the treaty then? Well, I guess it’s because he wants it both ways. On the one hand, CEDAW promotes policies that do not comport with existing American norms, but on the other hand, we have most of these protections ingrained in existing American law already anyway. Huh? I’m getting whiplash just trying to wrap my head around these competing arguments.  

Fortunately, Senator Dick Durbin, the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, took Mr. Groves to task for his organization’s opposition to CEDAW. Remember that well-founded fear about a committee of gender experts engaging in social engineering on a massive scale? Well, Mr. Groves and his fellow CEDAW opponents claim that the CEDAW Committee is a quasi-judicial body whose recommendations carry more weight than they actually do. When challenged by Senator Durbin, Groves was forced to admit that the Committee’s reports are non-binding – “that’s why I said, ‘quasi-judicial.’” Durbin retorted, “I say it’s quasi-true!”

Of course, the hearing wasn’t just a series of animated exchanges between these two men (though there were plenty of them).  As Groves pointed out when he began his testimony, he was feeling a bit outnumbered in the room full of CEDAW supporters–so many supporters in fact that an overflow room had to be set up to accommodate them all.

Among the other influential witnesses was Melanne Verveer, Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, and Hollywood celebrity, Geena Davis, both of whom passionately urged ratification of CEDAW to help the U.S. promote and defend the rights of women across the globe. Perhaps most eloquent, however, was Wazhma Frogh, a leading women’s rights activist from Afghanistan. She shared her story of growing up under Taliban rule–the constant oppression, rampant acid burnings, and daily fear of attack just for wanting to go to school, to have a job, or to leave home without a male escort.  Using CEDAW as a framework, women in Afghanistan have been able to achieve rights unheard of just a decade ago. Their story is one of survival, but they cannot do it alone. She pointed to the fact that conservative elements in her country use the failure of the U.S. to ratify CEDAW as an excuse to commit further atrocities against women. “They constantly ask us ‘Why hasn’t the United States ratified CEDAW?’  They say that if the United States believes in women’s rights as a universal right, why haven’t they signed onto CEDAW? Today, we don’t have an answer.  Perhaps tomorrow, with your help, we can answer back.”

Want to help Ms. Frogh answer back? Do your part and show that you support women’s rights as human rights. Tell your Senators that young women and men, adult allies, and their constituents demand the U.S. ratification of CEDAW today!

And then call Senator Durbin (202-224-2152) to thank him for his support of CEDAW!

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Quick update — my colleague Janine just sent out the email below to tens of thousands of activists across the U.S. It’s about the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which was the first international agreement to address women’s rights comprehensively.

The U.S. is one of only SEVEN countries in the world — including Iran, Sudan, Somalia, and three small Pacific Island nations — that has failed to ratify this treaty. Take a minute today and help us tell the U.S. Senate that the women and girls of the world can’t wait any longer

Dear Advocate,

We are within striking distance of a U.S. Senate ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. It’s a long title, but this treaty — usually known as CEDAW — is a landmark international agreement that affirms fundamental human rights and equality for women and girls. However, the window of opportunity is closing, and fast!

The United States is one of only seven countries in the world — including Iran, Sudan, Somalia, and three small Pacific Island nations — that has failed to ratify this landmark treaty. It is long past time for the U.S. to take a stand for the rights of women and girls. The United States’ absence from this overwhelming global consensus undermines both the ideals of opportunity and equality set out in CEDAW and our own commitment to women’s progress at home and around the world.

Click here to contact your Senators and ask them to urge Senator Kerry to hold a vote on CEDAW now!

This Thursday, November 18th, for the first time in EIGHT years, the United States Senate will hold a hearing focused solely on the importance of ratifying CEDAW. This hearing underscores the importance of the U.S. ratifying the treaty and remaining a world leader on human rights issues. It is also an important first step towards holding a VOTE on CEDAW.

CEDAW was the first international agreement to address women’s rights comprehensively — politically, culturally, economically, socially and within the family. Around the world, CEDAW can be used to promote equal educational opportunity for girls; improve reproductive, maternal, and child health; pass laws against domestic violence, discrimination, and human trafficking; promote the participation of women in the political system; and allow women to own and inherit property. Most fundamentally, it recognizes that women’s rights are human rights and that societies that empower women are prosperous, stable societies.

Click here to tell your Senators that the women and girls of the world can’t wait any longer — we need CEDAW now!

We know that when the United States ratifies CEDAW, it will strengthen us a leader in standing up for women and girls around the world. We know that women’s rights are human rights! And we know that we need action from our leaders in Washington, D.C., not just talk. That’s why we won’t let this CEDAW hearing be the end, but instead the beginning.

It’s time for the United States to reaffirm its commitment to international human rights and women’s equality. Ask your Senators to prioritize CEDAW ratification TODAY!

Thank you,

Janine Kossen
Director of Public Policy
Advocates for Youth

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         Today I’m not talking about Driscoll, as I expected, but about this fun news about the notorious drug cartel La Familia Michoacana making “required reading” of John Eldredge’s Wild At Heart. (H/T Audentia) Alternet had the best title for their coverage of the piece : Christian Book Touting Manly Aggression Inspires Violent Fundamentalist Meth Trafficking Cult.  Really, you can’t make this up!

         John Eldredge, of course, is angry about the abuse of his book as an endorsement to perpetuate the violence La Familia has done.  How could Eldredge imagine his content would be so co-opted! Content that claims (WaH 117):

" ‘The kingdom of heaven suffers violence,’ Jesus said,  and violent men take it by force.” (Matt 11:12 NASB) Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Hopefully by now you see the deep and holy goodness of masculine aggression and that will help you understand what Christ is saying. "

         Eldredge’s thesis, as I wrote in my first post, is that man must have “a battle to fight, a beauty to rescue and an adventure to live.”  I’m missing how that thesis necessarily requires Jesus.  La Familia is missing how that doesn’t endorse (really, how it requires) violence.

          Eldredge wrote Wild at Heart so men would be submissive to God in their aggressive masculinity, and therefore La Familia is totally misunderstanding him.  I can see how La Familia missed it.  I missed it too!  Eldredge’s focus on violence, weapon play, and aggression as a healthy Christian masculinity is so extreme that many believe Cartel leader “The Craziest” Nazario Gonzalez Moreno’s book Thoughts is somehow “more in tune with the classic spirit of Christianity”.    

         The Alternet story gets this right as well: despite all the talk of “Writers can’t control how their words are used”, I have yet to see La Familia make required reading from the works of progressive Christian Jim Wallis.  Of course, Wallis probably disagrees with Eldredge that William Wallace is more like Jesus than Mother Theresa (p.22, WAH).

         The response I’ve so far heard on the right is that this is the most extreme example in the world concerning what this type of rhetoric about a “Muscular Christianity” can lead to.  This is reality, and extreme examples are still real situations, not hypothetical.  I didn’t have to make it up or prepare hyperbolic statements about the damage possible through this “aggressive biblical manhood” mandate.  It’s something a journalist for the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote about when Wild at Heart showed up 4 times in a Mexican Intelligence Report concerning La Familia. 

         Driscoll, Eldredge, Piper and the gender essentialists lead to a reality that not only requires women to “always be rescued” and subservient to men, but a reality in which murder is defended as “divine justice”, and our “culture war” becomes an actual war.  That’s not a world I’m prepared to accept, from the false premise of their biblically mandated masculinity to the “pro-family” cartel beheadings of fathers, brothers, and sons. 

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Leaders gathered to renew the Maputo Plan of Action on maternal health at the 15th African Union Summit this past Sunday afternoon in Kampala. Created by African ministers and heads of state in 2006, the Maputo Plan is one of the world’s most progressive frameworks for sexual and reproductive health and rights policy. “I commend the intrepid leaders that developed and implemented this innovative plan to transform the lives of Africa’s women,” said Jill Sheffield, President of Women Deliver. “The Maputo Plan of Action encompasses the innovation, vision, and commitment that African leaders have on sexual, reproductive and maternal health. It is a road map to prosperity and stability for Africa.”

The plan expires this year, but once renewed through 2015, it will outline a critical path for African countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It emphasizes strategies for achieving MDGs 4 and 5, which aim to reduce maternal and infant mortality by 2015, but its programmes and targets will be key to achieving all eight development goals.

The theme of this year’s African Union Summit is ‘Maternal, Infant, and Child Health and Development in Africa’. As heads of state from nearly every African country convene to address the most important issues facing the continent, renewal of the Maputo Plan will be central to reinforcing Africa’s leadership on maternal health. This comes at a time when millions of women in Africa still face the burdens of poverty, sexual violence, and unplanned pregnancies. The majority of the world’s maternal deaths still occur in that continent.

The African Union Summit occurs during unprecedented political momentum around women’s health. This year, leaders from across the globe have pledged to invest billions of dollars in the issue. At the Women Deliver conference in June in Washington, D.C., the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced it would give $1.5 billion to women’s health initiatives over the next five years. Shortly after, at the G8 Summit in Canada, where maternal health was a major focus, world leaders announced another $5 billion in funding for the issue. “When Africa created the Maputo Plan, its leaders proved to the world that they were ready to make real progress, not just promises,” said Dr. Jotham Musinguzi, Africa Regional Director of Partners in Population & Development. “Now, by renewing it, we have a chance to put the world’s recent funding commitments in maternal health to good use, and make a major difference in the lives of Africa’s women and their families.”

The Maputo Plan reinforces the many national and regional movements already underway to help Africa achieve the Millennium Development Goals. For example, the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) was launched by eight countries last year and by ten more countries this year. Initiatives like these are keeping maternal health at the top of policy makers’ agendas. The Maputo Plan prioritizes sexual and reproductive healthcare through approaches such as increasing access to family planning resources, scaling-up resources for the prevention and management of sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS, reducing gender-based violence, and expanding access to health education. As such, it is essential for achieving the continent’s maternal health goals. In turn, this will promote progress on development goals.

We are watching!!!

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  O.k the article i just read was talking about how there was a big outbreak between women sex workers of syphilis. Researchers believe this outbreak was due to them sharing needles, Mexican and American researchers interviewed over 900 female workers in the towns of Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, on the Mexican border. They were also tested for HIV and other STI’s, the workers operate legally in the two Mexican towns which are located on big drug trafficking routes. When the results came back the women didn’t have HIV but they did have syphilis, they also found that the women also used illegal drugs before or during sex. The women workers also have u.s clients who have a higher rate of drug use including injection of drugs. Its said that two-thirds of these women of these have U.S. clients putting them at risk of contracting the syphilis and other diseases. I don’t agree with Steffanie A. Strathdee, associate dean for Global Health Sciences at the University of California, San Diego who said STD clinics in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez should provide users with access to sterile syringes, and needle exchange programs should offer rapid, on-site testing for syphilis. That’s just helping them with their habit, they should provide them with rehab service to help them recover. The spread of syphilis can lead to the spread to the spread of HIV, they really need to keep this under control.

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Each week, I’ll be posting a list of the most news-worthy and/or inspirational, informative, well-written, thought-provoking, and/or unique posts of the week. While every post and every contributor is valuable to our community, these are the blogs that I feel are must-reads.

(Sorry this wasn’t up yesterday. My excitement for the new season of True Blood distracted me from doing anything else.)

June 6- June 12

Human Trafficking- by Marimar

Why I chose this post:

Marimar shares some sobering statistics about human trafficking. This isn’t an old problem, people. This is going on today, in our world, and it deserves our attention, our rage, and our action.

How We Survive: healing from sexual violence as a community- by robocoko

Why I chose this post:

Robocoko shares an excellent zine that survivors of sexual violence at her university put together to help fellow survivors heal. It’s definitely worth the read!

Why do we apologize for our bodies?- by robocoko

Why I chose this post:

This is an excellent reminder from robocoko that our bodies and our choices regarding them are nothing to be ashamed of or apologized for. If you need a body positivity boost, this is the post for you!

FDA To Reevaluate Blood Donor Policy- by drs0043

Why I chose this post:

If you have any doubts about whether gay and bisexual men should be allowed to donate blood, check out this post to learn more about the issue.

 At a time when it is known that HIV (in particular) can be spread to anyone, gay  or straight, and when there are more protections, screenings, and knowledge now,  why must this policy live on? It is a question the FDA is looking into this week…

Empty-Handed: The Story of Many Womens Lives Around the World- by AFY_Mimi

Why I chose this post:

Mimi writes about her trip to Uganda for the annual Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition meeting.

 We discussed the many challenges that hinder both men and women’s access to  reproductive health supplies and services. Stock-outs, limited contraceptive  options, uncertainty in the arrival of supplies, oversupply in urban areas,  undersupply in rural areas, lack of funding to provide the supplies and services…  and the list goes on and on.

She includes a link to a short film called “Empty Handed: Responding to the Demand for Contraceptives” which addresses these issues. It is amazing to hear these women talk about these issues. This film is a stark reminder of the immense, vital importance of access to family planning methods and education. It is both sobering and inspiring.

ALERT: State-level politics is where pro-life thrives- by dandaman6007

Why I chose this post:

Dan is a great writer, and this is no exception.

 They have been successful in part because so many people are focused on the  national debate, where very large decisions are made. Instead of taking the fight  there, anti-choice groups have taken the fight to where smaller, and honestly less  interesting, decisions are made. But even though there has not been a significant  pro-life victory at the national level (maybe we can count HCR as one), there have  been so many smaller victories at the state level that I believe the country has  become substantively more anti-choice.

Rape Lies and Videotape- by Yes_Means_Yes

Why I chose this post:

I can always count on Jaclyn to tell it like it is.

 You may have heard that Kendra Wilkinson, ex-Playboy bunny and Girl Next  Door, has a sex tape that’s just been released against her wishes. What you may  not know is that this isn’t a sex tape at all. It’s a rape tape.

This is an excellent post, and is a definite must-read if you ever want to understand what to do, and what to never ever do, with a sexual partner. If you’ve never heard of enthusiastic consent, stop whatever you’re doing and read this post.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha

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O.k the article i just read was talking about how there was a big outbreak between women sex workers of syphilis. Researchers believe this outbreak was due to them sharing needles, Mexican and American researchers interviewed over 900 female workers in the towns of Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, on the Mexican border. They were also tested for HIV and other STI’s, the workers operate legally in the two Mexican towns which are located on big drug trafficking routes. When the results came back the women didn’t have HIV but they did have syphilis, they also found that the women also used illegal drugs before or during sex. The women workers also have u.s clients who have a higher rate of drug use including injection of drugs. Its said that two-thirds of these women of these have U.S. clients putting them at risk of contracting the syphilis and other diseases. I don’t agree with Steffanie A. Strathdee, associate dean for Global Health Sciences at the University of California, San Diego who said STD clinics in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez should provide users with access to sterile syringes, and needle exchange programs should offer rapid, on-site testing for syphilis. That’s just helping them with their habit, they should provide them with rehab service to help them recover. The spread of syphilis can lead to the spread to the spread of HIV, they really need to keep this under control.

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50% – Percent of transnational victims who are children.
80% – Percent of transnational victims who are women and girls.
70% – Percent of female victims who are trafficked into the commercial sex industry. This means that 30% of female victims are victims of forced labor.
32 billion – Total yearly profits generated by the human trafficking industry.
27 million – Number of people in modern-day slavery across the world.
•Human trafficking is now the second largest and fastest growing source of money for organized crime.
•For every one child rescued from a brothel, there are thousands of kids to take their place.
 I visited http://www.eastsidewomenofpurpose.com/about.html and in the about us section the first lines to grab my attention were “Poverty forces parents to think and do the unthinkable “’should I sell my child?”’ that line there is just jaw dropping to me. After reviewing statistics on human trafficking I felt saddened by the information I had obtained. Human trafficking is now the second and largest growing form of organized crime in the entire world. 50% percent of the victims are children. 80% are women and children. I now wonder how a parent can sell their child into slave labor crime where their child will be used mainly for sexual reasons. Sex for money. I ask myself how they cannot possibly understand how traumatic it must be for their child to be forced without a say into sex labor. Children are supposed to lead a happy, careless life with no important decisions to be made. Imagine a young girl or boy entering the life as a sexual object because that if what they must be seen as to the organizers. The human trafficking organizers must have no sentiments towards the children human trafficking.

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So I’ve been browsing through the Amplify website and have come across and learned many astounding facts that have surprised me. Nonetheless they will not fail to surprise you as well.


Here they are

“Even if they (victims of human trafficking)  are rescued or escape, governments are often ill-prepared to deal with victims of human trafficking – they may experience discrimination, deportation, and even criminal prosecution.”

“Childbearing is the leading cause of death for young women ages 15-19 worldwide.”

“Results from a study in Kenya and Zambia showed that married 16- to 19-year-old females were 75 percent more likely to have HIV than their sexually active unmarried peers.”

“Dating violence can lead to a number of problems. One study found that females in violent relationships suffered from posttraumatic stress and dissociation, and males suffered from anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress.”

“Even with equal or better risk behaviors, young African Americans are more at risk for HIV and STIs than are white youth. “

“After coming out to their family or being discovered, many GLBTQ youth are thrown out of their home, mistreated, or made the focus of their family’s dysfunction.”

“In one study, more than half of ethnic minority transgender youth had experienced forced sex, while almost 60 percent had traded sex for money or resources.”

“An estimated 100-140 million women have experienced Female Genital Cutting. Three million more undergo it every year – and most are under 15 years old.”

“One state, Illinois, requires that students who are HIV positive disclose their status to their principal, even though again, there is no medical reason for this and it is a serious violation of students’ privacy.”

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 I have just returned from this year’s The United Nations Conference on the Commission of the Status of Women, in review of Beijing +15 was held in New York City.   My experiences were nothing but positive, and reminded me of the many accomplishments women have made in the past decades.  Although, women have made many strides economically and socially the inequalities that exist between our male counterparts and us are still quite obvious. As a middle class American college student, I sometimes undermine issues that do not affect my local or regional community directly. However, being in an environment with comprised of representatives from over 192 countries issues like Female Genital Mutilation, child marriage, and human trafficking became more real than a fact sheet and almost tangible.


As the Women’s movement evolves it is very apparent that mobilization and advocacy strategies progress along with this movement.  The youth and male presence was lacking greatly at this conference and their role in this movement was rarely addressed throughout the conference.  Understanding that Violence against women (VAW) was an issue that almost every country considered a priority along with gender inequalities, I believe that the youth and men cannot be ignored as vital contributors to the new wave of activists in this movement.  The role of men in combating VAW is important in cultivating young and powerful men with a higher respect for women.  In some countries dialogue about issues concerning women will have a better response if men, due to gender inequalities, acted as the voice for women.  In addition, youth involvement is of the utmost importance in preventing many of the illnesses and inequalities that women struggle against. The youth provide great insight into current issues and will be the leaders that replace those who were at Beijing 15 years ago. 


 Maria Hinjosa, a New York reporter, was a moderator for the one of the panel discussions at the United Nations conference.  She was definitely a supporter of youth and male involvement in this movement and directed questions towards the panel concerning how the torch will passed.  One of the panelists suggested some type of mentorship, which to me seems logical.  However it was apparent at this conference that this older generation of women 1) isn’t ready to pass on these responsibilities and 2) doesn’t fully trust the capabilities of the youth and men.  How can the youth and men prove to this older generation of women that they are not only capable of continuing their legacy but also will the goals accomplish of their work.   

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Editor of the English version: Joanna Zuckerman

Latin America and the Caribbean is the region with the greatest inequalities in terms of distribution of wealth. As young women, we represent the majority of the total population, but our gender condemns us to greater inequality. Our generation has progressed thanks to the struggles of other women that restored our dignity and our autonomy.

Nevertheless, our generation faces a problem: globalization and advances in technology has not improved conditions for women. Day after day we fight to better our situation and exercise our rights.
We continue fighting so that our families stop relegating us because we are women, or demanding us to do household chores or take on greater responsibility than our male relatives.
We fight against assault, harassment and sex-trafficking in our communities, towns and cities; so that women who live on the border do not become victims of homicides; so that we do not become the victims of armed conflicts.
We are mobilizing to access secular education, so that we cannot be expelled if we get pregnant. We fight for the right to choose and be respected for that; for the right to have a salary that is equal to that of our male co-workers. We fight for a work environment free of harassment. We fight for the possibility of having a job in which we are not treated as cheap labor just because we are young and female, like in the maquiladoras (U.S.-owned factories on the border).
We demand that our bodies are not seen as objects of consumption and that we are not pressured to fit gender stereotypes. We fight against anorexia, bulimia, depression, and discomfort with our bodies, diseases which starkly contrast with the illnesses that afflict women in the poorest and most marginalized areas of Latin America and the Caribbean, who have scarce food supplies.
We are looking for acknowledgement, not only as girls, mothers or daughters but as YOUNG WOMEN; heterosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals, Caucasian, African descendants, indigenous; from all our diverse backgrounds, from all of us female citizens… all of US.
We generate actions to stop mass media from reproducing the stereotypes and myths about us and all women.
We unite to be part of the reality we construct; for my voice and for our voices.
This March 8, we call on all people and governments that represent us to:
  • Build equitable and supportive relationships to help us break the sexist, ageist, homophobic,racist and patriarchal power reproduced in the family, in schools, by mass media and in all communities.
  • Recognize the diversity of the different young women that live in the region of Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Be acknowledged as strategic and political social actors, and not within a conglomerate of alien women and girls.
  • Design and implement policies, actions and programs aimed to change the inequality and social injustice in our world.
  • Establish agreements of respect and solidarity amongst all people, in which we relate to each other in an equitable and nonviolent way.
  • Respect and uphold the exercise of women’s sexual and reproductive autonomy.
  • Allocate resources to develop youth-friendly programs with information about scientific progresses and distribute information about women’s bodies and sexuality.
Because all of us are one, because our names are María, Sofía, Nilda, Yunuén, Marianela, Silvia, Claudia, Mariana, Lucía, Verónica, Paola, Cecilia, Silvana, Elena, Camila, Klara, Salomé, Lorena, and we live in Argentina, Brasil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, México, Paraguay, Perú, Uruguay, Venezuela…all in Latin America and the Caribbean.  
Because autonomy is a right for all…


Espolea, A.C.
Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Francisco de Vitoria
Plataforma Nacional de Juventud, Proyecto 15.35

Las Ramonas

REDLAC – Red Latinoamericana y Caribeña de Jóvenes por los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos
EIJ – Espacio Iberoamericano de la Juventud
Colectivo Crack
Mesa de Autonomía del Cuerpo de la Concentración Feminista Prudencia Ayala

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Every year, thousands of women all over the World gather to celebrate womanhood and address various problems affecting us, such as social [gender inequality], economic [poverty], and cultural [early marriages] problems, and also issues relating to their sexual reproductive health and rights.

Focusing on Africa, and specifically Nigeria, women’s rights have been infringed upon in various ways.  Young women and girls are particularly vulnerable. For example, in some parts of Nigeria, girls are still being denied formal education because it is regarded as a waste of time and resources, while the male child is allowed to attain formal education. This singular act shows gender inequality, even though it is stated in the 2003 Child’s Rights Act (CRA) that every child has the right to education irrespective of their sex. The Nigerian constitution and the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act further buttress the right of every chid to education irrespective of gender. Furthermore, there are a lot of cases where young girls below the age of 18 are handed over for marriage, mostly against their will, and mostly to far older men. This is because they are regarded as a source of wealth or income from suitors to their family.

Imagine a young teenage girl being given out for marriage and eventually getting pregnant; at this stage the child is not emotionally or psychologically ready for motherhood. In many cases complications arise, such as vesicovaginal fistula (VVF), or even death. There are also cases of child labour and girl trafficking, where girls are used as sex workers, and a high prevalence of FGM (female genital mutilation), also referred to as female circumcision; Nigeria has the highest number of FGM cases in the World. All of these issues impede the growth of the nation, and World at large. The importance of women in government and all areas of life cannot be over-emphasised. Women of the World, irrespective of their race or colour, deserve equal rights and the opportunity to make a difference in our world today. Full access to education must be prioritised for young girls and women. This will prevent child marriages and many other sexual and reproductive health consequences that arise as a result of deprived rights. Securing peace, social progress, fundamental human rights and freedom requires active participation of women of all ages.

As a young woman l know l count in the scheme of things and the development of this country and so does every young girl. We can not wait to be given the opportunity we must take it and make the difference we seek. If we can all learn our voices to the truth that our participation in governance can counts, the unity in our voices in Nigeria, Africa, Europe, Asia or America, will take us all to the land of promise. Giving equal right and opportunities can give us all the progress we desire in our world today!!!

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As much as it pains my feminist heart to say this, I do not believe that women rule the world. Let me say that, as a feminist, I do not want women to rule the world- that’s not what feminism is about. Feminism, most basically, is about equality between the sexes. So really, I don’t want either sex to “rule the world.” Yet, again, I am disappointed. As much as I don’t want it to be true, as I see it now, men rule the world. And I hate that. Not because I’m an “angry feminist”…or wait…maybe that’s exactly what I am. And maybe that’s exactly what I should be.

As much as I want to believe that equality between the sexes really does exist, I have come to realize that, in the most important ways, it does not. And until it does, I will continue to be an angry feminist because I cannot and will not accept being seen as less than just because I am a woman. Inequality will never be okay with me. So, until people realize that one sex does not rule the world (or, in other words, until people realize that one sex does not rule over the other) I will continue to be angry.

I think that we have two big problems in the United States when it comes to combating this issue. The first, simply, is that because of our successes in certain areas of this struggle, we forget that there are huge, though possibly less visible, issues that still need significant attention. Our second problem is our difficulty in seeing and comprehending the world outside our borders. We think that the whole world is like us, and if they’re not, they don’t matter anyway. I believe it is this kind of thinking that has allowed the worst inequalities against women to continue.

In the United States, it is illegal to discriminate against women for being women in housing and employment matters. Women are legally permitted and socially expected to control their own finances, attend school (including higher education), have sex with whomever they choose who gives their consent, get married to the person of their choice (this right is obviously different for lesbian women and some bisexual and transgender women) and divorce them if things get too bad, receive medical attention and care, and plan how many children they want to have and when they want to have them. With all of these positives, I can see how a lot of otherwise uninformed or unaware people wouldn’t realize that underneath many of these accomplishments, there remains unresolved inequality and lasting gender bias. 

Example 1: When you look at how much money women make in this country compared to how much men make in this country, you get this- 77:100. If the median income for a man is $100 a week, the median income for a woman is $77. This figure includes all jobs at all levels, so it is admittedly not a marker of a wage gap between sexes for the same job. But why is it that women, on average, have lower paying jobs? If men and women were really equal, they would have access to the same higher-paying jobs and the ratio of median income would be a lot closer.   

Example 2: Not all companies offer maternity leave to new mothers, and those that do often don’t offer an adequate amount of paid leave.

In 1993, Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act:

 [FMLA] entitles most workers to up to 12 weeks of job-protected medical leave  for birth or adoption. However, the FMLA doesn’t cover those who work for  smaller companies and guarantees only unpaid leaves.

Twelve weeks of unpaid leave when you’ve got a new baby at home? Who are they kidding? There are some more catches to this “safety net,” though.

 You are among the 60 percent of U.S. workers who are eligible if you meet both  of the following conditions:

 • You work for the federal government, a state or local government, or any  company that has 50 or more employees working within 75 miles of your  workplace.

 • You’ve worked for your employer for at least 12 months and for at least 1,250  hours during the previous year (an average of 25 hours per week for 50 weeks).

 There are a few exceptions: Your employer isn’t required to keep your job open  for you if you’re in the highest-paid 10 percent of wage earners at your company  and your employer can show that your absence would cause substantial economic  harm to the organization.

 Another exception is if you and your partner work for the same company. In this  case, you’re only entitled to a combined 12 weeks of parental leave between the  two of you.

Ah, the joys of motherhood. BabyCenter.com predicts that while “some enlightened companies do offer new parents paid time off, up to six weeks in some cases,” many new mothers should expect to “use a combination of short-term disability, sick leave, vacation, personal days, and unpaid family leave during your time away from work.” Why all the hassle? Why so little respect?

Example 3: Abstinence-only education is a punishment to self-respecting women and girls. It promotes male supremacy and severely restricts female sexual autonomy. It shames women into ignoring their own natural, sexual desires, and makes them think that only their husband will know what’s best for them, sexually or otherwise.

Purity balls, references to chewed gum, clowns that threaten children with cinder blocks, and inaccurate information about condoms and STDs/STIs is not what is best for young people. Women and girls need to know that their desires are not shameful and do not mean that they are “dirty.” Having sex does not make you less valuable. We deserve the truth, not guilt-mongering lies.

And, rather than being harmfully skewed,  bisexual, lesbian, and transgender women and their feelings, wants, needs, and desires are completely ignored. In the world of abstinence-only education, they don’t exist. Women of all sexual orientations deserve to be represented with dignity in their classrooms and in society at large.

Example 4: Many women feel pressured to be married by a certain age. The “old maid” stereotype isn’t as strong as it once was, but this kind of thinking starts young. Young girls await their “Prince Charming,” want to be married by a certain age, and have x number of kids by a certain age. But where’s the talk about a job, a career, making a difference in the community?

It’s not that “what do you want to be when you grow up?” is never talked about, but (if you’re female) think about when you were younger- what did you talk about more often or more extensively?- The career you would have and how you would get there?, or The guy of your dreams, what kind of flowers you would have at your wedding, the color of the bridesmaid’s dresses, what your dress would look like, where you would honeymoon? Society still says it’s “normal” for girls to put more thought into their wedding than their career.

Example 5: In terms of social pressure, there is another issue that women are never allowed to forget about: The constant threat of rape. As Jill Filipovic writes in her essay “Offensive Feminism: The Conservative Gender Norms That Perpetuate Rape Culture, And How Feminists Can Fight Back” (found in the book “Yes Means Yes”)

Men are 150% more likely  be the victims of violent crimes than women are. […]  Men are more likely to be assaulted, injured, or killed when alcohol is involved.  Men are more likely to be victimized by a stranger […] And yet it is women who  are treated to “suggestions” about how to protect themselves from public stranger  assaults… [which] send the false message that women can prevent rape. -p. 23

 …[T]he emphasis on rape as a pervasive and constant threat is crucial to  maintaining female vulnerability and male power. That narrative, though, does  more than just paralyze women- it privileges men. -p. 24

Victim-blaming is rampant in rape culture. And it’s disgusting. Think about this: If someone had their house burglarized and it was discovered that they had left their front door unlocked, would anyone suggest that the robber shouldn’t be punished because the homeowner was “asking” to be robbed?

Example 6: Independent health insurance for women can cost as much as 30-40% more than the cost for men. According to the New York Times, insurance companies say that women are charged higher premiums because “they are more likely to visit doctors [and] get regular check ups…” So now we’re being financially punished because we chose to keep our bodies healthy? That doesn’t seem fair. What makes sense is that an insurance company would encourage people to go on regular doctor visits so that they could prevent a serious illness and/or catch a serious illness in its early stages. But American health insurance companies make money, not sense.

But the 30-40% price disparity for independent coverage doesn’t even take into account the price of coverage for maternity costs. When applying, women must chose between a more expensive plan that covers pregnancy costs, or a less expensive plan that does not. But let’s say you chose the plan without pregnancy coverage and then, unexpectedly, you get pregnant. If you don’t want to have an abortion, you’re stuck paying out of pocket. And that’s a huge bill, especially if something goes wrong.

Speaking of planning for the unexpected, it has also been proposed in the Senate, as part of health care reform, that if women want insurance coverage for one of the most common medical procedures available to them (abortion), they must purchase an separate, additional rider to their policy. As if getting an abortion wasn’t already hard enough. (More on that later.)

Example 7: Right before leaving office, former President Bush implemented a “conscience clause.” According to CNN:

Under the rule, workers in health-care settings — from doctors to janitors — can  refuse to provide services, information or advice to patients on subjects such as  contraception, family planning, blood transfusions and even vaccine counseling if  they are morally against it.

There have been many articles written about the fact that President Obama “plans on” reversing the regulations and that he is “in the process of” reversing them. But what about an official reversal? Where are those articles? The fact is, despite all the talk, President Obama has not reversed this incredibly harmful policy.

Example 8: Getting an abortion in this country may be legal, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, for many women it’s quite difficult (even when you don’t factor in the social stigma that still exists, even though for the past 30 years there have been over 1 million legal abortions performed each year. Which means that someone you know has had one.) The laundry list of hoops that women have to jump through just to receive this medical procedure is flat out insulting.

From stateline.org:

 In 2007, 29 abortion restrictions were enacted in 14 states, capping a rapid rise in  the number of new laws since 2000. Between 1985 and 1999, states passed an  average of 11 new abortion restrictions each year. Since 2000, the rate has risen to  16 per year, according to Guttmacher.

The list of restrictions include parental notification laws, ultrasound requirements, waiting periods, and time limits. The restrictions also extend to clinic access- many states have only one or two clinics that offer the procedure. It’s also a quite expensive procedure (depending on many factors), and with no federal funding going toward helping women afford it (because of the Hyde Amendment), many women are forced to turn to other options (which sometimes means that she is risking her life to obtain an unsafe, illegal abortion).  

Add to all of these examples the struggles that transgender women go through when they are told that they aren’t really women. The level of disrespect is shameful. Women must be allowed to make their own decisions, have the opportunities to implement those choices, and be free of ridicule or social stigma in doing so.

Outside of the United States, these inequalities and abuses, and their consequences, grow exponentially.

Women throughout the world are notoriously and chronically unemployed. This moves well beyond any notion of a slow economy or a weak job market, and goes much deeper than the idea of a pearl-wearing, dinner-preparing housewife in heels. Women have been flatly rejected or are brutally disrespected by employers who are willing to hire them (and who do so, largely, because they feel that women are more willing to work in poorer conditions and for lower wages). And don’t think for a moment that most of these women are permitted to self-manage their meager earnings. These money troubles become even more troublesome when you factor in how many women aren’t paid at all because their work is more accurately described as slave labor.

One powerful reason that women are so disadvantaged economically is directly related to their significant lack of education. While a quality education is hard to come by for both men and women in many parts of the world, boys have always been given priority over girls when it comes to schooling. Girls in developing countries are lucky to get just one or two years of schooling- never mind the 12 or 16 years or more that women in this country not only hope for but have come to expect. Deeply entrenched gender roles play a large part in this issue, and many others.

The striking lack of female sexual autonomy (that is, the power that females have over what happens to them sexually), is one of the biggest problems that women currently face. It has a wide range of implications and consequences and manifests itself in a variety of ways. This lack of basic control is one of the largest, most deeply entrenched, and most harmful barriers for women. Here’s why: How can anyone be expected to succeed- financially, mentally, and emotionally- when the promise of a job turns into the horror of being the victim of sex trafficking and being forced to smile at your rapists?, when the threat of HIV, other STIs/STDs, and pregnancy is constant because condoms are disregarded  even when they’re available?, when marital rape is legal?, when abortion is illegal and women are forced to procure highly dangerous, “back-alley” abortions?, when maternal mortality rates are sky high?, when sick female children are kept at home while sick male children are taken to see a doctor because male children are seen as more valuable? Statistically, women live longer than men, so it makes sense that female populations would outnumber male populations. Yet, in the countries with the most dramatic gender inequalities, the opposite is the case. Any guess as to why that is?

So, when someone says “women rule the world”…what world are they living in?

If this is depressing you, that’s a good thing. Why? Because it means that you’re not okay with what’s going on. It means that, to you, this isn’t business as usual. But to so many, that’s exactly what it is- which is why this is still such a huge global problem.

This is why gender inequality is not a small or irrelevant issue. This is why feminism isn’t dead. This is why when you experience, or even hear about, an instance of gender inequality or an abuse toward females, even when it’s a “small” instance, you have to do something about it. You owe it to yourself, and every woman, to stand up, speak up, and keep being a “loud, angry feminist” until someone takes you seriously. It’s time to take women and girls seriously.

To read more on this subject, I highly recommend the following books, which were the inspiration for this post:

- Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape- by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti

- Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide- by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

~ Samantha

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Finally, a fun and feminist quick summer read.  J. Courtney Sullivan’s debut novel, Commencement, enlightens and educates while it entertains, includes transgender issues and lesbian relationships as well as standard heteronormative drama, and portrays strong bonds between strong women. 
I enjoy classics and non-fiction, but when summer rolls around, my weakness for “chick-lit” page-turners surfaces.  I can’t help it—I’ve read the whole Gossip Girl series (yes, including the prequel), the A-List books, the Nanny Diaries, even sub-subpar members of the genre (hello, It-Girl books).  The exploits of Serena and Blair may be ideal companions for a glass of lemonade by the pool, but they don’t exactly provoke thought or dissolve gender stereotypes.  That’s where Commencement comes in. 
Commencement tells the story of four friends at Smith College (a women’s college in Northampton, Mass.), and follows the women as they chart their lives post-graduation.  A sort of grown-up Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Sullivan moves beyond typical teenage drama, bridging the gap between chick-lit and food for thought.  Commencement explores love, friendship, family, college life and independent living, along with subjects that are less ubiquitous in the world of women’s fiction: sex trafficking, dating violence, inter-generational rifts in the feminist movement, coming to terms with one’s sexual identity, and even sexism in the literary world.  As one of the characters astutely observes, “When a woman writes a book that has anything to do with feelings or relationships, it’s either called chick lit or women’s fiction, right?  But look at Updike, or Irving.  Imagine if they’d been women.  Just imagine.  Someone would have slapped a pink cover onto ‘Rabbit at Rest,’ and poof, there goes the … Pulitzer.” 

One of the most interesting aspects of Commencement is the light in which it reflects a selective women’s college.  Sullivan, a graduate of Smith College, does a good job balancing nostalgia and reality in her portrayal of her alma mater.  Having seriously considered two women’s colleges and opting to attend a co-ed university, Commencement honestly made me question my decision not to attend Smith (also my mother’s alma mater).  Although some Smith alumnae and administrators worry that the novel doesn’t reflect favorably on their institution, I strongly disagree, as does my mom, a lifelong Smithie.  Sullivan doesn’t pull any punches in her illustration of life at a women’s college: she paints quaint pictures of Paradise Pond, ivy-covered buildings, Sunday brunch, and afternoon tea, but also regales the reader with stories of drunken exploits, an affair with a married English professor, quests for transgender acceptance on a supposedly all-female campus, and lesbian relationship drama.  While this may shock older alums of Smith College, it shouldn’t worry them.  In a world where frat parties, nightly date rape, and rowdy keggers are the norms, the racy aspects of Smith college life recounted in this fictional setting seem fun and harmless in comparison.  The campus environment, traditions, and activities, along with the infallible bond between its graduates make Smith seem endlessly appealing for a young college-bound feminist like me.

Despite its many positive qualities, Sullivan’s debut has its flaws.  My mom and I both saw the end coming a mile away.  Subtler foreshadowing or a less convenient ending would have added an appreciated dimension of reality to the novel.  Also, while the four characters are diverse in their geographic, class, and familial backgrounds, it would have been interesting if one of the four main characters weren’t white.  Perhaps the racial homogeneity in Commencement reflects problems of racial integration (or lack thereof), at Smith College and other small, selective liberal arts colleges, at least during the author’s years there.  (It should be noted that 29% of the Smith College class of 2012 identify as students of color, which is a relatively high percentage compared to similar institutions.)  Finally, while Sullivan expertly develops the four central female characters and the women in their lives (partners, mothers, etc), the men in the novel seem clunky, stereotypical, and one-dimensional.   

Commencement isn’t Updike or Irving, nor does it pretend to be.  But it does offer an engaging plot, likeable characters, and stimulating, snappy dialogue.  I finished the book in two days; I couldn’t put it down.  Commencement is a must-read for any Smith College student or alum, but I would recommend it to anyone looking for a smart summer novel that doesn’t rely on age-old, sickeningly sexist clichés and that for once addresses feminist sensibilities in an accessible and enjoyable form. 

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When I read this blog post today I immiediately had images from The Matrix running through my head- remember the scenes of all the humans in pods being "harvested" by machines? Sad thing is, something similiar to this is happening in real life. Amanda Kloer’s post "Nigerian Baby Farms Breed Slaves from Slaves" addresses the baby farm phenomenon wherein Nigerian girls are being trafficked to literally breed children; children who are then sold to unsuspecting parents who want to adopt a child or into slavery. Girls are paid $170 for their efforts. Read more by clicking the link above.

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The Reproductive Rights movements has contributed greatly to the lives of many women, men and children around the country. The fight for affordable, accessible family planning services has increased the health and quality of life of everyone but women especially. However it is important to realize that the reproductive rights movement is not simply not limited to abortions and contraception but it also includes the struggle for many women to have children. Because of contemporary issues and the bias of the majority of reproductive health advocates the past incursions of reproductive freedoms have generally focused on the problems of middle class white women.

Women of Color have faced tremendous reproductive health struggles but they are sometimes overlooked. I think that given all the dialogue in our country right now on reproductive rights. this would be a great time to engage people in the struggles that women of color face. This is important because it not only frames the current debate over reproductive rights but it also puts into focus some of the reasons why women of color may be more apprehensive with reproductive health professionals and advocates.

African American Women

The history of African-Americans has been wraught with racism and oppression. This discussion can not begin without frank examination of the reproductive violations that black women faced under American slavery. According to Schwartz, it  was common for a black women’s "worth" to be associated with her ability to birth children:

Former slave Boston Blackwell, who witnessed the sale of two women in Memphis Tennessee, reported that a girl of fifteen who had no children sold for $800, but a “breeding woman” sold for $1,500. (page 14)

Black women were also forced into sex with thier master, but even worse slavewomen were also shared like sexual property with sons, nephews, visitors and neighbors. Unfortunately for slavewomen, unwanted sex with the master was not the only thing they had to fear- they were some times forced into sex with other slaves – whether this meant forced marriage or outright rape:

“Other [slave] informants spoke of ‘stockmen’ assigned th role of stud. One former slave testified that a stockman would be locked in a room with women of childbearing age overnight. In the morning, he would be quizzed about what happened. If he did not engage in sex (the women might resist him) his owner would not be paid for his services). “(pg 23-24)

Unfortunately a slavewoman could not even trust her doctor to act in her best interest. Often doctors were slaveowners themselves or at least tried to act in the master’s best interest despite the enormous contributions to obstetrics, gynecology and medicine in general that was gained not just by studying slaves but through the ethnomedicine of slaves:

“When doctors joined with slaveholders to exercise control over enslaved women’s health, medical pracitce became entwined with the cause of slavery’s continuance. Simultaneously, slavery helped to further the medicialization of child birth and the professionalism of medicine.” (page 4)

In the Post-Slavery South, black women were stillvictims of sexually violent hate crimes from the racists and they were even targets of rape by Klu Klux Klan Terrorism. Even more modern than the KKK violence was the forced sterilizations of the 1960s and 1970s that persisted even into the 1980s. According to IPAS,

"…in the early 20th century, the model of eugenics, which proposed that human perfection could be achieved through selective breeding, was used as evidence in legalizing the forced sterilizations of black women. Thus, when Margaret Sanger’s birth control movement allied itself with the eugenics movement, black women became suspicious of Sanger’s interests and the gap between white and black women widened.

As late as the 1960s, black women were often coerced into sterilizations with the threat of denied welfare payments. Others were sterilized without their knowledge or consent. Even under the best circumstances, poor women of color continue to suffer a disproportionate lack of access to reproductive-health services."


However black women were not the only victims of reproductive injustice, other women of color such as Native Americans, Latina-American and Asian-Americans were also targets.

Native American Women

  Native Americans have overcome so much opression and discrimination in the United States but unfortunately it still persists today. Native Americans as a group are at risk for some of the biggest health disparity statistics nation wide. However the forced sterilization of Native Americans may be one of the darkest moments of our history. According to a John’s Hopkins University source:

"Two young women entered an IHS [Indian Health Service] hospital in Montana to undergo appendectomies and received tubal ligations, a form of sterilization, as an added benefit. Bertha Medicine Bull, a member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, related how the "two girls had been sterilized at age fifteen before they had any children. Both were having appendectomies when the doctors sterilized them without their knowledge or consent." Their parents were not informed either. Two fifteen-year-old girls would never be able to have children of their own. 2

What happened to these three females was a common occurrence during the 1960s and 1970s. Native Americans accused the Indian Health Service of sterilizing at least 25 percent of Native American women who were between the ages of fifteen and forty-four during the 1970s. The allegations included: failure to provide women with necessary information regarding sterilization; use of coercion to get signatures on the consent forms; improper consent forms; and lack of an appropriate waiting period (at least seventy-two hours) between the signing of a consent form and the surgical procedure. …"


     Latinas have also struggled with forced sterilizations from the United States government.  According to a source at the University of Michigan:

"One of the main reasons for Latinas to organize and a major cause of the Latinas womens rights movement was the sterilization campaigns in Puerto Rico. In the 1930s, the island of Puerto Rico was experiencing a high level of poverty and unemployment. Thus, the government blamed the overpopulation on the island as a cause of these problems. The government then decided that sterilization campaigns were necessary to suppress these problems. Moreover, they felt if more women were sterilized, they would have more time to work, and thus help the economy since women were considered part of the cheap labor force.3 Thus, the government began to provide funds for sterilization to the Puerto Rican government. The idea of sterilization was promoted on the island and to the women, and it almost appeared necessary. For example, in the documentary, La Operacion,4 one woman said she saw her friend who had just gotten sterilized, and she was jealous because she got to miss work so the woman decided she wanted to get sterilized too. She said all she had to do was ask the mayor, and the next day she got sterilized. By 1968 one third of women of childbearing age had been sterilized on the island, the highest percentage anywhere in the world at that time."

Asian-American Women

    Asian American women have had a history of struggles with access to reproductive healthcare not to mention the sex trafficking of Asian women that still goes on today. According to the Asian/Pacific Islanders for Reproductive health:

As early as 1870, in an attempt to limit the size of the Asian population
in California, the state legislature passed a law that prohibited
the immigration of Asian women, and in 1875 the United States
Congress passed the Page Law to forbid entry of mostly “Chinese,
Japanese and Mongolian” women. Current policies restricting
immigration and access to social services also significantly prevent
API women from truly being able to make reproductive choices.
For example, limited English-speaking API women accessing
welfare payments often do not have a complete picture of their
rights and status, and are unable to advocate for themselves and
navigate the complex system because of the lack of sufficient
interpreters. Moreover, though the use of DDT is banned in the
continental U.S., over the past 40 years U.S. corporations have
dumped vast amounts of agricultural chemicals including DDT in
Hawaii, and mounting evidence suggests that these pesticides
play a role in breast cancer development. Today, native Hawaiians
have one of the highest breast cancer rates in the world.4

Learning about the past is obviously an important first step but make sure not to just keep this information to yourselves but to also share it with others. The second step is to include awareness of these past issues and action on current issues in our reproductive justice agenda  and thus stand in solidarity with our sisters of color.

0. MySistahs – a reproductive health resource for Young Women of Color
1. Asian Pacific Islanders for Reproductive Health
2. National Latina Health Organization
3. National Black Women’s Health Project
4. The Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center
5. A great resource on the reproductive health violations against Latinas
6. Birthing a slave: Motherhood and medicine in antebellum South by Marie Jenkins Schwartz was a great resource for me in writing about reproductive rights of slaves in American.
7. National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
8. Interesting photobook on black women’s bodies in history


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The Reproductive Rights movements has contributed greatly to the lives of many women, men and children around the country. The fight for affordable, accessible family planning services has increased the health and quality of life of women especially. However it is important to realize that the reproductive rights movement simply not limited to abortions and contraception but it also includes the struggle for many women to have children.
Because of contemporary issues and the bias of the majority of reproductive health advocates the past incursions of reproductive freedoms has generally focused on the problems of white women.

Women of Color have faced tremendous reproductive health struggles but they are sometimes overlooked. I think that given all the dialogue in our country right now on reproductive rights it would be a great time to engage people in the struggles that women of color face. This is important because it not only frames the current debate over reproductive rights but it also puts into focus some of the reasons why women of color may be more apprehensive with reproductive health professionals and advocates.

African American Women

The history of African-Americans has been wraught with racism and oppression. This discussion can not begin without frank examination of the reproductive violations that black women faced under American slavery. According to Schwartz, it  was common for a black women’s "worth" to be associated with her ability to birth children:

Former slave Boston Blackwell, who witnessed the sale of two women in Memphis Tennessee, reported that a girl of fifteen who had no children sold for $800, but a “breeding woman” sold for $1,500. (page 14)

Black women were also forced into sex with thier master, but even worse slavewomen were also shared like sexual property with sons, nephews, visitors and neighbors. Unfortunately for slavewomen, unwantex sex with the master was not the only thing they had to fear- they were some times forced into sex with other slaves – whether this meant forced marriage or outright rape:

“Other [slave] informants spoke of ‘stockmen’ assigned th role of stud. One former slave testified that a stockman would be locked in a room with women of childbearing age overnight. In the morning, he would be quizzed about what happened. If he did not engage in sex (the women might resist him) his owner would not be paid for his services). “(pg 23-24)

Unfortunately a slavewoman could not even trust her doctor to act in her best interest. Often doctors were slaveowners themselves or at least tried to act in the master’s best interest despite the enormous contributions to obstetrics, gynecology and medicine in general that was gained not just by studying slaves but through the ethnomedicine of slaves:

“When doctors joined with slaveholders to exercise control over enslaved women’s health, medical pracitce became entwined with the cause of slavery’s continuance. Simultaneously, slavery helped to further the medicialization of child birth and the professionalism of medicine.” (page 4)

In the Post-Slavery South, black women were stillvictims of sexually violent hate crimes from the racists and they were even targets of rape by Klu Klux Klan Terrorism. Even more modern than the KKK violence was the forced sterilizations of the 1960s and 1970s that persisted even into the 1980s. According to IPAS,

"…in the early 20th century, the model of eugenics, which proposed that human perfection could be achieved through selective breeding, was used as evidence in legalizing the forced sterilizations of black women. Thus, when Margaret Sanger’s birth control movement allied itself with the eugenics movement, black women became suspicious of Sanger’s interests and the gap between white and black women widened.

As late as the 1960s, black women were often coerced into sterilizations with the threat of denied welfare payments. Others were sterilized without their knowledge or consent. Even under the best circumstances, poor women of color continue to suffer a disproportionate lack of access to reproductive-health services."


However black women were not the only victims of reproductive injustice, other women of color such as Native Americans, Latina-American and Asian-Americans were also targets.

Native American Women

  Native Americans have overcome so much opression and discrimination in the United States but unfortunately it still persists today. Native Americans as a group are at risk for some of the biggest health disparity statistics nation wide. However the force sterilization of Native Americans may be one of the darkest moments of our history. According to a John’s Hopkins University source:

"Two young women entered an IHS [Indian Health Service] hospital in Montana to undergo appendectomies and received tubal ligations, a form of sterilization, as an added benefit. Bertha Medicine Bull, a member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, related how the "two girls had been sterilized at age fifteen before they had any children. Both were having appendectomies when the doctors sterilized them without their knowledge or consent." Their parents were not informed either. Two fifteen-year-old girls would never be able to have children of their own. 2

What happened to these three females was a common occurrence during the 1960s and 1970s. Native Americans accused the Indian Health Service of sterilizing at least 25 percent of Native American women who were between the ages of fifteen and forty-four during the 1970s. The allegations included: failure to provide women with necessary information regarding sterilization; use of coercion to get signatures on the consent forms; improper consent forms; and lack of an appropriate waiting period (at least seventy-two hours) between the signing of a consent form and the surgical procedure. This paper investigates the historical relationship between the IHS and Indian tribes; the right of the United States government to sterilize women; the government regulations pertaining to sterilization; the efforts of the IHS to sterilize American Indian women; physicians’ reasons for sterilizing American Indian women; and the consequences the sterilizations had on the lives of a few of those women and their families. 3 [End Page 400]"


     Latinas have also struggled with forced sterilizations from the United States government.  According to a source at the University of Michigan:

"One of the main reasons for Latinas to organize and a major cause of the Latinas womens rights movement was the sterilization campaigns in Puerto Rico. In the 1930s, the island of Puerto Rico was experiencing a high level of poverty and unemployment. Thus, the government blamed the overpopulation on the island as a cause of these problems. The government then decided that sterilization campaigns were necessary to suppress these problems. Moreover, they felt if more women were sterilized, they would have more time to work, and thus help the economy since women were considered part of the cheap labor force.3 Thus, the government began to provide funds for sterilization to the Puerto Rican government. The idea of sterilization was promoted on the island and to the women, and it almost appeared necessary. For example, in the documentary, La Operacion,4 one woman said she saw her friend who had just gotten sterilized, and she was jealous because she got to miss work so the woman decided she wanted to get sterilized too. She said all she had to do was ask the mayor, and the next day she got sterilized. By 1968 one third of women of childbearing age had been sterilized on the island, the highest percentage anywhere in the world at that time."

Asian-American Women

    Asian American women have had a history of struggles with access to reproductive healthcare not to mention the sex trafficking of Asian women that still goes on today. According to the Asian/Pacific Islanders for Reproductive health:

As early as 1870, in an attempt to limit the size of the Asian population
in California, the state legislature passed a law that prohibited
the immigration of Asian women, and in 1875 the United States
Congress passed the Page Law to forbid entry of mostly “Chinese,
Japanese and Mongolian” women. Current policies restricting
immigration and access to social services also significantly prevent
API women from truly being able to make reproductive choices.
For example, limited English-speaking API women accessing
welfare payments often do not have a complete picture of their
rights and status, and are unable to advocate for themselves and
navigate the complex system because of the lack of sufficient
interpreters. Moreover, though the use of DDT is banned in the
continental U.S., over the past 40 years U.S. corporations have
dumped vast amounts of agricultural chemicals including DDT in
Hawaii, and mounting evidence suggests that these pesticides
play a role in breast cancer development. Today, native Hawaiians
have one of the highest breast cancer rates in the world.4

Learning about the past is obviously an important first step but make sure not to just keep this information to yourselves but to also share it with others. The second step is to include awareness of these past issues and action on current issues in our reproductive justice agenda  and thus stand in solidarity with our sisters of color.

0. MySistahs – a reproductive health resource for Young Women of Color
1. Asian Pacific Islanders for Reproductive Health
2. National Latina Health Organization
3. National Black Women’s Health Project
4. The Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center
5. A great resource on the reproductive health violations against Latinas
6. Birthing a slave: Motherhood and medicine in antebellum South by Marie Jenkins Schwartz was a great resource for me in writing about reproductive rights of slaves in American.
7. National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
8. Interesting photobook on black women’s bodies in history


Profile photo of Breaking Waves

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Natalie Dylan, a 22 year old women’s studies grad from California, has been the buzz of the blogsphere since she put her virginity up for auction on the internet and announced that the bidding reached 3.8 million this month. She describes it as a money-making “sociological experiment” inspired by her college experience with women’s studies courses.
Natalie Dylan is in a privileged position. She’s white, college educated, and has access to the mainstream media. And no matter what anyone thinks about what she’s doing with her virginity, she’s within her rights as an American citizen to do it. She can, and does, even call it a feminist act.
But, with her privilege Dylan should know that by no means is her idea original – men have been buying and selling women’s hymens since Bible times, and the practice continues in both the East and West in various forms. And while she proudly notes that she will get her pick of the many men willing to pay top dollar for her first time, most women don’t have such choice in the matter.
New York Times’ columnist Bill Kristol recently wrote a heart-wrenching plea to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to take immediate steps to end sex trafficking all over the world. He introduced us to13 year old Ling Pross of Cambodia:
She was kept locked deep inside the brothel, her hands tied behind her back at all times except when with customers.
Brothel owners can charge large sums for sex with a virgin, and like many girls, Ms. Pross was painfully stitched up so she could be resold as a virgin. In all, the brothel owner sold her virginity four times.
It doesn’t say for how much, but I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t 3.7 million – and I can be pretty damn sure Ling Pross didn’t get any of it to go to graduate school.
Think I’m being dramatic? After all, Natalie Dylan wasn’t kidnapped and sold to a brothel, she contacted a brothel herself in order to auction off a commodity on the “one level on which men cannot compete.” She claims that she’s reclaiming her sexuality and flipping gender bias into an example of American entrepreneurship. If the sucker will pay, who’s to stop him? It is hers to sell, after all.
Ok. She can do that. She – the individual, meaning a straight, white, educated, American – can and will subject herself to probes to prove her virginity, hob nob it up with television pimp Dennis Hof and net enough cash and blog buzz to start a singing career if  the “family and marriage counseling” idea doesn’t pan out.
Ironically, she can do it because of the gains on the women’s movement.
But in the process she is without a doubt reiterating that, in an era that is purported to be post-feminist, women’s bodies are simply capital, their worth is between their legs. And by implication, she is establishing that she’s worth far more than most women by virtue of birthplace and will forever be worth less as a woman in general the day after she does the deed.
She can do it, but it doesn’t mean she should. The signals got crossed somewhere – sexual liberation wasn’t hard won so that we as young women can participate in our own subjection and call it progress.
In fact, the privilege that she and I share comes with the responsibility of making the connections between a culture that has spawned the bidding war for her virginity and the sex tourism that delivers customers to Ling Pross in Cambodia – and making it very clear that anytime women’s bodies are put on the market, the woman is never in a winning position.
In any situation where women’s bodies are being trafficked, legally or illegally, there are undoubtedly fat cats, usually male, sitting around counting the dollars (or Cambodian riel, as the case may be). What percentage will Dennis Hof and his Bunny Ranch get of Dylan’s asking price, for instance? Something tells me she will see a whole lot less of that bounty by the time the whole thing is said and done. 
I wonder what else she’ll come up short of after this experience. One of the privileges that Dylan enjoys that the women who are not just playing at prostitution don’t is that, after she takes the money and runs, she’ll have the opportunity to explore how amazing sex can be when neither partner is participating in the other’s exploitation.
Dylan concludes that she might be an “early adopter of a future trend.” I certainly hope not. Western capitalism combined with some shaky feminist philosophy does not a statement make – quite the opposite, in fact.
 Unless she’s pulling one over on us all. Her auction has prompted numerous discussions about the status of women in this country and she actually made Fox News say the word “maidenhead” on the air. I hope when the big exchange comes she’ll refuse the money and instead publicly post the names and photos of the wealthy bidders for their wives, girlfriends, and daughters to see how much they might be worth in comparison. Or, get in good at the Bunny Ranch and write a devastating tell all on the whole slimy operation.
Or she can take the money. Go to grad school, write a dissertation on the experience and then give the rest of the spoils to an organization like Equality Now that works for an end to domestic and international sex trafficking. That, at least, would be something shaped like progress.