Virgin Cleansing Myth

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 13:16 PM EDT, 9 February 2012

Photo by Nicole Hinrichs - All Rights ReservedNEW DELHI, India – Yesterday we wrote about the scandal of three Indian politicians watching pornography during a parliament session. Today, Indian is once again in the news but in a slightly more positive light.

South African peace activist, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the 1984 Noble Peace Prize winner, is now chairman of ‘The Elders.” This group is comprised of prominent people of diverse backgrounds and heritage who are dedicated to addressing humanitarian issues from around the world.

Tutu, 80, is spearheading a global movement called “Girls Not Brides” which is aimed at ending child marriages. We have focused a lot of attention on this issue because this practice has such a deleterious impact on its victims. Child brides are subjected to rape, fistulas, physical and psychological abuse, and murder often condoned by the community as the right of the husband because of a lack of a dowry or as an honor killing.

Tutu told Reuters late Wednesday that "India is doing fantastically.” But intimated that the country’s growth and role as a significant world player could increase exponentially if it “enlisted the participation of 50 percent of the population,’ which means Women. The problem of marginalization, discrimination, abuse and murder of women is not unique to India.

Child marriages are most prevalent in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, but also occurs in the United States. Though many countries have laws on the books prohibiting this practice, most of the families that engage in this type of behavior live in remote regions of the country where the police have, in their opinion, more pressing concerns than what they consider to be a ‘family matter.’

According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), “100 million girls will be married before the age of 18 in the coming decade. Most will be in sub-Saharan Africa countries, some of which are (Mali, DRC, Mozambique, Eritrea, Ethiopia) and the Asian Subcontinent countries, some of which are (Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh). In Niger, for example, 74.5% of women in their early 20s were married as children. In Bangladesh, 66.2% were. Child marriage also occurs in parts of the world including the United States and the Middle East. (Source: ICRW)

According to UNICEF, an estimated 14 million girls between the ages of 15 and 19 give birth each year. Because their bodies have not fully developed they are twice as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth as women in their 20s. Girls who marry between the ages of 10 and 14 are five times as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth, and their infants are 60 percent more likely to die. (Source: UNICEF)

In India, 47 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 are married before the legal age of 18 according to the government's latest National Family Health Survey. Tutu, who is traveling in India with other Elders, including former Irish President Mary Robinson and Gro Harlem Brundtland, who was Norway's first prime minister, believes that this type of inequality is a definite impediment to increased socioeconomic development.

Tutu has been a vociferous campaigner on the issues of fighting HIV/AIDS, an epidemic that has plagued his own country, South Africa. In numerous interviews he asserts his belief that girls married off to older men, have little control over their sex lives and thus are more likely to be infected by HIV/AIDS as a consequence.

This is especially true in South Africa, where older men who lack access to proper healthcare resort to raping female babies and infant girls. This abhorrent practice is known as the Virgin Cleansing Myth “that if a man infected with HIV, AIDS, or other sexually transmitted diseases has sex with a virgin girl, he will be cured of his disease.(Source: Wikipedia)

There are many issues that must be addressed worldwide in an effort to achieve gender equality.  We don’t believe that ‘gender equality’ equates with ‘gender sameness.’ Women and men are uniquely created to complement each other and we believe this is healthy. It is only when one or the other, but in the case of this post, when a man chooses to exert control over a woman and to rob her of her natural right to self-determination, that we must stand up in one voice and denounce the perpetrators.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Tutu, The Elders, and NGOs are doing their part to increase global awareness of the practice of child marriages. We can support these campaigns at a grassroots level through donations, writing and blogging about this issue, or just reaching out to a woman in need in your community. To achieve gender equality at all levels of society we must do all that we can in support of the development of 50 percent of humanity. Women.

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Liquid Lust in India's Parliament

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 21:32 PM EDT, 8 February 2012

NEW DELHI, India - News channels have broadcast footage of three Indian politicians from a morally conservative party watching pornography during a session of state parliament. This revelation would have been noteworthy in itself, but what captured our attention was the fact that one of the men is the minister for women and child development.

The broadcast showed footage of Karnataka state Minister for Cooperation Laxman Savadi sharing a porn clip with his colleague C.C. Patil, the minister for women and child development. The phone is purported to belong to Krishna Palema, the state Minister for Ports, Science and Technology.

All three men have subsequently resigned, though they each categorically deny deliberately watching the porn. The three state politicians explained that they tendered their resignations because they did not want to cause any embarrassment for their party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which rules the state and is in opposition at a national level.

Pornography is not harmless as some would assert. Proponents of this billion dollar industry advertise that all the actors in the industry are willing participants who are well compensated. On the revenue side, porn moguls defend their massive profits by claiming any type of restriction would infringe upon freedom of expression.

Many men and women who have become addicted to porn, in particular internet and video, have seen their lives ruined because of their unnatural attachment to unrealistic body types and contrived sexual situations. As the addiction progresses they are only able to achieve sexual gratification through the images presented in this LCD universe.

Since most men and women do not look like the people featured in these movies, it becomes difficult for those addicted to porn to develop conflict resolutions skills that are required to maintain intimate relationships in the non-LCD world. Though the industry would be loathed to admit it, pornography contributes to the objectification of the women and men who perform in these films. With regard to women, who in many societies are already marginalized or objectified, pornography can further inure men to their humanity and thus the suffering of all women in their societies.

Girls and women in largely patriarchal India face a barrage of threats including rape, dowry-related murder, forced marriage, domestic violence, honor killings and human trafficking. For these ministers to watch pornography further reinforces the rights of men over women in a country where there already is this social mindset that women are disposable commodities and are seen as transferable property.

Renuka Chowdhary, a former federal minister for women's development and a member of the Congress Party told CNN-IBC that "it really is troubling that the people who are in positions of power and have the responsibility to change things actually have the same mindset and are busy watching porn."

Russian Roulette of Rape

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 15:17 p.m. EDT, 19 July 2011

Rape Victim, Photo by Reinfried Marass (http://reinfriedmarass.com/blog/)

As a victim of rape I am intimately acquainted with the difficulties women face when confronted by the decision to report the violation. I was brutally date raped by boy who I knew and trusted. What has remained with me thirty years hence was the utter indifference exhibited by other attendees of the party who chose to ignore my cries for help.

When a woman is raped, if she chooses to report the violation, she risks a second violation by the criminal justice system. In almost all cases the defense employs offensive measures by thoroughly investigating her background until they unearth some lapse in judgment, preferably sexual.  She will face character assassination and if this doesn't dissuade her, the specter of a protracted public trial often encourages her to move forward with her life and to try and put it all behind.

I reported my case to a school counselor who tried to persuade me to contact the police but I refused out of fear of reprisal, stigmatization, ostracization.  The rapist had already besmirched my name by telling other schoolmates that I was a 'slut' and that I wanted it.  Since this occurred in my senior year I chose not to attend my graduation and never looked back.

In hindsight my decision not to report the incident to the police may not have been the correct choice, but it was probably best given my age and circumstances.  However, it dramatically affected my ability to trust men and resulted in severe dysfunction which subsequently damaged many of my future relationships.

When an older woman reports rape she is at greatest risk of being victimized by the system.  Most women have history, especially woman who are past the age of consent which is 18 in America. Many women in this age bracket  have had multiple sexual encounters that include marriage or long-term partnerships.  Unlike the accused, her background is dissected with a fine tooth comb, while the perpetrator need only proclaim that he is innocent and the sexual encounter was consensual.

Thus, the chances of a rapist remaining free is fairly high and the risk of him getting caught is akin to playing Russian roulette.  The chances of him getting punished decreases with each subsequent rape, but if he is prone to this type of antisocial behavior, he is willing to take that risk because he understand the psychology of his chosen victims who will most likely remain silent.

This post began in response to the Dominique Strauss-Kahn rape case which has faded quietly from the public's eye amid allegations that the woman was in fact a prostitute who had attempted on previous occasions to file false rape charges.  Only Strauss-Kahn and the maid will ever know the truth. However, even if the allegations advanced by Strauss-Kahn's defense team are true, it does not negate the possibility that this time she told the truth.

It doesn't matter if you are a prostitute, stripper or a wife, non-consensual sex is rape and "No!" means "NO!"

Photos by Reinfried Marass. All Rights Reserved. Contact photographer for permission for reprint.

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Wounded Woman Project | Autobiography of Rape

Reinfried Marass is an Austrian, professional photographer, born 1960 in Vienna. He started photography at age of 18 after his graduation as mechanical engineer. His work is internationally acknowledged and awarded at some of the world’s most prestigious photographic contests. Reinfried's photographs have been published in numerous international magazines and books - primarily covers, full pages, double-spreads or centerfolds.

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