Monday, 20 December 2010

S 987 Suffer Little Children.

S 987 RFH
2d Session
S. 987
December 2, 2010
Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs

To protect girls in developing countries through the prevention of child marriage, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
This Act may be cited as the ‘International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010’.
Congress makes the following findings:
(1) Child marriage, also known as ‘forced marriage’ or ‘early marriage’, is a harmful traditional practice that deprives girls of their dignity and human rights.
(2) Child marriage as a traditional practice, as well as through coercion or force, is a violation of article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, ‘Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of intending spouses’.
(3) According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), an estimated 60,000,000 girls in developing countries now ages 20 through 24 were married under the age of 18, and if present trends continue more than 100,000,000 more girls in developing countries will be married as children over the next decade, according to the Population Council.
(4) Between 1/2 and 3/4 of all girls are married before the age of 18 in Niger, Chad, Mali, Bangladesh, Guinea, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, and Nepal, according to Demographic Health Survey data.
(5) Factors perpetuating child marriage include poverty, a lack of educational or employment opportunities for girls, parental concerns to ensure sexual relations within marriage, the dowry system, and the perceived lack of value of girls.
(6) Child marriage has negative effects on the health of girls, including significantly increased risk of maternal death and morbidity, infant mortality and morbidity, obstetric fistula, and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
(7) According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), increasing the age at first birth for a woman will increase her chances of survival. Currently, pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading cause of death for women 15 to 19 years old in developing countries.
(8) Most countries with high rates of child marriage have a legally established minimum age of marriage, yet child marriage persists due to strong traditional norms and the failure to enforce existing laws.
(9) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stated that child marriage is ‘a clear and unacceptable violation of human rights’, and that ‘the Department of State categorically denounces all cases of child marriage as child abuse’.
(10) According to an International Center for Research on Women analysis of Demographic and Health Survey data, areas or regions in developing countries in which 40 percent or more of girls under the age of 18 are married are considered high-prevalence areas for child marriage.
(11) Investments in girls’ schooling, creating safe community spaces for girls, and programs for skills building for out-of-school girls are all effective and demonstrated strategies for preventing child marriage and creating a pathway to empower girls by addressing conditions of poverty, low status, and norms that contribute to child marriage.
In this Act, the term ‘child marriage’ means the marriage of a girl or boy, not yet the minimum age for marriage stipulated in law in the country in which the girl or boy is a resident or, where there is no such law, under the age of 18.
It is the sense of Congress that--
(1) child marriage is a violation of human rights, and the prevention and elimination of child marriage should be a foreign policy goal of the United States;
(2) the practice of child marriage undermines United States investments in foreign assistance to promote education and skills building for girls, reduce maternal and child mortality, reduce maternal illness, halt the transmission of HIV/AIDS, prevent gender-based violence, and reduce poverty; and
(3) expanding educational opportunities for girls, economic opportunities for women, and reducing maternal and child mortality are critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the global health and development objectives of the United States, including efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS.
(a) Assistance Authorized-
(1) IN GENERAL- The President is authorized to provide assistance, including through multilateral, nongovernmental, and faith-based organizations, to prevent the incidence of child marriage in developing countries through the promotion of educational, health, economic, social, and legal empowerment of girls and women.


Excellent. There could be nothing in this bill to object to, surely. In fact it passed the Senate on December 1st by unanimous Bipartisan support. On Dec 6,  Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post, praising the USA : “This act illustrates how support for securing a just and healthy life for every woman and girl transcends politics.” Then on December 16th the Bill failed to pass the House of Representatives.

The GOP Whips (John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen) had sent out an alert, "There are also concerns that funding will be directed to NGOs that promote and perform abortion and efforts to combat child marriage could be usurped as a way to overturn pro-life laws."

This is plainly a lie. Federal funding is already prohibited for abortion activities by the Helms Amendment

The Republicans, perhaps realising the abortion tactic would not play, used a scaremongering fiscal argument saying the Bill would cost $67million over the period 2011-2015. However the Congressional Budget Office states "Enacting S. 987 would not affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply to this legislation.” This money was therefore already budgeted foreign aid, not new appropriation as claimed by Ros-Lehtinen.

Conor Williams of the Washington Post, wrote at PostPartisan “How can Republicans explain efforts to defeat a human rights bill because of $67 million in potential spending while simultaneously pushing for a tax cut deal for wealthy Americans that will add $858 billion to the deficit? Is this at all credible?”

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) the main author of the Bill said 
"The action on the House floor stopping the Child Marriage bill tonight will endanger the lives of millions of women and girls around the world. These young girls, enslaved in marriage, will be brutalized and many will die when their young bodies are torn apart while giving birth. Those who voted to continue this barbaric practice brought shame to Capitol Hill."

In her 1978 book Gyn/Ecology, author Mary Daly makes note of a 1922 index involving child brides in India at the time  describing four cases:
A. Aged 9 Day after marriage. Left femur dislocated, pelvis crushed out of shape, flesh hanging in shreds.
I. Aged about 7. Living with husband. Died in great agony after three days…
L. Aged 11. From great violence done to her person, will be a cripple for life. No use of her lower extremities.
M. Aged about 10. Crawled to hospital on her hands and knees. Has never been able to stand since her marriage.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Putin is an Alpha Dog or Where the Fuck is it?

Well, I like dogs, but Putin? No thanks. I don't want his doggy jaws anywhere near my English cream tea.

But Russian dog distractions aside, once again the slightly flamboyant Kenneth Lipp has referenced my terrific and wondrous blog in his analysis of the UN - that increasingly flaccid organ of Utter Nothing. Defamation of it and weep oh freethinking and vigorously robust challengers of dogma, hypocrisy and downright bloody lies, for thine is the Kingdom..  Lets us for once target the source of oppression, the set in stone ancient religious texts, instead of those that question it. How about a Defamation of Basic Dignity and Human Rights as espoused by the Bible, the Torah and Koran? How about that for starters UN?

Friday, 26 November 2010

Culture is a Weapon takes over my Blog, We have a duel, I win because I have the biggest sword and then I flash him and he faints.

Kenneth Lipp has once again written a brilliant blog post, this time on the exact meaning of the word phobia. He goes on to deconstruct the term "Islamophobia" into the meaningless and trite "Get out of Jail Free" card it has come to mean for Islam. People who oppose the medieval and barbaric tenets of this religion are exercising their freedom of thought to disagree with an ideology they find abhorrant. Lipp references my brilliant blog, otherwise I wouldn't be plugging his. Ta da. Enjoy

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

In which I shamelessly promote my own blog by posting my friends blog because he promoted mine

This is a terrific blog post by Kenneth Lipp who mentions my own gorgeous blog (this one) and my gorgeous friend Mr Barrett Brown (remember that name) and his gorgeous ProjectPM. It's all gorgeous. Like a cheese stick.

Kenneth gives an example of how scientists can unwittingly make way for the promotion of bigotry

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Japanese Binocular Soccer

In honour of my 6 Japanese readers.

6 people in Japan viewed my Blog yesterday. Huzzah!

So, Islam. Well I've been having fights about it on various websites (okay one website, you know who you are and you read this blog because I see your traffic in my Stats) and to be honest I'm exhausted from defending myself. Thats the ironic thing. I'm not the oppressive, judgmental 7th century doctrine that wants to hang homosexuals, stone women and kill Jews. But I'm the one they attack. Because I oppose the 7th century doctrine that wants to hang homosexuals, stone women and kill Jews.

That is bonkers. It's even more bonkers when these people who attack me say, after all the arguing "well I don't agree with Islam either but you know, you should really just shut up about it because ..." and there the argument breaks down. I am never told why I must shut up about it. Is it to save their liberal sensibilities? Or is it because I'm not politically correct. Maybe even tactless. Is it because the Republicans also attack Islam and the Left simply can't bear to be seen to agree with anything their political enemies espouse? Are these people unable to get beyond Republican and Democrat? Is it really just about the enemy of my enemy, and for them it is the GOP? It is a brave woman who will stand up to the intellectual dereliction which surrounds our discourse on the subject of Islam. I am that brave woman. I know I'm right and I'll keep saying this for as long as it takes.

Islam is a political system of thought. Mohammed, an illiterate 7th century tribal peasant allegedly had the basics of Islamic doctrine (the Qu'ran) dictated to him by Allah, a supernatural entity who only speaks Arabic and conveniently told Mohammed that whatever he wanted to do was okay with him. You want to fuck 9 year old girls, Mo? Go ahead. You want to seize land, kill all  non-believers and make yourself  powerful by invoking My name? Go ahead. In fact you've hit upon such a brilliant ruse that you should just make Me say whatever is most self serving to your own desires. Call it the Uncreated Word of God. Make sure everyone knows that if they try to leave this religion, it is everybody else's duty who hasn't left the religion and is still cowering within the religion, to kill them. That should keep them obedient.

Thats basically it. Only its not it. Because that doctrine, that system of thought has been used over the centuries by successive Religious leaders to restrict, oppress and otherwise deny entirely, the most basic human rights which we in the West take blithely for granted. We all know its unwise to be a homosexual in Iran. It's very, very unwise to be female anywhere in the Muslim world. Its unwise to call a teddy bear Mohammed. Its unwise to publish cartoons which may depict the illiterate 7th century peasant as anything close to what he actually was, an illiterate 7th century peasant. And paedophile. (but shh don't say that because it's tasteless) In fact, its unwise to say anything, anything at all about Islam, Mohammed or Allah unless you want to be fatwa'd. In fact, the normal discourse we in the West use to debate, criticise, understand a political system, is denied us in this one case. Because Islam does not allow free speech. And we have submitted to that.

In this article regarding his book, "Flight of the Intellectuals", Paul Berman says:

 “We used to have a zillion writers on the topic of communism, writers who were all over the map, politically speaking, but who made communism a real topic. It was a perfectly normal thing for American intellectuals to weigh in on the debate over the Soviet Union, and the Cold War. But it’s not normal for people to weigh in on debates on Islam.”
Why the disparity? I ask. “People are mostly concerned that they’re not seen as Islamophobes. And if your principal concern is to show that you’re not Islamophobe, one way to guarantee that is to say not one word on the subject! Besides, people are frightened by a million things: They’re frightened by the topic, by the controversy that surrounds the topic, and obviously there’s a degree of physical intimidation that goes with this. There are, in fact, topics that no one in his right mind is going to take up for reasons of physical fear.

Perfectly understandable I say. People do not want to be seen as anything other than tolerant. However why are we now so tolerant that we are now tolerating the intolerant? We seek to appease this oppressive, totalitarian system of thought., to allow it space in our own hard fought-for democracies. Why? Why do we not use reason and argument to put our point across that we do not in fact tolerate the intolerant. We, as a society, do not hang men because they fall in love with other men. So lets stop pretending its perfectly okay when Muslims advocate it. We find it abhorrent. We find the stoning of women abhorrent. We find honour killings abhorrent. We find the burka abhorrent. We find the religiously sanctioned marriage of 9 and 10 year old girls absolutely abhorrent.

People who wish to defend the indefensible will say that the above examples are only practised by extremists. So called "Moderate" Muslims do not think this way. If, and its a big if, that is the case, where are all these moderate Muslims and why are they not organising and speaking out against these atrocities? Where is the grass roots Muslim opposition to these abhorrent crimes? Not in the Muslim community.

No, its in the Apostate community. One of the most vociferous and outspoken critics of Islam is my friend, I won't name him, he knows who he is. I will name him if he reads this and says its okay to name him. He is an Apostate. He knows how Islam works. He has been, by his own admission, damaged by his exposure to it. He is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful and engaging people I know. I trust his judgement and insight. My point is that if he can speak up against this system of thought as an Apostate, and risk his life in the process, then I certainly can.

If we continue to appease Islam, by remaining silent, we effectively give it a free pass. Berman writes;

“I’m not one of those people who believe that everything is doomed, because I think that the very thing that makes the Islamist movement so dangerous—which is its modernity—also allows us to argue with it. So it’s possible to engage in discussions, and actually to win them.” But Berman regrets that we, as a society, “don’t engage in argument with Islamists, and it’s because of our understanding of the word ‘engage.’ The most common definition is to say that to engage with people is to lie down like a carpet in front of them. You don’t criticize them, you don’t argue with them, you concede, and you turn yourself into Mr. Nice. That’s what we do with Islam.
“On the other hand, actually to engage with someone is to argue with them, to take them seriously, and if you’re an intellectual, it means read their books. But there’s a problem with doing that for a lot of people in all the Western countries. It’s as if to argue with someone is the first step toward going to war. If you’re arguing, they worry that’s going to lead to violence… so we shouldn’t even argue. They don’t see argument as an alternative to violence.”

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

If You Don't Like it Put a Blanket Over YOUR Head

This is my post about breasts. So, breast feeding. Well, we've all done it. Okay we haven't all done it but we all know someone who has done it. I was in the tea shop the other day and a group of women came in with babies, one began breast feeding. It was discreet and nothing could be seen. I only knew she was breast feeding because her crying baby suddenly disappeared under a towel and shut up. And because I was discreetly staring.

However, talk about breast feeding in public and some people think that not only is it gross, its scandalous, immoral and probably satanic. Or something. However, it may be a little known fact that breast feeding is protected by law in the UK. There is not and there never has been a law that prohibits breast feeding in public, for example in a cafe. We are talking about breast feeding a baby, here, not the more unusual kind. The 1975 Sexual Discrimination Act (SDA) created legal protection for a woman breast feeding a child in public. In 2008 an amendment to the SDA brought in more specific cover under the wording of "maternity" meaning a challenge could be brought by the mother on the broader grounds of maternity rights. The current Equality bill seeks to further tighten this legislation that maternity protection includes breast feeding by making this a part of the statute.

Now Taiwan has passed a similar law, with anyone preventing mothers from breast feeding in public there, facing a substantial fine. In most parts of Africa and India, breast feeding in public is regarded as normal and is encouraged and supported. It is forbidden in Iran and Saudi Arabia, regarded as very rude in Hong Kong but seen as normal in China and Japan. The US allows breast feeding in public in all States although State laws differ. New York even has its own Breast feeding Mothers Bill of Rights.

This is all great, but do we have a cultural nipple phobia? Or rather is it a female nipple phobia? For instance, in most western countries men can march about topless on a hot day, but a woman doing it gets arrested.

R v Jacob, the Ontario Court of Appeal carefully studied the evidence, that Gwen Jacob:
".... on July 19, 1991 an extremely hot, humid summer day, ... walked along several Guelph streets with uncovered breasts. Along the way she was seen by and spoke to a number of people, including three police officers. (They) asked the (Ms Jacob) to cover her breasts. (She) responded by telling him that since males were permitted to be in public with their chests uncovered, she had a constitutional right to walk on the street topless as well. Further, she stated that it was more comfortable in the heat to walk topless. (Ms Jacob) noticed two topless males walking down the street and asked Constable Wicinski why she was not arresting them. Constable Wicinski replied that 'society doesn't view that as that act being wrong.'
"Another police officer ... located her sitting on the porch of a Guelph residence without her top on. She refused his request to put on her shirt as she said it was her right to expose her breasts. He said that there were five or six young males sitting on a nearby porch drinking beer and watching the appellant with binoculars."

Okay well thats funny and I would be looking too but only because we have such a taboo about the female breast. Or rather, nipple. Gwen could have walked down the street with most of her breast exposed as long as the all important nipple (that Aureole of Sin) was covered. Gwen Jacobs appealed her conviction and won in higher courts, a ruling that gives women in Ontario the right to go uncovered in public. However not many women in Ontario claim this right. (so who's coming with me to Ontario to test this law?)

Of course we're talking about the meaning of indecency vis a vis the public standard of tolerance. Indecency means many different things in different countries. I can wear pretty much whatever I like, here in England,  but I must cover my nipples. However I'd be literally locked up if I wasn't covered from head to foot if I lived in Iran or Saudi Arabia. Cultural mores would make it virtually impossible for me to step outside without the full covering, unless I wanted to spend all day fending off the harrassment of men, unused to seeing a woman wearing whatever she liked. As Ed Husain describes in this enlightening piece.

"Part of this local culture consisted of public institutions being segregated and women banned from driving on the grounds that it would give rise to “licentiousness”. I was repeatedly astounded at the stares Faye got from Saudi men and I from Saudi women.

Faye was not immodest in her dress. Out of respect for local custom, she wore the long black abaya and covered her hair in a black scarf. In all the years I had known my wife, never had I seen her appear so dull. Yet on two occasions she was accosted by passing Saudi youths from their cars. On another occasion a man pulled up beside our car and offered her his phone number.

In supermarkets I only had to be away from Faye for five minutes and Saudi men would hiss or whisper obscenities as they walked past. When Faye discussed her experiences with local women at the British Council they said: “Welcome to Saudi Arabia.

This is the extreme end of the Modesty Scale which women are assumed to abide by, simply because we are women. What is it about the female body that is so outrageous that in some cultures it must be covered from head to foot? Why are those Saudi men such jerks? I don't know, and the culturally assumed male privilege and arrogance that informs the above reaction is beyond my comprehension, but it often strikes me as entirely odd that womens bodies are still subject to so much taboo. Perhaps not odd, for womens  bodies are still the battleground of sexual autonomy. There is a cultural bias that says mens bodies belong to men, womens bodies belong to, well not women. Because if they did we would not be still having abortion wars in 2010 or be witness to antiquated Islamic laws that say an uncovered woman is considered to be transgressing some arbitrary moral code.

So, yes, you women of the USA and the UK, if you want to breast feed your baby in public, then please go right ahead. Nobody can stop you. Just spare a thought for our sisters in Saudi who cannot even go outside with their hair flowing free.