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July 30 2013

Brazil: ‘Real Men Don't Beat Women’

It's a startling statistic: One-fifth of Brazilian women are likely to suffer from domestic violence. That includes physical, psychological, and emotional abuse as well as marital rape. The aggressor is usually a boyfriend, husband, ex-partner, or male family member.

In light of the problem, an online campaign launched earlier this year is challenging “real men” to show their solidarity against domestic violence.

The World Bank with the participation of the Maria da Penha Fernandes Institute [pt] among other Brazilian women's right movements and societies launched a campaign [pt] in March 2013 called “Real men don't beat women” (Homem De Verdade Não Bate Em Mulher).

Brazilian athletes, actors, and society members joined the action on the World Bank Brasil's Facebook page to inspire Brazilians to speak out against domestic violence in Brazil. They joined on FacebookTwitter and Instagram posting self-pics holding a sign featuring the campaign slogan under the hashtag #souhomemdeverdade, which in Portuguese means “I‘m a real man“.

Real men don't beat women. Source: Banco Mundial Brasil on Facbook

“Real men don't beat women”. Source: Banco Mundial Brasil on Facbook

“Every four minutes a woman is killed by domestic violence in Brazil”, according to the figure presented in a state meeting of the public prosecutor's office in Rio Grande do Sul in March 2013:

Os números assustam. (…) Esta é a principal causa da morte de mulheres entre 16 a 44 anos. Desses crimes, 99% são causados por ciúme e possessividade; 77% dos conflitos ocorrem depois da separação.

The numbers are frightening. (…) This is the main cause of death for women between 16 and 44 years. Of these crimes, 99 percent are caused by jealousy and possessiveness; 77 percent of conflicts occur after a break-up.
"No woman looks good in purple". Domestic violence by pablobasile on Deviantart (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

“No woman looks good in purple”. Domestic violence by pablobasile on Deviantart (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

The Map of Violence 2012 (Mapa da Violência de 2012) [pt, PDF] reports that 91,930 women were murdered in Brazil between 1980 and 2010. On average, there were 4.5 women killed for every 100,000 women, with Espírito Santo, Alagoas, and Paraná states having the highest rates.

A special edition of the report dedicated to feminicide in Brazil [pt, PDF], concludes that “68.8 percent of the murders of women take place in the domestic sphere” and in the 20 to 49 age group, “65 percent of the assaults are committed by the partner or ex”. The report also adds:

entre os 84 países do mundo que conseguimos dados a partir do sistema de estatísticas da OMS o Brasil, com sua taxa de 4,4 homicídios para cada 100 mil mulheres ocupa a 7ª colocação, como um dos países de elevados níveis de feminicídio

among the 84 countries from which we got data from the [World Health Organization's] statistics system, Brazil with its rate of 4.4 homicides for every 100,000 women, occupies the 7th place as one of the countries with higher levels of feminicide.

According to Wikigender:

Murders of women rates (each 100 thousands women) Brazil 1980-2010.

Rates of women murdered per every 100,000 women in Brazil from 1980-2010. Source: Map of Violence of 2012

domestic violence was not a part of the Brazil’s federal criminal code until 2006, when Law no. 11.340 of 7 August 2006, otherwise known as the Maria da Penha law [named after Maria da Penha Fernandes [pt], one of the lead figures in the movement for women's rights in Brazil, herself a victim of domestic violence], was adopted. Despite increased efforts made recently, not only on the legislative level, but also on the social and institutional levels, incidents of domestic violence are still high and under reported to the authorities, due to fear of retribution, further violence, and social stigma.

Sadly, these statistics are not on the decline. Calls for help to the Brazilian Women’s Assistance Center have in recent years increased by 16 times.

“Men who beat women aren't right in the head”

The World Bank, together with Brazil's National Congress and Camara TV, also promoted a Short Documentary Contest on the Maria da Penha Law, which awarded five short stories illustrating the lives of:

1st place: A group of women working against gender violence in Sao Paulo [video: Maria Maria]

2nd place: In a group of craftswomen Carmen found the strength to leave her abusive partner. [video: Divas - Female Voices]

3rd place: Lucilia, an indigenous woman, who repeatedly tried to file a report against her ex-partner, but the police never investigated [video: One Law for All]

4th place: Silvia, an activist for women’s rights, murdered by her son in law, who used to beat her daughter [video: Sílvia]

5th place: Veronica, Carmen, and Sara, who managed to free themselves from abusive husbands [video Life Stories Marked by Domestic Violence]

As human rights activist Natasha Baker wrote on her blog after finding out about the work and life of Maria da Penha, “One of the greatest benefits of networking is discovering other organizations, companies and movements that are bringing hope into this world”. For those who want to denounce a domestic violence or any gender-based violence in Brazil, dial 180:

Men who beat women aren't right in the head. Report it by calling 180

July 29 2013

Free Assisted Reproduction Could Be Denied to Lesbians and Single Women in Spain

In Spain, if someone cannot conceive a child through natural means, she can use, free of charge, assisted reproduction techniques. These techniques have been available to lesbian couples and women who have opted to be single mothers, since even though they don't have fertility problems, they cannot conceive a child through natural means. However, this is about to change.

According to existing legislation [es], one can rely on social security to take advantage of these techniques:

(…) cuando haya un diagnóstico de esterilidad o una indicación clínica establecida, de acuerdo con los programas de cada servicio de salud: Inseminación artificial; fecundación in vitro e inyección intracitoplasmática de espermatozoides, con gametos propios o de donante y con transferencia de embriones; transferencia intratubárica de gametos.

(…) when there is a diagnosis of sterility or an established clinical indication, in accordance with the programs at each health service: artificial insemination; in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic injection of spermatozoa, with their own or donated gametes and with transfer of embryos; intrafallopian transfer of gametes.

Since public health care is the responsibility of regional governments, until now the autonomous communities (CCAA) have applied this policy at their discretion.  In this way, several CCAAs have been protected by their interpretation of «established clinical indication» to make offer services to lesbian couples and women who have opted to be mothers without a partner.

However, on July 18, El País reported [es] de que:

Ana Mato, Spanish minister of Health, responsible for the cuts in this area.  Photo from the Facebook page «Yo NO voté a Rajoy. Tengo la conciencia tranquila. ¿Y tú?» (I didn't vote for Rajoy.  I have a clean conscience.  You?)

Ana Mato, Spanish minister of Health, responsible for the cuts in this area. Photo from the Facebook page «Yo NO voté a Rajoy. Tengo la conciencia tranquila. ¿Y tú?» (I didn't vote for Rajoy. I have a clean conscience. You?)

La cartera común básica de servicios que está definiendo el Ministerio de Sanidad los reserva solo para “parejas integradas por un hombre y una mujer” y siempre que haya problemas de fertilidad. Así lo recoge la propuesta que ha enviado el departamento de Ana Mato a las comunidades autónomas (…)

The basic portfolio of services that the Ministry of Health is defining reserves them only for “couples consisting of a man and a woman” and only when there are fertility problems. This is stipulated in the proposal that the department of Ana Mato has sent to the autonomous communities (…)

This proposal does not provide assisted reproduction to lesbian couples or single women.  The news has made a strong impact in the press and on social networks.  In general, it is considered that the new policy discriminates against untraditional families, and the government of the People's Party is accused of legislating according to their ideology and being strongly influenced by the catholic church.

The Executive Committee of the Episcopal Spanish Conference writes on the website [es]:

[La Ley de Reproducción de 1988] viola el derecho de los hijos a ser engendrados en el acto fecundo de donación interpersonal de los padres (…) se alteran las relaciones familiares acudiendo a donantes de gametos ajenos al matrimonio e incluso se condena a los niños a nacer sin familia, ya que permite que sea una persona sola la que los encargue al laboratorio; y se niega a muchos hijos el conocer a sus padres, pues se establece el anonimato de los donantes de gametos.

[The Reproduction Law of 1988] violates the right of children to be born through fertilization via an interpersonal gift from two parents (…) family relationships are altered, introducing distant gamete donors into marriage, and children are even condemned to be born without a family, since it permits a single person to be entrusted with them; and many children are denied the ability to know their fathers, because the anonymity of gamete donors has been established.

The ultra-catholic website [es] published a report in 2005 that supposedly demonstrates that children of homosexual couples suffered from a higher percentage of problems such as low self-esteem, drug dependence, failure in school, stress, or sexual identity disorder. The report, which has been removed from the original website, can be found here [es].

However, the blog Médico crítico [es] refuted this report with others of greater scientific credibility:

Posteriormente, en abril de 2013, [la Asociación Americana de Pediatría] dio un paso más posicionándose abiertamente en favor de la adopción homoparental al existir abundantes datos que indican que no existen diferencias en el desarrollo cognitivo ni conductual de los niños criados en estas familias con respecto a las familias heteroparentales, no siendo la orientación sexual de los padres un factor modificador de dicho desarrollo (“Promoting the well-being of children whose parents are gay or lesbian“).

Earlier, in April of 2013, [the American Pediatric Association] took a stance, positioning themselves openly in favor of adoption by homosexual parents, since abundant data exists that indicates no difference in the cognitive or behavioral development of children raised in these families, as compared to families with heterosexual parents.  The sexual orientation of the parents is not a modifying factor of said development. (“Promoting the well-being of children whose parents are gay or lesbian“).

Many internet users expressed opinions similar to what Esther M. [es] wrote in the online newspaper [es]:

(…) la reproducción asistida es para quien tiene imposibilidad de [concebir un hijo], no para quien no le da la gana hacerlo. Si eres lesbiana y no te gustan los hombres estás en tu derecho. Y de no follar con ellos también. Pero claro, no podrás tener un hijo y no tenemos por qué pagarte los demás un método alternativo de tener un niño. Porque no es que no puedas, es que no quieres, que es distinto.

(…) assisted reproduction is for those that are not able to [conceive a child], not for those that have no desire to do it. If you are lesbian and don't like men, you have that right. And also the right to not screw them. But clearly, you will not be able to have a child and we don't have to pay so that others have an alternate method of having a child. Because it's not that you can't, it's that you don't want to, which is different.
Call for a protest rally against the new proposal from the Ministry of Health. Photo from the Facebook page of the event.

Call for a protest rally against the new proposal from the Ministry of Health. Photo from the Facebook page of the event.

However, on the website Cáscara amarga [es], Cristina P. Álvarez, coordinator of the Lesbian Policy Work Group of the Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transexuals and Bisexuals (FELGTB), had a very different vision of the situation:

El mismo impedimento para procrear tiene una pareja heterosexual en la que el varón es estéril que una pareja formada por dos mujeres. Si nadie propone a la mujer en el primer caso que ella no tiene problemas y que busque otro hombre, por ejemplo, tampoco se le puede proponer a una mujer sola o a una pareja de mujeres.

A heterosexual couple in which the man is sterile has the same impediment to creating a baby as a couple of two women. If nobody suggests to the woman in the first case that she has no problem and should look for another man, for example, neither can it be suggested to a single woman or a couple formed by women.

And Asturminator commented [es] on the news which appeared in El País [es]:

Medida ideológica para atar los votos de la parte más conservadora del partido. El ahorro que conlleva esta ley es totalmente insignificante. Se trata una vez más de favorecer el concepto de familia que esta gente quiere imponer.

Ideological action to gather up the votes of the more conservative side of the party. The savings that this law brings with it is totally insignificant. It is once again favoring the concept of family that these people want to impose.
Alicia Sánchez Camacho and Dolores Cospedal, two directors of the PP that relied on assisted reproduction to be single mothers.  Photo from the blog ppcerdanyola.

Alicia Sánchez Camacho and Dolores Cospedal, two directors of the PP that relied on assisted reproduction to be single mothers. Photo from the blog ppcerdanyola.

Sin salida wrote [es] in the Huffington post:

Y seguirán diciendo que no es ideología. Como siguen diciendo que no lo es pagar a los profesores de religión y despedir a los de música o matemáticas.

And they will continue saying that it's not ideological. Just like they continue saying that paying religion professors and firing those that teach music and math is not either.

It so happens that two important members of the executive team of the PP, the general secretary Dolores Cospedal [es] and the president of PP in Cataluña Alicia Sánchez-Camacho [es], underwent at one time in vitro fertilization in order to be single mothers, although the latter stated in an interview to Vanity Fair:

(…) no renuncio a que mi hijo tenga un padre. Mi hijo se va a educar, si Dios quiere, en una unidad familiar con un padre y con una madre. No creo en el modelo educativo de dos personas del mismo sexo. Y, aunque yo he hecho la opción en solitario, espero llegar a tener la pareja que mi hijo necesita.

(…) I haven't given up on my child having a father. My son is going to be educated, as God desires, in a family unit with a father and a mother. I don't believe in the educational model of two people of the same sex. And, although I have made the choice by myself, I wish to eventually have the spouse that my son needs.
Sponsored post

E-book Offers ‘Pearls’ From Women Around the World

“Pearls around the Neck” is an anthology comprising tales, poems, essays, interviews, and testimonials submitted by women from different races, languages, social background, education level, religion, and age. They contributed with their own words, and in turn these words “mirror in many delicate touches the various facets of the world of women”, as explains Catherine Beeckman, the e-book's curator.

An avid reader of Global Voices, Catherine says our work has inspired hers in many different ways. In the interview below, she explains how “our writings feed hers” and shares the background of Pearls around the Neck, inviting readers to discover the purpose of this anthology: “to create ecology of the heart and maintain the chain of connections between words and compassion”.

Sex in Tokyo... Sex

Tim Gallo's photo that illustrates the essay “Sex in Tokyo… Sex?” by Catherine Beeckman, Japan/U.S.A. Used with permission.

Global Voices (GV): Catherine, can you tell us a little bit about you?

Catherine Beeckman (CB): Born in Belgium and on the road at 24 months of age with my parents in Africa and South America, I finally graduated with a degree in Linguistics and Semiology at the University of Louvain in my home country.

I have five children. As a family, we maintained our globe-trotter life, moving to Africa, Europe, Asia, South America and the USA.

My interests have always been languages (philology), books (any type of literature, even Manga), travelling and people. My passion number one are my children: from 23 to five years old, I am constantly amazed by the three generations they embody. They update me daily in every area: music, media, films, vocabulary and new discoveries. The five live in distinct parts of the world and study different subjects. They are truly a source of knowledge. I respect the young generations and trust their approach towards the future.

My intention is to transmit what I have gathered on the paths I have walked and involve as many partners as possible: to give back is of paramount importance.

GV: You have lived in 17 different countries in 51 years – that's an average of three countries for each year of your life. How has this global, multicultural upbringing shaped who you are today, and ultimately, “Pearls around the Neck”?

CB: It is rather unusual, still many people are part of this “blueplanet-moving-diaspora”!

Sometimes, we only stayed four months in a country (Rwanda, Burundi); in some countries, we resided in a megalopolis (Tokyo) in others we lived in the jungle (Bendel State, Nigeria). We studied in different languages (Spanish in Chile and Argentina), we heard different prayers from the Muezzin call in Senegal to the Buddhist temples in Singapore; we acclimated to Rep of Central Africa, and revised our manners in Japan, conformed to the Swiss and reviewed it all in Southern USA! We live like “guests”.

That does not include all the countries we visited: Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia, Haiti, Belize…
It is impossible to remain indifferent: one is soaked, invested by the others, by their rhythm of life, their colors, their accents, their traditions, their conflicts and their history but most importantly, by their stories…their words.

My early childhood (two till 12 years old) in Africa had a profound impact on my perception of the “palabre”=” the word”. Stories have a more organic aspect in the African continent. And women are exceptional story tellers. They tell different stories; women are chroniclers from anecdotes often ignored or left in silence.
“Pearls around the Neck” regroups women’s testimonies from around the planet. This anthology is a true affirmation, an evidence of a global life.

GV: Can you tells us more about “Pearls around the Neck”? When did it all start and how was it put together?

CB: The project started early 2011. I read online: blogs, papers and news websites. Global Voices is one of my sources: a website that crosses frontiers and boundaries. I could not “copy-cat” what was already available and creating yet another blog did not seem appealing. There are many tools of expression today. I started gathering texts and stories. Social networking was the key: I literally reactivated my electronic address book and begged for more connections. The stories started pouring: some were interesting, compelling, provocative, others were dull. This is precisely how it started…I did not know what was in store for me!

Tim Gallo's photo to illustrate Twelve Moons, a poem by Marie JJMG. Switzerland.

Tim Gallo's photo to illustrate “Twelve Moons”, a poem by Marie JJMG. Switzerland.

GV: The book sounds like a truly collaborative effort. In terms of writers alone, there were 56 women from 29 countries, plus translators, photographers, and editors. Who are these co-creators, and how did they come together? 

CB: Why don’t we let the reader discover the amplitude of “Pearls”? The real number of people engaged in this adventure is impressive yet we were never working together in the same room: the virtual world is powerful and can help us create any piece of anthology.

The main difficulty though: the translations. Some texts arrived to me in languages I do not speak; some were sent to me in poor English. It was critical to make the book accessible to a wide audience. I built up a team of translators and editors between Paris, Sevilla, New York and home. I had to remain faithful to the texts that were entrusted to me…

I also decided that every possible type of format should be represented: text messages, email, poetry, essay, interview, slam (my favorite!), traditional letter, journal entry…

The presentation of “Pearls around the Neck” was also decisive: I wanted an art piece. I had met Tim Gallo in Tokyo, we actually studied Japanese together! He is young, talented, audacious and authentic. Tim offered his pictures, adapting each photo to the words. Carrie Leigh Dickey had created a previous book of mine (a story book for children, also in three languages side-by-side): she offered to be responsible of the design.

Wake Forest University loved the project and published “Pearls” on their Digital Publishing web site. The true co-creators are: Brigitte de le Court, Carrie Leigh Dickey, Tim and I.

GV: Plus all people who inspired it! Could you please tell us how “Pearls around the Neck” was also inspired by Global Voices?

CB: Global Voices helped me to maintain a line, a choice in my subjects, to infuse me with a sense of urgency towards the themes I would chose to insert.

We pursue the same goal and I have been inspired by your articles and pieces. Reading Global Voices almost daily, it appeared to me that people I had met through the years and across the 17 countries I had resided in could help me write an anthology reporting their stories in different formats, in different languages (even Afrikaans or Wolof!).

Global Voices has inspired me in many different ways: the multi-linguistic availability of the readings and the multicultural background of the various writers; the broad amplitude of articles and the daring approach towards burning subjects with a marginal angle of view; the reality of the characters presented to the readers, people with stories, real women and men, not the front page magazine hero.

Precise stories reported by Global Voices inspired me and motivated me to seek writers around the world to be part of this anthology: Fallen Petal Roses from Myanmar; I great you Maria full of Grace from Congo, after the Global Voices reported on Doctor Denis MukwegeDearest Amalia was inspired by the GV article Mapa 76Perspectives – written by a 16 year old Indian girl – is her view about the power of mankind, feeding on the story of Pakistani teen activist Malala.

The pieces in the Pearl of Politics and the Pearl of Social Evolvement are very inspired the articles published by Global Voices. The Pearl of Social Engagement is totally linked to several posts. Let us consider us the entry about Japan on the 10 June 2013… a resonance of what was written last year in Pearls… a true and sincere exchange of emails revealing important questions. Journalism is everywhere!

We swim in an ocean of news, we are sometimes aggressively visually overwhelmed by the quantity of informations that scroll on our computer screens: perishable crumbles of data to consume. Why not sharing the true simple facts, the stories that move us to the core?

Fallen Rose Petals by Ohmar Win, Rangoon, Burma

Photo that illustrates “Fallen Rose Petals: A Love Story or A Story of Falling Sex Education”. Essay and photo by Ohmar Win, Rangoon, Myanmar/Burma. Used with permission.

GV: It is good to hear that this book is, by definition, “unfinished and open for other pearls to be threaded onto the necklace”. What are the future plans for the book? Can readers collaborate to this necklace?

CB: “Pearls around the Neck” is now being presented and divulged in different ways. The goal actually is to offer the Pearls as extensively as possible and to create global empathy: this anthology was written and composed with the intent to awaken a different type of compassion towards traditional “information”. Every subject can be linked to a cause: see chapter 15.

I wish that the readers of Global Voices could have access to another tool of expression, that they would be inspired by Pearls and extend their participation just as we did by being creative. The stories published by Global Voices call for more Pearls to be written…in this sensitive, personal and intimate way. The material diffused by GV suggested me to go a step further…I need more stories to dwell in, more Pearls to thread…

Photo by Tim Gallo

Tim Gallo's photo that illustrates “The Amorous Battle”, a poem by Marisa Estelrich, U.S.A. Used with permission.

Free Download 

Pearls Around the Neck cover

Pearls book cover

“Pearls around the Neck” is published by Books 2 Live 4 and is available for download free of charge in English, French, and Spanish. It is also possible to buy a Kindle version of the book on Amazon.

The anthology is illustrated with provocative photos by Tokyo based Russian film-maker and photographer Tim Gallo, whose work is “varying, sometimes disturbing, also cruel, intelligent, young and contemporary”.

You can connect with Catherine on Twitter @cathdBeeckman and on Pearl's fan page on Facebook.

July 28 2013

Bhutan's First Female Minister

According to Bhutan's Buddhist traditions and values men and women are seen as equals. However, women are rarely seen in high positions. Blogger Nawang P. Phuntsho celebrates election of the country's first female minister. Aum Dorji Choden, an MP elect from Trashigang, has recently been appointed as the Minister for Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS).

July 26 2013

Lesbian Couple Arrested After Marrying in Secret in Bangladesh

Muslim woman and a Hindu woman in Bangladesh were arrested for marrying each other in what is described as the country's first same-sex marriage despite laws criminalizing the union.

The 21-year-old and 16-year-old, who met when the older woman tutored the younger, recently eloped from southwestern Pirojpur and came to the capital city of Dhaka to marry and start living together. But one of the women's fathers filed a missing person's report after his daughter fled, and police found them living together in a rented house in the Dhaka shortly after.

Homosexual relationships including same-sex marriage are illegal and punishable with life in prison in Bangladesh or up to ten years of hard labor. Public displays of affection between friends of the same sex are common and do not raise any controversy, however, there is a strong objection to homosexuality arising from the religious traditions of the majority Muslim country. Homosexual communities exist in Bangladesh, but they are the hidden minorities (see Global Voices report).

World homosexuality Laws. Click on image to see legend. courtesy Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0

World homosexuality Laws. Red indicates Imprisonment (up to life sentence) & dark brown indicates punishment up to death penalty. Click on image to see legend. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0

The news made waves throughout Bangladesh's social media and caused an uproar among some.

But many welcomed the first same-sex marriage of Bangladesh. Golam Rabbani [bn] wrote on his Facebook page:

যে দুটি মেয়ে বিয়ে করেছে তাদের জন্য শুভকামনা রইলো… জীবন সুন্দর… তাদের এ সাহসের জন্য অভিনন্দন তাদেরকে… জয় হোক জীবনের…

My best wishes for these two women on their marriage… life is beautiful… congratulations for their courage… let life reign…

Diaspora blogger Avijit Roy writes on his blog many scientific articles on homosexuality. He praised the courage of these two women in a Facebook note in which he mentioned that one of them was bold enough to ask the police officer interrogating them:

একটা ছেলে যদি একটি মেয়েকে ভালো বাসতে পারে, তবে একটা মেয়ে কেন আরেকটা মেয়েকে ভালোবাসতে পারবে না?

If a man can love a woman, why can't a woman love a woman?

However, many could not accept the marriage. A lot of negative comments could be seen in the comments section of online news articles.

Blogger and Twitter user Mehedi Akram (@mehdiakram) saw this as an invasion of Western culture:

Marriage of two women! what more we will have to see. This is the domination of western culture :D

Some went further. Last year, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, an economist and Nobel laureate from Bangladesh, and three other Nobel Peace Prize laureates released a statement in which they called for the legalization of same-sex sexual relationships. After the news of the same-sex marriage of these two women had broken out, “Ulama Masayekh Sanghati Parishad”, an association of Muslim clerics accused Dr. Yunus of promoting same-sex marriage in Bangladesh and called for his arrest and punishment [bn]. They have called for socially boycotting him and announced a program of occupying Yunus Center.

Others showed tolerance. A commenter named Notun commented on a blogpost of Kanij on the Bangla blogging platform covering the news:

সমকামিতাকে আমি ভালো মনে করি না… কিন্তু এটা তাদের ব্যক্তিগত ব্যাপার… তাই তাতে আমি নাক গলাবো না…

I don't support homosexuality.. but this is their private affair… so I will not poke into their issues.

Photoblogger Pranabesh Das wrote on Facebook about the arrest of these two women and the bad publicity they are getting:

They are just unlucky to born in the wrong country in the wrong time.

This is Love. Image by MOKOtheCRazy. CC BY-NC-ND

Blogger and a student of law Rayhan Rashid opined that this unique example from Bangladesh is significant for four reasons:

(১) যে সমাজে নারীর নিজের কোনো পছন্দ অপছন্দ থাকতে নেই, সেখানে তারা নিজেদের পছন্দকেই প্রাধান্য দিয়েছেন;
(২) তারা দু'জন ভিন্ন ধর্মের, একজন তো আবার সংখ্যালঘু ধর্মের। কিন্ত তাদের সম্পর্কের কাছে সে দেয়াল দাঁড়াতে পারেনি;
(৩) ধর্মীয় গোঁড়ামীর দেশে সম-লিঙ্গের সম্পর্কের সাহস দেখিয়ে নিজের মতো করে ঘর বেঁধেছেন;
(৪) দেশের আইনে ফৌজদারী অপরাধ জেনেও নিজেদের বিবেক, পছন্দ এবং সম্পর্কের সাথে কোনো ধরনের আপোষ করেননি দু'জন।

  1. In the male dominant society where women's demands are ignored, they gave importance to their preferences.
  2. The two are of different religions, one from a minority group. But this did not challenge their relationship.
  3. In a religiously conservative society they have shown utmost courage for same-sex marriage and their choice.
  4. They haven't compromised their relationship or their conscience knowing that homosexuality is criminalized in the country.

Blogger Vaskor Abedin found that the debate on this issue had a male-dominant tone:

[...] গতকাল দুই নারীর সমকামী সম্পর্কের খবর নিয়া নিউজ পোর্টাল আর সোশ্যাল নেটওয়ার্কিং সাইটগুলিতে যেমন প্রতিক্রিয়া হইলো তাতে পুরুষালি জাজমেন্টের সেক্সিস্ট উত্তাপটা বেশ টের পাইলাম [...]

[...] Yesterday in all the debates within traditional and social media on same-sex marriage I have felt a male-dominant sexist tone. [...]

Some days earlier an Islamist leader compared women to tetul, or tamarind, in a sermon as if men salivate watching them and told women to stay at home. Renowned film maker Mostofa Sarwar Faruki mentioned this on Facebook:

If the news is true, we have the first official lesbian couple exposed here in Bangladesh. In a country where mr. Tetul Hujur [cleric] preaches girls not to mix with boys, now how this girl-mixing-girl would be seen? Eager to study the next episodes!

Many called the media irresponsible for disclosing the women's identity and pictures, fearing this could endanger their lives and they will become subject to ostracizing. Shaugat Ali Sagor wrote:

যারা নাগরিকের ‘প্রাইভেসি’ ‘প্রাইভেসি’ বলে গলা ফাটান, তারা কি … [সমকামী তরুণী] আর … [সমকামী তরুণী] এর ‘প্রাইভেসি'কেও সম্মান দিতে প্রস্তুত। নাগরিক হিসেবে তাদেরও তো ‘প্রাইভেসি’ আছে। নাকি?

Those who cry about ‘privacy’ all the time.. are they willing to respect the privacy of [the couple]? They also have privacy as citizens of the country. Right?

Journalist and writer Anisul Haque expressed his outrage at the publishing of their identities and addresses of both the women in a comment on the post of Mostofa Sarwar Faruki:

[...] I am afraid we are crossing the limit, we are violating their right to privacy by publishing their photo, name, address. will they be able to live in this society after this news? Does any journalist have the right to kill any citizen?

Boys of Bangladesh, an LGBT group, provides an update on the women on their Facebook page:

UPDATE on [the two women] : As you have already known, [the 21-year-old] is now under custody and [the 16-year-old] has been returned to her family. [The 21-year-old] was shown arrested in a case filed abduction and trafficking. [..] Of immediate concern is the protection of the two young women involved. Second, file a complaint with the Press Council against making public the identity of at least the minor. We are also trying to convene an urgent meeting to formulate a strategic response to address the immediate concerns as well as the longer term potential to gain official recognition of same sex desire and same sex relationships.

Women Candidates in Cambodian Election

To promote women representation in politics, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) has released a map with data analysis of women candidates participating in the National Assembly elections.

The CCHR is a local organization that fights for civil and political rights in Cambodia and actively uses new media tools in carrying out its advocacies. Elections in Cambodia will take place on July 28.

The data used to create the map, which is hosted on, is based on the official record released by the National Election Committee (NEC).

Map of women candidate in 2013 Election in Cambodia

As shown on the map, only 18.96 percent  (168 out of 886) of titular candidates-the number of candidates who are listed on election lists; 25.69 percent (260 out of 1012) of alternate candidates-the number of candidates who are not listed on elections lists but are kept in reserve in case a titular candidate drops out; and 22.55 percent (428 out of 1828) of both titular and alternate candidates are women, across all eight political parties contesting the elections. Through the map, viewers can also determine the number of women candidates by parties and province.

According to CCHR, the low level of female representation among the titular and alternate candidates suggests that women are still considered as second choice within their political parties.

During the public launching of the map, Chor Chanthyda, coordinator of the Project to Promote Women’s Political Representation, underscores the aim of the initiative:

By incorporating data analysis of women candidates for the 2013 National Assembly Elections into an interactive map, we are able to present a full picture of women candidates standing for election to the National Assembly across Cambodia. We hope that the map will inform the public about which political parties have the highest and lowest level of women candidates in their election lists; we also hope that, after the elections, the map can be used as a monitoring tool to compare numbers of women candidates and women elected to the National Assembly.

During the 2012 Commune/Sangkat election, the CCHR also released a map which also featured data on women’s political representation in Commune Councils in the country. By using data from the NEC, the results show that women were elected to 2,038 Commune Council seats around the country, which represented 17.79 percent of the total number of seats. There were fewer women candidates (4.6 percent) who were successfully elected as Commune Chief.

July 25 2013

Women's Struggle for Clean Water in Kyrgyzstan

UnitedKyrgyzstan blog tells [ru] a story of the daily struggle for clean water faced by women and children in many parts of rural Kyrgyzstan:

It is the task of women and children to queue up for drinking water and then carry home heavy tanks with water through hundreds of meters of broken rural roads…


July 23 2013

Is the New Lebanese Family Violence Law Enough?

Portrait of Roula with her mother sitting at the protest in Akkar on Sunday the 21st of July,2013.  Taken by Joey Ayoub

Portrait of Roula with her mother sitting at the protest in Akkar on Sunday the 21st of July,2013.
Taken by Joey Ayoub

A law to protect women against domestic violence was approved and amended in Lebanon by the Joint Parliamentary Committees to include all family members yesterday [July 23, 2013]. This comes a day after a protest was staged in Halba, Akkar, town of Roula Yaacoub, the 31-year old woman who was beaten to death by her husband a couple of weeks ago. The protest was merely one of many that have been occurring since 2008 calling for a complete law protecting women against domestic abuses of all kind.

Lebanese netizens were quick to voice their doubts which were mainly focused around the vagueness surrounding marital rape, lack of gender focus, accompaniment of children and sectarian law overruling this law.

Nadine Moawad, a well-known Lebanese feminist activist, was one of many who pointed out the flaws in the law:

But this is still seen as a first step towards a better law that would fully protect women in Lebanon. Ahmad Yassine, blogger at adds:

July 20 2013

Pro-Morsi Women Protesters Killed in Mansoura

At least three women were killed in Mansoura when a protest in support of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi was attacked by “thugs” tonight. Dozens of people were also reportedly injured by shotgun and knife wounds.

Egyptian blogger Zeinobia exclaims:

And @egyrevolution12 adds [ar]:

The Ikhwan protests in Mansoura start after prayers and half of it is usually women. Complete families/ Attacking them cannot be excused.

Ibrahim Elgarhi is shocked at those who excuse the murder of women. He writes:

Let's sell our values and keep quiet over the murder of women. Let's go against our conscience and say what took them (the women) there (to the protest).

On June 30, Egyptians took to the streets to demand that president Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood (MB) candidate, steps down. On July 3, Morsi's one-year reign was cut short and an interim government now runs Egypt. Morsi's supporters have since been staging protests calling for his return to power.

July 19 2013

Pakistani Journalist Takes on Taliban Militant for Malala

Celebrated around the world for her bravery, she has been called a CIA spy, a western stooge, and even a liar at home.

Even after her bold speech at the UN, demanding free education for all children from world leaders, teen activist Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012, continues to be a divisive figure in Pakistan.

Following her speech, a Taliban militant wrote Malala an open letter urging her to return home and continue her education at a Islamic school or madrassa. He was promptly taken down by a Pakistani journalist in another open letter who advised him against picking a fight with Pakistani women.

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistan teen who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban, at the United Nations on Friday. Beside her at left, is Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, and Mr. Vuk Jeremiae, President of the General Assembly. Image by Nancy Siesel. Copyright Demotix. (12 July 2013)

Malala Yousafzai at the United Nations. Beside her at left, is Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, and Mr. Vuk Jeremiae, President of the General Assembly. Image by Nancy Siesel. Copyright Demotix. (12 July 2013)

The open letter from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militant Adnan Rasheed claims that 16-year-old Malala was attacked by the Taliban because she maligns the group, and not because she was pursuing an education. In a letter circulated to Pakistani journalists through the Pakistani Taliban media cell, Rasheed writes:

First of all please mind that Taliban never attacked you because of going to school or you were education lover, also please mind that Taliban or mujahideen are not against the education of any men or women or girl. The Taliban believe that you were intentionally writing against them and running a smear campaign to malign their efforts to establish Islamic system in Swat and your writings were provocative.

Award-winning author and Pakistani journalist Mohammad Hanif writes his response to Rasheed in the Guardian's opinion section, “Dear Taliban leader, thank you for your letter to Malala Yousafzai::

 I write to thank you in response to the generous letter you have written to Malala Yousafzai. Thanks for owning up that your comrades tried to kill her by shooting her in the head. Many of your well-wishers in Pakistan had been claiming the Taliban wouldn't attack a minor girl. They were of the opinion that Malala had shot herself in order to become a celebrity and get a UK visa. Women, as we know, will go to any lengths to get what they want. So thanks for saying that a 14-year-old girl was the Taliban's foe.

Hanif adds:

The government practically handed over the valley to your comrades, but their rule didn't even last for a few weeks because they ordered all women to stay home.

There was only one lesson to be learned: you can fight the Pakistani army; you can try and almost kill Pakistan's commander-in-chief, as you so heroically did; you might wage a glorious jihad against brutal imperial forces. But you can't pick a fight with the working women in your neighbourhood and hope to win. Those women may never get an audience at the UN but everyone – from cotton picker to bank teller – cannot be asked to shut up and stay home, for the simple reason that they won't.

The Edequal Foundation, an educational charity founded by Shahzad Ali and based in north London which supports teachers and students demonstrated in a show of support for Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot by the Taliban. Image by Peter Marshall. Copyright Demotix (20 October 2013)

The Edequal Foundation, an educational charity, based in north London protests in support of Malala Yousufzai. Image by Peter Marshall. Copyright Demotix (20 October 2012)

Zubair Towali, who lives in Malala's hometown the Swat valley in Pakistan, explains in a blog post:

The conspiracy theories regarding Malala are most unfortunate and they are many. One posits that she is a tool in the hands of the American/Jewish lobby. This line of “reasoning” says that her ‘abrupt fame’ has been fuelled and guided by elements out to conspire against Pakistan.

A Pakistani Twitter user Saqib Ali Kazmi responds:

Some Pakistani Twitter users still have their doubts though. Ahmed Bilal tweets:

#Taliban leader Adnan Rasheed, regardless of his atrocities has presented a valid point in his letter to #Malala.There I said it. #Pakistan — Ahmed Bilal (@ABWDXB) July 18, 2013

And some take their own message from the letter, like Pakistani musician Salman Ahmad, who tweets:

Khuldune Shahid, a finance correspondent for ePakistanToday, tweets:

But even Shahid feels compelled to defend Malala in his piece the “Epicentre of the Malalaquake”:

The Taliban’s conflict with Malala, much like their combat against all their adversaries, is a clash of religious teachings and humanistic viewpoints. [..]The Taliban devoutly follow antediluvian theologies, while Malala stands for enlightenment.”

Supporters of Pakhtoonkhawa Students Federation are protesting against an attack on Malala Yousaf Zai by Taliban during a demonstration at Peshawar press club.  Image by PPI Images. Copyright Demotix (18/10/2012)

Supporters of Pakhtoonkhawa Students Federation are protesting against an attack on Malala Yousaf Zai by Taliban during a demonstration at Peshawar press club. Image by PPI Images. Copyright Demotix (18/10/2012)

Shahid's conflicting viewpoints and the vitrole against Malala could be a symptom of Pakistan's larger identity crisis. Journalist Huma Yusuf writes in the NYT's Latitutde blog about the Malala Backlash:

These virulent reactions seem odd in a country that purports to value education and women’s rights. But that is simply a sign that Pakistan is still struggling to figure itself out — to figure out how to participate in the modern, global economy as it comes to terms with its colonial past, to reject Western pressure while coveting international approval, to strengthen its democratic institutions as an Islamic republic.

Rafia Zakaria, a columnist with Dawn, a leading English daily in Pakistan writes: 

if she returned, Malala Yousafzai, like other Pakistani heroines before her, would have to deal with the crude judgments of a society where lip service to education is permitted, but the freedom owed to educated women is denied.

In his open letter Rasheed also says he is writing to her in his personal capacity, and not as a Taliban member: “all my emotions were brotherly for you because we belong to same Yousafzai tribe.” Meanwhile, Taliban leaders have told the BBC they have nothing to do with the letter Adnan Rasheed wrote and that “his letter will be examined” [ur].

Rasheed was broken out of jail in 2012 by the Taliban, where he was awaiting his death sentence for attempting to assassinate former president Pervez Musharraf in 2003. He is a former member of the Pakistan Air Force.

China Law Professor: Raping Bargirl Does Less Harm

When commenting on a recent rape case, a Tsinghua University law professor, Yi Yanyou argued in Weibo that “It does more harm to rape a good woman than to rape a bargirl, a dancing girl, an escort or a prostitute.” Such argument echoes with the lawyer of gang rape suspect, Li Tianyi, the 17-year-old son of Chinese general Li Shuangjiang, who presented in the court that the gang rape is a case in which people “take turn to have sex” because the victim was a bargirl. Off Beat China has collected and translated Chinese netizens’ reactions.

July 17 2013

Judges Go After Soldiers Suspected of Slaughter in Guinea

[All links lead to French-language websites unless otherwise noted. This article was written before the recent events in Guinea.]

The head of presidential security in Guinea is the latest person formally accused of having a hand in the brutal crackdown [en] by security forces on an opposition protest in 2009, in which of at least 157 people were killed and countless women and girls were raped.

On September 28, 2009, soldiers opened fire on opposition demonstrators protesting against military head of state Dadis Camara and his intention to run for president during the January 2010 election.

Following the massacre, Camara and members of the junta denied any responsibility for the killings. The international community sanctioned the junta [en] with an arms embargo and a travel ban, and froze any bank accounts owned by the officers in charge at the time. A year later, Camara was shot by soldiers [en] in his entourage.

A few weeks after the massacre, Camara ordered an independent investigation by a commission composed of 31 members. However, families of the victims have asked human rights organisations to look into the massacre [en] and the alleged clandestine burials performed by the military.

Investigating judges opened prosecution against Colonel Claude Pivi, the head of presidential security, on June 27, 2013 after hearing the previous day's testimony from the high commander of national police General Ibrahima Baldé. Pivi appeared in court the next day to hear the charges against him, and was due to appear in court again on July 4, but he did not respond to the judges’ summons.

Blogger Assanatou Baldé expressed her delight on

L’heure de rendre des comptes est arrivée pour Claude Pivi alias Coplan.

The time to settle scores has arrived for Claude Pivi alias Coplan.

Human Rights Watch presented charges against this high-ranking official from President Alpha Condé’s government who was decorated in 2011:

Le suspect, le lieutenant-colonel Claude « Coplan » Pivi, est le ministre guinéen chargé de la sécurité présidentielle, un poste qu'il occupait déjà au moment des crimes de 2009. Selon les médias, Pivi a été inculpé de meurtres, viols, incendies, pillage, destruction d’édifices et complicité. Conformément au droit international, Pivi est présumé innocent jusqu’à ce qu’il soit jugé et reconnu coupable.

The suspect, lieutenant colonel Claude “Coplan” Pivi, is Guinean Minister for Presidential Security, a post he occupied at the time of the 2009 crimes. According to the media, Pivi was accused of murder, rape, fire-raising, looting, destruction of buildings and complicity. To conform with international law, Pivi is to be presumed innocent until judged and recognized guilty.

Website published a press release in conjunction with many human rights organisations in Guinea. The introduction read:

Depuis le début de l’instruction, les victimes que nous accompagnons dans cette procédure craignaient que Claude Pivi, en raison des fonctions qu’il occupe et de sa place dans la hiérarchie militaire, échappe à la justice. Hier, les juges d’instruction ont apporté un premier élément de réponse en l’inculpant formellement.

Since the start of the preliminary investigation, the victims that we are accompanying in these proceedings fear that Claude Pivi will escape justice due to the positions he occupies and his place in the military hierarchy. Yesterday the investigating judges produced an initial response by formally accusing him.

Sarifou Barry reported in an article on website the words of Dr Thierno Maadjou Sow, president of the Guinean Human Rights Organisation (OGDH):

Nous considérons du point de vue des principes que c’est quelque chose de très important surtout dans la lutte pour le respect des droits de l’homme et aussi dans la lutte contre l’impunité qui est le terreau des crimes. Il ne faut pas oublier qu’il y a eu des personnalités qui ont été inculpées déjà dans cette affaire mais malheureusement, cela n’a rien donné. Ces personnes occupent encore des postes extrêmement importants au sein de l’administration. Vous savez, dès après les crimes commis, le Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU, les organisations de défense des droits de l’homme avaient déclaré que ces crimes commis étaient des crimes contre l’humanité.

We will be considering this from the point of view of the principle that this is something very important, especially in the fight to respect human rights and also in the fight against the impunity which sowed the seeds of these crimes. It must not be forgotten that there were officials who had already been accused in this affair but unfortunately, this has led nowhere. These people still occupy extremely important posts at the heart of the administration. You know, just after these crimes were committed, the UN Security Council and human rights defence organisation had declared these crimes to be crimes against humanity.

Asmaou Diallo,  the president of the Association of Victims, Parents and Friends of September 28 (AVIPA), and who was also interviewed by Sarifou Barry, expressed her feelings in the same article in the following terms:

C’est la réaction d’une victime qui crie toujours à ce qu’il y ait justice dans cette affaire. Si le colonel Claude Pivi a été inculpé, cela nous fait du bien mais ça ne suffit pas. Il ne s’agit pas seulement d’inculper et de laisser par la suite le dossier dans les tiroirs. Cette inculpation nous remonte quand même le moral mais, nous voulons plus. Nous voulons que tous ceux qui ont été inculpés dans ce dossier, quittent leurs postes de responsabilité pour qu’ils se mettent à la disposition de la justice.

It is the reaction of a victim always crying out for justice in this affair. If Colonel Claude Pivi has been accused, that does us some good, but it is not enough. It is not a matter of just accusing and then afterwards leaving the case in a drawer. Anyway, this indictment takes us back to the moral issue, but we want more. We want all those accused in this case to leave their positions of responsibility so they can be brought to justice.

This article inspired some lively comments from readers. For example, Ardho underlined the courage of the judges who accused Colonel Pivi and other high up members of the security forces:

Je pense qu'il faut encourager ces juges qui vont lentement dans des conditions que nous connaissons tous, mais qui entreprennent des actions importantes dans cette procedure… Nous esperons que le gouvernement prendra ses responsabilites aussi en ecartant ces maboules des postes de responsabilite qu'ils occupent.
I think we must encourage these judges who are going slowly in conditions we all know, but who are undertaking important actions in these proceedings… We hope that the government will take responsibility as well as getting these lunatics out of the positions of responsibility that they occupy.

In their previously mentioned press release,  the Guinean Human Rights Organisation expressed similar worries:

nos organisations expriment leur préoccupation quant à la sérénité de la procédure judiciaire et la sécurité de ses acteurs ou des victimes qui ont témoigné dans ce dossier, en raison du poste qu’occupe M. Pivi aujourd’hui. Comme nos organisations l’avaient recommandé concernant le colonel Moussa Oumar Tiegboro Camara, inculpé en février 2012, ou que le commandant Sekou Resco CAMARA, Gouverneur de Conakry, inculpé dans une affaire de torture en février 2013, qui ont tous deux été maintenus à leur poste, nous recommandons aux acteurs concernés de prendre toutes les dispositions afin garantir l’indépendance et l’impartialité du processus judiciaire en cours, dans le respect du droit à un procès équitable. Nous les invitons donc à envisager la mise à l’écart de ces hauts responsables, mis en cause pour des faits d’une exceptionnelle gravité.

Our organisations express their worry concerning the equanimity of the judicial proceedings and the safety of actors or victims bearing witness in this case, because of the post that Mr Pivi occupies today. As our organisations had recommended [independence and impartiality] for Colonel Moussa Oumar Tiegboro Camara, accused in February 2012, and Commander Sekou Resco Camara, Governor of Conakry, accused in a February 2013 torture trial, but both kept their posts, we recommend that those concerned take all provisions to guarantee the independence and impartiality of the ongoing judiciary process with respect to the law and an equitable trial. Therefore we invite them to consider sidelining these high-ranking officials, called into question by facts of an exceptionally serious nature.

Almamy Camara wrote the following in an article on

L’organisation internationale Human Rights Watch (HRW), a appelé ce mercredi 3 juillet à la suspension des accusés de leurs fonctions gouvernementales et invite les autorités à protéger les juges ainsi que les victimes dans le dossier du massacre du stade du 28 septembre, en 2009. Cet appel fait suite à l’inculpation du ministre de la Sécurité présidentielle, Claude Pivi dit Coplan par le pool des juges d’instruction le mercredi dernier.

The international organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) this Wednesday July 3 called for the suspension of the accused from their governmental duties and invited the authorities to protect the judges as well as the victims in the case covering the Stadium Massacre of September 28, 2009. This appeal followed the indictment of the Minister of Presidential Security, Claude Pivi AKA Coplan, by the pool of investigation judges last Wednesday.

Boubacar Bah expressed his doubts on the continuation of this affair in an article published on, which deals with the impunity with which the other people in charge of the national security forces by the same Guinean justice as Colonel Pivi:

Mais pour des observateurs avertis, quelque soit la volonté du pool des juges d’instruction à éclaircir ce dossier, s’il n’y a pas de volonté politique, tous les efforts seront vains. Des soupçons forts sont portés sur le Président Alpha Condé qui ne souhaiterait pas du tout se débarrasser de Claude Pivi et de Tiegboro. Notamment parce que ces deux hommes puissants du temps du capitaine Dadis, lui avaient apporté tous leurs soutiens à l’occasion de la présidentielle de 2013. En prélude aux législatives de 2013, Alpha Condé ne veut pas perdre son électorat de la Guinée Forestière dont sont originaires Pivi et Tiegboro. Entre la justice pour les victimes du 28 septembre et la campagne pour les législatives, Alpha Condé a choisi la deuxième.

But for informed observers, whatever the will of the pool of investigation judges to shed light on this case, if there is not political will, all efforts will be in vain. Strong suspicions rest on President Alpha Condé who it is believed does not want to be rid of Claude Pivi and Tiegboro at all. Notably because these two powerful men from the time of Captain Dadi, had brought to him all their support during the 2013 presidential election. Before the 2013 general election, Alpha Condé does not want to lose his Guinean Forestry electorate of which Pivi and Tiegboro are originators. Between justice for the victims of September 28 and the general election campaign, Alpha Condé has chosen the second.

Commenting on an article in, Mr Sylla wondered:

Comment voulez vous qu'il est une justice dans un zoo. En tout cas sa sera pour la première fois alors attendons de voir mais sa m'étonnera que justice soit faite .déjà il est venu avec ces gardes du corps pour une simple interrogation chose qui n'est pas admissible dans des pays civilisés et de droit .Alors le jour du jugement si jugement ai il viendra avec tout le camp vous dis que ce pays est un zoo .
How do you expect justice in a zoo. In any case it would be the first time so let’s wait and see, but I will be astonished if justice is done. he came already with his bodyguards for a simple questioning, something which is not admissible in civilised countries or by law. So the judgement, if there is a judgement will come with the whole military camp. I tell you, this country is a zoo.

To measure the dangers to which the judges brave enough to accuse Colonel Pivi have exposed themselves, here is his reaction as reported in another article by Boubacar Bah:

lorsque le Pool des juges d’instruction a informé Pivi de son inculpation dans le dossier du massacre du 28 septembre, l’officier a piqué une colère noire. “Si les gens pensent qu’ils peuvent m’humilier comme ça dans ce pays, ils se trompent. Nous, nous avons servi ce pays”, aurait rouspété Coplan.

When the pool of investigation judges informed Pivi of his indictment in the case of the September 28 massacre, the officer had a tantrum. “If people think that they can humilate me like that in this country, they are fooling themselves. We served this country.” Coplan is reported to have complained.

Pivi's supporters have mobilized to express their support for him during the investigation.

The international community and Guinean supporters of human rights must apply pressure to President Alpha Condé for protection of the judges as well as the witness and so that all officials accused of crimes or figuring on the lists of individuals suspected of crimes against humanity are relieved of their positions and judged.

July 16 2013

A Public Feud Between Nigeria’s First Lady and a Nobel Laureate

Nigeria's first lady and a lauded Nigerian writer are trading barbs over the role of the president's wife in a local political crisis.

The public spat between Nigeria’s First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan and Nobel Laureate in Literature Professor Wole Soyinka has its origin in a political crisis in Rivers State, Nigeria. The crisis had been simmering for some time, but it deepened with Dame Jonathan's visit to Rivers State late last month.

The crisis had been simmering for some time, stemming from that state's governor running for reelection as chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum and winning against his party's wishes. The crisis only deepened with Dame Jonathan's visit to Rivers State late last month.

According to this reports on AllAfrica:

The alleged move by the Presidency to remove the Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi took a dramatic turn yesterday as the first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, has decided to take the bull by the horn in the matter. LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that the first lady's visit to Port Harcourt was a move to ensure that the State House of Assembly members are mobilised to ensure Governor Amaechi's impeachment from office.

The first lady moved into a newly-built mansion in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital. She is expected to spend 11 days in Port Harcourt. But our sources said that the first lady has vowed not to leave the Garden City until the governor is finally removed from office.

The first lady however refuted this allegation:

We have observed reports in some of today’s (Sunday’s) national dailies which are an obvious attempt by certain interests to link the current visit of the First Lady, Dame Patience  Jonathan, to Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, with a desire to unseat the governor of the state. For the purpose of protecting the innocent public from misinformation by these interests, it becomes important for us to state the facts of the First Lady’s presence in Port Harcourt as follows:

Her Excellence was the Special Guest of Honour at the official commissioning of the Yitzhak Rabin International School, Port Harcourt on Friday,  June 15, during which she also received an award from the Yitzhak Rabin Centre for African Development for her successful advocacy for women empowerment and the achievement of enduring peace in Nigeria and around the continent.

She also featured eminently as Mother of the Day at the wedding of her brother and member of the Rivers State Legislature, Evans Bipi, on Saturday. The First Lady will finally receive well wishers at the burial of her grandfather on Sunday, the 23rd.

It is difficult to see how any of the activities above is associated with the political circumstances of anyone. Perhaps we need to remind those who are crying wolf and are being harassed by their own ghost, that Rivers is the home state of the First Lady, which makes her a principal stakeholder with all the rights and privileges to visit the state as she considers needful.

Soyinka, had in a press conference [video uploaded to YouTube by TV360Nigeria], asserted that the first lady’s meddlesome actions had ignited the flame that has now engulfed the governance in Rivers State.

According to Soyinka [transcribed from the video]:

This is getting to a state where an unelected person, a mere domestic appendage, can seize control of a place for 11 days and as a result of her presence, the governor of that state was told by policemen that you cannot pass here because the queen was there. What sort of jungle are we living in?… A person with no constitutional position is able to enjoy the full security apparatus of the state which is being denied a governor…

The venerable Nigerian writer, poet, playwright and the 1986 Nobel Laureate in Literature had some advice for the first lady:

My worry for her is that she should be a lady first before being a first lady. You cannot be a first lady without first being a lady. That is the only advice I have for her.

Nigerian  Nobel Laureate in Literature Wole Soyinka. Photo released by Flickr user Chidi Anthony Opara  under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Nigerian Nobel Laureate in Literature Wole Soyinka. Photo released by Flickr user Chidi Anthony Opara under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0).

As would be expected, first lady Jonathan, replied. A statement signed by Ayo Osinlu, media assistant to the president’s wife, reads thus:

Unfortunately, Soyinka betrayed moral duty in his recent diatribe against Mrs. Patience Jonathan… The good, old Prof. reminds one of the truth that indeed, most of the giants on the street are men of like passions like everyone else. Worse still, most of them are actually standing on clay feet and would fail the test of a gentle push.

The president’s wife also had some advice for Soyinka:

It’s an embarrassment to his throng of admirers and followers, that a sage of Prof. Soyinka’s status, who used to be a gauge of public morality in this nation, would lend himself to a propaganda of high drive, to save a governor who elected to launch into a river without applicable survival skills.

Nigerian netizens have reacted to the public exchange of words between the two. The reactions are pitched thus: those in support of Professor Soyinka and those in support Mrs Jonathan, respectively.

Reactions from Soyinka's supporters are as follows:

Chain Blinger, a commenter on Nairaland forum, wrote:

I pity her more! Imagine this stupid lady taking a swipe at the prof instead of her to hide her fat-face in shame she's even have the courage talk. Naija has gone to the dog’s family!

Mrakin, another commenter in Nairaland, criticized the first lady:

I am not happy with some of the comments here. Anyway, those are opinions. In the first place, nobody voted for the first lady. She therefore has no right to disturb the peace of ordinary citizens for ten days. There are ways she can conduct state visits without heavy fun-fair of security and road closure/barricade. UK's PM often walks from home to office without disturbing the public. All those talking back at prof are not sincerely speaking the truth about how things should be done. They should look for respectable elders in their families who will not compromise the truth.

Takedat wrote on the same forum:

Thanks for admitting that you are behind Amaechi's predicament. This is what happens when people exercise power without any sense of responsibility. Dame now believes she is larger than life.

Social commentator Henry Okelue (@4eyedmonk) made the following successive tweets in favour of Soyinka:

@4eyedmonk: Wole Soyinka hits the nail on d head, instead of us latching on to d issues he raised, spin doctors are instead changing the discussion

@4eyedmonk: Did Wole Soyinka raise valid points in his outburst? Are we supposed to allow the narrative move from the survival of our nation to isms?

@4eyedmonk: We are here arguing about isms, our constitution is getting raped with reckless abandon. Nobody said fight, just hail the guy who spoke up

@4eyedmonk: Professor Soyinka, u have spoken well. If d Wife is d President, then d husband should remain d domestic appendage that he is, and vice

@4eyedmonk: in the United States, Michelle Obama, the wife of Barrack Obama, has never, ever, been known to go to a State and insult its elected Governor

Nigeria's First Lady Madame Patience Jonathan. Photo released by Flickr user MDGovpics under Creative Commons   (CC BY 2.0).

Nigeria's First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan. Photo released by Flickr user MDGovpics under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).

Netizens in support of Jonathan had this to say:

On Nairaland forum, commenter Maxymilliano asserts:

But truth be told, WS shouldn't have deployed some of the adjectives used in qualifying the person of PEJ [Patience Jonathan] in his earlier statement. Going ahead to condemn PEJ [Patience Jonathan] in strong words for a fracas that the remote cause is yet to be established by the authority concerned betray the position of WS as an ‘unbiased commentator’

 User BekeeBuAgbara wrote:

If not hearsay what other evidence does Prof. Soyinka have to criticize Patience Jonathan over River state conflict, you don't unnecessarily castigate others publicly and expect them to respect you and keep quiet because you are a noble prize winner. If he was not bias, he could have cautioned Amaechi for storming into the assembly's complex with his thugs. The Prof. should be held responsible for the consequences of his unwarranted provocation.

Writer and teacher Abigail Anaba (@Anabagil) tweeted in defence of the first lady:

@Anabagil: A statesman at this point shd seek to address the issue not try to further stoke it with inflammatory comments.

@Anabagil: Let's assume, that Dame is responsible for Rivers problems, does the Professors statement solve the problem?

@Anabagil: What practical steps has the professor taken to resolve the problem in Rivers? Did he tell us that in his statement?

@Anabagil: I know complex sentences are difficult to understand, so I really don't blame “Nigerian journalists and Bloggers”. But you too on Twitter?

@Anabagil: You the ones who see all the wrong things and try to correct them? Do you suddenly lose your analytical skills because it is Dame?

On Facebook, Kola Tubosun wrote that Soyinka's comments were sexist:

Prof Soyinka didn't say “the office of the first lady, a mere appendage of the presidency”. He said of the First Lady “a mere appendage of power”. I can't think of anything ruder or more sexist. It would be sexist if the roles were reversed and a woman commentator were to say the same thing, say in Britain, to the consort. No, the husband of the queen isn't “a mere appendage of power”. He wasn't awarded to the Queen on her ascension. Mrs. Jonathan isn't a perk of the office. Calling her “a mere appendage of power” means that she – as a person – is relevant only to the extent of her husband's position. This isn't true. She is a citizen of Nigeria with full rights and privileges as any other woman in the country. By herself, she is a relevant entity, married or not, and to the president or not. She is not an appendage of anything. The “mere” just makes it worse. I understand the frustration with some of her antics, and they deserved to be ridiculed. But NOT in this way. Not by our learned professor. And not in this century.

Blogger Ena Ofugara thought that Soyinka's comments reveal an “antediluvian mindset”:

Who refers to the First Lady as a “mere domestic appendage of power” in any country of this world? Do not they know the wife plays a key role in getting votes for the husband? Is Michelle Obama not revered globally? Has the Queen of England ever hugged any human being aside Michelle? Is her qualification for that embrace not because of Obama being president? IS SHE A DOMESTIC APPENDAGE OF POWER????? Who in this century still considers women DOMESTIC??? Is the Prof not aware that women now earn even more than men in Nigeria as the beautiful brilliant ones are snapped up quickly by employers? Are our most powerful ministers these past years not been women viz Dora Akunyili and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala? What men tower above these women? So why call her DOMESTIC. Is this not an antediluvian mindset? 

And Kukogho Iruesiri Samson, a Nigerian poet, blogger and multimedia journalist, asserted:

I'm not a supporter of Jonathan
Nor appreciate his Patient Dame
But I cooked Soyinka's words in pan…
And the outcome muddied his great name

When you go all out to attack the President’s wife based on assumptions, mud must fall on your name…
Yes, I said so!

July 15 2013

‘Gender-Based Violence’ Mapping in Cambodia

The Open Institute NGO has launched a crowdsourced gender-based violence mapping tool in Cambodia to promote and protect women rights. Notably, gender-based violence has remained a significant issue in Cambodia. A UN report highlighted the problem of demostic violence and gender-based violence against sex workers, most-at-risk young people, and women living with HIV.

Manavy Chim, the Executive Director of the Open Institute who spent more than 20 years working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation before joining civil society, echoes the need for public awareness about the issue of violence against women and how new technologies and the Internet can be tapped to address the problem. Below is the author’s e-mail conversation with her:

What problem is your project aiming to overcome? Why this online mapping method?

The Open Institute believes that the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is an ideal way to bring awareness to this issue on a public level and the use of the Ushahidi mapping tool is a critical part of the process.  The Ushahidi mapping tool offers both government officials and key stakeholders the opportunity to track incidences of gender based violence online in a way that can be viewed by the public in order to increase awareness and work toward immediate intervention and prevention methods.

Screen shot 2013-07-11 at 8.23.27 PM

What are the biggest obstacles to your success?

The main obstacle to the success of the Gender Based Violence project was the limited amount of resources available within the Cambodian provinces.  The Commune/Sangak councilors are not well versed with technology and do not necessarily have access to computers or Internet services.  Not all of the members of rural communities are literate, either, so it will be important to incorporate forms of technology (television, radio, etc.) that do not require the ability to read in order to continue to spread the message.  This is particularly true for females in rural Cambodian communities, due in large part to the traditional role separation between men and women. In addition to the lack of resources, a cultural sensitivity to sharing information about gender based violence was an obstacle during this project.  Some of the respondents were not comfortable sharing information, so some of the data was incomplete.

Finally, the end of the project overlapped with the upcoming Cambodian elections, and many Commune/Sangkat councilors became difficult to reach because they were involved in other projects.  In order to be more effective, the project needed to be extended and the timing probably should have been adjusted to avoid the election cycle.

How does the information published on your website turn into offline change?

The information published on the Open Institute website, through the Women’s Web Portal and through the Ushahidi mapping tool is mean to increase awareness and promote action around issues related to gender based violence.  The more people know about gender based violence and the more aware they are of prevention and intervention methods, the better able they will be to help victims and ultimately put an end to this problem.

In addition, the Open Institute hopes that by publishing information on our website, the public will see it and promote the information through various sources of social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.) The Open Institute knows that Cambodian youth hold the key to stopping gender based violence in the future, so increasing their awareness of the issue now will ultimately lead to action based results going forward.

The Open Institute also understands, though, that we cannot only post information via social media outlets because we need to reach a wider audience.  The information posted on our web site, therefore, is also published by various forms of print media. This creates the opportunity for people who are not able to use the Internet to also access the same information.

What are the incentives for the public to participate in your project?

The most significant incentive for public participation in the Gender Based Violence project is an increased level of awareness of and knowledge about issues related to violence against women within Cambodian society. Not only will this help government officials and individuals who work in organizations that help women, but it will also help friends and family members of victims to gain a better understanding of how they can help and what they can do to prevent this issue from continuing in the future.

In addition, another incentive for public participation in this project is the opportunity to network and discuss significant societal issues with other people from various organizations around the country.  Participation in national forums about gender based violence and the use of ICT to combat violence against women is an excellent way to become more educated about this current hot topic within Cambodian society.

What has been the most effective method of spreading awareness about your project?

The most effective method of spreading awareness about the Gender Based Violence project has been through the various forums held by the Open Institute and its partners throughout the past year.

The OI has received a significant amount of positive feedback from forum attendees, noting that after attending the forum, they felt better informed about issues related to gender based violence and better prepared to teach others within their local communities about the problems in order to work toward eliminating gender based violence going forward.

What is your message to the public?

The overall message to the public from the Open Institute’s Gender Based Violence project team is that violence against women is a significant problem in Cambodia, but it is a problem that can be solved.  The use of Information and Communication Technologies will be critical to putting an end to gender based violence in Cambodia, so we need to increase the level of public awareness about issues related to violence against women and we need to teach our fellow Cambodians, through open and transparent communication methods, about ways to combat this violence going forward.  Everyone is an agent to break silence to speak out about GBV and that GBV cannot be tolerated.

July 14 2013

Teen Activist Malala Yousafzai Impresses UN, Polarizes Pakistan

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist who was shot by the Taliban on her way to school less than a year ago, celebrated her 16th birthday by delivering a powerful speech to world leaders at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Malala has already become a symbol for child education and women empowerment around the world, but some in her country Pakistan continue to spin conspiracy theories to malign her.

At the special UN session on July 12, 2013, on what the UN has declared “Malala Day“, she called upon world leaders to provide free and compulsory education to the children around the world. She also said that something must be done for the 57 million children today who go without access to education.

Malala's speech was widely quoted all over the world, including within Pakistan. She and her family were cordially congratulated on social media, with many Pakistanis expressing their pride of her standing at the UN sitting next to world leaders.

Bushra Gohar (@BushraGohar), senior vice president of the Awami National Party and former member of the national assembly from the Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province where Malala is from, tweeted:

@BushraGohar: “Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One teacher, one book, one pen, can change the world,” #Malala

Dentist, Senior Ted fellow and blogger Dr. Awab Alvi (@DrAwab) wrote:

@DrAwab: #MalalaDay Pakistan needs heros to be applauded, and I applaud her for her standing up for Women, Children, Education & Peace in Pakistan

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban, called for world leaders to protect rights to equality and education in an address to youth at the United Nations on Friday, her 16th birthday. Image by Nancy Siesel. Copyright Demotix (12/7/2013)

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban, called for world leaders to protect rights to equality and education in an address to youth at the United Nations on Friday, her 16th birthday. Image by Nancy Siesel. Copyright Demotix (12/7/2013)

Salman Lateef (@SalmanLateef), author and blogger at the Express Tribune, described Malala's qualities:

@SalmanLateef: Calm aplomb, unfazed confidence, clear speech, wise words – #Malala is indeed the pride of this nation. #MalalaDay

Raza Rumi (@RazaRumi), a journalist and director of Pakistani think-tank Jinnah Institute, tweeted:

@RazaRumi: I was in tears hearing Malala's speech. How many macho ghairatmand Pakistanis display such courage in the face of extremists. Proud of her!

Many on Twitter questioned why Malala's speech was not given much importance by the national media. Beena Sarwar (@beenasarwar), a journalist, artist and documentary filmmaker, observed:

@BeenaSarwar: So how come no TV channel in Pakistan (except PTV World) gave live coverage to #Malala‘s speech in the UN yesterday?

Ammar Aziz (@Ammar_Aziz), a left-wing documentary filmmaker and founder and director of SAMAAJ, lamented:

@ammaraziz: It's a pity that our ‘free media’ didn't bother to braodcast #Malala‘s speech live – they only showed that in parts later. #Pakistan

Also to mark Malala's 16th birthday, her father joined a Grammy Award-winning producer to release the song “I am Malala” to support the education and empowerment of girls in Pakistan and around the world.

Not everyone on social media responded positively to the celebrations of Malala, however. The Chief Minister of Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif (@CMShehbaz), tweeted one day after Malala delivered her speech:

@CMShehbaz Good speech by Malala! Could have been better – seemed to be written for global consumption ( & tried to please everyone at home & abroad)

His comment was roundly criticized, and in the next few hours it was deleted.

Even worse on social media was a concerted anti-Malala campaign that was launched. Since the attack on her last year, Malala has been called a drama and a fraud by many Pakistanis. Hailing from right-wing ideologues, these people hold her as a CIA agent who is now a tool in the hands of the West. Her pictures with US envoy Richhard Holbrooke were circulated by right-wing conservative political party Jamat-e-Islami on social networking websites, and party leader Samia Raheel Qazi tweeted the pictures and called Malala and her father CIA agents.

A Facebook page Josh e Junoon (Tsunami of Imran Khan) with 127,000 likes shared a poster maligning Malala and rejecting that she was attacked by Taliban:

Facebook hate campaign against Malala

Facebook hate campaign against Malala

The eighth wonder of the world: Malala. This is the first neurosurgery in which they didn't shave her head. These are first Talibans who fired with Klashinkov but the bruise was of air gun. First patient of neurosurgery that asked for pen and paper after coming to senses. “Where am I” First gunshot of the world that didn't leave a hole but the bullet got to our media's mind. And who doesn't agree to this story is enemy of humanity.”

Anti-Malala tweets were comparing her and the victims of drones attacks in Pakistan.

Fawad Khalid (@FawadKhalid), an electrical engineer and Scottish Tech Award winner, tweeted:

@FawadKhalid: If Malala really was representing #Pakistan , why did she forget about Drones attacks which spreads terrorism & why did she forget Afia ?

@IbneBattuta, a blogger in Pakistan, wrote:

@IbneBattuta: Opportunism for many is now Malala'ism. Bake your cookies while the drones are away.

Faiza S Khan (@BhopalHouse), the editor of Random House India and a blogger, tried to talk some sense into those criticizing Malala's silence on drones:


Mohsin Sayeed (@MohsinSayeed), a Pakistani journalist, turned the tables on those same critics:

@MohsinSayeed: To all those who are droning about drones while maligning and condemning Malala: What have you done about drones apart from droning on?

Saad Hamid (@SaadGH), TEDx Ambassador to Pakistan and curator of TEDxIslamabad, described the experience of being openly in support of Malala on Facebook:

@SaadGH: Talking in support of Malala's message on Facebook is like inviting a pack of wolves to attack you and eat you alive.

Sara B Haider (@bohotsaara), a Pakistani twitterati, highlighted the negative reactions and shared the screenshots:

@bohatsaara: The pakistani mindset and #MalalaDay

Reactions on Facebook

Reactions on Facebook

Shehrbano Taseer (@shehrbanotaseer), a journalist and the daughter of assassinated Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, wrote:

@shehrbano: My Facebook timeline is nauseating. The only thing worse than the Taliban are the ‘para likha jahil's.’ Malala, we are with you

My facebook timeline is nauseating. The only thing worse than the Taliban are the “educated illiterate”. Malala, we are with you.

Zainab Imam (@zainabimam), a journalist and blogger, summed up the situation on her blog Gulaab Jamun:

Yes, a key takeaway is that Malala and her family has been maligned because she was attacked by the militants we so love to please. But here is another deeper problem that it points to: the bias against women so strongly ingrained in our heads that our nation can hardly believe in a confident woman who actually wants the best for this country. In Pakistan, you cannot be a well-wishing female citizen until you’re acquiescent and respectful of “social norms” no matter how much they pull you down.

Ajmal Jami, a journalist, wrote on the blog Laaltain:

آپ کے دشمن بھارت اور امریکہ سمیت پوری دنیا کے مندوبین نے ملالہ کو خراج تحسین پیش کیا اور اسے پورے عالم کے لیے قابل فخر قرار دیا۔۔ شاید ہی کوئی ایسا ملک ہو جہاں اس بچی کا چرچا نہ ہو۔ یعنی دنیا بھر سے چار ملین بچوں نے دستخط کر کے ملالہ کے عزم اور اس کے مشن کو تقویت دی۔۔ لیکن یہ بچی خود جس ملک سے تعلق رکھتی ہے وہاں کا ملا “ذہن” اسے “سازش” قرار دے رہا ہے۔۔ دلیل اور منطق جب دم توڑ جائے تو بجا ہے کہ ہر شے “سازش” دکھتی ہے

Your enemy country India and the US and also the experts from all over the world paid tribute to Malala. And called her a pride for the whole world. There would be hardly any country where she is not popular. Four million children from around the world signed to strengthen the cause of Malala. But the Mullah [religious man] in the country from which this girl belongs to declares her “conspiracy”. When arguments and logic ends then everything looks “conspiracy”.

July 10 2013

China: Woman Activist Made Homeless

Ye Haiyan, a woman activist who has protested against school principal's sexual harassment of schoolgirls, together with her daughter and boyfriend, has been forced to leave their home, first in Guangxi province, and subsequently Guangdong province. Photo uploaded by Ye on July 6 2013.

Ye Haiyan, a woman activist who has protested against school principal's sexual harassment of schoolgirls, together with her daughter and boyfriend, has been forced to leave their home, first in Guangxi province, and subsequently Guangdong province. Photo uploaded by Ye to her Sina Weibo on July 6 2013.

July 09 2013

The “Fair” Factor in Bangladesh

Aziza Ahmed writes about the Bangladeshi social prejudice on dark-skinned girls in matrimonial affairs.

July 07 2013

‘Gangnam Style’ Parody Features Urban Poor Kids in Cambodia

‘Gangnam Style’ continues to be an Internet sensation but this time it is performed by 160 children from an urban poor village in Cambodia. The parody of the music video originally popularized by South Korean superstar Psy got more than 200,000 hits on YouTube a few days after it was uploaded.

The kids are mostly from the urban poor district of Boeng Salang in Phnom Penh, the country’s capital. Jean-Luc Nguyen, who directed the video, introduces the project:

What happens when 160 kids from a slum of Phnom Penh decide to do a parody of Gangnam Style? This amazingly funny video. These impoverished kids live in extremely basic conditions but are full of talent and potential. We wanted to give them an opportunity to express themselves through an artistic and fun project. They didn't disappoint us.

The video is a project of Taramana, an NGO which helps poor children in Cambodia. The group explains the reason for making the ‘Gangnam Kids’ video:

…produce movies that are deliberately offbeat from what you would expect from kids living in a very difficult environment. They are indeed poor, but they have so much potential and energy once you let them express themselves. It would be a shame not to enjoy so much life and joy, and their natural positivity and happiness.

We are convinced that humanitarian aid should focus on giving children strength and confidence: a bit of help that will help them believe in themselves, give them hope for a brighter future and preserve their dignity under any situation.

Below is another video showing the reaction of the children when they first watched their music video:

Khmerization praises the video:

Awwww… so it's not only a sweet tribute to K-pop superstar Psy and “Gangnam Style,” but also has a great deal of heart and hope to boot! A round of applause goes out to all of the kids involved!

Below are some reactions on Twitter

@ChtiClem Funny and inspiring Gangnam Style parody by 160 Cambodian kids from a slum of Phnom Penh!

@ManiiFanii this is awesome~ funny & touching too~ ‘Cambodian Gangnam Style parody by 160 kids from a slum of Phnom Penh

@splashpagefilms Yeah. I know Gangnam style is played out but this video of a 160 Cambodian kids from Phnom Penh dancing to it is fun.

@LinNorLam I went from laughing to crying… #cambodian “@khmerican:160 kids from the slums of Phnom Penh goes ‘Gangnam Style.’

@ChrisBurkeShay I thought I'd long had enough of #Gangnam parodies. I was wrong—this is incredibly heart-warming

This is not the first time that ‘Gangnam Style’ was used to highlight the poverty situation in Cambodia. Last December, human rights activists danced in the streets to the tune of the global hit song to protest land evictions and violations of land rights in the country.

July 05 2013

Domestic Violence Against Women in Kyrgyzstan

Most girls and women in Kyrgyzstan are afraid of leaving their homes alone when it gets dark, believing that a dark street is the most frequent crime scene in the country. In reality, as SQ blog suggests [ru], four out of five crimes against women in the country take place at their homes and are committed by their husbands or other relatives.

July 04 2013

Scholarships For Breast Enlargements in Spain?

There are new rigorous obstacles in front of Spain's students with scholarships, but for one journalist that seems reasonable, because female students have been squandering their awards to get boob jobs anyway.

Journalist Paloma Cervilla published an entry on her blog “Pido la Palabra” (“May I Have the word?”) [es] on June 25, 2013, titled  “Becas para Ponerse Tetas” (Scholarships for Boob Jobs)[es], which has made sparks fly among social networkers, who have expressed their indignation in blogs, comments, and countless tweets.

Spain's new system for awarding scholarships, much more restrictive than in previous years due to sharp cuts in funding, is currently being revisited. Minister of Education José Ignacio Wert‘s original proposal required, among other things, that students maintain a grade point average of 6.5 out of 10 [roughly the equivalent of a C average in the U.S] and passing grades for all subjects (85% for technical degree programs). This has placed 30,000 students at risk of expulsion for non-payment [es].

Wert, one of Spain's most controversial government figures, has seen his proposal sharply rejected, not only by students, professors, and rectors of universities, but also by educational advisors within the autonomous communities, many of whom are also members of the governing party, leading Wertz to reconsider some of his original requirements [es].

At the time of this writing, Cervilla's article has been withdrawn and cannot be read on its original site, but several other websites have picked up the text. One of them,, published the deleted content [es] in its section called La Crispación ["Controversy"]. Here is the paragraph that has web users so incensed:

(…) me acordé de algo que un día me comentó una amiga, profesora en un instituto, precisamente sobre el despilfarro y el escaso control que hay sobre el dinero que se concede para las becas. Indignada me decía que conocía alumnas que habían utilizado el dinero de su beca para pagarse operaciones de aumento de pecho, vamos, para ponerse tetas. (…) Estos son algunos casos, pero seguro que habrá cien mil más.

[...]  I remembered something a friend of mine once told me. As a college professor, she was exasperated by the bad management and poor controls exercised over the scholarship money allotted to students. She told me she knew students who had used their scholarships to pay for breast enlargement operations -all right, let's just say it – boobs jobs. [...]  These are just a few cases, but there are probably a hundred thousand others just like them.

Captura de pantalla del blog de Paloma Cervilla, tras eliminarse el polémico artículo.

Screenshot of Paloma Cervilla's blog page after the controversial article was removed. Text reads: “We apologize, the page you requested could not be found or no longer exists.”

In record time, the internet was flooded with protests, like this one from Carlos Villar Menéndez, in his blog Luces de Bohemia [es] (“Bohemian Lights”):

En el colmo del cinismo, esta señora (…) no hace otra cosa que dejar a las claras su desprecio y falta de respeto hacia las estudiantes becadas.

Entiendo que las estudiantes becadas se vean ofendidas por estos comentarios, de estas personas mezquinas e hipócritas, que no hacen sino defender los intereses de sus patrocinadores.

At the height of cynicism, this woman [...] has done nothing more than show her contempt and lack of respect for female students on scholarships.

I understand why scholarship recipients would take offense at comments like these, made by such petty, hypocritical people who are only defending the interests of their employers.

Ignacio Escolar, in his article “Los Fraudes Imaginarios No Justifican los Recortes de Verdad” [es] (“Imaginary Abuses Don't Justify Real Cuts”) was also highly critical:

Quienes difunden semejantes infundios pretenden convertir la leyenda urbana en realidad, creen que el plural de “anécdota” es “dato” y confunden el “me lo comentó una amiga” con fuentes de toda solvencia. Sin embargo, el verdadero problema no es que propaguen estas mentiras sin contrastar; por desgracia, esto ya es algo habitual. La gran trampa consiste en utilizar estos casos fraudulentos –los imaginarios y los de verdad– como argumento para desmontar el Estado del bienestar.

People who spread these types of rumors are trying to turn urban legends into reality; they believe that “anecdotes” equal “statistics,” and they confuse “a friend told me so” with a completely reliable source. But the real problem isn't that they propagate such unsubstantiated lies; unfortunately, that has become rather commonplace. The big mistake here is that fraudulent cases -both the imaginary and the real ones- are being used as an argument for dismantling the welfare state.

Many tweeters, like Beatriz del Hoyo, Drogoteca and Xose Morais ridiculed Cervilla for her lack of journalistic rigor (links to the deleted article have been removed):

@BeatrizdelHoyo: Periodismo de ‘himbestigazion': “Becas para ponerse tetas”

@BeatrizdelHoyo [es]: “Scholarships for Boob Jobs”. Now that's what I call investigative journalism!

@Drogoteca: Periodismo calidad @PalomaCervilla: de “comprar TVs de plasma con el subsidio del paro” a “ponerse tetas con las becas de estudios”. Yuju!!

@Drogoteca [es]: Quality reporting @PalomaCervilla: from “buying plasma TVs with unemployment benefits” to “paying for boob jobs with student scholarships.” Woo-hoo!

@XoseMorais: En ABC, “Becas para ponerse tetas”. Basado en el riguroso principio de ‘me comentó una amiga'. Literalmente.

@XoseMorais [es]: Read it now in ABC: “Scholarships for Boob Jobs,” based on the rigorous principle of “a friend told me so.” Literally.

Others, like Rubén and Virginia Azagra, took personal jabs at the reporter

Imagen tuiteada por @Eva_Casanova_

Photo tweeted by @Eva_Casanova_. [Text on student's hand reads: "6.3. Fail."]

@VdeRuben: Infame artículo “Becas para ponerse tetas”  la usó para ponerse cerebro, el resultado salta a la vista

@VdeRuben [es]: “Scholarships for Boob Jobs” -what an outrageous article! @PalomaCervilla must have used her scholarship money for a “brain job,” and the results are obvious.

@Papapagina: @palomacervilla fue a ponerse tetas y le metieron la silicona en el córtex frontal

@Papapagina [es]: @palomacervilla went in to have her own breasts done, but they accidentally injected the silicone into her frontal cortex.

BarbijaputaPedro Cervantes and ferpectamente tied this issue in with other current news:

@Barbijaputa: No sé por qué se empeñan en reflotar un país lleno de filoetarras que se beben el PER, se gastan las ayudas en plasmas y las becas en tetas.

@Barbijaputa [es]: I don't know why anyone would insist on bailing out a country like ours, full of ETA lovers who drink away their farm subsidies, waste their unemployment checks on plasma TVs, and spend their scholarships on boob jobs.

@CervantesrPedro: Alumnas que utilizan las becas para ponerse tetas y alumnos que guardan ese dinero en Suiza.

@CervantesrPedro [es]: So there are women who use their scholarships for boob jobs and men who tuck their money away in Switzerland.

@ferpectamente: No negará Dña. @PalomaCervilla que las tetas que se han puesto todas esas chicas con las becas no van a abrirles un futuro en Eurovegas.

@ferpectamente [es]: @PalomaCervilla can't deny that all those girls with enhanced breasts, bought and paid for with their scholarships, might have careers waiting for them in Eurovegas.

But the majority laughed openly at the entire affair, as reflected in the following tweets (contributed, in order, by Celia Zaragoza, Blanco Humano, Little Black Owl, Carlos F. Gamabazo and Jorge Mendoza):

@_CeliaZ: ¿Lo de las becas sólo vale para ponerse tetas o también las habéis malgastado vosotros comprando Jes Extenders a lo loco?

@_CeliaZ [es]: Do these scholarships only apply to breast implants for the women, or have you men been splurging on Jes Extenders as well?

@blancohumano: Debo confesar que yo sí que me gasté el dinero de mis becas en ponerme tetas. Luego me las quité porque me veía raro con seis tetas, claro.

@blancohumano [es]: I have to confess that I did spend my scholarship money on new breasts. Later I had them removed because, as you can imagine, I looked silly with six breasts.

@LittleBlackOwl1: @PalomaCervilla Mi vecina se ha puesto tetas y labios de silicona, y de vez en cuando monta fiestas en su casa. Eso, ¿cuántas becas son?

@LittleBlackOwl1 [es]: @PalomaCervilla My neighbor had silicone added to her breasts and lips, and once in a while she throws house parties. How many scholarships did all of that add up to?

«Wert enseña las becas», imagen tuiteada por Dolors Boatella.

“Wert showing off his scholarships.” Photo tweeted by Dolors Boatella.

J. @jcfergam71: @Barbijaputa yo me gasté las becas de mis hijos en ponerme un par de tetas; como delante no quedaban bien, me las puse a la espalda.

J. @jcfergam71 [es]: @Barbijaputa I spent my children's scholarship money to have a pair of breasts added. Since there really wasn't any room in front, I had them put on in back.

@guladejorge: Yo digo que las tetas de silicona que se puso una chica con el dinero de las becas son de uso público

@guladejorge [es]: I'd say that any silicon breasts paid for with scholarship money should be for public use.

One final note: as Lara Cillan writes in her blog “Becas, tetas, pastores, ovejas y otras cosas oportunamente mezcladas” [Scholarships, Breasts, Shepherds, Sheep, and Other Things Well-Mixed; es], scholarships are essential in a developed society, and should be seen as an investment, in spite of any unforseeable anomalies:

Sí, hay becas que se dan a familias que no las necesitan, sí, hay becas que son gastadas indebidamente y sí, hay becarios que no terminan sus estudios, pero son una minoría insignificante respecto de los miles de jóvenes que, gracias a una beca, se han labrado un futuro y cuyo trabajo revierte positivamente en la sociedad cuando no tienen que salir al extranjero para poder trabajar.

Yes, there are scholarships offered to some families who don't need them;  yes, there are scholarships that are improperly spent;  and yes, there are scholarship recipients who never finish their studies, but these are an insignificant minority compared to the thousands of young people who, thanks to a scholarship, have built a future for themselves, and whose work will have a positive effect on our society, if they don't have to move overseas to find employment.

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