by Furry Girl
"For example, while the [UN] draft resolution [on women's rights] doesn’t call for providing protection or respect for prostitutes, it does call for ending violence against all women, which would include the minority that work in prostitution. Those women, while their job may be deemed immoral or illegal in certain countries, deserve protection from violence like any other human being or citizen of their country, a fact which the MB seems to take issue with. Aside from using religion to oppose equality between men and women, they are even advocating dehumanizing - in the sense of deeming them unworthy of their human rights - those they consider morally bankrupt, like lesbians or prostitutes. Protecting these two subgroups of citizens from violence is against Islam according to the MB, and therefore shouldn't be allowed."
-- Mahmoud Salem (aka @Sandmonkey) in Gender Wars: The Muslim Brotherhood Versus Egypt's Women on acus.org. He's my favorite Egyptian blogger/activist/self-proclaimed "pain in the ass," and it's been interesting watching a revolution/coup unfold and through his eyes.
by Furry Girl
"...Corporate philanthropy began to replace missionary activity as Capitalism's (and Imperialism's) road opening and systems maintenance patrol.
The Privatisation of Everything has also meant the NGO-isation of Everything. As jobs and livelihoods disappeared, NGOs have become an important source of employment, even for those who see them for what they are. And they are certainly not all bad. Of the millions of NGOs, some do remarkable, radical work and it would be a travesty to tar all NGOs with the same brush. However, the corporate or Foundation-endowed NGOs are global finance's way of buying into resistance movements, literally like shareholders buy shares in companies, and then try to control them from within.
Armed with their billions, these NGOs have waded into the world, turning potential revolutionaries into salaried activists, funding artists, intellectuals and filmmakers, gently luring them away from radical confrontation, ushering them in the direction of multi-culturalism, gender, community development—the discourse couched in the language of identity politics and human rights.
The NGO-isation of the women's movement has also made western liberal feminism (by virtue of its being the most funded brand) the standard-bearer of what constitutes feminism. The battles, as usual, have been played out on women's bodies, extruding Botox at one end and burqas at the other. (And then there are those who suffer the double whammy, Botox and the Burqa.) When, as happened recently in France, an attempt is made to coerce women out of the burqa rather than creating a situation in which a woman can choose what she wishes to do, it's not about liberating her, but about unclothing her. It becomes an act of humiliation and cultural imperialism. It's not about the burqa. It's about the coercion. Coercing a woman out of a burqa is as bad as coercing her into one. Viewing gender in this way, shorn of social, political and economic context, makes it an issue of identity, a battle of props and costumes. It is what allowed the US government to use western feminist groups as moral cover when it invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Afghan women were (and are) in terrible trouble under the Taliban. But dropping daisy-cutters on them was not going to solve their problems."
-- Arundhati Roy in Capitalism: A Ghost Store on outlookindia.com
Great piece, I recommend reading it. If you're short on time, feel free to bypass the discussion of Indian politics and corruption (tl;dr: shit's fucked up), and start with the section "What follows...", as a lot of that relates to any country.
by Furry Girl
"Beach boys and women sex tourists: every journalist's dream topic...
Reporters want to know if the boys are 'really' prostitutes and why the girls are paying; they have trouble figuring out who is exploiting whom. It's a bias, of course, to insist someone has to be exploiting since money and sex are involved, rather than seeing these as ordinary relationships, the kind that travelling people have been having since human life began."
-- Dr Laura Agustín, in Girls who buy sex from beach boys: Sex tourism in Bali on lauraagustin.com
This article on Bali reminds me of one of my own anecdotes: a few years ago, I spent a couple of nights on the coast of Kenya in a town called Watamu. It's the only place I've ever been where the sex tourism was about women as purchasers. It was an amusing dynamic for me to suddenly be the one propositioned by sex workers. The gorgeous beach boys would come up to the (mostly middle-aged) white women and say something like, "Would you like to go shopping?" or "Would you like company for dinner?" The guys were not overtly asking for cash for a set time period or a sex act, they seemed to want to stay in an upmarket hotel and be purchased gifts, clothing, and fancy dinners (and hopefully get some "spending money" as well).
by Furry Girl
I'm not a hardcore nerd the way some of my wonderful friends are, so what I like with geek events are discussions of social implications of technologies, surveillance, privacy, anonymity, and fighting state power and censorship. Most of these recommended videos are from the 28th Chaos Communication Congress, which concluded a couple of weeks ago. These are my favorites, but you can find even more talks from the CCC by searching for "28c3" on YouTube.
How Governments have tried to block Tor by Jacob Appelbaum and Roger Dingledine [description]. Some amount of nerd jargon, a basic understanding of how the internet and censorship works is helpful. Something to love here is both speaker's insistence that it's not about things like "Tor versus China," but the Chinese government versus their people. There's good discussion of context and how things work differently under different regimes, and how ultimately, Tor developers want to help people decide their own fates in their own countries, and the life-or-death importance of truth in marketing when you offer a censorship circumvention tool. It's valuable to look at how censorship is deployed in the world's most oppressive countries, and that those censorship tools are developed and sold by American companies like Cisco and Nokia, much like how IBM colluded with the Nazis during WWII.
Marriage from Hell: On the Secret Love Affair Between Dictators and Western Technology Companies by Evgeny Morozov [description]. Morozov is one of my favorite tweeters, the author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, and is fun to read for his snarky skepticism of the popular mentality that says that "the internet" magically makes activism and politics better. (I'd call him a delightfully crabby old man, but he's a year younger than me.) This talk has very little nerd jargon, and assumes you're already aware that US tech companies knowingly sell things to dictatorships to help them oppress people.
Macro dragnets: Why trawl the river when you can do the whole ocean by Redbeard [description]. Low amount of nerd jargon. Redbeard is an awesome activist/hacker friend, and this talk takes a very quick jaunt though the basics of a wide array of data mining/collection/storage: US Customs and Immigration, DNA databases, voter records, facial/iris recognition, the data that Amazon stores on customer, IdentifyRioters.com, criminal/prison information collection, and more. (If this topic interests you, Steve Rambam's multi-hour talks at HOPE are accessible and awesome.)
If you're into nerd-jargon-heavy stuff, Meredith Patterson's talk on The Science of Insecurity is a fun take on security from the perspective of someone who studies linguistics, math, and programming. Another honorable mention goes to Your Disaster/Crisis/Revolution Just Got Pwned by Tomate and Willow. Low amount of nerd jargon, this is aimed at hacktivists/coders on how humanitarian groups respond to disasters and crises. I especially like that it emphasizes self-care, taking breaks, getting sleep, and keeping a sense of humor. Stressed is the importance of knowing how secure your tools really are before suggesting people trust their lives to them, as well as taking an approach that focuses on the needs of people you're trying to help, rather then selling them on using something you created without their input. "Don't make a solution for a problem that doesn't exist." (Good advice for any activist.)
And, from back in October, I finally got around to watching Jacob Appelbaum speaking at an internet activism conference in Sweden on Internet surveillance, censorship, and avenues of resistance with anonymity. Low amount of nerd jargon, scroll down to the fourth video on the linked page. This talk includes the importance of privacy-by-design rather than privacy-by-policy, and how the specter of "child pornography" prevents people from questioning the "need" for internet filtering, and how the state functions as the real terrorists who most threaten our freedom. I appreciate Jake's noting of the West's "othering" of censorship, assuming it's just an issue for foreigners and those in Arab dictatorships. "Technological utopianism is really part of the problem."
And, finally, a bonus item, so long as I'm throwing out suggestions: PBS's Ascent of Money miniseries, available free online. This four-hour documentary by Niall Ferguson is wonderful at making financial history of the world interesting, from the development of math and bookkeeping, how money has driven trade and colonization, determined the course of wars and revolutions, all the way up to hedge funds, derivatives, the current financial mess. I've been looking to learn more about economics, and this is a highly recommended primer on everything from the history of stock, commerce, insurance, and how the real estate crash that's destroying America's poor and middle class was brought about by decades-earlier attempts to quash the appeal of communism. Really, even if you're not curious about economics, this is a cool history of the not-so-well-known drunks, murderers, gamblers, entrepreneurs, and clergy who got us where we are today.
by Furry Girl
I've spent almost the entire last 5 days researching the groups that Google is now funding. Please see the campaign page and read something I've put a lot of time info!
Why are sex workers' rights supporters upset with Google?
Google announced last week that they are making the largest-ever corporate donation to "ending modern day slavery": an impressive $11.5 million dollars. We applaud and support Google's desire to fight slavery, forced trafficking, and exploitative labor conditions, but Google's funding recipients include three NGOs that cause serious harm to sex workers in around the world: International Justice Mission, Polaris Project, and Not for Sale. As small sex worker support services struggle for funding to serve their communities, it is offensive to watch Google shower money upon a wealthy faith-based group like the International Justice Mission, which took in nearly $22 million dollars in 2009 alone. (In contrast, the St. James Infirmary, a San Francisco clinic that provides free healthcare to sex workers, operated on only $335k in 2010.)
Does Google know what their money is really supporting? Let's take a look at what you won't read about on the front pages these groups' glossy web sites.
Also, I'll be protesting outside of Google's Seattle building on Wednesday from 2-4pm (on the bridge next to it, to be specific). There are also protests in other locations, too, so check the campaign page. Please join me so I don't have to feel like a lonely sad protester.
by Furry Girl
"On the subject of ethics in sex work research, we usually think of the insensitivity and careerism of researchers whose interest is in obtaining information they will take credit for. I want to point to another problematic angle: the issue of whether those being researched are honest with researchers. Why, after all, should people who are being treated as objects of curiosity tell the truth?
To put it another way, keeping secrets may help sex workers gain independence or control over projects to help them. Talking about sexual risks with people who think it's wrong to ever take any risks may cause them to treat you as irresponsible. Admitting the desire to stay in sex work after getting out of the clutches of abusers can render you ineligible for victim-protection programmes. The best policy may be to omit certain information from responses or to put on the expected front.
-- Dr Laura Agustín, in Alternate Ethics, or: Telling Lies to Researchers on lauraagustin.com
by Furry Girl
A few months ago, SWAAY's mail box received a neat package in the mail from Respect, Inc, with an impressive sampling of useful literature, and cute condom packets. Click on the photo to enlarge, and see PDF versions of Respect, Inc's literature on their web site. I love seeing what other groups have to offer, and these set a great example of what sex workers' rights activists can be doing to serve their communities.
by Furry Girl
"At times, working in news is like playing a giant game of telephone. Someone reports something, and everyone else follows suit. The truth gets lost along the way.
'What about the kidnapped children?' a producer in New York asks.
'What kidnapped children?' I say.
'They claim lots of storm orphans are being kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery.'
'Who’s "they"?' I ask.
'Everyone,' the producer responds. 'It’s being reported all over the place.'
'We’ll look into it' I respond, which is usually the only way to end such a conversation.
Child trafficking is a major problem, especially in Southeast Asia, but when we start checking the kidnapping story being reported on other networks and papers, it seems slim on facts. It’s mostly just aid workers worrying that children separated from their parents by the disaster may get kidnapped. Part of the aid workers’ job is to get relief, and one way for them to do that is to raise red flags, warn of impending problems. Warnings, however, aren’t facts.
We’ve hired a Sri Lankan newspaper reporter named Chris to help us get around, and when I ask him about kidnappings, his eyes light up. 'Oh, yes, it appears a very big problem,' he says, his British-accented English accompanied always with a peculiarly Sri Lankan shake of the head.
Chris shows us a headline on the front page of one of Sri Lanka’s daily papers: TWO KIDS, RESCUED FROM WAVES, KIDNAPPED BY MAN ON MOTORCYCLE.
'There have been a lot of stories like that,' he says. 'It’s all very dramatic stuff.’
'Is it true?' I ask.
'I have no idea,' he says, 'but it makes for a great headline.'"
-- Anderson Cooper, in his autobiography, Dispatches from the Edge.
Cooper goes on to follow this story, learning that the only two children reported to have been kidnaped were actually taken to a hospital by a good citizen on a motorcycle.
This book was a holiday present from a relative, and while I never would have picked it up it on my own, this memoir was better than I was expecting for a TV personality's bestseller.
by Furry Girl
My WikiLeaks cable search continues, and this time I spent a full day reading about how US diplomats cover abortion. A lot of the items I've seen mentioned with the cables are "big deal" political issues like terrorism, censorship, corruption, but I think it's also important to consider more "pedestrian" topics, such as the issue of abortion. Access to safe abortion services might not garner headlines like an leak about who we've tortured, but it affects far more people worldwide in their daily lives.
Most of the results for "abortion" are about the Catholic Church opposing it, snippets about sex-selective abortion in India and China, and brief mentions of forced abortions at the hands of human trafficking rings. Meddling from pro-life Republican Congressman Chris Smith came up in four cables about abortion, and that's just what I noticed as a casual reader. (What does your representative do overseas on diplomatic missions? Why not search the cables and see?)
This post is by no means exhaustive, and like my roundup of cables on sex work and prostitution policies, reflects only some of the things I found while poking around on CablegateSearch.net. If you find something else interesting, post it in the comments, or on Twitter with the hashtag #wlfind. If everyone spends just a couple of hours looking through the cables for a topic that's interesting to them, we can all find more stories in this huge repository of US diplomatic information.
Cables of note, mostly on abortion, plus two on FGM I stumbled across:
* A January 2010 cable from China discusses the country's sex-selective abortion and how it affects their gender ratio. "Social consequences of this imbalance include an estimated excess of over 30 million unmarriageable males, a potentially destabilizing force that threatens to cause unrest in the most economically marginalized areas, and could lead to increased gender violence through demand for prostitution and trafficking in girls and women." The @WikiLeaks Twitter account mention this earlier today. I still am wondering what defines one as an "unmarriageable male" in China.
* A December 2009 cable from the Vatican, marked SECRET, "reiterate" the Vatican's position on US healthcare legislation. "[Archbishop] Mamberti asked the Ambassador about the status of the health care legislation now pending before the U.S. Senate, and reiterated the concerns expressed by the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops that the final version of the legislation not contain funding for abortion."
* A November 2009 cable from the UN summarizes a meeting on population, family planning, development, and climate change. Call me ignorant, but I wasn't previously aware that the Catholic Church has a representative at the UN. Really, why should they of all people get a seat at the table in UN population and family planning meetings? Does the Taliban get to have a place to influence debates on the global response to terrorism?
* An October 2009 cable from Colombia explains how the country's complicated system of having 4 types of courts hinders clear decisions on abortion rights. "In September, [Inspector General] Ordonez successfully scuttled the Mayor of Medellin's plans to offer abortion services at a new integral women's health clinic. Some hospitals and doctors still refuse to perform the legal abortions due to objections of conscience, and some judges have blocked the full implementation of the ruling. Ordonez argues that abortion is still a crime (punished by one to three years imprisonment) with specific exceptions, and not a right."
* An October 2009 cable from the Vatican summarizes a conference on getting more faith-based groups to work with governments on HIV/AIDS charity work. The Vatican's event had nothing to do with promoting condom use or sex education (surprise!), but on the importance of HIV testing and treatment for children, how to work to prevent HIV transmission between mother and child. The Vatican wants to see more groups providing care to children born with HIV, but has zero interest in addressing the reasons why babies are born with HIV or how HIV is most commonly transmitted. The US embassy considered this event "very successful."
* An October 2009 cable from Afghanistan on the situation of women weighs the pros and cons of a drug. "Hemorrhage is the leading cause of maternal death in Afghanistan. JPAIGO, a USAID implementing partner affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, conducted a study in which midwives and health workers provided expectant mothers with misoprostol, a drug that prevents hemorrhaging if taken immediately after delivery. The Afghan Government is cautious about using the drug, since it can also be used to induce abortion, which is illegal in Afghanistan."
* A September 2009 cable from Kazakhstan explores the many factors that caused one town, Temirtau, to be dubbed "The AIDS Capital of Kazakhstan". They include layoffs from the world's largest steel company, AcelorMittal, which once employed half the town. Later, on the subject of efforts to promote safer sex, "...only 1-2 percent of Temirtau's residents use contraception to restrict birth; abortion remains the overwhelming preferred method of birth control."
* A September 2009 cable from the Vatican covers a Catholicism conference headlined by Tony Blair and Jeb Bush. After defending the event from critics, the cable reluctantly notes, "It is, however, at the forefront of the cultural wars pitting traditional Church values against Western European secularism. As such, it works assiduously to advance Church teachings on controversial issues such as euthanasia, abstinence in the fight against AIDS, abortion, and the role and influence of religion in society." The cable refers to the conference as a success.
* An August 2009 cable from Morocco deals with abortion and family planning. "Abortions are legal in Morocco only to safeguard the health of the mother. The practical measures to garner permission for a legal abortion, however, are especially difficult. In addition to written consent by the spouse, the region's chief medical officer must approve all pending abortions. These stringent procedures mean that legal abortions are rarely approved beforehand."
* A June 2009 cable from Russia says that family planning efforts are having a hard time "gaining a foothold" in the face of religious and state opposition. "Svetlana Yakimenko, the Director of Project Kesher, an international women's rights NGO, told us May 21 that Planned Parenthood International had a difficult time gaining a foothold in Russia and faces opposition to its work from both the GOR and the Orthodox Church. [...] The GOR pursues an official policy of encouraging women to have as many children as possible in order to counteract the country's demographic problems..."
* A June 2009 cable from Poland discusses the country's abortion laws. It notes that "abortion is allowed only in three instances: when pregnancy poses a threat to the life or health of the mother, when pre-natal examinations indicate a high probability of severe birth defects or incurable disease, and when pregnancy was the result of rape. As women's rights NGOs point out, even those entitled to legal abortion under the strict anti-abortion law are often denied. Under Polish law, a doctor has the right to deny an abortion if it is in conflict with his/her conscience (so-called conscience clause)."
* A June 2009 cable from the Vatican seems to be written for Barack Obama, explaining what the Church wants to discuss on his visit. "Vatican officials grudgingly accept that abortion is legal in the U.S., but oppose making it more widely available. Internationally, the Vatican would forcefully oppose USG advocacy of legalizing abortion elsewhere, financing foreignabortions, or making abortion an international 'reproductive right.' The Vatican would welcome an honest, respectful dialogue with the United States on abortion."
* A June 2009 cable from Mexico covers the abortion debate in the country. Abortion is legal in cases of "confirmed rape," which makes me wonder what their rape certification process looks like. "Some pro-abortion NGO's claimed a modest victory in regulations requiring a response by state health authorities no more than 120 hours after a confirmed rape, provision of emergency 'morning after' contraception, as well as abortion on demand in rape cases. Such organizations, however, noted that the regulations require written authorization by law enforcement authorities who must certify that a rape had taken place (for victims under 18 a parent or guardian must also provide authorization)."
* An April 2009 cable from Guinea titled, "Exploring Fgm- Sorcery, Secrecy, And Livelihoods" talks about female genital mutilation and the women who perform it. "...Asst Poloff had a rare opportunity to interview women who actually perform FGM, or 'excision'. The interview took place at the community health center, with four local women in attendance. [...] Although any woman can attend the actual procedure, it is usually older girls who have already been excised and/or older female relatives such as aunts or grandmothers. [...] The excisers balked when questioned about the role of men in the practice of excision. The younger exciser explained that men would not 'dare' involve themselves in the domain of women." (And here we Westerners are told that FGM is caused by a thing called "The Patriarchy," not an empowered sisterhood of women. A cable from the UAE in 2005 notes that FGM is inflicted by "elderly women or midwives" when it happens in that country.)
* An April 2009 cable from India discuses sex-selective abortion and gender disparities in the country. "Though President Patil, India's first female president, claimed in her talk in December 2008, in Yavatmal, Maharashtra, 'Today, our women are competing on an equal footing with men,' the reality for many in western India belies this claim."
* A March 2009 cable covering the presidential election season in Slovakia notes how Catholic Church campaigns against one female candidate. "Recently, several bishops helped to ignite the Slovak 'culture wars,' by publicly calling on Catholic voters not to support her. Banska Bystrica's Bishop, Rodulf Balaz, recently went as far as to indirectly compare [her] to Hitler because of her attitudes toward abortion and gays."
* A November 2008 cable from Nicaragua speculates on whether the country's anti-abortion president is causing it to lose foreign aid. "Finland is not the first country to withdraw budget support from Nicaragua since Daniel Ortega became President. In August 2007, Sweden announced it would end its foreign assistance to Nicaragua, as a result of its decision to shift focus on countries in Africa and Eastern Europe. Observers in Nicaragua speculated that the true reason behind the Swedish decision was Ortega's prohibition of therapeutic abortion, an assertion denied by the Swedish Ambassador."
* A July 2008 cable from Ethiopia discusses inteference from an anti-abortion American politician. The country apparently doesn't want outsiders meddling in its laws, citing "the example of Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, who adamantly opposes abortion. When Ethiopia's parliament passed a clause allowing abortion in instances when the mother's life was in danger, Congressman Smith severely criticized the Prime Minister and his government and is now a vocal critic of Ethiopia. If Ethiopia accepted funding from anti-abortion groups and overturned the Parliamentary law to be in compliance with Congressman Smith, it would not be a law truly embraced by the people of Ethiopia."
* A September 2008 cable from the Vatican is titled, "Catholic Movement Wary Of European Human Rights Discourse". The Church is upset that they think Europeans and their governments "are promoting the view that abortion, euthanasia and same sex-marriages are human rights," views that "betray" the "true essence" of human rights according to Catholic religious doctrine.
* A December 2007 cable from Kenya discusses various ways that religion influences politics in the country. On religious activism: "While some positions are clearly in line with church doctrine -- such as the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Kenya calling for aspiring leaders to reject abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty -- other leaders' declarations have been more political and have correspondingly sparked controversy." Good to know that the Catholic Church is always working hard on issues that really matter, like fighting against abortion access in developing countries.
* An October 2007 cable from Nicaragua covers abortion debates and the Catholic Church's role. Interestingly, anti-abortion politicians decided to turn it into a homophobic issue. "Agreeing that the only women in favor of abortion were homosexual, deputy Navarro scornfully called the female protesters 'lesbians, lesbians, lesbians' during his turn at the microphone." The US embassy concludes, "In our discussions with women's organizations and NGOs, we have made it clear that U.S. foreign policy does not condone or recognize the right to abortion."
* A May 2007 cable from Brazil covers the Pope's visit amidst debate on changing the country's archaic abortion laws. Ever the sensitive guy, Pope Benedict "asserted that the spreading of the gospel during colonization did not represent 'alienation of pre-Columbian cultures nor the imposition of a foreign culture.'" The cable also mentions "a Vatican proposal to make religious education obligatory in public schools."
* A March 2007 cable from Senegal plainly spells out that the position of the US government is anti-abortion. It covers the visit of pro-life US Ambassador Rees to discourage the country's adoption of the Maputo Plan, which aims to improve sexual health and family planning for the people of Senegal, and includes abortion. (Trivia: Rees was once a legislative aid to what US Congressman? Chris Smith!) "Ambassador Rees voiced U.S. concerns that the Maputo Plan of Action requires countries to integrate all HIV/AIDS programs with family planning/reproductive health programs, an integration that would likely divert badly needed HIV/AIDS fund to family planning, and also seemed designed to require African countries to make abortion more widely available. [...] During a 30-minute meeting with Minister of Health Abdou Fall on March 21, Ambassador Rees stressed that the Maputo Plan of action was not a consensus document, could create 'an abortion industry in waiting.'"
* A March 2007 cable from the Vatican reports on a "right to life" conference. "Addressing conference delegates during a private audience, Pope Benedict XVI stressed that the right to life must be supported by everyone because 'it is fundamental with respect to other human rights.' The pontiff then lashed out against interest in developed nations in immoral biotechnological research, 'the obsessive search for the perfect child' through genetic selection, a renewed global push for abortion rights and same-sex marriage, which is 'closed to natural procreation.'"
* A February 2007 cable from Portugal notes that the country is about to legalize abortion (up until 10 weeks). The country's leadership "hailed the outcome, underscoring that it would ensure Portugal's move toward modernity and place it among the world's contemporary democracies." I like that increasing abortion access is seen as a cornerstone of modernity and democracy.
* A January 2007 cable from the Vatican summarizes Pope Benedict's speech about what he thinks wrong with Africa. Abortion is apparently one of the key problems facing the continent.
* A December 2006 cable from Nicaragua talks about the country's abortion laws. "[Nicaraguan Minister of Health Margarita] Gurdian expressed regret that the medical community was shut out of the legislative debate that was strongly influenced by Catholic church and Evangelical group interests."
* An August 2006 cable from Fiji discusses the visit of US politicians, who discussed the pressing issues of abortion and war. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican Congressman, "expressed hope that Fiji would not support a UN program that he said advocates abortion as a means of family planning. A spirited discussion followed among several of the congressmen on abortion-related issues." The country was thanked for "Fiji's participation in the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq." (At this point in time, Fiji probably had less than 300 troops in Iraq.) Perhaps in return for their support of the war, Fijian politicians were "very interested in prospects" that the 2000-ish Fijian citizens illegally living in the US can be shown "some consideration" in upcoming immigration bills.
* An August 2006 cable from Vietnam talks about the current state of affairs for the country's population policies, including what it defines as "real abortion". "[A government official] raised doubts about the reliability of abortion rate figures and stated that 93 percent of all reported abortions performed in Vietnam are actually 'menstrual regulation.' This procedure allows women to end a pregnancy during the first trimester by artificially triggering withdrawal bleeding. Some 20 percent of women undergoing this procedure are actually not pregnant and just 'want to be on the safe side,' he said. Therefore, the [government's population department] only considers mid- or late-term abortion cases to be 'real abortions' and has allocated funding to try to reduce the number of these cases, which account for seven percent of the reported abortions."
* A March 2006 cable from Vietnam mentions Congressman Smith's penchant for telling developing other countries what to do with their abortion laws: "Smith had promised to work cooperatively with Vietnam on the issues of combating trafficking in persons (TIP), preventing abortion and promoting religious freedom."
* A March 2006 cable from France summarizes how the US has been portrayed in the local press, including Bush's abortion politics. It quotes one concerned article: "This anti-abortion law does not concern South Dakota alone... When it comes to morals and culture, the wind often blows from the U.S. onto our shores. President Bush, spurred by the 'Christian right' is already waging an anti-abortion crusade worldwide. He is making anti-abortion legislation a condition for aid to poor and developing countries. This crusade will intensify if the right to abortion was questioned in the U.S."
* A January 2006 cable from South Africa expressed US concerns with what it considers "contradictions" in a newly passed law. "Under the new bill, a child can consent to medical treatment, including HIV testing and the purchase of contraceptives, at 12 years of age. Previously, under the Child Care Act, the minimum age had been 14. There are contradictions in the new bill. Having sex with a child aged 15 or younger is considered statutory rape, but the new law assumes a 12-year-old is mature enough to purchase condoms. Another concern is that, at 14 years old, children can now consent to surgical procedures, including abortion. However under the new bill, a girl can consent to giving up her baby for adoption only at 18, whereas previously, a 16-year-old could make that decision."
* A December 2005 cable from Vietnam talks about Congressman Smith's advice of using fake "pregnancy crisis centers". "On abortion, the Congressman noted that faith- based pregnancy-care and pregnancy-crisis centers are very powerful weapons in the fight against abortion."
* Another December 2005 cable from Vietnam states that Congressman Smith "is deeply concerned about the prevalence of abortion in the world". A Vietnamese official smartly notes, "Preventing abortions is a noble goal... a far better solution than abortion is to provide the social and financial methods and resources to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place."
* A September 2005 cable from El Salvador touches on the Catholic Church's anti-abortion lobbying in the country. "[Archbishop] Saenz Lacalle succeeded in an effort to prohibit legally all types of abortion, by busing Catholic schoolchildren to the Legislative Assembly to stage anti-abortion demonstrations. In an effort to influence legislators, Opus Dei also solicited thousands of signatures for anti-abortion petitions from churchgoers after Mass; some political observers viewed this as an inappropriate intervention in national policy on the part of the Catholic Church."
* A November 2004 cable from Brazil reports on an effort to amend strict anti-abortion laws to exclude cases of anencephaly, an extreme deformity that renders a fetus/baby incapable of surviving. An earlier cable on this potential exception notes opposition from a Catholic church group, stating they "will struggle for the preservation of the rights of anencephalics, especially the right to be born." (The Wikipedia page on anencephaly includes photos you may consider disturbing.)
* A January 2004 cable from Ghana mentions the country's abstinence-focused sex ed. "USAID,s program works to decrease the abortion rate by promoting family planning for married couples, educating girls and boys on abstinence and delayed sexual initiation, and advocating faithfulness between married partners (school-based curricula, Life Choices media campaigns and the Church's Counseling curriculum are examples)."
* A November 2003 cable from Croatia explains the Catholic church's role in politics. "Catholics were also directed not to vote for parties and individuals who support legalized abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex marriages."
by Furry Girl
WikiLeaks has released tens of thousands of new US embassy cables this week, and I spent almost every waking hour of Thursday looking at the results. I don't have the time to read everything, but you might be interested in getting a peek at how diplomats talk about both sex workers and relevant policies in foreign countries.
See the results for sex work, whore, prostitut*, stripper, porn, transgender, transsexual, transvestite, LGBT, lesbian, bisexual, and homosexual. (Most of the ho-related results are about the US Trafficking in Persons Report and horror stories that conflate all sex work with forced trafficking and slavery, or mention it alongside drug addiction as a social ill to fix.)
Some bits I found about sex work, plus one odd one about a trans woman:
* Out of 10 mentions of the word "whore," 6 are quotations of someone using it as an insult. Two are mentions of a women's rights NGO called "Ni Putes Ni Soumises (Neither Whores nor Submissives)." Two more uses the term to refer to stigma.
* A report on people organizing against sex work criminalization in Rwanda from a January 2010 cable. "Rwandan civil society is weak and neither its members nor the government fully understands its role. These recent efforts may be an indicator of increasing strength and organization."
* According to a January 2010 cable, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, "German government funds" have been used to establish "rehabilitation centers for women engaged in prostitution." (I wonder if these centers are anything like the forced rehabs in Cambodiawhere sex workers report violence, sexual assault, and even rape at the hands of their "saviors"?)
* In a report on "women's issues" from the Czech Republic in January of 2010, the author praises, without even a hint of irony, a government conference on reducing prostitution which had lectures on leadership from female entrepreneurs. (As though prostitution and female entrepreneurship are opposing concepts!)
* A December 2009 cable from Kenya is surprised by a survey's findings on gay/male prostitution. "...a 2007 Kenya Aids Indicator Survey found that male prostitution occurs throughout the country and that eighty-one percent of the clients are Kenyan. These findings run contrary to the perception that LGBT activity is concentrated in Coast province and initiated by tourists." A 2009 cable from the Philippines reports something similar: "about 70% of prostitution clientele are local Filipinos, and only 30% are foreigners." (Gasp! You mean it's not just evil white Westerners, high on their internet porn "addictions," who buy sex in foreign countries?)
* A December 2009 cable from Tanzania explains how anti-prostitution laws are selectively used to persecute homosexuals. "Dr. Emmanuel Kandusi, Executive Director of the Centre for Human Rights Promotion, told Poloff that 39 individuals arrested on prostitution charges on October 7 were targeted for their membership in gay and lesbian support groups. [...] Gay rights activist and CPSS member Ali Semsella related to Poloff other incidents of harassment and arrest. For example, a group of seven individuals arrested in January on charges of prostitution continue to be held in remand prison because they could not make the Tsh 500,000 bail (USD380)."
* An October 2009 cable from the Philippines covers how a police officer moonlighting as a pimp got caught in an NGO sting and convicted under anti-trafficking laws. The cop apparently said "that he was the club's manager and that he had four underage girls working for him that they could take out of the club for sex. [He] told [the NGO workers] not to worry about any legal problems because he was a police officer and could protect them. He even offered to escort them to a hotel to ensure there would be no problems." At trial, though, one of the teenage girls in question said that she had never been forced to have sex with anyone.
* An April 2009 cable from Vietnam posts some snark on the subject of how to prevent prostitution in karaoke bars. It quotes an unnamed local blogger who suggests, "To prevent prostitution, all women entering a karaoke bar must be accompanied by boyfriend or husband; an official inspector will check her certificate of marriage or certificate proving girlfriend or boyfriend-ship."
* A December 2008 cable from Turkey makes a rare mention of sex workers' rights activism, even going so far as concluding, "MEASURES TO CURTAIL LEGAL PROSTITUTION MAY EXPOSE PROSTITUTES TO GREATER ABUSE... While concerned about the plight of trafficked women in Turkey, these sex workers and advocates emphasized the need for protection, fair housing and respect for Turkey's prostitutes, who are often abused by residents, clients and police."
* A September 2008 cable from Turkey reports that a trans woman helped overthrow the previous government. "Actress Nurseli Idiz, her manager Seyhan Soylu and lawyer Levent Temiz were taken into custody in Istanbul... Papers recall that Soylu, a transvestite, is believed to have organized a scheme which sparked a political scandal ahead of the 'February 28' process in 1997, and led to the collapse of the government of the Islamist Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan." (When not plotting coups, Seyhan Soylu developed a reality TV show about pitting various faiths against each other in a competition to convert atheists.)
* An April 2007 cable from Korea reports that even though prostitution was criminalized in 2004, it still exists, and was only driven underground. "As pressure against the prostitution industry mounted, brothel owners began to shift their work to alternate venues such as massage parlors, barber shops and singing rooms although a few traditional red-light districts continue to operate. The Internet also became a popular method to arrange sexual encounters because it provided protection for business owners who wanted to keep a low profile." Here's an interesting tactic in the quest to end demand: "A serious debate on the issue erupted late last year as MOGEF introduced a plan where men would be paid if they promised not to engage in prostitution as part of the traditional end-of-year parties hosted by their employers."
* A September 2006 cable from Cambodia questions the effectiveness of arresting suspected prostitutes and forcing them into "rehab" centers. "Targeting sex workers alone is not a viable solution to ridding Cambodia of prostitution nor is it particularly effective in addressing trafficking in persons. The fact that no pimps or brothel owners have been held responsible after the raids on nine brothels raises questions as to the government's motivations. Police could have done a better job identifying and arresting the pimps and closing down the brothels, instead of only rounding up the prostitutes and turning them over to AFESIP." (AFESIP is an NGO founded by Somaly Mam, who has come under fire by sex workers in Cambodia for violence and abuse in her "rehabilitation centers.")
* A July 2006 cable from Armenia reports disappointment at the unexciting realities of "trafficking" of Armenian women. "We went to Vanadzor expecting to hear stories of illicit smuggling across borders and of girls lured into prostitution under false pretenses. What we heard was significantly more pedestrian... And while the prostitutes and the NGO employees we met said sometimes women are abused in the brothels, or aren't paid in full, they said the greater part of women generally understand what they are getting themselves into, and may already have worked as prostitutes for years." The cable concludes, "...fist-banging won't change the fact that many prostitutes work simply to get food on the table, and that they believe they will be paid better in Turkey or the UAE. The Armenian government cannot improve a bad economy with stricter laws and harsher sentencing. While both are needed here, Armenia has to offer these women an alternative to turning tricks if it is to eradicate trafficking."
* Three cables from June 2006 talk about the sex trafficking scare around the World Cup in Berlin. One notes, "Over 20 NGOs throughout Germany have received government funds to conduct dozens of trafficking prevention and awareness campaigns." It goes on to report on the raid of 48 Munich brothels in search of said trafficking victims, though it couldn't find any. Another cable reports on raids in Hesse, where hundreds of police officers were involved in a massive sweep that saw 74 women detained. A police officer "pointed out that many women do not initially see themselves as victims but come to that realization after counseling and assistance." [...] "Regarding the large-scale raids on May 10, [police chief] Thiel said police findings demonstrate there has been no substantial increase in TIP and that the oft-repeated figure of 40,000 prostitutes converging on Germany for the FIFA World Cup is a gross exaggeration." A third cable declares that in spite of being unable to find trafficking victims, the whole mess is a victory anyway. "Extensive pre-World Cup police raids of brothels and other venues around Germany (reported refs C through F) sent a clear message to traffickers that police are watching and likely dissuaded many traffickers from expanding their operations."
* A December 2005 cable from Turkey expresses concern about the growing popularity of trans prostitutes, giving a very detailed rundown on where trans prostitutes can be found. "Transvestites have taken over the streets. In recent years the rate of transvestite prostitution has increased, in particular on Istanbul streets. Until ten years ago, they were seen only on the Cevizlibag-Merter portion of the D-100 highway; now they are everywhere... On weekends there is a transvestite prostitute every five meters from Tarlabasi Boulevard to Harbiye."
* A November 2005 cable from Thailand paints popular vacation spot Pattaya as filled with prostitutes, fugitives, crazies, drunk Americans wandering into traffic, and "heartbroken loners". "Thailand has one of the highest rates in the world of death by non-natural causes for Amcits. After Bangkok itself, most Amcit deaths in Thailand occur in Pattaya: this year 21 of the 106 non-natural Amcit deaths in Thailand have occurred there. The leading causes of death are traffic accidents (usually involving alcohol), drug overdoses (ranging from laced cocaine to using Viagra without a prescription), suicides (from heartbroken loners) and homicides... Many American fugitives have taken up residence in Pattaya over the years, along with people who should be getting treatment for mental illness, but are not." The cable's conclusion: "As Pattaya continues to grow, so will the numbers of American citizens that go there to work, play, retire, and die." (Best tourism slogan I've ever read!)
* A November 2005 cable from the Czech Republic is pleased that left- and right-wing members of the Czech Parliament came together to reject a bill taking steps towards legalized prostitution. "Though clearly a positive development, the defeat of legalized prostitution still leaves the sex trade in a highly ambiguous position in a country where trafficking in persons remains a problem. Although the Czechs are clearly unwilling to legalize prostitution, there is also little will to adopt more stringent steps to criminalize the practice." (Another 2005 cable on the subject mentions MPs being lectured by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, an international feminist anti-sex worker group, which also lobbied against San Francisco's Proposition K.)
* A bizarre August 2004 cable from Nigeria details the case of "juju men" (shamans/witch doctors) convicted of sex trafficking. "The two juju men, Prince Omoruyi of Ehengbuda shrine and Goddy Akhimeon of Uromi, were brought into the press conference and asked by NAPTIP's head of investigation to describe the items on display, which had been confiscated from their shrines. Clippings of women's pubic hair and fingernails would be kept in the shrine until the 'curse' was lifted. The juju men explained that they 'blessed' the semen of male customers of prostitutes in order to prevent the transmission of AIDS; a pile of semen-stained tissues was displayed among the evidence."
* An April 2004 cable from the Netherlands expresses annoyance at the country's legalized prostitution, but notes we need their troops for our wars. "We don't like their social policies, but even G/TIP admits the causal link between legalization of prostitution and trafficking has not been proven." The cable author begs its reader to not downgrade the Netherlands' ranking in the Traffickings in Persons index. Doing so would "undermine the forceful public outreach we have been making to strengthen the alliance. The Dutch are extremely valuable allies to us, providing troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and supporting us on transatlantic and global issues. In the next month, the government faces a delicate vote in parliament over extending Iraq troop deployment and the MFA Political Director told me Friday that a decision to put the Netherlands in Tier 2 would be damaging and could not come at a worse time."
* A February 2003 cable from Canada tries to clumsily quantify the amount of local prostitution and sex trafficking. Their methodology? Noting that there are 20 pages of escort ads in the phone book. "THESE ADS, UP FROM 17 PAGES IN 2002 AND 2 IN 1998, HIGHLIGHT WHAT A BIG BUSINESS THE SEX TRADE HAS BECOME IN QUEBEC." The report concludes that motorcycle gangs are the kingpins running the sex industry in Quebec. The guesses in the cable reads like a 1970s sexploitation novel: "IN THE OPINION OF POST'S POLICE CONTACT, ONCE GIRLS ARE BROUGHT INTO A TRAFFICKING RING, THEY FACE A SLIPPERY SLOPE. VULNERABLE GIRLS, DRAWN TO OFFERS OF PROTECTION AND CARE, OFTEN THINK THEY ARE IN LOVE WITH THEIR "PROTECTOR." COERCED INTO NUDE DANCING, THEN PROSTITUTION, THE GIRLS QUICKLY BECOME PART OF A SEAMY WORLD..."
Furry Girl: a good time not yet had by all.
- I operate SWAAY.org, an accessible sex workers' rights site that educates the general public about our lives and our issues.
- I've been vegan for 13 years because it's the easiest way for an individual to contribute to less violence, suffering, and exploitation.
My adult sites
- Cocksexual.com: Strapons
- EroticRed.com: Menstruation
- FurryGirl.com: Unshaved
- TheSensualVegan.com: Store
- VegPorn.com: Herbivores
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New to my blog? Some favorite posts
- "You have no right to dislike feminism after all it's done for you!"
- "You misrepresent true feminism by focusing on the bad feminists. They're not real feminists anyway!"
- An argument for more sex workers to be out?
- Degrading, violent desires
- Do you have what it takes to be an empowered sex worker?
- Feminism is the shitty relationship you had in your early 20s
- Feminist porn isn't a branch of sex workers' rights, it's an obstacle
- How are we branding sex workers rights in the US? (Let's focus more on *worker*, less on *sex*!)
- How to do your homework on trafficking, "rescue", and the affected communities
- Let's stop pretending that "objectification" is a thing that exists
- Musings on ethical porn and the red herrings of "feminist porn" and "violent porn"
- My call for a "working" class uprising against inaccessible discourse and the over-representation of dabblers
- Sex trafficking is the new crack: manufactured "epidemics" as political tools
- The common logical fallacies deployed by anti-sex worker activists
- Things I've gained from being a sex worker: an anti-paternalistic perspective
- Vigilantism and 'crushing bastards': in praise of anger, hatred, and taking joy in the smiting of one's enemies
- Want to play BINGO with the antis?
- Watch out for psuedoscience: my long-time nemeses of concern trolling and "teaching the controversy"
- What do I mean when I say "sex worker"? Why I'm against an overly-broad definition
- Why I call them "anti-sex worker" rather than "anti-porn" or "anti-prostitution," and why you should too
Favorite sex/ho blogs
- Amanda Brooks
- Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers
- Belle de Jour
- Born Whore
- Bound, Not Gagged
- Dan Savage on SLOG
- Danny Wylde
- Jiz Lee
- Kat's Stories
- Laura Agustín
- Lux Nightmare [2006-2007]
- Maggie McNeill
- Our Porn, Ourselves
- Sequoia Redd
- Serpent Libertine
- Sex Worker Pie Charts
- Sexonomics by Brooke Magnanti
- Shit They Say to Sex Workers
- Stuff Sex Workers Eat
- Whore Madonna