The rape and murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student last December drew worldwide attention to India's struggles with tradition, women's rights, and street harassment. In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, Krishna Pokharel and Aditi Malhotra add another layer to that onion, following the story of Punita Devi, the wife of one of the convicted rapists
. She, too, is suffering from the fallout of her husband's choices — and in ways that come back to those issues of tradition and equality. Living in a rural area where widows lose both their honor and any viable means of financial support, Devi is facing a future where she expects to be turned out of her in-laws' home, cannot return to her parents, and is judged and punished ... not for being the wife of a rapist, but for being nobody's wife. — Maggie
Earlier this week on Facebook, Senate Democratic caucus chairman Kirk Watson posted this photo.
The NYT's John Schwartz, who is himself from Texas, live-tweeted the dramatic proceedings yesterday in the Texas Senate surrounding one of the strictest anti-abortion measures in the country. The law was pushed forward by governor Rick “The louder they scream, the more we know that we are getting something done” Perry.
No surprise: it passed. Read John's coverage today, and weep.
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"Let there be an end to this epidemic of violence, this culture where if we can’t kill off our girls before they are born, we ensure that they live these lives of constant fear. Like many women in India, I rely on a layer of privilege, a network of friends, paranoid security measures and a huge dose of amnesia just to get around the city, just to travel in this country. So many more women have neither the privilege, nor the luxury of amnesia, and this week, perhaps we all stood up to say, 'Enough,' no matter how incoherently or angrily we said it." For Anonymous, by Nilanjana Roy
. — Xeni
Why are women first to pay for every crisis? In every society, capitalist, socialist, or transition? It's because the bodies of women are expendable.
I always noticed how women over eighty in Turin looked incredibly well, beautiful and loved and taken care of: desirable, because old and valuable. I connected this to Italy's long-established and sophisticated health care system. Italian hospitals were famous for methods which preserved the dignity of the patients, in tumor cures, especially breast cancer: the "invisible mastectomy" was invented in Milan. Rather than simply intervening in crisis, they were good at illness prevention and attentive follow-ups.
The economic crisis and financial harassment of Italy has reached this safe haven of health and dignity. In Turin, one of the best clinics for cure and prevention of breast cancer is about to be closed. The patients are on the streets, their appointments cannot be scheduled, they are paying for their urgent operations because their doctors cannot help them. The doctors are on the streets too.
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When we founded A Is For, we envisioned people from all walks of life: men, women, gay, straight, trans, religious, and atheist standing together to show the world that women’s rights are human rights. Now, just a few months later, we see that happening before our eyes in our A Is For launch video. People--both familiar and new--are wearing the scarlet A, standing up for reproductive rights, and telling the world what their A stands for. There’s some funny shit in there, too.
As each person tells the camera what their A stands for, the common bond between them becomes apparent: when the rights to one's own physical autonomy and self determination come under attack, everyone has an obligation to stand up and speak out. Because if you think it can’t happen to you, you’re sadly mistaken.
This project doesn’t end after Election Day; it will continue until women’s reproductive choices are no longer held hostage by the agendas of politicians and churches. We’re in this for long haul and we’d love for you to join us. To find out how to get your own A ribbon, and to become a part of this project, please visit A is For.
A is For all of us.
"One in three American Indian women have been raped or have experienced an attempted rape
," according to a Justice Department statistic cited in the NYT
. The rate of sexual assault among indigenous American women "is more than twice the national average," and it's particular grim in "Alaska’s isolated villages, where there are no roads in or out, and where people are further cut off by undependable telephone, electrical and Internet service." — Xeni
This Is My Body from Jason Stefaniak on Vimeo.
Kelsey Rowland says:
This Is My Body is a short film project that is a passionate, full-throated expression of the fundamental, inalienable, universal rights of women. The project is a response to the attacks on women's health and reproductive rights, and general bodily autonomy, that have occurred throughout this year.
What I think gives the film its added touch behind the powerful message is that the director, surprisingly enough, is a male. His name is Jason Stefaniak and is a thesis student in the NYU Grad Film program. His impetus for the project was the desire to see a country and world that respects and empowers women, such as his mother, grandmother, aunts, girlfriend, and sister.
The video was shot in one day in a studio in New York with about 5 crew members and borrowed equipment and was funded through a Facebook fundraising campaign. We've spent no real money on advertising and the entire distribution plan was created and executed by Jason, as well as a few volunteers.
Worth a read: American blogger A Young Mom, who believed state-funded abortion was "a horrible thing," writes about how she changed her mind about Universal Health Care after realizing that affordable access to health care is associated with a lower abortion rate
in Canada. She moved to Canada, and her opinions changed when she observed a single-payer system functioning in real life, not in rhetoric
. (via @robertlavigne) — Xeni
For A is For founder and actress Martha Plimpton, the shock of the rhetoric surrounding the Rush Limbaugh/Sandra Fluke controversy, as well as the success of the ensuing advertiser boycott, inspired her to gather a group of friends to brainstorm a strategy more formal than clicking “like” on Facebook. The group was united in their outrage and their growing awareness that the status of women’s rights was by no means a done deal. In fact, things that we had all taken for granted, like, um, access to birth control pills, were very much at risk of being gone in our own lifetimes. Our own children, planned or unplanned, may not have the same choices we had when wanting to start, or wait to start, their own families. What could be done to have a real impact?
Plimpton promptly founded A is For, an organization that unifies the diverse voices and issues in the new women’s movement under the reclaimed symbol of the red letter A --that instantly recognizable symbol of excoriation and shame that heroine Hester Prynne was forced to wear in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel The Scarlet Letter. Used by Prynne’s Puritan Boston community to brand and shun both her and the baby girl she had out of wedlock, the A stood for Adultery -- and the double standard to which women were held. The group A is For takes back the A by re-appropriating its meaning to one of dignity, defiance, and autonomy, and encourages others to reclaim the A to define what it means to them. A is For Awareness, A is For Affordable Health Care. A is For Ass-kicking. You get the idea.
Immediately, Plimpton proposed starting an “A” ribbon campaign in direct response to the shaming of Sandra Fluke in the attempts to silence her. The group agreed that the new movement needed an ongoing unifying symbol, the red letter A, to serve as a bold historical reminder that women will not be shamed into silence. One major goal would be to distribute the A to every person and organization fighting for women’s human rights in this country and around the world to wear proudly in solidarity. As for immediate change on the ground, within a month of starting the organization, A is For partnered with The Center for Reproductive Rights to be their direct action partner. Money raised via donations for the ribbons would go to CRR to fulfill their mission of “advancing reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right that all governments are legally obligated to protect, respect, and fulfill.” Now A is For had found a way to have a real impact (besides the Facebook “like” button). CRR is currently winning one major battle in their fight at the front lines to keep the one abortion clinic left in the state of Mississippi open.
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The recently-launched Women Under Siege website is a new project of the NYC-based Women’s Media Center, and features a number of powerful essays and features by women, about sexual violence against women. There's an account by CBS News correspondent Lara Logan, who survived a sexual assault while covering uprisings in the Middle East; another about covering sexualized war in Congo by Lynsey Addario, who survived the same.
In this post, I'd like to draw special attention to a feature on the site about a subject with which I have personal familiarity: violence against indigenous women in Guatemala. Though the country's long civil war is over, the femicidio is not. Snip:
More than 100,000 women were raped in the 36 years of the Guatemalan genocide in which at least 200,000 people died.
In this video, photojournalists Ofelia de Pablo and Javier Zurita interview survivors and document the ongoing forensic and legal investigation that has just indicted former Guatemalan President Efraín Ríos Montt.
There are so many powerful stories on the Women Under Siege website. Below, a photo by Ms. Addario, from Congo: "Lwange, 51, with her daughter, Florida, who had been raped the week before this photo was taken in 2008. The child had screamed at the time, then bled. With her vagina and her young psyche damaged, Florida would no longer speak."
Dr. Jen Gunter, who is an OB/GYN and a pain medicine physician, writes a harrowing account of receiving a patient who has undergone an unsafe abortion, and is bleeding to death:
On the gurney lay a young woman the color of white marble. The red pool between her legs, ominously free of clots, offered a silent explanation.
“She arrived a few minutes ago. Not even a note.” My resident was breathless with anger, adrenaline, and panic.
I had an idea who she went to. The same one the others did. The same one many more would visit. A doctor, but considering what I had seen he could’t have any formal gynecology training. The only thing he offered that the well-trained provers didn’t was a cut-rate price. If you don’t know to ask, well, a doctor is a doctor. That’s assuming you are empowered enough to have such a discussion. I was also pretty sure his office didn’t offer interpreters.
I needed equipment not available in an emergency room. I looked at the emergency room attending. “Call the OR and tell them we need a room. Now.” And then I turned to my resident. I was going to tell him to physically make sure a room, any room, was ready when we arrived, but he had already sprinted towards the stairs. He knew.
Read the entire account here: Anatomy of an unsafe abortion.
Required reading in this year of presidential elections in America, in which so many candidates would have us return to the dark era in which abortion was illegal. Outlawing abortion doesn't end abortion, it just makes scenes like this more common.
And here's a follow-up post worth reading, by Dr. Gunter.
(thanks, @Scanman / image: Shutterstock)
"To protest a bill that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion, Virginia State Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) on Monday attached an amendment that would require men to have a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before obtaining a prescription
for erectile dysfunction medication." (thanks, Antinous!) — Xeni