Happy International Women’s Day

It would be a happy day indeed if we no longer needed an International Women’s Day, but alas, much misogyny/violence/discrimination abounds.   This year the theme of IWD is Women and men united to end violence against women and girls.  Here’s some tip of the iceberg stuff topical for IWD, I’ll start locally and go international.

From the ABC:

Unions are highlighting pay differences between the sexes ahead of International Women’s Day.  The ACTU says Australian women on average earn 16 per cent less than men, but that it varies between states.  ACTU president Sharon Burrow says Victorian women earn 14 per cent less than men, while in Western Australia women earn 28 per cent less because of the mining boom.  Ms Burrow says the gap will widen as the economic slowdown continues.  “We’re seeing women, young people simply being told their hours are being cut or in fact they’re not required anymore,” she said.  “That will simply add to the income disparity for women – we’re very concerned that the pay gap will simply widen as a result of the global financial crisis.”

The Catholic Church continues a grand tradition of misogynistic legality.

Brazil’s influential Catholic Church raged against an abortion carried out on a nine-year-old girl who had been pregnant with twins after allegedly being raped by her stepfather.  An archbishop for the northern region where the termination was conducted, Father Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, said the church was excommunicating all those responsible for the abortion: the medical team and the girl’s mother.  The operation – carried out because of doctors’ fears the slender girl might die if she carried the foetuses to term – was a crime in the eyes of the church, he said.  “God’s law is above any human law. So when a human law… is contrary to God’s law, this human law has no value,” [said] archbishop Cardoso.  “The adults who approved, who carried out this abortion, will be excommunicated,” said the archbishop for the Recife region.

And, of course, the Vatican backs the Bishop.  Now might be the time to announce that there goes the lasting lingering threat of my Catholicism.  Where is the compassion for the poor girl who could have died if she carried the twins to term?  Where is the excommunication/denunciation of the creep who raped and abused her?  God didn’t cause this pregnancy her stepfather did and the pontificating judgment should be directed at him and not at those trying to save the girl’s life.

Iraqi women lack basic services and widows, in particular, have no support

In Indian women are campaigning against the violence and patriarchal control aimed at them.

Poster from Pink Chaddis campaign seeking to end mob violence against women

Poster from 'Pink Chaddis' campaign seeking to end mob violence against women

From the horrific to the ridiculous –  from here, I discover that there is a 75 000 strong petition on facebook to get pole dancing included as an Olympic sport for the 2012 games.  FFS.

In other news, and this is trivial in comparison to what the women in countries such as Indian and Iraq are facing, but Barbie turns fifty tomorrow, and still looks as young and perky as ever.  Thus we see (and remember we are barely scratching the surface here) a continuum of issues faced by women, running the gamut from economic disadvantage, to intense struggle for survival and to live unmolested, right through to ideological struggles against a culture that emphasises women’s passive and ornamental sexuality at the expense of all else.  *sigh*

Advertisements

It seems that people continue to go to extremes to ensure that they have a son

(Picture of one month old baby boy by Nils Fretwurst)

I found this story here.

Woman in India ‘has twins at 70’


A woman said to be 70 years of age has given birth to twins in India’s northern Uttar Pradesh state after taking IVF treatment.

Omkari maintains she was nine years old when the British left India in 1947, which would make her 70. Omkari Panwar has no birth certificate but if her age is proven it would make her the world’s oldest mother.

The twins, a boy and girl both weighing 2lbs, were delivered one month early by Caesarian section. Doctors said the twins were doing fine.

Now, we are very grateful to God, who has answered our prayers
Charam Singh, father of twins

“We already have two girls but we wanted a boy so that he could have taken care of our property. This boy and girl are God’s greatest gift to us,” Omkari said.

Father of the twins, Charam Singh, a farmer in his mid-70s, told ABC News he was very happy.

“The desire for a male child has always been there, but God did not bless us with a male child. Now, we are very grateful to God, who has answered our prayers,” he said.

I saw this headline and my immediate reaction was along the lines of ‘perhaps letting people in their 70’s have babies is a case of technology going to far?’ but upon reading the story I realised that in this case it was not about the desire to have a baby, per se, for after all the couple in this story already have two daughters and five grandchildren. What did this couple want so badly that they not only spent their entire life savings but also took out a bank loan? They wanted a son, a male heir to take care of their property -or what is left of it, seeings that they have got into debt and spent their savings in order to pay for the IVF. Logic is obviously not clouding their judgment in their deep desire to have a male heir, a desire I imagine that they have probably been nursing for over 40 years as they raised their girls. And apparently age is no limitation in this technological dystopia of ours. I say ‘dystopia’ because many women are discovering that technology does not allow everyone who wishes it to have children, fertility treatment is still a very hit-and-miss affair, and stories such as these about obviously post-menopausal women having babies, trivialises the experiences of those who cannot conceive and perpetuates the myth that science is the panacea that will solve our problems and deliver our wishes.

I imagine, as I really know next to nothing about this couple, that as they have gotten older and felt their approaching mortality, their wish for a male heir grew into desperation. Because having a baby, or indeed two, when you are in your 70’s would be no picnic, especially for the mother. Endless rounds of hormone injections and the exhaustion of carrying twins close to term, would not be an easy task, let alone taking care of the babies themselves once they are born. For this couple, the pressure desire to have a male heir must have been immense, if what they were willing to do to achieve this is any reflection. I envision that this desire to have a son was the result of socio-cultural and/or religious beliefs that almost necessitate having a male heir to carry on one’s family line. And this is far from being something unique to India.

The preference for sons over daughters is almost universal across cultures and is currently being acted upon in ways that are producing demographic distortions. (For details, here is the link to the comprehensive ‘Because I am a Girl’ report). The general birthrate is usually 95 girls per 100 boys (as infants, boys have a slightly higher mortality rate, so generally the differences in birthrate disappear by childhood), but in some areas (for example, South Korea, India, China, Bangladesh and Pakistan) the birth rate reflects this desire for a male child and as result there are 80 girls for every 100 boys. This is a reflection of several practices, prenatal testing to detect female foetuses – which are then aborted, female infanticide, and a neglect of girls – withholding food and/or medical attention.

In order to explain what I mean by demographic distortions let me share with you the number of women and girls missing, that is the additional females we would expect to be living in a given population if there was no discrimination. (Bear in mind that the population of Australia is roughly 21 million, just to put these numbers into to perspective) India is missing 23 million females, China – 30 million, Pakistan – 3.1 million, Bangladesh – 1.6 million, Egypt – 600 000, Turkey – 600 000, Nepal 200 000, and from the rest of the world we are missing some 40 million women. The shortage of women in areas such as China is leading to problems such as the kidnapping and trafficking of women. (See The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, by Joni Seager, 2003).

Undergoing IVF treatment to ensure that one has a son is, unfortunately, just the most modern permutation of a very old practice. Since the beginning of (written) history MANkind has engaged in practices that reflect the preference for a son. I will leave you with this snippet of a letter written by a husband to his pregnant wife living in ancient Roman controlled Egypt, which reflects the practices of the time.

I beg and beseech you to take care of the little child, and as soon as we receive wages I will send them to you. If -good luck to you!- you bear offspring, if it is a male, let it live; if it is a female, expose it.” (from ‘Marriage, a history’, by Stephanie Coontz, 2005).