On April 4th, CNN released a story of a young woman named Gul Meena. Like every other young girl, Gul had bright dreams of a beautiful, thriving and adventurous life. This dream ended when at the age of 12, Gul was forced into into a marriage with a 60 year old man. Not only did Gul enter into a marriage with a man who was five times her age, but, who was also an extremely abusive man. She was refused help from her family and friends. She admits to have attempted suicide several times. Five years into her marriage, Gul met a young Afghan man and in November 2012, she packed up a few of her belongings and the young couple made their way across the border into Afghanistan to the city of Jalalabad. Days into their trip, Gul’s older brother tracked the couple down. Armed with an ax, he proceeded to hack to death Gul’s boyfriend and cut open his sitter 15 times. Assuming that she was dead, Gul’s brother escaped back to Pakistan. Miraculously, Gul was taken to the Emergency Department of Nangarhar Regional Medical Centre by a passerby and survived the attack. Gul’s brother has not been caught and her family rejects the notion that Gul’s brother tried to kill her.
After two months in the hospital, Gul was transferred to the American-Afghan organization, Women for Afghan Women. Any story like Gul’s is extremely difficult to read and understand. The U.N. claims that 4,000 cases of violence of violence, like Gul’s, were reported to the Afghan Ministry for Women between 2010 to 2012. There are 14 women’s shelters in Afghanistan-only 14 shelters for thousands of acts of violence. At 2014, funding towards these shelters are most likely to end, due to international forces pulling out of Afghanistan.
I have been following the U.N.’s activities for months and years now. Without a doubt, when most people speak within the U.N. on “women’s health” or “women’s rights”, the discussion instantly turns to “reproductive health”. My question to the U.N. community, is how is giving a condom or an abortion to women like Gul going to improve their situation? Should we not place our focus on education and rescue missions to save young girls in these young marriages?
In a CNN interview, Basij-Rasikh, a young Afghan women who recently graduated from Middlebury College, stated that behind every successful woman was a man who believed in her dreams. Distributing condoms, which increases the mentality of promiscuous and violent behavior for men, does nothing to encourage men within the Afghan community to believe in the worth of their fellow women. The U.N. needs to seriously refocus their attention on how they approach the well being of women around the world to include both the practical encouragement of both men and women to live peaceful and whole lives without violence or condemnation.
Here is Gul’s article and Basij-Rasikh’s interview:
During the second week of this year’s 57th annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations, I was fortunate enough to attend a few parallel events that concerned the topic of sexual and reproductive health. While most events were pretty gung-ho for international policies that include sexual and reproductive rights and services (which they argue will help prevent violence against women and girls), I did manage to find one pro-life event. After a frustrating twenty minute walk in the rain, by surprise I came upon a discussion panel held by Family Watch International, a pro-life group that follows UN debates on family and life.
The discussion was led by panelists Sharon Slater, president of Family Watch International, Dr. Miriam Grossman, a medical doctor with training in pediatrics and in the specialty of child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry and also an expert on the sexual education programs promoted by the UN, and Floyd Godfrey, a licensed professional counselor. They spoke about controversial sex education initiatives, unwanted homosexual attraction, and the health risks caused by protected sex that nobody ever mentions.
Dr. Grossman, in particular, was very informative on the subject of sexual and reproductive health. On her website blog, she says something very important about the sexual and reproductive health initiatives so many countries are ignorantly pushing:
“The priority of Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) is sexual rights and sexual freedom, not sexual health. And in societies where sexual freedom reigns, women pay the highest price.”
Grossman goes on to explain that the U.S. and other first world countries put pressure on the international community, especially underdeveloped countries, to install these sexual and reproductive health agendas that will provide contraceptives and access to abortion services for millions of people.
“UN agencies like UNICEF, along with Western governments (including our State Department) put intense pressure on underdeveloped countries to accept these social agendas, or risk losing our desperately needed aid.”
During the discussion panel, Dr. Grossman and Sharon Slater spoke about how this obsession with contraception is actually part of a huge money-making scheme. They explained that by providing this controversial sex education to children from a very young age, they become ‘sexualized’. In other words, the children are taught about their reproductive systems, about the pleasures of sex, and how to do it ‘safely’. This then creates a ‘need’ for contraception and access to abortion in these countries, resulting in governments being pressured to fund the sexual and reproductive services with money that should be going to other expenses, such as feed their starving populations, basic sanitation, access to water, and fighting the spread of diseases like malaria.
The serious danger with this obsession of sexual rights and freedom is that our world’s youth, those of today and of the future, are basically taught to indulge in promiscuous lifestyles, and from a very young age at that. Besides the moral dilemma this brings about, these youth are actually at more of a risk of contracting and transmitting infections because since it’s their ‘right’ and it means they’re ‘free’, they are likely to feel at liberty to engage sexually with as many partners as they want. Since condoms are not 100% effective and are not always available, the number of people exposed to infection is likely to increase even if they are used.
“It’s a child’s human right, they insist, to become sexually active at an early age, have multiple partners, and explore different lifestyles. It’s their right to have access to graphic information, contraceptives, and abortions without parental knowledge.”
It was refreshing to hear someone confront this issue with a medical point of view since most people tend to immediately believe the claims about ‘safe sex’ without questioning their accuracy or the intentions behind them.
A commercial funded by US and UK funded AIDS prevention programs, notably USAID, was recently pulled from television. The commercial depicts two Kenyan mothers in the market place. One excitedly tells the other that she is having an extra-martial affair. Her friend replies not with concern for her friend’s family and marriage, but rather reminds her to “make a condom part of the plan.” In response to the commercial, a public outcry arose. Christian and Muslim leaders called on the Communications Commission of Kenya to remove the commercial from the airways, noting that the commercial aired during primetime airings.
The commercial called, “Weka Condom Mpangoni”, which translates to, “use a condom when having an affair”, was extremely offensive to a highly religious population. Bishop Julius Kalu of the Anglican Church of Kenya stated that the commercial promoted extra-marital affairs and casual sex. One woman interviewed by BBC commented that the fact that a mother figure was used in the commercial makes the situation worse because the mother is the one who stand for families and teach children the good morals they should have within the community.
A representative from the agencies who produced the commercial, Dr. Peter Cherutich of National AIDS and STI Control, claimed that extra-materical affairs are just a part of “reality” and that condom use should be promoted in these situations. It is extremely unfortunate that we have come to accept the sadness of disabled families simply as “reality”. Although one can not deny that these relations happen, should we not be promoting programs that help couples to strengthen and heal their marriage, instead of promoting spouses to have affairs outside of marriage without any seemingly obvious consequences? What USAID does not take into consideration is the emotional, psychological and social effects of extra-marital affairs on the children of broken marriages and the larger community as a whole.
Although USAID professes to be promoting AID/HIV protection, what the organization needs to take into account is a person’s emotional and mental state, not just physical well-being. This leads to an over-sexualized culture as well as the loss of human dignity. The commerical is embedded below:
During the Commission on the Status of Women 2013, Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) and CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality re-defined the theme of “[e]limination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.” These two groups in favor of reproductive rights did so with the assumption that a lack of what they regard as comprehensive sexually education is a form of violence. The event was titled “How to Break the Cycle of Denying Young Women’s Access to YouthFriendly SRHR Services?” It event took place last Monday, March 11.
Rishita Nandagiri,with WGNRR, spoke first of how she was denied information about reproduction in her 9th grade biology class. “Denial of these services for young women and young people actually is institutionalized violence,” said Rishita. “This actually works against young people fulfilling their potential and achieving a lot of their goals and dreams.” She also discussed her goal “to transform institutionalized violence into a space that is inclusive and does allow young people to participate and actively engage in the development of the creation of futures that they want and that they can actively be stakeholders in. ”
Rishita and the rest of the event’s speakers did spend some time promoting their goal of sexuality education, and “how to transform.” The young speaker spent considerable time discussing progress and future plans for reproductive rights and sexuality education, including development goals for 2015 and beyond, after the expiration date set by the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).
One of the event’s handful of speakers was Samuel Kissi, Executive Committee Member of AfriYAN and Outcomes Group Leader of the Global Youth Forum, held in Bali in December 2012. He too spoke on post 2015 development goals, and discussed how the Bali Declaration had recommendations for the post 2015 development goals, as well as ICPD+20. The Global Youth Forum was attended by “delegates” selected by a collection of mainly pro-abortion activist groups who did not represent their respective nations in any official capacity. Rishita Nandagiri was one of the two youth members of its steering committee.
The speakers appeared to be assume their audience fully supported their position on sexuality education. to a group they may have assumed was in full support. However, during the question and answer period that followed, several questions highlighted the controversial aspects of the presentation, a few of them coming from International Solidarity & Human Rights Institute (ISHRI). and answer period followed for a time, a few questions coming from ISHRI. The speakers mentioned that misinformation and false promises of contraception is why sexuality education is important at a young age and that everyone should choose the method that’s best for them with contraception. This part of the event became truly interesting however when the issue of religion versus sexuality education was brought up.
A few in the audience who made comments and asked questions came from Nigeria, and many mentioned the influence of the Muslim and Christian religions there. One woman mentioned how such influences give the youth conflicting and different views. The woman says that “we need the youths to break out from this shadow and start fighting their battle,” suggesting that she very much is in favor of going against a religious view on sexuality and sexuality education, and that what the youth “face” is a “battle with the Catholic Church.”
A few comments later, another representative from ISHRI made a comment, that she did receive sexuality education, but that the Catholic point of view of sexuality in the context in marriage, and that it doesn’t try to put people down, but that it’s better in marriage, which is where the most respect comes from for women.
Samuel responded by offering what he called a Christian perspective. and he himself offers a Christian perspective. He articulated being firm in having access to resources, and mentions such resources as an “opportunity.” Samuel also gave advice on speaking to the government about accessing such resources. In mentioning Christianity though, Samuel points out that he is happy to have heard such examples because where he comes from is also affected by religion:
And also I was very happy to hear the examples here because I also come from a country which is largely influenced by various religious organizations. And I am a Christian as well. I go to church every Sunday when I am around in my country and I understand that there is a need for us to address these issues without using our religious lenses, because, maybe in the U.S. as a Christian it is nice for a woman to wear trousers, in another country you could be killed for that. And this is what we are trying to avoid, we want to have a world where everybody is free to practice their own religion, but also for instance, young people, able to get to scientific, accurate, non-judgmental information about their sexuality, for instance. So this is a very important thing, and one thing I like to do is when you talk about it and when the religious issue comes up, do not think only about you and your religion and where you live, because it’s a very big world and everybody’s needs doesn’t come together so easy.
When Samuel phrases it this way then, he makes it seem as if it is religious freedom against sexuality education. And in any case, he makes it clear that he would choose sexuality education. Though it is not a new tactic for those who criticize religion when it comes to sexuality education, it is worth noting that the tactic of mentioning only the criticisms of religion are used here by Samuel. It is mentioned that “we want to have a world where everybody is free to practice their own religion, but…” That “but” is very important. It basically is saying that you can practice your own religion, but that the right to sexuality education trumps that. Sexuality education may seek to be inclusive and informative, but it is so as long as you are not a religious organization or individual with a dissenting view.