Is Alcohol the New Short Skirt ? #Vaw #Moralpolicing


Attitudes about women’s alcohol consumption haven’t changed much. Women who drink are still perceived as being “promiscuous,” “easy,” or more sexually available.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

March , 2013  |
            Well they’re packed pretty tight in here tonight

I’m looking for a dolly who’ll see me right
I may use a little muscle to get what I need
I may sink a little drink and shout out “She’s with me!”

-- Elton John, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting

Alcohol is a game-changer when it comes to rape. If a woman was drinking when she was raped, she will be doubted and told it was her fault. Like Hester Prynne, she’ll be shamed and blamed. Society will force her to wear the Scarlet Letter A, for alcohol.

Friends, family, and if she goes to court, lawyers and judges, will scrutinize her behavior. She will be bombarded with questions. How much did you drink? Were you drunk? Were you binge drinking? Why were you drunk and alone with him? These questions are asked to establish that the woman set herself up to be raped because she consumed alcohol. And you can never trust an intoxicated woman because she really doesn’t remember what happened. It is classic blame-the-victim.

Drink and get raped, and you are chucked into the “alcohol-rape closet.” I was: After a long night of drinking at a bar, I got in a car with a man who later pulled out a knife and said he would use it if I didn’t do what he told me to. For years I blamed myself for getting raped because I was drunk. I believed that if I hadn’t been drinking, I never would have been raped.

I’m not alone. Alcohol is involved in a staggering number of sex crimes. In a national study of college students, 75% of males and 55% of females involved in date rape had been drinking or using other drugs prior to the sexual assault.

According to a study done by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: “At least one-half of all violent crimes involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, the victim, or both. Researchers have consistently found that men who have been drinking alcohol commit approximately one-half of all sexual assaults. Depending on the sample studied and the measures used, the estimates for alcohol use among perpetrators have ranged from 34 to 74 percent. Similarly, approximately one-half of all sexual assault victims report that they were drinking alcohol at the time of the assault, with estimates ranging from 30 to 79 percent.”

The leading rape myth used to be about what a woman was wearing. The twisted logic goes like this: Women who wear provocative clothing are sluts who are “asking for it.” But the feminist movement has seriously chipped away at this rape myth.

Thousands of women in Muslim countries who wear the burqa, hijab, and dress modestly are raped and sexually assaulted. In India according to the National Crime Registry, a woman is raped every 20 minutes. Egypt’s Interior Ministry reports that 20,000 women and girls are raped every year. Engy Ghozlan of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights anti-harassment campaign said, “If the Ministry of the Interior gets 20,000 then you should multiply it by 10.” The United Nations Population Fund in Afghanistan reports that about 25 percent of Afghan women face sexual violence. (Note that alcohol is prohibited in most Muslim countries.)

Serving in the military escalates the risk of being raped. It’s been described as a “target rich environment” for sex crimes. In 2011, there were over 22,800 sexual assaults and it’s estimated that 20 percent of all active-duty female soldiers have been sexually assaulted. Military sexual trauma is not taken seriously by the Pentagon or military courts. A class-action lawsuit brought against the military by sexual assault survivors was dismissed by a court that ruled “rape is an occupational hazard of the military.”

Female soldiers wear drab buttoned-up uniforms and combat boots like their male counterparts.

Alcohol is the new “short skirt.” A poll done in 2005 by Amnesty International/ICM found that 30% of respondents believed that the victim was “partially” or “totally” responsible if she was drunk.

Society puts the onus on women to keep themselves safe and avoid dangerous situations. So if a woman is drunk, she isn’t taking her personal security seriously and is responsible for what happens to her. The hypervigilance and suspicion that is expected of women who drink in the company of men is not only ludicrous but is impossible. The majority of sexual assaults are planned, and the perpetrator takes advantage of women who have been drinking because they are more vulnerable. Let that sink in: sexual assaults are planned. Plus, the majority of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim: friends, family members, boyfriends, husbands, classmates, fellow soldiers and supervisors. Putting the burden on women to prevent rape won’t stop rape. The responsibility to stop rape should be placed entirely on men because they are the ones who do it. And drinking isn’t a crime, rape is.

Nonetheless, in rape trials, one of the first questions asked is if the victim had been drinking or using other drugs. Any lawyer will confess that it’s much harder to get a rape conviction because the woman’s credibility, reputation and memory will be attacked and put on trial if she was drunk. At the probable cause hearing in the Steubenville rape case, the lawyers asked dozens of questions about the woman’s use of alcohol.

The lawyer also asked a witness if the 16-year-old ever said, “no” or “stop” (a ridiculous question if you’ve seen the widely circulated cell phone video showing a clearly unconscious woman). In one clip, a man says, “She’s deader than a doornail.” Another witness testified: “Trent and Malik had picked her up by her hands and feet to take a – like a funny picture I would call it because she was drunk and we were all being stupid.”

The woman is being accused of making up events to damage the reputation of the football team. This young woman has already been chucked in the alcohol-rape closet.

Is it any wonder that rape is underreported? It’s estimated that 60 percent of rapes/sexual assaults are not reported to the police.  Women are afraid to report rape because they know they’ll be blamed or not believed. The police, medical, legal and criminal justice system routinely revictimize women who’ve been raped or sexually assaulted and especially if she was drinking.

It might be 2013, but attitudes about women’s alcohol consumption haven’t changed much. Women who drink are still perceived as being “promiscuous,” “easy,” or more sexually available.

Research with sexually assaultive men shows that they often describe women who drink as “loose,” immoral, and suitable targets for sexual aggression.

Alcohol is the most widely used date-rape drug, although drugs like Rohypnol and GHB have garnered more media attention.

In the U.S., alcohol plays a major role in socializing and meeting potential sex partners, especially on college campuses, in fraternities and dormitories, and in singles and sports bars. The effects of alcohol on the brain and behavior are well-known. The first few drinks make people more social, talkative and feel less awkward and shy; booze is commonly called “liquid courage.” At higher levels of consumption alcohol causes slurred speech, staggering and sedation. Alcohol decreases sexual inhibitions and increases sexual arousal. Binge drinking increases the likelihood of physical aggression in men and less frequently in women.

The “hookup” culture of young people is where the newest rape myth, “gray rape,” is most insidious. Gray rape promotes the idea that it is hard to identify what constitutes consent or non-consent and that many situations described as rape, especially when alcohol is added to the mix, are confusing or simply unknowable. Legally, a person who is drunk cannot consent to sex and having sex without consent is rape. But alcohol consumption doesn’t completely diminish the ability to consent to or decline sex. It is only in situations where the person is unconscious (blacked out) that consent isn’t possible.

Studies have shown that in a large percentage of acquaintance rapes the rapist understands that he does not have consent and he uses alcohol to facilitate the rape. A study conducted by the Naval Health Research Center showed that men who committed multiple rapes knew that they didn’t have consent and they used substances to incapacitate their victims in order to complete the rape. And another study by David Lisak and Paul Miller came to similar conclusions: that men intend to rape and in a majority of the rapes, 80.8 percent, women were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

These sexual predators target women who drink because they know it’s easier to physically overpower them. Many women who have been raped report that their attacker bought them numerous drinks and encouraged them to keep drinking for several hours before the attack. According to an article on rape and alcohol by Antonia Abbey in the Journal of American College Health, 75 percent of rapists said that they sometimes got women drunk in order to force sex on them. Another study showed that 40 percent of men said it was acceptable to force sex on a woman who was drunk.

Alcohol-facilitated rape isn’t an accident. And the gray rape ideas that are currently popular, that assert rape is the result of miscommunication, confusion or intoxication, are not only wrong, they let the rapist off the hook and blame the victim once again.

Dr. Abbey explained the sexist double-standard of drinking:

“Women who were drunk when raped are often viewed by others as partially responsible for what happened. Interviews with a group of college students showed that the male attacker was held less responsible for the rape when he was intoxicated than he was when he was reported as being sober. In contrast, the female victim was held more responsible when she was intoxicated than when she was reported as being sober. Thus, in terms of how others will perceive their behavior, the costs of intoxication are higher for college women than for college men.”

Alcohol-facilitated rape doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Sex crimes occur in a society where women are unequal to men in every arena of life and in a culture that degrades and commodifies women’s bodies and sexuality.

Advertisements for alcohol are among the most overtly sexist and misogynist. They often depict large-breasted, bikini-clad women draped over bottles of booze while being stared at by groups of men. For men, these ads reinforce the idea that drinking alcohol makes them powerful and that women are passive objects attracted to men who drink. Check out the Thirsty For Beer commercial on YouTube.

Raunch culture is ubiquitous, is often paired with binge drinking, and reinforces women’s status as sex objects who never say no to men. The Girls Gone Wildand Booty Slap Day videos, gentleman’s strip clubs, the TV show The Girls Next Door – also known as The Girls of the Playboy Mansion – restaurant chains Hooters and Tilted Kilt that lure customers with the promise of half-naked female servers, cause no societal outrage. In fact, some, including feminists, argue it shows that women are sexually liberated.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that men who rape have sexist and misogynist beliefs.

Studies have found the following attitudes among men who commit rape and sexual assault:

  • Men who had committed sexual assault were more hostile toward women and lower in empathy compared with other men.
  • Men who had committed sexual assault endorsd traditional stereotypes about gender roles; for example, that men are responsible for initiating sex and women are responsible for setting the limits.
  • Perpetrators of sexual assault were more likely to endorse statements that have been used to justify rape; the most common were, “women say ‘no’ when they mean ‘yes’” and “women enjoy forced sex.”
  • Men who had committed sexual assaults were more likely to hold adversarial beliefs about relationships between men and women and to consider the use of force in interpersonal relationships acceptable.

These are the ideas that have to change in order to end sexual violence against women.

The only person who is ever responsible for rape or sexual assault is the perpetrator. When I finally understood this, I came out of the alcohol-rape closet.

Helen Redmond is a freelance journalist and a drug and health policy analyst.

No Social Protection for India’s Elderly #Indiashining


Aged women sitting in front of an old age home in Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPSAged women sitting in front of an old age home in Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS

NEW/DELHI/THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, Nov 9 2012 (IPS) - At midnight on Oct. 12, 91-year-old George Puthenveettil, a widower living in Kalanjur village in the Pathanamthita district of the southern Indian state of Kerala, was brutally tortured and ousted from his own house by his only son for “not earning any money”.

The nonagenarian wandered the streets of his village for hours before he reached a shelter in Pathanapuram with the help of neighbours. Police said the son had often beaten and harassed the old man, who was financially dependent on his son.

For many people like George, the sunset years of life turn out to be a traumatic period, in which they find themselves entirely dependent on families or friends due to the absence of a good social security system or government pension plan in India.

Expressing concern over the increasing insecurity of elders in the country, Dr. Irudaya Rajan, a prominent demographer and chair professor of the research unit on international migration under the Ministry of Indian Overseas Affairs, told IPS that income security is one of the most urgent needs of India’s aging population.

Years ago, “traditional values and religious beliefs were quite supportive of elderly people”, he said.

Today, economic hardships and the faltering nuclear family system are “drastically eroding the support base of aged people”.

“The majority of the elderly tend to work even after the age of retirement due to inadequate social security and financial resources,” Rajan added.

A report on the aging population in India, released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFP) in New Delhi, said that the country had 90 million elderly people in 2011, with the number expected to grow to 173 million by 2026.

Of the 90 million seniors, 30 million are living alone, and 90 percent work for a living.

Experts estimate that only eight percent of the labour force of about 460 million receives social security from an employer.

‘Informal’ labourers left out in the cold

Over 94 percent of India’s working population is part of the unorganised sector, which refers to all unlicensed, self-employed or unregistered economic activity such as owner-manned general stores, handicrafts and handloom workers, rural traders and farmers, among many others.

Gopal Krishnan, an economist in Chennai, told IPS “There is no social safety coverage for people in the unorganised sector, which accounts for half of the GDP (gross domestic product) of India”.

According to the World Bank, India’s GDP in 2011 was 1,848 billion dollars.

In 2006, the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector recommended that the Union Government establish a National Social Security Scheme to provide the minimum level of benefits to workers retiring from the informal sector.

Until now, the government has not been able to compile a comprehensive policy to address the issues of elderly people. The ministry of social justice and empowerment drafted a National Policy on Older Persons in 1999, which was never implemented.

Hardships abound

Analysts point out that India’s aging population is constantly grappling with health issues, economic stress, family matters, uncertain living arrangements, gender disparities, urban-rural differences, displacement and slum-like living conditions.

Dr. Udaya Shankar Mishra, a senior demographer at the Centre for Development Studies in Thiruvananthapuram, believes the current “profile” of the aging population of India can change.

“The (perception) of the elderly as a burden can, with suitable policies, be turned into an opportunity to realise active and healthy aging,” he told IPS.

“With limited resources, we need to adopt viable policy changes to manage the crisis of the aged. This calls for a detailed auditing of (all) the affairs of the elderly, primarily health, morbidity and mortality in addition to economic and emotional wellbeing.

“Research on geriatric health needs to (shift) towards ensuring a better quality of life among future elderly persons. Considering the demographic inversion and its associated challenges, it (is clear) that investments into healthy aging are necessary,” he added.

Data from the 2011 National Census revealed that the percentage of aged living alone or with spouse is as high as 45 percent in Tamil Nadu, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Kerala.

Healthcare experts have found that the elderly are highly prone to heart diseases, respiratory disorders, renal diseases, diabetes, hypertension, neurological problems and prostate issues.

The National Sample Survey Organisation calculates that one out of two elderly people in India suffers from at least one chronic disease, which requires lifelong medication.

The most recent data available, taken for the period 1995-96, revealed that 75 percent of aged individuals are affected by at least one disability relating to sight, hearing, speech, walking, and senility.

Dr. Shanti Johnson, professor at the faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the Canada-based University of Regina, estimates that nearly eight percent of the elderly are immobile, while a disproportionately higher percentage of women are immobile compared to men.

“The average hospitalisation rate in the country per 100,000 aged persons is 7,633. There is considerable gender difference in the rate of hospitalisation, as a much greater proportion of men are hospitalised compared to their female counterparts,” she added.

Non-governmental organisations are advocating for more old-age homes, day-care centers, physiotherapy clinics and temporary shelters for the rehabilitation of older persons, with government funds allocated to the running and maintaining of such projects.

(END)

 

Fistula – Another Blight on the Child Bride


By Zofeen Ebrahim

KARACHI, Pakistan, Apr ,2012 (IPS) – It was personal experience that turned Gul Bano and her cleric husband, Ahmed Khan, into ambassadors against early marriage and its worst corollary – obstetric fistula which allows excretory matter to flow out through the birth canal.

As is the custom in the remote mountain village of Kohadast in the Khuzdar district of Balochistan province, Bano was married off as soon as she reached adolescence, at 15, and was pregnant the following year.

There being no healthcare facility near Kohadast, Bano did not receive antenatal care and no one thought there would be complications. But, events were to prove different.

After an extended labour lasting three days, Bano delivered a dead baby. “I never saw the colour of my son’s eyes or his hair. I never held him once to my bosom,” recalls Bano, now 20.

Her troubles had only begun. A week later, Bano realised she was always wet with urine and reeking of faecal matter. “I was passing urine and stools together.”

Unable to handle the prolonged labour, Bano’s young body had developed a fistula caused by the baby’s head pressing hard against the lining of the birth canal and tearing into the walls of her rectum and the bladder.

Bano’s family attributed her condition to fate, her father refusing to visit “due to the bad odour coming from me.” However, through those trying times, Khan stood by his young wife and sought medical help.

After Bano spent a year in a perpetually “wet and stinky” condition, her husband finally discovered a hospital in Karachi specialising in treating fistula and other conditions related to reproductive health.

Koohi Goth Women’s Hospital, where fistula victims are treated free, was started by Dr. Shershah Syed, one of Pakistan’s first gynaecologists to train in repairing a painful and socially embarrassing condition.

In addition to incontinence, the medical consequences of fistula include frequent bladder infections, painful genital ulcerations, infertility and kidney failure.

In 2006, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) launched a four-year fistula repair project as part of a programme to improve maternal health.

According to UNFPA, at least two million women in the world live as Bano did – in shame and misery. Most are not even aware that fistula can be repaired.

A major challenge for healthcare professionals is that the number of women suffering from fistula in the world is increasing by about 75,000 cases annually.

In Pakistan the true prevalence of fistula is unknown, but Syed estimates that there are about 5,000 new cases every year.

With only 500 – 600 women undergoing corrective surgery annually, Pakistan needs to put more resources into addressing fistula – which falls under the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters by 2015.

The MDGs are eight United Nations targets to be met by 2015 and, according to studies published by the International Youth Council, a major civil society organisation, Pakistan is unlikely to meet the fifth that deals with maternal health.

Pakistan, according to IYC figures released in 2010, has a maternal mortality rate (MMR) of around 500 per 100,000 births that is sought to be reduced to three-quarters from 1990-2015.

Pakistan’s maternal mortality ratio is wide-ranging, from 286 per 100,000 births in Karachi’s urban areas to 756 in rural Balochistan, where child marriages are compounded by non-existent health services.

“For both physiological and social reasons, mothers aged 15-19 are twice as likely to die of childbirth than those in their 20s,” says a UNFPA document. “Obstructed labour is especially common among young, physically immature women giving birth for the first time.”

Obstetric fistula is now generally acknowledged to be another burden on the girl child, deprived of basic education and forced into marriage – for which she is neither physically nor mentally prepared.

Pakistan’s Child Marriages Restraint Act passed in 1929 permits girls to be married at 16, but poverty, illiteracy and socio-cultural practices result in girls being married off as soon as they reach puberty.

Syed’s team continues to hold fistula repair camps in the remote areas of Pakistan that include training programmes for doctors and paramedics in fistula management. “The complicated cases come to Koohi Goth and simple repair is done in the field hospitals.”

The camps provided an opportunity to reach out to affected women and their families and encourage them to avail themselves of the free treatment in Karachi, where necessary.

Getting Bano to Karachi was not easy. Khan gathered a group of able-bodied men who took turns carrying her on a rope bed for three days just to reach a motorable road.

“It’s been almost three years and she has gone through six operations,” says Dr. Sajjad Ahmed, who worked at Koohi Goth as manager of UNFPA’s fistula project from June 2006 to February 2010. “She would not speak at all and she did not understand Urdu.”

Today Bano and Khan are regular visitors at Koohi Goth and vocal advocates of the campaign against fistula. They travel across Pakistan, spreading the word about how to prevent the injury and what to do about it.

“Khan is a cleric and yet he does not conform to the stereotype of a religious person,” said Syed. “He tells parents that fistula can be avoided if they stop marrying off their daughters at a very early age.”

Bano shares her story and tells married women about the importance of birth spacing, antenatal checkups and timely access to emergency obstetric care.

Syed says Pakistan badly needs a mass awareness campaign on fistula prevention and stresses the importance of social support for victims. “That’s the only way we can eradicate fistula from this region.”

“I smell nice now and it’s all because my husband wanted me to get well,” said Bano, who may have spent many more years in a miserable state if not for the treatment at Koohi Goth.

(END)

What Women Really Want for Valentine’s Day


Many of the women who must rely on men for financial support are also subjected to their partners’ views on contraception. 

Valentine’s Day has long celebrated love with caring notes, decadent chocolates, and romantic arrangements of flowers. But this Valentine’s Day, perhaps it’s time to celebrate with a gift many of the world’s women desperately want and need: reproductive health.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 1,000 women die every day due to pregnancy or childbirth, or one woman every 90 seconds. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths occur in the developing world, 90 percent in Africa and Asia. A handful of complications account for 80 percent of these maternal deaths—severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure, obstructed labor, and unsafe abortion—and the bulk of these deaths are preventable.

Reproductive health, including access to the information and means to plan a family, is a human right the world’s nations have recognized in various forms since 1968. Access to family planning and other reproductive health services safeguard the lives of women and their children and promote families that are emotionally and economically healthy.

In my book, More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want, I explore centuries of reproductive history and concludes that, if given the chance to do what they really want, women on average have smaller families, with childbirths later in their lives. This pattern is safer for women and children, and promotes environmental sustainability through the slower population growth that lower fertility rates and later births bring about.

The Health of Women and Children

The UNFPA report Women and Girls in a World of 7 Billion notes that poverty, marginalization, and gender inequalities based on culture are key challenges to reproductive health. The report relays that women own less than 15 percent of the land worldwide; their wages, on average, are 17 percent lower than men’s; and they make up two-thirds of the world’s 776 million illiterate adults.

This means that women, particularly in the developing world, must often rely on men for financial support—creating situations in which women are subject to their partners’ views on contraception, feel trapped in physically or emotionally abusive relationships, and marry and have children young instead of pursuing further education or employment outside the home. In the developing world, one in seven girls will be married before she turns 15, and worldwide, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death for girls 15–19.

Many women are not empowered to make their own decisions regarding if or when to have children, how many to have, and how long to wait in between them. Some 40 percent or more of pregnancies are unplanned, with more than 21 percent of all births resulting from such pregnancies worldwide, according to estimates of the Guttmacher Institute. If given access to family planning, and permission by their families and societies to use it, fewer women and children would die from unsafe abortions and high-risk pregnancies.

When women and girls are empowered with education and the capacity to make choices about sex, marriage and childbearing, they have opportunities to realize futures as farmers, businesswomen, politicians, or whatever dream drives them.”

The Health of the Planet

The United Nations Foundation sponsors Girl Up, an organization that encourages a world where young girls can avoid the pitfalls of too-early marriage and childbearing and can instead go to school, enjoy health and safety, and grow into the next generation of leaders. In the Amhara region of Ethiopia, where half of adolescent girls are married, Girl Up is helping to promote education for young girls. The project offers basic literacy classes, family planning information, and agricultural training.

When women and girls are empowered with education and the capacity to make choices about sex, marriage and childbearing, they have opportunities to realize futures as farmers, businesswomen, politicians, or whatever dream drives them. These benefits ripple out from the lives of individual women and girls to their families, their communities, their nations—and ultimately to the entire world.

In the Worldwatch report Population, Climate Change, and Women’s Lives, I suggest that if women are given access to increased reproductive health, they are better able to more naturally control the size of their families and counterbalance the resource depletion and pollution that are exacerbated by unabated population increases. The importance of women and the autonomy they exercise may be far greater to the climate’s future than most experts and negotiators on climate change have realized.

What Women Really Want

Reproductive health is not about state-mandated family sizes; it is about freeing women to make their own choices about when and how often to give birth. In all countries where affordable access is offered to family planning resources and women have the option of safe and legal abortions, women’s fertility rates drop to two or less children per woman. Such rates are normal for nearly half the world and are less than the “replacement fertility” rate of slightly more than two children per woman, that fuels present and future population growth.

When women are free to make their own choices, they improve their own health and that of their families. A study by the UNFPA and the Guttmacher Institute suggests that it would take US$24 billion to fulfill unmet reproductive health needs in developing countries, several times what countries spend today. According to the report, such an investment would “provide every woman with the recommended standard of maternal and newborn care” and would “[r]educe unintended pregnancies by more than 66 percent, prevent 70 percent of maternal deaths, avert 44 percent of newborn deaths, and reduce unsafe abortion by 73 percent.”

Robert Engelman  for  World Watch Institute.