The Forever Victims?

NIM (1)If you’re in the market for some upsetting reading, look no further: I have a new report out, coauthored with Nimmi Gowrinathan, on the human rights situation of Tamil women in northern Sri Lanka.

It documents the effects that 6 years of militarization have had on women’s lives and shows that, perversely, efforts to protect women from sexual violence have undermined their political and economic agency, making them even more vulnerable to victimization.

Readers of this blog will probably be most interested in the fact that the livelihoods approach endorsed by the international community seems to be exacerbating the problem by reinforcing regressive gender roles. It turns out that women who fought on the front lines of combat find it a bit galling to be handed a sewing machine and told to make something pretty. And by sidelining women into traditionally “feminine” activities, these programs not only disempower them, they deprive the Tamil community of their contributions to rebuilding and shaping a way forward.

Check it out: “The Forever Victims? Tamil Women in Post-War Sri Lanka

WTF Friday, 2/13/2015

I don’t even know where to start with this one. Earlier this week, Uganda’s Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development (those things go together, right?) exhorted women to quit refusing to have sex with their husbands.

After a high profile incident in which a man in Bushenyi murdered his wife, Minister Mary Karooro Okurut told an audience of local women’s groups that domestic violence is fueled by lack of sex. Endorsing the sort of progressive, sensitive opinion you’d want in a gender minister, she explained that if ladies would just put out more, they wouldn’t be at such high risk of getting beaten and murdered.

She did allow, however, that it might be okay for a woman to abstain if she’s ill. Obviously she’d need a note from a (male) doctor, though.

h/t to Ledio Cakaj

WTF Friday, 9/26/2014

What a week.

ISIS killed Iraqi lawyer and human rights activist Sameera Salih Ali al-Nuaimy for criticizing their destruction of cultural and religious sites. According to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, Ms. al-Nuaimy was convicted of apostasy by a Shari’a court and tortured in an effort to force her to repent before her “execution”. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemning the murder, noted that amidst ISIS’s generalized brutality, “[e]ducated, professional women seem to be particularly at risk.”

In other WTF lady news, Fox News commentators referred to Emirati fighter pilot Maryam Al Mansouri’s participation in airstrikes against ISIS this week as “boobs on the ground“. (Which kind of makes me think that in addition to being dicks, they don’t really understand what airplanes are. Because not being on the ground is pretty much key.)

And then there was that thing with the donkeys.


WTF Friday, 9/12/2014

Here are some things that apparently happened this week while I was buried in research statements and cover letters. (The academic job market is super fun, you guys.*)

  • Supporters of Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election debuted a new campaign slogan: #BringBackGoodluck2015. Because nothing makes people more likely to vote for an incumbent than a reminder of his failure to take seriously the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls.
  • The Pentagon announced a plan to build a spiffy new field hospital in Liberia to treat healthcare workers responding to the ebola epidemic, then clarified that they only meant * foreign * healthcare workers. USAID has since tweeted that the hospital will in fact treat “health workers of all nationalities”. Here’s hoping everyone’s now on the same page about that.

*No it isn’t.

Today in ARGH.

We are so over the “Ladies Aren’t As Confident As Men and It’s a Problem” conversation that has been happening lately.

Because you know what we’re not down with? Pretending that a self-reinforcing system of gender norms designed to keep women out of power and public life is, in fact, a character flaw that meek chicks need to get over. Structural inequality is not a personal problem, folks.

If it were, then advice like “maybe try NOT being subjugated” would be useful. But as it is, saying “sack up, ladies!” makes us worry that the next thing out of your mouth might be one of the following:

  • “Slaves: Just not entrepreneurial-minded enough.”
  • “Native Americans: Insufficiently committed to enforcing their property rights.”
  • “Jews of 1930s Europe: Lacking in courage and self-preservation instincts.”

(Oh wait, that last one’s actually a thing. Thanks, anti-semitism!)

WTF Friday, 4/25/2014

On April 16, more than 200 teenage girls preparing to sit their final exams were abducted from their government-run boarding school in Chibok in northern Nigeria and taken deep into nearby Sambisa forest. The kidnappers are members of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, who strongly object to secular education, particularly of girls.

Two days after the abduction, the Nigerian military announced that the girls had been freed in an “on-going search and rescue exercise”. They hadn’t.

In fact, some of the girls managed to escape on their own, but the rest remain unaccounted for and there have been no ransom demands. As Jina Moore documents, the families of the missing students have grown increasingly frustrated with the government’s lack of action. Several days ago, they mounted a private search operation, heading into the forest themselves. They had to turn back empty-handed, lacking the firepower to confront the terrorists directly. But as one father later told a Nigerian newspaper: “If soldiers had accompanied us to the forest, we were optimistic that our missing children would have been rescued.”

BBC reports that at a meeting on national security yesterday, the national government “vowed to do all it can” to rescue the hostages. But for many Nigerians, the delay in action reflects a devastating indifference to the fate of these young women, which, as Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani reminds us, may be bleak.

#BringBackOurGirls is now trending on Twitter, castigating not only the Nigerian state, but the international press for its disinterest in this tragedy. These girls have been missing for over a week; the least we can do is pay attention.

WTF Friday, 3/21/2014

Today is full of mind-blowing news:

  • In Kenya, female MPs staged a walk-out in Parliament today as a bill passed allowing Kenyan men to marry additional wives without checking with their existing spouse first. Explained a (male) MP: “When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way and a third wife… this is Africa.”
  • And finally, Robert Kaplan has once again succeeded in trolling the entire internet, this time with a piece up at The Atlantic extolling the virtues of empire. Choice quote: “imperialism and enlightenment (albeit self-interested) have often been inextricable”. There’s also an approving shout-out to Rudyard Kipling’s pro-colonialist classic “The White Man’s Burden”. (Ultimately he gets to the point which is, apparently, that America needs to rediscover grand strategy, which: sure.) Obviously, Twitter is going insane over this.

WTF Friday (Sunday), 9/29/2013

Late breaking WTF-ery, guys:

Saudi cleric Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan has revealed a new and important reason why women should not drive cars: defective babies.

If that went by you a little fast, here it is again. According to Lohaidan, “medical studies show that [driving] automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards”, and “[t]hat is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees”. Obviously, the internet is going insane over this.

Now excuse me while I go blame all my problems on the fact that my mother callously operated a Ford Taurus while pregnant with me.

Today in Misuses of Legislative Authority

Joining Ugandan lawmakers’ most recent effort to ban mini-skirts in the “asinine interference with our freedoms” legislative initiatives file, local authorities in Kisumu, Kenya are considering a bill that would require women on bicycles and motorcycles to ride sidesaddle.

Apparently, riding astride is “uncultural.” And, like the much maligned mini-skirt, it threatens road safety by distracting male drivers. (See Uganda’s former Ethics & Integrity Minister, Nsaba Buturo’s, 2008 justification for a proposed mini-skirt ban here.) One motorcycle taxi driver interviewed by KTN insisted that having female passengers riding astride behind him compromised his ability to drive.  

Clearly, everyone would be better off if the ladies would just keep their legs together. Except, of course, for the women perched precariously on the backs of boda bodas with no way to keep themselves from flying off in the event of an unexpected stop, turn, or collision. But that’s a small price to pay to protect male drivers from having the knowledge that women have legs forced upon them, right?

Gulu’s Girls Gone Wild

According to this op-ed in The Observer, a new scourge has replaced LRA raiding parties in northern Uganda: horny teenage girls.

Sam Agona, “ICT and social behavioural expert,” reports that once the young women around Gulu no longer had to worry about being forcibly recruited by rebels, they decided to celebrate by getting busy. And they’ve kept it up ever since:

Young girls have continued to come to town in the night, not only to look for money through sexual acts but also to seek plain sexual satisfaction through actively involving themselves in the practice.

Agona gets impressively hand-wringy about the fact that “in Gulu, females have desire for intensive sex just for enjoyment” which he describes as “a situation I accept is human but very bizarre.” (Apparently, no female has ever desired “intensive sex” with Agona.) He also swallows whole a rumor that “at a place called Olego, near the Uganda-South Sudan border, women there detain men who do not heed to their sexual demands.”

Then, like any good op-ed writer, he turns to his cab driver for answers.

Per the driver, “it is very hard to control girls,” particularly in light of their annoying habit of conducting their sexual relations in private, where concerned (ahem) men can’t observe them. And, of course, “the existence of the concept of ‘human rights’ made it more difficult to apprehend the girls.” Human rights, man, always getting in the way of right-thinking men’s ability to control the women around them.

I look forward to the inevitable follow-up in which Agona unveils an ingenious plan to settle these ladies down by removing their clitorises. Ugh.

H/T Ledio Cakaj