Women’s Rights Atrocities Continue in Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s top female rights activist, Sitara Achakzai, was gunned down in Kandahar outside her home by two men on a motorcycle on April 11. This tragic and senseless incident took place fresh on the heels of President Hamid Karzai being forced to call a review of the new legislation condoning marital rape. 

Many are criticizing the war in Afghanistan as a senseless waste of lives and money, and hope is waning for this country’s turnaround. It doesn’t help that there is a complete disregard of the law and that people in power like Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali, encourage violence and corruption by offering $3,000 to anyone who murders a councillor.

However, before this war, you would not have seen the kind of protest that took place on April 15 in Kabul — 300 women marched in protest of their rights, despite more than 1,000 men who showered them with insults, stones and gravel. You’ll notice from the clip that they even reveal parts of their faces and hair that normally would have been covered up. This is at least one small glimmer of hope, that these women have had enough and are no longer afraid to stand up and say so.

Please also check out CBC’s The Current and this interview with activists Irshad Manji, director of the Moral Courage project and Nelofer Pazira, Afghan Canadian journalist.

Vagina Monologues Raises Money for V-Day.org

Last weekend I went to see the Vagina Monologues at the Michener Institute in Toronto. Students of the Applied Health Sciences department put on a great performance to raise money and awareness for Vday.org — an event that was created out of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues. Here’s a clip not from the Michener students, but from someone equally adept at capturing the voice of the vagina:

The monologues describe in graphic detail the joys and horrors of owning a vagina — probably not everybody’s cup of tea — some of the portrayals are horrific and barbaric but others are sexy and funny — the point is, it gets the message across. Something needs to change about the women in the Congo who are raped and mutilated — victims of an ugly war for rich resources that fuel the electronics industry.

Here are some of the resources found in the Congo, courtesy of Congo’s Conflict Minerals:

  • Tin – used inside your cell phone and all electronic products as a solder on circuit boards. 53% of tin worldwide is used as a solder, the vast majority of which goes into electronics. Armed groups earn approximately $85 million per year from trading in tin.
  • Tantalum (often called “coltan”) – used to store electricity in capacitors in iPods, digital cameras, and cell phones. 65-80% of the world’s tantalum is used in electronic products. Armed groups earn an estimated $8 million per year from trading in tantalum.
  • Tungsten – used to make your cell phone or Blackberry vibrate. Tungsten is a growing source of income for armed groups in Congo, with armed groups currently earning approximately $2 million annually.
  • Gold – used mainly in jewelry, gold is also a component in electronics. Extremely valuable and easy to smuggle, armed groups are earning between $44-88 million per year from gold.

This is what the war in the Congo is all about and if you own a cell phone or an iPod, then you are responsible, we are all responsible in some way or another. Makes you think.

Too many women in war-torn countries are being brutally raped and tortured every day. For those that survive, they are left with a feeling of tremendous shame — shame about the ugly scar that now exists instead of a beautiful vagina. The Vagina Monologues teaches us to love our vaginas and now, for the first time, people like Honorata who survived rape and torture are making a change by standing up and speaking out. She shares her stories in front of crowds of people and this helps to empower other women, to let them know there is no shame, no reason to hide, but that there is every reason to talk about it and get the message out there. Something needs to be done and Honorata gives these women a voice. Here’s her story:

If you want to find out more about Vday.org and how you can help the women in the Congo, please visit vday.org.

Women’s Rights — Whose Rights are they Really?

There’s been a lot of talk in the news this week about the new laws in Afghanistan, including conjugal laws that condone marital rape. When you hear these kinds of things, you wonder what good has come of the peace efforts in Afghanistan and are we just wasting our time?

I heard one expert on the CBC pose the question: Should we expect a country seeped in tradition and tribal laws to change over night? We’re talking marital rape here. If you have the choice to condone this or stop it, wouldn’t you, as a human being of the free world stand up and say NO! Rape is rape and it is NOT okay, I don’t care where you live.

In this CTV clip, Human Rights Activist Sally Armstrong praises the $5M-dollar peace efforts in Afghanistan and says it’s just an electioneering stunt on the part of Karzai and his government. Sounds like a bad omen to me: