africa

Christina Engela's picture

Living In Interesting Times


A few thousand years ago the Chinese developed a saying that went "May you live in interesting times". This is, believe it or not, intended as a curse, not a blessing. By "interesting times" of course, they meant that by looking at history, it is the eras of peace which are most dull and uneventful - and the chapters of violence, war and chaos, the more interesting to read.

With natural disasters and the collapse of tyrannical rulers and their regimes progressing in a kind of tsunami in the Middle East, the changes in Egypt, the civil war in Libya, the other threatening revolutions in various exotic places and the disaster in Japan, our times appear to be most interesting indeed, and looking to be more so each week.

Wow what an interesting few weeks this has been in South Africa.

I'm proud that South Africa went to the aid of Japan, and I'm proud of the people who went into dangerous places no-one else would venture in order to rescue the living and recover the dead, and to make things better for a stricken people. Seeing things like that show me there is a spirit of humanity - called ubuntu here - that runs through this nation, regardless of race, color or creed - and yet our country is such a paradox when dealing with our own natural diversities. I felt proud too, when South Africa supported the most recent UN Statement last week, but that unfortunately was short-lived.

First, Mr Gay SA won Mr Gay World, for the second time running since South Africa began participating in the international contest two years ago - also winning the right to host the next Mr Gay World in Johannesburg in 2012 - and our entire community got a complete flat ignore by 99.9 percent of the straight media, despite letters asking the media to cover the event, and complaints that the straight media did not report the win. On Wednesday, only two straight media bodies made the effort to show up at a press conference held by the organizers. To their credit, they were an ETV news team (who also do news inserts for Kyknet) and Beeld. Aside from the Pink media, broadly speaking, there was a near-total news blackout on the win. Journalists from several newspapers contacted the organizers for interviews, which were given - but the stories never appeared, which makes one wonder why.

The interesting thing is, while articles on the contest were not posted, a few letters by the organizers complaining that the contest received no attention, were posted - and the sheer array of hostile remarks tinted with lunacy, religious fundamentalism and brute ignorance were astonishing. Of course, this indicates the sort of readership of many of these newspapers - and to whom they cater. Printing news about Pink successes on an international scale would be like printing Israeli news in a paper catering for anti-Semites.

Of course, this is a worrying indicator. Originally in 1994 it appeared that English and Afrikaans language newspapers would cease to cater solely for the readership of particular race groups - but despite this change, it appears that a certain part of society is still excluded completely, despite being part of these language groups. The exceptions of course, are when there is a nice fat gossip story involving *gasp* homosexuality, or *shudder* a "tranny" getting fired for changing sex. All too often, the victim gets media treatment to make them look like they "deserved" it. Our community in general only appears to be reflected in the news when there is a negative connotation. There are exceptions of course, but they are few and far between.

Let me just state clearly that I did not oppose the Protection of Information Bill put forward by the Government, which threatens to censor the Media, just so that the very same media I chose to protect from government interference can deliberately exclude items of morale-building and positive value about my community because of its own heterosexist and sectarian religious prejudice.
Clarisse Thorn's picture

[litquote] Sex workers and whore stigma in southern Africa

I read a lot when I was in Africa. One of the most interesting books available was Catherine Campbell’s Letting Them Die. (Another of my favorite books, Elizabeth Pisani’s The Wisdom Of Whores, is available for free download during the month of December 2010. I encourage you to grab it while it’s available for free! But this post is about Campbell’s book, not Pisani’s book.)

Letting Them Die describes a community HIV/AIDS project that took place in a South African community called Summertown (not the community’s real name). It is really an exceptional description of the difficulties inherent in the promotion of sexual health. It’s also got a lot of interesting discussion and commentary on sex work and whore stigma, and the experience of sex workers who were interviewed for the study.

I want to emphasize right now that I don’t always agree with the writer’s approach, though I always find it interesting. This is a loaded topic, and I am very aware that there are issues with the following quotations. However, I think there is a lot of wisdom as well. Quotations follow:



A key reason why people agreed to discuss their stigmatized work so openly in the baseline interview study lay not only in their growing fear about the epidemic, but also because, in setting up the interviews, much emphasis was laid on the fact that the interviewers regarded sex work as a profession like any other, and had no desire to criticize or judge anyone for their choice of work. [page 81]



How do people deal with having a spoiled identity, the stigma of a shameful profession? … One way was through a series of justificatory discourses. Predominant among these was the discourse of “having no option”.

S: “I give my clients respect by telling them I don’t like doing this job. I tell them I only do it due to poverty.”

W: “This is a job that lowers our dignity. We discuss this often, that we should look for other jobs. But the truth is that there are no alternatives.”

Virtually every woman said she had been “tricked” into starting the job. They all spoke of having been recruited by friends, who tempted them away from their rural homes with stories about jobs in Johannesburg, without telling them the nature of the work. They spoke of arriving and initially refusing to sell sex. Eventually they had been forced into it by a combination of hunger and the lack of transport money to return home.

Clarisse Thorn's picture

News Flash, Pay Attention: HIV Is About Sex

Today is World AIDS Day. I don’t think about HIV as much as I did a few months ago, when I was still in Africa and my job was to help with the epidemic. But today, I’m thinking about it, and I have something very simple to say:

HIV is about sex.

One of the big lessons I learned about HIV in Africa is that many, many people will do amazing mental and rhetorical backflips to avoid talking about how HIV is actually spread. It’s astonishing. You’d think that when talking about HIV, you’d have to talk about sex; you’d be wrong.

In the areas where I worked, a massive percentage of people were infected with HIV. In a number of places it was about 25%. In some populations, it was more like 40%. Think about those numbers for a second — and remember that many people who had contracted HIV had already died. In other words, uncountable numbers of people had already died of AIDS-related causes, and among the people who remained alive, the percentages still got as high as 25% and 40%.

And yet I got the message over and over and over that we mustn’t talk about sex! For example, I was told by some school authorities that I could not give safer sex information to their students because that might “encourage the students to have sex”. In other words: God forbid we tell students where to get condoms and how to use them, because that might encourage them to think sex isn’t wrong and dirty. What the authorities were really telling me is that it’s more important that we continue to stigmatize sexuality, than it is to protect people from HIV.

ptaguy's picture

Fundamentalist Christians & Your Porn

(Originally published on http://gaywarfare.blogspot.com/)

Christina Engela's picture

Making The Difference

I want to focus today on Africa, and African affairs. Of late, African countries all around us have been flaunting their peculiar brand of homophobia, laced with ignorance on matters of medicine, science, fact - and tasting remarkably of religious fundamentalism. Relating to this, an item came across my inbox today, which was forwarded to me by a friend. It was a message from an ACDP support group on Facebook, and it went as follows:


"Jo-Ann Downs May 27, 2010 at 2:28pm Subject: DRC visit

I am off to Lubumbashi in DRC tomorrow to teach about 1000 Church leaders about getting involved in improving the country. Need lots of prayer. There are so many terrible things happening to women and children I hope to really make a difference."

This of course, is Where the ACDP completely crosses the line between religion and politics, and works to blur the line separating church and state as well - which it does, simply by existing.


We all know the ACDP, or African Christian Democratic Party. At least, those of us with the inclination to take an interest in affairs which affect us, do.

The ACDP are to South Africa as the Republican Party is to the USA. They are partisan Christian religious fundamentalists, and as is typical of people of this persuasion, their political outlook cannot be separated from their religious outlook. For them, the two are as one and the same - and to that end, government should be inherently Christian and fundamentalist too. By that reasoning, people who commit ritual religious offences (a.k.a. "sin") should also face criminal charges under the law of the land, and in particular as described in the Old Testament - which is rather odd if you consider that the Christian faith is actually based on the New Testament.
ptaguy's picture

Dear Robert Mugabe

(Originally published on http://www.gaywarfare.blogspot.com/)
 
On Fri
Clarisse Thorn's picture

Clarisse’s Advice Column arises again! Masculinity & African activism

I’ve been getting a lot of very encouraging email lately; here’s some excerpts from an exchange I found particularly interesting. Posted with permission:

Hi Clarisse,

A friend showed me your blog and I just wanted to say that I think you’re fantastic.

I’m a student at Reed College in Portland, Oregon and I recently facilitated a Feminist Student Union “SexualiTea” — a discussion topic with, yeah, tea — on masculinities in society and at Reed and I used your article Questions I Want To Ask Entitled Cis Het Men, Part 3: Space For Men along with the Every Girl / Every Boy poster at the beginning to spark thoughts for the group. This event was a huge success! We had over 50 people in attendance, including 10 or 15 men. It was a really honest, vulnerable, productive, and holistic conversation. We talked about gender binary pressures as children; how can personality traits be de-gendered so that a male who takes pride in being strong isn’t intrinsically stream-rolling women as equally strong leaders or pushing them into an opposite weak category; a transman brought up what behaviors he had to lose as the result of transitioning and changing his presented gender — “I was told I’d have to tone down or lose my crude, perverted, and loud sense of humor because as a man I’d be seen as a Really Big Creep and not just a rugby dyke”; etc. The men were really forthcoming and aside from a minor terrible moment that I was able to turn around as the faciliatator (“so having seen Jackson Katz speak about gender violence, I would be interested in hearing any personal stories about rape from the women in the room” “actually, rape is a large enough burden to bear without having to educate men about rape, in public, whenever rape is brought up as a topic presumably by someone who’s never experienced it. I’d suggest reading up on your own and educating yourself and listening with respect if and when a survivor decides to tell you about their experience.”) — but really, the biggest obstacle that came up was the dynamic of female feminist students purporting 2nd wave views who obliviously steamrolled the conversation, spoke the loudest, the most frequent, tried to control the conversation with an specific end goal in mind, and took up the most space. It almost seemed like the end question for me on this topic wasn’t how to get men to be in these spaces to critically examine masculinities and let male sexualities flourish because many men were not hesitant to show up and take part and really try their best, but how to hold mainstream, second wave feminists accountable for their own oppressive dynamics and how to get them to relax, ease up, open up some space, cede some old ideology?

Clarisse Thorn's picture

Sex-positive in southern Africa

Right before I came out here, I was recruited by an online magazine to write about sexuality in Africa and my experience thereof. I wrote some columns, sent them to the magazine … and was told they weren’t quite right. So I sold them to CarnalNation instead! Here’s a roundup of my first four CN pieces; I doubt this is the last time I’ll publish with them, as CN (and editor Chris Hall in particular) is very awesome.

January 7: Rest In Peace, Pitseng Vilakati
I met an incredible, high-profile lesbian activist and wanted to be friends, but soon after she was murdered … and her partner charged with the crime.

January 14: Sexual ABCs in Africa, Part 1: Abstinence
In which I discuss how my relationship started with my current boyfriend, a Baha’i convert who doesn’t believe in sex before marriage (the pseudonym I chose for him was, therefore, Chastity Boy). I also describe some of my hesitations in promoting abstinence as a good sexual choice, even though it is a legitimately wise one in a place that’s so beset by HIV.

Laura Agustín's picture

Exiting in the opposite direction: from maids to sex workers in Ethiopia

(Posted at Border Thinking on Migration, Trafficking and Commercial Sex)

Pious commentary on prostitution often revolves around the concept of Exit Strategies: getting out of the sex industry.  Everyone agrees that anyone who doesn’t want to sell sex shouldn’tfeel forced to and should be helped to get out.  Quite right.  And what about people who’d like exit strategies to get out of other unpleasing jobs?  Many assume that prostitution is particularly difficult to get out of, especially ensnaring and fraught with obstacles, even when there are no exploiters stopping people from changing occupations (pimps or traffickers).  Obviously when people are too poor, not only in terms of money but also in terms of social capital - contacts, information, resources, ideas - it is misleading to talk about ‘choice’, as though a lot of easy alternatives were lying about. I usually talk about preference, instead: the fact that those with limited options nevertheless can prefer one to another.

Laura Agustín's picture

What Vice Squads do to stop street prostitution, Cape Town

What an old-fashioned term Vice Squad sounds. I imagined, foolishly, that any contemporary police force would look for a blander, more politically correct term: Orderly Cities, or Safe Streets. But no, right there in Cape Town, South Africa, they are setting up a Vice Squad to get rid of prostitution, on the grounds that it attracts other crimes like money laundering. The vices that Vice Squads address involve drugs, alcohol, commercial sex including pornography and gambling. Even the word vice sounds dated to me.

Syndicate content
Powered by Drupal, an open source content management system