Christina Engela's picture

Ignorance As A World-view

South Africa is a beautiful country with all sorts of worthwhile natural resources and stunning, sweeping vistas and other interesting stuff that usually makes it onto the back cover of some tourism magazine you might flip through while sitting on the bog - or, as introductions on websites or Facebook groups for conservative political parties which try to sound interesting and aspire to make other people's business, theirs.

Unlike those people, who seem overly concerned about whether other people's kids are taught facts about evolution in schools instead of fantasy and philosophy involving their invisible friends - I don't care to write about how pretty the landscape is, or whether or not the skyline looks like sunset after a bomb went off.

Unlike people who get their knickers in a knot over whether sex education includes "safer sex" instead of "abstinence only" practices (or non-practices, as the case may be) or educates the gay and trans kids as well, without making anyone out to be some kind of threat to religion, the state or "the family" - I really couldn't give a toss what they believe.

Unlike people who define love and marriage by their reproductive potential alone, and how many more children they can bring into the world (because we know the world needs more children, unless they happen to be different) - I certainly don't care about what kind of hardware people who love each other enough to tie the knot are packing down below - or what Jan and Janine Conservative do in the privacy of their own relationships.
Christina Engela's picture

X Spots The Mark

On Saturday I was at a canvassing table in my voting district, asking people to sign a petition against the governments proposed new legislation which will gag the media. Surprisingly, a broad base of people of every language, race and political affiliation, signed the petition and commented freely about how bad this law would be for everyone. This was encouraging, but what still shocked me though, was the number of people who just waved me off - or laughed, as if there was something actually funny in asking people to exercise their democratic right and sign a petition against something which would strip them of their freedom to access information.

"I don't do politics" one smart looking dude told me. "But politics will do you!" I replied, while he and his girlfriend stared at me as though I were from another planet.

Others commented about what a rush their Saturday morning was, that they "didn't have time" and how much more important that rush to buy a loaf of bread or bottle of milk at the store was than securing their democratic freedom to an independent Press. In fact, I wonder if any of them even knew what "freedom of the Press" even means, even after taking pains to translate it for them. Others said they would come back later, or just said "not now" - prompting me to think that they would probably worry about their civil rights AFTER they have lost them, which makes no sense, does it? Yes, laugh about it - politics is "uncool", isn't it? Laugh it up, folks- but will you still be laughing on the other side? I hope we don't have to find out.

And some of them will definitely sit on the side lines, or in front of the idiot box, being fed only good news, as they do in the Arab countries - asking out loud why "somebody" didn't do something. Needless to say, this ignorant, condescending "don't be silly, why should I give a flying fuck about my (or your) civil rights" attitude frustrated me to the nth degree. After all, how dare I bother them to protect their own democratic protections, "what's wrong with me" that I take this move to take away my right to know what's going on in the world around me seriously, and don't want to go through life oblivious to reality? Couldn't I see the lovely pair of blinkers they were wearing? Very cool. No actually, I couldn't - because their heads were stuck so far up their own asses they disappeared from the neck up. Grr.
Christina Engela's picture

Blind Eyes, Deaf Ears

Sometimes I get despondent because it feels like my efforts are wasted, my warnings go unheard, my words fall on deaf ears like seeds falling on hard, dry earth.

It was just three short years ago when I first started my "career" in human rights advocacy and fighting for equality of the Pink Community. I can still remember those days, when trying to warn of the very events unfolding now, I was labeled an "upstart" and "irrational" and "alarmist" by some prominent community figures. And yet ironically, today we see the very things I warned against three years ago unfolding. Uganda is today on the verge of instituting the death penalty for homosexuality, and South Africa's government is acting increasingly under the influence of religious extremists. With the "protection of information" and "pornography censorship" bills on the table today, and with Media24 challenging Act no 4 of 2000 (The Promulgation of Equality Act) in the Constitutional Court, they would be hard pressed to convincingly wipe the egg off their faces.

Of course, these two bills amount effectively to censorship of the SA media - and at least as far as one of them is concerned, it is very cleverly constructed - because if you stand up to oppose it, it makes you look like you're in favor of pornography.

Well, I don't like porn - but it's not my business to tell adults what to watch in the privacy of their own lives. Lots of people do, but I don't. I don't see any need to condemn people for liking porn, as long as I don't have to watch it with them. I have no delusions of self-importance compelling me to stand over my neighbor's shoulder to make sure they're not watching porn - mainly because it's not my fucking business. And whatever they like watching on their own time just doesn't concern me, or affect me in any way. After all, there are already laws in place to criminalize child-porn and security protocols to prevent the kiddies from seeing porn on mobile phones and on TV, so I fail to appreciate the need to introduce new laws which will only serve to allow religious fundamentalists to control what everyone else has access to. No, I don't like porn - but I value the constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of association more than a big brother state breathing down my neck telling me what I am allowed to surf, watch or read. And because if we start chipping away at these rights in order to suit just one part of society at large, we start eroding the rights of everyone.
Christina Engela's picture

Puppet Electorate

Something is still really wrong with our democracy in South Africa. The poorest of the poor are still intimidated into voting for particular parties - being told that their homes will be burned to the ground if they do not vote a particular way - little realizing that their ballots are secret. They believe this, and so the vote generally does go a certain way.

Intimidation is as much a part of a real democracy as is an ignorant voter - not at all.

I think our country is very young in terms of understanding democracy as a concept. I think the broader populace, having been oppressed so long, have only the idea that democracy meant them being in charge, being able to just make decisions for others and rolling over them regardless of what they have to say about it. The concept of a Constitution just means a set of guidelines that can be changed to suit them whenever they are found to be inconvenient. I think they have confused the idea of democracy with mob-rule, and if you look at the internal politics of their tripartite alliance, that is exactly what you will see in play.
arvan's picture

Jennipher, the woman thrown to the dogs

By The Independent

When Nathan Awoloi bought his wife for two cows, he believed it gave him the right to treat her like an animal. Claire Soares reports from Pallisa, Uganda, on the charity that saved her

Hunched over a sewing machine, Jennipher Alupot is an unlikely poster girl for the women's rights movement.  In fact, the young Ugandan mother is totally unaware of how her story – almost too horrific to be believed – has caused waves across the country and down the corridors of power, ultimately giving thousands of abused women the chance of justice.

For seven years, Jennipher was forced to breastfeed the puppies of her husband's hunting dogs. After drinking and smoking heavily, Nathan Alowoi would appear at the marital bed, bind his young wife's legs and hands together and force the mewling animals to her nipple.

He had handed over two cows to his father-in-law as part of the "bride price" for his new wife.  So, he reasoned, if the cows were no longer around to provide milk then his new purchase would have to provide for the pups.  "I had to feed them all through the night; then in the morning he would untie me," his wife, now 26, explains matter-of-factly.

arvan's picture

Shame: A film about 'honor killing' (aka ignorant murder)

5000 women yearly are still getting killed for ‘honor’.

Shame (2005)

Director: Sharjil Baloch

Genre: Documentary

"Shame" is part of the honor killing awareness-raising campaign in rural Sindh and southern Punjab.  The directors take to the road, documenting shocking interviews that uncover a deep-rooted gender bias in rural Pakistan as well as the first ever footage of a karion jo qabristan, an unmarked graveyard where victims of honor killing are buried without any ritual. An important and timely film. 

arvan's picture

Terror Campaign Against LGBTQI Iraqis Remains Unchecked by Iraqi Gov't

IRAQI LGBT – November 2009 – The rise of fundamentalist groups in Iraq since the 2003 U.S. led invasion has proven deadly to LGBT Iraqis, who are now being forced to either hide or face the consequences.

Using the internet as a means to track down new victims, militia members are now employing computer analysts to monitor traffic on gay dating and networking websites in the region.  They work with internet café owners to single out people who frequent these sites and set up fake profiles in the attempt to lure them out. 

On the 28th of August, police raided the houses of Asad Galib and Faeq Ismail, both 24 years old, and took them into custody.  They were held and questioned for about four hours, accused of viewing gay websites in an internet café on the 21st of July.  Both men denied the accusations and explained that the websites had already been open when they had begun using the computers.  They were later released and are now in contact with Iraqi LGBT, a London based organization working to support and protect LGBT individuals in Iraq.

Others who have been accused or are suspected of such activities have not been as lucky.

Christina Engela's picture

'Tis A Cold Light That Dawns

Is love a "habit"? Is love not as vital to human beings as the air we breathe?

Some people call the links to articles I provide in arguments against bigotry and against the use of religion as a tool to oppress people and as an agent of hypocrisy, "trying to justify" my views on human sexuality and gender and even religion.

Justify? Science doesn't lie. Religion written in dead languages on the other hand is open to interpretation. How can it not be, without evidence or fact to back it up? Add to the lack of substantiating evidence, the documentary proof that many people, and great leaders, have used religion and religious scripture as a tool to "justify" the evil they have done - and do - in the name of God. Whether or not you are religious yourself, you should be able to see examples of this all around you in daily life.

arvan's picture

Inclusive Sex Education Needed in African Schools

Suzanne Hoeksema interviews AKINYI M. OCHOLLA, Chair of Minority Women in Action

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 11 (IPS) - With the exception of South Africa, most African countries criminalise same-sex relationships with imprisonment, while incidents of violence against gay women and men are poorly investigated and rarely taken to court.

In an interview with IPS, Akinyi M. Ocholla from the Nairobi-based Minority Women in Action, a community-based organisation that stands up for the rights of lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women and girls, said that the taboo on homosexuality in African countries will only be broken when schools start to include sexuality and sexual orientation in their curriculum.

"We really have to start from scratch," she said. "Kenya is such a deep-rooted Christian and Muslim society, and most people feel extremely uncomfortable to discuss sex, even between boys and girls, so one can imagine how difficult it is to raise the issue of homosexuality."

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