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Tackling Gender Violence in Cuba

As the United States returns to embrace Cuba, we find that some things have not changed.

By Patricia Grogg

The real cause of this social problem has to do with relationships of power and control, says Clotilde Proveyer.

The real cause of this social problem has to do with relationships of power and control, says Clotilde Proveyer.

HAVANA TIMES, May 25 (IPS) - Mercedes Toyo has begun smiling again, but only after years of crying and enduring violence, though painful memories continue to haunt her. “Now I’m falling in love with a 50-year-old man who tells me that I’m very withdrawn, that I don’t pay much attention to him,” she explained in the living room of her home.

Her story is no different from those of other women who have been battered by their partners. The Cuban Constitution and numerous laws assure women’s equality and the protection of the family, but the abuse that occurs in the intimacy of the home doesn’t always escape the fear and prejudice, nor is it reported to the authorities or tabulated in statistics.

“I never thought about going to the police; it would have been worse. Plus, nobody ever does that, everything remained within the family,” said a 55-year-old professional, who also went through that painful experience in her first marriage.

Ten years earlier, Toyo did in fact go to the authorities when she felt that her husband was going to kill her.

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Demography and sex work characteristics of female sex workers in India

Here is a good, solid report on sex-workers in India.  It can be found online here.  There are many sides to the topic of sex work.  For every sex worker there is a unique story of that life, their sex and their experiences.  This article says more about the economic realities of a woman's value in a society than it does about sex. 

For these women in poverty working in the sex trade, sex itself is not the violation. 

Being dehumanized, brutalized, infected, neglected and reviled because they are women is the great violation.

(Image courtesy of Boston Globe)

Authors: Rakhi Dandona, Lalit Dandona, Anil Kumar, Juan Pablo Gutierrez, Sam McPherson, Fiona Samuels, Stefano M Bertozzi, and the ASCI FPP Study Team



The majority of sex work in India is clandestine due to unfavorable legal environment and discrimination against female sex workers (FSWs). We report data on who these women are and when they get involved with sex work that could assist in increasing the reach of HIV prevention activities for them.


Detailed documentation of demography and various aspects of sex work was done through confidential interviews of 6648 FSWs in 13 districts in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The demography of FSWs was compared with that of women in the general population.


A total of 5010 (75.4%), 1499 (22.5%), and 139 (2.1%) street-, home-, and brothel-based FSWs, respectively, participated. Comparison with women of Andhra Pradesh revealed that the proportion of those aged 20–34 years (75.6%), belonging to scheduled caste (35.3%) and scheduled tribe (10.5%), illiterate (74.7%), and of those separated/divorced (30.7%) was higher among FSWs (p < 0.001). The FSWs engaged in sex work for >5 years were more likely to be non-street-based FSWs, illiterate, living in small urban towns, and to have started sex work between 12–15 years of age. The mean age at starting sex work (21.7 years) and gap between the first vaginal intercourse and the first sexual intercourse in exchange for money (6.6 years) was lower for FSWs in the rural areas as compared with those in large urban areas (23.9 years and 8.8 years, respectively).


These data highlight that women struggling with illiteracy, lower social status, and less economic opportunities are especially vulnerable to being infected by HIV, as sex work may be one of the few options available to them to earn money. Recommendations for actions are made for long-term impact on reducing the numbers of women being infected by HIV in addition to the current HIV prevention efforts in India.
EvilSlutClique's picture

Kay Bailey Hutchison Is A Whore

At least, that's what one Republican adviser seems to think. The comment came in an article about Senator Hutchison's upcoming challenge to current Texas Governor Rick Perry in next year's gubernatorial primary. Hutchison and Perry are both Republicans, but our girl Kay is apparently one of those moderate Republicans that the right-wingers hate so much. Since Texas is Republican-dominated and the primaries tend to draw lots of Christian conservatives and others who are pretty far right, Hutchison is trying to improve her chances by emphasizing economic rather than social issues and going for the more centrist 'big tent' thing to increase turnout and bring in some new voters. Like a big old whore.

arvan's picture

Taslima Nasrin: Speech from Women's Forum

This speech was given by Taslima Nasrin in France, on October 15, 2005 at The Women's Forum.  Little has changed for herself or women around the world, since then.

          I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for having been invited to the first International Conference by   Women's Forum.  Today I would tell you a little bit about my life. 
          I was born in 1962 to a Muslim family in a small town called Mymensingh  in what then was East Pakistan. Now, after it gained its independence in 1971, the country is called Bangladesh
          Bangladesh, where I was born, is a nation of more than 140 million people, one of the most populous countries in the world. It is a country where 70 per cent of the people live below the poverty line, where more than half the population cannot read and write, a country where there is insufficient health care, and where infant mortality is high. Nearly 40 million women have no access to education nor do they have the possibility of
becoming independent. 
        In my country, my childhood was not much different from that of other girls of my generation. Like other girls of a middle-class family, I was sent to a  school. Girls frequently dropped out of school when they were fifteen or sixteen, ages at which they often were given into marriage by their parents. Few girls had a chance to continue their studies, for after an arranged marriage they were not allowed to continue studying in school or college or university nor could they take a job. They became totally dependent upon their husbands, in other words.

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Forbidden fruit: Why shouldn't disabled people have sex or become parents?

From The New Internationalist (issue 233)

Illustration by NANCY WILLIS

Anne Finger examines one of the deepest and most damaging prejudices.

Before she became a paraplegic, Los Angeles resident DeVonna Cervantes liked to dye her pubic hair 'fun colours' - turquoise, purple, jet black. After DeVonna became disabled, a beautician friend of hers came to the rehabilitation unit and, as a Christmas present, dyed DeVonna's pubic hair a hot pink.

But there's no such thing as 'private parts' in a rehab hospital. Soon the staff, who'd seen her dye job when they were catheterizing her, sent the staff psychiatrist around to see her. Cervantes says that he told her: 'I know it is very hard to accept that you have lost your sexuality but you don't need to draw attention to it this way.' Cervantes spent the remainder of the 50-minute session arguing with him, and, in perhaps the only true medical miracle I've ever heard of, convinced him that he was wrong - that this was normal behaviour for her.

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Pro Choice and Disabled - A Contradiction?

This fine reflection was originally posted at Disability Cool:

I have been a feminist for as long as I can remember. Even as a young girl at the age of ten, I did not believe in the stereotypes that other young girls did. In college, I told a guy off for calling me a "chick". "I am not a chick or a girl - I am a woman", I told him strongly. I had not even met another feminist at the point in my life, but feminism seemed to come naturally to me.

I have been disabled for as long as I can remember. My disability is genetic. It started to show itself when I was five years old and got progressively worse as I grew older. I was correctly diagnosed when I was 39 years old, so you can imagine what kind of medical procedures I had been put through all of my life.

Choice versus eugenics

So how do these two worlds connect and help to make sense of the title of this article. In my work with the women's community, I am well known for my pro-choice stance. I have gone to pro-choice rallies, spoke at a pro-choice forum about my own experience of having an abortion and even been on a CBC morning news show (a national TV network). I believe in a woman's right to choose if she wants to have an abortion or does not want to have an abortion. It does go both ways. And don't kid yourself, lot of women with disabilities have abortions just like lots of non-disabled women have abortions. Abortions should be covered by the medical health program wherever the woman lives and must be safe and legal. I believe in nothing less than this.

arvan's picture

I stepped in dog shit. No..wait, that's sexism.

(Image courtesy of Glitter Graphics)

I heard a conversation the other day that bothered me.  I was running with my weekly marathon training group.  We're a new group, so we spent most of the run chatting with each other and introducing ourselves.

One man and one woman were running next to me within the group.  She had already identified herself as Jewish, so he struck up a conversation about himself being Jewish and they began their introductions.  He described himself as married, children, member of a synaogue and a teacher at the school there.  Pretty standard fare.  It didn't really concern me, as he was talking to her.  So, I just got into a groove with my running, paying attention to my breathing and movement.  His conversation just played on like background music.

Then, he asked her about herself.  Almost immediately, he asks her if she's seeing a 'nice Jewish boy'.  She replied that she has 'a lot of gay boyfriends'. 

He replies "Yes, but what about procreation?"

That remark snapped me out of my running meditation.  I thought the remark was offensive...actually the whole line of questioning seemed inappropriate.  I listened more intently, despite my urge to pop off at him in the middle of a conversation I had not been a part of.

arvan's picture

Intimacy on wheels and batteries.

This week, I attended another screening at Clarisse Thorn's Sex+++ Film Series at Jane Addams' Hull House in Chicago.  Two documentary films were featured.  The first one, "Sex, Disability & Videotape" (Beyondmedia Education) was about women from age 16 -24 with disabilities claiming and exploring their self image, self worth and sexuality.  The second feature, "Orgasmic Women" (Marianna Beck) is a film of 13 women interviewed about masturbation, with demonstrations.

I did not initially sense how these two films would pair with each other around any central theme or related conversation.  The first film was about a group called Empowered Fe Fes, which is a support group for young women with disabilities.  The film focused on two relationship conversations.

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