Having to State the Obvious

Most of us live in a bubble of one kind or the other. Sometimes it is a cultural bubble, if the people that we interact with on a day-to-day basis were all born and raised in the same culture. Sometimes it is a class bubble, if we do not know anyone who makes significantly more or less money than we or our parents did. Sometimes it is a liberal or a conservative bubble, if all of the people that we speak to happen to generally share the same views.

Regardless of the bubble you live in, it is important to be aware of it as the limited view of the world that it is, and that many if not most people in the world do not share your perspective and experience. Sometimes, this means having to share and state things that seem so obvious to you that at first glance you think they barely deserve a second one, let alone repeating.

It is my liberal bubble that almost made me skate over a blogpost published by the ACLU entitled “No, Seeing a Transgendered Person Is Not a Reason to Call 911“. Yeah no shit, I thought, and kept scrolling for a few seconds before I recognized this for the nearsighted reaction that it was.

No. Most unfortunately, it is not obvious to many people. While that may be an incredibly sad truth, it is still a fact, as one Meagan discovered when someone called 911 and had her arrested for trying to check into a hotel on her way to a funeral while being transgender.

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Not Just For Brexit

This video was made specifically due to the surge of racist outbursts that many people have reported in the UK immediately after Brexit. Silently ignoring racist attacks normalize and embolden racism, so these are 5 ways that you can do your part to combat the systemic problem.

 

This video may have been inspired by Brexit, but it certainly is not specific to the UK. Everyone around the world can, and should, take this advice.

Racism needs to be confronted and challenged at every step, if we are to have any hope of seeing things change for the better. This advice is something that most people can take with virtually no effort on their part, out the effect of it can be enormous.

It may seem stupid, but the bit about speaking quietly and calmly to the victim (in the circumstance that you do not feel you can actively confront the attacker safely) really spoke to me. While the color of my skin has never labelled me as a foreigner to casual encounters on public transport in all of the countries I have lived in, I definitely have been yelled at and intimidated by groups of men because of my gender. Having someone sit next to me, and talk to me, and give me someone else to focus on would have given me immense comfort in such situations. It would have made me feel far more safe, and far less threatened, if I knew that at least one person acknowledged what was happening, and showed me that they did not accept what was happening as normal. Such a simple act of kindness would have meant the world to me.

Please spread this video, and keep it in mind if you ever witness such aggression and violence targeted towards another human being. I hope those who are disgusted by racism really start to break their silence, and that in doing so, they show that they outnumber the loud and vile minority.

Of course, that is also making the assumption that there actually are more people who are disgusted by racism than there are people who would attack someone because of the color of their skin. Here’s hoping that assumption is true.

“Be Brave” Would Have Been More Accurate

The ACLU is, by definition, very invested in educating the American public as to their rights. To this end, they have released another informative video as to your First Amendment right to photograph or record video in public places, and that includes the police.

 

The video explains what to do in the face of a police officer who is unlawfully attempting to restrict your First Amendment right to photograph or record them in a public area, including being polite, informing them that you are aware that they are not allowed to see your recordings or force you to delete them, and asking if you can leave. The video ends with the common phrase: “know your rights”.

“Be incredibly brave” would have been a more accurate way to end that video. I understand their frustration, and the need for more people to stand up for their rights and not allow the police to walk all over them. If you politely comply with their request to see the pictures or video, and agree to delete it, you can’t then turn around and complain that they violated your rights, after all you also have the right to choose to show your pictures to whomever you want, and to delete them if you wish. However, I also understand the fear that many people, especially people of color, would feel in such a confrontation with police officers.

The stories of shootings, beatings and unlawful detainment of US citizens pile up every week. There are so many that I wouldn’t even know where to begin in linking them. The recent shooting of a man whose car broke down, even though his hands were clearly above his head, for instance. Or the shooting of a therapist trying to calm down an autistic patient of his, even though he had clearly identified himself, what he was doing there, and also had his hands above his head. And those cases were not even people defying unlawful orders given to them by police. So many people rightfully fear the mere presence of police officers, let alone calmly and politely contradicting their orders and informing them of their rights. Many would, quite literally, be risking their bodily integrity, and their lives.

I can’t fault the ACLU for releasing these kinds of videos, for the more people who are educated about their rights the better. However, I also can’t fault those who are too afraid to follow their advice on how to deal with police in such a situation. It is sad that it has come to this point, but unfortunately it has. While I am sure that the ACLU is fully aware of the current situation, the video still gives the impression that the violation of citizen rights by the police is simply due to a polite misunderstanding, rather than a disturbing and violent trend. I’m not going to give simplistic advice as to how to resolve this situation, because I have none to give. All I’m going to do is suggest a slight modification to the ACLU’s message.

Know your rights, but know also that you need to behave in the way that you feel most safe. If you are willing to stand up for your rights in the face of danger, here is how to do so in the safest, most lawful way possible. We applaud those who lead, and fight, and stand up for those rights that we hold so dear, and we are here to help you in that fight. Together, let’s try to put a stop to the corruption and violence, and we do that by being united in the defense of our rights.

I Hadn’t Heard That Part of the Story…

A while back, video hit the internet of a police officer dragging a student out of her chair in class, throwing her across the room and handcuffing her. I had heard about it, heard the usual back-and-forth about how difficult it can be to make teenagers behave and sure but since when do we call cops to settle talking back in the classroom, and then waves of police brutality stories kept coming and this particular case was no longer in the forefront of everyone’s mind.

But then I came across this video released by the ACLU. It turns out, there was an extra level of gross to that story.

 

It turns out, the girl in the video was not the only one arrested in that classroom that day. Another classmate of hers spoke out, said “Y’all can’t do this!” and for that, she was also arrested and kept in jail that day. Arresting kids for misbehaving in schools, for misdemeanors as innocuous as “being obnoxious” and for children as young as seven, is now a thing in South Carolina. To say I’m disgusted is an understatement.

That black kids are arrested and criminalized for perfectly normal behavior at far higher rates than white kids goes without saying. But when it comes to how to fix it, to where to go from here, I honestly am drawing a blank. I can’t understand how it got to this point in the first place. The concept of arresting kids for talking back, that a culture could accept this, that any teacher would ever call in the police for such a thing and not be immediately fired and ostracized from their community, is all so alien to me that I don’t even know where to begin unpacking this mess.

Share the video and ask the ACLU how they plan to tackle this. As for me, I’m just going to make sure I never end up raising kids in South Carolina.

Ireland Accused of Human Rights Violations

For the first time, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has decreed that laws prohibiting abortion can violate a person’s right to freedom from inhumane treatment.

Ireland’s prohibition and criminalisation of abortion services violated the human rights of a woman living in Ireland and caused her “intense physical and mental suffering” according to a ground-breaking ruling from the United Nations Human Rights Committee—a first for any international human rights court or committee.

The U.N. committee found that Ireland’s laws subjected Amanda Mellet to severe emotional and mental pain and suffering by denying her access to abortion services in Ireland. Ms Mellet was denied an abortion in Ireland in 2011 after learning that her pregnancy had a fatal foetal impairment. She subsequently travelled to the United Kingdom to undergo the procedure. The committee instructs the Irish government to act promptly and effectively to redress the harm Ms. Mellet suffered and reform its laws to ensure other women do not face similar human rights violations and to guarantee effective, timely and accessible procedures for abortion in Ireland.

Ireland’s abortion laws are among the most restrictive in the world. Abortion is permitted only when there is a risk to the life of a pregnant woman. In every other circumstance abortion is a serious crime. Since 1983, the Irish Constitution’s Article 40.3.3 has placed “the right to life of the unborn” on an equal footing with the right to life of pregnant women. 

The U.N. authority found that Ireland’s abortion laws violated Ms Mellet’s right to freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The ruling also found that Ireland’s failure to provide services that Ms. Mellet required constituted discrimination. The Committee found that Ireland’s criminalisation of abortion caused Ms Mellet shame and stigma and that her suffering was further aggravated by the obstacles she faced in getting information about the appropriate medical options.

This is a big step forward for reproductive rights. This is the first time that any international human rights committee takes a firm stand on the issue, and I can only hope that it will lead to some progress in Ireland. I, for one, will never forget Savita.

Italy Squeaking Along With LGBT Rights

Once again, we take a step forward! But only just big enough so that we’re not condemned by the European Court of Human Rights anymore…

The  Italian Chamber of Deputies’ approval of the civil unions bill on May 11, 2016 is an important step toward equality.

But, when it comes to my country, there always has to be a downside

“The approval of the civil union law is a milestone in the struggle toward legal recognition for same sex-couples in Italy,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights program at Human Rights Watch. “But restrictive adoption provisions for same-sex couples deny some children the legal protection and security they deserve.”

The Civil Union Act is a watered down version of a bill first introduced by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party in 2014. While opponents introduced thousands of amendments, the most controversial provision in the original bill would have given a partner in a same-sex couple the right to adopt their partner’s children. In February, the Senate approved a compromise text that removed this option, paving the way for the vote in the Chamber of Deputies. According to article 73 of the Italian Constitution, the President of the Republic needs to promulgate the law. It is expected he will do so.

So there is still hope! We just have to wait… and talk about it… and wait…

In the last two months, courts have ruled that parents in lesbian or gay relationships are allowed to adopt each other’s children or a newborn child from a surrogate mother. In three separate rulings in March, the Rome Juvenile Court said it interprets the existing law on adoption in such a way that it should take into consideration social emergencies that urge recognition of new forms of parenthood. The court also urged the legislature to adopt more proactive adoption legislation, accommodating new family models.

 

Ah Italy, such a land of contradictions when it comes to rights. Did you know that Italy was the first country in Europe to elect an openly transgendered member of Parliament? One that, before becoming a politician, was known for cabaret performances and owning drag bars? At the same time, they’re hemming and hawing over giving their citizens full marriage equality. Since the 70s, abortion has been legal and women stopped taking their husbands name when they get married, and yet we’re still allowing doctors to “morally object” to providing abortions, and getting a divorce was a damned nightmare up until a couple of years ago.

The fact of the matter is, despite being a secular government, the Catholic Church has an annoyingly powerful sway over the people. It’s an insidious infiltration of the culture, so that people think these things are “normal”, and forget that it is officially a secular nation.

Well, at least we’re moving in the right direction. Keep going Italy! Keep fighting.

 

Not Just A Women’s Issue

Women’s issues are, and should be getting more attention and action. However, given the fact that patriarchal societies still carry with them a toxic masculinity which makes anything associated with women something shameful or embarrassing for men to admit to being a part of, it is important to not “gender” certain issues. One of these issues is breast cancer, and in Australia, they are finally realizing that these “pink” campaigns are marginalizing male victims of this disease.

Although breast cancer is usually seen as a woman’s disease, around 145 Australian men were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, and around 25 died from it. A little under 1% of all breast cancers occur in men, so it is more common than most people think.

However, breast cancer in men is often diagnosed when larger and at a more advanced stage than in women. This is probably because it is not recognised for what it is, or perhaps because there remains considerable stigma around male breast cancer.

Part of the delay in identifying breast cancer symptoms could relate to men’s reluctance to seek medical care in general. However, there are likely to be specific additional issues related to malignancy in an organ that men are not meant to have and may feel embarrassed or in denial about.

Stigma is likely exacerbated by our many “pink” campaigns to raise breast cancer awareness and improve outcomes for women.

A two-pronged attack is needed to combat this issue: attack the stigma associated with anything considered too “feminine”, and spread awareness that this affects men too.

I recently posted a snarky video out of Argentina which used male breasts to spread awareness about how to check yourself for breast cancer, given the fact that female nipples are too “obscene” to be viewed on social media. Looks like this video is even more useful than I initially thought: men need to learn how to check for the signs too.

 

The Consequences Commence

I am sure that, by now, you have all heard of the highly discriminatory “bathroom bills” that have passed in North Carolina and Mississippi, and which are being introduced in other States as well.

Already, we are seeing the unintended consequences of this legislation.

In this shocking video, an unidentified young woman is manhandled and ejected from a ladies’ bathroom by male police. Because she didn’t adhere to their ideas of how a woman is “supposed to dress,” they accused her of being a male and invaded her space, humiliating and insulting her in their ignorance and bigotry. While onlookers yell at the cops that “she’s a girl” and inform them that she is a lesbian who chooses to not conform to conventional gender standards, the cops angrily demand ID of “sir” and then frisk the woman after she is unable to produce identification.

Follow the link to watch the video. Apparently, you need ID to use the bathroom in North Carolina now.

Shame on you.

South Africa: You Were Trailblazers, But It’s Not Enough

South Africa was the first country in the world to grant constitutional protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation. South Africa is also the only African nation (with the exception of Spanish and French overseas territories) to have legalized same-sex marriage. Given these protections of the LGBT community, which have existed for many years by now, it is so depressing that South Africa still struggles enormously with such vile hatred, corrective rape and murder of LGBT people.

A recent article in the BBC tries to raise awareness of the issue

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A Warrior in the Fight Against Child Marriage

Malawi is one of the countries with the highest rate of child marriages in the world, with half of the female population being married before the age of 18. This is not a problem that only affects girls, and this amazing woman, Senior Chief Inkosi Kachindamoto is battling tradition to make sure that children stay in school and get to enjoy their childhood.

In June 2015, Senior Chief Inkosi Kachindamoto annulled 330 customary marriages – of which 175 were girl wives and 155 were boy fathers – in Dedza district, in the Central Region of Malawi. The objective was to encourage these youth to return to school, and continue a healthy childhood.
“I don’t want youthful marriages,” said Chief Kachindamoto. “They must go to school… no child should be found loitering at home or doing household chores during school time.”  The Chief clearly states that opportunities that the youth have today, were not readily available for her. Marrying early in her time was a norm.
I want to take a moment to appreciate the uphill battle that Chief Kachindamoto is fighting. When faced with the brick wall of tradition, it can be hard to keep believing that real progress is possible. I admire the crap out of this woman and her mission.
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The numbers of children she has managed to save continues to grow.