Archive for the ‘women’ Category

The partially clothed body of Eudy Simelane, former star of South Africa‘s acclaimed Banyana Banyana national female football squad, was found in a creek in a park in Kwa Thema, on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Simelane had been gang-raped and brutally beaten before being stabbed 25 times in the face, chest and legs. As well as being one of South Africa’s best-known female footballers, Simelane was a voracious equality rights campaigner and one of the first women to live openly as a lesbian in Kwa Thema.

Her brutal murder took place last April, and since then a tide of violence against lesbians in South Africa has continued to rise. Human rights campaigners say it is characterised by what they call “corrective rape” committed by men behind the guise of trying to “cure” lesbians of their sexual orientation.

This is an edited version of a longer article investigating the phenomenon of “corrective rape” against lesbians in South Africa., which appeared on guardian.co.uk on 12 March 2009.

Click here to see the story as it appeared and watch the video


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In June 2008 I wrote a report for NGO ActionAid on India’s disappearing daughters.

The report was based on new research from India that showed that sex-selective abortions and systematic neglect of girl children is on the increase. It is estimated that around 10 million female foetuses may have been aborted in India over the last two decades.In four of the five regions in India surveyed for the research, the proportion of girls to boys is showing a worrying decline.

With parts of society regarding girls as little more than economic and social burdens, families are going to extreme lengths to avoid having daughters. Although prenatal sex detection and sex-selective abortion is illegal, the law is not being enforced. Doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners are routinely violating the ban.

In poorer communities, without such ready access to ultrasound scans, daughters are instead lost through neglect and a denial of medical care and nutrition. Meanwhile, the underlying social and economic factors that underpin gender discrimination and drive people to make these decisions persists.

Click here to visit the ActionAid site and download the report.

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The road to physical perfection leads to Argentina, a country that takes its beautiful people very seriously – so seriously that, in a startling feat of political intervention, one regional government has implemented a law that is forcing the fashion industry to acknowledge that you can be too thin.

Officials wielding tape-measures were unleashed on the glitzy shopping malls of Buenos Aires Province last month to enforce the new “law of sizes”. The legislation, which came into effect in December, stipulates that fashion retailers must stock a full range of clothing sizes for women, roughly equivalent to UK sizes 10-20. Those businesses that don’t comply could be hit with a hefty £95,000 fine or even closure.

According to the provincial government, the law has been passed to break the fashion “tyranny”, imposed by designers and manufacturers, which practically forces women to starve themselves in order to fit into their microscopic clothing. Before the law came into force, those unfortunate shoppers larger than a UK size 10 would struggle to get even an ankle into the skinny jeans and whispers of chiffon that line the racks of the suburbs’ exclusive boutiques.

By passing the law, the local authorities have conveniently offloaded any blame for the “epidemic” of eating disorders sweeping the nation. Argentina now has the second-highest rate of anorexia and bulimia in the world (after Japan), with statistics suggesting that one in ten women suffers from a “slimming disease”.

Not surprisingly, the legislation has created uproar on the fashion scene, which sees it as the kiss of death for creativity and style. One designer suggested that the provincial government wanted everyone to wear Mao jackets, and the fashion industry in general believes that enforcement will lead to the creation of clothes, based on US sizing charts, that customers simply won’t buy.

Click here to read this article, which first appeared in The New Statesman in March 2006

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