Paraguayan forced childbirth for child rape victim


‘No little girl should be a mother’ reads a banner in the capital of Paraguay on May 19.

From teleSUR TV in Venezuela:

Paraguay Under Fire For Forcing Child Rape Victim to Have Baby

9 June 2015

The country raised the criticisms worldwide since a 10-year-old girl raped by her step father was denied an abortion, despite her life being in serious danger. A regional court urged the country’s authorities to end the pregnancy of a young Paraguayan girl, only 10, emphasizing the psychological and physical risks of giving birth at a young age. Supporting its statement with a medical report, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, part of the Organization of American States (OEA) recommended the executive power to “avoid the double victimization” of the child, whose pregnancy was due to repeated sexual abuses on the part of her step-father.

While the girl already suffered from malnutrition and anemia, she would also be at higher risk of having other infections and could put at risk her reproductive future. The commissioners considered that in such circumstances her case complied with the requirements of an emergency, justifying their request of protecting her rights and guaranteeing her access to medical treatment.

Although the commission does not have any binding authority, Paraguay was given 72 hours to present a report detailing the protective measures implemented for the girl, or the case could be transferred to the Inter-American Court. The commission’s intervention followed the request introduced on Jan. 20, by the Committee of Latin America and the Caribbean for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM) and Equality Now. Both associations claimed that Paraguay has failed to apply all the necessary measures to protect women’s rights.

The child’s mother reported the sexual assaults earlier in January, but authorities took no action then. A few months later, the hospital finally revealed the girl was pregnant, the mother begged to have her abort, which was denied because of the anti-abortion laws of the deeply Catholic country.

The mother was jailed in end April, accused of “failing in her duty of care,” and possibly being accomplice of the rape – while the stepfather ran away until he was caught by police on Saturday. In Paraguay, about 600 girls 14 or under become pregnant each year – for a 6.8 million total population. In the United States, thousands of girls would also give birth every year, according to various studies from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Yemen’s first female rapper interviewed


This video says about itself:

Middle East Beats: Amani Yahya

Amani Yahya is a Yemeni rapper from Al Hodaida who is now based in Sana’a, the capital city torn by conflict.

She faces the multiple challenge of being a young female rapper in a society that is deeply conservative and one of the least open to Western musical genres.

Brought up in Saudi Arabia, she returned to her country in 2010 and made her public debut in 2012 at The Basement Cultural Centre in Sana’a.

Amani’s blend of hip-hop and ballad which is often about free choice and dignity has found a favourable audience among Sana’a youth.

In her song Mery, written in collaboration with guitarist Alaa’ Haider, she tackles the story of a child bride expressing sorrow for her stolen innocence and defiance in the face of oppression.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Amani Yahya, Yemen’s first female rapper: I will find a way, I will shine

The 22-year-old singer, who has had to flee her troubled homeland, is determined to use her music to highlight women’s rights, child marriage and sexual harassment in the Arab world

Homa Khaleeli

Monday 8 June 2015 15.58 BST

It’s day three of the Liverpool Arab Arts festival, but one of its performers hasn’t yet been to a single event. Amani Yahya – billed as Yemen’s first female rapper – is still thousands of miles away.

With her homeland on the brink of civil war, Yahya, along with her family, has had to flee to Saudi Arabia, where the kingdom’s strict rules mean her fledging musical career has come to an abrupt halt. On top of this, her visa to attend the UK festival has been denied.

“I was so excited to be coming to the UK,” says the 22-year-old, who started rapping in her bedroom while at high school. “It was a little bit of hope – that I could come to the arts festival and meet new people. They said the invitation to the festival didn’t have an official stamp, but I think it was my nationality. They think everyone who comes from Yemen is looking for asylum.”

But, if exile and war would be enough to crush most people, the disappointment at missing the festival is the only time her upbeat tone falters. And, she points out, this is not the first setback she has faced. Her first public performances, while low key, sparked outrage in the increasingly conservative Yemeni society.

Schooled in Saudi Arabia, where her father worked, it was only when she returned to Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, to study dentistry that she first considered following her musical ambitions. “There was a small coffee shop beside my house, where people would gather to talk about music and books. It was new to me because you don’t find people who want to talk about those things everywhere here. So, I used to go there every day.”

Her friends convinced her to perform, and the event, where Yahya was accompanied by a female guitarist, Alaa’ Haider, was a success, leading to more gigs at private parties and even at the French and American embassies. Newspaper articles followed, and the BBC filmed Yahya and Haider performing together. But the media attention quickly led to a terrifying backlash.

“[People] panicked – they saw pictures of me without a hijab or abaya. I got anonymous phone calls and threats. They said I should stop what I was doing, that it was haram and that I should be ashamed.”

Yahya, however, refused to be cowed. “My mom would have been really worried if she had known. So I decided not to tell people and just carry on. Women in Yemen don’t show their talents because our society is so dominated by men, and they don’t support women … in music,” she says. “But my dad loves music and my parents always taught me to speak my mind.”

Yahya – who started writing lyrics in her diary at high school and taught herself to rap by listening to artists such as Lil Wayne – says this is why she is determined to focus on the problems Yemeni women face.

“I have personal songs, too – about my life experiences. But I wanted to be a strong voice for Yemeni girls and talk about their issues. I have songs about women’s rights, child marriage and sexual harassment. People need to understand women can do things: they aren’t just born for marriage and children.”

One song in particular, Maryam, focuses on the story of a woman Yahya met, who had been married at 11. In 2006, the UN estimated that 52% of girls in Yemen were married under the age of 18, and it was only in January this year that the minimum age of 18 for a marriage was fixed in the constitution. It’s a topic that makes Yahya’s voice turn steely.

“In the villages especially, people don’t realise how bad child marriages are. But, to me, it’s like murdering someone,” she says flatly. “Trying to get an eight-year-old married when her body isn’t ready – girls have died because of this.”

Yahya says she uses English because she wants these issues to be heard outside the Arab world, and because it stops people making assumptions about her based on her accent. But, she points out, it’s also because “in Yemen the youth want to speak English because they think it’s cool”.

However, she believes her choice of western music means she has little chance of being taken on by a recording company in Yemen, even if the political conflict is resolved.

“We don’t have a music industry, which supports young talent – especially foreign art. They say I am just copying Americans … it is not ‘Yemeni’. To me, that’s sad because art has no nationality.” But a hardening stance against female performers and music in general, is also an issue.

“There are older female singers here, and in the old days there was a strong tradition of female artists in general, but now we have lost that. Now they don’t like women singing.”

Yahya says it is this rich cultural heritage of Yemen that inspires her work – and adds to the horror she feels that the Unesco-protected “Old City” in Sana’a is now in the line of fire. “It is so calm and magical. I would go twice a week in the morning, to get inspired. In the modern areas people are strict, but there you will hear old men singing, and see shops filled with musical instruments.”

She is also deeply concerned about her friends, still trapped in the conflict that has left 20 million Yemenis in urgent need of food, water and medical aid. “There are airstrikes. There are no schools open. There is only electricity for two hours a day. It’s hard to find water and food. They have shut down the media. People are really suffering.”

Because she is not a Saudi citizen, Yahya says she cannot continue her dentistry degree, and must be careful not to upset the authorities in Saudi, closing off the opportunity of performing in the underground music scene.

“If I did anything wrong, they would deport my whole family. I can’t study, I can’t do music, it is really hard,” she says sadly.

But then, as soon as the words are out of her mouth, her fearlessness returns. “I am going to do music again … even if I have to buy my own mic. I will find a way. I will shine.”

• Liverpool Arab Arts festival continues until 14 June.

Uganda Women Birders


This video is about a shoebill, and other birds in Uganda.

From Herbert Byaruhanga in Uganda today:

Join me to support women birding this Saturday 13th, at Forest Resort Beach-Kasenge. Kasenge is one of the nearest forest reserves rich in a variety of different species of birds.

Special [birds] include African Finfoot, Tit Hylia, Giant Kingfisher, Scaly Francolin, Grey Woodpecker, Grey Parrot, Ross’s Turaco, Great Blue Turaco, and many others. Transport will be provided at 10,000 per person.

Starting at Uganda House (Total) at 6:30am. Come with a snack, or you can purchase from the restaurant.

Uganda Women Birders is a young group of dedicated women in birding and bird habitat conservation. Confirm your participation by registering your name with the chairperson 0784060168, 0706504574.

Headscarf, miniskirt, together against bigotry


This video from Belgium says about itself:

Muslim Girls Sent Home For What They Were Wearing

1 June 2015

In Belgium, 30 Muslim schoolgirls were sent back home on Friday, May 29, because they were wearing long skirts. The principal said it was a new rule, but he let them back in on Monday, skirts and all. Some are calling it religious discrimination.

Today at the railway station. A teenage girl, wearing a long headscarf; probably an Islamic hijab. She had her arm affectionately around the shoulder of the girl of about the same age next to her. Was that girl next to her her sister? A friend? I don’t know. I do know that other young lady did not cover her hair, and had a miniskirt on. Both young women smiled happily.

This was not a political demonstration at all. Still, a really good rejoinder against bigots who want to ban hijabs, miniskirts, maxiskirts, any types of skirts, trousers, shorts, whatever. Whether in Israel when it is forty degrees centigrade hot; in ‘new’ Libya; in France; in Belgium; or wherever.

Sexual abuse among Buddhists in the Netherlands, update


This video from the Netherlands is called The Memorial Ceremony 2555 (2012) for Luang Poh Mettavihari – Amsterdam.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Alarms about abuse among Buddhists ignored

Today, 15:55

Followers of the Thai monk Mettavihari are shocked at the extent of the sexual abuse of which their teacher was guilty. They say they are overwhelmed by the news and the extent of the abuse.

But how surprising can the news actually be for them? A reconstruction by the NOS shows that leaders of Buddhism in the early 1980s were informed about the abuse. Also in a major abuse case in Middelburg prominent Dutch Buddhists were warned at an early stage, in 2004.

Main outline in these two cases: the warned executive officials and others downplayed the abuse, looked away and neglected to take adequate measures, which meant that the responsible monks could continue to make victims.

1. Mettavihari (abuse from 1974 to at least 1992)

In late 1980 or early 1981, the police called the Buddharama temple in Waalwijk. Board member Patrick Franssen answered the phone. The police told him that a message had been received of sexual abuse of a minor by head monk Mettavihari.

For Franssen this was the straw that broke the camel´s back. He also had particularly bad experiences with Mettavihari in this. In 1974, as a 19-year-old “labile” boy, he had already been forced to have sex with the monk. In the at least two years that followed from there, that happened again, according to Franssen, still some forty to fifty times. As a 19-year-old one was at that time legally underage.

Franssen decided: this guy has to go. He flew to Chicago to talk about Mettavihari’s conduct with a high priest, who in his words represented the Thai “Ministry of Religious Affairs.” The high priest, according to Franssen, decided to replace Mettavihari by another head monk without further discussion. In June 1981 Mettavihari was deposed as president of the temple administration, to be replaced by Henk Barendregt. This eminent mathematician who later would win the most important scientific award in the Netherlands, the Spinoza Prize, had been a board member since its inception in 1975.

Second chance

To Franssen’s amazement, Barendregt returned his teacher a few months later to the temple administration, supported by another loyal follower of Mettavihari: Aad Verboom, president of the Foundation of Young Buddhists in the Netherlands. Franssen knew that the new head monk wanted to grant Mettavihari a second opportunity. That he accepted, but having Mettavihari back in the temple administration? That would really be too much of a rehabilitation.

There arose a fierce debate. How bad is it in modern times if a monk has sex? Franssen thought that the Thai Dutch, for whom the temple was intended primarily, would be cheated if their monk secretly would break his vow of celibacy. Barendregt, according to Franssen, argued that this was an old-fashioned view: most Dutch still even now think that a parish priest should not be judged if he falls in love with his housekeeper?

Involuntary sex

That in this case it was involuntary sex with minors who are not on an equal footing with the teacher played for Franssen in that discussion no decisive role. It’s the early 1980s, the era of ‘anything goes’ in the progressive Netherlands. Aad Verboom admits in 2015 that he also had not believed Patrick Franssen’s story about the abuse he had suffered. For that, he has meanwhile apologized to Franssen via the Boeddhistisch Dagblad.

Eventually Barendregt got what he wanted, after which Franssen drew his conclusions. He left the temple administration in December 1981 disconcertedly, to emigrate to Thailand four years later, dismayed by in his eyes “amateurish” Dutch Buddhism. He was replaced on the board by Mettavihari, the man against whom he had tried to take action.

New incidents

There may then have been further incidents, because in 1983 the monk had to disappear definitively from the temple in Waalwijk. Anyway Barendregt and Verboom neglected to find out how often Mettavihari had misbehaved and how bad his misdemeanors were. According to the Thai monastic rules, a monk should take off his habit when he has had sex, but Mettavihari’s prominent students do not think that is necessary. They cover up why their teacher had to leave the temple in Waalwijk. In an introduction to a book he published later that year, Aad Verboom explained the break with the temple as because of “significant differences in views on Buddhism and the practice thereof.” This Verboom was from 1990 to 1998 board member and president of the Buddhist Union in the Netherlands (BUN).

With the help of Barendregt and Verboom Mettavihari got the chance to leave the Thai tradition in which he had got in a jam, to continue as the revered spiritual leader of a group of Dutch Buddhists. The boards of other Buddhist centers meanwhile exchanged only rumors about what happened in Waalwijk. A concrete consequence of this was that for nine years Mettavihari unhinderedly could abuse young adult men in other places, including in Groningen.

Overstep the mark

In 1995, according to some of his students, he was at last confronted because of his behaviour. Mettavihari admitted that he had crossed the line, but also said that he had since stopped the abuse. This apparently was enough for those followers; in 2006, fourteen of them accepted consecrations as teachers by him. A year later Mettavihari died.

Only in May 2015 there is a rupture between “the fourteen”. The immediate causes are the alarming findings of their own investigation into the extent of the abuse that two people in the group have conducted at last. Some of the teachers feel that the scandal must become known, name included, while Barendregt, Verboom and five other teachers think that this is not necessary. Their reasoning is that Mettavihari can no longer defend himself. The mention of his name would supposedly be offensive to the Thai community.

Ignorance

Barendregt claims also to have contacted the Thai spiritual authorities in the early 1980s. But Barendregt now also admits: “With the knowledge we have now, more should have been done to avoid repetition. In my ignorance I thought that the actions at administrative and spiritual levels were adequate.”

Verboom also notes that he had “been asleep at the wheel. I have accepted being lied to. And I have always given Mettavihari the benefit of the doubt. I must note now that there is much more pain and suffering for the victims than I thought possible.”

2. Gerhard Mattioli (2001-2007)

Frans de Reeper had visited for over a year a Buddhist center in Middelburg when he heard something disturbing in the summer of 2004. One of the women in the group told him, crying on the phone, that the monk who led the group had expelled her from the center. According to her, it happened because this Gerhard Mattioli, who told his students to call him ‘Lama Kelsang Chöpel’, for years had a relationship with her. During their vacation that broke up and then he also expelled her from the group.

De Reeper is stunned. To be sure, he immersed himself once more in the rules for monks: surely, this is absolutely unacceptable? He consults literature and hears evidence from an experienced monk and a Buddhist institute. He also asks in a letter to Mattioli what is going on. Mattioli refuses to answer the questions. “I am not subordinate or dependent on other Buddhist organizations or lamas or rinpoche, not even to His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” he writes.

Action

De Reeper subsequently decided to take action. He writes a long letter to the other members of the group, in which he says what he has found out. And he also informs among others Jean Charles Hylkema, at that time director of the Buddhist Broadcasting Foundation (BOS) and also treasurer of the Buddhist Union (BUN). The BUN also receives a separate letter, like the editors of the magazine Kwartaalblad Boeddhisme (later renamed Vorm en Leegte).

The message of the letters is clear: “We believe that we have sufficient evidence that the people who visit the center get in touch with Buddhism in a way which is ultimately harmful for them.” The broadcaster and the magazine according to the letter’s authors should at least stop having commercials and ads for Mattioli’s center.

Not responsible

It does not have many consequences. The often very vulnerable followers of Mattioli are so spellbound that they ignore the warnings by De Reeper. An employee of the Kwartaalblad Boeddhisme / Vorm en Leegte calls De Reeper, but says that they are not responsible for what happens in the centers that are advertised in the magazine. The editors refuse to stop the ads.

A new letter to Vorm en Leegte in the spring of 2005 also did not yield anything, just like a personal request to the aforementioned employee of Kwartaalblad Boeddhisme / Vorm en Leegte during a lecture. BOS director Hylkema writes back that the broadcaster will stop paying attention to Mattioli’s center. The BUN announces there is nothing they can do because the center is not a member.

Bomb explodes

In late 2007, the issue exploded in Middelburg, as Mattioli’s group learns that their teacher had started sexual relationships with four women simultaneously. One of them has become even pregnant. Several people involved go to the police (according to Mattioli himself “under threat of violence from their partners’), but they eventually do not complain officially. In a letter Mattioli threatened his students inter alia with ‘reincarnation in hell‘ if they would break up with him.

President Varamitra (Theo Alkemade) of the Buddhist Union announced in April 2008 during a meeting that “a self-styled lama” in Middelburg “in a terrible way has wreaked havoc.” He also revealed that women in Middelburg now have been helped by the BUN: Varamitra and a Buddhist nun went to Zeeland to talk to the women and to offer them perspectives again. “A good example of tradition-borders crossing cooperation”, is said satisfiedly during the BUN meeting of April 2008.

The issue is not brought into the open. Buddhist and researcher Rob Hogendoorn finds out in 2013 and publishes about it in the web magazine Open Boeddhisme, which he runs together with his colleague Theo Dik. Hogendoorn and Dik also report the matter to the police. Because of that action, they are fiercely attacked by an editor of another Buddhist site, Joop Hoek. He points out in a column that Mattioli denies the allegations and has never been convicted by a court. He calls them inter alia “fake prosecutors, the fake Thomson and Thompson of our society.” Hoek was in 2004 an employee of Kwartaalblad Boeddhisme, so the magazine which was warned about the practices of Mattioli.

Hylkema also thinks that he did not have to do more to prevent worse things, after he had been warned about the activities of ‘monk’ Mattioli. To Open Boeddhisme he downplayed the seriousness of the situation, “Lamas impregnating women, that undoubtedly happens sometimes. There are women who wish to be more than just students, and who want a sexual relationship. Some lamas go along with that, and sometimes that leads to pregnancy.”

Buddhist monk in Purmerend accused of abuse: here.

Stop sexism at universities


This video from the USA says about itself:

Sexism is Alive and Well at the University of Texas!

4 June 2014

The UT Austin Nursing School has a new dress code, and it sucks. Not cool, Longhorns.

From the Athena’s Angels site at Leiden university in the Netherlands:

4 women in academia

Many people assume that men and women have equal opportunities to be successful in an academic career. Yet women continue to be approached and treated differently than men, in ways that impact on their scientific career prospects. This website is designed to elucidate the specific challenges women have to overcome to realize their scientific ambitions, and where possible eliminate these.

Four female full professors have united under the name Athena’s Angels, to defend the interests of women academics. The mission of Athena’s Angels is to offer men and women truly equal opportunities to advance in their scientific career. What is needed to achieve this?

Know the facts   –   Report maltreatment   –   Ask for advice   –   Recognize sexism   –   Join forces 

Pallas Athena

The Greek goddess Pallas Athena is the feisty goddess of wisdom. The owl is her symbol. It is true: she was born, fully armed, from the head of her father Zeus, and can be pretty male-identified at times. The first women in academia did sometimes show this trait. But we are happy to carry out our missions under Athena’s aegis.