Archive for December, 2008

This article popped up on Digg today:

Saudi court tells girl aged EIGHT she cannot divorce husband who is 50 years her senior

By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 9:49 AM on 22nd December 2008

A Saudi court has rejected a plea to divorce an eight-year-old girl married off by her father to a man who is 58, saying the case should wait until the girl reaches puberty.

The divorce plea was filed in August by the girl’s divorced mother with a court at Unayzah, 135 miles north of Riyadh just after the marriage contract was signed by the father and the groom.

Read more….

This story has a familiar ring to it.    In early November, both Condoleeza Rice and our Homegirl, Hillary Clinton, were honored as two of Glamour Magazine’s Women-of-the-Year.    That same evening,  Nujood Mohammed Ali and Shada Nasser were also honored.  Glamour has awarded a Women-of-the-Year Fund to assist the work Nasser is doing in Yemen to help child brides.  Click on the link.  Homegirls can help!

Remarks were made during the Primary season that Hillary’s visits to over 80 countries were ceremonial.  The truth is that she visited refugee camps and sat in tents listening (and I think we have learned how very well she does that) to stories of displaced persons and mistreated women and girls. (See December3 post: Hillary in Her Own Words).  Condi Rice has done the same as related in the Glamour article linked above.  So I think the torch that is being passed at the State Department is  significant for girls and women in threatened regions as well as in friendly ones.

Ann Curry had an update tonight on the schoolgirls attacked with acid in Kandahar, but I could not find a link at MSNBC.  I did however find this story about them at AlJazeera. It is not an update, but tells the story.

We all know these are stories and situations both Secretary Rice and her successor care about.  We also know we cannot change laws in far away cultures.  But those of us who remember Hillary’s Beijing speech know we have a strong advocate for women and children ready to represent us and be our face and voice to the world.

Hillary, your Homegirls are behind you as you take this next big step.  God bless you and keep you safe.

Afterthought:  (And I don’t mean to be sexist myself here).  I wonder how things would have been if Colin Powell had never been in the picture.  What if State had passed directly from Madeleine to Condi to Hill?  Sounds like an awesome triple-play to me.

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I should have posted this days ago. I woke up to this news the morning after it happened in a neighboring town. I had no idea that her mother was someone I knew from the blogs and Blog Talk Radio. This is cross-posted from Freemenow.

Louisa Rodas, the daughter of outspoken women’s rights advocate Betty Jean Kling was shot in the head the evening of December 15th, 2008 as reported HERE and HERE and HERE. In Betty Jean’s Blogspot, Freemenow, she writes: “She has less than a 50/50 chance of surviving and if she does, she will have one eye, one ear, a half of a head and be paralyzed on one side-we have no idea how much brain damage.”

Betty Jean’s daughters Denise & Louisa

What does Betty ask for in the wake of this tragedy? In addition to prayers for her  daughters:

*Spread this story far and wide, along with the pictures. This MUST STOP! No more Domestic Violence.

*Zero tolerance for sexism and disrespecting females in any way, shape or form. Never again laughing at women’s expense.

*March, Advocate and Demand stricter laws.

Betty Jean is asking for our help, to keep making our voices heard, to march, to advocate, to demand laws that protect women. Perhaps, to advocate for a “Louisa’s Law”, to keep Domestic Violence predators from being granted the ability to continue to stalk their victims due to our sexist, antiquated and inadequate legal system.

The relentless sexism and misogyny in America is killing our mothers, daughters and sisters every single day. How does domestic violence against women start? With the very sexism that is so common and acceptable in our country. The pattern is predictable and repeated thousands of times daily across our land where some are more “free” than others.

The abuser begins by making fun of or ridiculing the woman. He belittles her with so-called “jokes” and name calling.  He calls her names like “bitch” or “whore” or “cunt”. He then escalates to invading her personal space. He feels it is perfectly OK to grab, grope and touch her intimately and without her consent. She is treated like an object and her objections are treated as a joke or worse, an infringement of his “rights” to amuse himself. Eventually, his disrespect for her boundaries, his contempt and feeling of entitlement to use and control her leads to ever-escalating abuse. And violence.

The American Institute of Domestic Violence reports:

A National Epidemic

  • Women are 85-95% of all domestic violence victims.
  • Men stalk over 500,000 of their intimate partners each year.
  • Men abuse 5.3 million women each year.
  • Men kill 1,232 women each year; their intimate partners.
  • Male-perpetrated domestic violence is the #1 leading cause of injury to women.
  • Women are more likely to be attacked by someone they know rather than by a stranger.
  • The leading cause of death for women is the workplace homicide by a male intimate.

In recent days, Betty Jean has demanded the firing of the now infamous gropergate poster icon Jon Favreau, Barack Obama’s speechwriter. He was photographed with a cardboard cut-out of Senator Hillary Clinton at a party. Favreau, described as a “normal guy having a good time” and a “great talent” and another fellow were on each side of the mocked up version of Hillary. One forced beer down her throat while Favreau squeezed her breast. They were laughing. It was a joke. One that was so funny, they publicized it on Favreau’s Facebook page so millions of other people could enjoy the laugh.

Betty Jean didn’t think it was funny and neither do millions of other women. They rightfully condemn this behavior because they understand it is part of America’s sexist pattern of disrespect, contempt and disregard for women. The same America that laughs when our leading female politicians are routinely called “bitch” on national television. An America where an effigy of Sarah Palin hung from a house is considered a humorous prank and T-Shirts calling her a “cunt” are a source of pride.

Women have a right to psychic and physical boundaries. One sexist act leads to another. Tolerance of abusive language, images and acts are the foundation of sexism. They are the stepping stones to greater abuse in a country that is home to epidemic levels of violence against women. It is behavior like Favreau’s and many other high profile and everyday men and women that continues to nourish the seeds of sexism and misogyny in our country. It is killing us.

Please, let Betty Jean, her daughters and countless other women know that yes:


SadStateOfAffairs/Freethinker ©

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Where’s the line?

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OK,  mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.  I left this story percolating for a long time before posting here about it.  By now everyone knows what this picture is about and who is in it.   Part of the reason it hasn’t appeared in this very appropriate blog is because Hillary’s own response to the “affair” was so typically succinct and  pithy that I could never have done better.   But while I let the pot simmer, pressure cookers were exploding all  over Hillaryland.  Here is some of the fallout,  or should I call it “shootout”?

1. Barack Obama should have jumped on this issue. Agreed.  But then,  we should know by now that his modus operandi is to sit tight, do nothing, and hope it all goes away –  that hopey/changey posture.  When the hurricanes were hitting the Gulf this season and Obama was scheduled to appear on SNL, he cancelled his appearance due to a hurricane and hurried home to Chicago and took the weekend off.   That was his chance to high-tail it to the Gulf and fill sandbags with “the folks” as McCain had for the previous hurricane (you remember  – the one when Obama sent you 3 or 4 emails from his Blackberry asking you to donate to the Red Cross – through HIS WEBSITE).  But he did not visit the Gulf that weekend.  He stayed home.  We know this about him,  he lets his chances go by.  The Hillgrope Affair was his chance to make a statement against sexism.  Of course he blew it because uh -uh  he really isn’t against sexism,  aaaaaaannndd um the new SoS is hot.  You can’t blame “the boys,” can you?!

2. Jon Favreau should be fired. Well, if he didn’t do #1, he was not about to do this.  Case closed.

3. It’s not the real Hillary, y’all!  She’s only cardboard! I might mention that it’s a very cute likeness of a very cute Hillary.  One of the many disadvantages of being female is the male misconception that physical attractiveness is the equivalent of an invitation or permission.   But the larger issue is that of symbolism.  To many, the image of Hillary represents Hillary, therefore groping the image approaches molesting the person.  (And we Homegirls are dedicated to protecting her from such invasions.   These Hillary cutouts lack Secret Service Details so the job falls to us.)  If a picture (image, graphic) is worth a thousand words, lets look at a few other image-related incidents.

There’s this: art_noose_gi

Well we all know what THIS means, don’t we?  Anti-noose sentiments were so strong after the Jena, Louisiana incidents that at Halloween this year,  there were serious objections to decorations involving “ghosts” made of sheets hanging from trees.  Now one would think that if there were retribution in this world it might take the form of sheeted figures hanging from nooses, but even these free-form figures of white were somehow considered racist and offensive.


Meanwhile in LA (the CA one) we encountered this Halloween “decoration.”

Unlike “ghosts” which cannot be identified as personalities, this figure was highly identifiable.  And I ask you, is she not hanging from a noose?    I heard, and you might have also, that a similar display involving Obama had been erected somewhere else.  I could not find a photo of that probably because it was taken down under public pressure very quickly.  This one was allowed to remain for days “because it’s LA!”  Well, I don’t know.  I think,  even in LA, had it been Obama hanging there I might not have found the picture.   So hang her high! And hang her why? Well, she’s  Republican, and LA is historically Democrat.  She has five kids (at least three of whom have seen this display) – she’s overpopulating the planet – and she’s not pro-choice! Aaaaannnnndddd.  She’s only a woman.  It’s just a joke, folks!  Have a sense of humor.

Well the Jon Favreau Hillarygrope was also supposed to be a joke (actually, I think he’s hot for Hill).  Some jokes are insulting, offensive, and should be self-censored.  Some of us remember the cock-fight joke of Reagan’s that Nancy inadvertently leaked to the press and caused a mild dust-up in the 70’s.   Everybody let it slide.  They still loved Reagan and voted for him nonetheless.    In hindsight, we have seen Solidarnosc, lived through a brilliant and much-loved Polish Pope, and come to feel our families are not that different from that of Tony Soprano (even Bill and Hill identified).

If it were not for thousands of years of subjugation and mistreatment of women in societies and cultures the world over from which some of us had hope our own country might finally be emerging,  I might laugh too and say “How cute!”   But it isn’t cute, Jon.  Not cute, Barack.  Offensive and threatening to many women who in the past week have attested to their own reactions to this photo.  Some of these women were molested in scenes very similar to this.  The picture did not bring happy memories.  I have to agree with them.  Letting this go encourages this behavior by not condemning it.

So I stand with my sisters who say, “Barack, please fire him before he ever attends a staff meeting where Hillary is present.”

As for Hillary, here’s how she handles “bad and evil men” and “men who are obsessed with her.”

Fishslapped!!!  (For you Monty Python fans).

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Inspirational words for the Homegirl Security Sisterhood from our new Secretary of State Designate.

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Democratic vice presidential candidate U.S. Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) smile at a rally in support of Democratic

SCRANTON, PA - OCTOBER 12: Democratic vice presidential candidate U.S. Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) smile at a rally in support of Democratic

Since it has become certain that tomorrow morning, Hillary will appear with Obama in Chicago for his announcement of his National Security team,  that she will be nominated for Secretary of State, and that she will accept, there has been some wild speculation about the new relationship between Hillary and Joe Biden.  Here are some things we know about Joe: He has long experience as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Based on that,  he has been expected to have a strong voice on those issues in the Obama administration, and since Hillary’s name came up, there have been hints that territorial conflicts between the two might ensue.  We also know that the Bidens and the Clintons are personal friends, share family ties to Scanton, PA where the photo above was taken, and that Joe loves Hillary (it’s OK, Jill knows about it).

This morning, this disturbing editorial by Nicholas D. Kristof appeared in the NY Times. I am inserting the entire piece since there is no single paragraph or section that is more or less compelling than any other part.

November 30, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist

Terrorism That’s Personal


Terrorism in this part of the world usually means bombs exploding or hotels burning, as the latest horrific scenes from Mumbai attest. Yet alongside the brutal public terrorism that fills the television screens, there is an equally cruel form of terrorism that gets almost no attention and thrives as a result: flinging acid on a woman’s face to leave her hideously deformed.

Here in Pakistan, I’ve been investigating such acid attacks, which are commonly used to terrorize and subjugate women and girls in a swath of Asia from Afghanistan through Cambodia (men are almost never attacked with acid). Because women usually don’t matter in this part of the world, their attackers are rarely prosecuted and acid sales are usually not controlled. It’s a kind of terrorism that becomes accepted as part of the background noise in the region.

This month in Afghanistan, men on motorcycles threw acid on a group of girls who dared to attend school. One of the girls, a 17-year-old named Shamsia, told reporters from her hospital bed: “I will go to my school even if they kill me. My message for the enemies is that if they do this 100 times, I am still going to continue my studies.”

Acid attacks and wife burnings are common in parts of Asia because the victims are the most voiceless in these societies. Naeema Azar, above, was attacked by her husband after they divorced. Her 12-year-old son, Ahmed Shah, looks after her

When I met Naeema Azar, a Pakistani woman who had once been an attractive, self-confident real estate agent, she was wearing a black cloak that enveloped her head and face. Then she removed the covering, and I flinched.

Acid had burned away her left ear and most of her right ear. It had blinded her and burned away her eyelids and most of her face, leaving just bone.

Six skin grafts with flesh from her leg have helped, but she still cannot close her eyes or her mouth; she will not eat in front of others because it is too humiliating to have food slip out as she chews.

“Look at Naeema, she has lost her eyes,” sighed Shahnaz Bukhari, a Pakistani activist who founded an organization to help such women, and who was beginning to tear up. “She makes me cry every time she comes in front of me.”

Ms. Azar had earned a good income and was supporting her three small children when she decided to divorce her husband, Azar Jamsheed, a fruit seller who rarely brought money home. He agreed to end the (arranged) marriage because he had his eye on another woman.

After the divorce was final, Mr. Jamsheed came to say goodbye to the children, and then pulled out a bottle and poured acid on his wife’s face, according to her account and that of their son.

“I screamed,” Ms. Azar recalled. “The flesh of my cheeks was falling off. The bones on my face were showing, and all of my skin was falling off.”

Neighbors came running, as smoke rose from her burning flesh and she ran about blindly, crashing into walls. Mr. Jamsheed was never arrested, and he has since disappeared. (I couldn’t reach him for his side of the story.)

Ms. Azar has survived on the charity of friends and with support from Ms. Bukhari’s group, the Progressive Women’s Association (www.pwaisbd.org). Ms. Bukhari is raising money for a lawyer to push the police to prosecute Mr. Jamsheed, and to pay for eye surgery that — with a skilled surgeon — might be able to restore sight to one eye.

Bangladesh has imposed controls on acid sales to curb such attacks, but otherwise it is fairly easy in Asia to walk into a shop and buy sulfuric or hydrochloric acid suitable for destroying a human face.

Acid attacks and wife burnings are common in parts of Asia because the victims are the most voiceless in these societies: they are poor and female. The first step is simply for the world to take note, to give voice to these women.

Since 1994, Ms. Bukhari has documented 7,800 cases of women who were deliberately burned, scalded or subjected to acid attacks, just in the Islamabad area. In only 2 percent of those cases was anyone convicted.

For the last two years, Senators Joe Biden and Richard Lugar have co-sponsored an International Violence Against Women Act, which would adopt a range of measures to spotlight such brutality and nudge foreign governments to pay heed to it. Let’s hope that with Mr. Biden’s new influence the bill will pass in the next Congress.

That might help end the silence and culture of impunity surrounding this kind of terrorism.

The most haunting part of my visit with Ms. Azar, aside from seeing her face, was a remark by her 12-year-old son, Ahsan Shah, who lovingly leads her around everywhere. He told me that in one house where they stayed for a time after the attack, a man upstairs used to beat his wife every day and taunt her, saying: “You see the woman downstairs who was burned by her husband? I’ll burn you just the same way.”

We here at Homegirl Security have long known of Hillary’s interest in addressing such abuses.  It is only fair to credit the woman she is replacing, Condi Rice, with strong efforts in this area as well.   Knowing Hillary’s long history on women’s and children’s issues, many of us have anticipated the coming nomination with a certain amount of regret at losing her strong, clear voice in the Senate.  But this regret has been tempered with the confidence and trust we have in her abilities to address these issues at an international level as we saw her do in 1996 in Beijing.  And while we know that these are not the only issues she would have dealt with in the Senate or will at State,  an ambivalence remains.  She will certainly be a star at State just as she was and would have continued to be in the Senate.

It was heartening, therefore, to find this article by Kristof this morning.  It attests that others in the Senate have their eyes on these issues at the international level and inspires hope that the same is true at the domestic level.  Of course we are also losing Joe Biden to the new administration, but it is clear that it is not women alone fighting this battle.  And the bill is there, even though Joe is going.

So those of us who follow Hillary’s Senate dispatches will have to switch to another feed from her.  I have no doubt she will remain as informative as ever.  As for Joe, I am sure he will be as supportive as ever of Hillary’s efforts.  I should mention as well that Richard Lugar was on this morning with George Stephanopoulos and intends to support Hillary’s nomination at State.  (OK you can be cynical and say LOTS of Senators want her out of the Senate and at State, right now I prefer to have a little hope and faith).

So as we wish Hillary and Joe Godspeed in their new missions, and mourn the loss of our NY Turbo-Senator,  we can also rejoice that these voices will have gravity in the formation of foreign policy in the next administration.   Thanks, Joe, and Richard, for standing up for women, and thanks, Hillary, for being our hero, role model, and sister.

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