Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Women, get mad

If we think the struggle for equality of the sexes is far from over here in the Western World, imagine what it's like in Africa, where in many countries women are in general treated like scum or worse. But it also seems some goverments there have a very different definition of what constitutes pornography. No, I'm not talking about the difference between soft core and hard core porn, which is unfortunately getting increasingly blurry. I'm talking about pictures of a woman trying to giving birth.

I kid you not. The news editor of the largest paper in Zambia, Chansa Kabwela, whose paper (the Zambia Post) is a frequent critic of the country's president Rupiah Banda, is facing trial and five years in prison. The background: The paper received pictures of a woman in obvious agony while trying to give a breech birth -- the kind when the baby is turned and coming out of the vagina in a butt- or feet-first position. The woman, turned away from two clinics because of a nurses' strike, went to a third. By that time, the baby had suffocated and died. The pictures were not, I repeat, not published.

But Kabwela was outraged enough that she sent the pictures to the country's health minister and the vice-president as well as some women's groups with a letter demanding an end to the nurses' strike. The VP's private secretary was also shocked and, by his own description, even "aroused" by the pictures -- but thought the issue was important enough to pass the pictures on to the president. It was at that point Banda pressed charges against Kabwela, calling the pictures pornography. It should be pointed out, Banda is currently facing possible impeachment and trial on totally unrelated corruption charges.
I'm writing this post strictly from a guy's perspective, and also as someone who's not yet a father. But I think there is something seriously wrong with society if we're going to prosecute anyone for trying to rectify an issue by speaking to the truth with facts no matter how uncomfortable. In my opinion there is absolutely nothing pornographic or even erotic about child birth, especially in a high-risk situation -- it is very much a public health issue. And in a country that bans abortions in most circumstances, it's highly hypocritical for the government to say they're trying to "protect" women whilst doing nothing to protect their or their unborn children's health.
This is the problem I continue to have with the pro-life movement's leadership, nothwithstanding that I personally am pro-life. In the most extreme, those would force women to have their children offer no alternatives except adoption -- they oppose increased funding for pre-natal care or nutritional programs for infants and young children as well as nursing mothers, oppose welfare for unwanted children and their mothers, oppose retraining opportunities to help women who most need it. And of course, if the nurses (mostly women) go on strike, they are either ignored or even imprisoned.
To further classify childbirth or mere breast-feeding as "pornographic" is not only an insult to the women who give birth and / or care for the women and their children. It also should insult the conscience of men like me who believe that a government should be behind women and children every step of the way. If one is truly pro-life then he or she should also support a seamless web of life from implantation to natural death. Letting the mother hang out to dry is as much an insult as charging the reporter with spreading "porn."
One has to wonder if there would be a similar visceral reaction here if our laws were as strict as they are in many parts of the world. Many on the right still wish for the 1950s when married couples were shown in separate beds and the word "pregnant" could not be used. Even now, many neo-cons would like nothing less than the legal imprisonment of women in their own houses and the ban on martial rape repealed. Not to mention, have all the progress we've made so far annulled as well.
The correct and proper thing to do here in this situation to a) drop the charges against the reporter, b) change the law so something so ridiculous never happens again; and c) compensate the woman for the loss of her child which was totally unnecessary. But I'm not holding my breath.

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