Jul 08
Her eye on the news
'Goes above'

Even though Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani vowed last year the forensic virginity testing would officially be banned, the practice is still widespread throughout the country. But human rights advocates are celebrating a new policy as a potential breakthrough toward ending virginity testing once and for all.

A new public health policy was implemented effectively prohibiting health clinics and hospitals from performing virginity tests on girls. The tests, which have been widely condemned, are invasive and meant to determine whether a girl’s hymen is still intact. The official policy, however, is only half of the battle. The other half involves communicating that the ban is in effect and changing cultural attitudes in a nation where, according to a report by Human Rights Watch, some 95 percent of girls in juvenile prisons are there for so-called “moral crimes” such as sex before marriage.

Farhad Javid, country director for Marie Stopes International in Afghanistan, the group that has been working to end virginity testing there told The Guardian, “We hope this means that, when the police or a family bring in a woman or girl and demand that they perform a virginity test, it will no longer be a procedure that is conducted by health professionals — and that, in this way, it will help shift cultural attitudes among law enforcement and in wider society as well.”

Javid said many of the girls locked up for failing virginity tests are in their teens and they are packed into cells. The conditions are horrid and many end up staying far longer than they are intended to, because they are disowned by their families, she said. The next major hurdle is to get all of the girls who are in jail for failing virginity tests freed and have the offense wiped from their records.

“It’s been a very long struggle, but we see this as a major breakthrough because public health policy in Afghanistan is strong and respected both in government and Taliban areas, it goes above sharia law and we have expectations that it will be respected and implemented across all provinces,” Javid said.

Read the full story at The Guardian


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‘Always faithful'

Colette Maze, a 103-year-old woman from France, has been playing the piano for more than a century — a practice that she says not only contributes to her mental well-being, but also her physical health.

“I don’t count the years. I’m no good at math, so what’s the point? I was old at 15, I am much younger now,” she told BBC News. “Even on the piano there is a kind of gymnastics. You have to keep moving. The human frame has to be supple.”

Recently, the centenarian released a CD of her takes on the work of Claude Debussy, her favorite composer. Debussy, she notes, died in 1918 — when Colette was about to turn 4 years old.

“He lived quite near me, so we could have seen each other, perhaps. With his funny beard!” she laughed. “For me Debussy is nature — and love in nature. All these delicate feelings.”

Her love of the piano, she said, began when she was just 2 or 3 years old. Later in life, before WWII, she went on to study music at the famous Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris.

“I used to copy on the piano with my finger all the little songs that the children upstairs sang or played on the piano. My parents were astonished at how I could make the same tunes,” she recalled.

When asked what playing the piano had brought her in life, she replied, “Everything. Everything, because, well you know what men are like — not exactly reliable. But the piano is always faithful. It responds. You ask and it gives.”

Watch Maze’s interview with BBC News below — and listen to her beautiful piano playing.


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The announcement of a 41-year-old Malaysian man’s marriage to an 11-year-old girl has sparked outrage and renewed a debate on the issue of child marriage in the predominantly Islamic country. Wealthy rubber trader Che Abdul Karim, who already has two wives and six children, has defended his decision to marry an 11-year-old and decried “the defamation” being written about him online after his second wife, Effa Zulkifle, posted a picture of the wedding ceremony alongside the caption: “Congratulations on your wedding, my husband, 41, his other wife, 11.”

“I am sad of the assumptions and wild accusations thrown at me in social media for taking a third wife,” he told local publication Bernama. “I will consider taking legal action to stop the defamation against me through wild and inaccurate claims.”

According to the girl’s father, a 49-year-old rubber tapper, he agreed to the proposal on the basis that his daughter would only be allowed to live with Karim after she turns 16 and they file for a formal marriage certification.

“I have known him for a long time because previously we used to rent a house next door to his first wife,” he said of his new son-in-law in comments made to the Malaysia Digest. “My daughter is also friends with my son-in-law’s child with his first wife. Before this, whenever they went on holiday, they would take my daughter along.”

After screenshots of the marriage announcement swiftly went viral on Twitter, many Malaysians denounced Karim and the girl’s father and called for the end of child marriage. Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has said that the government will investigate the claims, in order to “make sure there is no discrimination or coercion in this marriage, especially towards the child.” If Karim were to be found guilty of marrying the girl without permission, he would reportedly face a maximum punishment of six months in prison.

Read the full story at BuzzFeed.


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Rock singer Shirley Manson wrote a deeply revealing personal essay this week for The New York Times in which she confronted her history of self-harm. Manson, 51, is the lead singer for the alternative rock band Garbage, which shot to prominence in the 1990s and has just reissued its iconic 1998 album Version 2.0.

She sets the scene in the mid-’80s, Edinburgh, Scotland, and describes the perfect storm of depression, drug and alcohol use and a poisonous relationship that manifested in her resorting to cutting herself. Back then, she points out, there was virtually nothing to help her understand the “secret that was mine to keep.” Manson was in her late teens, and didn’t even have the proper terminology to describe that secret had she wanted to share it.

“There were no support groups for people like me or any progressive, sympathetic op-ed pieces about the practice of cutting in my local newspaper,” she writes. “It was something I came to naturally, privately, covertly. I didn’t tell a soul about it.”

The origins of her cutting, she writes, can be traced back to a bad relationship she was in at the time with a misogynistic man. “He was tall and handsome and harbored some serious, unresolved anger issues toward women,” Manson recalls. “I should have run for the hills, but I didn’t.”

“I grew to loathe him for his selfish sexism, but I continued to sleep with him anyway,” she writes, revealing that he refused to wear a condom simply because, as a male, he knew he was unable to become pregnant. He left it to Manson to figure out birth control. This was just a microcosm of the disposable way in which he treated her. He cheated on her, repeatedly. Yet she stayed with him, turning the rage that grew out of his coldness inward.

Eventually, a fight the two had that dragged on and escalated led to her first cutting experience.

“In a moment of utter exasperation, I reached across for my little silver penknife, pulled it from the lace of my shoe and ran the tiny blade across the skin of one ankle.

It didn’t hurt.

I did it again.

And then I did it again.

I looked dispassionately at the three thin red lines I had made and watched as tiny little bubbles of my blood oozed to the surface,” Manson writes.

She goes on detail how the cutting worsened: “The cuts got deeper. I hid the scars under my stockings and never breathed a word about it to anyone.” But, she noted, after finally escaping the toxic relationship, a later relationship that was loving and healthy gave her the space to leave the cutting behind. That’s not to say she doesn’t struggle with the urge to harm herself all these years later. Even as her band was touring to support its hit 1998 album, Version 2.0, she found herself struggling again.

But now when the urges bubble to the surface, Manson writes that she has some tools at her disposal to ward them off. Part of keeping those old thought patterns at bay involves repeating a mantra to herself, and another part involves consulting the lyrics to one of her favorite poems.

Read the full essay at The New York Times


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‘They beat her’

Video and photos of Israeli authorities appearing to rip the headscarf off a young Palestinian woman before wrestling her to the ground and dragging her away have gone viral, highlighting the plight of Palestinians living in Area C, which makes up 61 percent of the West Bank and is controlled by the Israeli government and military. The woman, identified as Sarah Abu Dahouk, was targeted by Israeli border police along with scores of Palestinian and international protesters who sought to prevent Israeli developers from bulldozing the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, which is home to 180 people — roughly half of whom are children. Video of the incident first made its way online on Thursday — after protesters sought to stop the bulldozers that arrived alongside security forces at Khan al-Ahmar on Wednesday.

“They beat her severely and arrested her,” said Hadi Baran, a photographer who witnessed and helped document the incident, in comments made to BuzzFeed News.

In May, Israel’s Supreme Court gave developers permission to go ahead with the destruction of the village, in spite of the objections of its non-Israeli residents, on the basis that it was built in Area C without a necessary construction permit. According to Al Jazeera, Israeli authorities routinely deny Palestinians construction permits so that Israeli developers can continue the expansion of illegal Jewish-only housing settlements in the area, and data collected by the United Nations has shown that Israeli authorities approved only 1.5 percent of all permit requests by Palestinians between 2010 and 2014. The villagers, who have reportedly lived in the area since as early as 1953, have said that they believe they are being removed so that Israel can continue to settle their land — a claim which is perhaps bolstered by the recent construction of two Jewish-only settlements surrounding it.

On Thursday night, the Israeli Supreme court announced that the demolition should be postponed until July 11, when the high court is expected to decisively determine the village’s fate. The condition of the woman, or even her location, were not made clear following her arrest.

Watch video of the incident below.

Read the full story and see more photos of the incident at BuzzFeed.


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