A Round Up

First off, lets start with South Africa because no-one else has mentioned it yet. Thabo Mbeki was forced to resign over the weekend by internal dissent in the party. It’s likely that Jacob Zuma will be elected leader of the ANC. In the wake of Mbeki’s resignation many leading Cabinet members and Ministers also resigned including (many of the women). Zuma’s history is chequered – he was an ANC activist imprisoned on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela, and spent a long time in exile serving on the ANC’s political structures. But Jacob Zuma has faced corruption charges which he has never had to answer in criminal court, but in which his financial advisor was convicted, and rape charges of which he was acquitted. During the latter trial, however, Zuma, who knew that the alleged victim was HIV positive, said he had had unprotected sex but had “taken a shower” afterwards to ward off the possibility of him contracting the virus (a cartoonist who later vilified this was accused of trying to incite racial hatred). Zuma is also a polygamist who has married five wives and has three further fiancees (and thus exposed at least some of them to HIV through his reckless actions); he has divorced one wife and another committed suicide in 2000. Zuma claims to have fathered eighteen children and the first judge appointed to his rape trial had to recuse himself because Zuma had had an affair with his sister. He is also unapologetically homophobic – declaring homosexuality an affront to the nation and to god.

Desmon Tutu, in 2007 when Mbeki was elected, asked the party not to vote for Zuma and this weekend restated that the party should think twice before voting for someone “not choose someone of whom most of us would be ashamed”. However Zuma has strong support on the left of the ANC who believe he will redistribute wealth to the benefit of the poor.

Mbeki wasn’t an ideal leader in that he publically avowed there was no link between HIV and AIDS. One of the worrying things about the Ministerial resignations is that those who remain include a number of key figures who supported Mbeki in this including the Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who advocates treating HIV with traditional remedies.

Alternative News has flagged up that whilst the election of Tzipi Livni is an important move for women it doesn’t mean that women generally in Israel will benefit, warning that “Livni’s apathy toward the important social and feminist struggles represents poor credentials for one who wants to lead such a polarized and divided country.” And in the UK Cabinet minister Ruth Kelly has resigned to spend more time with her family, although even the BBC questions whether her staunch Roman Catholicism and the government policies over abortion and embrology might be involved. According to Channel 4 this raises issues for Gordon Brown “about the government’s ability to provide a women-friendly work place and a wider question about exactly where Gordon Brown stands in relation to women.” Also on Labour Conference issues, the press seem astounded that Sarah Brown, the Prime Ministers wife, chose to speak in public and address the conference (for all of two minutes in introducing Gordon Brown’s speech). Radio 4’s PM programme last night was asking whether Sarah Brown had saved Gordon’s political career which smacks of hyperbole and patronising at it’s worst whilst, in similar vein, Channel 4 has the headline “Sarah throws Gordon a wife-line” and asks what role the former PR manager has had in the political decisions of the nation. Seems every Prime Ministers wife is a target, not just Cherie Booth.

Meanwhile Alternet have highlighted the plight of women in prisons worldwide and the culture of sexual violence that exists in those institutions. The article highlights the similarity of experience in this regard between Afghanistan, Pakistan, the US, Mexico and Estonia to highlight it’s global nature.

Conditions of improper touching by persons of authority, sanctioned sexual harassment, unnecessary strip searches, lack of proper medical attention or proper food exists in numerous global prison locations. In addition to this, psychological coercion and/or threats of sexual assault by persons in authority create a constant, unending and intense universal pressure on many incarcerated women. “Women in prisons all around the world are at risk of rape, sexual assault and torture,” said a recent June 2008, Quaker UN Office — Human Rights and Refugees Publications report.

From Alternet

Channel 4 report a worrying class based gap in survival rates for breast cancer with affluent women much more likely to survive. Also in the news is the drop in the numbers of female headteachers down to 32% from 40% last year with the widest disparity at secondary level where 70% of appointees in the last year were male. Even in the female dominated primary sector the number of female head appointed ran below the proportion of female teaching staff in the sector.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said that it was too early to say whether the decline in the number of women getting head teachers’ jobs in secondary schools was “a blip or a trend”. But he called for action to tackle obstacles that could explain the under-representation of women in the top jobs in school. “The government must urgently address those issues, like excessive workload, that may be discouraging highly qualified women, in particular, from taking on headships,” said Dr Dunford.

From BBC News

And disabled children remain excluded from social activities due to negative attitudes from other children and staff and a lack of facilities for them.

A young disabled girl from York who participated in the report said: “I don’t want to feel like I’m a nuisance or somebody different. I just want to do everything that everyone else does.” Other disabled children in the report say they were often made to feel like they are a nuisance or, simply ignored and not included in activities at all.

From BBC News

Complaints in Australia about advertising by Jim Beam have had a mixed response from the Advertising Standards Bureau. One which, it is alleged, minimised the experience of stalking (of men by a woman) was banned but another which described attractive lesbian couples as “The Tragedy” was not. Jim Beam’s defence was:

In ‘The Tragedy’ TVC a beautiful girl who is dreamily attractive to any man turns out not to be attracted to men at all, but instead prefers other women. To most men this is the ultimate tragedy

From Hoyden About Town

The ASB ruling said:

the label at the end, “The Tragedy”, was not intended to mean that it was a tragedy generally for women to be lesbians, but that such an attractive woman was not available to heterosexual men.

So that makes their position clear – it’s OK to be a lesbian unless you are attractive when it’s a tragedy. Thanks for that. There is also another advert (follow the link above) for “The Girlfriend” which is rampantly misogynistic and worryingly racist – it gives a faux Eastern European accent to someone who appears to be non-white (on my monitor anyway) and scripts her to say she doesn’t mind that he goes to strip clubs as “I’m not jealous”. Because obviously it’s just jealousy that makes us object to the objectification and dehumanisation of women.

Alec Baldwin has blamed everyone but himself but in particular Kim Basinger and the US divorce courts for a telephone message in which he berated his twelve year old daughter saying “You don’t have the brains or the decency as a human being ” (amongst other things). Another example of male arrogance in which a man proves his inability to take responsibility for his own actions.

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