Friday, March 12, 2010

Human Trafficking and Soldiers Correlation

Today, I am so so angry! I am currently writing this project for my human rights class that examines the human trafficking in the former Soviet Union, with a focus on female sex workers. The subject is absolutely horrible, because as trafficking implies, there is a certain element of coercion involved at one stage or another; i.e. these women are forced to become sex workers or cannot leave it. At different points in my literature I have encountered the correlation between trafficking and militarization.

Now, I don’t know about you, but this connection is completely new for me. I have, not without an idealist influence, believed that peace-keeping forces are stationed at their various posts to protect the local people, and all other people that may be there voluntarily or non-voluntarily.

Apparently, this has been a naïve belief on my part. In fact, much of the literature I am reading for my project touches upon this apparently widespread knowledge that trafficked women and other sex workers are frequently used by soldiers and other voluntary workers. This happens either through a straightforward exchange of money and sexual favours, i.e. prostitution, or by the soldiers or voluntary workers or NGO-employees acquiring a “girlfriend.”

There is also evidence in the literature that trafficking increases once a military base is established in a war zone. This is because the soldiers apparently expect to have women to have sex with. They cannot control their carnal desires during their service, so they use what is handy, the women in close proximity. Sex trafficking and prostitution therefore become lucrative businesses in the area around military bases.

You might think that love can actually happen in these situations, and I do not doubt that. But let me just point out once again that these soldiers et cetera are there to protect these people they are in relationships with. Usually these are women (my literature focuses only on women, so while it might happen to male sex workers too, I have no evidence of that) who are living in poverty, or at least relative poverty, who are often also deprived of their civil rights in one way or another, whether they are actual trafficking victims or have chosen to enter into the sex work business. These people are in a dependency situation, looking for a way out. Once they have been used, they can be left behind like used commodities, going back into povery while the men go back to their home countries, enjoying all the civil liberties and comforts of a consolidated democracy.

There is another point to this as well. You, as a tax payer, is essentially paying for these men to use and abuse the women in the destinations they are sent to. They are there, usually, on orders from national army forces, usally paid by governments which uses the tax revenue: you pay them to send these men and women here. As for NGOs and voluntary workers, although they are private organisations usually (always in the case of a Non-Governmental Organisation), they are supposed to be the channels that protect people against states whose primary motivation is national goals. These organisations are supposed to be for everyone, regardless of nationality, gender, sexuality etc. Obviously, in these cases, they fail to be that.

This upsets me greatly. It upsets me because the people supposed to protect these women, the protectors, are the ones that the women need to be protected from. It is not an excusable practice. No, you do not have to have sex. No, you are not on an equal basis - these women will always be in a dependency situation towards you because of socio-economic factors. And no, I am not okay with this.

If you are a Swedish-speaker, this documentary on the UN peacekeeping forces in Kongo-Kinshasa is highly informative. If you are not, but you have access to academic journals, I suggest ‘Trafficking Women after Socialism: To, Through and From Eastern Europe’ by Gail Kligman and Stephanie Limoncelli. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, skip to the part on trafficking and militarization.

Have a nice weekend!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

There’s this anti-gay Senator (Roy Ashburn) who recently got arrested for a DUI while leaving a gay club. While, personally I don’t believe sexual preferences have anything to do with politics, it is a matter of the private sphere, in this case that rule does not apply.

This Senator is someone who has previously given the impression he is against gay rights and this is one of the things his constituencies expect from him. When he then, doesn’t practice as he preaches, it is highly relevant to his politics and to the people who possibly vote for his policies on the matter.

Just the other day, however, Senator Ashburn came out as gay. If anyone of you have ever wondered if the people in the Republican Party truly are anti-gay, here’s your answer. I do not believe for a second that Senator Ashburn’s view on gay rights are coherent with what he really thinks. Surely this man is not denying something so fundamental to his own being as his rights. I mean, if he is still anti-gay, then he is anti himself and I, for one, does not see this as something that would work.

In either case, I am happy for this man, that he has finally admitted to himself and his loved ones that he is gay. I just hope that the people who voted for him will accept him too, because in my opinion, he is not less qualified as a politician just because his sexual preferences.

If this blog looks weird, it’s because I’m trying out this new application called MacJournal which is supposed to make it easier for me to play around with settings in my blog.

Monday, March 08, 2010

International Women's Day Rage

I am extremely tired, so I reserve the right for my spelling and grammar to be a bit off. I also want to warn that the focus on this post is for women's rights, although other rights are unquestionably related, this is not a post about minority rights, or anything the like.

Today is International Women's Day. It is a good day but also a day that gives for a lot of anger.

International Women's Day is a day to celebrate women's achievements in the political struggles toward gender equality. While a lot has been achieved in the Northern hemisphere, there is still a lot left to be desired.

Today is not a day to celebrate the fact that I happened to be born with two X chromosomes. Today is not a day to celebrate that I was born with female genitalia. Today is not a day to celebrate that females in general have "female attributes" and today is certainly, above all, not a day to celebrate "female qualities". Today is a day to highlight the hardship women have been put through historically, and to critically assess the inequalities still exisiting in the world. Today we need to look upon the world and vocalise what is wrong and decide what we can do to change it.

Some people seem to believe that today is the day to give women flowers and be extra nice to the female population. They believe that through holding open a door to a woman, they are being extra nice. I deserve respect 365 days a year, not just on International Women's Day. If you want to give me flowers, do it because I am a good human being or for some other quality you cherish in me, not because of a biological happenstance. And just because it is International Women's Day do not mean that I am handicapped. I am perfectly capable of opening a door 364 other days of the year, why should I be impaired on this particular day? When you hold a door open for me just because I am a woman, you are implying this is something I am not capable of.

Today is a day to rage against the stupidity of society and politicians. If you need something more concrete to rage against, read my post on the proposed EU legislation on maternity leave. Today is also a time to celebrate female suffrage, something feminist movements fought very hard to gain, finally recognising women as citizens of a state so they were no longer stateless persons.

Today is the day when we have to continue the fight to recognize women as human beings. This cannot be done until society and the different states recognize without argument the civil and political liberties, human and socio-economic rights of women as human beings. This is not so in a lot of countries today, sadly. But today is the day when we pick up the spear and roar extra loud for this to be so.

I am a woman, a student, a feminist, Swedish and a lot of other things. Recognize me as the individual human being I am, not as some sub-human being that requires special attention because of some inherent flaw in my gender.

International Women's Day makes me rage, it makes me rant. There are so many things yet to be achieved in the matter of gender equality. International Women's Day inspires me. We can celebrate all that we have achieved and see that it is worth it to continue the fight. I will be in one corner with bloody fingers ready to fight till death.

And to address another question that is constantly posed on this day: No, we do not need an International Men's Day. I will not answer by the cliché "you have all other days to celebrate" but tell me, what is there in the area of male equality that needs to be celebrated? I'll give you the one on extended paternity leave, but honestly, men do not come from a lower position in society. Not to mention that this right comes from a view that women are the automatical care-takers in society due to their weaker disposition and men are bread-winners due to their stronger, more rational disposition. There is an unquestionable assumption that (white) men are human and inherently have a right to their position and civil rights. This is not so for a lot of women around the world.

As a concluding remark, I want to say that today is not a day to blame the men. Today is a day to recognize the flaw in the society that has come from historical values, inherited through generations. All men are not intriniscally discriminating, society is. It is the patriarchal structure we need to address, not the flaws in the opposing gender.

So women, and men, pick up the spear, because the fight is far from over. Personally I intend to fight straight into my grave, and let my sons and daughters pick up from there.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Running Head First Into a Wall

Sometimes my friends do these stupid things. And they're just so incredibly stupid that it completely makes me wonder whether this person has in fact been an idiot all along. It's kind of equivalent to knowingly running into a wall, head first, no protection.
Don't worry, we're all subject to these mistakes and I'm sure I've made a fair few myself.

This blog will be about compromising yourself, something which I think is so stupid it is like running head first into a wall.

Building up confidence is not an easy task. It is something that needs to be done constantly. It is not like you get to a certain level of confidence and then it's fine, you can put the lid on and it will all stay where it is.
No, confidence is something you have to work on. If you just leave it, it will disappear. It is constant reassuring and work. Let me clarify that; it is constant reassurance by you - not anyone else. If you build your confidence on anyone else, it is false confidence and the Big Bad Wolf will blow your straw house down just like that.

The same thing goes for you. To make yourself the person you want to be and to bring yourself to the truly amazing potential you have, you need to work on it. It is hard and it is most certainly a long, arduous process. It will not come for free and you are going to have to spend several hours questioning your positions and values.

However, what you shall never question is yourself. You, the core that makes you the person you are is meant to be there, and there are certain things that makes you the person you are, whether or not most people like it or not. Wear yourself with pride - pride in being you and pride in being amazing and unique.
Sure, there are certain attributes which are less attractive in people, and you might have to tone a few of them down. I sure have. Not easily, but through long reflection over who and I want to be, and, most importantly, who I do not want to be.

There is is a difference, though, between you and unwanted personality traits. If you know something about how you react to things, or how you handle different situations is bothering you, then it is an unwanted quality, unwanted being the key word here. That is where you need to focus your work.

That goes for everything. I, for instance, do not feel comfortable not speaking my mind to my friends. It is both good and evil, some appreciate it and some don't. Take it or leave it, I say, this is me.

When you start compromising those qualities that make you you, that's when we have a problem. When you start doing things that you don't feel entirely comfortable about, obviously with exceptions for getting out of your comfort zone, that's when you need to stop. To phrase it in another way; when you start acting like someone you don't recognise, that is when your internal alarm should sound off, painting capital letters in your head: DON'T GO HERE, THIS IS NOT YOU, YOU DO NOT LIKE THIS, STOP NOW!
When you start giving too much of yourself away, and you agree to things, not for you, but for other people, you compromise yourself. Sure, I realise that there are unselfish* petty deeds we all do to play nice, but these are not the ones I'm talking about here.
* (Personally, I believe that everything we do has a motive and serves a personal self-interest, but I will go along with that word for simplicity.)

When you start putting someone else in front of yourself, you are compromising yourself - you are stretching yourself thin. While it might sound noble and martyr-like, this is not a good thing!
For you, you should be most important. Not until you have learned that you are most important can you effectively help others. How can you possibly help others through times of hardship unless you can help yourself? How can you possibly love another if you cannot love yourself?

If you do not know yourself well enough to always stay true to yourself, to never compromise who you are, you will give pieces away of you. Every time you do something that goes against your character, you are giving that piece of you away, and it is a piece that will never come back. So if you are to do something, whatever it is, make sure that you can stand for it. Otherwise, someone is going to have to pick up those pieces at one point and reassemble them, but without the glue that is you, they will keep on falling apart until you are too fragmented to piece together. All you will have is a replica.

So for goodness sake, DO NOT RUN IN HEAD FIRST INTO A WALL!