Archives for : WOMAN PROBLEMS

Norway Apologizes for Persecuting WWII “German Girls” of their country.

Women who consorted with Nazi soldiers were attacked, shunned and deported after the war

For the “German Girls,” as they came to be called—the approximately 50,000 women in Norway who had consorted, or were rumored to have consorted with Nazi soldiers during the country’s occupation, and were later denied jobs, socially shunned, physically attacked or deported because of it—Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg has issued a formal apology. As the BBC reports, the announcement came at an event this week marking the 70th anniversary of the U.N.’s Declaration of Human Rights.

“[Norwegian authorities] violated the fundamental principle that no citizen can be punished without trial or sentenced without law,” Solberg said on Wednesday. “For many, this was just a teenage love, for some, the love of their lives with an enemy soldier or an innocent flirt that left its mark for the rest of their lives. Today, in the name of the government, I want to offer my sincere apologies.”

As Emily Sullivan at NPR reports, while trysts between locals and occupying armies are not uncommon during wartime, in Norway the situation was different. The Nazis encouraged soldiers occupying the Nordic nation to have children with local women, part of Heinrich Himmler’s designs to engineer an Aryan super race composed of German and Nordic genetics. It’s estimated that about 12,000 children were born to Norwegian mothers and invading Nazi German soldiers.

Approximately half of these babies, it is believed, were part of something called the Lebensborn or “fount of life” program that was designed specifically to propagate more Aryan babies. As Erin Blakemore writes over at Timeline, Himmler offered women impregnated by S.S. officers, who could prove their children were “racially pure,” special subsidies and treatment. Throughout Norway, there were at least eight Lebensborn homes where the babies could be birthed, something that Iliana Magra at The New York Times calls a “relatively large number.”

These children, along with their mothers, faced many forms of discrimination after the war. Women who married German soldiers and their children were stripped of their Norwegian citizenship, interned and deported to Germany. Many of the offspring who remained were abused, attacked and confined to mental institutions because of their parentage. Some, like Anni-Frid Lyngstad, a member of the band ABBA who is the daughter of a German father, fled Norway for Sweden with her mother to escape the rampant persecution.

While the Norwegian government issued an apology to the children in 2002 and offered them compensation, it’s taken another 15 years for it to acknowledge the mothers. Magra for the Times reports that this reassessment of history became feasible as the last members of the World War II generation, who considered the women collaborators or traitors, have aged out of political power.

“We cannot say women who had personal relations with German soldiers were helping the German war effort,” Guri Hjeltnes, director of the Center for Holocaust and Minorities Studies, tells the AFP. “Their crime was breaking unwritten rules and moral standards. They were punished even more harshly than the war profiteers.”

Norway was not alone in persecuting “horizontal collaborators,” as these women were crudely called. Violent purges of women occurred in other occupied countries. Take France, for instance. As Ann Mah at TIME reports, following the Allied liberation of the country, the public began attacking women who had entanglements with Nazi soldiers, as part of the center of a larger purge called the épuration sauvage. About 20,000 women accused of sleeping with the enemy had their heads shaved; others were covered in tar, physically assaulted, stoned, spat upon and shunned. As many as 6,000 people considered collaborators, including many women, were killed.


Henry Sapiecha

The young girl who became just a ‘thing’ in death

A crowdfunding page raised more than $15,000 for Ms Beilby’s funeral, with her family pledging the funds to support vulnerable teenagers.

Photo: GoFundMe

There was no nationwide vigil, attended by tens of thousands of people, for Larissa Beilby. There was no national outcry or dozens of feminist opinion pieces about her murder. Her death made headlines all over the country, but it wasn’t called the “Larissa Beilby murder”. She was “the barrel murder” and referred to as a “body in the barrel”.

A 16-year-old girl is dead and in death, she became a thing, not a person.

At least one woman is killed in Australia every week. Three women were killed just this weekend, three men are in police custody and none of them are likely to attract the universal grief we saw in response to the horrific murders of Jill Meagher and Eurydice Dixon. The reason for this seems to be encapsulated in one phrase common to all those other murders: “the alleged male killer was known to the victim”.

It’s not that people don’t care about women who are killed by men who are “known to them”. Obviously, they do. There are thousands of people in Australia dedicating their lives to helping women hurt by men “known to them”. But the public response is very different when a woman is killed by a man she didn’t know. We have a visceral reaction when the monster myth comes to fruition and a woman is taken off the street by a stranger. This is the fear everyone understands, and our reactions are both very simple and very complex.

Simple, because it’s an immediately identifiable fear. The monster on the street has no emotional complexities. He’s the antagonist of countless television shows and movies, so we instantly recognise him as an object of terror. He has no family or friends in common with the victim and no history with her to humanise him. He is a safe object of revulsion for other men because almost all of them do firmly and truthfully say they couldn’t even ever comprehend doing such a thing.

It’s also simple because there appears to be an easy way to prevent it. If we don’t walk home alone at night, we’ll be safe. If men ask their wives, sisters, daughters and girlfriends to call them for a lift or find an escort home, they’ll be safe. The monster in the dark is terrifying but avoidable.

The complexity comes from the world women have been walking through their entire lives, where such monsters are not avoidable.

I remember catching an almost empty tram home after a late practice at school one night. A man got on, came over and sat directly opposite me and stared at me. He didn’t say anything or do anything, he just sat too close. And stared. I was too scared to get off the tram in case he followed me and too scared to stay on the tram under that malevolent gaze. Eventually, I couldn’t cope and started to cry. He laughed softly and got off at the next stop. I was miles from home and ended up staying on the tram until it got to the terminus and came all the way back to my stop. I was 13 years old.

What I know now is that the man on the tram wasn’t staring at me. He was staring at my fear. Rubbing himself against the raw power of reducing a girl-child to shivering tears with nothing more than a mere look.

After Eurydice’s murder, I sat with a group of people in their 30s and 40s, watching men, good men, struggling to understand as women told them stories like this. Told them it wasn’t just one terrifying incident but a lifetime of them. Men leering on trams and trains, groping in bars, cafes and workplaces.

Threatening responses to placatory attempts to say no to unwanted conversations. Taxi drivers, bar staff, police, tram conductors, men driving by in cars, waiting at bus stops, standing in ticket queues, walking their dogs, standing outside for a cigarette. All the women I was listening to had not just one but dozens of stories and all of them commenced before they were women. Men creating and staring at their fear. They were 11,12,13 years old the first time it happened. Women of colour, women with disabilities, women who are, as Hannah Gadsby said with such devastating truth, the “not normals” had even more gut-wrenching reminders of all the reasons they have to be afraid.

This is the fear and the lived experience of being a woman in the world and it’s not just those women, it’s about all women. Nearly nine out of ten Australian women report their first experience of street harassment occurred before they were 17 years old. Almost 70 per cent say it happened before they were 15 and almost three quarters have had one or more men follow them in a fashion that made them feel unsafe.

We can tell women their fears are irrational, that they are far more likely to be killed by a man “known to them” than a stranger on the street, that they are 73 times more likely to die in a car accident than to be killed by a man they don’t know and NOT ALL MEN and stop demonising men because that just makes things worse and maybe all these things are true but they are utterly meaningless in the face of fears deliberately created and nurtured by men who stride unchecked through our world.

What happened to Larissa Beilby, allegedly at the hands of a man known well to her, doesn’t strike sparks off the same fears as what happened to Eurydice Dixon or Jill Meagher.

Larissa Beilby’s Murder

Even if some of the men we know may hurt us, most of them will not. We don’t see the reflection of the men who kill women they know in the eyes of every man we work with or drink with or watch football with or keep company with.

Eurydice and Jill’s murders were quite different. They felt like the inevitable reality of all those implied & inferred threats, which why our reaction was so visceral.

Henry Sapiecha

India states an estimate of 21 million of its girls are ‘unwanted’

The desire among parents in India to have sons instead of daughters has created 21 million “unwanted” girls, a government report estimates.

The finance ministry report found many couples kept on having children until they had a boy.

Authors called this a “subtler form” of son preference than sex-selective abortions but warned it might lead to fewer resources for girls.

Son preference was “a matter for Indian society to reflect upon”, they said.

The authors also found that 63 million women were “missing” from India’s population because the preference for sons led to to sex-selective abortions and more care was given to boys.

Tests to determine a foetus’s sex are illegal in India, but they still take place and can lead to sex-selective abortions.

Where are India’s millions of missing girls?

Some cultural reasons for son preference were listed, including:

  • Property passing on to sons, not daughters
  • Families of girls having to pay dowries to see their daughters married
  • Women moving to their husband’s house after getting married

The cultural preference for male children has even led one newspaper to list scientifically unfounded tips for conceiving boys, including facing west while sleeping, and having sex on certain days of the week.

The states most affected by son preference were Punjab and Haryana, while the least-affected was Meghalaya.

In Punjab and Haryana states there were 1,200 boys under the age of seven for every 1,000 girls of the same age, the authors of the Economic Survey found.

Henry Sapiecha

Broader definition of polycystic ovary syndrome is harming women say experts .Video presentations.

Lucy Ogden-Doyle was only 14 when she learnt she may develop fertility problems. It was distressing news for someone who went to see her GP about irregular periods.

Her doctor said she might have a hormonal condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and she should drop five kilograms – despite then being 52 kilograms and 172 centimetres tall – to “pre-empt” weight gain, a symptom.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: an expert’s guide

“It was quite a dramatic thing to tell someone so young that they may be infertile and to lose weight, which would have made me underweight,” Ms Ogden-Doyle, now 24, said.

“Two years later I had tests and I do have PCOS but I’m not showing the symptoms like excess hair or extra weight so, while it has been a negative experience, right now I’m not letting it affect me.”

The arts student is among one in five women diagnosed with PCOS, a deeply stigmatising condition. The figure is based on eight separate studies across six countries including Australia and China.

PCOS, which occurs when a woman’s ovaries or adrenal glands produce more male hormones than normal, is the most commonly diagnosed endocrine disorder in reproductive aged women.

In an opinion article in the latest British Medical Journal, Australian researchers argue that an expanded definition had inadvertently led to overdiagnosis, and therefore too much treatment and even harm.

The widening of the definition (to include the sonographic presence of polycystic ovaries) in 2003 led to a dramatic increase in cases, from 5 to 21 per cent.

Lucy Ogden-Doyle has polycystic ovary syndrome. The definition of the term is problematic

Lead author Tessa Copp, a PhD student at Sydney University, said many women were being “given a lifelong disease label” in their teenage years when symptoms such as acne and irregular periods overlapped with signs of puberty.

She referred to three studies that found the prevalence of PCOS by age decreased rapidly after 25, suggesting the symptoms may be transitory for some women.

“A lot of my friends had it and were feeling quite dissatisfied because there’s no cure, nothing you can do, except to undergo treatments that focus on alleviating symptoms,” she said.

“Some cases are severe and they will benefit from the label, but women with milder symptoms may experience harm from the overdiagnosis and overtreatment.”

The authors said women diagnosed with PCOS had higher levels of depression, anxiety, poorer self-esteem, negative body image, disordered eating and decreased sexual satisfaction.

They said it was unclear whether these impacts were due to the condition, its symptoms, or from the psychological effect of being labelled a PCOS sufferer.

“It’s associated with infertility, hypertension and type 2 diabetes, so it labels women as abnormal but the consequences are not the same for everyone,” Ms Copp said.

The authors argue that, given the uncertainties, the risk of psychological harm and the impacts of applying a one-size-fits-all diagnostic criteria to a wide-ranging set of symptoms, it was important for doctors not to rush diagnosing women.

“We need better understanding and research to characterise the benefits and harms of diagnosis and treatment for women with both severe and milder symptoms,” Ms Copp said.

“Instead of diagnosing women in adolescence, note they’re at risk, follow up with them over time and use treatments that target the symptoms.”

Call to action

The article comes as influential health groups, including the Consumers Health Forum and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, launch a call to action to address overdiagnosis in general and “the problem of too much medicine”.

In an initial statement via a Wiser Healthcare collaboration, they said there was an urgent need to develop a national action plan.

“Expanding disease definitions and lowering diagnostic thresholds are recognised as one driver of the problem, and the processes for changing definitions require meaningful reform,” it said.

Dr Ray Moynihan, from Bond University and a Wiser Healthcare member, said the problem of too much medicine was driven by many factors, including the best of intentions.

“PCOS appears to be a strong example of the problem of expanding disease definitions or lowering diagnostic thresholds that are potentially labelling too many people,” he said.

PCOS is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, high blood pressure and poorer psychological wellbeing.

12 Things Women In Saudi Arabia Cannot Do

saudi-women-in-burkas image

Reportedly, no less than 18 women in Saudi Arabia were elected to municipal councils in ballots held on December 12, 2015. It’s the first time women were allowed to stand for office or vote in the country’s history. Although the vote is a landmark for the ultra-conservative kingdom, its women’s daily lives remain severely restricted. Here are 12 things women in Saudi Arabia are still unable to do!

1. Go anywhere without a male chaperone

Rooted in the thought “giving movement freedom to women would make them vulnerable to sins”, women’s all errands, including shopping trips and visits to the doctor, need to be accompanied by a male guardian, often relative. There’s one extreme case that a teenage girl who had been gang-raped was given harsher punishment than the rapists because she was not with a chaperone when it occurred.

2. Drive a car

Though there’s no official law banning women from driving, the deeply held religious beliefs prohibit it, arguing female drivers “undermine social values.” In 2011, a group of Saudi women launched the “Women2Drive” campaign, encouraging women to drive a car, but they are only allowed to drive their children to school or a family member to the hospital.

3. Wear clothes or makeup that “show off their beauty”

Strictly governed by the Islamic law, the majority of Saudi women were forced to wear an abaya – a long black cloak – and a black head scarf. If they failed to cover the face, they would probably be harassed for exposing too much flesh or wearing too much makeup, though the face does not necessarily need to be covered. The Shoura Council, king’s advisory body, ruled that women should wear “modest” clothes that do not “show off their beauty.”

4. Interact with men

Saudi women are restricted in the amount of time spent with men they are unrelated to. The majority of the public buildings including offices, banks, universities and most of the public transportation, parks and beaches are segregated for men and women. Unlawful mixing will lead to criminal charges against both parties, but women typically face harsher punishment.

5. Go for a swim

A Reuters correspondent once tried to use the gym and pool at an upmarket Riyadh hotel. And she such described her experience: “As a woman, I wasn’t even allowed to look at them (‘there are men in swimsuits there,’ a hotel staffer told me with horror) – let alone use them.”

6. Compete freely in sports

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia proposed hosting an Olympic Games without women because in their belief women cannot compete in sports. When Saudi female athletes attended the London games for the first time, hard-line clerics denounced them as “prostitutes”. Meanwhile, they had to be accompanied by a male guardian and wear a “Sharia-compliant” sports kit covering their hair.

7. Try on clothes when shopping

Maureen Dowd, a Vanity Fair writer, once said in “A Girl’s Guide to Saudi Arabia”: “The mere thought of a disrobed woman behind a dressing-room door is apparently too much for men to handle.”

8. Entering a cemetery

9. Reading an uncensored fashion magazine

10. Buying a Barbie doll

11. Working in a lingerie shop

Though some stores have recently begun hiring female employees, the majority are still staffed by men.

12. Open a bank account without her husband’s permission

Luckily, things in Saudi Arabia now are slowly starting to modernise, and “women are highly educated and qualified”, says Rothna Begum from Human Right Watch, “They don’t want to be left in the dark.”


Henry Sapiecha

With this dowry I now own your son: Indian brides turn tables

indian bride has a dowry & owns the groom image

“Ask nicely, and I might let you use my things,” says this bride in a video made for the government campaign Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save your Daughter, Teach your Daughter) in India. Photo: Supplied

New Delhi: India’s efforts to stop baby girls being aborted are seeing the circulation of some surprisingly hard-hitting videos that are turning the tables on men, using the issue of dowry to turn them into pathetic “objects”.

Having to give a dowry to daughters is the single most powerful reason that Indian parents prefer boys. The dowry – cash, fridges, jewellery, TVs, scooters, furniture, sewing machines, cooking utensils – can bankrupt families but without it, no daughter will ever find a husband.

In one video, made for the government campaign Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save your Daughter, Teach your Daughter), a young bride is shown about to go for a ride on a scooter with her husband. The woman’s father-in-law tells her contemptuously that she had better think again because he needs the scooter to do his chores.

“Monthly instalments are only for objects,” says this bride to her mother-in-law in response to suggestions how dowry payments should continue, in a videos for Save your Daughter, Teach your Daughter campaign. Photo: Supplied

The bride retorts: “I’m the one who paid the quoted price. I gave you the scooter as part of the dowry I brought so I own the scooter and your son. Ask nicely, and I might let you use my things.”

The second video, too, alters the usual image of a new bride in her in-laws’ home, namely, tense, eager to please, everyone’s doormat. It shows her in the kitchen with her mother-in-law who is goading her into asking her parents for a new fridge.

The bride says her parents only recently gave a sewing machine. “What is this? Do I have to give monthly instalments or what?” asks the young woman. The mother-in-law’s reply is why not?

The wife answers: “Well, monthly instalments are only for objects, so if you expect monthly instalments from me, that means your son is an object I can use as I wish”.

The videos were funded by business consultant Sunil Alagh in Mumbai.  He says he wanted to contribute to the government’s campaign to empower women but not with a preachy sermon on the evils of dowry that everyone has heard before.

“I was at a friend’s house where the servant told me that a girl in his village had told her prospective father-in-law that if he wanted a dowry from her, he had better accept that he was selling his son to her. It was brilliant, I knew I had to use that line,” said Mr Alagh.

The two videos, produced by Red Carpet Entertainment, have attracted two million views on Facebook, more than 225,000 hits on YouTube and are being shown at all INOX cinemas in India. They have also generated intense debate because Indians are accustomed to homily-laden education campaigns, not videos which savage traditions in this fashion.

Reactions have ranged from praise to criticism that the videos implicitly accept the practice of dowry instead of questioning it. “All the ad is doing is discouraging audiences from finding an educated bride for their family … because education, apparently, transforms a woman into the quip-hurling bitch who’s out to isolate her husband from his parents, according to this advertisement,” wrote Rohan Venkataramakrishnan on the current affairs website Scroll.

For New Delhi economist Anuradha Bhasin, such criticism is absurd. “They are clever and funny. While the setting is traditional [mother-in-law hectoring the daughter-in-law], the daughter-in-law is educated and knows her rights. And equating a dowry with the buying of a son is fantastic,” she said.

The practice of dowry has etched the preference for boys deep in the psyche. Last month, some doctors practising the traditional Indian system of medicine known as ayurveda were arrested in Bhopal during a herbal fair for selling herbs that ensured women would conceive baby boys.

Last February, India’s most famous yoga guru, Baba Ramdev, came under attack for selling an ayurvedic potion to infertile couples that “guarantees” a male child.

With female foeticide still rampant, the sex ratio has fallen from 927 girls per 1000 boys in 2001 to 918 girls for every 1000 boys in 2011.

In launching the Save your Daughter, Teach your Daughter campaign in January, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited members of the public to devise their own ways of promoting women’s empowerment.

Mr Alagh is one of many Indians who have tried to do something innovative to change attitudes. Another was Sunil Jaglan, a father in Haryana who organised a “Selfie with Daughter” campaign on social media, which Mr Modi promptly helped promote on his own Twitter account.


Henry Sapiecha

The medical epidemic few women have been willing to talk about – until now

womans hands on lap image

When Carmel Price’s mother had an operation six years ago, Price helped her in the hospital but never really knew what the procedure was for. “I heard that she was having ‘reconstructive surgery,’ like that her organs had moved around and they were putting them back where they belonged,” said Price, a university professor.

Then Price had two babies of her own and suddenly she understood – and unlike many women in the past, she is talking about it.

“My bladder was bulging outside of my body, and if I was on my feet for any significant length of time, like if I was giving a three-hour lecture, or running or jumping, it would fall out even further.” Her mother confirmed that it was the same thing she’d had.

Pelvic organ prolapse – when a woman’s bladder, uterus, or rectum falls down through the vaginal canal – affects millions of women in America, and becomes more likely the older they get. The average age women start to notice pelvic floor disorders, which include prolapse as well as urinary and fecal incontinence, is 56; by 80, half of all women have one or more symptoms. One in 10 end up in surgery.

And yet for years, few women talked about it. Gynaecologists often do not notice it in routine exams, and many women have lived with the condition for years or even decades without realising anything could be done.

“This is a stigmatised condition,” said John DeLancey, a Univeristy of Michigan professor of gynecology and urology. “It’s nothing people would talk about in polite company … And because nobody talks about it, everyone thinks they’re the only one.”

prolapse sketch image

Recently, however, the conversation has opened up ever so slightly. Last month the actress Kate Winslet spoke publicly about her urinary incontinence since having babies. The FDA recently approved several versions of a pelvic floor muscle trainer, which provide feedback via a smartphone app. And new internal devices for incontinence and prolapse, which advocates say work better than earlier versions, are just hitting the market.

“There has definitely been a sea change starting this calendar year,” said Missy Lavender, executive director of the Women’s Health Foundation, which does education and advocacy on the issue. “We suddenly have people looking at women’s pelvic health, going, ‘Why don’t we do more?'”

References to pelvic organ prolapse appear in Egyptian hieroglyphics, Medieval woodcuts, and the Bible (which says it is a sign a wife has been unfaithful). Treatments throughout the ages included fumigating the lower abdomen with herbs; tying a woman upside-down to a ladder and shaking it; or menacing the wayward organ with a hot poker to frighten it into place.

In reality, pelvic floor prolapse is similar to a hernia where the organs and vaginal walls are pushed out through an opening in the muscles of the pelvic floor. The condition is most common among women who have given birth; in 10-15 per cent of vaginal deliveries, the attachment of the muscles to the side walls tears, weakening the ability of the muscles to support the organs. Most women have no idea there is a problem until years later, when the muscles weaken with age and are no longer able to hold the organs in place.

“It’s not painful so much as uncomfortable,” DeLancey said. “They feel this intense pressure. Often they say they have a backache.”

Pelvic floor problems run in families. Other risk factors include obesity, routine heavy lifting, older maternal age at first birth, and the use of forceps during delivery.

Treatments include the use of a pessary, an internal support device that women can insert to hold the organs in place, or surgery using the patient’s own tissue or a mesh to lift and repair the fallen organs.

There are 320,000 surgeries a year for pelvic floor disorder, 200,000 of which are for prolapse. For less advanced cases, physical therapy can help reduce symptoms.

Left untreated, the prolapse can grow to the size of a grapefruit or larger, and it can become painful if the organs pull on the ligaments. It can become dangerous if the prolapse causes blockage in the tubes that attach kidney to bladder, And it can put women at risk of reduced activity and social isolation.

“Urinary incontinence is one of the top reasons people end up in nursing homes – people don’t want to deal with the smell,” said Cheryl Iglesia, director of MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s Section of Female Pelvic Medicine.

In the US, more pads are sold for incontinence than menstruation, Iglesia said. “It is a problem because we don’t have enough trained experts [in pelvic floor issues] to handle the aging population.”

Even when it is not dangerous, it erodes enjoyment of life. Women stop exercising because physical activity tends to worsen the condition – especially running or jumping, or activities involving weights, sit-ups or squats. Some avoid intimacy, fearing that prolapse or incontinence will repel their partners.

But even when women do speak up, they can hit a gender bias.

“My ob-gyn said, ‘Oh, your body just changes after having a baby’ and it’s just life,” said Price, 38, who since her diagnosis has shifted her research to study the issue. “It felt really dismissive. It made it seem like my surgery was elective, as if I was having cosmetic surgery. In other words, if I was willing to be sedentary and just live with it, it wasn’t necessary.””

Washington Post


Henry Sapiecha