Archives for : WOMANS RIGHTS

Johnnie Walker is marketing a female version of its iconic logo – Jane Walker, in line with Women’s History Month.

Johnnie Walker is about to change its logo for the first time in more than a hundred years and replace the iconic ‘Striding Man’ logo with a female Jane version.

‘Jane Walker’ will feature on a limited US edition of the scotch whisky, picturing a woman tipping her hat in mid-stride.

The promotional pic will replace the top-hatted male and will be released to coincide with Women’s History Month and a week before International Women’s Day.

$US1 of every bottle sold goes towards a charity empowering women’s rights.

Jane Walker Black Label release.

“In recognition & appreciation of women who are leaders, we introduce Jane Walker, the first-ever female iteration of the brand’s iconic Striding Male logo. Jane Walker is the celebration of the many achievements of the female and a symbol of empowerment for all those on the march & achievements towards progress in gender equality,” the Johnnie Walker domain states.

“In recognition of the women in history who fought for moving forward, Johnnie Walker is donating a total of $250,000 to support various organizations championing women’s causes, including #MonumentalWomen and She Should Run,” the statement added.

#MonumentalWomen is aimed at creating a monument for the leaders of the Woman Suffrage Movement. She Should Run is a charity aimed at encouraging women of all political and ethnic backgrounds to run for leadership positions.

The decision for a female-friendly label, by London-based brand owner Diageo Plc, comes as UK beer bosses are urged to take more dramatic actions to stamp out “offensive” marketing towards women, according to the BBC.

Johnnie Walker bottles in the Johnnie Walker marquee.

The Jane Walker launch comes as #Times Up and #MeToo movements continue to shine a spotlight on sexual harassment.

#MeToo was an online social media campaigne in response to allegations against Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Right or Wrong.?? Who knows.Let us continue the battle for gender equality.

“Scotch as a category is seen as particularly intimidating by women,” Johnnie Walker Vice President Stephanie Jacoby said in a recent interview.

She felt Jane Walker was an “awesome & relevant opportunity to invite & entice women to the brand.”

Henry Sapiecha


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

These Anti-Suffragette Postcards Warned Against Giving Women the Vote

There are always those who resist social change
SUFFRAGETTES-OLD-POSTCARDS image www.goodgirlsgo (1)

While modern political arguments take place on social media sites, it wasn’t all that long ago that suffragettes and anti-suffrage activists alike took to the easily sharable medium of their day to get their message heard: the postcard.

The picture postcard was invented in the late 19th century. As British and American women began organizing in support of women’s suffrage, demanding to be given equal say in how their countries should be run, the postcard was quickly seized as a medium for the fight over their right to vote, Julie Zeilinger reports for the Huffington Post.

SUFFRAGETTES-OLD-POSTCARDS image www.goodgirlsgo (4)

While pro-suffrage organizations and some commercial postcard publishers produced postcards that advocated for the women’s right to vote, many American and British commercial publishers created their own propaganda against the movement in their postcard sets.

SUFFRAGETTES-OLD-POSTCARDS image www.goodgirlsgo (6)

“Most of these sets took on an anti-suffrage and, at times, somewhat bemused attitude to the issue, although positive statements do certainly appear with some regularity,” Kenneth Florey, author of American Woman Suffrage Postcards: a Study and Catalog, writes. “These cards often showed a topsy-turvy world, and the resultant chaos once women achieved power and husbands were forced to do the housekeeping and child raising.”

SUFFRAGETTES-OLD-POSTCARDS image www.goodgirlsgo (8)

Many anti-suffrage postcards from the time depict men performing what were then considered women’s roles in the house, like cooking, cleaning and caring for their children while their wives went out on the town. Others depicted suffragettes as domineering, abusive and physically ugly women who couldn’t get a husband any other way than by trying to overthrow society, Maria Popova writes for Brain Pickings. But while many American anti-suffrage postcards also depicted suffragettes as generally misinformed and confused, their British counterparts could be much more violent.

SUFFRAGETTES-OLD-POSTCARDS image www.goodgirlsgo (2)

“Often suffragettes in English cards are not simply plain, they are grotesque, the implication being that their ugliness and their ideology are interrelated,” Florey writes. “Clearly the assumption of these cards is that normal women marry and settle into ‘traditional’ roles; the suffragette is not normal, she is a genderless creature whose beliefs and appearance set her outside the general order. But she is frightening and dangerous at times.”

SUFFRAGETTES-OLD-POSTCARDS image www.goodgirlsgo (5)

Of course, the fear mongering campaign ultimately failed. In 1920, the 19th Amendment gave American women the same voting rights as men, and in 1928, the Equal Franchise Act gave UK women full suffrage as well. The postcards remain around today, a footnote to the obstacles and prejudices around, which predicted a total societal collapse should women to be given equal say in how their countries should be run.

SUFFRAGETTES-OLD-POSTCARDS image www.goodgirlsgo (7)


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

Indian teenager becomes a rapist’s nightmare

Rape is common in Indian villages because the men responsible don’t face consequences. That could now be changing.

Bitiya, who agreed to be photographed with her face covered, in her village image

Bitiya, who agreed to be photographed with her face covered, in her village. Photo: Nicholas Kristof/The New York Times

For as long as anyone can remember, upper-caste men in a village in northern India preyed on young girls. The rapes continued because there was no risk: the girls were destroyed, but the men faced no repercussions.

Now that might be changing in the area, partly because of the courage of one teenage girl who is fighting back. Indian law does not permit naming of rape victims, so she requested she be called Bitiya, and she is a rapist’s nightmare. This isn’t one more tragedy of sexual victimisation but rather a portrait of an indomitable teenager whose willingness to take on the system inspires us and helps protect other Indian girls.

I want them in jail, then everyone watching will know that people can get punished for this.


I see in Bitiya a lesson for the world about the importance of ending the impunity that so often surrounds sexual violence.

The young rape victim pushing to see her attackers punished wants other Indian girls to be able to live free of the fear of sexual violence.

Bitiya, who is from the bottom of the caste system, is fuzzy about her age, but thinks she was 13 in 2012 when four upper-caste village men grabbed her as she worked in a field, stripped her and raped her. They filmed the assault and warned her that if she told anyone, they would release the video and also kill her brother, so Bitiya initially kept quiet.

Six weeks later, Bitiya’s father saw a 15-year-old boy watching a pornographic video and was aghast to see his daughter in it. The men were selling the video in a local store for a dollar a copy.

Bitiya is crying in the video and is held down by the men, so her family accepted she was blameless. Her father went to the police to file a report.

The police weren’t interested in following up, but the village elders were. They decided Bitiya, an excellent student, should be barred from the public school.

“They said I was the wrong kind of girl and it would affect other girls,” Bitiya said. “I felt very bad about that.”

Eventually, public pressure forced the school to take her back, but the village elders continue to block the family from receiving government food rations, apparently as punishment for speaking out.

In the background hovers caste. Bitiya is a Dalit, once considered untouchable, at the bottom of the hierarchy.

Civil society scrutiny belatedly led to the arrest of four men, who were then released on bail. The case has been dragging on since, and Bitiya’s father died of a heart attack after one particularly brutal court hearing. The family also fears members of upper castes will kill Bitiya’s 16-year-old brother, so he mostly stays home,  which means he cannot work, leaving the family struggling to afford food.

The rape suspects offered a $20,000 settlement if Bitiya’s family would drop the case, bringing the money in cash to her home with its dirt floor. Bitiya had never seen so much cash – but scoffs that she would not accept twice as much.

“I want them in jail,” Bitiya says, “then everyone watching will know that people can get punished for this.”

“I never felt tempted,” her grandfather adds.

Bitiya says she does not feel disgraced, because the dishonour lies in raping rather than in being raped. And the resolve that she and her family display is having an impact. The rape suspects had to sell land to pay bail, and everybody in the area now understands that raping girls might actually carry consequences. So while there were many rapes in the village before Bitiya’s, none are believed to have occurred since.

Madhavi Kuckreja​, a longtime women’s activist who is helping Bitiya, says the case reflects a measure of progress against sexual violence.

“There has been a breaking of the silence,” Kuckreja says. “People are speaking up and filing cases.”

Kuckreja notes that the cost of sexual violence is a paralysinging fear that affects all women and girls. Fearful parents “protect” daughters from sexual violence and boys in ways that impede the girls’ ability to get an education, use the internet or cellphones, or get a good job. For every girl who is raped, Kuckreja says, many thousands lose opportunities and mobility because of fear of such violence.

That holds back women, but also all of India. The International Monetary Fund says India’s economy is stunted by the lack of women in the formal economy.

In one village, I asked a large group of men about rape. They insisted they honour women and deplore rape – and then added that the best solution after a rape is for the girl to be married to the rapist, to smooth over upset feelings.

“If he raped her, he probably likes her,” Shiv Govind, 18, explained.

I’m supporting Bitiya and strong girls like her to change those attitudes and end the impunity that oppresses women and impoverishes nations.

Nicholas Kristof is a New York Times columnist. (5)

Henry Sapiecha

Feminism is not a dirty word-Equality is the preferred norm for humanity

trish about feminissim image

IT’S FASCINATING to watch people’s reactions to the word feminism. Even with reading the opening sentence of this column, I bet I’ve already had a couple of eye rolls. Which is almost the entire reason for it to be such an interesting, and often frustrating subject.

This week I’ve read a few articles discussing the topic of feminism, and it’s people’s response to it that always has me intrigued.

What exactly is feminism? I’ve studied the subject as part of criminology, but I still can’t determine what is the difference between a feminist and an individual who just believes in us being equal?

I am a woman, so of course I’m going to be an advocate of women’s rights.

I’ve also worked in two very different environments, from policing to writing romance novels. They couldn’t be on further ends of the spectrum when it comes to a gender predominant industry. So I feel like I’m qualified enough to say that from my experience, I’ve seen that women can do things just as well as men can, and vice versa. I’ve worked under some high-ranking female commanders, and know some incredible male romance writers, both have achieved huge success in their field. We are actually all able to achieve the same things in life, regardless of our chromosome make-up. So does this make me a feminist or is it just that I have a basic understanding of equality?

Even the brilliant director George Miller, when asked about having strong female heroines in his latest Mad Max movie, danced around the topic of feminism without completely admitting to being pro-women. Despite it being an extremely clever concept, he brushed off the premise by saying that it wasn’t really intended to be a feminist movie, and it just kind of happened that way. Why is it so difficult to just say “why not?”

American singer Taylor Swift has also made some bold statements about feminism in a Maxim magazine article, after being named as the top talent in women for 2015. Her comments seem years ahead of her tender age, but are so poignant to the subject.

It’s all too easy to look away and accept things for what they are, but there’s no room for progress if society continues to ignore facts about double standards.

As my husband always points out to me, his beloved sci-fi novels always have the female commanders of the future referred to as “sir”, just the same as the men are. Let’s hope this is a prediction of future society.




Henry Sapiecha

Pope Francis: It’s ‘pure scandal’ that women earn less than men for the same work

Pope Francis image

‘At the same time, we must recognise the maternity of women and the paternity of men as a perennially valid treasure, for the benefit of children’ … Pope Francis spoke out for women’s rights on Wednesday at the Vatican. Photo: Reuters

Pope Francis said on Wednesday that he supports equal pay for men and women who perform the same jobs. The fact that a disparity exists, the pontiff said, is a “pure scandal.”

Francis’s comments highlighted the church’s longstanding social teachings on workers’ rights, in a speech on the importance of marriage in society.

In his Wednesday general audience remarks, Francis asked Catholics to consider “the Christian seed of radical equality between men and women” when discussing the reasons behind declining marriage rates around the world, according to Vatican Radio.

In response, Christians should “become more demanding” for that “radical equality,” the Pope added. For example, “by supporting the right of equal pay for equal work.”

“Why should it be taken for granted that women must earn less than men? The disparity is pure scandal,” Francis said, according to the Italian news service ANSA.

“The witness of the social dignity of marriage shall become persuasive, precisely by this way: the way of witness that attracts,” he added.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, the Pope also said it was “not true” and an “insult” to suggest that women’s rights movements should take the blame for declining marriage rates. Doing so “is a form of chauvinism that always wants to control the woman,” Francis said.

John Carr, until recently the longtime head of the social justice arm of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Francis’ statement is not new in Catholic teaching, but that the pope is highlighting it in a notable context – saving families.

“Others talk about the moral pressures on families, but he also focuses on the economic issues. He is stating it in the context of the importance of the family and he considers economic justice essential to the family,” Carr said.

In 1995, Pope John Paul II addressed the issue of equal pay directly in a “letter to women,” writing that ” there is an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area: equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, equality of spouses with regard to family rights.”

Francis’s message on Wednesday was also in line with another influential aspect of Catholic teaching on gender found in John Paul II’s work, on the “complementary” natures of men and women.

“At the same time, we must recognise the maternity of women and the paternity of men as a perennially valid treasure, for the benefit of children,” Francis said.

The Washington Post


Henry Sapiecha

Women march in Washington D.C. in defence of abortion rights.

Purvi Patel has been jailed over charges of feticide and neglect after what she said was a miscarriage.

Why Purvi Patel’s imprisonment matters for all women

Purvi Patel has been jailed over charges of feticide and neglect after what she said was a miscarriage.

After the fallout from Indiana’s new legislation allowing discrimination against gay people, you’d think the American state would be looking to redeem itself in the public eye. But no, that would require just a little more humanity than it seems the folks in power over there have to give. I mean, why exercise understanding and compassion when you can be intolerant and hateful?

In keeping with that spectacular recommendation, Indiana this week emerged as the first American state to send a woman to jail for “an attempted self-abortion”. During the trial, prosecutors argued 33-year-old Purvi Patel had ordered drugs online to help facilitate a miscarriage and had taken them towards the end of her second trimester. They then contended that Patel had given birth to a live fetus before abandoning it in a dumpster.

Women march in Washington D.C. in 2004, in defence of abortion rights. A decade on, the issue burns as brightly as ever.

Women march in Washington D.C. in 2004, in defence of abortion rights. A decade on, the issue burns as brightly as ever.

Despite the unreliability of much of the state’s evidence (a toxicologist testified there was no trace of abortifacient drugs found in Patel’s system), it took jurors less than five hours to find Patel guilty of the contradictory crimes of ‘feticide’ and ‘neglect of a child’. On Monday, she was sentenced to 30 years in jail. Ten of those years have been suspended, meaning she now faces an incarceration period of 20 years.

There are a number of issues going on here, not least of which is that reproductive health care laws in the United States are informed by terrifying misogyny and classism. Patel is not the first woman to be jailed for what essentially amounts to a miscarriage and it’s doubtful she’ll be the last. As legislative bodies around the country introduce more and more restrictive laws around the whys, hows and whens women are entitled to seek terminations, cases like Patel’s will become more commonplace. And, as has always been the case in a social system where money and privilege opens doors, it will be marginalised women who bear the full brunt of such horrendous discrimination and dictatorial patriarchy.

Let’s be honest. Throughout history, it has never been the rich, white women who’ve been sent to jail for ending pregnancies they either didn’t want or had thrust upon them. Women of colour, poor women, disabled women, immigrant women – these are the people who will be confined to jail cells because they have even fewer options for support and medical assistance available to them in a system already predisposed to discard them.

As Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), said in commentary published in Think Progress, “What this prosecution makes clear is that not only is abortion being recriminalised in America, but that the women themselves – not just the people who perform abortions on them – can be arrested, investigated, prosecuted and sent to jail for 20 or more years.”

But, in an almost dystopian execution of laws purely designed to reinforce a conservative notion of women as incubators with secondary personhood, this grotesque bastardisation of the judicial system has already been used to punish women for having miscarriages or stillbirths. Before Patel there was Rennie Gibbs, who was just 16-years-old when she delivered a stillborn baby before being arrested on charges of murder. She faced life in prison before a judge dismissed the charges against her. Before that, there was Amanda Kimbrough. Kimbrough’s fourth child was born prematurely in 2008 and tragically died 19 minutes after birth. While still grieving her child’s loss, Kimbrough was arrested and charged with ‘chemical endangerment’. Prosecutors contended that Kimbrough, like Rennie, had caused harm to her child by consuming drugs during her pregnancy, a claim Kimbrough disputed. And, back in Indiana, in 2011 Chinese immigrant Bei Bei Shuai was arrested and imprisoned for more than year after an attempted suicide resulted in the death of a fetus she was carrying while sparing her own life.

When presented with the question of punitive justice, anti-choice protestors have largely argued against punishment for childbearers. Opposition to abortion is not, they have stressed, about punishing vulnerable people but about criminalising what they call the ‘abortion industry’. But, despite fetal homicide laws (which exist in at least 38 US states and which we are at dangerous risk of being introduced into parts of Australia) ostensibly being designed to protect unborn fetuses from third party assaults on childbearers (particularly from violent partners), their execution has been rather more terrifying. According to NAPW, by 2011 in South Carolina there had been 300 childbearers arrested as a result of fetal homicide laws. In contrast, only one man had been charged.

Listen. We will never stop the practice of terminating unwanted pregnancies. As long as there are people who can become pregnant, there will be people who seek to end those pregnancies. Criminalising the fundamental rights of women (and men with biologically female bodies) to control their own reproductive systems is an act that cannot be tolerated in a society that claims to oppose totalitarianism. There is no shortage of irony in the fact that the vast majority of people opposed to reproductive freedoms are critical of government intervention in so-called ‘private’ matters like socialised healthcare and religion in schools.

There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. Comprehensive, widespread access to abortion saves women’s lives. The rarity of their occurrence is a caveat that gets thrown around by people whose public opinions are constrained by political concerns. Every person of childbearing capability has the right to determine their own reproductive choices.

Abortions should be safe, legal, widely accessible and, most importantly, nobody else’s business. And until women like Purvi Patel are free, none of us will be.

Stop putting female content in the corner

Sarah Homewood, AdNews journalist

Social media lit up this week with the news that much-loved female news and opinion site The Hoopla was closing. This was promptly followed by the news that News Corp was launching its own female-focused news website.

Hoopla co-founder Wendy Harmer said that international players coming into the market with endless funds was what put her out of business. The players she’s referring to are the likes of Mail Online recently hiring a Femail editor for the Australian market, News now entering the fray, and further afield to the US, startups eyeing Australia, as Neil Ackand, Sound Alliance CEO alluded to in his feature in the 20 Feb issue of AdNews.

However there are many local players without a global brand name and back account, doing swimmingly off the female dollar. Mia Freedman’s Mamamia empire is an example, as well as Fairfax’s The Daily Life.

I would argue, though, that it’s oversaturation rather than global players, which led to The Hoopla closing its doors.

Publishers are more likely to pile into female-focused content – and you can see why. Women are big bucks to advertisers and publishers. It might make commercial sense to separate female-based content, and male-focussed content, for that matter, but is it what’s best for the audience?

After high school, and except in public bathrooms – excluding trendy clubs that think unisex toilets are a good idea – there is rarely a situation when men and women are separated. It doesn’t make sense. So why separate content?

Other than the commercial benefits, I honestly can’t wrap my head around it.

Publishers still do what the first edition of The Australian did 50 years ago – it had a women’s interest section called “Mainly for Women”. I struggle to spot the difference.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the content. I read The Daily Life and am a subscriber to the Mamamia newsletter, I am a young female in the demographic that these publishers and their advertisers want to target.

What would make me more more engaged with a publisher’s content and want to spend money with their advertisers is if I logged onto a home page and saw content that speaks to me. Publishers will rush to say: “We do that already.” And some do. But then why do all major publishers host their female-focused content on separate parts of the site?

I don’t believe there is any such thing as a women’s (or a man’s) issue, they’re all people issues. So if publishers want to talk to – and profit from – female audiences, treat them like people and don’t hide them a in a far corner of your website.

Did we learn nothing from Dirty Dancing?


Henry Sapiecha

Sex bias case will embolden women despite verdict in this silicone valley saga

Experts: Sex bias case will embolden women despite verdict

llen Pao, center, walks to Civic Center Courthouse in San Francisco, Friday, March 27, 2015. The jury are due back in court on Friday in Pao’s lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Pao says the firm discriminated against her because she was a woman and then retaliated by denying her a promotion and firing her when she complained about gender bias. Kleiner Perkins denies the allegations. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A long legal battle over accusations that a prominent Silicon Valley venture capital firm demeaned women and held them to a different standard than their male colleagues became a flashpoint in the ongoing discussion about gender inequity at elite technology and venture capital firms.

Though Ellen Pao lost her lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Silicon Valley observers say her case and the attention it received will embolden women in the industry and continue to spur firms to examine their practices and cultures for gender bias.

“This case has been a real wake up call for the technology industry in general and the venture capital community in particular,” said Deborah Rhode, a law professor at Stanford University who teaches gender equity law.

The jury of six men and six women rejected all of Pao’s claims against Kleiner Perkins on Friday, determining the firm did not discriminate against her because she is a woman and did not retaliate against her by failing to promote her and firing her after she filed a sex discrimination complaint.

In making their case during the five-week trial, Pao’s attorneys presented a long list of alleged indignities to which their client was subjected: an all-male dinner at the home of Vice President Al Gore; a book of erotic poetry from a partner; being asked to take notes like a secretary at a meeting; being cut out of emails and meetings by a male colleague with whom she broke off an affair; and talk about pornography aboard a private plane.


But the heart of their argument was that Pao was an accomplished junior partner who was passed over for a promotion and fired because the firm used different standards to judge men and women.

Kleiner Perkins’ attorney, Lynne Hermle, countered that Pao failed as an investor at the company and sued to get a big payout as she was being shown the door. They used emails and testimony from the firm’s partners to dispute Pao’s claims and paint her as a chronic complainer who twisted facts and circumstances in her lawsuit and had a history of conflicts with colleagues that contributed to the decision to let her go.

Rhode and other experts say Kleiner Perkins and the venture capital industry in general did not come out looking good even though they won the case.

“Venture capital firms recognize it’s not appropriate to be out in the streets celebrating,” said Freada Kapor Klein, founder of the Level Playing Field Institute, a nonprofit that aims to boost minority representation in science, technology, engineering and math fields. “They don’t have the moral high ground.”

Even before the Pao trial started, a succession of employment statistics released during the past 10 months brought the technology industry’s lack of diversity into sharper focus.

Women hold just 15 percent to 20 percent of the technology jobs at Google, Apple, Facebook and Yahoo, according to company disclosures. The data were mortifying for an industry that has positioned itself as a meritocracy where intelligence and ingenuity are supposed to be more important than appearances or connections.

The venture capital industry is even more male-dominated, with a study released last year by Babson College in Massachusetts finding that women filled just 6 percent of partner-level positions at 139 venture capital firms in 2013, down from 10 percent in 1999.

Klein said before the verdict she was contacted by more than a dozen venture capital and technology companies asking how they could improve the environment as a result of the Pao case. She expects some firms will be “smug” after the verdict and do little to change for fear of being dragged through the mud while others will step up.

The attention surrounding the case makes it more likely other women who believe they have been discriminated against will go to court, said David Lewis, CEO of OperationsInc., a human resources consulting and contracting firm. Two women who formerly worked at Facebook and Twitter filed gender discrimination cases against the companies during the Pao trial. One of Pao’s attorneys, Therese Lawless, is representing the plaintiff in the Facebook lawsuit.

At the very least, Pao’s suit will prompt more women to open up about their experiences in the workplace, said Nicole Sanchez, founder of Vaya Consulting, which tries to help Silicon Valley companies increase diversity.

“I do see a trend now in the name of Ellen Pao,” Sanchez said, pointing to the Twitter hashtag, “ThankYouEllenPao” that popped up as the verdict came in. “Women in technology are telling their stories.”


Henry Sapiecha

What rules if any for having sex as a divorced mum?

It might have more obstacles than it used to, but sex is still very much permitted.

It might have more obstacles than it used to, but sex is still very much permitted. 

So you’re a single parent and you’d quite like to have sex, please. Specifically, you’re a single mother, and you know the rules for single fathers are, like the rules for men in general, different and more advantageous. But this is not about men. It’s about you, the single mother. Where do you exist on the socio-sexual spectrum? Perhaps somewhere between nun, eunuch and self-pollinating flower?

It’s not that single mothers are not sexually alluring. You are a woman, after all, and therefore desirable. It’s just that the logistics are not in your favour. As well as taking a village to raise a child, it is also far easier to do it with two incomes, so as a single mother – already paid less than your male colleagues at the best of times – you’ll be both cash-poor and time-poor. That means skint and running ragged. Add to this the scapegoating of single mothers by the patriarchy – because everything from male crime statistics to the recession is your fault – and you may not be feeling too sexy, even if you had any energy or cash left over from working and parenting unaided, seven days a week.

But hey, you’re a woman, right? And women, despite what you’ve read, like sex as much as the next man. Plus, it was women who invented multitasking, so maybe it’s time to get back in the pool.

You and your kids’ dad are no longer together. Rumour has it that there are lots of available people out there also looking for sex, love and relationships. All you have to do is connect with one you like who likes you back. What could be easier? Apart from maybe finding a needle in a haystack during a blackout?


Welcome to the psychological warfare that is online dating. If you are 23, hot, and like to par-tay all night long, you will be inundated. If you are 43, and more Ikea than Ibiza, perhaps not so much, except by people who wear golf jumpers and enjoy bridge and a bit of light opera.

This is not to put anyone off online dating. It’s the best way to meet people, unless you are a 23-year-old clubber, but gird your loins in preparation, single mother. You will encounter a bewildering cross-section of dating humanity, from those who are dead keen then vanish as though abducted by aliens, to those who seem to need a psychiatrist rather than an online subscription, via all the fantasists who turn up 10 years older, 40 kilograms heavier and a foot shorter than advertised. Take none of it personally. It is all par for the course.

But having waded through the slug-infested dating pool, you may finally encounter someone you like who also likes you (the ratio seems to be that the older you are, and the more kids you have, the longer this process takes).

You’ve hit it off, and start dating exclusively. You have dinner, see a film, go for walks, visit galleries, all the usual datey stuff. And as you are both adults, you will sooner or later want to be adults together. Nakedly. And here begins the minefield.

Even if he doesn’t have kids himself, it’s still complicated. Where do you go to become intimate, to get to know each other in privacy and have some uninterrupted adult time? His place? Fine if you can get child care, which is usually pricey and means you have to schedule your intimacy time the way you schedule the dentist. Not very sexy. And as a single parent rather than a co-parent, can you ever truly turn your phone off?

So. Your place? Even if the kids are with their other parent (if they have one, that is), or with friends or family, the psychological clang of bringing a lover home for the first time can feel a bit weird. Even if your house is empty, it is still the house where you live with your kids (and possibly your pets/lodger/au pair/granny/foreign students). Can you navigate the overlap between family life and your re-emerging private life?

Here’s some free advice: have a tidy-up beforehand. You don’t want to be getting cosy on the sofa with your five-year-old’s toy trucks in your peripheral vision. Really, you don’t.

Coitus interruptus takes on a whole new perspective when it comes to single mothers and sex. From getting a phone call from the babysitter to tell you that little Johnny has a fever just as things are also heating up at your new chap’s place, to having your kids bang on the bedroom door because they are psychic and know that right now you are desperate for some privacy, be prepared for a plethora of interruptions.

If Mr Loverman reacts badly, he’s not a keeper; if he’s human, he’ll understand. Humour is essential throughout. And it’s not just your kids who will interrupt. If he has kids, they may prove equally tricky. I’ve had dinner cancelled at the last moment because of a teenage daughter throwing a tantrum; his, not mine. She didn’t want to share her dad with anyone. You absolutely cannot compete, nor should you even try.

“Friends and family come first in terms of practicalities,” says University of Sussex sociologist Charlotte Morris. A single mother herself, Morris’s PhD research is titled “Unsettled Scripts: Intimacy Narratives of Heterosexual Single Mothers”. She has interviewed dozens of women, and their stories all have one thing in common: balancing single motherhood with a lively private life is not for the faint-hearted.

“Most of the women I spoke with wanted to repartner, and got into internet dating,” she says. “But it turned out to be more complicated for many reasons: men who didn’t want commitment, who didn’t want to make room in their lives for children, or some who even thought the women were after their money. Other women who had been in long-term relationships found their new single status an opportunity to have fun, to experiment, to try different ways of being with other people.

“Some had ‘f… buddy’ relationships because it was easier: there were no strings attached, and it removed complication. Some tried same-sex relationships, and one woman realised after 20 years of marriage that she was gay. Other women loved the opportunity of pursuing sexual pleasure, and getting away from the motherhood identity, while others struggled and felt guilty.”

This guilt, she said, centred around the dual identities of woman and mother. Do fathers ever struggle with this kind of sexual guilt? None that I have ever heard of, ever, in my whole life. Not even slightly. Which is why many single mothers are fussy about who they connect with; not just to protect their children from any potential unpleasantness, but because maturity and experience may have made us pickier.

“The more professional end of the women I interviewed had less need for a man,” says Morris. “They were emotionally fulfilled by their kids, and economically independent, so meeting a man was really just for pleasure. This was a very positive finding, the enjoyment of the single life, especially when you consider the Bridget Jones phenomenon.” (That being single is not v good.)

The most important thing to come out of this research, Morris says, is that “as a woman, you are allowed to have a good time”. Which may sound obvious, but see “guilt, feelings of”, above. If your kids are a bit older, single-mother sex becomes a different kind of minefield. “My defining image of single-parent sex is sneaking someone into the house so that they don’t bump into your kids, just as teenagers would try to sneak people past their parents,” says Morris.

Which is probably why it’s not a great idea to bring a sex partner home if your kids are also home. Two reasons: it’s very hard to swing from the chandeliers when there are family members nearby, and also, while you may be very comfortable with no-strings sex, that’s because you are experienced and emotionally mature. Your kids may interpret things differently, although this is not to say that you take a vow of celibacy. Rather, acknowledge to them that you are as red-blooded as they are.

And what if your no-strings thing goes on to develop strings? When do you introduce your new man to your kids? When they have left home themselves? Never? Of course not. Just don’t make a big thing of it. Be neutral, relaxed, un-jittery. Don’t, whatever you do, smooch with him in front of them. It will give them the dry heaves. And don’t spring him on them: “Hey kids, this is X, we’re in love!” Ease him in gently.

Even if your kids have a healthy reaction to him, this may not be the case with his kids to you. They may hate you on sight, simply because you are not their mum. Remember, children’s culture is littered with wicked stepmothers. There’s little point in trying to ingratiate yourself with your lover’s kids; providing they are reasonably well adjusted, they will get used to you. Eventually.

One woman I know had her pot of face cream refilled with hair removal cream by a resentful teenage stepdaughter; what was worse than the resulting burns on her face was the fact that her boyfriend, the kid’s dad, pretended it hadn’t happened rather than confront the issue. Never force a parent to take sides; the child will always win. Would you ever consider a partner who tried to come between you and your children? Of course you wouldn’t.

But it’s not an either/or. Being a single mother does not mean you have to let go of your sexual self. Far from it. In her book Mating in Captivity, psychotherapist Esther Perel discusses how to maintain sexual heat in long-term relationships by carving out boundried erotic space; as a single parent, you have to do the same.

Make space, make time. As a mother, you are constantly thinking of your kids; to be the best mother you can be, put your own needs in front as well. Being sexually fulfilled will make you a better parent than being a martyred or overly self-sacrificing one. If you don’t know how to go about getting sexual fulfilled, ask someone who does. That’s what girlfriends are for.

Also, by maintaining what sociologist Catherine Hakim terms your “erotic capital” – that is, looking after yourself physically, mentally and emotionally – you will feel as good as you possibly can, and that is what you will transmit.

Ignore the naysayers, whether they are in the media or in your vicinity. Forget lazy, misogynistic terms on either end of the lazy, misogynistic term spectrum – from MILF and cougar to frumpy and mumsy – and instead get out there and live your life. Mother, lover, worker, the lot. We are all of these and more.

Source: The Irish Independent


Henry Sapiecha

Indian student drags drunk attacker to police by his hair

An Indian student has been hailed as a heroine for standing up to a man molesting her at a train station in the middle of the day, and dragging him by the hair to the police – while dozens of people did nothing to help.

Pradnya Mandhare, 20, was travelling home after a day of classes at Sathaye College, in the Mumbai suburb of Vile Parle, when she was approached by an obviously drunken man.

“This visibly drunk person came to me and touched me inappropriately,” she said. “When I tried to avoid him, he grabbed me. I was shocked for a couple of seconds, but then I started hitting him with my bag.

Pradnya Mandhare has dragged a drunk man by his hair to the police station after he allegedly attacked her.

Pradnya Mandhare has dragged a drunk man by his hair to the police station after he allegedly attacked her. Photo: Facebook

“He was trying to hit me, but I could overpower him because he was stinking of alcohol and I could make out that he was drunk.”

Kandivli station was crowded with people, but Miss Mandhare’s fellow travellers did not move to help her.

“No one came forward to help,” said the media student. “People stopped to stare, but no one bothered to even ask what was going on.

“Since the man was filthy, I found it difficult to even touch him. I caught him by his hair and dragged him to the government railway police.”

She said that hauling him to the police was difficult, but still no one came to her aid.

“Dragging him by the hair and walking was tough, because he was trying to escape and I was afraid he would attack me.

“He kept telling me not to drag him along and that he would come with me on his own, but I did not let go. I finally managed to hand him over to the police.”

She told a local newspaper that most women are scared of approaching the police, because filing a complaint is a lengthy process and the police, she said, can be “uncooperative”.

A policeman from the Borivli GRP said: “We have arrested the accused, Chavan (25), who is a drug addict and was also drunk when the incident took place. We conducted a medical test of the accused and he will be produced in court. We are verifying whether he has a previous criminal record.”

And Miss Mandhare said that other women should not be afraid to come forward and denounce such attacks.

“Every woman should fight back in such cases and they should not keep quiet. I am grateful that the police also helped me and arrested the accused. I also asked the police officers to teach the accused a lesson so that he would not dare to molest a woman ever again.

“Parents of girls also think that going to a police station would tarnish their daughter’s reputation.

“But, women should raise their voice and teach such people a lesson. Women are not objects for anyone to touch at will.”

The Telegraph, London


Henry Sapiecha

Marketers need to catch up with what women want

The portrayal of women in advertising should come down to an economic debate, meaning brands can’t afford not talk to women in the way they want to be spoken to, according to director of specialist women’s marketing agency, VenusComms, Bec Brideson.

Brideson’s comments come one year on the launch of Getty’s Lean In collection, a curation of images aimed at portraying realistic and powerful images of women. In that time the collection has been licensed in more than 65 countries and includes more than 4500 images.

Brideson said the launch of the collection has been an important change in the industry and said agencies which aren’t using them are doing a “disservice” to their clients.

“It’s basically down to economic debate: women are outspending and making decisions, and marketers have not caught up with that,” Brideson said.

“We should be communicating with women, the world’s largest economic segment, the way they want to be communicated with.

“I definitely see the Lean In collection as progress and that’s why I latched onto it. I was actually aware of the collection as soon as it hit Getty,” Brideson said.

She said the images were integral to a recent campaign the agency created by Australian super fund CareSuper. She said that until finding the Getty collection, the agency struggled to find aspirational images of women in retirement or in the workplace, instead finding most of the images were very passive.

“This is why CareSuper started working with us in the first place. They thought there was just such a lack of communications in the finance world that resonated with women, that they were always depicted in secondary role,” Brideson said

“Here we were trying to get women to take control of their financial futures but women were never being shown in control.”

But Brideson said in some of the more gender neural marketplaces, VenusComms has had to work harder to educate clients on the way women respond to different images.

She said that while the Getty collection has helped, the indsutry needs to move the same portrayal of women into other areas including TV, cinema and online communications.

“Things are changing on a macro social level and I think there is probably 5% to 10% of marketers who get it. I think there is a bus coming called “talk to women the way that they want to be talked to’ and there aren’t a lot of people who know how to get on that bus,” Brideson said.

“I think we need to show women in all stage and phases and walks of life; as they actually are, not an old world cliché of what they were from the 50s and 60s.”

“The more we show women reflecting what their ideals are today, the better everyone is going to be, and more importantly for marketers, the more their brands are going to resonate.”

If you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at


Henry Sapiecha

Male sexual entitlement is killing off women

Ben Moynihan was found guilty of stabbing three women.

Ben Moynihan was found guilty of stabbing three women.

Far too many men grow up thinking they are owed sex. That if they drive the right car, frequent the right clubs, say the right (“nice”) things, women will obligingly remove their clothes and grant them access to their bodies.

Cracked‘s David Wong nails the culture that encourages men to believe women owe them sex:

“We were told this by every movie, TV show, novel, comic book, video game and song we encountered. When the Karate Kid wins the tournament, his prize is a trophy and Elisabeth Shue. Neo saves the world and is awarded Trinity. Marty McFly gets his dream girl, John McClane gets his ex-wife back, Keanu “Speed” Reeves gets Sandra Bullock … Hell, at the end of An Officer and a Gentleman, Richard Gere walks into the lady’s workplace and just carries her out like he’s picking up a suit at the dry cleaner.”

When women veer off-script and refuse, the consequences can be tragic. This is where I get frustrated with those who refuse to take seriously the importance and impact of pop culture. Why is it so hard to accept that the media we consume helps to both construct our world and shape our perception of it?

But male entitlement is on open display in the real world also. It’s in the way women are told to smile by complete strangers, it’s in the catcalling, the harassment, the shockingly public incidents of molestation.

It’s in the irrational hatred directed at overweight women, as if being fat is a personal affront to men, and in the way society either looks the other way or vilifies women who dare to speak out. Our society abets male entitlement even as it denies its existence.

Entitlement. Rejection. Revenge. No matter how often the pattern repeats, the violence that ensues continues to be treated in isolation, as if existing in a void rather than in a culture that still glorifies an outdated view of masculinity and male sexuality.

We wring our hands searching for an explanation, even when the answer is staring us in the face– this violence is a result of men thinking they are entitled to access women’s bodies and, in the cases of domestic violence, to control women.

In just the last few days, I have come across two superficially different cases that, on closer inspection, follow this familiar pattern.

Last month in the UK, 17-year-old Ben Moynihan was found guilty of stabbing three women. Fortunately, all three survived. His motive? Moynihan told police that “all women need to die” because they were too “fussy.”

He gives further evidence in his diary, “I was planning to murder mainly women as an act of revenge because of the life they gave me, I’m still a virgin at 17.”

In other words, women wouldn’t give him the sex he thought was his right. So he tried to kill three of them. Where have we heard this before?

Unlike Moynihan, who didn’t know his victims, former US Coast Guard Adrian Loya knew his victims all too well. In a pre-planned attack, Loya entered the home of married couple Lisa and Anna Trubnikova and shot them both.

And his motive? He had been stationed with Lisa and Ann years earlier during their time in the Alaskan coast guard. He pursued Lisa who repeatedly rejected him. Even moving across the country to Cape Cod in Massachusetts could not save her from his unwanted advances. The Boston Globe reports:

“After the couple moved to the Cape, he continued to pursue her romantically,  although she showed no interest, relatives said. “He became obsessed,” one family member, who asked not to be identified, said. “He was fixated on her”.”

He thought he was entitled to her. She rejected him. As revenge, he shot her and her wife. Lisa did not survive.

We have to acknowledge this pattern. There is something in our culture (hint: it has something to do with our fetishisation of domineering masculinity) that gives rise to men who feel that violent rage is an appropriate response to women who take control of their sexuality.

Yes, women can be violent too. But they do not, in large numbers, try to kill men just because they rejected them. Men are not killed by their female intimate partners at anything approaching the rate of one per week in Australia and two per week in the UK. There is no corresponding global pattern of female violence against men. It simply does not exist.

Again, this is not an attack on men but a plea for an end to the way society idolises masculinity as a source of power.

It is a call for an end to a stunted view of female sexuality that downplays women’s pleasure, positioning them as little more than instruments for male gratification.

Incidents of male violence against women are not aberrations. They are not unexplainable, and most importantly, they are not unpreventable.

The culture of male entitlement is real and it is killing women. How many more have to be harmed before we admit it?


Henry Sapiecha

Raped woman forced to give birth by caesarean after being denied abortion

pregnant womans naked belly image

A young woman who conceived a baby after being raped and who was refused an abortion – despite claiming to be suicidal and protesting with a hunger strike – has had her baby delivered by caesarean section.

The case has reignited the controversy over a relatively new Irish law that allows for abortion in limited circumstances.

The woman, who is not an Irish citizen, sought an abortion under a clause in the new Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, saying that she was suicidal after the rape and pregnancy.

Ireland has strict abortion laws, but in July 2013 the Irish Parliament legalised the termination of pregnancies in cases when there is a real risk to the life of the mother, including the threat of suicide over a pregnancy. The law took effect in January, and the woman’s case is believed to be the first such one under the legislation

The case was referred to a panel of three experts – an obstetrician and two psychiatrists. The psychiatrists determined that she had suicidal thoughts, but the obstetrician declared that the fetus was viable and that it should be delivered.

After her request for an abortion was rejected, the woman began a brief hunger strike, refusing food and liquids. She eventually agreed to a caesarean section nearly 25 weeks into her pregnancy, after health officials began legal proceedings to forcibly hydrate her.

The baby survived the early birth and is currently in NICU. It is expected to be taken into state care.

The controversial new anti-abortion law does not allow abortions in cases of incest, rape, fetal abnormality or when there is no prospect of survival outside the womb. Abortion-rights advocates say this means that thousands of Irish women will still be forced to leave the country for abortions, but the woman’s immigration status in Ireland may have prevented her from doing so.

England is currently the preferred option for thousands of Irish women who seek abortions every year. In 2013, 3679 women with addresses in the Republic of Ireland and 802 from Northern Ireland had abortions in England, according to official figures from the British Department of Health. The actual figures, however, are likely to be higher.

International outrage over the case of Savita Halappanavar, who died of septicemia after she was repeatedly refused an abortion despite being told that she was having a miscarriage, pressed Ireland to modify its restrictive abortion law.

In July, the chairman of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Nigel Rodley, criticized Ireland’s abortion law and told Irish government representatives that women were being treated as mere “vessels.”

“Life without quality of life is not something many of us have to choose between and to suggest that, regardless of the health consequences of a pregnancy, a person may be doomed to continue it at the risk of criminal penalty is difficult to understand,” Rodley said.

“Even more so regarding rape when the person doesn’t even bear any responsibility and is by the law clearly treated as a vessel and nothing more.”

NY Times with staff writers

Henry Sapiecha

Human rights for women on the agenda as Parliament comes to the people

20 August 2014

Parliament comes to the people this week with a public hearing on human rights issues confronting women and girls in the Indian Ocean-Asia Pacific region being held at a Sydney girls’ high school.

The two days of public hearings will be at Auburn Girls High School in Sydney on Thursday 21 and Friday 22 August.

A number of specialist organisations will provide evidence at the hearing as part of a Federal parliamentary inquiry by the Human Rights Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.

“This is an important inquiry and we’re very happy to bring parliament to the people and particularly to these young women who will soon begin their careers and contribute to our Australian community,” Sub-Committee chair Luke Simpkins MP said.

“A focus on women and girls is vital to the advancement of human rights, economic development and peace and stability in Australia’s region.”

“Aside from the hearings and roundtable discussions involving non-government human rights and aid organisations, there’ll be a question and answer session with the students.”

“I expect some challenging questions from young women who may well be our future community leaders and may one day think about entering politics themselves.”

On Thursday, the Sub-Committee will hear evidence from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Caritas, World Vision, Action Aid, the Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Coalition, Shakti Australia, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Childfund Australia and the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions.

On Friday, the Sub-Committee will hold a roundtable discussion with the Church Agencies Network, Results International Australia, the Women’s Plan Foundation and Care Australia.

Further information on the inquiry is available on the Committee’s website at

Please note that the public hearing will be held in the school hall, which can be most easily entered via Hunter Street (although this entrance is not suitable for a person with limited mobility). If you need assistance on the day, please call the Secretariat on 0413 085 958.

For media comment: contact the Sub-Committee Chair, Mr Luke Simpkins MP, on (02) 6277 4009 or via Mr Bill Coghlan on the same number.  For all other inquiries, contact the Inquiry Secretary, on 02 6277 4318 or visit the committee website at

Henry Sapiecha

UN says Iraq jihadists order female genital mutilation

Geneva (AFP) – The United Nations said on Thursday that jihadists in Iraq have ordered all women between the ages of 11 and 46 to undergo female genital mutilation, but experts quickly cast doubt on the claim.

Iraq jihadists order female genital mutilation image

The UN’s second most senior official in Iraq, Jacqueline Badcock, told reporters in Geneva via video conference: “It is a fatwa (or religious edict) from ISIS, we learnt about it this morning. We have no precise numbers.”

The Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), took over large swathes of the country last month and has begun imposing its extreme Salafist interpretation of Islam.

But several experts have speculated that the fatwa may have been a hoax, and a number of journalists said on Twitter that their contacts in Iraq had not heard of it being issued.

Charles Lister, visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center and expert on Iraqi and Syrian extremist groups, said the UN claim appeared to be based on a “quite clearly faked statement” that began circulating online on Wednesday.

“It would certainly be a very big coincidence if the UN source was separate but happened to arise at the same time as this fake statement online,” he said.

“FGM just doesn’t fit with the Islamic State’s image, notwithstanding how brutal an organisation it has proven itself to be,” he added.

A spokesman for the UN in Geneva told AFP that “checks” were underway in Iraq, and that until then “nothing had changed.”

Badcock earlier said that if you took UN population figures as a guide, around “four million girls and women could be affected” by the alleged fatwa.

Female genital mutilation is unusual in Iraq and is only practised in “certain isolated pockets of the country”, she added.

She said only 20 families from the ancient Christian minority now remain in Mosul, the northern Iraq city which ISIS has taken as the capital of its Islamic state. Most have reportedly fled north into Kurdish-controlled territory.

Badcock said some Christians have converted to Islam, while others have opted to stay and pay the jiyza, the tax on non-Muslims the Islamic State has imposed.

Henry Sapiecha



House of Representatives –


Tuesday 18 March 2014

Human rights for women and girls – Indian Ocean-Asia Pacific region\

 world australia

 A new inquiry will investigate challenges facing women and girls of the Indian Ocean – Asia Pacific region to improve their human rights. 

The Human Rights Sub-Committee will conduct the inquiry and is keen to hear the perspectives of women from across the region so it can make practical policy recommendations that will make a real contribution to women’s empowerment and gender equality.

 Sub-Committee chair Luke Simpkins said a focus on women and girls was vital to the advancement of human rights, economic development and peace and stability in Australia’s region.

“As the father of two daughters I know that while there have been great advances in ensuring respect for human rights globally over the past century, much of this progress is yet to touch the lives of hundreds of millions of women and girls,” he said.  

Mr Simpkins said the reasons for this are complex and range across several areas including education, health, economic opportunity, family violence and even culture.

“Women make up the majority of the world’s poor,” he said. 

“One third of women will experience physical violence in their lifetimes, and some are trapped in conflicts where rape is perpetrated as a weapon of war. 

“In many countries, women and girls are often denied access to education and excluded from political processes.  Fewer than one in five parliamentarians globally are women.” 

The Sub-Committee will inquire into and report on:

       barriers and impediments to enhancing the human rights of women and girls, especially regarding the impact of family and sexual violence, women’s leadership and economic opportunities

        achievements to date in advancing human rights in these key areas

        implications for economic and social development in the region of promoting women and girls’ human rights; and

        the effectiveness of Australian programs to support efforts to improve human rights of women and girls in the Indian Ocean – Asia Pacific region.

Currently, around half of Australia’s aid budget is spent on initiatives, policies and programs that have a significant focus on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

The Sub-Committee invites public submissions addressing the terms of reference for this inquiry.

The closing date for submission’s will be Friday 22 May 2014.The Sub-Committee encourages the lodgement of electronic submissions from anyone with an interest in the issues raised by these terms of reference.

Further information on the inquiry, including how to lodge a submission, is available on the committee’s website:

Henry Sapiecha




Some 40 models, most of them women, have staged a topless protest in Rio de Janeiro against the low presence of Afro-Brazilians on fashion catwalks.


‘‘What strikes you, your racism or me?’’ one of the female demonstrators wrote on her chest during the protest late Wednesday timed to coincide with Rio Fashion Week.

The demonstration also coincided with the signing of a deal between the Fashion Week organisers and the Rio ombudsman’s office setting a 10 per cent quota for black models in fashion shows, the G1 news website reported.

‘‘This agreement crowns a joint initiative that can open a space that does not yet exist,’’ said Moises Alcuna, a spokesman for Educafro, a civil rights group championing the labour and educational rights of blacks and indigenous people.


More than half of Brazil’s 200 million people are of African descent, the world’s second largest black population after that of Nigeria.But Afro-Brazilians complain of widespread racial inequality.

‘‘If we are buying clothes, why can’t we parade in the (fashion) shows,’’ asked a 15-year-old model taking part in the protest. ‘‘Does that mean that only white women can sell and the rest of us can only buy?’’

‘‘Claiming to showcase Brazilian fashion without the real Brazilians amounts to showing Brazilian fashion (only) with white models,’’ said Jose Flores, a 25-year-old former model who now works in advertising.

After 13 years of debate, President Dilma Rousseff last year signed a controversial law that reserves half of seats in federal universities to public school students, with priority given to Afro-Brazilians and indigenous people.

In June 2009, the Sao Paulo Fashion Week (SPFW) – Latin America’s premier fashion event – for the first time imposed quotas requiring at least 10 per cent of the models to be black or indigenous.

Previously, only a handful of black models featured among the 350 or so that sashayed down the catwalk – usually less than three per cent.

But in 2010, the 10 per cent quota was removed, after a conservative prosecutor deemed it unconstitutional.



HS Signature Green on white



Icelanders are among the happiest and healthiest people on Earth. They publish more books per capita than any other country, and they have more artists. They boast the most prevalent belief in evolution – and elves, too. Iceland is the world’s most peaceful nation (the cops don’t even carry guns), and the best place for kids. Oh, and they had a lesbian head of state, the world’s first. Granted, the national dish is putrefied shark meat, but you can’t have everything.

Johanna Sigurdardottir, Iceland's prime minister

Iceland is also the best place to have a uterus, according to the folks at the World Economic Forum. The GlobalGender Gap Report ranks countries based on where women have the most equal access to education and healthcare, and where they can participate most fully in the country’s political and economic life.

According to the 2013 report, Icelandic women pretty much have it all. Their sisters in Finland, Norway, and Sweden have it pretty good, too: those countries came in second, third and fourth, respectively. Denmark is not far behind at number seven.

Australia comes in at a dismal 24 on the gender gap index, just below the United States. In 2006 Australia was ranked 15th out of 136 countries. At least we’re not Yemen, which is dead last out of 136 countries.


So how did a string of countries settled by Vikings become leaders in gender enlightenment? Bloodthirsty raiding parties don’t exactly sound like models of egalitarianism, and the early days weren’t pretty. Medieval Icelandic law prohibited women from bearing arms or even having short hair. Viking women could not be chiefs or judges, and they had to remain silent in assemblies. On the flip side, they could request a divorce and inherit property. But that’s not quite a blueprint for the world’s premier egalitarian society.

Icelandic performer Bjork on stage at the Adelaide final leg of the Big Day Out

The change came with literacy, for one thing. Today almost everybody in Scandinavia can read, a legacy of the Reformation and early Christian missionaries, who were interested in teaching all citizens to read the Bible. Following a long period of turmoil, Nordic states also turned to literacy as a stabilizing force in the late 18th century. By 1842, Sweden had made education compulsory for both boys and girls.

Researchers have found that the more literate the society in general, the more egalitarian it is likely to be, and vice versa. But the literacy rate is very high in the U.S., too, so there must be something else going on inScandinavia. Turns out that a whole smorgasbord of ingredients makes gender equality a high priority in Nordic countries.

To understand why, let’s take a look at religion. The Scandinavian Lutherans, who turned away from the excesses of the medieval Catholic Church, were concerned about equality – especially the disparity between rich and poor. They thought that individuals had some inherent rights that could not just be bestowed by the powerful, and this may have opened them to the idea of rights for women. Lutheran state churches in Denmark, Sweden, Finland,Norway and Iceland have had female priests since the middle of the 20th century, and today, the Swedish Lutheran Church even has a female archbishop.

Or maybe it’s just that there’s not much religion at all. Scandinavians aren’t big churchgoers. They tend to look at morality from a secular point of view, where there’s not so much obsessive focus on sexual issues and less interest in controlling women’s behavior and activities. Scandinavia’s secularism decoupled sex from sin, and this worked out well for females. They came to be seen as having the right to sexual experience just like men, and reproductive freedom, too. Girls and boys learn about contraception in school (and even the pleasure of orgasms), and most cities have youth clinics where contraceptives are readily available. Women may have an abortion for any reason up to the eighteenth week (they can seek permission from the National Board of Health and Welfare after that), and the issue is not politically controversial.

Sweden and Norway had some big imperialist adventures, but this behavior declined following the Napoleonic Wars. After that they invested in the military to ward off invaders, but they were less interested in building it up to deal with bloated colonial structures and foreign adventures. Overall Nordic countries devoted fewer resources to the military – the arena where patriarchal values tend to get emphasized and entrenched. Iceland, for example, spends the world’s lowest percentage of GDP on its military.

Industrialization is part of the story, too: it hit the Nordic countries late. In the 19th century, Scandinavia did have a rich and powerful merchant class, but the region never produced the Gilded Age industrial titans and extreme concentration of wealth that happened in other Western economies.

In the 20th century, farmers and workers in the newly populated Nordic cities tended to join together in political coalitions, and they could mount a serious challenge to the business elites, who were relatively weak compared to those in the U.S. Like ordinary people everywhere, Scandinavians wanted a social and economic system where everyone could get a job, expect decent pay, and enjoy a strong social safety net. And that’s what they got – kind of like Roosevelt’s New Deal without all the restrictions added by New York bankers and southern conservatives. Strong trade unions developed, which tend to promote gender equality. The public sector grew, providing women with good job opportunities. Iceland today has the highest rate of union membership out of any OECD country.

Over time, Scandinavian countries became modern social democratic states where wealth is more evenly distributed, education is typically free up through university, and the social safety net allows women to comfortably work and raise a family. Scandinavian moms aren’t agonising over work-family balance: parents can take a year or more of paid parental leave. Dads are expected to be equal partners in childrearing, and they seem to like it. (Check them out in the adorable photo book, The Swedish Dad.)

The folks up north have just figured out – and it’s not rocket science! – that everybody is better off when men and women share power and influence. They’re not perfect – there’s still some unfinished business about how women are treated in the private sector, and we’ve sensed an undertone of darker forces in pop culture phenoms like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. But Scandinavians have decided that investment in women is both good for social relations and a smart economic choice. Unsurprisingly, Nordic countries have strong economies and rank high on things like innovation – Sweden is actually ahead of the U.S. on that metric. (So please, no more nonsense about how inequality makes for innovation.)

The good news is that things are getting better for women in most places in the world. But the World Economic Forum report shows that the situation either remains the same or is deteriorating for women in 20 percent of countries.

Maybe one day we’ll decide to follow the Nordic example. But at the moment, we seem to be moving away from Iceland and closer to Yemen. Is that really what we want?



HS Signature Green on white


Women have rights with baby issues, but should this be against the law??

sperm image

A New Zealand woman has been accused of secretly injecting her husband’s sperm into the couple’s maid, in a bizarre Dubai court case.

Dubai-based Egyptian businessman Mohammad Fouad has sued his wife, whose name has been suppressed, for injecting sperm into their Filipina housemaid’s womb, Gulf News reports.

Mr Fouad said his wife carried out the procedure secretly, taking his sperm to the hospital where she worked, without his knowledge.

The couple met in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and married in 2008 in Auckland.


The New Zealand woman found she could not conceive, and arranged with Fouad to have a baby through surrogacy.

Fouad said because surrogacy was illegal in the UAE, they decided to find a woman outside the country.

As the couple searched for a surrogate, the New Zealand woman hired a maid, who moved into the couple’s home in 2010.

In March that year, the New Zealand woman asked for Fouad’s sperm, and took it to her workplace at the hospital for “testing”.

“She took the sperm on four separate occasions. A few weeks later I left for Egypt,” Mr Fouad said.

When he returned, the maid was visibly pregnant, he said.

“I was aghast … when [my wife] blurted out the truth. Here was my wife who had used my sperm to impregnate a woman she had hired to do our dishes. And she did it behind my back.”

Mr Fouad claimed his wife had signed a contract with the maid, and tried to get him to sign it as well. He said he refused because it was illegal.

His wife allegedly told Mr Fouad she would make sure the baby was born in New Zealand to avoid prison time for the maid and the unborn child.

In December 2010, the maid gave birth to a baby girl at an Al Ain hospital.

When she gave the New Zealand woman a written consent to adopt the child, the Kiwi refused to take the child.

Mr Fouad said he got the child an Egyptian passport and sent her to a third family in Egypt.

“There was nothing else that I could have done as I cannot look after her on my own,” he said.

“Since her biological mother is unmarried, the local health authorities refused to issue a birth certificate.

“Eventually I had to prove my paternity through DNA testing and get the certificate issued through the court.”

New Zealand’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said it was aware of the case, but could not confirm “the veracity of the claims being made”.

“The New Zealand consulate Dubai provided notarial services as part of a consent for adoption process,” MFAT spokesman Adham Crichton said.

“It is not the function of New Zealand embassies or consulates to authorise surrogacy agreements.”

Mr Crichton said the ministry could not release any more details for privacy reasons.

 Fairfax New Zealand


Henry Sapiecha



Comprising 49 per cent of the electorate, Indian women could easily skew the general elections any which way they like, says Averil Nunes.


Women form 48.46 per cent (as per the 2011 Census) of the largest democracy in the world. How does that translate into 11 per cent elected representatives in the Lok Sabha (as per PRS Legislative Research) and a mere 14 per cent of women in senior management positions (as per the Grant Thornton 2012 International Business Report)? We could blame patriarchy, we could debate the reservations policy, or we could do something to change the status quo.

“Work as a block, vote as a block,” suggests actress and activist Gul Panag. “Dalits vote as a block, Hindus vote as a block, Muslims vote as a block, Communists vote as a block. Why can’t women vote as a block to effect change?” The question then becomes, can women unite despite the diverse cultural, communal, regional, and religious beliefs that often define their identities? We’re skeptical on that front.

“We want women to understand the power of their vote and to use it wisely, based on how political parties respond to their issues. Women’s votes in India usually go to the party that the men in the family vote for, but the issues women face are different from those that men face. Logically, there is no reason for women to always vote with the man. The Power of 49 campaign is also a message to politicians, that women can make or break them, because in India they form the single largest voting block,” explains Vikram Grover, Vice President, Tata Global Beverages (TGB), the company branded by the popular Jaago Re campaign.

Yet, is there a party or even a single candidate with a vision to change the way things work for women in this country? The candidacy of women in the general elections has been less than 10 per cent in the past. Should more women be contesting the elections? “Women would certainly be better leaders. They are far more caring, compassionate, patient and non-violent than men,” says socio-political activist Sudheendra Kulkarni. “They have proven their capability through the one/third reservations at the Panchayat level. There are 1.5 million women representatives in local self-governing bodies. Through micro-finance and self-help organisations, they are already making a difference to their families and communities. But the shackles—family restraints as well as gender biases in political parties—need to be broken for women to play an active role in public life.”

The idealistic Jaago Re campaigns are generally followed up with practical measures. For instance, a voting campaign prior to the 2009 elections led to over six lakh voter registrations on Another Jaago Re anti-corruption campaign “Khilana band, pilana shuru”, resulted in two lakh people pledging never to bribe again. And then, there’s the famous, “Bade badlav ke liye, choti shuruvat” ad released on Women’s Day, 8 March 2013, where Shah Rukh Khan vows to list women before men in his movie credits. An oath he honoured with the Chennai Express credits. Will the Power of 49 campaign make a difference to the women of India before the upcoming general elections? As cause partner for the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) 2013, the campaign garnered a lot of support from the stars of India’s favourite city, Bollywood.

Chances are these stars will come out to make the Power of 49 come alive, in the run up to the elections. The plans are hush-hush for now. So we’ll have to wait and watch. Or better still, apply our minds on ways to take the Power of 49 from concept to reality.

The Paradox
Women form 48.46% (as per the 2011 Census)of the largest democracy in the world. How does that translate into 11% elected representatives in the Lok Sabha (as per PRS Legislative Research) and a mere 14% of Indian women in senior management positions (as per the Grant Thornton 2012 International Business Report)?


Henry Sapiecha



India A Dangerous Place to Be a Woman BBC     documentary 2013 Video



Henry Sapiecha