The Human Impact

Is the new Pope bad news for women?

As most of you probably know already, the newly-elected Pope Francis represents a lot of firsts: First Jesuit to become pope. First Latin American (or from the ‘New World’). First pope to take the name Francis.

I’m Italian I take a special interest in his election. He’s the new archbishop of Rome and – due to a long history of mingling between the Italian state and the Catholic Church, due to culture and religion – Italians tend to follow Papal elections with a particular, even if unwanted, attention.

I was messaging my mom on Skype the night the whole thing happened – live webcam on St. Peter’s Square and everything – and I have to say a sort of emotional shiver went through my body as she texted “Biancaaaaaaaaaa” (white) to me as puffs of white smoke rose from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel.

I don’t know exactly why but it was an emotional moment. When they announced that the new Pope had picked the name Francis, in honour of St. Francis of Assisi, we all interpreted it as a sign of hope – a sign of humility, a vow of poverty and spirituality.

Also, many of us saw it as a move in a new direction, perhaps a signal that the Church – unlike the Italian state – is willing to change, maybe become more tolerant, embracing the massive changes that have shaken our society in the last 50 years. And perhaps, a sign of recognition that a clean-up is needed in order for this millennia-old institution to survive and retain its credibility.

New data show fall in female genital mutilation – UN agencies

Changing attitudes have resulted in a decline in female genital mutilation in Africa and the Middle East, where the practice is most prevalent, according to United Nations data released on Wednesday.

In 29 countries in those two regions, an average of 36 percent of girls aged 15-19 have been subjected to FGM, the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, compared with an estimated 53 percent of women aged 45-49.

In Kenya, women aged 45-49 are three times more likely to have been cut than girls aged 15-19, the U.N. data, released on the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, show.

Feminism alive and kicking in Germany as #aufschrei campaign makes waves

A boss who offers a female employee to work sitting on his lap because there is no desk available for her;  a guest who tells the waitress he wants to eat “pussy” when she asks him what he’d like to order; a man who wonders why a woman works in computing even though “she is pretty”.

Germany has been abuzz with tweets, newspaper headlines, radio programmes and TV debates about everyday sexism since last week when a reporter at Stern magazine published an article alleging that a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition made sexist comments about her breasts.

Headlined “Gentleman’s Humour”, Laura Himmelreich described in her article how Rainer Bruederle, the 67-year-old leader of the Free Democrats, junior partners in the government, allegedly told her during drinks at a party event that she could “really fill a dirndl”, the low cut Bavarian traditional dress,  with her breasts.

PHOTOBLOG: Women in India’s capital resort to self-defence after gang rape

Women in India’s capital Delhi are gearing up for self-defence little over a month after a 23-year-old student was raped on a private bus in the city and left dying on a highway.

The episode sparked public outrage in India, where many women say they cannot rely on the country’s often gender-insensitive and under-resourced police force to ensure their security.

Now, women are mostly scared of taking buses or rickshaws alone at night and have started booking cabs with female drivers, taking self-defence classes and stocking up on pepper sprays.

PHOTO BLOG: Senegalese women battle sexism on football pitch

Streets, squares, parliament buildings and judicial courts have served as the stage for old and new struggles for women’s rights and gender equality.

But in Senegal, some smaller – yet equally important (and loud) – battles are being fought on sandy pitches across the West African nation where female teams gather to play football.

Here, as in much of the world, football is considered a sport mainly for men. Women players face discrimination and harassment as they try to follow their passion.

London Olympics: The sex-trafficking event that wasn’t

Media reports predicting that London would be overrun by women trafficked to Britain to service spectators with sex during the Olympics reinforced negative stereotypes and diminished the complexity of trafficking, an expert has said.

Georgina Perry, who manages Open Doors, a service for sex workers in London run by Britain’s National Health Service, said fears the Olympic Games would create a surge in sex trafficking were unfounded. The hype around this issue also drove vulnerable sex workers from health care services out of fear they would be treated as criminals, putting them at risk, she added.

Although London’s Met Police are investigating one case of trafficking for sexual exploitation linked to the Olympics, there was no rise in trafficking directly connected to the event, Laura Godman, a spokeswoman for the Met Police, said.

iPhone app helps UK strip-club dancers know their rights

A new iPhone app offers workplace tips for strippers to help them protect themselves against financial exploitation, abuse and a lack of safety.

The “Dancers Information” application and a related website were conceived by researchers after findings from a study of the erotic-dance industry in England and Wales showed that current regulations of nightclubs in the sexual entertainment sector do not automatically address issues of employment status, welfare and security.

Researchers at the University of Leeds surveyed more than 300 women dancers about their working conditions in two separate sets of interviews beginning in 2010-2011, after a new law regulating the sex entertainment industry was introduced in England and Wales in 2009. It was not clear how the law would be implemented, and how it would affect up to 10,000 dancers who researchers said perform in clubs on peak weekend nights.

U.N. considers ban on female genital cutting

At seven years old, Khady Koita’s childhood was torn apart when she was pinned down and attacked by two women wielding a razor blade. The violence inflicted on her that day would change her life forever.

Last week the global campaign to end female genital mutilation (FGM) took a major step forward when a draft resolution on eliminating the practice was submitted to the United Nations General Assembly.

“FGM is horrific, brutal, degrading and indefensible,” said Koita, a leading figure in the campaign against FGM. “My big hope is that one day no girl will have to go through what I have been through.”

Female genital cutting ‘destroys women’ – Malian singer

By Maria Caspani

LONDON (TrustLaw) – “In Mali, when a girl has not been cut, it means she is dirty, she is loose,” says Bamako-born singer Bafing Kul.

This concept baffled Kul, who struggled to understand why, in order to be pure, women in his country needed to be subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) – a traditional practice involving the total or partial removal of the external genitalia.

The cutting, which is often done with razor blades or scissors and no pain relief, can lead to permanent physical and psychological damage.

Poor Kenyan women robbed of choice to give birth

The saddest part of the stories told by 40 HIV-positive Kenyan women who are suing the government for forced or coercive sterilisation is not that they can no longer give birth.

Most already have children, often more than they can comfortably provide for.

“Getting food is a problem,” said Pamela Adeka, who was sterilised after giving birth to twins in 2004.

She later gave them up for adoption as she could not afford to raise them and now lives with her HIV-positive, 14-year-old son.

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