Jun. 17th, 2011

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The Maghreb Uprisings: Truth is impossible to find

With all the analysis and news on Libya, we still do not know very much about who the rebels are and where their support comes from. This week I try to shed some light on anti-Gaddafi supporters as presented by Libyan bloggers and Tweeters as well as the highlight the humanitarian crisis which has developed as a result of the intervention. Twitter accounts by far outnumber blogs and many of these consist of photo and video dairies.

Feb 17

By far the most informative and interesting site is Feb 17: The Libyan Youth Movement(@Feb17Libya) which has live stream updates from a huge bank of sources – western and Arab media, tweets, personal videos and photos. This report by Ayesha Daya for Bloomberg on who in OPEC and the Middle East is supporting the rebels and how the cartel plan to offset the loss of Libyan oil production – a mix of “personal politics and economic reasoning”.

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A Revolution of Equals

Women are very visible in Tunisian society. They mix freely with men, are highly educated and career-minded, and have enjoyed some of the most egalitarian legal rights in the Arab world, enshrined in the Personal Status Code (PSC) of 1957. The PSC was drawn up by Habib Bourguiba, Tunisia’s first president, directly after independence from France and even before the national constitution was written. It improved women’s rights, particularly in family law, by removing some of the more patriarchal aspects of shari’a: polygamy was abolished, the consent of both parties was now required for marriage and judicial procedures for divorce were established. Bourguiba was ousted in 1987 by Ben Ali, who extended the pro-women policies. One of the most interesting aspects of the Tunisian Revolution from a feminist perspective is that many of the women who participated in the protests that brought down Ben Ali are now campaigning to defend the rights they’ve already been enjoying for some time, fearing that the post-revolutionary period might bring a surge in popularity for the Islamist party, Al Nahda (‘the Renaissance’), and a swing towards traditionalist ideas about women.

Read more... )

Tunisia: Will Democracy Be Good For Women's Rights?

Falling tyrants and rising freedoms have been a recurrent theme of the Arab Spring. Invariably, in every discussion of democratisation in the Middle East, the question of women crops up. The key conundrum: will democracy be good for women’s rights?


While the social and political movements gaining momentum in the Middle East and North Africa appear to be opening the door for democracy, initially progressive revolutions do not often result in sustained improvements for women’s rights. While Arab women have been crucial in the revolutions that have shattered the status quo, their role in the future development of their own countries remains unclear. In Tunisia, for example, the fear is that women will be sucked into an ideological and religious tug-of-war over their rights, reducing the complexities of democratisation into a binary secular/non-secular battle.


In contrast to vivifying images of flag-waving female protesters taking over Avenue Habib Bourguiba and Tahrir Square in January and February, women are barely present in the interim governments: two in Tunisia and one in Egypt. Valentine Moghadam, an expert in social change in the Middle East and North Africa, describes the first months of post-revolution Tunisia as a "democracy paradox" - a post-protest period of democratic freedom that simultaneously witnessed the disappearance of women’s representation. The lack of female voices in Tunisia’s transitional government seemed an early warning sign of such a trend of exclusion. “Unless women are visible during the negotiations,” Moghadam argues, “a nation's new sense of freedom may not be shared by all”. Many women involved with Ben Ali’s party, the Rally for Constitutional Democracy (RCD), were excluded from the transition processes, and massive structural impediments hindered the political mobilisation of others. In the first weeks of independence, despite the high hopes for nationwide democracy, optimism for women’s rights slipped away.MORE



via: Muslimah Media
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WikiLeaks Haiti: The Nation Partners With Haïti Liberté on Release of Secret Haiti Cables

Drawing from a trove of 1,918 Haiti-related diplomatic cables obtained by the transparency-advocacy group WikiLeaks, The Nation is collaborating with the Haitian weekly newspaper Haïti Liberté on a series of groundbreaking articles about US and UN policy toward the Caribbean nation.

Haïti Liberté
, published largely in French and Creole, is working with WikiLeaks to release and analyze the Haiti-related cables, which will be featured in a series of English-language Nationpieces, written by a variety of freelance journalists with extensive experience in Haiti and posted each Wednesday for several weeks.

The cables from US Embassies around the world cover an almost seven-year period, from April 17, 2003—ten months before the February 29, 2004, coup d’état that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide—to February 28, 2010, just after the January 12 earthquake that devastated the capital, Port-au-Prince, and surrounding cities. They range from “Secret” and “Confidential” classifications to “Unclassified.” Cables of the latter classification are not public, and many are marked “For Official Use Only” or “Sensitive.”


Wikileaks Haiti: Let them live on $3 a day

Contractors for Fruit of the Loom, Hanes and Levi’s worked in close concert with the US Embassy when they aggressively moved to block a minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers, the lowest-paid in the hemisphere, according to secret State Department cables.

The factory owners told the Haitian Parliament that they were willing to give workers a 9-cents-per-hour pay increase to 31 cents per hour to make T-shirts, bras and underwear for US clothing giants like Dockers and Nautica.

But the factory owners refused to pay 62 cents per hour, or $5 per day, as a measure unanimously passed by the Haitian Parliament in June 2009 would have mandated. And they had the vigorous backing of the US Agency for International Development and the US Embassy when they took that stand.

To resolve the impasse between the factory owners and Parliament, the State Department urged quick intervention by then Haitian President René Préval.MORE

WikiLeaks Haiti: The Earthquake Cables

Washington deployed 22,000 troops to Haiti after the January 12, 2010, earthquake despite reports from the Haitian leadership, the US Embassy and the UN that no serious security threat existed, according to secret US diplomatic cables.

The cables, obtained by WikiLeaks, were made available to the Haitian newspaper Haïti Liberté, which is collaborating with The Nation on a series of reports about US and UN policy toward the country.

Washington’s decision to send thousands of troops in response to the 7.0 earthquake that rocked the Haitian capital and surrounding areas drew sharp criticism from aid workers and government officials around the world at the time. They criticized the militarized response to Haiti’s humanitarian crisis as inappropriate and counterproductive. French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet famously said that international aid efforts should be “about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti.”

The earthquake-related cables also show that Washington was very sensitive to international criticism of its response and that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mobilized her diplomatic corps to ferret out “irresponsible journalism” worldwide and “take action” to “get the narrative right.”


There are a great many reasons why I vomit when feminists like Shakesville go hurray Hilary Clinton!!! And this is one of MANY.

WikiLeaks Haiti: The PetroCaribe Files

When René Préval took the oath of Haiti’s presidential office in a ceremony at Haiti’s National Palace on May 14, 2006, he was anxious to allay fears in Washington that he would not be a reliable partner. “He wants to bury once and for all the suspicion in Haiti that the United States is wary of him,” said US Ambassador Janet Sanderson in a March 26, 2006, cable. “He is seeking to enhance his status domestically and internationally with a successful visit to the United States.”

This was so important that Préval “declined invitations to visit France, Cuba, and Venezuela in order to visit Washington first,” Sanderson noted. “Preval has close personal ties to Cuba, having received prostate cancer treatment there, but has stressed to the Embassy that he will manage relations with Cuba and Venezuela solely for the benefit of the Haitian people, and not based on any ideological affinity toward those governments.”

Soon, however, it became clear that managing relations with those US adversaries “solely for the benefit to the Haitian people” would be enough to put Préval in Washington’s bad graces—especially when it came to the sensitive matter of oil.

Immediately after his inauguration ceremony, Préval summoned the press to a room in the National Palace, where he inked a deal with Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel to join Caracas’s Caribbean oil alliance, PetroCaribe. Under the terms of the deal, Haiti would buy oil from Venezuela, paying only 60 percent up front with the remainder payable over twenty-five years at 1 percent interest.

As the press conference rolled on, just a mile away from the National Palace, in the bay of Port-au-Prince, sat a tanker from Venezuela carrying 100,000 barrels of PetroCaribe diesel and unleaded fuel.

Préval’s dramatic inauguration day oil deal won high marks from many Haitians, who had demonstrated against high oil prices and the lack of electricity. But it ushered in a multiyear geopolitical battle among Caracas, Havana and Washington over how oil would be delivered to Haiti and who would benefit

On Angola

Jun. 17th, 2011 05:57 am
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BBC Angola Profile

Politics: President has been in power for 30 years. Oil-rich enclave of Cabinda has been embroiled in a long-running independence struggle.

Economy: One of Africa's leading oil producers, but most people still live on less than US $1 a day. Experiencing a post-war reconstruction boom

International: China has promised substantial assistance to Angola, one of its main oil suppliers

Full name: The Republic of Angola
Population: 18.9 million (UN, 2010)
Capital: Luanda
Area: 1.25m sq km (481,354 sq miles)
Major languages: Portuguese (official), Umbundu, Kimbundu, Kikongo
Major religion: Christianity
Life expectancy: 47 years (men), 51 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 kwanza = 100 lwei
Main exports: Oil, diamonds, minerals, coffee, fish, timber
GNI per capita: US $3,490 (World Bank, 2009)
Internet domain: .ao
International dialling code: +244

Angola Press: The Country

Angola is situated on the Western coast of Southern Africa and was a Portuguese colony till 11 Novemeber 1975, when it won independence. It has an area of 1,246,700 km².

The country is divided into 18 provinces, and its capital city is Luanda. Its periphery comprises 4,837 kilometres, bordering on Congo Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (ex-Zaire), Zambia, and Namibia. Its coast, washed by the Atlantic Ocean, has 1,650 kilometres.

Luanda, Lobito and Namibe are its main ports. The countrys highest peak is Monte Moco (2,620 metres), situated in Huambo, with its main rivers being Kwanza, Zaire, Cunene and Cubango. Its currency is Kwanza (Kz). MORE

The Rise and Rise of Angola

Figures from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) show that during 2011 Angola will leapfrog Morocco to become Africa’s fifth largest economy. This is a startling development: just ten years ago Angola was poorer than all five North African countries, languishing among the worst performing states in the region based on indicators such as the Human Development Index (HDI). Decades of civil war had taken their toll, destroying infrastructure, halting economic expansion and slowing progress on social development indicator such as health and education. It was far from being one of the continent’s top ten economies. Today, it holds a larger nominal GDP than Tunisia and Libya. In 2003, one year after the three decades-long civil war ended, Angola’s GDP was just $13 billion: the IMF estimates this year’s figure at $110 billion, an absolute increase of almost ten-fold in eight years. The five-year period from 2003 saw average growth rates approaching close to 20% annually. The Economist claims Angola was the fastest growing economy during the last decade, ahead of China, with average rates of 11.1%. That data is even more remarkable if it is noted that the first three years of the decade saw very little expansion due to the civil war. By 2016 the IMF forecasts GDP to grow to $160 billion, an increase of $75billion over 2010’s figure. Eurostat’s latest accounts show Angola to be the third largest African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) trading partner of the European Union (EU) behind only South Africa and Nigeria. In 2008 the trade volume was greater than that of Ghana, Ivory Coast and Kenya’s combined. MORE
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LABOUR Neither Servants nor Family Members, Simply Workers

GENEVA, Jun 16, 2011 (IPS) - The world's tens of millions of domestic workers finally won international recognition that they have the same basic labour rights as other workers, in a convention adopted Thursday at the annual meeting of the ILO.

The landmark treaty, approved by an overwhelming majority at the International Labour Conference in Geneva, states that "domestic workers are workers," said ILO (International Labour Organisation) director general Juan Somavia. "They are neither servants nor members of the family."

That is the main point of the Convention on Domestic Workers, and was the biggest obstacle in the discussions, Karin Pape, coordinator of the International Domestic Workers Network (IDWN), told IPS.

It means "domestic workers are not helpers. We are not maids, and we are not servants. Certainly none of us should be slaves. We are workers," said Pape.

Although the convention was approved by a vote of 396 to 16, with 63 abstentions, it was not an easy task.

Discussing the difficulties in reaching agreement on the new convention, ILO legal specialist on working conditions Martin Oelz said "It's a new topic. This is a group of workers that is excluded in many countries from the labour legislation for various reasons - historical reasons, cultural reasons."

That was a hurdle that had to be broken down, and "it took some time," he said. The ILO, which has a tripartite system of government – trade unionists, employers and governments – began to deal with the issue as far back as 1965, he pointed out.MORE
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[personal profile] gavagai
I don't know how many people have been reading the Guardian's NHS reforms blog, but I've been completely hooked on it - it's wrapping up for the summer now, after posting every weekday for two months. It's covered a great variety of topics and had featured interviews with people from policy analysts to patient advocates, with generally masses of fascinating material that doesn't make it into the dead-tree paper. Yesterday it had reports from a heart operation at Great Ormond Street on a two-week-old baby, which I found genuinely awe-inspiring - there were some queriesut whether it was unnecessary, or voyeuristic, which I understand, but I love good reporting that acts as a snapshot of the extraordinary within daily life.
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The End of Capitalism and the Wellsprings of Radical Hope

But the iniquity of capitalism goes deeper than its injustice as a political economy, its amoral ingenuity in technical prowess or its rapacious relationship to the natural world. However lissome its face or benign its manner, capitalism compels us to be greedy, callous and petty. It takes what the Greeks called pleonexia—an endless hunger for more and more—and transforms it from a tawdry and dangerous vice into the central virtue of the system. The sanctity of “growth” in capitalist culture stems from this moral alchemy, as does the elevation of market competition into a model of human affairs.

The truth is that people matter more than money. While most everyone would agree with that statement, few of us direct our lives guided by the principle.

Conscripting us into an economic war, capitalism turns us into soldiers of fortune, steeled against casualties and collateral damage, ransacking the earth to fill the shelves and banks with plunder. Capitalism stands condemned most profoundly not by its maldistribution of wealth or its ecological despoliation but by its systematic cultivation of people inclined toward injustice and predation. And I think we on the left need to start dismissing as utterly irrelevant the standard apologetic riposte: the material prosperity and technological achievement generated by capitalist enterprise. No amount of goods can compensate for the damage wrought on human nature by the deliberate nurturance of our vilest qualities. The desecration of the values we claim to hold most dear is the primary reason we should want to abolish, not reinvent, capitalism.MOR

Personally, I'm beginning to agree.
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So I'm doing it now:

Changing the Framework: Disability Justice: How our communities can move beyond access to wholeness

Our communities and movements must address the issue of access. There is no way around it. Accessibility is concrete resistance to the isolation of disabled people. Accessibility is nothing new, and we can work to understand access in a broad way, encompassing class, language, childcare, gender-neutral bathrooms as a start.

We must, however, move beyond access by itself. We cannot allow the liberation of disabled people to be boiled down to logistics. We must understand and practice an accessibility that moves us closer to justice, not just inclusion or diversity.

As organizers, we need to think of access with an understanding of disability justice, moving away from an equality-based model of sameness and “we are just like you” to a model of disability that embraces difference, confronts privilege and challenges what is considered “normal” on every front. We don’t want to simply join the ranks of the privileged; we want to dismantle those ranks and the systems that maintain them.

In no way am I saying that accessibility is not important—it most definitely is. We cannot have disability justice without it, but we want to question a culture that makes inaccessibility even possible. Just because disabled people are in the room doesn’t mean there is no ableism (a set of beliefs that favors non-disabled people) or that people won’t pretend we’re invisible. MORE

Access Intimacy: The Missing Link

Access intimacy is that elusive, hard to describe feeling when someone else “gets” your access needs. The kind of eerie comfort that your disabled self feels with someone on a purely access level. Sometimes it can happen with complete strangers, disabled or not, or sometimes it can be built over years. It could also be the way your body relaxes and opens up with someone when all your access needs are being met. It is not dependent on someone having a political understanding of disability, ableism or access. Some of the people I have experienced the deepest access intimacy with (especially able bodied people) have had no education or exposure to a political understanding of disability.

Access intimacy is also the intimacy I feel with many other disabled and sick people who have an automatic understanding of access needs out of our shared similar lived experience of the many different ways ableism manifests in our lives. Together, we share a kind of access intimacy that is ground-level, with no need for explanations. Instantly, we can hold the weight, emotion, logistics, isolation, trauma, fear, anxiety and pain of access. I don’t have to justify and we are able to start from a place of steel vulnerability. It doesn’t mean that our access looks the same, or that we even know what each other’s access needs are. It has taken the form of long talks into the night upon our first meeting; knowing glances shared across a room or in a group of able bodied people; or the feeling of instant familiarity to be able to ask for help or support. MORE
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Another Push for Reproductive Rights

WASHINGTON, Jun 17, 2011 (IPS) - By 2015, women demanding family planning products and services in the developing world will likely reach 933 million, a terrific increase from the current 818 million women demanding access to these basic reproductive commodities.

In addition, according to the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition (RHSC), the number of family planning users will soar from 603 million to 709 million - an increase of 64 million users across 66 developing countries, and 42 million spanning 89 middle-income countries - by the middle of the decade.

The increased cost associated with this skyrocketing demand is an estimated 5.7 billion dollars per annum for both low- and middle-income countries - including the expenses of procuring more contraceptive commodities, securing transportation for the products, expanding communication capabilities to educate the public, and stepping up training for health providers to distribute reproductive products and services.

"Today, there are over 200 million women in the developing world who want to prevent or delay pregnancy, but are not using any means of modern contraception," John Skibiak, director of the RHSC, wrote earlier this month. "This is, without a doubt, a horrifying figure. But the greatest tragedy for us - those of us who have dedicated our professional lives to ensuring global access to family planning - is that this figure has not budged in nearly two decades… Each step forward is more than matched by comparable increases in demand in new users, [so] despite our best efforts, we are caught in a deadlock."MORE
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POLAND:Transgender Rights in Forefront of Equality Parade

WARSAW, Jun 16, 2011 (IPS) - About 5,000 people attended the Equality Parade in Polish capital Warsaw this weekend. Among them, the country’s first transgender rights activists, who in the last couple of years have made great strides in gaining recognition for the country’s transgender community.

Organisers of the Warsaw Equality Parade were keen to stress that the event was not really a gay pride. Rather, it was a march of all those who feel marginalised in Polish society – from sexual minorities to old people and people with disabilities. Moreover, it was not meant to be a celebration necessarily, but more a statement of how diverse this society is.

"This is not a gay pride, because we don’t really have something to celebrate," explained Szymon Niemiec, one of the main organisers and initiator of the Equality Parade in Poland. "Instead, we are trying to show Polish people the diversity of our society, that yes, there are gays in Poland, there are drag queens and there are queers."

Putting the emphasis on recognition and acceptance of all marginalised social categories - rather than on pride - may be a more digestible message for a Polish society where over 90 percent of the population is affiliated with a conservative Catholic Church and where mainstream politicians often promote homophobic messages.MORE
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United Nations recognises gay rights

ASHLEY HALL: The United Nations human rights body has passed an historic resolution declaring there should be no discrimination or violence against gay men and lesbians.

The local Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby says the resolution will put more pressure on the Federal Government to accept gay marriage.

Sarah Dingle reports.

SARAH DINGLE: This is the first time the United Nations Human Rights Council has recognised the equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The vote passed with 23 countries in favour and 19 against.

Justus Eisfeld is a co-director for Global Action for Transgender Equality in New York. He says it was a tight vote.

JUSTUS EISFELD: There's actually more than we had hoped for.

You have to understand, the UN is governed by all member states - 180-something of them, many of which are very conservative in their attitudes. And a lot of countries have a hard time even talking about sexual orientation or gender identity.

So having an extra resolution that is passed by a membership governed UN body is revolutionary because it means that actually more than half of the countries, in this case in the Human Rights Council, are actually willing to talk about the human rights abuses that lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people face.

SARAH DINGLE: He says the vote was presented by South Africa and that in its original form it didn't contain any reference to gender identity.

JUSTUS EISFELD: At first we were very sceptical of this whole process and of course we immediately started to talk to the South African government about our concerns.

Amazingly enough the South African government was really willing to look very seriously at our concerns and to remove them one by one.

SARAH DINGLE: Amongst the countries who supported this resolution were there any surprises?

JUSTUS EISFELD: Yes, a few surprises such as China abstaining, Burkina Faso abstaining, Zambia abstaining, which is huge because it means that they're breaking with the Union of African States and the hugest of them is Mauritius, which actually voted in favour of this resolution.

And that is amazing because it breaks the argument that Nigeria as a head of the African Group was putting forward that all of Africa would be against this, and this is clearly not the case.

The US newspapers are all about patting Obama on the back for this and making the usual "see those Africans and Muslims are so much more homophobic than us!!!" noises. [personal profile] parlance pointed this out to me, so I made an effort to find a source that pays more attention to the nuances of the fight. This is from Australia's ABC News. You should read the rest, its really interesting to see what impact this is going to have on Australia's fight to demand rights for the LGBTQIA community, especially on the subject of gay marriage.
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[personal profile] lauredhel links and comments on the following assholery: Disabled sweatshops looming in the UK?

A Conservative MP [Philip Davies] has suggested "vulnerable" jobseekers - including disabled people - should be allowed to work for less than the minimum wage.[...]

The MP claimed the most vulnerable, including those with learning disabilities and mental health problems, were disadvantaged in their search for work because they had to compete with candidates without disabilities and could not offer to accept lower pay.

Seriously, what the fuck.

"If those people who consider it is being a hindrance to them, and in my view that's some of the most vulnerable people in society, if they feel that for a short period of time, taking a lower rate of pay to help them get on their first rung of the jobs ladder, if they judge that that is a good thing, I don't see why we should be standing in their way.""

'For a short period of time'. Yes, I'm sure that's EXACTLY how it would work!

This isn't 'conservative' in the sense of keeping things are they are, it's desperately trying to go backwards, in the worst possible way, pushing towards new layers of underclasses in the employment market. And yes, I realise we already have this situation here, and it's a disgrace. And a Labour MP makes that point - at the very end of the article.

Then she links to this article on the subject:

Disabled people and the minimum wage

Would disabled people actually benefit if they were paid less than the minimum wage? Today Conservative MP Philip Davies claimed that allowing employers to pay a lower wage to disabled people would help them to get jobs: “the national minimum wage may be more of a hindrance than a help”, he said.

This isn’t just morally wrong, it’s bad labour market policy as well. After the national minimum wage was introduced without excluding disabled people, employment rates rose for disabled people and the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people came down.

The context for all this was the Employment Opportunities Bill, yet another attempt by Christopher Chope MP to water down the minimum wage. The Private Member’s Bill was easily seen off – it only attracted 5 votes in favour – but Philip Davies succeeded in snatching the limelight from Mr Chope.

Mr Davies says he decided that disabled people would be better off without the minimum wage after visiting a surgery run by Mind, the mental health charity, where people with mental health problems had “accepted” that they would have difficulty competing for jobs with non-disabled jobseekers.

The suggestion that employers must be bribed with a lower pay bill to recruit disabled people shows a complete lack of understanding of the capacities of disabled people generally and people with mental health problems in particular.

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PHILIPPINES:Women Clamour for Contraceptives

MANILA, May 9, 2011 (IPS) - In a small women's clinic in the congested community of San Andres Bukid in the Philippine capital, a mother of 11 is availing herself of family planning services for the first time in her life.

After a counselling session with a health worker, she decides to get her first dose of Depo Provera, a hormonal contraceptive given via injection. Never before has she used anything to prevent pregnancy.

"My husband does not want to use a condom because he doesn’t feel good when we have sex," Aida Bensi tells IPS.

The Bensis are typical in Manila, where couples have an average of five to eight children, says Lina Bacalando, a community health worker for the non-profit group Likhaan Centre for Women’s Health. The city of over 1.5 million is said to have one of the highest population densities of any major city in the world.

And family size is large in Manila because of a city ordinance passed in 2000, which promoted only natural family planning and discouraged all other methods.

That ordinance was the brainchild of a former Manila mayor who also happened to be devoutly Catholic. In addition to preventing women from accessing modern contraceptives from public health facilities, it also had a chilling effect on health service providers who faced reprisals for giving women information about modern methods of family planning.

The current Manila mayor, Alfredo Lim, has not revoked the city ordinance but has allowed non-government organisations (NGOs) like Likhaan and private groups to hold family planning seminars and distribute free contraceptives. However, health centres rely on donations for their supplies.MORE

I wish that jackass of mayor who invoked that ordinance was forced to get pregnant, and see how he liked it. Asshole.And at some point, the progressives in the Catholic Church will win through and bang some sense into its policies yes? Can we hope?


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