Saturday, June 26, 2010
D. Michelle Cave and Joan French
Woman-woman relations of a sexual and intimate nature exist in the Caribbean. They are repressed publicly and privately by the dominant social and cultural norms. This repression is reproduced in our legal systems.
Woman-woman relationships are denigrated on the basis of denial of sexual choice, just as women are denigrated on the basis of gender, class, sex, colour and race, all of which constitute a denial of human rights.
Lesbian relationships exist between women who happen to love women. The right to love is a human right. The right to mate or couple is no less.
While we recognise that the homophobia which is so strident in some territories of the region places male homosexuals in particular, in open peril of their lives, we do not feel competent to deal adequately with the concerns and perceptions of male homosexuals. For that reason, we have chosen to focus in this article on the significance of the control of female sexuality in the construct of patriarchal society.
Human beings, as sexual beings, move in their lifetimes through a variety of sexual impulses and experiences; between heterosexual and same-sex constructs, sometimes at different periods of life, sometimes consecutively, and sometimes concurrently.
Choices are conditioned by the violence and war which mark so much of female-male relations in patriarchal society. It is therefore very hard to define who is a lesbian, since lesbianism exists not so much as a construct into which persons are permanently defined, but as a form of relations into which people move by impulse or choice, sometimes at different times in their lives, sometimes interspersed with heterosexual relations, and sometimes permanently.
So while it's easy to define lesbianism as a form of relations, to define a lesbian is a much more difficult issue, and indeed an unnecessary effort. Women are sexual beings and relating to each other sexually is an option which may or may not be chosen. that other persons choose it permanently could be considered a choice like any other, were it not for the fact that the strength of the patriarchal taboo converts it into a supreme act of courage, a supreme act of defence of one's basic human rights.
The social ostracism to which women who love women are subjected, the individual and social violence, the criminalisation of their relations, the failure to recognize the families they establish, the denial of their right to parenthood, are not acceptable in the context of human rights.
The freedom of choice which is so avidly defended by human rights activists in relation to political, religious, cultural and other civil rights should also apply to sexual rights.
Woman-woman relations of an intimate and sexual nature exist in the Caribbean. There are established, long-term, consensual sexual relationships between women. Such relationships are not the discovery of the decadent post-War period, nor are they a product of the new feminist movement of the 70s, nor of the social disintegration of the 80s and 90s, nor are they merely examples of the importation of decadent ways from the white North. Such relationships have existed among church-going women in the Caribbean since time immemorial. However, the recording of the history of these relationships is fairly recent.
Nevertheless, we hear from Makeda Silvera of Jamaica, of the lesbian relationships of her grandmother and her mother's generations - relationships of ordinary: Miss Bibi, Jonesie, Aunt Vie, Cherrie Rose and Miss Gem, Opal, Pearl. In the words of her mother's friend, "These women still went to church, still got baptised, still went on pilgrimages ... Close people around knew, but not everyone. It wasn't a thing that you would go out and broadcast. It would be something just between the two people."
Every society in history has been marked by the practise of lesbianism: It is as natural as loving men, having babies, or touching a friend. It is a natural impulse which is restrained or expressed by choice.
Shared experience has identified such forms and preferences among the broadest range of social groupings in the Caribbean: Churchwomen, Afro-Caribbean as well as Indo-Caribbean women, higglers, market women, professionals of all kinds. The list is endless. The stereotype of lesbians as muscular. with short-cropped hair and a preference for male clothing is just that - a stereotype. There is little which distinguishes lesbians from other women. The range of types, styles, forms of beauty, mix of 'feminine' and 'masculine' traits are the same. Lesbians are women who love women or who find themselves in love with a particular woman.
In the Caribbean, the stories of these sisters, for the most part remain unspoken, or spoken only to women they love, or the closest of friends. Increasingly, they penetrate the "Dear Christine," "Dear Janet," and "I Confess" columns of newspapers in the region. But a few Caribbean women have spoken out openly, in print, about lesbian relationships. An Indo-Guyanese woman speaks to the fear of isolation from her wider community: "I haven't come out at anybody except my closest friends. I think that if my parents found out, or my siblings, they would reject me, and I would be isolated."
The general attitude to such an appeal is illustrated in the following reply from "Dear Christine" to a woman who is seeking help to overcome her isolation by meeting other lesbian women. "... I hope these disturbing feelings of yours are just a phase that will pass," she says. "Maybe a talk with a psychologist can help you cope or sort out your feelings," she adds. This typical response mirrors the terror and shocked silence evoked among the mainstream of Caribbean society, both male and female, by the discovery that a friend or a sister or a mother is in love with another woman. It causes women in lesbian relationships to deny and cloak these relations. Even collective organising by women is contained and constrained by these fears; more often than not as soon as women begin to bond together, to take collective action in defence of their own independence or to give each other support outside of the control of men, they are accused of being "a bunch of lesbians."
Why are lesbian relationships viewed with such fear? Why has this issue been muted even within the Caribbean feminist movement?
The structure and manifestations of patriarchy in the Caribbean are well-known. They can be seen in the subordinate position of women in the family, in the church, in politics, in the economy, in the structure of paid and unpaid labour, in the structure of responsibility for the reproductive tasks of society and in the taboos which are brought to bear on women's social relations. The role of the control of sexuality in the maintenance of this scheme is often not recognised.
The attitude of Afro-Caribbean patriarchy to the control of female sexuality has been quite consistent throughout Caribbean history. In the debate about the 'black family' it has manifested itself in the thesis which says that the black male is not a family man/does not display attitudes of responsibility because the white backra massa castrated him by not allowing him to have control over 'his' woman, just as the white massa had over his. In either construct, as women, our bodies, our sexuality, our selves, are perceived as owned and controlled by men.
Sexuality is the most resistant area for transformation because it is at the very root of patriarchy. Lesbian relationships are the ultimate threat because they posit total autonomy of the female in the sexual realm.
No constitution in the world asserts sexual choice other than the South Africa Constitution. No existing Caribbean laws assert the right to sexual choice. Recent years have seen legislation criminalising homosexuality extended to women under the guise of the movement toward 'equality.' In Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda and the Bahamas, legislation which previously made no reference to lesbianism, now 'equalizes' its repression alongside male homosexuality, by enshrining heterosexuality as the only acceptable form of sexual relations between consenting adults. The lack of a developed strategy within the Caribbean feminist movement has rendered it impossible to launch an effective challenge at either national or regional levels.
Discrimination is violence. Discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation causes high levels of physical and psychological violence in both public and private spheres. This discrimination should be considered illegal alongside discrimination based on race, sex, class, age, gender and religion. This specific form of discrimination limits lesbians' full exercise of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights contemplated in all kinds of international declarations. In this Caribbean region, issues around women loving women should be put on the Human Rights Agenda once and for all. "Freedom of Sexual Choice" should be established as an inalienable Human Right. To that end, instruments should be established to outlaw discrimination against same-sex relations in general.
Families headed by same-sex couples should be included as a legal option in social legislation, according them the same basic rights as heterosexual families. Sexual rights are human rights. Sexual choice merits the same protection as religious, political or cultural choice. Discrimination on the basis of sexual choice is just as repressive as discrimination on the basis of class, race or sex.
Do we have the capacity to rise this challenge?
I took many herbs and hormones over the years self prescribed and self administered, some I noticed subtle results and other others nothing. Most of the ones I could afford I could not afford to take for an extended period.
I remember being about nine years old and being curious I crept into my great aunts camper and discovered her medications. I was really impressed with the neat shapes and pretty colors. I stared at them for a while and though I have never told anyone this before I remember an adult telling me not to touch people’s medications because it could make you sick or change something about you. I remember wondering which one would help me be more a girl and then I heard someone coming and shoved some in my pocket.
I got caught and I made some excuse up about wanting to play with them and I believe they bought it, after all who would imagine a nine year old boy had secretly been wishing his whole life he had been born a girl. Life was not easier for my sister, in fact if anything as boy I had it way easier, but I wasn’t happy I was not myself the social trappings didn’t fit. Everything was just wrong.
There was to my knowledge no such thing as Transgender, at that time, I was only vaguely even aware of gay people and that was through the vague abstract insult of other kids calling kids who were a little different the term. I never used it myself mostly cause I wasn’t sure what it meant, but also because I was different myself and I was always told, “People who live in glass houses should never throw stones.”
Years later I had collected a small secret library or sexual and hidden social knowledge mostly in the form or magazines. I took everything with a grain of salt since I was well aware that snake oil could be sold in any form and buying anything from a “subculture” publication was in itself a risk. I decided to not spend money unless I could see the product first and knew what I was getting. I continued to read and gobble up any information that might help me to fix my birth defect but I still had to pretend to be male. I had no choice if I wanted to eat I needed a job so I had to acquiesce to the demands of the world around me, there was no option to be myself. I was miserable but I thought that was just how it had to be, I was born to exist in hell.
Of several herbs I had discovered in my research “Black Cohosh” seemed the most prominent and effective if the magazine testimonials were to be believed. I was living in a city after college and chanced to enter a health foods store that had a large bulk herb section and I found Black Cohosh, I bought a lot of it. I bought empty gel capsules and filled hundreds of them and I also bought a metal tea ball and began taking Black Cohosh everyday. I did this for a couple years and I think I noticed a subtle softness and minute increase in my breast size. However it was so subtle and took so long I was not really certain that I did not simply imagine it.
I know that periodically throughout my life my breasts would get larger on their own, not so much outward but the areolas would be much larger it seemed than almost any other males. I have always felt funny about being shirtless, it just felt wrong, It was expected in some gym classes I was forced to participate in school and the dreaded announcement would be made ok its “shirts verses skins”. I was one of the few kids who managed to escape gym class more than anyone. I did anything and everything I could to avoid it and to avoid the locker room, I was never turned on by anyone else, I didn’t want to see them and I didn’t want a bunch of boys looking at me it was torture and I felt like I was being visually raped. I always wanted to crawl somewhere and cry and never come out when I was forced by gym teachers who once in a great while caught me avoiding that torture.
Later as the Internet evolved and I grew with it, I discovered to my joy I could find information about hormones and also about surgery and that I was not alone and not just some kind of sexual freak. As soon as I could afford to order some I put my research to the test, taking progesterone, testosterone blockers and estrogen in several forms. Patches, pills, capsules and I would have tried injections accept I got weak around needles. I discovered I felt slightly better when I was on estrogen, I did not get as deeply or as often depressed. I just felt more content in general. The testosterone blockers I took made my occasional senseless rages virtually disappear.
I was happier than I had ever been with my hormones, however I was living under the poverty line in the US and a three month supply cost me over $1,000 US Dollars. So it took me nearly a year to save enough money to pay for the meager three months I was able to get. It was like a vacation though and well worth it.
I met my last and current girlfriend nine years ago and she gave me shelter and accepted me more than anyone ever had. I had been collecting women’s clothing to allow myself to really feel free as myself when I was alone and my girlfriend made it possible for me to completely replace almost all my male casual clothing with female casual clothing. She would not accept me wearing dresses and still wont but she helped me get my skinny jeans and many girls t-shirts even one camisole and some makeup. I have had a harder time controlling the testosterone rages as I get older and have less patience waiting to be able to live my life. I have also hated the idea of a therapist so I resisted that for decades but I broke down one day and decided to try online to find help.
I could not find a therapist or doctor near my home and I was about to give up when I found a wonderful therapist online who has taken me on and helped me understanding that as long as I cannot afford it she has not charged me. I think she intervened because if she had not I would be self administering random hormones in desperation still. I would rather follow the “Standards of Care” however those were written by and for rich people in my humble opinion and are ridiculously impossible to afford in the US. My therapist helped me find the one doctor in my city that was compassionate and understanding to my situation as a transgender woman and as soon as I could afford the reduced rate the doctor gave me I went. The doctor examined me and spoke with me she gave me my first legitimate prescriptions and even some sample anti-depressant medication.
It took me a couple months more to afford the prescriptions the doctor gave me and then when I finally had the money I had to struggle with discrimination at the pharmacies which was very stressful. I had to get online again to find a local group of transgender people who could advise me on where to get my prescription filled without harassment or outright denial. I finally got my prescription filled and I have never felt so content in all my life and those three short months. I had to learn to give myself injections of Delestrogen but my breasts grew rapidly to B cups. I had no rage issues in that time and I had no depression either. I ended up throwing the depression medication away, which I regret now, since I have not been able to get my prescriptions refilled in nine months now.
For those who think it matters who have grilled me for the details of what I have had I have a file somewhere where I wrote down all the hormones I took over the years but I am not going to dig that up now. I will share what my personal prescriptions are as long as the requestor understands everyone’s body chemistry is a little different and what worked well for me may not be so good for someone else and vice versa.
I can honestly see and feel why so many transgender women end up in prostitution to afford their hormones or some other illegal activity. I am sorely tempted myself; the risk however is still too dangerous for me. I still have some hope, it is a candle in the wind and sometimes it flickers and almost goes out. But now I have a few friends online that seem to understand where I am in transition and how hard it can be, they have helped me hang on and not do anything drastic. In my mind if I am ready to give up and bite a bullet that is the day I will also be willing to do something illegal or promiscuous for the money.
Fortunately I am a good girl and I don’t frequent sleazy places and I don’t know of anyone who would take advantage of my weakness and use me that way even when I feel weak. That may not always be true but so far I have been lucky despite the fact I am unlucky in finding a decent job and an understanding employer. I keep trying to find more friends that understand and can advise me and perhaps one day one of them will know of a job I can do and a place I can stay. I have to keep trying to live someday the life I was meant to live.
Nikole (June 2010)
Thursday, June 24, 2010
REPRESENTATIVES of 20 local organisations on Tuesday June 22nd participated in a Darkness to Light “Stewards of Children” training workshop aimed at improving their skills to better detect and prevent child sexual abuse.
The workshop, which was sponsored by the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) and held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, had representatives from the Child Development Agency, the Centre for Investigation into Sexual Offences and Child Abuse, Children First, the Social Development Commission, the Jamaica Council of Churches, the Ministries of Education and Health, the Early Childhood Commission, RISE Life Management, among others.
Chair of the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte (right) addresses participants at Tuesday’s workshop on child sexual abuse prevention at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston. Also pictured are Lezanne Azan (left), chair of WLI’s Advocacy Committee, and senior advisor to the minister of education Dr Rebecca Tortello. (Photo: Josephn Wellington)
Darkness to Light is a United States-based non-profit organisation.
According to Lezanne Azan, chair of the Advocacy Committee of WLI, said sexual abuse of children can be stopped “if we shine a light on the problem and expose it”.
“Research clearly shows that individuals who are sexually abused as children are far more likely to experience psychological problems often lasting into adulthood, including post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, substance, abuse and related problems. We believe that adults are responsible for the safety of children and should be taking proactive steps to protect them from the significant risk,” she said.
Speaking with the Observer after the workshop, Azan said sexual abuse of children was an urgent situation, although it has persisted for years.
She said children are taught to be respectful of adults and so are afraid to speak of sexual abuse openly. Therefore, it is kept a secret and this manifests itself in different psychological problems.
“We want to urge people to stop keeping this a secret because the abusers have more power when we remain innocent to what they do. When we know the tricks of the abuser then that is half the battle won.”
Participants at Tuesday’s workshop were introduced to Darkness to Light’s seven-step guide to protecting children. The steps include recognising that a large percentage of abusers are family members or persons the child knows.
“You grimace when you here that a large percentage of our victims are abused by family members and that most know their abusers. While we worry openly about the dirty, perverted man hiding in a bush, we seldom discuss ‘Uncle Delroy’, our family members and acquaintances. The answers to stopping this plague are responsibility and courage,” Azan says.
Meanwhile, chair of the WLI, Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte expressed concern that child sexual abuse was preventing persons from becoming the wholesome individuals that God intended them to be. She reminded the participants that there was a lot of work to be done.
“But you know what, we are going to arrest the problem. The WLI intends to be a voice for the voiceless, it intends to shed light on issues that other people would see as taboo, because these are the little areas that are tearing us down while so many are out there doing good work,” she said.
JFLAG apparently was not represented at this workshop, which to me would have been important as it would help to dispel the grouping or misconception of adult homosexuality vs same sex paedophilia.
(Clovis cartoon from the Observer)
The letter excerpted below was written to the Gleaner on the intervention of Reverend Al Miller in transportation of a known international fugitive in a bid to bypass the local security authorities to take him supposedly to another jurisdiction that of the United States embassy, as you may know by now they were held in a raid on the Ferry stretch of road heading into Kingston with Dudus Coke attired in a wig as a disguise.
The GLBTQ angle:
This is the same Reverend gentleman who vigorously opposed the inclusion of the then proposed sexual discrimination clauses with the anti gay group the Lawyers' Chrsitian Fellowship, from as early as 2005/6 where they made representations via submissions to Parliament during the Charter of Rights debate and again in 2008 with public homophobic pronouncements on radio and pulpits, ironically here he is now under ominous circumstances involved in movement with a known criminal element. I am in agreement with the letter writer as far as I am concerned he has no business assisting a fugitve to escape local authorities who are eager to bring him to book. The police has issued a call for the Reverend to turn himself in for questioning and based on the law one cannot assist another person or group to flee the land bypasing our legal structure to another jurisdiction. He handed himself over on June 23rd at around 2pm but was released after over three hours of interrogation and is to return today June 24th for further questioning by the cops.
have a read of the letter below and decide for yourselves:
The Editor, Sir:
The Revered Al Miller must be reminded that despite his quite probably good intentions, he and Dudus are not beyond the laws of this land.
I say this as despite the alleged wishes of Dudus to be transported directly to the United States Embassy, Mr Miller had no right to assist a known fugitive to elude the local law enforcers while allegedly transporting him to a foreign land - which is exactly what the US Embassy represents in this instance.
In the circumstances, Miller should have used his influence with Dudus to persuade him that he could not assist the fugitive in breaking the laws of this country as he has apparently grown accustomed to doing in his fiefdom, Tivoli Gardens.
Breaking the law
If Dudus feared walking into a police station, the reverend could no doubt have brokered a private handover to someone in authority whom Dudus trusted, even it were the police commissioner himself.
If not, Miller should have held his ground asserting that he was there to assist with a handover in accordance with the Jamaican laws, not to assist an alleged criminal to break those very laws.
Miller must know that the end does not justify the means and his apparent aiding and abetting a known fugitive must be seen and condemned as such, despite his pontifications to the contrary.
I am, etc.,
Al 'blundered' from the Gleaner as well
The Rev Peter Garth, vice-president of the Jamaica Association of Evangelicals, agreed, adding: "There is no doubt that he (Miller) blundered."
Garth said Miller should have contacted Police Commissioner Owen Ellington once he was approached by Dudus. He said the pastor breached security protocol by transporting a fugitive.
"I believe he meant well, but what he did was clearly inappropriate. He should have gone to the police,"
The Rev Al Miller (left) and his lawyers, Leslie Campbell (centre) and Wentworth Charles, have last-minute discussions outside the Organised Crime Investigation Division offices in downtown Kingston moments before Miller was quizzed by cops. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer
Update (5:15pm) Reverend Al Miller has since been charged with harbouring a fugitive and perverting the course of justice the police high command has said they never authorised the Reverend to intervene in the matter at any stage or to assist Mr. Coke to bypass their systems to an overseas jurisdiction. The People's National Party in a statement concluded that they do not think the Reverend Al Miller is fit to continue to lead the moral movement with the Values and Attitudes project in the Office of the Prime Minister. He was bailed at 4pm and contends that what he did was right and he had to suffer the consequences.
The case should continue soon. He has not indicated if he will step down as a part of the Values and Attitudes program and the government as at the addition of this update has not indicated their interest in removing him.
Update: (June 27th 2010)
Jamaica Herald - Miller Slapped With Criminal Charges
"Was Reverend Al Miller working with the police? Or was he acting on instructions from Jamaica House where he has an office in his capacity as head of the National Transformational Programme?
Prominent Kingston-based attorney, Patrick Bailey is of the view that the popular churchman did not commit an offence when fugitive Christopher Coke was found in his car last Tuesday. But the police have answered the first question by charging Miller on Thursday, for harbouring a fugitive and perverting the course of justice, following two days of interrogation. Miller was offered bail in the sum of $200,000.
The second question remains unanswered. The clergyman maintained that he was only carrying out his pastoral duty in trying to help the nation at a time of crisis. But some critics have asked why did he not work with the police. Some of the Miller’s colleagues said it was not strange for ministers of religion to hand over wanted men to the police." Continue HERE
(Update July 28, 2010) - Al Miller's phone was tapped, court told
Peace and tolerance
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
US Food & DRug Administration Approves First Diagnostic Assay to detect both HIV Antigen and Antibodies
For Immediate Release: June 21, 2010
Media Inquiries: Shelly Burgess, 301-796-4651, firstname.lastname@example.org
Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA
FDA Approves First Diagnostic Assay to detect both HIV Antigen and Antibodies
Test advances ability to detect HIV infection earlier
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved the first assay to detect both antigen and antibodies to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). This assay is approved for use as an aid in the diagnosis of HIV-1/HIV-2 infection in adults including pregnant women. It is also the first assay for use as an aid in the diagnosis of HIV-1/HIV-2 infection in children as young as two years old.
The highly sensitive assay is intended to be used as an aid in the diagnosis of HIV-1/HIV-2 infection, including acute or primary HIV-1 infection. Since it actually detects the HIV-1 virus (specifically the p24 antigen) in addition to antibodies to HIV, the ARCHITECT HIV Ag/Ab Combo assay can be used to diagnose HIV infection prior to the emergence of antibodies. Most tests used today in the diagnostic setting detect HIV antibodies only. Although direct detection of the virus itself by nucleic acid testing is available, it is not widely used in diagnostic settings.
HIV is the virus that can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. HIV damages a person’s body by destroying specific blood cells, called CD4+ T cells, which are crucial to helping the body fight diseases. Two types of HIV have been identified: HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is responsible for most HIV infections throughout the world. HIV-2 is found primarily in West Africa; however, cases of HIV-2 infection have been reported in North America and Europe.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that approximately 18 million people in the United States are tested for HIV each year. Most recent CDC estimates are that there are about 56,000 new HIV infections in the United States each year. In addition, there are more than 1 million people living with HIV in the United States, according to CDC.
“The approval of this assay represents an advancement in our ability to better diagnose HIV infection in diagnostic settings where nucleic acid testing to detect the virus itself is not routinely used,” said Karen Midthun, M.D., acting director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “It provides for more sensitive detection of recent HIV infections compared with antibody tests alone.”
The ARCHITECT HIV Ag/Ab Combo assay is not intended to be used for routine screening of blood donors. However, it is approved as a donor screening assay for HIV-1/HIV-2 infection in urgent situations where licensed blood donor screening tests are unavailable or their use is impractical.
The ARCHITECT HIV Ag/Ab Combo assay will be used in clinical laboratories and in public health laboratories, and is the first assay approved in the United States to detect HIV antigen and antibodies simultaneously.
The ARCHITECT HIV Ag/Ab Combo assay is manufactured by Abbott Laboratories, Abbott Park, Illinois.
Organisers of the Belgian Couleur Cafe Festival, held annually in Brussels, have cancelled their invitation to openly homophobic Jamaican Dancehall singer Beenie Man.
According to a Flemish gay rights group, their efforts to have the controversial singer removed from the bill were supported by Amnesty International. Initially, gay website LaLucarne and the Brussels region secretary for equal opportunities, Bruno Delille, protested to the Belgian senate to no avial. But following a letter from Amnesty and a Facebook protest group which swiftly attracted 1,600 members, the campaign gathered speed.
In a meeting last night, the festival sponsors made the decision to cancel Beenie Man's appearance. According to Flemish gay rights group WISH, following the decision a press release was issued by the festival organisers "blaming gay rights groups and casting themselves in the role of the victim."
Beenie Man, whose real name is Anthony Moses Davis, has become notorious for his songs which advocate violence and hatred towards gay men and lesbians.
Some of his better-known lyrics include the line "I'm dreaming of a new Jamaica, come to execute all the gays." Another of his songs suggests lesbians should be hanged.
This latest cancellation comes hours after the Dutch Parkpop music festival removed Beenie Man from their line up.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Miss Milly sadly passes, she has become a symbol of perseverance as she vigorously pursued the case of the shooting of her daughter by a police officer all the way to the highest appeal court of the land, The Privy Council.
She was truly an inspiration to all in showing us how to seek justice and Stick-to-itifness vowing to find a way to bring the perpetrator to face the charge. Even in the face of intimidation, threats and bribes offered multiple times over she pressed on.
See the Gleaner and Jamaica Observer stories excerpted below on this pioneer in a sense of individual activism.
Rest in Peace Miss Milly.
As hopes of justice die, so does mother
Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer
Millicent Forbes, whose daughter Janice Allen was controversially killed by a police constable eight years ago, died on Sunday June 20th 2010 at the University Hospital of the West Indies.
She was 53.
Forbes' daughter Ann-Marie Allen did not give a cause of death but told The Gleaner her mother was admitted to hospital last Thursday evening after experiencing stomach pains. She said Forbes had suffered from stomach ailments for some time.
Human-rights group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) helped bring the Janice Allen story to national attention, calling for strong action against Constable Rohan Allen, the policeman who shot the 13-year-old as she stood at her gate in Arnett Gardens in April 2000.
JFJ lauded Forbes in a statement yesterday, saying she was a "true Jamaican hero" who "withstood death threats, harassment, attempted bribery and repeated disappointments but she refused to give up".
Born in Manchester, Forbes was the mother of seven children. Ann-Marie Allen, the fourth of those siblings, said her mother was an ancillary worker for most of her life.
Long legal battle
Initially, police said Janice, the sixth of Forbes' children, was killed during a gunfight with criminals in Arnett Gardens. Constable Allen (no relation to the deceased) was eventually charged with murder but was freed in March 2004 when a jury was directed to return a formal verdict of not guilty.
In May last year, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn ruled that having examined all the material in the case, the Crown was not in a position to establish a case against Constable Allen.
The Supreme Court upheld Llewellyn's ruling in April. Judge Patrick Brooks dismissed Forbes' challenge to the DPP on the grounds that it had no reasonable prospect of success.
Forbes is survived by six children and 13 grandchildren.
Millicent Forbes fought for justice until her death
"It is with great shock and sadness that we learn of the death of Millicent Forbes," JFJ said in a news release. "We at JFJ extend our heartfelt condolences, prayers, thoughts and sympathies to her children... and the family and friends that she has left behind."
Forbes' long road for justice, a process which is currently ongoing, began with the death of Janice Allen, her 13-year-old daughter who was shot dead at her gate in Trench Town, Kingston on April 18, 2000. The police reported that she was killed during a shoot-out with gunmen.
A police constable, Rohan Allen (no relation), was charged with murder for the teen's death, but was freed in March 2004 after then Chief Justice Lensley Wolfe directed a jury to return a formal verdict of not guilty in the trial that was transferred from Kingston to the Portland Circuit Court.
Backed by the JFJ, Forbes took the case to the London-based Privy Council, which serves as Jamaica's final court of appeal, after the local courts rejected her application for the verdict to be set aside.
The Privy Council, however, upheld the decision of the local courts, but recommended that Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn consider if the policeman should be retried, a decision legal minds say will be cited in legal circles for years to come.
Following a lengthy review of the evidence in the case, Llewellyn decided last year May not to re-indict the cop, citing a lack of evidence on which a conviction could be secured.
However, the resilient Forbes pressed on and in July 2009 secured Judicial Review of Llewellyn's decision.
Forbes in subsequent interviews said she would not give up her fight until the cop responsible for her daughter's death was brought to justice.
But this drive suffered a setback earlier this year following a successful application by Llewellyn to strike out the decision to grant Forbes Judicial Review.
Never the quitter, Forbes appealed the decision. A judgement is now pending in the Court of Appeal.
The State had recently decided to compensate Janice Allen's estate over the death.
Ann-Marie Allen yesterday remembered her mother as a kind person who had many friends. She said also that the family would continue their mother's fight for justice for their slain sibling.
Monday, June 21, 2010
(CNN) -- South African Dr. Sonnet Ehlers was on call one night four decades ago when a devastated rape victim walked in. Her eyes were lifeless; she was like a breathing corpse.
"She looked at me and said, 'If only I had teeth down there,'" recalled Ehlers, who was a 20-year-old medical researcher at the time. "I promised her I'd do something to help people like her one day."
Forty years later, Rape-aXe was born.
Ehlers is distributing the female condoms in the various South African cities where the World Cup soccer games are taking place.
The woman inserts the latex condom like a tampon. Jagged rows of teeth-like hooks line its inside and attach on a man's penis during penetration, Ehlers said.
Once it lodges, only a doctor can remove it -- a procedure Ehlers hopes will be done with authorities on standby to make an arrest.
"It hurts, he cannot pee and walk when it's on," she said. "If he tries to remove it, it will clasp even tighter... however, it doesn't break the skin, and there's no danger of fluid exposure."
Ehlers said she sold her house and car to launch the project, and she planned to distribute 30,000 free devices under supervision during the World Cup period.
"I consulted engineers, gynecologists and psychologists to help in the design and make sure it was safe," she said.
After the trial period, they'll be available for about $2 a piece. She hopes the women will report back to her.
"The ideal situation would be for a woman to wear this when she's going out on some kind of blind date ... or to an area she's not comfortable with," she said.
The mother of two daughters said she visited prisons and talked to convicted rapists to find out whether such a device would have made them rethink their actions.
Some said it would have, Ehlers said.
Critics say the female condom is not a long-term solution and makes women vulnerable to more violence from men trapped by the device.
It's also a form of "enslavement," said Victoria Kajja, a fellow for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the east African country of Uganda. "The fears surrounding the victim, the act of wearing the condom in anticipation of being assaulted all represent enslavement that no woman should be subjected to."
Kajja said the device constantly reminds women of their vulnerability.
"It not only presents the victim with a false sense of security, but psychological trauma," she added. "It also does not help with the psychological problems that manifest after assaults."
However, its one advantage is it allows justice to be served, she said.
Various rights organizations that work in South Africa declined to comment, including Human Rights Watch and Care International.
South Africa has one of the highest rape rates in the world, Human Rights Watch says on its website. A 2009 report by the nation's Medical Research Council found that 28 percent of men surveyed had raped a woman or girl, with one in 20 saying they had raped in the past year, according to Human Rights Watch.
In most African countries, rape convictions are not common. Affected women don't get immediate access to medical care, and DNA tests to provide evidence are unaffordable.
"Women and girls who experience these violations are denied justice, factors that contribute to the normalization of rape and violence in South African society," Human Rights Watch says.
Women take drastic measures to prevent rape in South Africa, Ehlers said, with some wearing extra tight biker shorts and others inserting razor blades wrapped in sponges in their private parts.
Critics have accused her of developing a medieval device to fight rape.
"Yes, my device may be a medieval, but it's for a medieval deed that has been around for decades," she said. "I believe something's got to be done ... and this will make some men rethink before they assault a woman."
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thank you for your donations via Paypal in helping to keep this blog going and related costs. Please continue to support me and my allies in this venure that has now become a full time activity. When I first started blogging in late 2007 it was just as a pass time to highlight GLBTQ issues in Jamaica under then JFLAG's blogspot page but now clearly there is a need for more forumatic activity which I want to continue to play my part.
Activities & Plans: ongoing and future
- To continue this venture towards website development with an E-zine focus
- Work with other Non Governmental organizations old and new towards similar focus and objectives
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Individuals who are mentioned or whose photographs appear on this site are not necessarily Homosexual, HIV positive or have AIDS.
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Recent Homophobic Incidents
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Steps to Take When Contronted or Arrested by Police
b) Only give name and address and no other information until a lawyer is present to assist
c) Try to be polite even if the scenario is tensed) Don’t do anything to aggravate the situation
e) Every complaint lodged at a police station should be filed and a receipt produced, this is not a legal requirement but an administrative one for the police to track reports
f) Never sign to a statement other than the one produced by you in the presence of the officer(s)
g) Try to capture a recording of the exchange or incident or call someone so they can hear what occurs, place on speed dial important numbers or text someone as soon as possible
h) File a civil suit if you feel your rights have been violatedi) When making a statement to the police have all or most of the facts and details together for e.g. "a car" vs. "the car" represents two different descriptions
j) Avoid having the police writing the statement on your behalf except incases of injuries, make sure what you want to say is recorded carefully, ask for a copy if it means that you have to return for it