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« Shakira, Vanity Fair's "She-Wolf" Inspires Sensual Respectability | Main | In Uganda, 20 Trouser-wearing Women Stripped by Male Rioters »
Tuesday
Sep152009

Lubna Hussein, Chansa Kabwela, 20 Women Stripped to Their Underwear in Uganda: Are the World's Male Morality Squads Coming Unhinged?

London protest in support of Lubna Hussein, via Flickr’s cathredfernAnne here, searching for answers in my own mind, and with counsel from others, on how best to proceed in Lubna’s case and that of Chansa Kabwela.

I just posted the news that 20 women in Uganda were stripped in a riot on Friday, Sept. 11 and sent home, walking the streets in their underwear.

Thankfully, the Ugandan police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba agrees that the events actually happened in Kampala. We thank the government for supporting the truth of the event.

The surreal nature of the detailed “lewd trouser” accusations against Lubna by her arresting officer boggled my rational mind yesterday.

Just now, searching for an update on Chansa Kabwela, I read one of the biggest bits of judicial poppycock in cyberspace.

The Post News Editor, Chansa Kabwela with her husband Henry Ngilazi after a magistrate court Thursday, Aug. 6, 2009 in Lusaka, Zambia. Photo via Derrick SinjelaAdmittedly, I am on the offensive with Zambian president Rupiah Banda. See President Rupiah Banda, Childbirth Is Not Porn!  And I see, based on private comments and messages coming to me, that we little mosquitos are having some small impact in the world.

I repeat, we are not the big guns. They are presidents like Rupiah Banda and Omar Hussan. The big guns are the London Times and NYTimes.

It’s not our role to compete with them, but to supplement their efforts. They are not lightening bugs, like A of C.

Yet, there are advantages to being a mosquito. When I was a small girl, living in a tiny town in Minnesota, my favorite story was “The Little Engine That Could”. This simple story about women helping each other has motivated me for years.

Lubna Hussein is a “little engine” and so is Anne of Carversville. And I know that the “little engine” would proudly associate herself with this post about helping the world’s women.

The Little Engine That Could

Neither the New York Times, nor the London Times (or the Guardian, Independent or Daily Telegraph — all fine newspapers) can write — in response to the article “I Didn’t Arrest Kabwela Because of Presidential Pronouncement” — “you guys must really think the peoples of the world are stupid.”

Woops! The Internet does exist. We actually are held responsible for our statements today, in an international press. Information about our actions is travelling at lightening speed to friend and foe alike.

There IS a world of intelligent, globally-conscious readers (men and women) who actually care about what happens to Lubna Hussein and Chansa Kabwela; the women of Sudan and the women of Zambia; the 20 women who were stripped by men (except for their underwear) in Kampala, Uganda last Friday and ALL the women of Uganda.

We may not be the moral equivalent of the NGO people who give relentlessly and selfishly of themselves on the ground in these countries, but we DO care about global affairs.

We are citizens of the world; and we are are not stupid.

When I’m drinking my morning French Roast, reading this nonsense, I believe that Zambian President Rupiah Banda thinks I am a 100% ignorant woman.

Perhaps President Banda doesn’t like the way his Chansa Kabwela story is playing in Peoria or Chipping Camden or the villages of South Africa.

Sorry, sir. We heard you loud and clear, via the BBC, making your grand pronoucements about photos of dying babies being porn, and we wrote about them.

We have no real clout, unlike you. But we have friends and readers. They’re watching you, sirs. And they’re astonished at what they see.

Today, even the little people are watching Zambian President Banda Sudan’s and Sudan President Omar Hussan. We all watch you on iPhones and Blackberrys, connected to each other via Twitter and Facebook. These stories don’t only play in London and New York or Sydney.

They really do play in Peoria. Searching for news of Lubna, I found stories of her case and courage in the smallest towns of America. They are not opinion pieces like mine. Just the facts.

Returning to recent court testimony in the Chansa Kabwela case:

• In the Chansa Kabwela case, Sharon Zulu says suddenly that she did not arrest Kabwela because of the terse statements made by Zambian president Rupiah Banda concerning the pornographic nature of the photos of a dying baby, that Chansa admits delivering to a government health office official.

• Sharon Zulu says that she arrested Chansa Kabwela because she circulated two obscene photographs (of a woman giving birth to a dying child on the steps of striking hospitals, with no medical services available) that “tended to corrupt morals of the public.” via AllAfrica.com

• Zulu says that she “instituted investigations because there was an outcry from the public through daily newspapers that the pictures complained of were in bad taste and her superiors ordered that she investigated the matter.”

We have more direct quotes from arresting officer Sharon Zulu, giving court testimony in the case, as reported in The Post:

Zambian President Rupiah BandaZulu said she was really disturbed by the pictures.

She described an obscene matter as something forbidden and offensive.

“Something which is not allowed like in our culture here in Zambia. We are Zambians, we have got things that are not supposed to be exposed,” she said. “The situation here, Your Honour. These are the two pictures that I am referring to. These are obscene matters. In the Zambian set up, a woman giving birth needs privacy. You do not really have to expose such a situation like that.”

She said according to the Zambian culture and the Tonga tradition in particular, childbirth was private and was done in the presence of two or three persons and that nobody should be nearby.

“As a woman, not as a Tonga, I really felt insulted. I felt my integrity had been moved away from me,” Zulu said. “I felt that a woman is nothing now. I was annoyed with what I saw and to whoever did the circulation of those pictures. I was annoyed with Chansa Kabwela for circulating those pictures.”

Zulu said the pictures in question could affect the morals of people or the community that was to see them.

“Traditionally, it was like embarrassing the whole culture. I really do not know, I felt really my moral fibres were affected as a woman,” she said.

At the risk of offending the great peoples of Africa — which is not my intention — might the “public” be related to the men who stripped 20 women of their clothes on the streets of Uganda last Friday?

Is “the public” the group of women in every country who also condemn women like Chansa and Lubna? I take issue with them, too, but I believe their attitudes are governed by a history of being “governed” by men.

After all, genital mutilation remains widely practiced in Sudan. Indeed, the culture demands that a woman’s clitoris be cut away. There is a promising counterinsurgency around this issue, a secret code among women, and I will not tell the story.  Women can be lightening bugs, too, when they must.

Lubna Hussein’s conservative, gabardine trousers are called “tight and flashy” by Sudan’s male morality squadMight the “public” be distant cousins of the most honorable men of Sudan, members of the “morality squad” writing that the most conservative trousers I’ve seen in years are now defined as “tight and flashy”.

My good men of the world, you are not style advisers. Gabardine has NEVER been considered “flashy”. Lubna’s gabardine trousers are worn by conservative, modest women around the world.

A truly “flashy woman” wouldn’t be caught dead in gabardine trousers. Garbardine cloth is worn by women not seeking to call attention to themselves.

Similarly, thoughtful people in the world, especially intelligent people in Sudan, Zambia and Uganda, know that Chansa Kabwela has not committed a crime of pornography.

You cannot convince us, sirs. Pictures of dying babies are as unpornographic as gabardine trousers. Your minds are running wild in the streets, alleyways, restaurants and private homes of the world.

Considering Chansa Kabwela, I cannot comprehend — I cannot fathom — that a woman who cares enough about dying babies in striking hospitals to risk her own security, as an editor at an opposition newspaper — is now facing five years in jail for her effort.

I’m sitting at my desk here in New York, surrounded by images of brave and noble African women, who I actually believe represent the cradle of humankind.

Perhaps this is why Chansa Kabwela is on trial — because like beautiful matriarchal, mother elephants who mourn over the spots where the spirits of their dead babies lie in the ground — she cannot turn her back on the photos of Zambian babies being born dead, without medical care at striking hospitals.

Chansa Kabwela did NOTHING to embarrass her country or President Banda. She turned over photos sent to her at her own risk, because Kabwela cannot turn her back on other women. The photos were not published and they were not used in any political way.

The focus of her trial is not that The Post used the photos to embarrass the government.

Believing that her government health ministry cared about dying babies, Kabwela sent the photo forward to the proper authorities.

Is she commended by her country for caring about human life? NO.

Zambia wants to lock up Chansa Kabwela for five years, because some government health minister is appalled — not that babies are dying in his streets — but that Kabwela brought it to his attention with distasteful photographs.

Arresting officer Sharon Zulu is affronted also, that Chansa Kabwela tried to save dying babies. Where does cultural sensitivity and respect for tradition stop, and sensible, rational thinking begin? Our global societal chasms are just death-defying.

For trying to save dying babies, a woman is about to be locked up for five years in Zambia.

Kiraki’s Bloody Hand via xXxEmoCuppyCakexXs’s photostreamThese men have no honor. They are bugs, just like me.

Real men — especially real men who are presidents of countries — care about babies dying in the streets.

Reality is gruesome. It is ugly and distasteful. It is bloody. These men may find female body parts disgusting, but they forget the perverted truth that they were also born into the world via the same female anatomy.

I am lucky enough to know some real men in my life. They live in every country of the world and they support and encourage our digital effort to speak out on a growing list of attacks against women’s rights. These men fear for their daughters and their wives, as I do.

These men genuinely know that it is to care for women and not jail them for immoral behavior. These men are truly honorable, unlike members of the morality squads running rampant around the globe.

What is going on here! This craziness is testing the limits of all human reason. It is erupting, and it is spreading. No woman is safe from this insanity.

This lack of moral principles among men is not about noble customs or great religions. It corrupts great history and the very foundations of human civilization.

We are watching genuine vulgarity of minds, a complete and total lack of moral conscience, among men.

Jail Chansa Kabwela, President Banda, and you remind us all of the growing chasm that exists between enlightened people and moral depravity in the world.

If you can unwind this Chansa Kabwela mess in some way similar to Lubna’s guilty plea, the world understands the pragmatic nature of your decision. You must save face and also appease your morality squads.

Bucking bronchos running loose in the streets of your cities and countrysides. No woman is safe, from the looks of it, in these countries.

I am well aware that with international spotlights turned on the moral-squads men in these countries, women may suffer more. When irrational men are angry, they become even more ferocious in their attacks against women.

My personal interest isn’t politics. I’ll let Hillary Clinton worry about politics.

Ishindi Women - Uganda - Fetching water to survive, via Flickr’s camartlargeMy dear women of the world, it’s your safety, your humanity, your courage and your need of help from people who regard you — not as fodder for men’s use — but as intelligent, inspiring women of the world that concerns me.

There are millions of people in every country of the world who are deeply concerned about your lives. Perhaps we have been slow to show our feelings. No more.

We hear you.

We are only “a little engine”, but we will do our very best to help you up and over the mountains that face you. I promise.

Love, Anne

Reader Comments (1)

What happens to Ms Kabwela is awful, and the men doing this despicable. But how do the other women in Zambia react to the dying children? Are they cowed into submission? In the meantime, keep up the good news. Being asked about such cases at the champagne orgies at the UN is embarrassing to people like Banda, perhaps it will make him change his policies.

November 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLibertarian

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