Dear Diary: HIV and Me – I know my status: do you know yours?

AIDS Ribbon 3D_Stick figures

Newspaper headline recently: “36 percent of South African women in early 30s have HIV”

Quoting directly from the newspaper the article went on to say . . .
A number of shocking statistics have emerged from a major national HIV study (The SA National HIV Prevalence, Incidence and Behaviour Survey) launched by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

• More than one third (36 percent) of women in their early 30s in South Africa are now HIV-positive
• HIV incidence (the rate of new infections) is higher among unmarried couples living together than among single people
• Females between the ages of 15 and 19 are eight times more likely to be infected by HIV than their male counterparts
• A disturbing trend among both genders is an increase in multiple sex partners for the 15 – 49 age group
• More males are losing their virginity before the age of 15 years (increased from 11 percent in 2008 to approximately 17 percent now) but girls having sex before 15 years dropped from 6 percent to 5 percent
• More females than before were having sex with men who were much older than them
• 15 – 49 age group: 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men infected
• 30 – 34 age group: 36 percent infected
• 25 – 29 age group: 28 percent infected
• 40 – 44 age group: 28 percent infected
• 15 – 24 age group (new infections) is 4 times higher than boys of the same age. Could this be due to the “Sugar Daddy Syndrome”?

Is HIV infection a greater risk for women? If so, why?

• Increase in risky sexual behaviour/multiple sexual partners?
• Infrequent use of condoms?
• Women are more vulnerable to rape?
• Socio-economic issues?

Blood drop

MULTIPLE SEXUAL PARTNERS:
Having sex before marriage and having multiple sexual partners no longer carries the stigma of shame it used to in years gone by. Sound Biblical morals have been replaced by self-centred selfishness in that “I have needs (sexual) which need to be met” and these “needs” don’t need to wait until I am in a committed relationship to be met. Women also bow to pressure from men to sleep with them for fear of them moving on and finding someone else, believing that if they sleep with the man, he will commit to marrying them.

Before long, they find that they have gone through a number of “sure thing” relationships still ending up unmarried in the end. What women fail to understand is that each time they sleep with a man, they are sleeping with all the sexual partners he has ever had in his life. Men are not open and honest about how many they have had so women never find out the truth. If the man turns out to be HIV positive, he more than likely will not even know how he contracted the virus.

INFREQUENT USE OF CONDOMS:
Those in abusive relationships find it difficult to negotiate sex and to tell their partners to use condoms. Some women are forced to engage in unprotected sex because they don’t have a choice i.e. they depend on the man for money (he is more likely the breadwinner in the family).

Women are more vulnerable to rape and therefore don’t have a choice in the matter. They are so busy trying to protect themselves from being raped that there simply is no time to negotiate with the rapist (especially if it is a date rape or husband raping his wife).

Women tend to date older men and therefore are at risk of being infected. Younger men have a lower HIV prevalence.
Rural women vs urban women are more at risk due to lack of education and resources.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC CONDITIONS:
Most women are still financially dependent on their male partners and therefore are powerless when it comes to negotiating safe sex. Many women are also living in abusive relationships and fear leaving the man because they think they will not be able to cope on one income so they sacrifice their own health by giving in to the man’s demands regardless of their own concerns.

Blood Droplet_Cartoon Face

TRIBAL CUSTOM/TRADITION:
The Ovahimba and Ovazemba nomadic tribes, based mainly in Namibia’s arid north areas have practised wife swopping for generations.

The practice is more of a gentleman’s agreement where friends can have sex with each other’s wives with no strings attached. The wives have little to say in the matter. The men belive that the age-old custom strengthens friendships and prevents promiscuity. They believe it’s a culture that gives them unity and friendship. It’s up to the man to choose among his friends who he likes the most to allow him to sleep with his wife.

Known as “Okujepisa omukazenda” loosely translated means “offering a wife to a guest”. The practice is not widely known outside these reclusive communities.

Tribal members don’t make random draws to pair couples. They meet in their own homes, while the wife or husband of the other party goes to a separate hut during the exchange. Women cannot object to sleeping with a man chosen by their husbands. Most women are opposed to the practice and would like it abolished.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Conversations with myself: I am Woman . . .

Flowers feed the soul

In South Africa we celebrate National Women’s Day on August 9th each year. Our Government has declared the entire month of August National Women’s month.

In spite of all the new laws and legislation, we still grapple with gender equality in our country. Women who stay home to take care of the home and/or children are classified as “not working” when, in fact, they end up working harder than those who go out to work in the formal employment sector.

Most of the work women do is unpaid labour – what do I mean by this? When the woman is employed in the formal labour sector and gets paid for the work done, she still has work waiting at home for which she does not get paid a salary, for example: washing and ironing clothes, cooking, cleaning the home, taking care of the children. All this is left to the woman to do and she does not receive any additional payment for these duties. Community work – the woman may choose to serve her community in some way by volunteering her time and skills, again, she does not get paid for this work.

Men come home from the office, sit in the armchair in front of the television with their newspaper and wait for supper to be served (by the woman). More and more men are choosing to stay home as “stay-at-home-dads” these days but mostly because they cannot find work – very few do this out of choice.
So where does this leave us? When will the status quo change when a woman will receive acknowledgement for the work she does at home? Let’s take a look at the story below and I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.

MR MOYO GOES TO THE DOCTOR

“What is your job?” asked the doctor.
“I am a farmer” replied Mr Moyo

“Have you any children?” the doctor asked.
“God has not been good to me. Of 15 born, only 9 alive,” Mr Moyo answered.

“Does your wife work?” (doctor)
“No, she stays at home”.

“I see. How does she spend her day?” (doctor)
“Well, she gets up at four in the morning, fetches water and wood, makes the fire, cooks breakfast and cleans the homestead. Then she goes to the river and washes clothes. Once a week she walks to the grinding mill. After that she goes to the township with the two smallest children where she sells tomatoes by the roadside while she knits. She buys what she wants from the shops. Then she cooks the midday meal.”

“You come home at midday?” (doctor)
“No, no, she brings the meal to me about 3km away.”

“And after that?” (doctor)
“She stays in the field to do the weeding, and then goes to the vegetable garden to water.”

“What do you do?” (doctor)
“I must go and discuss business and drink with the men in the village.”

“And after that?” (doctor)
“I go home for supper which my wife has prepared.”

“Does she go to bed after supper?” (doctor)
“No. I do. She has things to do around the house until 9 or 10.”

“but I thought you said your wife does not work.” (doctor)
“Of course she does not work. I told you that she stays at home.”

(Source: Presented by the Women and Development Sub-committee Ministry of Community Development and Community Affairs, Zimbabwe to Women’s Regional Ecumenical Workshop, 26 June – 6 July 1989, Harare, Zimbabwe).
The Oxfam Gender Training Manual © Oxfam UK and Ireland 1994: 183

Conversations with myself: When I grow up, I want to be a Community Paralegal

graduation_owl_md_wht

I’m thinking of becoming a Community Paralegal. Why, I hear you asking?

Paralegals who are less expensive and more accessible than lawyers are able to empower the poor and marginalised in their interactions with Police, Prosecutors and the Courts.

Paralegals are able to deliver a critical service, particularly in the early stages of the criminal justice process. They are able to provide primary legal aid services which no one else is providing, which, in turn, can eliminate unnecessary pre-trial detention, the speedy processing of cases, diversion of young offenders, and reduce case backlogs.

Paralegals can play a valuable role in reducing prison overcrowding by locating the family members of pre-trial detainees and facilitating bail hearings.

AT THE POLICE STATION:
Using their knowledge of the law and the circumstances of their client, Paralegals can identify individuals who are eligible and suitable for release from the Police Station, and assist them accordingly. In doing so, they gather and provide information to the Police about whether those arrested fulfil legal criteria for pre-trial release.

Paralegals who work at Police Stations can assist in verifying the identities and location of relatives and others who may assist the one arrested. The regular presence of a Paralegal at a Police Station is also likely to moderate any tendency of Police Officers to mistreat those arrested or to demand a bribe. Police Stations are also the most effective points for identifying and diverting juvenile suspects who might otherwise be classified and processed as adults.

AT COURT:
A trained Paralegal who has interviewed an unrepresented detainee before a court hearing is able to advise the person being detained about the right to apply for bail (if applicable) and to gather facts that are relevant to such an application, i.e. the names of relatives who may be able to raise bail or act as sureties. Paralegals may even speak for those arrested at pre-trial hearings or be allowed to speak for an indigent defendant on matters of bail.

Paralegals can improve the quality of self-representation among defendants, especially during the pre-trial phase of the criminal justice process. This can be done through awareness raising and education on self-representation, demystifying the court process through role playing on what to expect in court, and providing guidance on the bail process and the grounds on which judicial officers typically base their pre-trial release/detention decisions.

This could result in accused persons becoming more active players and partners in the administration of justice, resulting in more successful bail applications at court.

AT PRISON:
Where the accused has not been given or offered bail and are in pre-trial detention awaiting the next court hearing, Paralegals can assist them in preparing and lodging bail applications. Paralegals who work in prisons can either train prisoners individually or offer group workshops in preparing bail applications, court procedures in general, court etiquette and other options for getting representation by a lawyer for themselves.

In addition to this advisory service, Paralegals can also search for relatives of those detained to inform them of where the detained person is and to establish who will be able to assist the detainee in being released on bail.

As part of their prison-based work, Paralegals could also identify pre-trial detainees whose warrants of arrest have expired, who have been in pre-trial detention longer than the statutory maximum allowed, who wish to plead guilty and those who are terminally ill. The Paralegals can bring these detainees to the attention of the relevant Investigating Officers, Prosecutors and Magistrates.

Paralegals can play an increasingly important role in enhancing access to justice for accused persons and criminal suspects.

Offender Reintegration

Questions (Blackboard)

 

 

The overall goal of offender reintegration is to reduce re-offending and enhance successful reintegration into society.  NICRO is reviewing its Offender Reintegration service this year and they are asking the following questions :

1)    Which government department should have the primary responsibility for offender reintegration for incarcerated offenders?

2)    Rate the current offender reintegration system in South Africa.

3)    Give an explanation for your rating in question (2) above.

4)    What are the major gaps in the current South African offender reintegration system?

–       No clear responsibility/ownership between the government departments?

–       Poor state/civil society working partnerships and relations/

–       Too little emphasis placed on what is known to work?

–       Politicisation/politicking of social welfare issues?

–       Poor interdepartmental collaboration?

–       Constantly changing plans and priorities?

–       Corruption?

–       Not properly utilising available resources (knowledge, skills, etc)?

–       Lack of civil society organisations collaborating with each other?

–       Inadequate state funding and budgeting?

5)    What are your general comments about the current South African offender reintegration system?

6)    How can communities and families be brought in to play a greater role in offender monitoring and management?

7)    What innovative ideas could you suggest for offender reintegration in South Africa?

8)    How can victims of crime be integrated into an offender reintegration service?

9)    Key responsibilities for offender reintegration for the future are . . .  (which do you think)?

–       State 100% responsible

–       Mutually responsible state and civil society expertise and partnerships (50 – 50)

–       Civil society needs to take over as the key manager of offender reintegration

10) The most essential elements of a successful offender reintegration service are:

–       Family reconstruction and reintegration work

–       Long term post-release after care

–       Income generation support

–       Re-housing schemes such as halfway houses

–       Community reintegration

–       Behavioural change programmes

–       Making the expungement of criminal records easier for petty offences

–       Surveillance schemes, such as electronic monitoring and tagging

–       More prisons

11) Which are the most important aspects (in any order) of offender reintegration taking place INSIDE prison?

–       Basic education

–       Substance abuse programmes

–       Substance addiction treatment

–       Vocational training

–       Prison industries

–       Parenting skills

–       Small business skills training

–       Life skills

–       Therapy

–       Structured physical exercise

–       Health care and mental health care services

–       Other

12) What offender reintegration activities must take place INSIDE prison and what must take place OUTSIDE prison after release?

13) What support do families of incarcerated and released offenders need to assist with the reintegration of the family member?

14) How long should the aftercare period (support provided from the date of release) be?

–       6 months

–       12 months

–       24 months

–       More than 24 months

–       Other

15) What support activities must form part of an effective aftercare service?

To complete the online survey, please click https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1ARDUc_ZKC-tHTB2LzhO56-U1szD-LX-PKXmX5yrqpi8/viewform?pli=1.

The deadline is the end of August 2013.

In pursuit of my African Dream – please tell me why?

Today my post is going to be based on an article I read in one of our morning newspapers: The Cape Times, Thursday July 5, 2012 (page 9). The headline of this particular article was:  “A raped child is devastated and suffers unimaginable mental torment”: by Carmel Rickard

A few points in this article struck a cord or two in me . . .

I quote: The two high court judges saw fit to scrap the life sentence imposed on the attacker and reduced the punishment to 22 years on the grounds that . . .

  • The 30 year old rapist was a “first offender”
  • The 7 year old girl who “suffered serious mental anxiety” was not “physically harmed” other than the signs of “forced vaginal penetration” noted by a doctor”.

Mmmm  . . .”suffered serious mental anxiety” and was “not physically injured” other than the signs of “forced vaginal penetration” noted by a doctor. What could “serious mental anxiety” mean for a 7 year old?  The 7 year old could possibly:

 

  • Behave out of character? Not want to eat or sleep? Not speak to anybody (be withdrawn most of the time), at times be aggressive?
  • Walk about restlessly or aimlessly, constantly looking over her shoulder as if waiting for someone to come?
  • Be unable to sleep – refusing to answer when asked what’s the matter?
  • Fearful of all strangers (especially men)?
  • Wetting the bed and possibly even soiling herself – not wanting to be left alone (not even to go to the bathroom)?
  • Might insist that all doors and windows be kept closed at all times?
  • Be intensely distressed and deeply frightened?
  • Experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Be “hyper vigilant”, constantly monitoring her environment because of feeling afraid and unsafe?
  • Experience deep emotional pain manifested by “uncontrollable crying”?
  • Feel overwhelmed by fears and anxiety – could suffer from “severe insomnia and nightmares”?

I don’t know about you, but I cannot even begin to imagine what it must feel like to live like this as an adult, let alone as a 7 year old child. Just reading this article has made my stomach churn. Your childhood is supposed to be the best time of your life. You are supposed to be happy and carefree. Children should be able to trust ALL adults they come into contact with, no matter where they are.

I have a 4 year old niece and a 7 year old nephew.  I often sit and watch them while they are playing and try to imagine how I would react if anyone dared to violate either one of them in any way. I will probably have to be locked away in a mental institution for the rest of my life.

I must say that having a physical disability makes me feel as vulnerable as a child because it does not take much force to make me lose my balance which leaves me vulnerable to a whole myriad of possible violations. I could so easily be raped, sodomised, or violated in any other way and I would have very little chance of coming away unscathed physically. All this being said, I avoid going anywhere I’ve never been to before, I avoid clubs and any other “social” places, I avoid going out at night if at all possible and on the rare occasions that I do, I make sure I get home as early as I can. I don’t go to church at night anymore and I don’t even walk around my own neighbourhood for fear of being identified as a “soft target” by some unscrupulous opportunist out there.

I am “hyper vigilant” even when driving my own car. I am suspicious of anyone coming towards me, no matter where I am. Even when at home, doors and security gates are always closed and locked. I keep the curtains shut so nobody can monitor my movements inside the house. My house is so well burglar guarded that the only way in would be through the roof and through the trap-door. When I get up during the night to go to the bathroom I always glance up to make sure the trap-door is still shut and that there is no evidence of anyone trying to get into the house.

This is what it is like for me – a “nearly 50 year old “ adult with a disability, so what must it be like for a 7 year old child? Then again, 7 years of age is not the youngest to be targeted. Here in sunnySouth Africa, even babies of a few months are raped and sodomised by adult men. Babies, who have even less control over their bodies and environments.

My mind boggles at how an adult male can attach himself to a baby a few months old and yet it has happened – not once or twice but too often to mention.

Please tell me why? What happens inside the brain to make any male capable of something like this . . .  I cannot even find a word strong enough in my vocabulary to describe this act/deed.

What has gone wrong with the human race? Even dogs and animals in the wild nurture and protect their own. Have you watched a lioness with her cubs? The lion who provides for his family and protects them at all costs?

 When will this scourge of violence against women and children in our country end? Please tell me when?

Some of the perpetrators of violence will tell you they need help but cannot specify exactly what it is they need you to do in order to help them. I know poverty, hunger, overcrowded homes (in some cases no homes) have a part to play in all this but violence against women and children will not make this go away. After raping a woman or child you will still be hungry, homeless, unemployed etc. So what is the point?

Why do this at all?

 Please tell me why?

Don’t forget to visit: http://www.womendemanddignity.co.za. Tell your friends too!