Index of articles


Ladies, tell your boyfriend: Safe sex, or no sex

US researchers hope a little drama – cell phone soap operas – can empower women to prevent AIDS. The message: no sex unless their partner uses a condom, writes Angela Delli Santi.

Hey baby, you OK?” Mike asks his girlfriend as she sits down next to him.

“Yeah, I’m OK,” Toni says, and she puts her head on his shoulder. Mike thinks it’s safe to move in for a kiss.

“Slow down,” she says, pushing him back. “Just because I’ve decided to take you back, it doesn’t erase the fact that you cheated on me.” He looks away sheepishly.


Judge: Rape facilitates a natural society where men are protectors


“Look, we’re going to be using condoms from now on,” Toni says. “And tomorrow, we’re getting tested. And that’s that.”

She kisses him, and Mike manages a little smile.

The scene is from a soap opera with a purpose: to use short videos to go beyond pamphlets on safe sex and deliver the message to women who might otherwise tune it out.

Nurse educator Rachel Jones developed the education campaign, using professional actors and scripts based on focus groups with women in Newark and Jersey City, in the US state of New Jersey. Mike and Toni and the “other woman,” Valerie, are in a pilot video available online.

“Women who watched the first pilot were getting upset, angry, exasperated,” says Jones, who teaches at Rutgers University’s College of Nursing in Newark. “Women really saw themselves in that video. We’re really resonating with urban contemporary themes that we believe are relevant to women.”

Jones filmed a series of 12 soap opera vignettes with a grant from the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey, and a recent grant of US$2 million from the National Institutes of Health grant to test the campaign’s effectiveness.

Women in the federal study will watch the 20-minute episodes on their cell phones. Their risk-reduction behavior will be measured against a control group that will receive text messages urging condom use, but no video. A total of 250 women will participate.

“What we believe will happen is that knowledge alone is not effective at changing behaviors,” Jones says. “We believe that women in the community will so identify with heroines in the story that their own behaviors will change as well.”

The scripts feature “nitty-gritty stories of risk and risk reduction” that women can identify with, she said, adding that cell phone viewing ensures privacy and offers the viewer the chance to watch again and again as desired.

Jones has dedicated her career to reducing HIV/AIDS among young, urban black and Latina women, who are being infected at an epidemic rate. Some 82 percent of the infections affecting 18 to 29-year-olds are transmitted through heterosexual sex with an HIV-infected partner, she says.

“It is astounding, it is a completely preventable infection,” says Jones. “In New Jersey, we have the highest proportion of women living with AIDS in the United States.”

Jones has spent many years working in urban health, so she can explain why young female patients engaged in unprotected sex despite the known risks. But even she was surprised when she started looking for ways to change their behavior while she was earning a doctorate as a family nurse practitioner.

“I had very bright, wonderful patients who would come to me again and again with sexually transmitted infections,” she says.

The women understood that they were being exposed to HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, but engaged in unprotected sex anyway; even those who knew they were not in monogamous relationships did not insist their partners wear condoms.

“We have to normalize condom use,” she says.

Jones says women experience pressure to have unprotected sex and that their partners often consider insistence on using a condom as sign of distrust.

“These relationship concerns can feel much more important in the moment for some women than reducing HIV/AIDS, which can feel more distant,” she says.

At the end of the study, all the participants will get a DVD with all the soap opera videos. The videos will also be available on the Web.

“If we know we’re effective,” Jones say, “we’re going to dedicate ourselves to getting these videos out.”


Detroit, Michigan, USA news



RIGHT TO DIGNITY: Transgenders celebrate the Supreme Court judgment that recognises them as the third gender

She’s dressed in a white silk sari emblazoned with a red zari border that matches the vermillion bindi streaking across her forehead. She holds on to his hand that curls over the end of the banister. Between her and this macho jeans-and-floral-T-shirt clad young man, peering out of gentle kohled eyes, is a little boy. “My angle (sic) and darling, full happy family,” reads the photo caption on her Facebook page.

The photo was uploaded on April 12, three days before the Supreme Court of India gave her the legal sanction to call herself Mr or Mrs or just as the “third gender”.

In the midst of the jargon and legalese of the April 15 judgment, the court momentarily softened to describe Radhika and Rohan’s (not their names) sexual orientation as an “enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to another person”. This, it said, was integral to the personality and one of the most basic aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom.

The transgender or the hijra community has so far faced discrimination on all fronts — in education, employment and private life. Schools and colleges deny them admission, few give them employment and even hospitals are known to deny them admission. Not surprisingly, the court’s ruling ushers in far-reaching changes.

First and foremost, it gives the third sex the right to live with dignity. “There are several long-term relationships between hijras and their male partners — many have even adopted children — but when society itself looks down on the community, the male partner often tends to walk out,” says Ernest Noronha, one of the petitioners who identifies himself as a transsexual.

The court has also asked the government to give the community quotas in education and employment — as granted to other sections.

“Employment will be a big game changer,” Noronha says. “Nobody likes to beg or engage in sex work, but who will give them jobs?” he asks. Article 16 of the Constitution clearly says no to discrimination in matters of employment or public appointments.

Change is already in the air. On Thursday, the Madras High Court ordered the reinstatement of a Tamil Nadu policewoman who was sacked last year after a medical examination report had declared her a transsexual. Setting aside the termination order, Justice S. Nagamuthu directed the police to issue the consequential order within six weeks permitting her to join duty as a Grade II constable (woman) with continuity of service.

“The petitioner was born a female, recognised by society as a female, and she chose to identity herself as a female for all purposes,” said the judge. “Therefore, I hold that she is a female in legal parlance and thus she is eligible for appointment as a woman police constable.”

The Supreme Court has also made it clear that a person’s sex is the “deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth”. The Supreme Court clearly spelt out that “nobody should be forced to undergo medical procedures including SRS (sex reassignment surgery), sterilisation or hormonal therapy, as a legal requirement for their gender.”

The American Psychological Association defines the term transgender as an umbrella term for those whose gender identity or gender expression or behaviour does not conform to that typically associated with the sex assigned at birth. But not everyone whose appearance is gender non-conforming will identify as a transgender, it clarifies.

The transgenders that the Supreme Court made specific reference to were eunuchs or hijras — biological males who have rejected their “masculine” identity to identify themselves as women, or “not-men” or “in between man and woman” or “neither man nor woman”.

Dr I.S. Gilada, who has worked with the community in Mumbai’s red light areas, points out that most hijras are transsexuals who have undergone castration by the community. “The process of castration is gory and not everybody survives it. Those who do are said to have attained nirvana or rebirth in the female form that took over from the male.”

The court has given the central and state governments nine months to formulate welfare schemes and extend reservation in educational institutions and public appointments; create public awareness to make them feel part and parcel of social life; and operate separate HIV clinics and, very importantly, public toilets.

Right now, even public amenities as basic as toilets often prove out of reach for eunuchs. Ankur, a transgender who holds a diploma in Indian classical music, says she quit using public toilets after being eyed hostilely by both men and women, and insulted by those guarding the washrooms. Sexual assaults on hijras in toilets are also common.

Gay rights activists, however, stress that it will be a long struggle before eunuchs are treated as equals. “How many hijras are educated?” asks Swagat Shah, a gay rights activist in Gujarat. “The Supreme Court judgment is a positive step but I don’t see acceptance by society anytime soon,” he adds.

Indeed, administrations continue to pose hurdles in the way of their rights. When Ankur went to get a new Aadhar card — identifying her as a “third gender” — after the Supreme Court judgment, she was asked to get a letter from the local legislator, as authorities said they were unaware of the judgment.

But the court’s words are unequivocal. “Non-recognition of the identity of hijras/transgenders in the various legislation denies them equal protection of law and they face widespread discrimination,” the two-judge bench headed by Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan said, while clarifying that transgender rights had already been safeguarded by the Indian Constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, sex, place and residence of birth.

It will be a while before the hijra community finds its place in society. But the community has already undergone a long winded journey — from the time the British lumped them together with “criminal tribes” through the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871. People described as “innate criminals addicted to the systematic commission of non-bailable offences” are finding their own labels — and are happy with them.


More teens are choosing video games over sex: study

Teens having sex has decreased from about 31 percent to 27 percent lowest since 1997

Most parents are always worried about their children getting addicted to drinking and smoking while not being cautious about their lives. Interestingly, more teens and youth are settling for another form of addiction for which they are even willing to give up sex.

According to a report in the New York Post, nearly half of the teens spend about three hours of their day gaming in their houses. The devices may differ and so do the games but they are so addicted that they might even give up sex for it. The time spent on gaming in New York is four points higher than the national average while the number of high schooler’s having sex has decreased from about 31 percent to 27 percent; a record low since 1997. More teens are choosing video games over sex, alcohol and tobacco and while that maybe good news; the chances of the new-age addiction are a totally different case.



The tourism of sex, drugs and prostitution in Goa is backed by political patronage and is defaming Goa, Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal said on Wednesday.

He was speaking at an interaction with small hoteliers and tourism industry stakeholders in the coastal state.

“Tourism in Goa is being defamed because of allegations of sex, drugs and prostitution… It is not being stopped because political parties are backing these things,” Kejriwal said.

It was the second meeting of ‘Goa Dialogues’, a preparatory process for drafting the Aam Aadmi Party’s election manifesto for assembly polls scheduled in early 2017.


Kenya’s Using Youth Tools To Teach Them About Sex

NAIROBI – When Kenyan teenager Rosemary Olale found out she was pregnant, her guardians threw her out of their home in shame, despite the fact no one taught her about safe sex.

She didn’t dare tell them she was also HIV positive.

“You just feel like everybody doesn’t want you,” said Olale, sitting with a dozen other HIV positive women, each with a small child on her lap, in a small home in Nairobi’s Saika slums.

Olale, now 37, started the group in 2005 to provide other HIV positive women and young mothers with support in dealing with stigma, poverty and reproductive health issues.

Teenagers across Africa urgently need more information about sex to combat soaring rates of HIV and unwanted pregnancies, experts say, as widespread taboos and cultural conservatism prevent discussions in schools and homes.

“Where I come from, talking about the sex education with your girl is really difficult,” said Olale.

However, a growing number of businesses, charities and individuals are seeking to fill the gap in information.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Nailab, a Kenyan firm that supportstechnology startups, are behind the latest initiative, which targets entrepreneurs for their ideas on providing sex education through technology and social media.

Candidates in the I.AM campaign launched this month, have until August to submit their ideas before four winners are chosen to receive training, mentorship and funding to develop their ideas further.

“All girls, all boys must have comprehensive sexuality education,” said Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA executive director. “That’s really when they can make the choice in their lives.”

Conservative backlash

Kenya pledged to improve access to sexual education and family planning services at the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, but has had difficulty implementing new policies due to conservative opposition.

A bill to teach sex education and provide access to contraceptives in schools was introduced into Kenya’s upper house of parliament in 2014, provoking a national outcry.

“People are fearing that when you’re speaking about sex or when you’re speaking about sex education, it’s like losing your values,” said David Opoti Inzofu a pastor at Nairobi’s Riruta Christ Bible Church, who openly discusses family planning with his congregation.

“There is no day I can remember where my mother or my father sat with me and discussed with me about sex. Never.”

Sex education and family planning are critical in delaying motherhood, reducing HIV rates and deaths from unsafe abortions, UNFPA says.

Some 29,000 young people aged between 15 and 24 are infected with HIV annually in Kenya, government data shows. New infections are spiking among adolescent girls who know less about HIV transmission than boys, it says.

One in five teenage girls are mothers, with some 13,000 dropping out of school each year to raise their children, UNFPA says.

Kenya is a hotbed of technological innovation in Africa, with technology giants such as Google, IBM and Microsoft setting up headquarters in Nairobi.

For an issue as taboo as sex, technology allows people to have anonymous and informative conversations without the fear of stigma or discrimination.

“(If) somebody builds a software that allows people to anonymously chat about their sexual challenges, and we see tens of thousands of young people using it – that will be the most exciting part of this,” said Sam Gichuru, chief executive of Nailab.

Technology can also reach many more people than face-to-face groups like Olale’s. Some 80 percent of Kenyans own a mobile phone, government data shows.

“A lot of these children are now getting access to mobile phones and technology,” said Siddharth Chatterjee, UNFPA’s representative in Kenya.

“Imagine the knowledge they can generate through that technological edge.”


Supreme Court upholds death penalty for mentally ill man

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday upheld the death penalty against a mentally ill man convicted of murder, overturning a previous appeal and a court decision staying his execution, an international rights group said.

The court dismissed Imdad Ali’s appeal, saying a large proportion of prisoners suffer from mental illness and they cannot let everyone go, the Reprieve group said in a statement.

The group urged Pakistan to spare Ali, saying his execution would be a violation of both Pakistani and international laws.

Harriet McCulloch, deputy director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said it was “indisputable that Imdad suffers from serious mental illness.”

Sara Bilal, a lawyer at Justice Project Pakistan, said authorities can soon set a new date for Ali’s execution. He has been on death row since he was convicted in 2001. Bilal says he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Ali was due to be executed on Sept 20, after Pakistan’s president rejected a clemency request, but a last-minute SC decision temporarily stayed his execution.

Bilal said she sent a new clemency petition to the president from Ali’s family.

Four United Nations human rights experts have also urged Pakistan to halt the execution. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on executions; Juan E. Mendez, Special Rapporteur on torture; Monica Pinto, Special Rapporteur for judicial independence; and Dainius Puras, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health, said Ali could be executed within a week.


Index of articles