Is anyone else provoked by this full page picture in New Zealand newspapers this week?
The caption, presumably spoken by this African woman, reads: "In New Zealand many women are denied some human rights that I enjoy".
I know they are trying to push the boundaries in order to expose the despicable that is kept hidden so often. I know they are trying to reframe domestic violence as a human rights issue in the public consciousness. I know they are trying to be careful by inserting the words "many" and "some".
BUT until someone can convince me otherwise this approach invites the perception that they are, at worst, maximising a problem in NZ by minimising it in a country in Africa OR, at best, creating the impression that the problems are of similar magnitude in both countries. Neither approach seems wise or accurate. Why can't the problem in NZ stand on its own as an appalling one?
I feel a tension within and that is what Women's Refuge want me to feel, I suspect. On the one hand I am and want to be revolted into action by what happens here in NZ - but not at the expense of losing sight of what is happening elsewhere which is of a quite different type and magnitude and hiddenness.
Just as one example, I recently went with my daughter to the Human Rights Film Festival to watch A Walk to Beautiful, the story of five young women (among thousands every year) in Ethiopia who develop fistulas.
[NB A fistula is a hole that develops between the birth canal and the bladder (and rectum sometimes) when a young woman, whose body is not ready for labour, pushes and pushes for days. Obstructed labour, I think it is called. The unborn baby tends to die in the womb and then the woman endures urine (and feces) leaking through the hole created by the pushing and it trickles down her legs for the rest of her life. They are rejected by husbands and made to live in a hut out the back. A simple surgical procedure can correct the problem. The last fistula reported in USA/UK was something like 80+ years ago. Surely that says something!].
This is a most horrendous human rights issue unheard of in New Zealand in 2008 (that is not too strong a comment, is it?). There will be other human rights issues like this. And yes, it is different in type and magnitude and hiddenness from the issues we confront in NZ. And yes, just at the moment, I am disturbed by the approach taken by this advertising campaign because I find it minimises - maybe even trivialises - these differences.
I know, I know - a highly inflammable topic and people may want to add me to the fires - but these are honest issues for me. How do we stay alive to local and global human rights issues and see both in proper perspective and with full commitment?
nice chatting - I think?!