Monday, May 28, 2012

In Defense of Dead Beat Dads—Well, Some

Sister Y once made an astute point that I would like to expand on:

Imagine you are a young man of about 19 who’s in a relationship with a young woman.  The two of you consummate the relationship but something accidentally occurs, you know, the usual.  A few weeks later, the girl calls you and announces that she’s pregnant.  At this point, her options are abortion, adoption, and parenthood.

Suppose you wanted to opt for abortion.  Say you’re a college student who only works part-time and wants to be able to get through school with flying colors.  You can’t afford to give a child the good life that they’re entitled to, and besides, you have a bright future that will certainly be hampered if you quit school to get a full time job.  Add this fuel to the fire: suppose you’re a member of the child-free community.  You never want to have children because they test your patience and you consider them a nuisance.  Or you just value your free time.  Let’s up the ante: suppose you’re an antinatalist like University of Cape Town philosophy professor David Benetar.  You don’t want to have children at all because you don’t want them to suffer, grow old and frail, and die.  On top of that, don’t want them to burn in hell for choosing the wrong religion or denomination, for being gay/lesbian, or whatever else places one in danger of hellfire.  
I know what you’re thinking: “then get your tubes tied!”  Well doctors often refuse to perform vasectomies on younger men unless they already have children.   And the procedure is not 100% effective.  On the flip side, you, the young man may want children later on in life.

Anyway, you, the young man, opt for abortion.  The girlfriend says no, she wants to keep the baby.  Fine; it’s not fair that the mother has 100% control of this choice, but that’s life.  But at the very least, you can’t honestly be expected to pay child support, can you?

Why should you have to drop out of school or be saddled with something you clearly stated you didn’t want?  Why should you be branded a deadbeat dad for not wanting to pay for something you didn’t ask for?  I say, cut the girlfriend lose.  You can re-enter the picture once the child is an adult.  Plenty of children have single mothers and turn out just fine.

Granted, there are other types of deadbeat dads.  There are dads who choose to get married, deliberately sire children, and then abruptly walk away.   I’m in no way shape or form defending that type of behavior.  It’s entirely different from the former scenario.  The latter involves breaking serious and sacred promises.  The former contains no promises at all and is a question of autonomy.  So while I’m not willing to excuse all deadbeat dads, I’m willing to write in defense of at least some.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Choosing Suicide over Breaking the Silence

In many African countries, especially in Zambia, there is a strong stigma against women affected by HIV/AIDS.  Communities blame these women for bringing the disease into their marriages, despite the prevalence of their husbands having multiple extramarital sex partners. Dangerous stereotypes exist against the women, making it difficult for them to engage in daily community life. They are often seen as promiscuous, immoral, and untrustworthy. Despite billions of dollars invested in educational projects and raising awareness, it is difficult for many Zambians and other Africans to accept that these women may have only had one life partner.

As their families and communities reject them, these HIV positive/AIDS-infected women often resort to desperate measures including suicide. This was the case of 41-year old Linda Kabengele, who on May 4, 2011, was found dead at a local tavern.  Out of desperation, she burned herself to death, leaving only her scalded remains.

Meanwhile, there are dissenting voices against the claim that stigmatization is prevalent.  National AIDS Council spokesman Justin Mwiinga contends that the Kabengele suicide is an “isolated incident” and that negative perceptions against the infected are waning.  “Whatever the case, the stigma is not among the six main drivers; it is not a serious threat to the extent it used to be.” said Mwiinga.

Others would beg to differ.  According to Winston Zulu, the first openly HIV positive individual in Zambia, the shame remains alive and well, and is worse than any other obstacle to overcome.  Said Zulu, “I fight HIV, but then I also fight the stigma, because HIV itself can attach your gut, it can attack your brain sometimes, it attacks your immune system, but the biggest attack comes from the people outside.”  The situation may be particularly dire considering the fact that 12 million African children are already orphaned due to AIDS and suicide is exacerbating the trend of orphan-hood.

Regardless of whether or not the stigmatization against African women, and all AIDS/HIV patients in general, is now fading, it remains an important issue.  Before she died in 2007,  eminent Zambian journalist Mildred Mpundu, made headlines by being the first female public figure to announce her HIV status. She later left her job after feeling ostracized for having disclosed her status. While she considered suicide and went back and forth about it, she later said she came out feeling stronger in the end. She was an inspiration to thousands and once said, “You shouldn't just write, but do as you write so that readers can follow your example. I would encourage people to test and come out in the open and I would like to help other journalists because we journalists tend to hide.” If Zambia and Africa in general had more women leaders like the late Mpundu, more women would consider life and activism, as opposed to suicide and forced silence.  It's time for the silence to end.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Inside the Beltway, Outside the Box

Hi and welcome to my new blog! My blog is political in nature and will focus mainly on sex and gender issues.

Enjoy and put on your thinking caps!