Saturday, August 06, 2011


I avoided the Casey Anthony trial like a spectacle I could do with out.  I am thinking my avoidance was an error.  The trial highlighted some things which are very wrong in America touching on the prison industrial complex(PCI), racism, sexism, media manipulation, and more.  

I thank Prison Culture blog for bringing this analysis to my attention.

What We Have to Learn from the Casey Anthony Trial…A Feminist Assessment

This is a guest post from my good friend Chez Rumpf. Chez is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology whose work focuses on gender and the criminal legal system. Chez is a member of the Chicago PIC Teaching Collective. and a board member of the Chicago Freedom School.
I have been wanting to write about Casey Anthony. I have put off writing about this woman and the trial that captivated a large portion of the United States for a few reasons. First, I kept waiting for someone else to write about her. Let me clarify – I kept waiting for someone to write a feminist reaction to Anthony’s case and trial.
Throughout the sensationalized media coverage of the case, spearheaded by Nancy Grace and her “Tot Mom” moniker for Anthony, something just didn’t sit right with me. It was clear that Anthony was not only (or maybe even primarily) being judged for allegedly killing her daughter; rather, she was being judged for not fitting our conventional ideas of what motherhood looks like. She was too young, “hot,” unrepentant, tattooed, and interested in partying. Even without the murder and cover-up allegations, it was clear to the world that Casey Anthony was not a “good” mom. Yes, people pointed out legitimate concerns that seemed to implicate Anthony in her daughter’s death. But it was the picture of Anthony dancing in a nightclub in a too short dress that endlessly circulated on television and the Internet and acted as another damning piece of evidence against her.
When Anthony was found “not guilty” of the most severe charges the state brought against her (first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, and aggravated manslaughter of a child), I eagerly awaited an outpouring of feminist analysis on what the verdict can tell us about society. With the exception of an insightful blog by Julie Moos at, I’m still waiting.
A second reason that I’ve put off writing about Anthony is that, frankly, I’m weary of the backlash that mentioning her name without condemning her in the next breath almost inevitably provokes. The Chicago PIC Teaching Collective, of which I’m a member, frequently grapples with the question: “What about the bad people?” Whenever we facilitate a PIC 101 workshop or talk about prison abolition, this question comes up. And by all means, if you believe the picture that the prosecution painted, Casey Anthony is one of the “bad people.” Part of why it is difficult to answer the “What about the bad people” question is because often it is intended to close off rather than open discussion. The question often is used to silence those of us who want to imagine a world without prisons.
My hesitation to write about Casey Anthony was a strong reminder of how powerful the PIC ideology is in our society. It often operates without notice. It shapes and limits our thinking. It closes off questioning. What is there to say about a young woman who allegedly murders her daughter, makes up stories for the police, and then dances on tables in nightclubs?
The PIC tells us that there is nothing to say. She is a monster. There are no questions to raise here. There is no understanding to seek. Convict and sentence her. Let’s keep the system chugging forward, no questions asked. As Nancy Grace told Jay Leno during a recent appearance on “The Tonight Show,” when she was a prosecutor she learned that “It doesn’t matter why. It matters who did this thing. That’s what I’ve got to prove.” This simplistic, narrow-minded thinking makes me cringe. The thought that such thinking is pervasive among prosecutors, judges, and other state agents overwhelms me.
In an effort to resist the PIC ideology, I’m forcing myself to write about Casey Anthony. I want to explore what Casey Anthony’s case can tell us about how embedded the PIC is in our society.
Tough on Crime = Tough on Mothers
One of the most telling aspects of the Casey Anthony case is the public reaction to the not-guilty verdict, issued on July 5th. That same day, a petition was created on to demand that the President, House of Representatives, and Senate enact “Caylee’s Law” – federal legislation that would make it a felony for parents, guardians, or caretakers not to report a missing child to law enforcement within 24 hours of the child going missing. As of August 2nd, 1,284,871 people had signed the petition.
As comments left by many of the petition’s signers make clear, the intent behind this proposed legislation is not to save children’s lives. People who are advocating for this law are angry that Casey Anthony is no longer incarcerated. The underlying thought process is if we couldn’t get Casey Anthony sentenced to death or incarcerated for life because she was found not guilty of the charges that would carry the severest sentences, then let’s create a law that would have allowed us to incarcerate her for a longer period. By extension, let’s create more laws that would provide more opportunities to lock up more people up for longer periods of time.

By Billy Dee
So, in the name of protecting children, Americans are rushing to enact tough on crime policies that would expand the ever-growing reach of the PIC. Importantly, these policies target women and mothers. While “parents,” “caretakers,” and “guardians” explicitly are gender-neutral terms, implicitly, they all refer to women. We know that women continue to do the vast majority of caretaking in this country. Given the persistence of traditional gender norms and the gendered division of caretaking, it is unavoidable that policies addressing caretakers are policies that address mothers.
“Caylee’s Law” is just the latest in a long line of legislation that criminalizes mothers in the name of protecting children.
The National Advocates for Pregnant Women documents how the War on Drugs targets pregnant women who have substance abuse problems. According to NAPW, “In the last twenty years, hundreds of pregnant women and new mothers have been arrested, based on the argument that a pregnant woman’s drug use is a form of abuse or neglect.” A 2003 article by Silja J.A. Talvi in The Nation tells the story of Regina McKnight, a young woman in South Carolina who was convicted of murder for a stillbirth. Although the state could not prove that McKnight’s use of cocaine while pregnant caused the stillbirth, the state prosecuted McKnight and won the case, resulting in a 12-year prison sentence. At the time the article was published, “Approximately 275 women nationwide [had] already faced charges relating to drug use during their pregnancies.”

From the Just Seeds Artists' Cooperative
As is characteristic of the U.S. criminal legal system, the state uses these child abuse and drug laws to target low-income women of color. In Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare, Dorothy Roberts explores how racial bias and discrimination systematically operate throughout the U.S. child welfare system. Roberts explains:
Part of the reason for the racial disparity in removal of drug-exposed newborns is that substance abuse by indigent Black women is more likely to be detected and reported than substance abuse by other women. The government’s main source of information about prenatal drug use is hospitals’ reporting of positive infant toxicologies to local child welfare authorities. This testing is performed almost exclusively by public hospitals that serve poor minority communities. Private physicians who treat more affluent women tend to refrain from testing their patients for drug use and certainly would be unlikely to turn them in to child protective services.
But racial discrimination – not just poverty – plays an independent role in decisions about drug-infected infants. Research confirms that, controlling for other variables, Black women are far more likely to be reported for prenatal substance abuse and to have their newborns placed in out-of-home care. A study of pregnant women in Pinellas County, Florida, published in the 1990New England Journal of Medicine, found little difference in the prevalence of substance abuse along either racial or economic lines. Yet Black women wereten times more likely than whites to be reported to government authorities. A 1993 study of women whose newborns tested positive for cocaine in New York City hospitals discovered that Black women were 72 percent more likely than white women, and more than twice as likely as Latino women, to have their babies removed by child protective services. (P. 50-51)
We have seen how these so-called child protection laws not only fail to protect children from harm but perpetuate the racist reach of the state (i.e. the PIC and the child welfare system). Yet, much of the American public continues to push for more of this “feel-good” legislation – legislation that allows politicians to appear as if they care for the “deserving” vulnerable members of our society (that is, children) while winning election and re-election by supporting policies that prey on the “undeserving” vulnerable members of our society (that is, low-income people of color).
It’s time to speak out!
Feminists, anti-racists, and anti-violence activists cannot afford to remain silent on the Casey Anthony trial. Yes, it’s tempting to ignore the spectacle and write it off as nothing more than fodder for mainstream media sensationalism. The Casey Anthony trial, however, is very real and very important in its consequences. In a rather cruel irony, the white privilege that most certainly contributed to Casey Anthony’s not-guilty verdict now is poised to contribute to the expansion of the PIC and continued targeting of low-income women of color. We cannot risk quietly standing by while the state, once again, uses children to advance racist, punitive legislation that emboldens the PIC.

Friday, August 05, 2011


 The GI Bill  after World War II was pretty much responsible for the birth and expansion of the white middle class back in in the fifties. It helped white returning GIs get a college education, a house, a job, a business.  Even many immigrants who barely classified as whites back in the day benefited from it.  My dad, a Jew, for example was able move us out of a small apartment in the city to a small ranch style house in the inner suburbs thanks to the GI Bill.  Later, with the help of a GI loan he was able to buy a small shoe store in the city.  Before the war most Jews were NOT middle class, but that all changed with the help of the GI bill.  The same applied for immigrants from Europe like, Irish, Poles, Italians and Greeks, for example, and for other working class and poor white folks.  However, for a variety of reasons, blacks did not receive much help from the GI Bill, and consequently couldn't make the same jump.  It is interesting to note that the few blacks who did manage to get covered pretty much made the same gains.  This is just one more example how white privilege has worked over the years and one more example of how African Americans still today pay the price of all the racist history, laws, and the like in in this land of the free...and home of the slave.

By the way, the next time you hear someone bemoan affirmative action, and tell you how white people lose out, point them toward the GI bill (affirmative action for white men) and laugh.

The following comes from PLAYING THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE.  I will have more on this in days to come.

The GI Bill Was Affirmative Action for Poor Whites

One popular CONservative meme goes something like this-
“White men never benefited from affirmative action”
While there are many ways to poke a hole in this myth, let me select one- The GI Bill
So what was the GI Bill and why was it introduced?
The G.I. Bill (officially titled Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, P.L. 78-346, 58 Stat. 284m) was an omnibus bill that provided college or vocational education for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as G.I.s) as well as one year of unemployment compensation. It also provided many different types of loans for returning veterans to buy homes and start businesses. Since the original act, the term has come to include other veteran benefit programs created to assist veterans of subsequent wars as well as peacetime service.
The G.I. Bill was created to prevent a repetition of the Bonus March of 1932 and a relapse into the Great Depression after World War II ended.
What was its effect?
An important provision of the G.I. Bill was low-interest, zero down payment home loans for servicemen. This enabled millions of American families to move out of urban apartments and into suburban homes. Prior to the war the suburbs tended to be the homes of the wealthy and upper class.
Sounds like welfare, ohhh.. if is was for whites, it cannot be welfare?
Another provision was known as the 52–20 clause. This enabled all former servicemen to receive $20 once a week for 52 weeks a year while they were looking for work. Less than 20 percent of the money set aside for the 52–20 Club was distributed. Rather, most returning servicemen quickly found jobs or pursued higher education.
But wait, what about the IQs of working class whites? Why educate them?
A cursory look at the available statistics reveals that these later bills had an enormous influence on the lives of returning veterans, higher education, and the economy. A far greater percentage of Vietnam veterans used G.I. Bill education benefits (72 percent) than World War II veterans (51 percent) or Korean War veterans (43 percent). Moreover, because of the ongoing military draft from 1940 to 1973, as many as one-third of the population (when both veterans and their dependents are taken into account) could potentially have benefited from the elaborate and generous welfare system created by the expansion of veterans’ benefits.
Hmm.. sounds like welfare for working class whites.
Whereas the G.I. Bills of 1944 and 1952 were given to compensate veterans for wartime service, the Veterans Readjustment Benefits Act of 1966 forever changed the nature of military service in America by extending benefits to veterans who served during times of war and peace. At first there was some opposition to the concept of a peacetime G.I. Bill. President Dwight Eisenhower had rejected such a measure in 1959 after the Bradley commission concluded that military service should be “an obligation of citizenship, not a basis for government benefits.”
But the original GI Bill benefit blacks? African-Americans and the G.I. Bill
Due to the prevailing social climate that existed in the United States after World War II, one in which racism was a prominent factor, African-Americans did not benefit from the provisions of the G. I. Bill of Rights as much as their white counterparts. Though the bill did provide a more level playing field than the one blacks faced during Reconstruction, this is not saying much. Representative John Elliott Rankin, an economic liberal who was also an avid segregationist and racist, sponsored the bill in the United States House of Representatives. Although the law did not specifically advocate discrimination, the social climate of the time dictated that the law would be interpreted differently for blacks than for whites.
Not only did blacks face discrimination once they returned home after the war, the poverty confronting most blacks during the 1940s and 1950s represented another barrier to harnessing the benefits of the G.I. Bill as it made it problematic to seek an education while labor and income were needed at home. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), because of its strong affiliation to the all-white American Legion and VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), also became a formidable foe to many blacks in search of an education because it had the power to deny or grant the claims of black G.I.s. Additionally, banks and mortgage agencies refused loans to blacks, making the G.I. Bill even less effective for blacks.
The Black middle class failed to keep pace with the white middle class because blacks had fewer opportunities to earn college degrees. In addition to the other obstacles, gaining admission to universities was no easy task for blacks on the G.I. Bill. Most universities had segregationist principles underlying their admissions policies, utilizing either official or unofficial quotas. Even if they could gain admission to universities, public education was in such a poor state for blacks that many of them were not adequately prepared for college level work. Those blacks that were prepared for college level work and gained admission to predominantly white universities still experienced racism on campus.
I am not saying that no blacks benefited from the bill, just that the implementation and social conditions in the 1940s and 1950s favored whites to an extent that it was discriminatory. So what percentage of the post-ww2 white middle class owed its lifestyle and opportunities to the GI bill?

Thursday, August 04, 2011


I remember George Jackson.  I remember re-reading his books while in jail and in prison.  I remember it was just a few months after my federal indictment that Comrade was assassinated  in prison.  I remember in the summer of 1970 the heroic effort of his seventeen year old brother, Jonathan, to free him, ending in his own death.  I remember the power that George Jackson represented and the fear he generated in the slave masters and rulers of the USA.

As we approach the fortieth anniversary of the state murder of George Jackson we must not only remember him.  No, he would want us to forget about that, and continue the struggle he started so many decades ago.  What George Jackson fought for has not been won, what he dreamed of is still a dream.

It is up to us to end the nightmare.  It is up to us to make the dream a reality.

The he following is from the San Francisco Bay View.

Commemorating the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Comrade George Jackson

by Kiilu Nyasha
George Lester Jackson, known as Comrade, spent 11 years in California prisons, mostly in solitary confinement. After plea-bargaining a $70 gas station robbery in 1960, he got one to life.
“I met Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Engels and Mao when I entered prison and they redeemed me. For the first four years I studied nothing but economics and military ideas,” he wrote. (All the quotations are from Jackson’s two books, “Soledad Brother: the Prison Letters of George Jackson” and “Blood in My Eye,” published posthumously.)
It’s ironic, if not planned, that this 40th anniversary coincides with California prisoners going on hunger strike beginning July 1 and continuing to press time. Comrade had been an effective organizer: In 1962, he organized a strike at Tracy in protest of bad food that united all the prisoners on the tier, regardless of color. The current strike has done the same.

George Jackson, pictured here in San Quentin, wrote two books while behind enemy lines, “Soledad Brother” and “Blood in My Eye,” that remain wildly popular, especially with prisoners.
The prison population of the nation has skyrocketed to a whopping 2.4 million. California has transferred at least 10,000 prisoners out of state to private prisons – no visits − leaving at least 160,000 prisoners overcrowding this very profitable system.
A lucrative product: In 2010, revenues for the top private prison companies – Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group – exceeded $2.9 billion.
California prison guards alone can sock away $300,000 a year with overtime pay according to Forbes 2009 ( and its chief psychiatrist was paid $838,706 – more than any other state employee in 2010. California’s total budget is now approximately $9.5 billion.

George Jackson flashes his trademark smile, despite the chains.
“Prisons were not institutionalized on such a massive scale by the people. Most people realize that crime is simply the result of a grossly disproportionate distribution of wealth and privilege, a reflection of the present state of property relations. There are no wealthy men on death row, and so few in the general prison population that we can discount them altogether.
“Imprisonment is an aspect of class struggle from the outset. It is the creation of a closed society which attempts to isolate those individuals who disregard the structures of a hypocritical establishment, as well as those who attempt to challenge it on a mass basis.”
Comrade must be turning over in his grave at the news that the NAACP has joined with the Tea Party, the California Prison Guards Union and Newt Gingrich in addressing, in the words of NAACP President Ben Jealous, “the urgent need to reform our nation’s criminal justice system.”
“That will be your main source of opposition – the Black running dog.” Comrade couldn’t have known how right he was: Add Obama!

George and Jonathan Jackson the last time George was home – Photo courtesy It’s About Time, Black Panther Party Archives
“The ‘good white people’ who own things will always give them a few inches in their papers or other media. That’s how fascism works, influencing the masses and institutions through elites.”
“The U.S. has established itself as the mortal enemy of all people’s government, all scientific-socialist mobilization of consciousness everywhere on the globe, all anti-imperialist activity on earth.”
“Despite presence of political parties, there is only one legal politics in the U.S. – the politics of corporativism. The hierarchy commands all state power. There are thousands of ways, however, to attack it and place that power in the hands of the people.”
“[T]he old guard must not fail to understand that circumstances change in time and space, that there can be nothing dogmatic about revolutionary theory. It is to be born out of each popular struggle … [that] must be analyzed historically to discover new ideas.”

Ruchell Magee, George and Jonathan Jackson – Drawing: Kiilu Nyasha
Eavesdropping laws are taking away one of our best defenses against police brutality. A new category of crime: “Felony Terrorist Videotaping of Police Brutality.” At least three states have made it illegal to record any on-duty police officer; conviction can result in 15 years in prison.
The wealth gaps between whites and the colored majority have grown to their widest levels in a quarter-century with ratios roughly 20-to-1for Blacks and 18-to-1for Latinos. Asians lost their top ranking to whites in median household wealth, dropping from $168,103 in 2005 to $78,066 in 2009.
According to the analysis released in July 2011 by the Pew Research Center, the U.S. poverty rate currently stands at 14.3 percent, with the ranks of the working-age poor at the highest level since the ‘60s, and it will likely climb higher when new figures are released in September.
“Freedom means warmth and protection against harsh exposure to the elements. It means food, not garbage. It means truth, harmony, and the social relations that spring from these. It means the best medical attention whenever it’s needed. It means employment that is reasonable, that coincides with the individual necessities and feelings. We will have this freedom even at the cost of total war.”

George Jackson – Painting: Political Prisoner Sundiata Acoli
“Reformism is an old story in Amerika. There have been depressions and socio-economic political crises throughout the period that marked the formation of the present upper-class ruling circle and their controlling elites. But the parties of the left were too committed to reformism to exploit their revolutionary potential.”
“Fascism has temporarily succeeded under the guise of reform.”
On Aug. 21, 1971, after numerous failed attempts on his life, the state finally succeeded in assassinating Comrade, field marshal of the Black Panther Party. Prison officials claimed Jackson smuggled a gun into San Quentin in a wig in an aborted prison escape. That feat was proven impossible and evidence suggested a setup by prison officials to eliminate Jackson once and for all.

George Jackson’s funeral in Oakland – Photo: Stephen Shames
However, they didn’t count on losing any of their own in the process, namely, three notoriously racist prison guards and two inmate turnkeys. The odds had changed and they went mad. Twenty-six prisoners signed an affidavit written by jailhouse lawyer Ruchell Cinque Magee, detailing the egregious tortures they suffered at the hands of the racist goons.
Subsequently, six prisoners were singled out for what became the longest trial in California history. Wearing 30 pounds of chains in Marin Courthouse, facing charges of murder and assault, Fleeta Drumgo, David Johnson, Hugo “Yogi Bear” Pinell, Luis Talamantez, Johnny Spain and Willie Sundiata Tate were tried. Only one, Spain, was convicted of murder. The others were either acquitted or convicted of assault.
Hugo Pinell, the only one of the six remaining in prison, has suffered prolonged isolation in lockups since 1969 − the last 20 years in Pelican Bay’s SHU, a torture chamber if ever there was one. A true warrior, like Comrade, Yogi would put his life on the line to defend his fellow captives against sadistic guard attacks. He has just come off the hunger strike initiated in Pelican Bay.
As Mumia Abu-Jamal stated, “Their sacrifice, their despair, their determination and their blood has painted the month Black for all time.”
This Black August, let us honor our martyred freedom fighter, Comrade George, as well as those who recently joined the ancestors: Donald Cox, Michael Cetawayo Tabor and geronimo ji Jaga. And let us not forget all those who remain captive after many decades: Mumia Abu-Jamal, Sundiata Acoli, Herman Bell, Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald, Ruchell Cinque Magee − sole survivor of the Marin Courthouse Rebellion of Aug. 7, 1970 − Jalil Muntaqim, Albert Woodfox, Herman Wallace, Leonard Peltier, Oscar Lopez-Rivera and exiled freedom fighter Assata Shakur, to name just a few.
“Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are dying who could be saved, that generations more will live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done; discover your humanity and your love in revolution.”
Kiilu Nyasha, Black Panther veteran, revolutionary journalist and Bay View columnist, blogs at The Official Website of Kiilu Nyasha, where episodes of her TV talk show, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle, along with her essays are posted. She can be reached at

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


Susan Rose was a friend of mine who I haven't seen since the mid 80s.  Although Susan and I were about the same age and attended high school not far from each other, I never knew her then.  It was in the mid 70s I suppose that I first met Susan in Lawrence, Kansas.  At first, I knew her mainly as the best friend of a best friend.  Later we developed a sort of friendship of our own.  We hung out together as friends do.  Once I asked her out on an actual  "date" and she accepted.  It was a very strange evening to say the least.  When I kissed her goodnight, we both broke up laughing...realizing that we were friends, not people who "dated."  And so we were.  I last visited her during a road trip around the country when she was living near Nashville, of all places.  It was the last time I saw her.  Susan was a nurse first with a heart of gold.  She was fun with an incredible spirit and a wonder lust to match. She and her sister, Barb, also gone now, were quite a pair. As time went on, life wasn't all that kind to Susan, in fact, at times it was damn rough, but she persevered.  Susan had moved back to Lawrence several years ago and I often thought of reconnecting, but I never did, so like me.  I regret that. To be honest, I don't even know how she died, just that it was unexpected (like a lot of things in her life).  Anyway, a few of you who read this may have crossed path with Susan over the years, and for all of those who didn't, you missed out.  

I grabbed the picture  below off her obituary.  Susan would have a had a cow if she had seen it...and then laughed and laughed...and maybe, in the end, shed a few tears over some things that might have been, but never were.

Farewell, Susan.Susan Elizabeth Rose

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


So as Adrain said in Good Morning Vietnam,

 "Fool, it's hot! I told you again! Were you born on the sun? It's damn hot! It's so damn hot, I saw little guys, their orange robes burst into flames. It's that hot! Do you know what I'm talking about?" What do you think it's going to be like tonight? "It's gonna be hot and wet! That's nice if you're with a lady, but ain't no good if you're in the jungle!" 

or at my house either...


Just to make sure that they don't miss out on all the fun this band of Buddhist wanted to get in on the misogyny, so they did.  But hey, everybody does it, right?  

It is nice to see that many Buddhist are not happy that their cohorts are persecuting a young women, nun no less, who was raped by a group of men in Nepal.  

However, I can't say that I am thrilled to see  something called the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities  thinks that the old temple slave system is something that should be defended as part of "our cultural rights."  Screw that!

The following article comes from IPS Gender Wire.

Religious Practices Oppress Women 
Sudeshna Sarkar 

KATHMANDU (IPS) - The recent gang-rape of a Buddhist nun and her expulsion from her sect have sparked a debate about the deep-rooted religious traditions and biases that foster discrimination and violence, especially against women, in this South Asian state.

The public outcry against the nun’s expulsion forced the Nepal Buddhist Federation to reconsider, saying now that once she recovers, the victim can return to her nunnery.

But it is only a minor triumph. While public debate on a discriminatory socio-religious practice led to its retraction, thousands of women continue to be victims of other religious rituals in Nepal.

The expulsion debate started after the 21-year-old nun was attacked on June 24 while travelling in eastern Nepal. Bad weather disrupted the journey and the young woman, easily recognizable as a nun by her shaved head and red robes, was persuaded by the bus driver to spend the night in the vehicle.

She was later raped by five people, including the driver and his two helpers, who also looted the money and other belongings she was carrying.

"It is a nightmare," says the nun’s uncle, Surya Bahadur Tamang. "We took her to a private hospital in Siliguri but the doctors said they would certify it as an accident since rape would mean police intervention. How can we fight a legal case against the culprits if the doctors don’t support us?"

When the nun’s family brought her to Kathmandu for further treatment, the state-run hospital they went to refused to admit her at first. By then, however, media reports about the attack had begun to appear and Nepal’s National Women’s Commission as well as indigenous organisations intervened, forcing the doctors to treat her.

But more suffering awaited the victim. A joint statement supported by 15 organisations— including Nepal Tamang Lama Ghedung, an organisation of Buddhist monks, Nepal Buddhist Federation, and Boudha Jagaran Kendra (Buddhist Awakening Centre)— condemned the attack but said she had lost her celibacy and her religious status. The rejection triggered widespread debate, with Buddhist groups from across the world criticising it.

"There is a great deal of shock and disbelief at the very idea of such an action by both Buddhists and non-Buddhists in the U.S. and abroad," wrote Matthew Frazer, an American who established the Yeshe Tsogyal Foundation to defend Buddhists targeted by violence or abuse. "Such an action reflects badly not only on Nepal, but on Buddhists in general to the rest of the world. It will set a very perilous precedent that can be used to take similar actions against future victims."

The Syracuse Buddhism Examiner reported last week that the attack had shaken up the Buddhist community in New York state. "The rape issue is taken very seriously here," the Examiner said, at the same time offering help and the space to discuss rape issues.

Others like the Australian Anthony Best, now a monk known as Bhante Sugato, are mobilising support through blogs and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The nun belongs to the Tamang community, a Tibeto-Burman people once living in the high Himalayan ranges who migrated to Tibet, India, Bhutan and Nepal. They are among Nepal’s most disadvantaged groups, lacking education and access to economic resources. They are also among the worst victims of human trafficking.

Poverty has led to the perpetuation of a religious practice—the Jhuma tradition—among Tamangs and other Buddhist communities of western Nepal.

"As land is scarce in the mountains, families with several 
children seek to prevent it from being split up," says Uttam Niraula, executive director of the Society for Humanism Nepal (SOCH Nepal), a non- government organisation campaigning against superstition and paranormal practices. "While the eldest looked after the family, the one in the middle was sent off to become a monk or nun. This is the Jhuma tradition." 

SOCH Nepal recently worked with Nepal’s women, children and social welfare ministry to produce a draft law to prevent discrimination and violence in the name of social malpractices, many of which stem from religion, like Jhuma and two more celebrated traditions, the Kumari and Deuki.

The Kumari – Nepal’s famous Living Goddess – is the tradition of choosing a girl at pre-puberty, sometimes as young as three years old, as the guardian deity of the city and installing her in her own palace, away from her family. She does not go to school and is not allowed to walk outside. Her reign ends when she nears puberty and is replaced by another young girl.

The Deuki system, similar to India’s notorious uddhist or temple slave custom, exists in far western Nepal where families "gift" a young daughter to a temple, abandoning her to a fate of poverty, exploitation and often enforced prostitution.

"All these customs violate a child’s rights and are clearly banned by Nepal’s Children’s Act of 1992," says Niraula. "The Act says a child should not be separated from the parents, should be allowed to go to school and play and should not be dedicated to god. It specifically says that a child under 16 can’t be made to become a nun or monk. But the implementation is weak. The new act will have tougher deterrents."

But the government faces an uphill task trying to implement the new law, even if parliament passes it.

In 2005, lawyer Pundevi Maharjan filed a public interest suit, arguing that Kumaris should be allowed to go to school, stay with their families and enjoy the rights granted to all children by the constitution. Though Nepal’s Supreme Court vindicated Maharjan’s stand, the Kumari still continue to lead a sequestered life, with a succession of governments fearful of antagonising the powerful Newar community, whose deity she is.

Buddhists, too, are not ready to see the Jhuma tradition end.

"It will be a violation of our cultural rights," says Ang Kaji Sherpa, general secretary of Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities. "The government needs to consult the stakeholders and initiate social reforms first instead of trying to impose a law unilaterally." 


What we have here is the perfect storm of racism, global warming, environmental destruction, and capitalism.  This story is so disgusting on so many levels I don't even know where to begin.  The frightening thing about this is that it goes on everyday all over the world...unnoticed except by those who are being victimized.  We aren't supposed to know about it, we aren't supposed to care about it, and we sure as hell aren't supposed to do anything about it.  FIGHT RACISM, SAVE THE EARTH.

Thanks to China Dialogue and The Guardian for the following.


Tracy McVeigh

August 01, 2011

In the Tana Delta’s unique wetlands, villagers fight for their plots of land as the government forces them out -- to make way for water-thirsty sugar-cane and jatropha plantations. Tracy McVeigh reports.


“You don’t need to be a scientist to see the situation here is critical and the land grab is terrible. This is supposed to be the wet season. The elephants have already gone, the hippos are going, birds are less and less.”
Gamba Manyatta village is empty now, weeds already roping around the few skeletal hut frames still standing. The people who were evicted took as much of their building materials as they could carry to start again and the land where their homes stood is now ploughed up.
Mohamed Abdi, 13, points out where his hut used to be. His was the last of the 427 families to leave. “They told us we would be burned out if we didn’t go,” he said. “They drove machinery round and round the village all day and all night to drive people out. No one understood why, as the village had been there for more than 25 years.”
The eviction of the villagers to make way for a sugar-cane plantation is part of a wider land grab going on in Kenya’s Tana Delta that is not only pushing people off plots they have farmed for generations, stealing their water resources and raising tribal tensions that many fear will escalate into war, but also destroying a unique wetland habitat that is home to hundreds of rare and spectacular birds.
The irony is that most of the land is being taken for allegedly environmental reasons – to allow private companies to grow water-thirsty sugar cane andjatropha for the biofuels so much in demand in the west, where green legislation, designed to ease carbon-dioxide emissions, is requiring they are mixed with petrol and diesel.
The delta, one of Kenya’s last wildernesses and one of the most important bird habitats in Africa, is the flood plain of the Tana River, which flows 1,014km from Mount Kenya to the Indian Ocean.
Global warming and reduced rainfall have already hit the delta hard. “No proper research has been done into what wildlife is here, and now the habitat is disappearing there is no evidence of what we are losing,” said Francis Kagema, of Nature Kenya, a conservation group supported by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in the United Kingdom.
Standing on the bank of a small lake that clearly was once much larger, he points out more than a dozen species of birds within view from his binoculars. “You don’t need to be a scientist to see the situation here is critical and the land grab is terrible. This is supposed to be the wet season. The elephants have already gone, the hippos are going, birds are less and less.”
The delta’s people are trying to fight their own government over the huge blocks of land being turned over to companies including the Canadian companyBedford Biofuels, which was granted a licence this year by the Kenyan environmental regulator for a 10,000-hectare jatropha “pilot” project. A UK-based firm, G4 Industries Limited, has been awarded a licence for 28,000 hectares.
At the site where the former villagers from Gamba Manyatta were told to relocate, elder Bule Gedi Darso, 57, shows the foul-smelling stream that they have to draw their water from. “This is not a good place. Children have died; we have typhoid and malaria now. We were healthy before and our children went to school. This river is the drainage and pesticides from all the big farms. The proper river has been diverted to irrigate them and now we just get their poison. When we were evicted, they showed us the maps, and we saw many more villages that don’t yet know they are to be evicted too. Where will they all go?”
It is a question worrying another village. Didewaride was once surrounded by wetland, only accessible by boat. Now it is stranded amid kilometres of brown earth with occasional pools of water. Omar Bocha Kofonde, an elder, says: “The hippos have gone, the fish, the birds, and the soil is salty. The goats and cattle have no grazing. The rivers used to flush out the sea water, now the sea is coming up on to our land because there is no river. Everything is in danger. People thought they owned the land; we have been here for hundreds of years. Now we will fight; we are ready to die, for what else is there?”
It is the same view coming from villagers all around the delta, Christian and Muslim, farmers and herdsmen from the Pokomo, Orma, Luo and other tribes. The village of Ozi has just discovered that two huge plots of its land were sold at auction in April; villagers say they do not know who sold the land or who bought it.
“This land ownership is giving us a headache. We know there are people who have sold our land when it isn’t theirs to sell,” said Ali Saidi Kichei of Ozi village, which sent a delegation to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to demand a meeting with the country’s minister for lands. “They are criminals and we will fight them, with guns and with sticks.”

“We lived in paradise, in peace,” he said. “Now what? No water, only salty water, land thieves and water thieves, and children with empty stomachs.”
Kagema says Nature Kenya is trying to support villagers to go to court. “These people have lived here for hundreds of years, but suddenly someone writes up a piece of paper and they are squatters on their own land. The delta is of international importance, yet they control the water and drain the wetlands and portions are parcelled off to private investors like the biofuel companies. Homes and lands are given away from under them. Nobody cares because nothing happens immediately, but it is coming. Tana Delta is in chaos. When everyone picks up their share with their bits of paperwork … it will be war. The day is coming.”

Copyright © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

Homepage image of the Tana Delta wetlands, from  Nature Kenya