Lesbian and Bisexual Women In Islam

Kecia Ali

Same-sex sexual activity is a taboo subject for many Muslims. Some go so far as to deny that gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals exist in Muslim societies today or even that sexual activity between men or between women has existed in Islamic history. Rather, they claim that such issues are “western” or “modern.” Those who do acknowledge the topic generally agree that the Qur’an explicitly forbids all same-sex sexual activity and that Islamic law prescribes dire punishments for it. Thus, in dealing with same-sex sexual behavior among Muslims, there are two key issues: First, what is practiced? Answering this question involves determining what the historical role of lesbian women and female same-sex sexual behavior, for example, has been. Second, and more importantly for contemporary Muslims grappling with the issues raised by same-sex attractions, what is permissible? Just because some Muslims in the past have behaved in a certain way does not mean it is religiously legitimate to do so. This essay will briefly address the first question of past practice, then turn to a discussion of permissibility.

Despite current conventional wisdom to the contrary, same-sex sexual expression has been a more or less recognized aspect of Muslim societies for many centuries, as can be seen through literature, history, and law. Medieval Arabic literature, including both belles-lettres works (in the genre of adab) and copious amounts of erotica, discusses same-sex sexual activity frequently and explicitly. Most often, it is sexual activity between men that is discussed, but these literary works also include discussion of sexual acts between women. Generally, lesbian sexual behavior is referred to as sihaq, “rubbing” or “pounding”. (The term is also sometimes used for female masturbation.) Sihaq, or musahaqa, translates approximately as “tribadism.” Recently, some have begun to study these literary sources to understand female same-sex sexual activity in the medieval Muslim world. A few articles provide a starting point for understanding tribadism in Muslim contexts historically. There is also an extensive literature on male homoeroticism in Islamic literature and Muslim societies. (Link under construction.)

Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) also recognizes the existence of same-sex sexual contact. While jurists devote more attention to preventing, regulating, and punishing illicit intercourse between a man and a woman than to same-sex sexual activity, the jurists do address male/male sex. While sexual acts between two men are “forbidden,” according to the jurists, the legal texts do not simply state punishments to be applied. They regularly explore the question of what other legal consequences attach to these forbidden acts. As with cases of zina (basically, intercourse between a man and woman who are not married to each other), the jurists attempt to regulate the social consequences of the illicit actions. For example, does an act of (anal) intercourse between two men create a barrier to one of the men marrying the other’s daughter, as it would if one of the partners was a woman? (Some hold that it does.) Texts even address the issue of whether an ablution (ghusl) is required after male-male intercourse, just as after male-female intercourse, before the men can pray! (It is.) Clearly, in addition to a dogmatic condemnation of same-sex activity, the jurists also had a pragmatic approach to dealing with its occurrence.

Works of Islamic jurisprudence, however, devote almost no attention to female-female sexual activity. Several factors contribute to this silence. Perhaps the most important is simply that the legal effects of sexual activity attach to (vaginal or anal) penetration by a penis. When this penetration does not occur, there is no question of ablution, or the creation of barriers to marrying kin, or other consequences of sexual acts. In the few cases where lesbian sexual activity is mentioned, the legal discussion revolves around what punishment, if any, is to be imposed by the authorities; the jurists themselves disagree on this issue.

Jurisprudence has addressed same-sex sexual activity as illicit sex outside of a legally sanctioned relationship. Traditional jurists vehemently condemned all such illicit intercourse, including that between a man and a woman. Ibn Hajar Haytami’s famous “List of Enormities” (i.e., major sins), which treats several offenses together, can illustrate this point, as it groups together:

[I]llicit intercourse (zina); sodomy (liwat: anal intercourse between men); bestiality (ityan al-baha’im); anal intercourse with a woman other than one’s wife; female tribadism (musaahaqat al-nisa’), which is a woman doing with a woman something resembling what a man would do with her; and a husband having sex with his wife’s corpse.

In this list, Ibn Hajar does not make a distinction between acts that are forbidden because they are intrinsically sinful (bestiality and necrophilia can be assumed to fall into this category) and those where the issue is the lack of a proper legal relationship between the parties. This is the case with illicit intercourse between a man and a woman (zina). If the parties were married, there would be no sin; thus, the problem is not the sexual act but rather the partner with whom it is performed.

Islamic jurisprudence has never addressed the question of same-sex sexual behavior (male-male or female-female) except as illicit contact outside of a legally sanctioned bond. This raises an important question: Is homoerotic sexual activity always forbidden? Or might the impermissibility be the result of the lack of a legal relationship between the same-sex pair? In other words, is the problem the same as with an unmarried male-female couple that commits zina? If there were such a thing as a lawful relationship between two women or two men, then would the verdict about sexual activity between them differ? Whether such a licit same-sex relationship can exist is a different legal issue – one that I would not presume to be qualified to decide – but it is one that Muslim jurisprudence has not addressed.

There is also the larger question of whether Islamic jurisprudence is the necessary framework for resolving these issues. While some insist that the legal framework developed by Muslim jurists from approximately 900-1400 CE must govern all Muslim behavior, the reality in the contemporary world is that the vast majority of social and economic transactions engaged in by Muslims do not strictly follow these legal precepts. Only on some matters of personal status (marriage, divorce, inheritance) do some majority-Muslim nations retain religiously-based laws, and these differ widely from one country to another. In many cases, these modern family laws also diverge from the classical Islamic jurisprudence on which they are purportedly based. In nations where Muslims are a minority of the population, Islamic law has no coercive power, though it does have moral weight. However, when it is followed, it is again only selectively.

In any case, for most Muslims seeking guidance, the primary authority is not jurisprudence but rather the Qur’an and prophetic traditions (hadith) which are themselves the main sources of Islamic law. However, those who turn to scripture or hadith collections looking for material on lesbian sexual activity and relationships will find little to help them grapple with these issues. While the Qur’an explicitly addresses male-male sexual activity (albeit interpreted in various ways), there is no consensus as to whether the Qur’an even mentions female same-sex activity. There are numerous hadith addressing men’s sexual behavior with other men, but, again, little mention of lesbian behavior in hadith collections.

There are groups of self-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Muslims working to address these issues, and to reconcile their spirituality and religious identity with their sexual orientation. [Link under construction to groups, organizations, and resources for those concerned with lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Muslim women.] Again, the vast majority of groups and resources address themselves primarily to men, but there is at least one listserve, Iman, for Muslim women who identify as lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered.

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Sexual Revolution Gaining Grounds In China

Laura Robertson

Only 60 years ago, arranged marriage was still the norm in many parts of China, but today Chinese teenagers have more sexual freedom than ever.

The topic of sex education was once taboo, and still off-limits in some areas, but changing cultural mores have presented a new challenge for Chinese educators. Officials in some of China's major cities hope increased sex education will help prevent some of the alarming sexual trends, like teen pregnancy, abortions, and STDs.

The first week of May, coinciding with China's "May Day" and Spring holidays, hospitals have reported a spike in the number of teens coming in for abortions. Shanghai newspapers reported a 30% rise in abortions for teenage girls, and Beijing hospitals have also noticed similar trends.

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Deng Jun, a doctor from Tian-en Hospital in Beijing told The Shenzhen Daily, "Girls who have abortions are considerably younger. Most of them are junior middle school students aged 14 to 15." Before the students who visited him were in late high school.

A 2004 survey from Suzhou University indicated that 4.2 percent of junior high school girls were sexually active, versus 4.6% of senior high students. While these rates remain significantly lower than those of their U.S. counterparts (just under half of unmarried American teenagers between 15-19 have had sex), the attitudes of Chinese teens towards sex have become increasingly liberal.

Only 6 of 1,300 girls polled in a 2007 survey said they would tell their boyfriend "no" if he wanted to have sex. Of the total 2,300 teens polled, a collective 85% said teenage sex was okay if it was either consensual, or the two people really loved each other.

By comparison, only about 30% of American teens approved of unmarried 16-year-olds having sex, though about 60% approved of 18-19 year olds having sexual relationships, according to a 2002 study from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

These differences in attitude could indicate future social trends. Even though Chinese teenagers aren't nearly as sexually active as their American counterparts, casual sexual attitudes could soon translate into casual sexual behavior.

International and Chinese family planning organizations are hoping that education can provide a solution to this situation. Some Chinese educators are trying provide sex education at an earlier age, but the lack of strong sex education has caused many Chinese youth to look elsewhere for information. According to one study, 75% of Chinese youth get most of their sex education through online pornography.

Considering the Chinese government's crackdown on internet pornography, and the fact that it's illegal in China, a 15-year-old boy caught looking at internet porn probably won't be able to escape the wrath of authorities by telling them that he's only accessing "educational material."

Government officials have expressed concern over the lack of sex education, and say they can do more to stop the rise in teen pregnancy. Ru Xiaomei of the China National Family Planning Committee told The New York Times the government was "on the right path . . . but we don't say we have done very well, or perfectly."

The questions then remain: is there a "perfect" way to educate Chinese youth about sex, and what is the right way to reach students about these delicate topics? And how will this method be carried out?

As we've seen with the U.S. sex education debates, educating the youth about sex is hardly a non-controversial topic. I imagine it will ignite similar fireworks in China, though the two sides might be even more extreme: comprehensive sex education vs. maintaining the status quo of little to no sex education. Implementation will also probably vary throughout the different provinces.

Despite the controversy, given the rising teen abortion rates and teen pregnancy rates, China has to re-evaluate the current system.

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Where You Rape A Lady And Go Free - Vegas Sex Industry

Suki Falconberg

Two dozen girls were picked up in a raid on a Las Vegas brothel last month. The customers present were questioned and released. This particular raid, the result of something called Operation Doll House, came after two years of investigation, and it yielded the arrest of about half a dozen exploiters with ties to Asia who had trafficked the girls in.

The first news article on this raid (in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, April 25, 2007) was entitled "Women Facing Deportation" and made it sound as if the girls were the criminals since they were in the US illegally. The second article (also in the Review-Journal, May 4, 2007) did an about face and said the girls would be eligible for "T" visas (ones available for trafficking victims) and they would receive help locally from the Salvation Army and WestCare, a facility with a newly established trafficking program.

The article mentioned the conditions the girls were found under: dirty mattresses on the floor, separated by sheets strung up; the rooms reeking of cigarettes and feces and urine; gallon containers of lube and hundreds of condoms in the brothel. While the brothel was running, neighbors reported seeing customers vomiting and urinating in the street before going in and they reported huge numbers of used condoms rolling down the street on trash days.

The article also, thankfully, pointed out the campaign of terror and physical and psychological abuse, not the least of which is the daily rape of their bodies, that girls who are trafficked endure.

These articles prompted a number of questions on my part. The biggest one: why were the customers not arrested for the ongoing rape of these girls' bodies? Were the girls put in jail cells right after the raid, further traumatizing their already shocked minds and bodies? If they are indeed the victims of this terrible rape of their bodies, why would anyone even consider putting them in a cell, or 'arresting' them, for even a moment?

Who termed this Operation Doll House? It makes the pathetic situation of these poor girls sound like a dirty joke at a bachelor party - as if a brothel were a place full of live dolls to play with. Another such operation in Las Vegas a number of years ago was called Operation Jade Blade, carrying sad, 'exotic' associations with the knives brothel inmates feel between their legs everyday. Words are important. I would like to know if male police officers named these operations, unaware of the insensitivity of phrasing.

Since the Las Vegas police must see the pathetic conditions that prostitutes live under, why would they use such a sadly callous and sexist title for this operation? The Las Vegas police report that the city has as many underage street prostitutes (most trafficked in by pimps) as bigger cities like Los Angeles and New York. Given this, they must see the misery of these girls. Sold girls are not 'dolls.'

Other questions about the raid: Why did it take two years to release the girls from their sexual slavery? Is not the fact of all those used condoms rolling down the street enough of a clue that something is terribly amiss? Two years while the girls were raped thousands of times.

A local aid worker who helps trafficked victims says she was not aware of anyone being sexually enslaved in the US until she herself began helping victims in 1997. Although I have great admiration for what she does, I do know that I have been aware of sexual slavery since I was quite young. I am not sure there was ever a time that I didn't know that the sale of female bodies is one of the most lucrative businesses on the planet. It is rather hard to miss it. When and where have women and girls not been sold for sex? Why would anyone think it does not happen in this country? Is there a city, a place, a haven, anywhere, in the history of our species, where sexual slavery has not been practiced? I have always been aware that my own safety exists at the expense of those less sexually protected in some terrible equation of unfairness and pain.

How many other brothels full of trafficked girls are operating right now in Las Vegas? It is one of the major sex-for-sale venues in the world. Wherever sex is a massive industry, as it is in this entertainment capital of the world--as it styles itself--there will be exploitation. In recent years, Las Vegas has seen a massive proliferation of Asian massage parlours, and the numerous escort services advertise many girls from both Asia and Eastern Europe. The phenomenon of selling more girls from these areas parallels the rise in trafficking worldwide.

Setting up services for trafficked girls in Las Vegas is very recent - only within the last year have organizations and women's groups actually recognized the problem¡Xthis despite the fact that Las Vegas has been 'Sin City' for decades.

Operation Jade Blade took place in 2000, Operation Doll House this year. Two stings within a period of seven years in a city where sex-for-sale is a commonplace? The Las Vegas yellow pages runs 150 pages of ads under the caption 'Entertainment.' Girls are offered under such headings as 'Barely Legal China Dolls and Asian Centerfolds and Asian Beauties.' 'Direct to you, petite and willing, you no happy, you no pay, wild, ready to have fun with you' - these are some of the promises. Along with 'full service,' as in 'Full Service Japanese and Chinese Teens.' 'Exotic European Girls' are there, along with 'Chinese Teens in Short Skirts' and 'Sizzling Asian Teen Strippers' and 'Chinese Take-Out, Asian Girls Are Better.' 'Affordable Asians' is yet another ad. Some present the girls as docile and submissive, in the traditional stereotype. 'No attitude' is the promise. They will do what you want.

There are, of course, plenty of ads for home-grown girls, but I do note that the marketing of Asians, and Eastern Europeans, in Las Vegas has increased enormously over the last few years. It would seem obvious that a link with trafficking is the reason.

Little cards with near-nude, provocatively posed girls and brochures are other ways that the escort and massage and entertainment services of Las Vegas advertise. One girl for $35, two-girl special for $60, etc.

Yet another aspect of the Las Vegas sex scene is an increase in 'Gentleman's Clubs,' some displaying just topless but others offering full nudity. Crazy Horse and Cheetah's and others have, of course, been a part of the Las Vegas scene for a long while; but around the city there now seems to be an explosion of nude entertainment. Many girls may be quite happily making lots of money in these clubs - if so, I would be really overjoyed to know this is the case--but we do not really know much in the way of their stories. Nor do we know much about the connection between these establishments and prostitution per se in Las Vegas. In fact, how much sexual activity is voluntary, and how much 'forced,' on the part of girls engaged in the various aspects of the sex industry in this city is impossible to tell. A local investigative reporter who has interviewed Las Vegas and Nevada prostitutes on-and-off for many years says that almost every girl he talked to stuck him as damaged in some way. The few who might actually benefit from selling sex were rare in his opinion.

How many of the escorts are independent operators and how many are controlled by pimps? Prostitution is illegal within Las Vegas itself, but legal in the adjacent county. Girls are sometimes trafficked into the legal establishments by pimps, who take the money. They are also trafficked between the escort services and strip clubs and brothels so as to provide fresh merchandize.

If the women and girls working in the Las Vegas and Nevada sex industries were there because they wanted to be, and were indeed making money, instead of it being siphoned off by pimps, owners, procurers, traffickers, it would be fine by me. I would like to envision a form of prostitution where the girl has control over her body and her finances. But I wonder if this is the case for many of them? Particularly with the huge increase over the past few years of Asians and Eastern Europeans being marketed. In addition to the two dozen rescued during Operation Doll House, how many more girls are being held in debt bondage and sexual slavery around the Las Vegas valley and in the adjacent county with its legal establishments? I doubt if this tiny handful of girls rescued in the raid is even the tip of the sexual misery going on out there.

Trying to get to talk to a girl in one of Nevada's legal brothels is tough. The places are way out in the desert and resemble prisons. If the activity is a prosperous and beneficial one for the girls, why are the places so hard to get into, or out of? And where would a girl go, out in the desert, if she did escape? There are only jackrabbits and coyotes out there.

Back to a question that I raised at the beginning of this article¡Xsince it is the one that troubles me most deeply: Why are the 'johns' who rape the girls not being arrested? Since I have been raped/prostituted, I know that what johns do to us is rape. They pay to rape an already thoroughly raped body. Why are these attackers going free? Please call johns what they are - rapists. And punish them for their sexual brutality.

It puzzles me why one girl raped by her boyfriend is considered so important and 'special' that she has rape crisis centers and counseling and prosecution under the law at her disposal; but if a girl is trafficked, broken, tortured, terrorized and raped over and over, on a daily basis, the many 'customers' who violate her multiple times are not even considered criminals.

If anyone reads this and knows about how the law operates, please let me know if the 'johns' are culpable under a new move in international law to regard any man as a rapist who uses a girl forced into sexual servitude. How does international law intersect with local law?

As you may know, Las Vegas has a famous slogan: 'What happens here, stays here.' What you may not know is that the phrase comes from the military. An uncle of mine, a WWII vet, told me it referred to the GI's buying and raping starving prostituted girls all across Europe and Asia. Obviously, they did not want their wives and girlfriends back home to know about the way they took advantage of women and girls and the way they forced conqueror sex on a destitute population, nor did they want the many babies they fathered and abandoned to come to light. So they all formed a 'pact' around that phrase, 'what happens here, stays here.' My uncle (who bought prostituted bodies in Japan) says he thought the phrase went back at least to WWI, when soldiers in that war behaved the same in France and elsewhere. And, of course, the same soldier/sailor mentality continues to this day, as our military stops off for the regulation sex binge in Bangkok, or our men buy girls trafficked into brothels for them near bases in Korea and other places overseas. 'What happens here, stays here.' An appropriate 'slogan,' no? - for Las Vegas, a major sex-for-sale city.

It seems unlikely that Las Vegas will ever tackle the exploitative aspect of its sex industry. There is too much money to be made. It is also too much a part of the 'glamourous' aspect of Sin City. My temporary solution would be to at least not treat the girls as criminals, no matter if they are 'trafficked' or not. I would set up extensive services (physical and mental health care, job training, mentoring by ex-prostitutes) for those trying to escape prostitution, including actively seeking out enslaved girls since the truly oppressed are often not in a position to escape on their own - too beaten down and terrified and broken. For those who are in the profession voluntarily, I would advocate 'protective' services for these girls that really work in their favor, including decriminalizing it totally for the women, and punishing exploiters and pimps as slavers and rapists. 'Legalizing' has been a failure. It is time to envision a completely different path for protecting girls involved in selling sex. This is matter for a whole article, or book, on its own, for a later time.

I would like to conclude by saying that I hope these poor 'doll-house' girls receive nurturing care for many years to come. They will need the kindness of the generous-hearted people at the Salvation Army, and WestCare, for a long, long time. It takes a whole lifetime to heal from being raped everyday by johns. And even then the sexual scarring is inside forever.

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Why Jehovah's Witnesses Demand To Be Treated Without Transfusions

One of the leading practitioners of "bloodless surgery" says that when Jehovah's Witnesses demand to be treated without transfusions - as parents of premature babies in Quebec City and Vancouver have done recently - they are not relying on junk science.

Rather, they are pushing the medical establishment to provide them with a form of treatment that is increasingly available, but still relatively obscure, in the United States and Canada, says Aryeh Shander, chief of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in New Jersey.

Dr. Shander, interviewed yesterday in the wake of a Quebec court decision that ordered transfusions for premature twins despite objections from their Jehovah's Witnesses parents, said that even tiny babies can be treated safely with techniques commonly called bloodless surgery, or more correctly, blood conservation.

"Bloodless is sort of a misnomer because essentially what we do is we treat patients without the use of banked blood products," said Dr. Shander, who is also a professor at Mount Sinai school of medicine in New York.

He was recently profiled by Time magazine in a report titled Heroes of Medicine, because of his pioneering work in bloodless surgery.

"What we do is try to approach the patient from a different scenario. ... we will make sure that their blood level is brought up before surgery," he said. "We will collect every drop of blood during surgery ... and we can return all the products back to them later on."

Machines that recycle a patient's own blood and drugs that reduce the need for transfusions are among the techniques used.

Dr. Shander said he's used the approach on a wide variety of patients - including premature babies born to parents who are Jehovah's Witnesses, a religion that forbids blood transfusions.

"To date, everything that has been performed from a surgical point of view ... on patients who take blood, can be performed on bloodless patients, or Jehovah's Witnesses," he said.


Dr. Shander has been at the forefront of bloodless surgery since the 1980s when AIDS and hepatitis C epidemics made him question the risks of transfusions.

He said his questioning of traditional methods was controversial at first, just as the questioning by Jehovah's Witnesses is now.

"There were arguments, no doubt about that ... I don't know if people actually viewed [what I was doing] as heresy, but this is how people view the Witnesses now, as heretics in the cathedral of medicine, because they are questioning even more than I did. They are questioning medicine to be able to deliver the same standard of care that everyone else gets - but without the use of blood."

Quebec Superior Court ruled on Wednesday that a Quebec City hospital caring for premature twins should proceed with blood transfusions after doctors treating the babies were able to demonstrate the severity of the situation.

Two doctors told the court blood transfusions were necessary to keep the twins alive and avoid brain damage. A doctor who is a Jehovah's Witness testified on the parents' behalf that alternatives to transfusion were available for the twins, who were born by cesarean section May 17 at 25 weeks.

In January, the B.C. government briefly seized four babies who had survived Canada's first sextuplet birth, and ordered transfusions, despite the objections of the parents, who are also Jehovah's Witnesses.

The parents have since taken the B.C. government to court, seeking a ruling that they should have had an opportunity to go before a judge and make an argument for bloodless treatment. That case is expected to be heard in July.

Dr. Shander said every case is different and he doesn't have medical details on the recent births in B.C. and Quebec. But he said in most instances, there is a good medical case to be made for bloodless treatment.

"We've had plenty of patients from all over the world who have come to our hospital to be treated without blood. All went home, yet they were refused by many, including Canada, to be cared for," he said.

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20 Facts You Need To Know About Iraq

1. The garden of Eden was in Iraq.

2. Mesopotamia, which is now Iraq, was the cradle of civilization!

3. Noah built the ark in

4. The
Tower of Babel was in Iraq.

5. All doctrines of the major religions are traced to Mesopotamia, that is Iraq

6. Abraham was from Ur, which is in
Southern Iraq!

7. Isaac's wife Rebekah is from Nahor, which is in

8. Jacob met Rachel in

9. Jonah preached in
Nineveh - which is in Iraq.

10. Assyria, which is in Iraq, conquered the ten tribes of

11. Amos cried out in

12. Babylon, which is in Iraq, destroyed

13. Daniel was in the lion's den in

14. The three Hebrew children were in the fire in
Iraq (Jesus had been in Iraq also as the fourth person in the fiery furnace!)

15. Belshazzar, the King of
Babylon saw the "writing on the wall" in Iraq.

16. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, carried the Jews captive into

17. Ezekiel preached in

18. The wise men were from

19. Peter preached in

20. The "Empire of Man" described in Revelation is called
Babylon, which was a city in Iraq!

And you have probably seen this one.
Israel is the nation most often mentioned in the Bible. But do you know which nation is second? It is Iraq!

However, that is not the name that is used in the Bible. The names used in the Bible are
Babylon, Land of Shinar, and Mesopotamia. The word Mesopotamia means between the two rivers, more exactly between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The name Iraq, means country with deep roots.

Iraq is a country with deep roots and is a very significant country in the Bible. No other nation, except Israel, has more history and prophecy associated it than Iraq.

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'Bloodless Surgery' Gradually Becoming Popular

World Staff Writer

More hospitals across the country have begun "bloodless surgery" programs, typically in an effort to fulfill the needs of Jehovah's Witnesses, said Dr. Nicolas Jabbour, who started Oklahoma's first hospital-based pro- gram at Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City.

"Most patients are Jehovah's Witness patients, but the public in general is becoming more aware and informed about bloodless surgery," he said.

In bloodless surgery, the patient does not receive a transfusion of allogeneic blood -- that which is donated from a blood bank.

Jabbour said he became interested in bloodless medicine a decade ago at the University of Southern California and began to study ways to minimize blood transfusions.

He was part of the university's team that performed the world's first bloodless, live-donor liver transplant in a Jehovah's Witness in 1999.

He has performed 30 bloodless liver transplants with 100 percent success, he said.

"There are a lot of studies that show that using less blood or no blood can be better for the patient," he said.

Because blood is an immunosuppressant, the transfusion of donated blood raises the risk of infection and might increase the risk of tumor recurrences in cancer patients, he said.

However, Jabbour emphasizes that people should not fear blood transfusions.

"This does not mean that blood is bad. It saves millions of people's lives every day," he said. "Overall, it is a very safe product, but it is not 100 percent safe."

Jabbour's interest in bloodless surgery has been driven more by the fact that blood often is in short supply and can be expensive.

"Blood is a precious, finite product. People shouldn't think it is plentiful, cheap or doesn't present some risk," he said.

Elective surgeries often are canceled because of the shortage of blood, he said.

Alternatives to blood transfusions are necessary to avert problems resulting from shortages or to appease patients who for religious or personal reasons do not want transfusions, Jabbour said.

"Bloodless medicine is not just a marketing tool," he said.

"It not only helps the Jehovah's Witness community, but it may impact overall blood conservation."

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Jehovah's Witnesses' Hospital Liaison Committee Help Surgeons Adapt To Alternative Treatments

World Staff Writer

The faith opposes traditional blood trans- fusions, and the rep- resentatives suggest alternative treatments.

If it weren't for the Jehovah's Witness hospital liaison committee, Ted Christensen believes that he wouldn't be able to walk today.

"It pulled me through," the Tulsa-area contractor said. "Without doing the surgery and working with the liaison committee, I'd be in a wheelchair."

Christensen, 37, needed the surgery last year after an accident involving an all-terrain vehicle he was riding at Camp Gruber near Braggs. The vehicle rolled over, breaking his left pelvis and crushing his right pelvis.

Christensen was taken by LifeFlight to Tulsa, where he was transferred to St. Francis Hospital and scheduled for two emergency surgeries.

But Christensen is a Jehovah's Witness, whose doctrine opposes blood transfusions, including whole blood, red cells, white cells, plasma or platelets.

He refused to sign the consent form for the surgery.

"My surgeon was concerned," he recalled. "He said: 'We can't perform the surgery without blood. You're going to die.' "

The surgeon, Dr. Todd Swenning of Tulsa, said he was uneasy about a
transfusion-free sur- gery because fixing Christensen's pelvis would require a large incision.

"If he lost a lot of blood, we would have nothing to give him and he could die," he said.

Christensen called the Tulsa-area Hospital Liaison Committee for Jehovah's Witnesses.

Richard Collins of the committee came to St. Francis to talk with Swenning about acceptable alternatives for Christensen, including blood salvaging -- a technique in which a surgeon collects the patient's lost blood, filters and washes it, and transfers it back into the patient.

Swenning performed the surgery using this technique.

Christensen "did as well as I could have hoped," he said.

Swenning said the liaison helped him understand Christensen's beliefs more fully and have more compassion for him.

"I think it's my obligation to respect his beliefs," he said.

Collins said the purpose of the committee is to ensure that Jehovah's Witnesses receive quality medical care without violating their beliefs about blood.

"Our beliefs are based on Scripture in Leviticus and Acts that call for us to abstain from blood," he said.

Some Jehovah's Witnesses will accept no blood of any kind, including blood fractions such as clotting factors, hemoglobin, interferons and platelet-derived healing factors, Collins said.

But because the Bible does not specifically address other procedures or blood fractions, the decision to accept their use is left to the individual, he said.

"We're not making decisions for them. We only want to ensure that their beliefs are respected," he said.

Every Jehovah's Witness carries a medical directive card that specifies that blood should not be given if the person is injured. It lists alternative treatments that the person might accept.

Collins said liaisons have access to those records to ensure that the person's wishes are re spected, particularly if the person is unconscious.

"We're not working against anybody," he said. "We're working with them to help the patient get better."

The medical community has come a long way, from early suspicions about the liaison's intent to eagerness to learn how to meet the needs of patients without violating their moral beliefs, Collins said.

"The poor doctor is trained to do certain things, but if he has one of his hands tied behind his back, he doesn't know what to do," he said. "What we do is help untie his hand so the patient can get the best care possible."

What is bloodless surgery?

The term "bloodless surgery" should not be taken literally. The patient will bleed. He or she just won't receive a transfusion of allogeneic blood. That's blood taken from someone else. It is the type of blood provided by blood banks.

People choose bloodless surgery either for religious reasons or personal preference. Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, firmly believe that blood has sacred meaning and that it should not be removed from the body and stored, nor should someone else's blood be taken in during transfusion.

Other people simply do not like the idea of putting a foreign substance in the body. The hepatitis scare in the 1970s and the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s made many people think twice about receiving blood.

Allogeneic blood transfusions also are very expensive. It is estimated that every unit of red blood cells that is transfused increases the cost of a hospital stay by $1,000 to $1,300.

Blood transfusion alternatives:

Blood salvaging: Blood that is lost during surgery can be collected, filtered, washed and transferred back into the patient.

Hemodilution: Blood can be removed before surgery, and the volume is replaced with water and minerals. The blood stays in storage bags connected to the patient, and it is returned to the patient after surgery.

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Japanese Women Bust Out, Getting Curvier

Amy Chozick

All over Japan, retailers are scrambling to keep up with a new look known as "bon-kyu-bon." It means "big-small-big" and it signals a change in the way Japanese women look: they're getting curvier.

Japanese stores that used to keep just two or three sizes of clothing on hand are rushing to stock larger sizes. Juicy Couture, known for its figure-hugging terrycloth tracksuits, opened one of its biggest stores in Tokyo last year. And Tokyo's high-end Isetan department store, which used to relegate its bigger sizes to one corner, now prominently features larger items from designers such as Ralph Lauren, Diane von Furstenberg and DKNY.

Wacoal Corp., Japan's largest lingerie company, was once known for its super-padded brassieres. Now the company has a new best-seller: the "Love Bra," a cleavage-boosting creation with less padding, aimed at curvier women in their 20s.

Today, the average Japanese woman's hips, at 35 inches, are around an inch wider than those of women a generation older. Women in their 20s wear a bra at least two sizes larger than that of their mothers, according to Wacoal. Waist size, meanwhile, has gotten slightly smaller, accentuating many young women's curves.

The average 20-year-old is also nearly three inches taller than she was in 1950, according to government statistics, and the average foot has grown by nearly a quarter of an inch.

The physical changes are largely the result of an increasingly Westernized diet, say nutritionists. Meals that used to consist of mostly fish, vegetables and tofu now lean heavily toward an American-style menu of red meat, dairy and indulgences such as Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Cold Stone Creamery ice cream.

All this extra protein and calcium has led to longer, stronger and fuller bodies. Shinichi Tashiro, an endocrinology professor at Showa Pharmaceutical University, says the intake of extra fat tends to go to either breasts or hips in adolescent girls.

Marketers say they first started noticing more women with hourglass figures a few years ago. One of the first people to act on the change was apparel wholesaler Kazuya Kito.

In 2001, Kito founded Egoist, a trendy purveyor of slinky clothing designed to highlight the busty look, figuring that the curvier bodies would make women want to wear less-modest outfits. His fashion industry friends scoffed at the idea. Back then, micro-mini skirts were in style but women, for the most part, kept their chests covered. Yet Egoist, whose wares include see-through sweaters made to show off decorative bras or skinny tube tops, became a huge hit and a catalyst for other skimpy-clothing brands.

Pop artist Kumi Koda in 'barely there' lingerie ads
Pop artist Kumi Koda in 'barely there' lingerie ads
Nami Sakamoto, an advertising-agency employee, embodies the new look. The 26-year-old is tall - by Japanese standards - at 5 feet 5 inches. She's also voluptuous, with a 35-inch bust and 35-inch hips.

"I had a hard time finding button-down shirts that would close," says Sakamoto, especially when she was in high school and there were fewer foreign retailers in Japan that actually sold bigger sizes.

"Sometimes the buttons would burst off." Now she buys clothes at Western retailers that carry larger sizes.

Other young women are buying special items to flaunt their new physique. "It's just more fun to show some skin," says Ayami Arii, a 19-year-old vocational school student, who recently sported a tiny denim mini skirt and an iridescent push-up bra that peeks out from below her low-cut blouse. Her bra, a big seller at boutiques in Tokyo's Shibuya 109 department store, is called a "Showy Bra." Similar to a string bikini top, the $60 bras, made to be peeking out of a low-cut blouse, started appearing last year and come in a variety of colours, from red patent leather to leopard print and orange sequins.

The cleavage craze took off in 2003, when a young pop star named Kumi Koda appeared in ads around Tokyo wearing a barely-there metallic bra and not much else. In one image, she wore coconut shells over her chest. Then, two years later, she performed at the televised Japan Record Awards wearing thin tape-like gold satin straps over her breasts that revealed nearly everything when she danced. The 24-year-old star has become the champion of a new "If you've got it, flaunt it" attitude among young Japanese women.

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Stressed Japanese Teachers Finding Solace In Coworkers, Parents and Even Students

Ryann Connell

Early spring brings a new academic year to Japan and, with all the stresses of graduations and getting used to a new bunch of kids, it can often mean teachers act in ways they wouldn't normally do, frequently with carnal consequences, according to Shukan Taishu.

Take the case of 25-year-old junior high school teacher Emi Yasuoka, who's now embroiled in a steamy relationship with the former head teacher at her school.

"It's only my second year of teaching. Whenever I write something on the blackboard, the kids all throw erasers at my ass or use mirrors to try and look up my skirt. I've cried so many times during class," Yasuoka tells Shukan Taishu, adding that the head teacher transferred to a different school in March was the only person who ever came to her aid. As a sign of gratitude, she took the 44-year-old head teacher out for dinner. When they finished eating, he thanked her for the chance to go on a date with such a beautiful woman.

"When I heard that, I suddenly filled with loneliness and before I knew it, I'd flung my arms around him," she says.

They were soon locked in an even more intimate manner and her partner showed her another reason why he was called the head teacher.

"He flicked his tongue like a bullet on a really sensitive part and I thought something was going to pop out of me. He urged me on, saying, eGo on, go on, finish.' When I did, something really did start coming out. It was the first time something like that had happened to me," Yasuoka says, adding she's due to meet the teacher again after Golden Week.

Also likely to meet again are elementary school teacher Mie Kanai, 37, and the 32-year-old father of one of her third grade pupils.

"One day while taking a walk beside a river near my apartment, this surfer-looking guy came over and started talking to me. I'd never met him before, but he said he was the father of one of the boys in my class. I was surprised how young he looked," Kanai tells Shukan Taishu.

The father soon showed his juvenile side, however, when he remarked to Kanai that his son had told him his teacher's breasts were bouncy and that the boy had got his assumption right. Kanai says she laughed at the ice-breaking comment. The pair became friends and went out drinking, but the teacher took in a little too much. One thing led to another, and the pair began a relationship.

"I realize it wasn't good, but it had been so long since I'd been with a man -- three years, in fact," she says. "Once I'd felt his touch, I just couldn't hold back."

There was no holding back from Meika Matsushima, either. The 34-year-old high school piano teacher sought refuge in the classroom from her sexless marriage to a 39-year-old pen pushing government bureaucrat.

"Sex with my husband was always the same. It's boring. Honestly, I'd rather do myself than be with my husband," she says, adding that she frequently fantasized about the boys in her classroom.

Matsushima bordered on the criminal with one of her former students she was employed to give private lessons as he attempted to get into a top music college. They ended up alone one day and his remark that she resembled a popular actress saw Matsushima transform her fantasy into a reality. She was soon naked on all fours on a bed with the teen's attentions taken from his piano to his organ.

"It was like being in a dream land," the seductress tells Shukan Taishu. "It was an incredible thrill to be making love to a former student. It was way beyond anything I could have fantasized about."

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Pakistanis Okays Verbal, Psychological or sexual Abuses of Wives

Pakistani women activists and MPs believe a new bill stipulating jail terms for husbands over verbally, psychologically or sexually abuses of wives would have a devastating impact on the family institution and would send divorce rates sky-high.

"This is a crude bill. I totally object [to] that," Ismat Mehdi, a senior lawyer, told IslamOnline.net.

"This is aimed at ruining the domestic lives of our women."

The Ministry of Law is putting the final touches to a draft legislation called Protection Against Domestic Violence of Women & Children (PADVWC).

The proposed law will allow a woman sexually harassed or otherwise wronged by her husband to approach a protection committee and then the court of law.

The expression "domestic violence", the document says, includes "any willful conduct which: (a) (i) is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman out of the house or to commit suicide or to injure herself; (ii) causes injury or danger to the life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; (b) involves: (i) harassment which causes distress to a woman and includes, (ii) any act which compels the woman to have sexual intercourse against her will either with the husband or any of his relatives or with any other person; (iii) any act which is unbecoming of the dignity of the women; or (iv) any other act of omission of commission which is likely to cause mental torture or mental agony to the woman."

A husband found to be in violation of the law would get up to three years of jail.

However, the draft does not provide any relief for husbands being harassed or otherwise wronged by their wives.

PADVWC is seen as the furtherance of the already enacted Women Protection Act (WPA), an amendment of the 1979 Hudood Ordinance on rape and adultery.

It slashed the adultery punishment to imprisonment of up to five years against only male perpetrator.

Under the Hudood code, a man and woman found guilty of having sex outside of marriage could be sentenced to death by stoning or 100 lashes, although that has never been enforced and those convicted of the crime get jail or a fine instead as hnded down by the courts. Yet 'honour killings' carried out by family against women remain an issue in Pakistan.


Opponents insist that the text does out define sexual harassment.

"My first question to those who have recommended this bill is how would they define the sexual harassment when a husband and a wife are concerned," asked lawyer Mehdi.

Barrister Wajiha, who practices law in UK, says physical abuse and sexual harassment are two different issues.

"There should be and in fact there are laws against physical abuse or torture, but sexual harassment is very difficult to explain," she told reporters.

"It is better to resolve such issues within the family."

Fareeda Ahmed Siddiqui, an MP of the six-party religious alliance, the Muttehida Majlis-e-Amal, sees the bill as being in clear contravention of Shari`ah, Islamic law.

"Husbands and wives are bound to fulfill the sexual desire of each other. What is the question of sexual harassment," she told reporters.

The lawmaker blasted the vogue language of the proposed bill.

"One of the clauses of this bill says that a husband could be sent to jail if he verbally, psychologically or sexually abuses her wife. That means, if he even talks to his wife in a loud tone, he could be sent to the jail because the wife can complain that she has been psychologically hurt due to the loud tone," she said.


Siddiqui says that instead of encouraging couples to sort out their problems the proposed legislation encourages outing domestic problems.

"In the Islamic system, differences between husband and wife, no matter how serious they are, are encouraged to be resolved through the intervention of close relatives of the two sides."

She accused foreign-funded NGOs of pressing for the enactment of such alien laws.

Lawyer Mehdi agreed that the Pakistani society is totally different from Western societies and such bills cannot be implemented here.

"No matter in which society you live laws are like clothes to make you fit. If laws are not fit for your society, they create a mess," she warned.

Nasima Sultana, a senior educator, believes problems should be resolved inside the house.

"Can this law prevent a man from divorcing his wife if she sends him behind the bars? Of course not, therefore it is much better to settle down such issues within the family ranks," she told media.

"I always advise my [female] students not to be impressed by the western type of family system, which is being introduced in our society through different means. That (west) is another world. Our world is totally different. Therefore, we must live in accordance with our culture and traditions," Sultana maintained.

"We must tell the West that we are different from them and are proud of our religious and social values."

Breaking Families

Critics warn that the controversial bill would wreck havoc on the family institution in Pakistan.

"If a wife goes to police or the court against her husband, and he is punished, can you imagine what would be its effect on their married life?" asked lawyer Mehdi.

"It will almost be impossible for them to live together if a husband is sent behind bars."

"Even if a couple is not divorced, they cannot spit out the grudge against each other for the rest of their lives."

Wajiha, the legal practitioner, agrees.

"It is not just that a woman goes to the court and the police to lodge a complaint against her husband, and he will be sent to jail immediately.

"She will have to provide proof for sexual harassment before the court. She will have to stand in front of her husband in the court," she said.

"One does not have to be a genius to understand the fate of that couple."

Ms Siddiqui, one of the most senior woman parliamentarians, shares the same concern.

"One cannot imagine how badly this bill will affect our family system. This will shatter the entire family system," she told reporters.

She believes the implementation of the proposed bill would jack up divorce rates in the South Asian Muslim country.

"It will increase the divorce ratio to a dreadful extent as it will not merely affect the husband-wife lives, but its psychological effects will badly affect their children's lives."

Lawyer Mehdi also recognizes that children will bear the brunt in such cases.

"Children will be the worst affected in case of a divorce in the wake of this bill."


Fauzia Wahab, who sits on an eight-member National Assembly committee on the bill, supports the legislation.

"This is true that it will harm our family system and values, but the family system should not be protected at the cost of women," she says.

"There is a dire need to seek aid of legislation to keep the family united honorably and with dignity and to protect women's interests," she insisted.

Wahab said the new legislation will cover all kind of harassment which causes distress to a woman.

"Legislation may help [in] eradication of these offences if there is strict enforcement and implementation of laws, but this object can only be achieved if there is awareness among the masses of their rights and obligations."

The committee, which comprises three members from former premier Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan peoples Party (PPP) and five from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Q), had sent its recommendations to the Law Ministry for further course of action.

Well-placed official sources told reporters that the government had chosen at this point in time for this legislation to divert attention from the simmering judicial crisis.

President Prevez Musharraf suspension of the country's top judge, Iftikhar Chaudry, has plunged the south Asian country into a judicial and constitutional crisis and several judges have since resigned their posts in protest.

Many believe Chaudry is being punished for refusing to toe the official line on several issues, including the controversial file of missing Pakistanis, as well as his opposition to the planned re-election of Musharraf later this year.

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Child Prostitution A Way Of Life In Peru

The Republic of Peru is located in W South America and is bordered by the Pacific Ocean (W), by Ecuador and Colombia (N), by Brazil and Bolivia (E), and by Chile (S). Lima is its capital and largest city. Unemployment is high and poverty reduction strategies have not had sustainable results. Children continue to be the most vulnerable and unprotected citizens. Of the 3.8 million people living in extreme poverty, 2.1 million are children, with more than 60% of the under-18 population living below the poverty line.

In the evening, the riverfront promenade in this colorful city in the heart of the Peruvian jungle comes to life as local residents and tourists stroll or sip fruit juice at sidewalk cafes and street vendors sell everything from cigarettes to fortune-telling sessions.

No one takes a second glance when a foreign-looking man who appears to be in his 50s strolls by, arm in arm, with a teenage girl.

Human rights workers and children's advocates say the sight is not uncommon and that apathy toward it is one of the reasons why child prostitution is on the rise in this tropical city of half a million people.

Although a law passed two years ago makes it illegal to solicit sex with a minor, "authorities aren't interested in following up," said Rita Ruck, who provides legal assistance in the human rights office of the Apostolic Vicariate of Iquitos.

The problem is complicated and is related to both local culture and poverty. Victoria Huerta, a psychologist at La Restinga, a local nonprofit organization that works with at-risk children, said that many girls are lured into prostitution by a family member -- sometimes even a parent -- or a neighbor with the promise of quick cash.

"There's always an adult who encourages them," said Huerta, who estimates that more than 1,000 minors in Iquitos are involved in prostitution.

Ruck estimates that about half of the 600 male inmates in the Iquitos prison, which was built to house 300, were arrested on charges of rape of a minor under age 14.

Part of the problem is a social attitude that views sex with adolescent girls as normal, said Luis Gonzalez-Polar Zuzunada, president of La Restinga.

"It's not seen as a crime," he said. "People think that's the way it is. Here, anyone is a potential client."

Another factor is economic. While about half of the overall Peruvian population lives in poverty, that figure is 66 percent in Loreto, the department of which Iquitos is the capital. More than 40 percent of those people live on less than a dollar a day.

With its scenic location -- surrounded by rain forest at the confluence of several rivers that flow into the mighty Amazon -- Iquitos is a popular tourist destination. While there have been reports of foreign tourists luring children for sex or pornography, Ruck and the staff at La Restinga said most people who solicit sex with minors are local residents.

"Tourism gives (people) the possibility of earning more money," said Father Miguel Fuentes, a Spanish Augustinian missionary priest working in Iquitos. Nevertheless, he said, "Tourism reinforces the problem."

Both the tourist industry and the city's explosive growth, as people have moved to the urban area from rural villages in search of jobs, have created conditions conducive to prostitution like a thriving night life.

Ruck recalls the case of a 13-year-old girl who lived with her grandmother and wanted to earn money to help with the household expenses. A neighbor told her she could earn money as a waitress at a nightclub, but she was actually drawn into prostitution.

"I asked if she wanted to work in the nightclub, and she said, no -- she wanted to baby-sit," Ruck said.

The criminal network that offers children for sex also includes hotel managers and taxi drivers, but they are rarely prosecuted, Huerta said.

"It might help if they made an example of someone by throwing them in jail and closing their hotel," she said.

Once children become involved in prostitution, it is difficult for them to get out. Many were raped by relatives before becoming involved in prostitution, and "it's hard for them to recognize what has happened to them," Huerta said. "They want to (get out), but there is no process that supports them in that."

La Restinga, in a building not far from the main plaza and just a few blocks from the riverside walkway that is a magnet for prostitution, provides a refuge for the children. La Restinga takes its name from the local word for the high ground that remains when floodwaters rise, an image that resonates with youngsters who have grown up with the ebb and flow of the tropical rivers.

The work is not easy, however, because both the family situations that led the girls to get involved in prostitution and the sexual exploitation leave serious psychological scars. Many of the girls are also addicted to drugs, and Huerta said that La Restinga's staff members need specialized training -- or some expert assistance -- in dealing with that combination of problems. Because the city is fairly remote, accessible from the rest of the country only by air or river, such expertise is hard to find.

Many of the children involved in prostitution have dropped out of school -- and some have never been to school, especially if their families have moved to the city from remote villages. La Restinga offers summer school and tutoring to help them get up to their grade level.

This year, the staff also plans to work with school principals and teachers to raise awareness of the problem.

"If you have 500 students, any of them could become victims," Gonzalez-Polar said. "The schools don't understand that."

Father Fuentes said the church also is fighting the problem through "education, at every level we can reach -- education in human rights and in values, education aimed at increasing self-esteem and a sense of identity."

La Restinga is currently working with nearly 50 girls who have been sexually exploited or are at risk of being drawn into prostitution. The girls take part in summer school sessions and art workshops, partly funded by Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' international relief and development agency. Integrating them into the larger group helps keep the girls from feeling stigmatized, Huerta said.

"When they come here," she added, "they turn into what they are -- children."

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“Customary Marriage” in Ashante Land

MARRIAGE—hundreds of thousands enter this relationship each year throughout the world. They usually do so according to the marriage custom that prevails where they live.

In Ghana the most common form of marriage is what is called customary marriage. This involves payment of a bride-price by the bridegroom’s family to the bride’s family. Customary marriage is practiced by people in much of Africa and in such places as Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands as well as among the Goajiro Indians in northeastern Colombia and northwestern Venezuela, to mention a few.

Payment of the bride-price was a custom traced to the begining of man's existence. The understanding in ancient times and today is that the bride-price is a compensation to the girl’s parents for the loss of her services and for the time, energy, and resources expended on her education and upkeep before marriage.

Parental Responsibility

In the old days of Ghana, dating and courtship did not exist among young people. Parents contracted marriages for their grown children after painstakingly studying marriageable young men and women in the community. Some parents in Ghana still do this.

The boy’s parents consider such factors as the personality of the girl; her reputation and that of her family; hereditary disease that may run in the family; and in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, her spirituality. If satisfied, the parents formally approach the girl’s parents and make the marriage proposal.

The girl’s parents now investigate the background of the boy and his family. In addition to the factors mentioned above, they consider the boy’s ability to support a wife—is he working or unemployed? If the girl’s parents are satisfied, they so inform the boy’s parents, and the parents jointly work out details of the marriage, after both the boy and the girl have agreed to it.

Why do some parents still take it upon themselves to find mates for their grown children? One woman in India whose parents arranged her marriage stated: “How could a young person be qualified to make such a weighty decision? Far better to leave it to those whose age and experience qualify them to know what is the wisest choice.” Her comments also reflect the view of many Africans.

However, times are changing in Ghana. Dating and courtship are growing in popularity. At an appropriate point in courtship, the couple inform the parents of their intentions. After interaction between their parents and after the parents satisfy themselves that it is a good match, the families go ahead with the formal ceremony commonly known in various Ghanaian languages as knocking on the door, the marriage door.

The Door-Knocking Ceremony

Parents of the couple apprise family members of the date and the purpose of the meeting. The term “family members” refers to the extended African family that includes the couple’s uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents. On the set day, representatives from both families gather for the ceremony. The bridegroom’s presence is optional. The following is a very brief version of what transpired at one such door-knocking ceremony.

Girl’s representative (GR): [Talking to the bridegroom’s representatives] We know your reason for coming, but custom demands that we still ask, What brings you here?

Boy’s representative (BR): Our son Kwasi was passing by your house and saw a pretty flower and wants your permission to pick it.

GR: [Feigning ignorance] There is no flower in this house. You can verify that for yourselves.

BR: Our son is not mistaken. We maintain that there is such a pretty flower in this house. The flower’s name is Afi.

GR: It is a human flower then. Well, Afi does live here.

BR: We want to knock on the door and request Afi’s hand in marriage to our son Kwasi.

The boy’s family now presents some items, such as various drinks and some money. Depending on the tribe, there are variations in the quantities and items presented. This ceremony is a rough equivalent of Western-style engagement, and in some cases an engagement ring is stipulated.

The bride’s representative now asks her before all onlookers whether the items brought should be accepted. By her affirmative answer, all present are eyewitnesses of her willingness to marry. A date convenient for both families is agreed upon for the celebration of the marriage. Refreshments conclude the ceremony.

The Marriage Ceremony

The number of people that gather at the girl’s house or at the house of a selected representative for the payment of the bride-price, which event constitutes the marriage, is usually larger than the number present for the door-knocking ceremony. This is because many friends are now present.

The atmosphere is joyful. Young unmarried men and women are anxious to see what has been brought for the bride. But the happy atmosphere tenses as the bride’s family complains that the bride-price items are incomplete. Some in the audience hold their breath when the bride’s family seems unyielding. The bridegroom’s spokesman skillfully argues his way into the sympathetic consideration of the bride’s family. The mood relaxes as the girl’s family relents. The atmosphere again changes. Now it is festive, and light refreshments are served.

To start the marriage ceremony, the bride’s spokesman calls the gathering to order and welcomes all. He asks the groom’s representatives about their mission. The groom’s spokesman states their reason for coming, reminding the gathering that the door has already been knocked on and that permission has been granted to enter.

Each family spokesman then introduces close members of the family to the gathering, including the one giving the girl’s hand in marriage as well as the one backing the boy in the marriage. The ceremony proceeds.

GR: [Talking to the bridegroom’s representatives] Please produce the marriage items we asked for.

The bride’s spokesman enumerates the bride-price items so all can verify that they are there. If the bridegroom’s representatives feel that the bride’s family has inflated the demands, they privately resolve the issue before the marriage day. However, the groom’s family comes to the ceremony prepared to bargain for the reduction of any extras if some of the bride’s family prove difficult. Wherever one lives, the basic bride-price—whether high or low—must be paid in full.

Some families stipulate such things as drinks, clothes, necklaces, earrings, and other ladies’ items. In northern Ghana, the bride-price may include salt, kola nuts, guinea fowl, sheep, and even cattle. There is invariably a cash component to the bride-price.

While negotiations proceed, the bride is not present but is close by, watching. The bridegroom’s presence is optional. Thus, a person living far away can authorize his parents to contract the marriage on his behalf. On the occasion described here, however, the bridegroom is present. It is now his family’s turn to make a demand.

BR: We have fulfilled all that is required of us, but we have not seen our daughter-in-law.

The marriage ceremony is not all serious business; it is also an occasion to have some fun. The girl’s family now responds to the demand of the boy’s family to see the bride.

GR: We wish the bride were here. Unfortunately, she has traveled abroad and we do not have passports or visas to make the trip to bring her back.

Everyone knows what that means. Instantly, the bridegroom’s family offers an amount of money—any amount the bridegroom can afford—and presto! the imaginary passports and visas are ready. And the bride has returned from her trip!

To add to the fun, some tribes arrange for some friends of the bride to impersonate her. Each impersonator is roundly rejected by the crowd until, amid great applause, the true bride is presented. She is then invited by her spokesman to take a look at the various items of her bride-price. She is asked whether what the bridegroom has brought should be accepted. There is a hush as everyone waits anxiously for the answer. Some girls are timid and others bold, but the answer is invariably yes, followed by thunderous applause.

If the bridegroom is present, the bride’s family demands to know him. The fun continues unabated if it has been arranged for one of his friends to impersonate him. With an air of importance, his friend stands up, but he is instantly shouted down.

The bride’s parents demand to see their son-in-law. The true bridegroom now stands up, radiating happy smiles. The bride’s family permits her to join her husband, who puts a ring on her finger if a ring is stipulated as part of the bride-price. The ring is an innovation from the West. She, in turn, puts a ring on his finger. Congratulations and joy fill the air. For convenience and economy, some now combine the door-knocking ceremony with the marriage on the same day.

Experienced members of both families and others now offer the newlyweds counsel on how they can make their marriage work until death separates them. To round off the day, refreshments are served.

In Ghana some couples have a Western-style marriage ceremony, here called a civil marriage, or marriage by the ordinance. This can be contracted with or without parental consent as long as the couple are of legal age. In customary marriage parental consent is a must.

In civil marriage the couple take marriage vows. But vows are nonexistent in customary marriages. The State requires that all customary marriages be registered, and everyone should comply. A registration certificate is then issued.

From olden times until the Gold Coast, now Ghana, became a British colony, customary marriage was the only form of marriage in the country. The British then introduced Western-style marriage for their citizens living here. Natives of this land were also permitted to contract this type of marriage, and for many years now, Western-style marriage and customary marriage have existed together. In Ghana both are legally recognized, hence should acceptable to all. It is up to the individuals to choose which form they desire.

In some African countries, customary marriages need to be registered before couples can be considered legally married. In Ghana, however, customary marriage as described above is legally valid without registration, the couples being considered legally married when the customary marriage is consummated. Later on, the customary marriage is registered for record purposes only.

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Does Columbus Ohio Need Strip club bill?

Eddie Adams and Mark Kernes

A bill that has already been passed by the Senate to enact stringent strip clubs laws in Ohio brought a large crowd to a House Judiciary Committee hearing on it was reported this week. If the House goes along with the proposal, the bill will go to Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, for signature, and would take effect this fall.

Senate Bill (SB) 16, dubbed the "Community Defense Act," which would severely regulate all adult businesses but most harshly targets adult cabarets, has ignited a political clash with dancers, bouncers and club owners on one side and conservative Christians and law-enforcement on the other.

The ultra-conservative Citizens for Community Values (CCV), angry that the legislature removed time and place restrictions from House Bill 23, another anti-adult measure, before it passed the bill last year, began a petition drive calling for the legislature to adopt SB 16. The new bill would prohibit nude or semi-nude performing between midnight and 6 a.m. and require that a distance of six feet be maintained between dancers and customers at all times - even when the dancers are fully dressed.

Jeff Hoeppner, a night manager at Dockside Dolls on Cincinnati's Northeast Side, said the owners of his club, which draws 800 customers a week, wouldn't be able to stay open if it had to close at midnight because business usually picks up between then and 2:30 a.m. He also noted that the club's dancers rely on tip money for the majority of their income, and that such tips would be more difficult to obtain if the dancers were required to stay 6 feet away from patrons.

At a hearing before the Ohio House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, club owners brought along their facilities' blueprints to show that if the 6-foot rule were to be imposed as currently written, it would be impossible for dancers to go to the bathroom, get to the dressing room, embrace their spouses or even walk around the club.

"It will take the fun right out of the clubs," club owner Frank Spencer told Fox 8. "It will change the camaraderie." Spencer added that he will close his Crazy Horse clubs if the law is changed. "I will have to put nearly 700 people on the street without an income if this bill becomes law."

"Dancing kept me off welfare," dancer Charity Fickisen told Fox 8. "Most of the money I make comes from private dances, and that will end if the law is changed."

CCV is the brainchild of Phil Burress, a 64-year-old, thrice-married former plumber and self-described "porn addict," and donations to the organization provide his sole source of income. It was Burress who brought in Tennessee attorney Scott Bergthold, a well-known opponent of adult entertainment who is the primary author of the Community Defense Council's boilerplate anti-adult ordinance, to help draft and argue in favor of SB 16.

Burress, a long-time activist and sponsor of the first nationwide anti-adult conference in 2000, was also the primary driver behind the petition to place an anti-gay-marriage initiative on the 2004 presidential ballot in Ohio, which initiative is credited with drawing enough conservatives to the polls to assure reelection for President Bush in that state.

"The CCV is supported financially and most heavily by two very powerful and wealthy men who held fundraisers for our current president in Ohio," said Angelina Spencer, executive director of the Association of Club Executives (ACE), the nightclubs' trade association. "One of these men served as CEO of a major company and that corporation just paid a $25 million dollar fine for supporting terrorists abroad... The CCV seems immune from financial disclosure and any investigations into the discrepancies on its returns."

The Ohio chapter of ACE is spearheading a move against the Ohio bill. A petition can be found here (http://stopthehouse.com/contact/oh/house) which will automatically go to all Ohio legislators, against the pending bill.

"This Ohio bill will be used by the Christian Coalition as a roadmap to open the flood gates for the whole country and systematically pass similar laws in other states, which will kill our industry nationwide," Luke Liakos of the Buckeye ACE Chapter said.

Opposition to the bill has also found some favor among the local press.

Senate Bill 16 passed Tuesday by a 24-8 vote in the Ohio Senate, not because there was any political charge but rather because state senators are afraid of the religious right," wrote the Lima News. "The [Columbus] Dispatch reported no senator argued the bill was vital and there was no strong committee testimony from law-enforcement or local government officials arguing a change in the law was needed. Sen. Larry Mumper, R-Marion, whose district includes Logan County, even noted that, had the vote been a silent one, the bill likely would have failed."

Representatives of ACE recommended that the petitions be signed quickly, since the Judiciary Committee will hold a second hearing on May 2, at which time it will likely vote on the bill.

As to the necessity for quick action on the part of adult entertainment supporters, Spencer, herself a former dancer, recounted the following conversation:

I had dinner with an old friend here in Columbus, Ohio and was lamenting to him over this issue.

He touched my arm and asked, "You do know that your biggest problem is NOT the religious right, don't you?"

"What do you mean?" I countered.

"Your biggest problem is not the CCV. Your biggest problem is the high rate of ambivalence of people in your industry."

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Japan, Gradually Becoming Home To Underground Sex Parties

A popular buzzword on the Internet these days is the Japanese phrase for "orgy party" -- Google the term ranko party and you'll come up with hundreds of thousands of hits.

Some of the Web sites are for swingers, people who enjoy making out with groups of consenting friends or strangers. But the vast majority are merely ads for the latest trend in prostitution. At these so-called "orgies," the guys pay money to take part, and the women are professionals.

"More than 100 groups seemed to have sprung up since last year in central Tokyo, but there are only three authentic, not-for-profit ones," says an anonymous man, who counts himself among the very few authentic swingers.

Why the proliferation of these professional "orgy parties" in Tokyo? The main reason is the crackdown against local naughty nightlife, which city hall has been waging during the last few years, according to Spa! As the authorities drive prostitution deeper and deeper underground, sex-establishment operators have discovered that the sex parties are a relatively safe and highly profitable field of business.

Advertising is done furtively, on the Internet or through word of mouth. The venues are usually hotel rooms.

"Mr. D," an organizer of such soirees, says there are four basic categories of commercial orgies: the high-class member system, common member system, high-class 'guerrilla' (one-off) system and common guerrilla system.

"The difference between the high-class and common categories are the fees and thus the quality of the girls," says Mr. D.

As for the fees, male participants in the classy members-only orgies pay anywhere from 100,000 yen to 500,000 yen per session. Yearly memberships can run as high as 5 million yen. For these prices, participants can expect to cavort with aspiring fashion models and actresses. On the other end of the fee scale are the common one-off parties, costing from 10,000 yen to 50,000 yen per session. The women usually hail from massage parlors and other sex establishments.

The most expensive -- and secretive -- of all are the high-class guerrilla events, according to Mr. D.

"These are completely underground. Like, once a Diet member came to me to say he wanted to entertain some people from his local constituency," he says.

Why do some customers opt for the priciest options? "The more expensive the session, the greater the secrecy," Mr. D answers. "Customers who can afford to fork out huge fees are usually people with social status, and these people tend to be discreet."

But regardless of the fees, all the events have one thing in common: they earn their organizers huge profits.

Spa! draws up a balance sheet for a typical, midrange orgy that took place recently. It cost the organizer 630,000 yen to stage, including paying 90,000 yen for each of five women who worked at three different sessions throughout the day.

Revenue, meanwhile, came to 900,000 yen: a total of 15 customers taking part in the three sessions, each paying 60,000 yen.

So the guy who planned all the fun pocketed 270,000 yen. Not bad for a day's work.

With money like that to be made, we can expect the orgy parties to become a more common part of the sex scene -- at least until the Tokyo government's next round of crackdowns.

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Saudi Teenagers' Mobile Phones, World Class Pornography Receptacle

Up to 70% of files exchanged between Saudi teenagers' mobile phones contain pornography, according to a study in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom.

The study quoted in Arab News focussed on the phones of teenagers detained by religious police for harassing girls.

The same researcher also found that 88% of girls say they have been victims of harassment using Bluetooth technology.

Saudi Arabia has toughened penalties for misuse of mobile phones which challenge its strict social traditions.

"The flash memory of mobile phones taken from teenagers showed 69.7% of 1,470 files saved in them were pornographic and 8.6% were related to violence," said report author Professor Abdullah al-Rasheed.

He presented his study at a seminar organised by the King Fahd Security Academy, Arab News reports.

Public social contact between genders is banned in public in Saudi Arabia, which enforces a strict interpretation of Islamic law and morality.

But the spread of Bluetooth technology, allowing wireless connection between mobile phones, has allowed for increased opportunities of communication as well as abuse by predatory young men.

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