A major national newspaper recently investigated a traditional requirement that widows in Kenya often face that is being blamed for helping spread HIV/AIDS. According to the Washington Post, Kenyan widows must be "cleansed" by the village "cleanser," one of hundreds of thousands of men who sleep with widows and unmarried women who have lost a parent or child to get rid of evil spirits. According to the Post, "cleansers" are spreading HIV at high rates in villages where one in every three people is infected with the virus.
"Cleansers" can be found in various rural villages in other African countries like Uganda, Tanzania, Congo, Senegal, and Nigeria. The tradition holds that a woman who loses her husband is thought to be "unholy" and needs to be cleansed to attend funerals and/or remarry. Women's groups in Kenya, such as Standing Idle Does Not Pay, have become more powerful in recent years and have worked to rid their villages of these "cleansers."
In other news in Kenya, earlier this week dozens of Kenyan women, organized by the women's British lawyer Martyn Day, presented petitions to the British High Commission offices in Nairobi on behalf of alleged victims of rape by British soldiers, according to Agence France Presse. The petitions urged the British government to take financial responsibility for the education of the mixed-race children and demanded an independent investigation by Britain and Kenya into the alleged rape cases.
8/31/2015 Chicago Activists Continue Hunger Strike to Save Predominately Black Public High School - Chicago residents have entered the second week of their hunger strike protesting the closure of Dyett High School, in the predominately African-American Bronzeville neighborhood located on the South Side of Chicago.
Parents and community members are calling on the Chicago Board of Education to keep Dyett - the only open-enrollment, neighborhood school in its area - open and accept a community plan to revitalize the school with a focus on science and green technology. . . .
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .