When I discovered masturbation (quite by accident) at the age of 12 and the intoxicating end result of it, the hypochondriac in me naturally thought I was experiencing the first signs of a stroke. Leaping up from the bath from whence I’d been rubbing myself, I glared at the porcelain accusingly. ”YOU HAVE KILLED ME!” I thought. ”I HAVE BEEN DOING THE DEVIL’S WORK, AND NOW GOD HAS FORSAKEN ME!”
I was a religiously troubled child. It took years to overcome the sense I was doing something wrong, but I’m proud to say now that I’m a firm advocate of being the master of your own domain. I only wish I’d had someone tell me that when I was young, embarrassed and filled with uncertain shame about what it was I was doing.
It saddens me to think that this might still be the case for girls today. We seem to be reluctant to discuss sex in relation to girls at all, terrified that we’ll be perceived to be sexualising them. Typically, ‘expert’ commentators on sexualisation (particularly those regularly sought after in Australia, most of whom seem eager to institute a nationwide distribution of chastity belts and clutchable pearls rather than any kind of sound advice) bristle at the mere mention of sex and teenage girls in the same sentence. Sex for girls is viewed as predatory, emotionally destructive, overwhelming and dangerous — a responsible, moral society seeks to protect its most vulnerable citizens from it, lest they be ruined forever, their fragile psyches crushed amidst discarded condom packets and whatever tawdry metaphor is supposed to represent their sullied virginity.
Unfortunately, girls are still the casual victims of a society that views sex as a rigid binary — something that boys are empowered to do, but that they must have done to them. Jokes about 13-year-old boys spending too much time in the bathroom are de rigeur, because we have no discomfort with the idea of boys touching themselves. It’s natural, they’re boys - everyone knows that they’re biologically predisposed to want sex ALL THE TIME. Don’t you know they think about it every seven seconds?
And so forth.
But teenage girls… they’re a different story. Our hesitation to discuss the real fact of young female desire and sexual awakening is spawned from our hysteria over sexualisation. Because sex is something that ‘happens’ to girls, discussing it taps into that fear that others will think we’re preoccupied with it. That in the discussion of it, we are ourselves exhibiting unnatural and predatory desires.
It’s impossible for some people to believe that girls can actually engage with their sexuality, can seek out sexual experiences willingly and responsibly and without risk of permanent psychological damage.
Read the whole (fantastic) piece from Clementine Ford here.
They could well be invisible. Instead they are there crying out for attention but are not heard.
During emergencies adolescent girls are part of that group of people that get the wrong kinds of attention. They face heightened risks of sexual violence, early marriage, unwanted pregnancies, and are forced or coerced into transactional sex – that is using sex that is given in exchange for payment for food, rent or other bills.
As an aid worker I have seen firsthand the devastating impact that the lack of attention and care on reproductive health can have on crisis-affected women, especially adolescent girls.
Read the rest of this important piece here.
When 11-year-old Durga Jadav awoke to find that she’d begun to menstruate, she wondered if she’d return to school.
“I like school,” she said. “Unlike some girls who only go because their parents make them.” The Annual Survey of Education Report, or ASER, published by the non-profit organization Pratham in January, shows that girls aged 11 to 14 years old are most likely to drop out of school in India. The “monthly,” as Ms.Jadav refers to her menstrual cycle, is one reason why.
The Jadavs are Mati Wadars. Mati means soil, and people of this impoverished low caste have traditionally dug and leveled soil. Girls are married off young, and may have as many as three children before they turn 21.
One reason they get married early is their poor access to housing, which leaves girls vulnerable to predatory men as they go about their daily life. A lack of employment opportunities has forced them out of their villages and into urban areas. But if in the village they were made to live apart from their neighbors of higher castes, they have also been marginalized in cities.
The Jadavs live on a pavement under a bridge that spans a busy highway in suburban Mumbai. There are nine of them and a dog called Rani. Their shelter is made out of cement sacks held up by sticks purloined from construction sites. At night, the shelter is given over to the oldest married son, his wife, and three children. Everyone else sleeps in the open. To protect themselves from rats, the family swaddles itself in blankets. They also keep a bamboo pole handy. Despite precautions, their lives remain precarious. A neighbor’s baby was killed instantly when a drunk driver crashed into their shelter five years ago. A teenager Durga knew was abducted and raped. And in 2009 some people who live in the apartment building behind them decided that they were “dirty” and should move. “They poured kerosene over our belongings one morning,” recalls Durpada Jadav, Durga’s mother. “We lost our home, utensils, clothes. I saw my wedding sari burn to ashes.”
Given the reality of Durga’s life, Pratham’s figures shouldn’t come as a surprise. But the results of the 2011 Census had expectations up. According to the Census, 74.04 percent of Indians are now literate, up by 9.21 percentage points from 2001. Women’s literacy is at 65.46 percent, up by 11.79 points.
But these numbers represent a population of 1.2 billion people, of which half are under 25.
Read it all at the New York Times here.
‘Students’ awareness on gender issues is still at the lowest level. They do not receive any information on women’s rights and gender equality. Young girls remain in a passive role, deprived of reliable sources of information on their rights. And this lack of awareness leads to insecurity, discrimination, unhealthy relationships, and future violence,’ Nikoghosyan told the Armenian Weekly.
Currently, 9th graders are briefly taught about the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Nikoghosyan said. “There is no word about gender or gender equality. The term ‘gender’ is not even mentioned…