Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I hope I got your attention with my title... I am currently working with the group Morality in Media and their coalition effort the War on Illegal Pornography which means that each day I get to hear the stories or how pornography has ruined lives- those who watch it, are addicted to it, those who are married to addicts, those who were sold into it, those who were desperate and "chose" to do it, those who have found out there young children have been looking at it, etc.
I get to read studies about how it affects and alters the brain, how it increases sexual violence, how it degrades women. I read about people copying what they see in hardcore films and trying them out on minors. I look online for different groups to join our coalition: support groups for spouses, support groups for addicts, internet safety groups, anti-child pornography groups, anti-trafficking groups- BOTH foreign AND domestic (that's right, it is right here on our home soil and it is rampant). I see how "men" like Hugh Hefner glorify pornography and the life of those involved and I see how it actually takes from men what really makes them men- their strength and self-control, and even, as several reports have noted, their ability to engage in sexual activity with real women, and therefore, it takes their ability to procreate.

I also see how no one wants to talk about it. I see how it is such a thing of shame that these problems are not being addressed and how the big billion-dollar bully porn industry has too much of society in their pocket (or pocketBOOK) and how they intimidate in whatever ways they can those who try to stand up to them. I see how those who do take a stand are labled as being anti-first amendment, pro-censorship extremists who are just trying to force everyone to believe what they want- which may apply to some groups, but pornography affects everyone- whether society recognizes it or not. I see how sex and its misuse and the lack of respect for it affects EVERY part of society: it affects how we see other people, how we treat them. It affects how we feel about ourselves, our body image, our self-esteem. It affects how industries sell their products. It affects (obviously) the HUGE and every growing number of single mothers which increases her chances of living in poverty. It affects the role of men in society. It affects family relationships.
It affects poverty rates and therefore social and welfare programs. It affects politics and policy (as our esteemed Congressman from NY has shown us this past week and he is certainly not the first public official to experience a sex scandal). It just affects EVERYTHING. It is a discouraging issue, but a really important one. It is connected to SO much and if we want to end trafficking and if we want to end child exploitation and if we want to end prostitution, we need to start at the root causes or these issues: Demand. Pornography fuels the fire. There is no doubt. And no offense, but anyone who wants to dispute that, I cannot listen to, not after what I have seen and heard.

Here is a video that I just found, not necessarily about pornography, but definitely related. It is about child trafficking abroad:
It won't let me embed, so go to this site: http://love146.org/videos/face-slavery

In this video, the narrator- who also co-wrote the awesome book Half the Sky- says "I'm sickened to think that in many countries around the globe teenage girls are still being kidnapped and forced into brothels." But, I need to say and I want everyone to know, that the UNITED STATES IS NOT IMMUNE TO THIS PROBLEM!!! Look at Shared Hope International if you don't believe me. It is happening here too. It is happening everywhere.

I think that fighting against pornography and educating ourselves and others about the harms of it is a good step towards ridding the world of so many of its ills. It is idealistic, but we have to have some hope that things can get better. It is also discouraging, but if like-minded people would stand up against it, we could do some great things. And I think the first thing to do is recognize that it harms and then start talking about it.

And, let me share something else... Publishing this post scares me a little bit because this is a controversial subject and because pro-pornography people tend to be a bit bullyish. So, if you disagree, please share, but also please don't be mean :)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Justice for Cambodians? Follow my Train of Thought...

On July 26th one of the chief Jailers for the former Cambodian communist Khmer Rouge regime was sentenced to 35 years for the crime of torturing and murdering THOUSANDS of men, women, and children (estimates range between 14,000 and 16,000!!) in an effort to turn Cambodia into a "vast agrarian collective." The official crimes were: war crimes, crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.

Kaing Guek Eav, nicknamed Duch, will end up serving only 19 years of that sentence due to time already served and other factors. This man admitted his role in the killings and torture of thousands of men, women and children at the prison and yet was only given 35 years.

When I first read about this I was totally shocked that a man who did such terrible things could get such a short sentence (and on top of that he is appealing the decision by the UN-backed tribunal). It made me furious for the people who he tortured and killed and for their families. An Associated Press article on the subject included a quote by Saodi Oach, a family member of some of those killed, she said, "I can't accept this. My family died... my older sister, my older brother. I'm the only one left." So many lives were ended and ended brutally at the hands of this man. It would seem to me that any man responsible for so much death and suffering should be given a life sentence for each of the lives he took. Many others would generally assume that such a criminal should pay for his crimes with his own life.

But, then I read that his defense was that he was following orders. Not that that changes very much at all. He is still guilty of doing horrific things to many many people, but in a regime like the Khmer Rouge which ultimately killed 1.7 million people during its campaign, it is almost assured that this man was threatened along with his family and anyone else he loved if he did not follow orders. A New York Times article reported that he "apologized in court for atrocities he had committed but said that he had feared for his own life and that he was a scapegoat for others." It also reported that "Duch's lawyers presented a vigorous defense of a man who has admitted to overseeing the torture and execution of thousands, portraying him as someone trapped in a giant killing machine who later found himself singled out for prosecution." Also, when Kaing Guek Eav was finally found after the end of the regime, he was working the fields in rural Cambodia and had become a born-again Christian.

This is a moral quandry. Well, maybe it's not. Maybe he should have sacrificed himself and his loved ones by refusing to follow orders, but wouldn't the regime have found someone else willing to do it? The truth is that we don't know. We don't know what was in his heart or head. What kind of a spirit he has, and we, ultimately do not have to decide his fate (his ultimate fate), thank goodness. However, there must be consequences for our actions, the more serious the actions- the graver the consequences. Even if you were trying to protect yourself or your family. Even if he has changed his ways, there is still the debt to be paid. And I am not seeing justice in Cambodia. Already many of those involved in the Khmer Rouge campaign have died- including its leader Pol Pot- and were never brought to justice before an earthly tribunal. Earthly justice is important and this man should have to pay the consequences for his actions which should include a prison sentence that does not leave any possibility of getting out. 35 years diminishes the horrors of the Killing Fields and the sufferings of the Cambodian people.

It sometimes seems to me, as an American who went through the public school system and who tries her best to pay attention to the world's events, that the history of Cambodia and the Killing Fields has been forgotten or brushed aside. I don't remember EVER learning about it in grade school. I almost never hear about people doing things to memorialize those lost or to remember to never let such things happen again. Growing up the only genocide I really remember hearing about was the Holocaust, and a little later on in Serbia when the U.S. got involved in the situation with the crimes against humanity of Slobodan Milosevic. But, the situation in Rwanda (which went on WHILE I was a school child) and the horrors of Cambodia where, 1.7 MILLION people were killed, were never really spoken of. And really the only reason I know the little that I do know is because of my mother. In my home stake we used to have a congregation called the Mekong Branch named after the river in Southeast Asia. It was a congregation for people from Vietnam and Cambodia who had resettled in Northern Virginia. My mom served in the Branch so I would go with her and I made good friends, and one of my friends had a father who was severely handicapped, both mentally and physically. In normal child-like fashion I remember staring at him and being uncomfortable until my mother explained that he had been tortured while living in Cambodia and how horrible things had been there. He had lived there during the Khmer Rouge campaign and had been tortured but somehow was able to get out alive. Many of the people in that branch had been through similar situations, or else had lost family members to the killing fields: spouses, parents, children. It is something that we need to educate ourselves about and again, just like with An Ordinary Man and the massacre in Rwanda, prevent prevent prevent. I think knowing and understanding as much as we can is really the only tangible thing that can be done by the indivdual, but I also feel that the UN and international community can strengthen themselves (without stepping on any domestic toes) so that the world can protect itself and everyone will feel a duty to help those in need. The countries we now need to focus on as far as mass muder and crime against humanity are The Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sudan. Justice needs to be brought down upon the perpetrators of these crimes, and mercy needs to be extended to their victims. Humanity demands both justice and mercy, but there must be good, brave people willing to carry it out. We need to be those people.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced

I just finished another book: I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced and it was really interesting. I am always grateful when books that tackle difficult subject matter still manage to be positive and upbeat while also being honest and bold. The book is about a 10 years old girl, Nujood Ali, from Yemen who was married off at the tender age of 10 to a man 20 years her senior whom she refered to as "the monster" who abused her in every way imaginable. After a few months of this hell she found the courage to go down to the courthouse to seek out a divorce. Her actions made a huge impact on Yemeni society and many of the societies in Islamic countries in the Middle East. After going to court she was granted her divorce and allowed to go back with her family. Her efforts have helped other little girls find the courage to also seek for divorces from abusive husbands. The end of the book discussed a little bit more in depth the problem with child marriages in Yemen and other countries nearby. Many aide groups have found it difficult because they have to be so careful with cultural sensitivities. The books said: "For example, Oxfam, the organization that is by far the most invested in this project, must weigh its words carefully when it organizes consciousness-raising workshops in the southern part of the country. Instead of discussing "the legal age of marriage," Oxfam prefers to talk about a "safe age," emphasizing the risks linked to child marriage: psychological trauma, death in child-birth, dropping out of school. The task remains a difficult one, however. "Several of our colleagues who work out in the field have already become the objects of fatwas issued by the local sheikhs, who accuse them of promoting Western decadence and not respecting Islam." It would seems that the path to a more enlightened future is a long and tortuous one." While Nujood did a wonderful, VERY brave thing, the road to ending child marriages is a long one and there will need to be much patience and cultural understanding as a solution is found.

It is a quick read, and a VERY good one. I recommend it to everyone. It will open your eyes to a whole other part of the world and a separate world within that world. It will also give you a respect and admiration for a little 10 year old girl who had the courage to demand a divorce. (Here is a picture of Nujood with her lawyer Shada Nasser)

Also, look at these two sites for more information on Nujood and on Child Brides:
NY TIMES: Nicholas D. Kristof
End Human Trafficking
Glamour Women of the Year

Thursday, June 03, 2010

An Ordinary Man

A few weeks ago I finished reading "An Ordinary Man" by Paul Rusesabagina which is his account of the 1994 Rwandan genocide (the movie Hotel Rwanda is based on his experience). It was an eye-opening book and made me ask a lot of questions about the responsibilities of the international community in domestic affairs. For those of you not familiar with the genocide here is a little background: Rwanda, like most of Africa was colonized by Europeans, specifically the Dutch who in order to sustain their power divided ordinary Rwandans into two groups: Hutus and Tutsis. This was done based solely on their physical appearance: Tutsis were defined as taller with thinner noses and Hutus were distinguished by being shorter with wider noses. The Tutsis were put into leadership positions leading to animosity and contention between the two groups. Even after decolonization, these "identities" and most particularly the HATE and sense of inequality endured until it all erupted in the 1994 Genocide where Hutu militias targeted all Tutsis and Tutsi sympathizers for execution. As well, Tutsi militias organized and began to conduct revenge killings. "In the weeks after April 6, 1994, 800,000 men, women, and children perished in the Rwandan genocide, perhaps as many as three quarters of the Tutsi population. At the same time, thousands of Hutu were murdered because they opposed the killing campaign and the forces directing it." (United Human Rights Council- RWANDA) This is definitely a simplified explanation of a very complex problem that existed for years until it finally erupted in the most horrible of ways.

Obviously, it would have been wonderful to avoid the whole awful, awful ordeal, but it is not so simple. A friend of mine took an international law class and lent me some of his class materials to look at to help me understand better the role that international forces can and should play in domestic disputes. My studies have taught me how VERY complicated it is, but also how very essential it is for the more established and stable countries to help how they can. There were a lot of mistakes and a lot of backs turned during the genocide and it is interesting to study them and try to understand how to avoid EVER letting such atrocities occur again. The website from above stated it this way: span style="font-style:italic;">"Although the Rwandans are fully responsible for the organization and execution of the genocide, governments and peoples elsewhere all share in the shame of the crime because they failed to prevent and stop this killing campaign. I am not trying to blame the West, the U.N., or the United States, but I wish I could understand what should have been done by those groups and why they were NOT done (Why NOTHING was done until it was too late for 800,000 people). As the world gets smaller and smaller it seems that our responsibilities to one another get bigger and bigger. We can no longer use the ignorance card because we now know what is going on throughout the world. When we sit idly by it is because we choose to. I hope that law school will help me understand international law better so that I can understand why things like the 1994 Rwandan Genocide could happen without the international community jumping in to stop it. I understand that there are laws that dictate what a country can or cannot do to aide another in a domestic dispute, but it might be time for a reassessment of those laws so as to ensure that another genocide or other human rights violations cannot occur without the international community being able to (AND having the obligation to) step in and do something to help.

In the last chapter of the book, Rusesabagina writes, "What happened? Hitler's Final Solution was supposed to have been the last expression of this monstrous idea- the final time the world would tolerate a deliberate attempt to exterminate an entire race. But genocide remains the most pressing human rights question of the twenty-first century. Each outbreak has its differences on the surface. In Cambodia slaughter was done in the name of absurd political dogma; in Bosnia the killings erupted after the fragmenting of a multiethnic federation; the Kurds in Iraq were gassed when they demanded independence from a dictator, and today in Sudan innocent people are dying because they occupy oil-rich territory coveted by the ethnic majority... Look closely at each of the world's recent genocides, however, and the surface differences burn away. The core of genocide is always the same. They erupt under the cover of war. They are the brainchildren of insecure leaders eager for more power. Governments ease their people into them gradually. Other nations must be persuaded to look away. And all genocides rely heavily on the power of GROUP THINKING to embolden the everyday killers." (192-193) Just think of how many genocides there were int the 20th century! In an age of industrialization and such HUGE technological advancements society seems to continue to lag behind. This should NOT be happening now.

One more paragraph to quote:
"A sad truth of human nature is that it is hard to care for people when they are abstractions, hard to care when it is not you or somebody close to you. Unless the world community can stop finding ways to dither in the face of this monstrous threat to humanity those words Never Again will persist in being one of the most abused phrases in the English language and one of the greatest lies of our time." (195)

This last paragraph really struck me. This is one of the MANY reasons why the Gospel is so precious. It teaches us of the worth of EACH and EVERY human soul out there. It allows us to view the world not in terms of abstractions as Mr. Rusesagabina wrote, but as humans, individuals, our brothers and sisters who while geographically far from us are close to us in the family of God. It is a great blessing in my life to know of the worth of souls. I can always be better about seeing it in others and respecting it, but as I work towards being better I am able to love and care about people I do not know but who I know God knows and loves. For me, the most important thing we can do now is become educated on these issues and to understand what it is the international community can do and SHOULD do when we are again faced with a tragedy such as the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. And that brings me to my last point: We ARE CURRENTLY faced with a tragedy such as the Rwandan Genocide: Southern Sudan. The U.S. "talks" about doing something, but have yet to do it. Now is the time to make the necessary changes and to act, not tomorrow or 10 years down the line, but now.

Some additional sites/articles to check out: (Be warned that some of these include disturbing images)

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Half the Sky

I am currently reading the book "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide" by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It is really incredible so far. It is also extremely sad and humbling to read about the terrible experiences of women in many developing nations who are sold into prostitution by desperate families, or who are kidnapped or tricked into the sex trade. It is all very affecting but what I love about the book is the positive tone and the hope given to such a vast and grave problem. When I think about these women I try not to just think of them as strangers living thousands of miles away in conditions wholly different than my own, but instead as Heavenly Father would, as spirits of INFINITE worth, created by God. I try to think of them as my sisters and it makes my heart YEARN to help them. To Reach out to them, to do SOMETHING. The book shares the personal experiences of the women in sexual bondage and the horrible conditions and experiences that are the daily expectation and norm. It has already opened my eyes to many things that I had not considered about human trafficking: About how hard it is to rescue girls from that lifestyle because often they are addicted to the drugs that they are forced to take to make them compliant and easy to handle. Also, how cultural traditions make it difficult for girls trying to get away from life in the brothel to succeed in other fields besides the few traditionally given them. It is a tough and complex problem with no simple solution. The book addresses this however, and merely invites us to consider the ONE girl that could be helped by our efforts. I think that is where the focus has to be: on the individual. This does not mean that the government and society are off the hook, just that it is more complicated to make lasting changes with a broad effort as opposed to doing what CAN be done now for the one.

A few months ago I went with two of my friends to a lecture on Human Trafficking given by an American who had been involved in U.S. military efforts to stop trafficking. It was, again, eye opening and very sad: Desperate people selling their girlfriends into slavery to get money to help their dying mothers, mobsters from former Soviet block nations running brothels in western European countries with kidnapped girls, and the immense difficulty of finding and punishing those responsible. Again, however, it was stressed that this situation must not be look at as hopeless. There IS hope and there are things that can be done. He talked about how the U.S. military is raising awareness that many of the prostitutes that servicemen might visit (which is a problem in and of itself...) can very possibly be trafficked women who are being held against their wills. Something that really struck me about the lecture, which was not addressed and just something that I noticed, had to do with the video we were shown about the experience of one Eastern European girl who was sold by her boyfriend to some traffickers. The video was narrated by the actress Angelina Jolie who obviously took the issue very seriously and was pleading for help for these women. HOWEVER, I could not ignore the fact that Angelina Jolie, who is a sex symbol and produces movies with pornographic content, was not addressing the fact that the sex trade is so lucrative because of the HUGE demand. The world is SOAKED in sexual filth and sex has lost all of its sacredness as a means of creating and bringing life into the world. (Here is an example of one of Angelina Jolie's more TAME photos) It is now all about excitement, passion, and arousal, pushing the envelope more and more. Prostitution, while it is the "oldest profession"- a saying that kills me because it makes something very serious seem like an old tradition where boys will be boys and girls will be exploited... but that's for another post, has become an acceptable and adventurous outlet for men. When the world takes sex and puts it back into marriage, instead of flaunting it these problems might disappear all together. Women like Angelina Jolie, while I applaud her efforts in publicizing the problem, make it worse by using their sexuality to sell, thereby adding fuel to the already blazing sexual inferno that has set fire to and engulfed societies throughout the world.

So, let's focus on the one. Let's realize that there IS a problem and let's FACE it. Let's also FIGHT against Pornography and the sexual exploitation of women and children. Even just praying for those who are victims will help.


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Good and The Bad

Sometimes I am amazed how life can go on when such terrible things are happening in the world, but I am also grateful for it. I just read about a terrible slaughter in Nigeria where at least 200 people, mostly Christians, were killed in Dogo Nahawa, Nigeria. Go here to read about it. It is really terrible, and as I read more about it, I read about many other terrible massacres that have been going on for the last ten years in rural Nigeria that I had never even heard about! What misery for those people! And too often it feels like the rest of the world is just turning their backs on these people. And, I believe, in some sense we are, and much more needs to be done. At the same time, however, I am glad that even in this world of misery there are so many wonderful things going on and people doing their best to help those who are stuck in hard places. It has come to be my belief more and more as I learn about the world and its many problems and many many injustices, that those of us who are spared them are being tested in a different way. We are being tested to see if we will reach out and do what we can to help. I like to preach a little too much on this blog, talk about what we "need" to do and I apologize for that, but I do feel much better when I realize the potential that I have to do something to help someone in another part of the world, or even here in the U.S.

I am also always amazed at the resilience of the people who have to go through unimaginable trials and tragedy. They should be an example to us comfortable Americans. This is a new goal of late for me, to really try and be positive. Not just on the surface positive, but genuinely so. I try to take a step back and realize that IT IS REALLY NOT THAT BAD! If I did badly on a test, or if that special someone didn't look my way, or if my dog died, it is OKAY and there are SO many positive things to outweigh the negative. I am excited to graduate from college and move on to the "Go Forth to Serve" part in my school's motto.

Also, a brief mention of an epiphany that I had on the way to school today: I was walking to class and I made eye contact with a girl walking the other direction and said "hi" and kept going. Half a second later she turned and said to me "Hey, thanks for making eye contact. I've had a really bad day and everyone is always looking at the ground." Wow! I had no idea that my making eye contact and saying hello would make such an impression, and, REALLY, SHE made MY day by being so nice and recognizing the effort at a nice gesture.

So, my epiphany was that THERE ARE SUCH WONDERFUL, GOOD PEOPLE IN THE WORLD ALL AROUND ME AND I SHOULD MEET THEM AND SAY "HELLO" TO THEM! It gave me hope. It added fuel to my "Be Positive" fire and I really think that life can be great, just as long as I include others and think of others. I hope I reread this in 20 minutes when my homework has once again depressed me...

Life has such great potential! I need to value it more, and especially think of the value of the lives lost or touched by tragedy throughout the world. So, live life, love life, and help save lives!


Monday, March 01, 2010


Women for Women International

"There is no place that is more dangerous for women on Earth than in Congo."

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