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new internationalist
issue 184 - June 1988



Sexual politics
Brazil's prostitutes unite

'I do not believe there is a great moral distinction between the exploitation of a woman who sells herself from the waist up, and one forced to sell herself from the waist down,' says Gabriela Leite, a 36-year-old Brazilian social-studies researcher and former prostitute.

For eight years Gabriela worked on the streets of Brazil's major cities. Today she is galvanizing a national movement of prostitutes - based in Rio de Janeiro - to encourage greater awareness and pride among working women in the oldest profession. She and her colleagues organize literacy and legal awareness workshops (run by prostitutes) and with the support of radical church groups have set up health promotion schemes. Last year she organized the first national congress of prostitutes.

There are an estimated 10 million prostitutes in Brazil, most of whom come from the poorest classes. Many are black. Tragically, as many as two and a half million of them are children.

Middle-class and university educated, Gabriela is atypical. She took to prostitution during Brazil's military dictatorship because she was blacklisted for her left-wing political activism and this made it impossible for her to find regular work. Life on the streets made her keenly aware that the treatment of prostitutes is not taken seriously as a human rights issue by political groups of any persuasion and none have anything positive to offer.

Although prostitution is not illegal in Brazil the legal rights of the women are continually being infringed - not least by the police. Prostitutes are arrested at whim and can be held in custody for several days. If the woman has money she will be forced to pay a fine. If not, she is often compelled to have sex with police or ordered to do menial jobs such as cleaning out lavatories.

Alone prostitutes can do precious little to improve their lives or get protection from male violence. But last year's congress sowed the seeds of solidarity amongst prostitutes and there are now around 20 groups nationwide.

While fighting for the rights of prostitutes, Gabriela admits that the real future welfare of all prostitutes rests on the elimination of all forms of exploitation - from the waist up or down. 'As long as there is machismo and as long as there is poverty and landlessness, there will be prostitution.'

Louise Hughes


Olympic indifference
Canadian Indian claim

The Calgary Olympics offered the ideal opportunity for the few hundred forgotten, ill-housed and landless Lubicon Indians of Canada to make themselves heard. Thousands of press and media would be at the Olympics, just miles from the Lubicon homelands in Northern Alberta which have been plundered in search of oil.

So the Lubicon chief, Bernard Ominayak, sought media attention by staging demonstrations and protests before and during the games. He was unsuccessful. The cameras were more interested in the antics of Eddie Edwards and other sports personalities in the snow than the plight of the Lubicon. Here, at least, we can tell their story.

The Lubicon's claimed ancestral lands in Northern Alberta are oil-rich and worth billions of dollars. They are already badly disturbed and polluted by well-drillers and mineral explorers - so much so that nine out of ten Lubicon are now having to survive on welfare benefits. Their yearly income from hunting, fishing and trapping has fallen from $4,000 to $360 per person.

By 1984, 11 oil companies including Shell and Petro-Canada had set up more than 400 drilling sites within 15 miles of the Lubicon community. These sites produce more than $800,000 worth of oil a day - but none of the profits go to the Lubicon.

The Canadian provincial (Alberta) and national governments do not admit the scale of the Lubicon's entitlement. Neither do the oil companies - such as Shell and Petro-Canada, official sponsors of the Calgary Olympics.

'The genealogy issue is the key to the dispute,' says Don McGregor, the federal Director General for the Communication for Indian and Northern Affairs. 'Their land claim will never be solved until the number of Lubicon band members entitled to land is determined.'

According to Canadian law each genealogically proved member of an Indian band is entitled to 52 hectares of land. The Lubicon claim 458 members in their band and thus an entitlement to about 233 square kilometres.

But 'Alberta does not want to give away an acre of the oil-rich land of the Lubicon,' says Ted Montour from the Assembly of First Nations in Ottawa, which represents all aboriginal bands in Canada. Consequently there is no official admission of the Lubicon numbers.

Melinda Ham / Panos


Bug eat bug
Pest control Chinese style

For at least 1,700 years Chinese mandarin orange growers have used carnivorous ants to protect their fruit from other ants and caterpillars. Yellow citrus ants are still used to patrol the orange trees. And to ensure that the big ants can reach each tree in the orchard bamboo bridges are balanced between them.

Other techniques of biological pest control being used in China today include bacterium, virus, fungus or larger animals to regulate pests. Young ducklings, for instance, are herded into rice fields where they can reduce the populations of pests such as the rice grasshopper by between 65 and 75 per cent.

Such methods require a great deal of knowledge about the life cycles, behaviour, feeding and breeding habits of both the pest and its predator. But biological pest control techniques are cheaper and less damaging to the environment than chemical pesticides - to which pests eventually become resistant anyway.

Walter Shearer / Third World Network / Development Forum


Freedom for fascism
Racist press round-up

Censors and security-obsessed government officials in Western democratic countries seem to have a blind spot when it comes to even the most obscene and provocative incitements to racial hatred in the media.

During the past decade several new racist broadsheets have emerged. The anti-semitic Jewish Information, for example - published in Sweden and translated into several languages - is distributed throughout Europe and the US. One particularly obnoxious issue offered each reader a lock of hair 'from a gas chamber victim' as a free gift with each copy. Another carried the title Anne Frank's Diary - a Hoax. The authors David Cohen and Ditlieb Felderer (who were also the publishers) describe themselves as Bible researchers who offer their racist papers (plus accompanying slideshows) to schools, universities and churches.

Closely allied to the Swedish broadsheets is Holocaust News the paper of the British National Party, which has made a reappearance despite an earlier banning. Meanwhile Bulldog, the magazine of the youth sections of the British National Front, continues to justify attacks by soccer supporters on opposing European fans, encourages racist abuse of black players and advocates the throwing of banana skins onto the pitch as a mark of disgust at their inclusion in teams.

Another National Front publication, New Order, openly promotes armed violence. No more 'hanging around on street corners and practising your shouts of Wogs Out' it urges. 'Here's a real piece of action. Why not take a trip down to Brian the bayonet-king who has a fancy range of German and Austrian combat knives.'

Papers such as these continue to be published in Britain with little or no hindrance from a government which was so adamant about the need to ban Spycatcher in the 'national interest'. These examples may be taken from papers of the far Right but diluted versions of racist sentiments are becoming increasingly common in the mainstream press.

Pat Isiorho


Health under fire
Help from Australia

South African-backed Renamo guerillas have destroyed 30 per cent of Mozambique's primary health care network. But health workers have not given up their determination to bring a better standard of living to the Mozambican people. And in some parts of the country the health service is actually expanding - with a little help from friends.

The Australian Government, for example, is providing $130,000 of a $280,000 project to build a new rural hospital in Nhamatanda in the central province of Sofala. This will expand the number of hospital beds available from 27 to 100.

The project combines self-sufficiency with external help. Most of the building materials are local, the timber and bricks coming from Nhamatanda itself. Personnel help is coming from the French non-governmental organization Architectes sans Frontières, Hopitaux sans Frontières and Mèdecins du Monde.

But the project is only a band aid on a gaping wound Mozambicans' main health problem remains malnutrition caused by South Africa's campaign of economic destabilization combined with natural disasters such as drought.

Paul Fauvet
Mozambique Agency of Information


Bang, bang
Games children play

[image, unknown]
Francis Fashesin /
Camera Press

'If we want to create lasting peace, if we want to fight a war against war,' said Mahatma Gandhi, 'we have to begin with the children'. The World Association for Orphans and Abandoned Children is following this advice by launching a worldwide programme of peace education.

They plan to kick off their international Peace Toys Week with a symbolic destruction of war toys on September 7. On this day schools will organize activities that emphasize the negative and harmful nature of such toys and discourage children from using them. Parents are urged to participate by boycotting war-related toys and games, signing petitions to get toy companies to stop producing them, and most importantly helping their children to replace such toys and games with peaceful, educational ones.

The orphans association hopes to have campaigns in every country of the world. Some governments already recognize the connection between the games children play, the toys on which they focus their imaginations and their attitudes in later life. The government of Finland has made illegal the selling and advertizing of war toys. In Aotearoa (NZ) a television commercial for Rambo dolls has been banned. While in Malta the import of war toys has been illegal for several years.

The peace programme is not simply a campaign against war toys, however. It aims to help children analyze the reasons for conflicts and develop non-violent means of resolving them. This involves educating children to be creative, responsible, communicative and open-minded. The appreciation of others and the capacity to listen are encouraged.

It seems appropriate that the World Association for Orphans and Abandoned Children should be launching this programme. Many of the children with whom they work have lost their parents to war and other forms of violent conflict.

For further Information you can contact:
World Association for Orphans and Abandoned Children,
Rue Jean-Calvin 12, 1204 Geneva, Switzerland.

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New Internationalist issue 184 magazine cover This article is from the June 1988 issue of New Internationalist.
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