issue 212 - October 1990
Women in Zambia take the lead
Roy Lewis / CAMERA PRESS
Wander through Lusaka's red-light district after nightfall, witness the prostitutes working the streets, imagine the formidable health hazard in a region stricken by AIDS - and you can see why voluntary organizations are joining forces so combat this seedy trade.
Prompted by the Government s blind-eye approach to the sex trade, a pilot project aims to 'discourage dark-corner behaviour among men and women to stop AIDS from spreading', as project co-ordinator Alice Munalula explained. 'Lack of employment for women and boredom for men emerged as the main reasons people indulge in prostitution. We want so try to provide the alternatives: jobs for women and counselling for men.'
The World Health Organization and the Norwegian Agency for National Development are providing the initial financial backing, but Munalula will need more than that to realize her ambition of extending the scheme to rural areas. She is seeking funding for a range of projects from tailoring and knitting bazaars so poultry raising.
But the scheme has faced a barrage of public criticism. Ruling out any co-operation from the church, the Christian Council of Zambia argues that attention should focus on jobless women and working girls who need money, rather than on prostitution.
But if prostitution is not even mentioned it will be difficult so discourage. And even if it is there could still be problems. Says one critic: 'You cannot advertise shame and you cannot walk up to a prostitute and say "Hey, you, walk off the streets and join other prostitutes in farming".'
Others argue that sexism will make the projects unworkable. Typist Mary Kupenda says: 'Such workplaces will be called brothels and men will flock there for a nice time'.
Undaunted, Manalula says that her skilled team of nurses and public-health personnel 'aim to educate participants on issues such as contraceptives, public hygiene and moral support, apart from the material gains'.
Meanwhile, prostitution increases in rural areas, where unemployment has tripled and school drop-out rates for girls are soaring. Interviews carried out for the project's research paper indicate that many prostitutes 'just want to settle down and have a family'.
The current economic slump and the widespread fear of AIDS have made life even tougher for Lusaka's prostitutes. They have taken to increasingly seductive gimmicks, to the point of thumbing down passing motorists. One critic maintains that 'unless the State provides more jobs, the volunteer projects won't stop the trade. As for reforming males, it's just the joke of the year.'
Muslims join the fray
Militant Islam is now a fact in South Africa, as it is in so many other parts of the world. But there it is dedicated to the struggle against apartheid.
Natal's Supreme Court recently sentenced MuhammedRafiq Rodan, the former news editor of Post Natal, to 15 years in prison for sabotage, including three bombings that injured 17 people. He belonged to Umkhonso we Sizwe ('Spear of the Nation'), the ANC's armed wing, and was closely linked to three militant Muslim groups.
Two Muslim Indians blew themselves up in Johannesburg in December with bombs intended for Establishment targets. Both belonged to Umkhonto and one, Yusuf Akhalwaya, was a member of she militant Call of Islam group.
Islam is deeply rooted in the Cape. The first Muslims arrived soon after the Dutch, sometimes as political prisoners from Indonesia. Their treatment by the Dutch was harsh, and they remained segregated as the apartheid system developed. The Muslim Judicial Council was formed in 1945, but sank into scholasticism. The first prominent Muslim militant demanding social justice was Imam Abdullah Haron, who was arrested in 1969, interrogated for 123 days and died 'while falling down steps'.
In 1981 the Qibla organization (named after the mosque niche which points to Mecca) was founded along pure Khomeini Fundamentalist lines, damning apartheid and resurrecting Haron as a hero. The security police claimed that Qibla trained assassins' in Libya and received funding from the Palestine Liberation Organization. Two of its leaders were arrested in 1989 and Qibla has now been broken by the security police.
Nevertheless South Africa's 650,000 Muslims have a strong influence, mainly through their militant youth movements. The Muslim Youth Movement was formed in Durban in 1970 and has links with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Jameat el Islami in Pakistan. It has 235 arkan ('pillars') who pledge a fixed amount monthly, and 2,000 rufuga ('friends'). The Muslim Students Association has around 3,000 members.
And militant youth has begun to influence its elders. Muslim organizations welcome the release of Nelson Mandela, the unbanning of the ANC and the partial lifting of the State of Emergency, but all want the total dismantling of apartheid. In October last year she Muslim Judicial Council received a letter from Mandela calling it 'one of South Africa's most powerful organizations committed so the winning of human rights for all our peoples'. South Africa's Muslims, rich in educational and managerial skills, now have for the first time a clear political objective of social justice.
Thailand comes under US trade cosh
Thailand is locked in battle with the giants of the US cigarette trade. They want access to Thailand's 11 million smokers and they're fighting rough, says Prakis Vateesasokit of the Thai Anti-Smoking Campaign.
A tidy 34 billion cigarettes are sold every year in Thailand to 64 per cent of Thai males (but just six per cent of females) over the age of 20. The Thai Tobacco Monopoly (TTM) is owned by the Ministry of Finance and excludes foreign brands.
For years Thailand has tried to stem the flow of smuggled US cigarettes. In an address so the recent Conference on Smoking and Health held in Western Australia, Vaseesatokit said that smuggled cigarettes account for at least five per cent of sales.
In 1986 foreign manufacturers began an advertising blitz. Press advertisements, billboards, kites, T-shirts, earrings, notebooks and chewing gum all began to bombard the country with foreign brand names - perfectly legal in itself. So the TTM stepped up its own campaign, and the war began in earnest.
In 1988 the Thai Cabinet approved a package of smoking control measures, including a ban on cigarette advertising. The US Cigarette Export Association (USCEA) retaliated. It filed a petition so the US Trade Representative in April 1989 alleging unfair trade practices. Under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act, it asked the US President to sanction retaliation if Thailand kept its doors closed.
In May 1989 the US Trade Representative announced an investigation. US anti-smoking groups protested. Thai health groups were stunned.
The Bush Administration sent the whole issue off to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in December last year. The US Trade Representative claims Thailand has violated GATT anti-protection trade regulations. If GATT finds against Thailand, this could be used as further leverage in the continuing Section 301 action.
The US itself is, of course, one of the countries trying to lead the race to become the world's first smoke-free society.
Repatriates start afresh
Photo: Peter Drury
'We are the alternative for the future of El Salvador' reads a banner in Segundo Montes. The town lies in North Morazan, one of the most turbulent areas of El Salvador. It was created when 8,400 refugees returned from a 10-year exile in Honduras between November 1989 and February of this year.
They believe they have adopted a model that offers hope to all the poor of El Salvador. Agricultural and industrial cooperatives are being set up to produce consumer goods for the community and sell the surplus. Profits will be invested in social programmes: education, health care and nutrition. Every family will be housed and have an individual p1ot of land. The 'repasriates all contribute to a Communal Development Bank.
They say they are looking for 'a more just society'. The communal strategy is aimed not just at poverty but at the constant military harassment they face; strength is sought through unity.
The Army has reacted to them with hostility. It has imposed an economic blockade, requiring permits for supplies and cutting off essentials like construction materials, tools and fertilizer. Those who protest have been arrested or threatened by the Army but the campaign for 'free trade' continues.
The economic blockade is accompanied by terror tactics. The Army has destroyed crops, helicopters have bombed the surrounding areas and people have been tortured while under arrest.
Segundo Montes challenges the unjust social and economic system which lies at the heart of the conflict in El Salvador. The Army sees it as subversive. If it is crushed is will be a severe setback not just for the people of Segundo Montes but for other refugee communities seeking repatriation as well.
US giant tramples the grassroots
The multinational giant Procter & Gamble is being accused by Edward Kennedy and other senior US senators of practising corporate censorship. The charges stem from P&G's David-and-Goliath dispute over TV adverts placed by Neighbor to Neighbor, a grassroots pressure group campaigning for a boycott of coffee from El Salvador.
The trouble started when Neighbor to Neighbor placed an advertisement on WHDH-TV, a Boston affiliate of CBS. The advert, which cost she group $900 for two 30-second showings, urges consumers to boycott Folger's coffee, North America's best-selling brand. Folger's buy some of their coffee from El Salvador and the advert claims that sale of Salvadorean beans leads to 'misery, destruction and death'. It says that wealthy coffee planters fund the right-wing death squads responsible for the disappearance and murder of tens of thousands of people in the Central American republic over the last 11 years.
Coffee makes up over half of El Salvador's exports, and a boycott is advocated by US opponents of the Bush Administration's policy of support for the Salvadorean government.
The ad, which ends with a gruesome image of an upside-down coffee cup pouring blood, provoked swift retaliation from P&G, Folger's parent company. The day after the ad was shown, P&G announced it was indefinitely suspending all advertising on WHDH-TV for its entire range of products, including Pampers diapers, Crest tooth-paste and Head and Shoulders shampoo. The TV station estimates P&G advertising revenue at one million dollars a year.
Neighbor to Neighbor were delighted with the free publicity provoked by the row, but have been effectively frozen out of TV advertising - since P&G made its announcement, only one other TV station has run the advert. 'In El Salvador, death squads silence their opposition violently', says Neighbor to Neighbor director Fred Ross. 'Here in the US Procter & Gamble is attempting to silence us using the power of she dollar.'
Despite the blow to his finances, WHDH-TV president Sy Yanoff refuses to back down. 'To me, it was an issue of access,' he explains. The ad was narrated by actor Ed Asner, better known as Lou Grant in the TV series. Asner is no stranger to arm-twisting from advertisers. In 1982 the Lou Grant series was cancelled by its US producers after sponsors protested over Asner's political activities as President of the 'Medical Aid for El Salvador' campaign.
Duncan Green/Latin America Bureau
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