Onward ” Christian” Soldiers — Trampling Women Sexual Assault Victims on the March to Confirm Kavanaugh

The alleged victim of sexual assault by U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday to testify on the incident. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford says Kavanaugh assaulted her during a house party when both were teenagers.

Repugnantthugs on the committee are continuing to support their boy despite Dr. Ford’s allegations, and despite another woman’s claims that Kavanaugh exposed himself and made unwanted overtures toward her when both were college students at Yale. Some are beginning to have doubts about Kavanaugh’s fitness to serve on the high court following revelations about his sexual behavior in high school and college. Others just want to hurry up and appoint him so the court will have more conservative judges than liberals. They hope that with the addition of Kavanaugh, the court will rule to eliminate women’s legal reproductive rights and other liberal policies such as civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and legal protections for Americans with disabilities.

Evangelical Christians, who are a significant part of the unpresident’s ideological base, are tying themselves up in knots trying to justify Kavanaugh’s appointment to tU.S.. Supreme Court, notwithstanding his alleged sexual transgressions.  Franklin Graham, son of the late, nationally known evangelical minister Billy Graham, says the charges against Kavanaugh are “not relevant” regarding whether or not Kavanauh should serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“There wasn’t a crime committed,” Graham said during a recent Christian Broadcast Interview. “He just flat out says that’s not true. Regardless if it was true, these are two teenagers and she said no and he respected that so I don’t know what the issue is.”

Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, recently said during a New York Times interview, “If  Republicans fail to defend and confirm such an obviously and eminently qualified and decent nominee, then it will be very difficult to motivate and energize faith-based and conservative voters in November,” he said, referencing the November midterm elections.

Tony Perkins, who heads the right-wing think tank Family Research Council, challenged Dr. Ford’s recall of events at the party where she says Kavanaugh assaulted her. “It may have happened, but was it Brett Kavanaugh?” Perkins told Fox News recently. “Apparently, alcohol was involved. People were intoxicated. Do they remember the facts? It’s been 36  years”  since the incident occurred, he said.

Perkins claimed that the political left has “used” the Supreme Court to impose its “crazy ideas” on Americans, with respect to abortion, immigration laws, “the redefinition of marriage,” and what he termed as restrictions on free speech. “The left knows that if it can’t control the courts, it can’t impose its values on Americans, and the right gets that. The right is ready for the courts to operate within the confines of the Constitution.”

There are some Black evangelicals who point out that conservative Christianity has not been good for people of color in the U.S. John C. Richards, Managing Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, recently wrote in Christianity Today that the conservative Supreme Court ruling in the 1800s Dred Scott case, that Americans of African descent could never be citizens, “was the court’s worst decision.” Richards wrote that the War on Drugs that resulted in a disproportionate number of Black people being arrested and imprisoned for years for selling or using small amounts of drugs was another conservative strategy which was catastrophic for Black people and their communities.

“The truth is that many Black Christians aren’t so much looking for a conservative court as they are looking for a more fair and neutral court — devoid of political influence,” Richards wrote.

But the “Christian” right seems determined to march on behind Kavanaugh and support his nomination. A letter endorsing Kavanaugh’s nomination, which was released in July under the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethical and Religious Liberty Commission, was signed by 11 leaders representing conservative religious organizations. While say they would like to hear Dr. Ford’s testimony, most would just keep marching and calling for Kavanaugh’s nomination, as are many on the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the process, they are trampling over women’s right to reproductive choice, LGBTQ individuals to marry, and people of color’s right to not be discriminated against due to their color and ethnicity.

Emmys So White (With a Few Splashes of Color)

There’s an old joke in which someone asks jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, “Hey, Louis, what’s the score?” Armstrong answers, ” White folks still in the lead.”

Watching almost any awards show on television underscores that perception. The recent 70th Prime Time Emmy was no exception.

Even though there were many Black actors, writers and directors nominated for awards, the live and viewing audiences only saw a few winners on the prime time event: reality program host RuPaul, who won for Outstanding Host for a Reality or a Reality Competition Program, and for Outstanding Reality Competition Program; Thandie Newton (left, in photo) Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama in “Westworld”; and Regina King, (right), Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for “Seven Seconds.”

There were more Black Emmy winners but their shining moments were not included in the prime time telecast. It would have been nice to see and hear the acceptance speeches given by Tiffany Haddish, Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (“Saturday Night Live”) Ron Cephas, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama (“This Is Us”),  Katt Williams, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy (“Atlanta”), Samira Wiley, Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), and John Legend, a co-producer of the NBC live broadcast of the musical, “Jesus Christ, Superstar” which won for Outstanding Variety Special.

Black and other Emmy nominees of color were shut out of prime time categories in which they were nominated, such as acting in a comedy or drama, writing, and directing.  Some programs won multiple awards, including “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Assassination of Giani Versace, ” “Barry,” “The Crown,” “The Americans,” and “Godless.” They are all predominantly white.

The issue isn’t whether or not these programs deserved to win, but why other programs which were written, produced, directed and performed by Black individuals weren’t just as deserving. Why, for instance, weren’t “Empire” or “Queen Sugar” nominated in the drama categories? “Empire’s” lead actors Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson have turned in stellar performances in the three years the drama has been on the air. “Queen Sugar,” directed by Ava DuVernay and a battalion of women directors she selected in order to provide more directing opportunities for women, has realistically portrayed life as lived by a Black New Orleans family struggling to hang onto their land where they farm sugar cane and process it in their own mill. They also grapple with issues of racism, police brutality, and a rich, white family which plans to seize their land, and that of other Black sugar cane farmers, in order to build a privately owned prison.  It’s hard to believe that no one in the cast, the writers or directors qualified for an Emmy award.

The Emmy nominating and awards committees, like those in the film world’s Academy Awards, appear to believe that there is only a single standard of excellence, and it’s white. It’s like saying that professionals of color in the entertainment industry can never measure up to their white counterparts. True diversity in the Emmys means not only filling the award categories with a nominees of color, but also awarding them, and diversifying  the winners’ circle. Excellence comes in all colors, and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which bestows the Emmys, should acknowledge that, starting next year.

Women’s Don’t Matter

Forty-six years ago when John Lennon, Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band released a song called “Woman Is The (N-word) of the World,” folks were outraged. Many Black folks were upset that the song compared white women’s “oppression” to ours, noting that white women had never, and would never, know what it was like to have generations of one’s family enslaved.  Women objected to the “N-word” in the title and lyrics.

But if the controversy over U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh tells us anything, it’s that white men, as personified by the Repugnantthug Party, don’t think much of white women. Although he has been accused of allegedly sexually assaulting Dr. Christine Blasey Ford when both were in high school three decades ago, the Repugnantthug-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee is racing to confirm him and place him on the high court in time for the new term in October.

The committee’s behavior glaringly contradicts the longstanding near worship of white women by white men in the U.S. White women’s “beauty” comprised of straight blonde hair, blue eyes, pale skin, is still considered the gold standard to which all women of whatever ethnicity must aspire.  “Miss Ann” as enslaved Africans derisively referred to the “Massa’s” wife, was and is perched on her invisible pedestal.  A model of manners and comportment, she can do no wrong — as long as she “stays in her place.”

And she must never, ever have anything to do with Black men, especially in the Southern states which were part of the Confederacy during the Civil War. All a Black man had to do to be lynched by angry mobs of white men was  glance in a white woman’s direction. White men claimed they were protecting and honoring their delicate and pristine females.

But the rush to confirm Kavanaugh demonstrates how much white men’s protectiveness of their women is a load of hogwash. GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are tying themselves up in knots trying to mansplain why there’s no need to put the confirmation process on pause while its members investigate Dr. Ford’s charges. Or why the FBI shouldn’t be brought in for at least a background check. They don’t even want to invite others to testify before the committee who could attest to Kavanaugh’s high school age behavior: that he partied hard and got drunk when he did. Like writer Mark Judge, who attended Georgetown Prep at the same time as Kavanaugh. Dr. Ford says Judge was in the room when Kavanaugh attempted to rape her. Judge says he wasn’t there, and refuses to testify before the committee.

Senator Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says the FBI isn’t needed to investigate the charges against Kavanaugh, even though Dr. Ford says she won’t testify unless an investigation takes place. Grassley sang a different tune during the committee’s 1991 hearing on Anita Hill’s charges that then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her in their workplace. At the time, Grassley said of course an FBI investigation would be the right thing to do. The unpresident is also refuting the need for an FBI probe of the charges against Kavanaugh.

All the while, Repugnantthugs are strenuously casting doubt on Dr. Ford’s charges and her supposed motives for making them: Why did she wait until now to come forward? Why can’t she remember details of the incident? Did the Democrats on the committee put her up to this to delay Kavanaugh’s confirmation?

Repugnantthugs have always had what can only termed a “unique” way of viewing sexual assault. Former U.S. Representative Todd Akin of Missouri said in 2012 that if a rape is “legitimate” “.  .  . the female body has ways to shut that thing down.”    Arizona Representative Trent Franks said in 2013 that pregnancies resulting from rape are “very low.”

More recently a South Carolina lawmaker seized on the current controversy to make a “joke” about it.  “Did you hear about this?” said U.S. Representative Ralph Norman. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg came out saying she was groped by Abraham Lincoln.”

It doesn’t matter to the Repugnantthugs that women who have been sexually assaulted, as Dr. Ford alleges she was, are emotionally, and often physically, scarred for life by the experience. They just want their guy on the U.S. Supreme Court bench so he can form what will become a conservative majority that could rule to overturn legal abortions under Roe v. Wade, the Affordable Care Act, and anything else made law in the last sixty to seventy years that’s the least bit humane and progressive.

And if those previous rulings improved the quality of life and health for women, so what? Get back on your invisible pedestals ladies, the GOP seems to be saying, and keep your mouths shut. What you want doesn’t matter. Your opinions don’t matter. Women.Don’t. Matter.

o

 

Byron Baxter, Small But Mighty

I don’t know if this is typical for women of a “certain age.” But lately I get all gooey and mushy whenever I see a cute baby or toddler. A toddler like Byron Baxter, the three-year-old superstar of social media who lives with his family in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

Byron personifies cuteness overload. Like most toddlers, he’s a ham in front of a camera. Any camera. A camera in a phone will do. He giggles, wiggles and “dances” lying on his back in his bed, or when he’s propped up in his stroller or high chair. He tells his million or more “cyber uncles and aunts” “I love you!” and “Happy (whatever day of the week)” and smacks his lips to make kissing sounds to his supporters. He’s become so social media savvy that in one YouTube video he told his mom, “I want Snap Chat on my face!”

Besides the YouTube channel, Byron’s parents, Ebonie and Byron, set up a Facebook page and an Instagram account, where his fans can view his activities, those of his parents, and his little brother Blake.

One would never know to look at Byron’s cheery little face that sometimes he’s in pain due to bone fractures.

Byron has osteogenesis imperfecta, or “brittle bone disease.” It’s a genetic condition that cuts across ethnicity and gender. It’s so rare that it effects an estimated 20,000 to 50,000 people in the U.S. It’s characterized by defective genes which can’t produce enough collagen, the protein that comprises the connective tissue around bones.

It can also affect teeth, making them brittle and easily broken.

What it means for kids like Byron is multiple fractures from making the slightest movement. He has been so fragile that he could easily fracture the bones in his hand by waving it.

Until recently, Byron didn’t wear socks, because his parents were afraid they would accidentally break his legs as they put his socks on. But recently they gave it a try, and Byron was recorded showing off his new black and white striped socks.

There is no cure for osteogenesis imperfecta.  There are ways to lessen its effects, or to prevent so many bone fractures. There is bone infusion, in which a bisphosphonate drug is administered intravenously to prevent bone loss. Byron underwent the procedure in a hospital this August.  A month later, Byron can roll over on his stomach, and sit in high chair for ten minutes. He hasn’t experienced any bone fractures. At some point he can go to the hospital to have stainless steel rods implanted in his legs which will help strengthen them so he can walk.

Physical therapy would be helpful, but it’s expensive. Instead, Byron’s mother developed her own therapy: Placing toys and other articles slightly out of reach so that Byron has to stretch his arms to pick them up.

Like many Black parents who have children with disabilities, Ebonie and Byron can’t afford all of the costly medical expenses, and their health insurance doesn’t cover them. A friend of the family started a Go Fund Me page earlier this year which raised $91,395 from 3,391 people in four months. The fundraising goal was $70,000. The page is no longer taking donations.

Neither Byron nor his family treat his life as an unending tragedy, because it isn’t. He has a good time doing things that children do: Eating potato chips, playing games with his parents and Blake, swinging on a specially made swing in the family’s backyard, “sailing” on a plastic floatie in a pool, and having his mom spray him with water as he sits in his stroller on hot days.

While the Go Fund Me page is inactive, Byron’s parents say he still needs “care packages” of clothes, toys and books. He wears size 4T clothing in bright colors. He likes any toy he can hold. “Care packages” can be sent to The Baxter Boys, c/o of Ebonie Baxter, P.O. Box 464849, Lawrenceville, Georgia 30042. The family’s business email account is TheBaxterBoys@hotmail.com. The Instagram account is @TheBaxterBoys.

Love this little boy. It takes a mighty kid to giggle and smile through a challenging  disability. He’s doing it! Go Byron!

“Nothing About Us Without Us” — Judge Kavanaugh May End, Weaken Disability Rights

On September 7, 2018, the last day of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings to determine whether Judge Brett Kavanaugh should be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, a representative of the nation’s disabilities community testified that Kavanaugh might take from disabled individuals the right to make their own decisions.

Elizabeth Weintraub, Senior Advocacy Specialist of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, said this right was hard-won.

“Fifty-one years ago, I was born with cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability,” said Weintraub. “I entered a world that had low expectations for me and people like me. Judge Kavanaugh mentioned that he has the same low expectations, and I am here to tell you he’s wrong.

“In my 20s, some professionals and my parents decided to put me into a private institution. My parents loved me, but instead of treating me like an adult with opinions and preferences and asking what I wanted, they made the decision for me like I was a child. This was wrong.”

Despite her disabilities, Weintraub noted that she works full-time for the Association of University Centers on Disabilities. Her advocacy work includes hosting a program on YouTube, “Tuesdays with Liz,” in which she interviews people regarding disability policies, and explains the policies in ways that viewers with intellectual disabilities would understand them.

“Today I live with my husband who also happens to have a disability,” she said. “Together we make our own decisions. It has not always been this way.”

Although Kavanaugh has not discussed how he would rule on disability cases as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, disability rights groups believe his rulings on disability cases that were before him when he was a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit are indicative of his positions on disability rights.

In  the 2007 Doe Tarlow v. District of Columbia case, three individuals with intellectual disabilities living in a Washington, D.C. institutional setting, said that doctors were not considering their choices concerning elective surgeries. Kavanaugh ruled that people who have intellectual disabilities lack the capacity to decide anything for themselves, and therefore had no right to make their own medical decisions.

In cases where disabled plaintiffs said their employers were discriminating against them because of their disabilities, Kavanaugh generally ruled in favor of the employers. Kavanaugh supports voucher programs, in which public school students use a voucher to pay part of their tuition to private schools. But disabled students would have to waive their rights to a free and appropriate education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Without special education, students with intellectual disabilities would simply be allowed to fall behind academically.

Kavanaugh has also indicated his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, under which health insurance companies cannot refuse to insure people with pre-existing conditions. Individuals with disabilities who were finally able to access affordable health care under the act could lose it again if Kavanaugh and other conservative justices rule favorably on cases designed to eliminate the act.

As Kavanaugh opposes government regulations, the disabilities community is alarmed that he may rule against the Americans with Disabilities Act should cases involving the law come before him. The ADA applies to businesses and other entities which serve the public, insisting that their facilities must accommodate people with disabilities, such as elevators with instructions in Braille, and ramps that provide access to and within buildings for wheelchairs. But Arlene Mayerson, the directing attorney for the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, wrote in a July 16 Fund publication that Kavanaugh  “really is a poster boy  for not honoring agency regulations. We want more enforcement of our laws by the federal government, not less.”

Black people with disabilities would find life especially hard under a U.S. Supreme Court with Kavanaugh joining the conservative wing of the bench.  Knowing Kavanaugh’s penchant for finding in favor of employers in job discrimination cases, disabled Black people’s efforts to find employment would be even more difficult.

According to a National Disability Institute report, “Financial Inequality: Disability Race and Poverty in America,” Black people are more likely to have a disability — 14 percent — than any other demographic group. Nearly 40 percent of Black people with disabilities live in poverty, compared to 24 percent of non-Hispanic whites. Only one in four Black people with disabilities are employed, compared to Black people without a disability (25 percent compared to 70 percent). Two-thirds of Black families with a disability are unbanked or underbanked, meaning that they have very little savings, and may not even have checking or savings accounts in a bank.

The report also says that Black people with disabilities are more than two times more likely to not have graduated high school than Black people without disabilities (25 percent compared to eleven percent). That statistic could increase if Kavanaugh’s rulings help to create more private school voucher programs — schools which are not obligated by law to provide special education to students with disabilities.

Senator Tammy Duckworth lost both of her legs when a grenade exploded and blew up the helicopter she piloted during the Iraq war. She wrote about Kavanaugh in a recent Time magazine article. “Judge Kavanaugh’s rulings make clear that he’s just not concerned whether we’re able to go to school, get decent health care, eat at a restaurant like anyone else or even earn a liveable wage.

“Every issue is a disability issue,” wrote Duckworth, “because our community — at 60 million strong — is beautifully diverse. That’s a gift, but also a responsibility. Because it means we have to fight for every American with disabilities, whether they’re undocumented or disenfranchised or sick and in need of care. No matter what.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote for or against Kavanaugh’s confirmation on September 20. Before doing so, its members should think about how Kavanaugh’s uncaring attitude towards people with disabilities could worsen their lives, and vote accordingly.

9-11 and “The Ugly American”

This September 11 marked 17 years since al-Qaida terrorists took passenger planes and crashed them almost simultaneously into New York City’s World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon in Virginia. Their attempt to crash a commercial plane in Washington, D.C. was thwarted when passengers fought for control, causing it to plummet into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Nine-eleven was only the second time terrorists from outside of the U.S. had carried out an attack within the nation. In 1993 a bomb planted in a truck exploded outside the World Trade Center North Tower.

Such attacks might have never happened if the U.S. had used a vastly different approach to counter terrorism, one that focused less on military solutions and more on encouraging and supporting governments that are honest and democratic. That’s according to a recent report, sponsored by the U.S.Institute for Peace. The writing and compilation of the report was led by former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean (R) and former U.S. Representative Lee Hamilton of Indiana (D). Both men were also in charge of the 9-11 Commission Report.

The new report says that the U.S. should  strengthen what it calls “fragile states ”  against violent extremism, not only in the Middle East, but in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa.

“As rich as we are, we’re limited in our resources,” Kean told NPR in an “All Things Considered” interview. “What we’re proposing here, which is strengthening fragile states, is an awful lot cheaper than using our troops.”

“Fragile states are the incubator of extremism,” added Hamilton during the same interview. “It’s a very tough challenge, because what you’re fundamentally trying to do is to remake societies.”

Hamilton explained that the report wasn’t calling for “nation building” in fragile countries. “The key, in a word, is to improve governance, to reduce corruption, to reduce repression, because where you have corruption, governments that don’t meet the needs of the people, you have the breeding ground for extremism.”

Variations of this strategy have been tried before, and it failed, most notably in Vietnam. The problem with implementing it is that one has to know a lot about the countries, their people, their cultures, their religions, and their politics, not just impose one’s own ideas on those countries regarding what they must do to become “democracies.”

A novel published in 1958, “The Ugly American,” spoke to how U.S. diplomats and foreign policy has generally not made much effort to understand the nations and their people they’re ostensibly “helping.” The novel, written by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer, follows a U.S. engineer living in the fictional Southeast Asian country of “Sarkhan,” a stand-in for Vietnam, Thailand or Burma. The engineer immerses himself in the country’s people, learns the languages and the customs, and eventually figures out that instead of giving them what he thinks they should want, he should collaborate with the people to give them what they need. It also builds national self-determination when the  “helper” nation stands back after teaching the people how to use what they’ve been given, then gets out of the way.

But  a succession of U.S. governments has taken on the attitude of “We know what’s best for you, so shut up and do as you’re told.” Rather than modeling democratic values, too many U.S. diplomats have exemplified white privilege on a roll. In their arrogance, they insist that their hosts learn English. They insist on being served American food like that which they eat at home. They insist on being racists toward the residents of their host countries, and otherwise disrespecting their hosts.

And during the Cold War, the U.S. would simply send troops into a given country and overthrow governments it didn’t like, replacing the leaders the people had selected with right-wing despots that the U.S. could control. As long as the replacements promised to prevent Communism from taking over their countries, the U.S. would turn a blind eye to human rights and civil rights abuses conducted by their dictator puppets against the given countries’ people.

With that kind of history, people in the Middle East and Africa may not have much of a reason to trust the U.S. They may not trust al-Qaida and Islamic State-types either, so they find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place, especially if they have to depend on assistance from the unpresident and his administration. This unpresident has tried to impose a ban on Muslims from entering the U.S. He refuses to read and learn anything about the countries he’s supposed to be “helping.” He knows nothing about the history or politics of African or Middle East nations,  except to pronounce them “shit holes.” He wouldn’t know a Sikh man from a Muslim man since sometimes they both wear turbans.

Additionally, the unpresident is notorious for ignoring expert advice. He would probably want to send troops, and lots of them, to attack the extremists and “crush” them. One would hope he reads the new report, or has someone read it to him, to explain that there are other options for defeating terrorism and “winning the hearts and minds” of people in Africa and the Middle East. But I doubt it. He is the 21st Century version of “The Ugly American.”

Reproductive Choice Challenged in Tanzania

The President of the East African nation of Tanzania, John Magufuli, told a rally on Sunday, September 9, that Tanzanian couples should stop using contraceptives and have more babies for their country.

The surprising recommendation seemingly came out of nowhere. “Those going for family planning are lazy,” asserted Magufuli. “.  .  . they are afraid they will not be able to feed their children. They do not want to work hard to feed a large family and that is why they opt for birth controls and end up with one or two children only.”

Magufuli indicated that his opinion was formed during travel to other countries, including some in Europe. He claimed that contraception led to declining populations in those countries.

“You have cattle. You are big farmers. You can feed your children. Why then resort to birth control?” he asked the rally attendees. “This is my opinion. I see no reason to control birth in Tanzania.”

Actually, there are several reasons. Tanzania’s population, according to Worldometers, a website that compiles nations’ demographic information, is 59,449,107. Based on United Nations estimates, Worldometers says Tanzania’s population will increase to 138,081,621 by 2050. About 32.6% of the population is urban. The median age in Tanzania is 17.4 years. And Tanzania’s population density is 173 people per mile. More babies could make for some pretty crowded areas per mile. Assuming that Tanzania’s youthful median age means high fertility rates, couples having more babies shouldn’t be a problem.

However, producing more babies becomes a problem if couples can’t afford them. Babies cost money. They have to be fed, clothed, educated, and kept healthy through annual visits to doctors for examinations and immunization shots. MP Cedric Mwambe   who was recently quoted in Al Jazeera news, said the country’s health insurance is set up to only cover four children per family.

It’s a problem when governments start inserting themselves in family planning decisions, something that’s intensely personal and should only involve the couples. Having more babies often means fewer local and national resources available to ensure education for all who want it. It means women in particular are made to postpone or give up on ever having an education themselves, which would enable them to obtain jobs  and pursue careers in professions that pay well, and to contribute more money to their families’ expenses.

Thankfully, according to Tanzania’s Speaker of Parliament Job Ndugai, Magufuli’s remarks don’t represent the government’s position, or a new national policy. But it’s disturbing that Magufuli, who only has four children, would see fit to tell Tanzania’s couples, particularly the female half of those couples, to have more babies and stop using contraception. It’s another example of a male government official telling women what they can and can’t do with their own bodies.

If Magufuli ever decided to enshrine his opinions in government policy, he would be in violation of the Maputo Protocol. The protocol is part of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which was adopted by the African Union in 2003 at its summit in Maputo, Mozambique. The African Union ratified the protocol in 2005.

The protocol says that women have the right to decide whether to have children, how many they will have, and how much time they will give themselves between pregnancies if they decide to have more children. It says women have the right to choose any contraception method they want, and to be provided family planning education.

Family planning isn’t the only right under attack. On Monday, September 10, Tanzania’s parliament said female legislators can’t wear false eyelashes and/or fake fingernails. How fashion and appearance have anything to do with female legislators’ ability to draft and vote on new laws is beyond understanding.

There are African cultural traditions that just don’t work all that well in modern times, not in African countries or in nations of the African Diaspora. Men limiting women’s freedoms and choices just because they’re men, is one such tradition that should disappear, never to return.