Dear Vagina Warriors,
Because of your efforts V-Day, and the spirit, energy and movement to end violence against women and girls, has spread wildly around the world. Last year there were 2300 events, celebrations, in over 1100 cities, villages and towns. From Delhi to Detroit women took back their bodies and their lives. I was lucky to be in Mumbai where I witnessed the extraordinary humor of a brilliant Indian cast performing “The Vagina Monologues” for hundreds and raising money for a local shelter. I was there in Tulsa, Oklahoma performing for 2500 Native Americans so that women there would be safe and free. I was there when 7000 people from all over the world marched on Juarez, Mexico and insisted that there be justice for the hundreds of disappeared women and safety for the living.
We have had huge victories. Our Agnes Pareiyo*, was elected Deputy Mayor of Narok, Kenya. V-Day Europe** was born. A young girl from the Anti-Rape Dolphin program in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya successfully fought off her rapist. A teenager brought “The Vagina Monologues” to her high school and the community stood behind her. Women made vagina cookies for their benefit in Cairo, Egypt. The list goes on and on.
Each one of these individual victories has begun to break through the wall of denial, shame, and secrecy that surrounds the seeming inevitability and acceptability of violence against women.
This year we must go further. We must show how central, how impacting, how contagious, how devastating this violence is to everything and everyone. We must transform our activism into real political power and vision. We must help vagina warriors become vagina leaders. This is the year we must see what we see, know what we know, say what we have to say.
This is the year where we bring V- Day to the smallest villages, into the places of most resistance and need, into our homes if necessary. This is the year where we stand, through our Spotlight, with the women of Iraq who have lost more freedom than they have gained as a consequence of the U.S. war and subsequent occupation. In Iraq where the incidents of rape and abduction by organized gangs has increased fear of sexual violence deterring women from returning to work or seeking employment and families from permitting their daughters to go to school.
This is the year where we end violence against women. Remember, I promised it would happen in 2005? We have a lot of work to do.V-Day is an outrageous, global, personal, anarchic unstoppable movement. There are thousands, if not millions of us. We are everywhere. We have humor, intensity, sorrow, grace, and perseverance. We are having an impact.
Go further. Work harder. Believe deeper. Be bolder. Speak louder.
We will win.
Vagina Warriors take on the world
This play, is a rude reminder of the infamous slave trade where Africans themselves collaborated to exchange their fellow kith and keen for money. Here, a group of people is collaborating with outsiders in exchange for money to undermine our moral values.
The uganda media council holds the firm view that, to the extent that the play contains material that promotes illegal acts of unnatural sexual acts, homosexuality and prostitution, it should be and is hereby banned," the document read.
Whereas the council agrees with the organisers on the need to urgently address sexual violence against women, it holds the strong view that the liberal values as well as artistic freedoms should not be the altar on which societal cultural values and public morality should be sacrificed.
THE Media Council yesterday set a stiff condition for the organisers of The Vagina Monologues, demanding that some parts be struck from the script before it goes on stage.
The council said in a ruling that alongside issues of violence and abuse of women, the play “prominently promotes and glorifies acts of unnatural sex, masturbation, lesbianism or homosexuality.”
“To the extent that the play promotes illegal, unnatural sexual acts, homosexuality and prostitution, it should be and is hereby banned. This will not be the case if the organisers expunge all the offending parts to the satisfaction of the council,” the ruling said.
It said the play offends and corrupts public morals and should be restricted to adults.
“They must inform the public that the play contains scenes and language of a graphic nature that may be offensive to sections of the public. The organisers should make prominent advertisements in the media, on the tickets as well as the venue that there are age restrictions,” it said.
The play, which was to be at Ndere Centre in Kampala on Saturday, became the first to receive a blow from the Media Council in many years.
However, sources said the organisers said on Tuesday that “the title, content, as well as the dates on which the play is to be staged are non-negotiable.”
“The Council was informed by the organisers that the title could not be changed due to restrictions of intellectual property rights dictated by the author of the play, Eve Ensler,” the sources said.
“The council finds that the play addresses several cases of violence against women. It describes unimaginable and unacceptable forms of mutilation, violence and pain suffered across the world. The council is unequivocal on the urgent need to address these cases with a view to stop the inhumane, degrading, abusive and cruel treatment of women,” it said.
Ethics and integrity state minister Tim Lwanga yesterday told Parliament, “The Vagina Monologues is not going to be shown.”
Council chief Fr. John Mary Waliggo said yesterday that the fate of the play lay with the council.
Kefa Ssempangi (Ntenjeru South), who raised the issue in the house, said “The Play is obscene and pornographic although it was under the guise of women liberation.” He called for an injunction.
By press time, the organisers were still locked in a meeting, plotting their next move.
Meanwhile, Steven Candia reports that churches and civil society organisations yesterday backed the council to block the play.
Eighteen church leaders and the Coalition for Morality, Ethics and Integrity-Uganda petitioned the Presidency to stop the play, which they said touched on morals.
They said the play was a smokescreen for graphic lesbian pornography and it demeaned women.
They said the play was viciously anti-male and it was obscene.
They said the title of the play was likely to “open a can of worms” and it reduced women to their sexual organs. The Church of Uganda, Seventh Day Adventist, the Orthodox Church and Kampala Pentecostal Church signed the memorandum.
They accused the author of being “obsessed and fixated with the female sexual organ to the extent that the word “vagina” is repeated more than 100 times in the play.”
They said the play contains graphic descriptions of masturbation, rape, and genital mutilation in manner that is “abhorrent, outrageous and disgusting."
Women activists defend Vagina Monologues
Organizers of the "Vagina Monologues" say Ministers James Nsaba Buturo and Tim Lwanga have no moral authority to ban the play and question the background of the author Eve Ensler.
The women activists also lash out at parliament, which they say is filled with women battlers, polygamists and hypocritical male MP’s who spearheaded the banning of the play.
Makerere University Law Don and Human rights activist, Sylvia Tamale challenges government to first check political immorality at the top level before clamping down women’s rights.
Meantime Mbarara district woman MP and former Ethics and Integrity Minister Miria Matembe has defended organizers of Vagina Monologues and says the play is meant to highlight violence against women’s private parts but not to display obscenities.
She criticizes her successor Tim Lwanga and Minister Nsaba Buturo for failing to tackle pornography in the media and theaters.