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‘Porn’ charges in Zambia beside the point

September 1, 2009
Less than half of all births here are attended by skilled personnel

Less than half of all births here are attended by skilled personnel

In July a Zambian news editor, Chansa Kabwela, was charged with distributing obscene materials.  Her crime?  In response to a nurses strike and the sad state of health care especially for women, she sent around two photographs depicting a woman giving birth, unassisted, to a breech baby. Due to the strike, the woman had to labor a difficult birth alone, after being turned away from two clinics.  The baby later died.

She sent the photos to several women’s groups and government members, including the Vice President himself.  Now two of her colleagues at The Zambia Post are being charged with contempt of court for publishing an article in support of Ms. Kabwela.  Give me a break!

Women in Zambia have a one-in-27 chance of dying from maternity-related causes.  THAT is the real crime.  For the government to be wasting time, money and press on vilifying this journalist for calling attention to the gruesome reality that meets thousands of women daily, is a blatant disregard for women’s rights and the real problem at hand.

Does it seem incongruous to anyone else that while the Vice President is getting involved in trying to persecute a brave act of one woman, the First Lady is decrying the maternal mortality rate in Zambia as worrying?

Maternal mortality is higher in Sub-Saharan Africa than anywhere else in the world.  Why?  A slew of reasons, ranging from unsafe abortions to lack of assistance during childbirth to lack of prenatal care.  Poverty, rural geography and lack of education on safe motherhood also contribute.  Maternal deaths have practically become endemic to the region, and that is really, really sad.  There is a lot to be done, and a lot IS being done.  And time shouldn’t be wasted in the process.

J.Mack is a global feminist residing in Manhattan

One Comment
  1. September 3, 2009 1:22 pm

    It strikes me that there must be some particularly profound misunderstanding of the meaning of what is pornographic or even prurient in this case. The photographic imagery vulgar, shocking, and demonstrably attempting to garner wide-eyed-OMG from the viewers? Absolutely. Except that its context is so obviously political and makes a singularly edged point.

    Their litmus test for obscenity does seem to miss the point — or it’s a political backlash.

    It’s telling that she sent the images to politically focused groups and people. People “distributing obscenity” strikes me as a charge against someone delivering it willy-nilly. She sent the images to adults, in-the-kn0w, framed in a political nature, and (as reported) appear to be in of medical nature.

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