There is one thing I don’t like about college other than the atrocious amount of parking tickets I get: The infuriating issues that I encounter in my classes. Some days I would rather stay in bed and pretend that while I slept, no one was being taken advantage of, no one was being forced from his or her home or injustice did not occur. But I go to class or I read the paper and my utopia becomes riddled with the bullets of reality.
In my second semester at TCU, I learned about sex tourism across and within our borders. I was concerned because this was the first I had heard of this and I knew more about Natalee Holloway than I did tragic issues affecting our nation. Surely we would not stand for such an injustice to women and children on our very own soil, but apparently we do. The practice of sex tourism still continues today and we have done nothing but stand for it. You’d think our knees would be a little weak by now.
The United States is easily the largest benefactor in the world, providing millions of dollars in HIV/AIDS funds to other countries every year. Aid packages from the U.S. are often problematic because stipulations require that the recipients must refuse to provide women with information about the option of legal abortion and where to obtain them, even if they use their own funds to do so, according to Monte Reel, a writer for the Washington Post as well as other news outlets.
Information from the International Women’s Health Coalition indicates that since June of last year, all nongovernmental organizations receiving federal HIV/AIDS funds must adopt an organizational policy “explicitly opposing prostitution,” even if they are trying to decrease the spread of HIV by working directly with prostitutes to reduce their vulnerability – meaning: talking about condoms. Organizations’ rights to free speech, their efforts to eradicate sex trafficking, work respectfully and effectively with prostitutes and prevent the spread of HIV are severely curtailed by this rule. The stipulation that nongovernmental organizations cannot discuss safe-sex options in order to stop the spread of STDs and AIDS specifically offers no real solution for addressing the poverty, discrimination and structural violence that lead to sexual exploitation.
Brazil’s National AIDS Commission gave up a $48 million grant from USAID for HIV/AIDS prevention last year because it refused to sign the anti-prostitution provision, arguing that condemning prostitution would compromise the commission’s ability to work effectively with prostitutes, according to IWHC.org.
Brazil has been successfully working with prostitutes for years to educate them on the spread of HIV and how to avoid it. Why does Brazil’s interest in teaching safe-sex practices prevent them from receiving much needed aid to eradicate a disease that harms everyone and not just Brazilians? Am I the only one who thinks a woman’s right to protect her body should not affect whether or not another nation is able to receive much needed assistance?
How many miles must we march before we recognize injustice and do something about it? Have all the people who have fought before us, fought for nothing? Do we respond or do their pleas fall on deaf ears?
This is not just a women’s issue – it is a human issue and a societal one. Let me just say that I don’t think the United States is responsible for everyone. I fully understand and sympathize with the argument that the United States should be able to put stipulations on whom and on what basis it distributes aid. However, women all over the world should not be subjected to discrimination that women in the United States face. Our ideas, from whichever psychological or religious ideas they originate, should not play a role in helping rid the world of diseases such as AIDS. These diseases do not discriminate their targets based on sex or religion, and we should not discriminate helping our global neighbors based on those factors either.
JoHannah Hamilton is a junior anthropology major from Burleson.