Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ancient Peruvian Priestess

From Sky News:

The reconstructed face of a high ruling Peruvian priestess has been unveiled by researchers from Utah Valley University.
They revealed the reconstruction during a presentation at the Bruning Museum in Lambayeque, Peru.
Priestesses were very powerful in ancient Peru and this one is said to have governed in around 1200 AD.
"This was probably one of the most powerful people in Lambayeque 800 years ago, so she was a central person in the political and religious structure," said Haagen Klaus one of the project's land researchers.
The ruler's mummified remains were discovered in a tomb last year near the city of Lambayeque, at the Chotuna Chornancap archaeological site.

The discovery of a 13th-century priestess at a ritual site in northern Peru is forcing a reassessment of the role of women in Lambayeque culture.
The 25- to 30-year-old woman was buried at Chotuna-Chornancap, adorned with elaborate jewellery, ceramic offerings, and gold and silver ritual objects proclaiming her elite status.
‘This has revolutionised our thinking,’ Project Director Carlos Wester La Torre told CWA. ‘It shows wealth and power were not a male privilege in this culture; this is categorical evidence of women involved in the political and ideological apparatus of the time.’ He added: ‘Her youth indicates the post was hereditary, and her grave goods suggest she performed rituals such as sacrifices, receiving offerings, and celebrating changes of the seasons, the moon, and tides.’

Queens, Concubines & Ordinary People

Did you know that there are no women fighting for crowns, and very few women are named in the Chronicles of the Kings of Man and the Isles?
Women are not entirely absent from the record, but their description is often far from complimentary.
The Chronicles state that when rumours spread of an imminent attack on the church at Maughold, the ‘weaker sex with disshevelled hair ran about…uttering lamentations and crying at the tops of their voices’.
In the kingdom monogamy was not expected and although the church disapproved, many of the ruling elite took a liberal view to marriage.
The Chronicles tell the stories of the Kings of Man and the Isles but, like Queens, very little mention is made of ordinary people.

Origins of Female Genital Mutilation

United Nations Member States recently approved the first-ever draft resolution calling for a global ban on female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).

Hailed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as a major step forward in protecting women and girls and ending impunity for the harmful practice, the text is expected to be endorsed by the UN general assembly this month.

How did the practice begin anyway?

Although theories on the origins of FGM abound, no one really knows when, how or why it started.

"There's no way of knowing the origins of FGM, it appears in many different cultures, from Australian aboriginal tribes to different African societies," medical historian David Gollaher, president and CEO of the California Healthcare Institute (CHI), and the author of "Circumcision," told Discovery News.

Used to control women's sexuality, the practice involves the partial or total removal of external genitalia. In its severest form, called infibulation, the vaginal opening is also sewn up, leaving only a small hole for the release of urine and menstrual blood.

While the term infibulation has its roots in ancient Rome, where female slaves had fibulae (broochs) pierced through their labia to prevent them from getting pregnant, a widespread assumption places the origins of female genital cutting in pharaonic Egypt. This would be supported by the contemporary term "pharaonic circumcision."

The definition, however, might be misleading. While there's evidence of male circumcision in Old Kingdom Egypt, there is none for female.

Epidemic of Rape in Peru

Peru, while famous for its modern culinary delights and ancient civilizations, also has a far less flattering distinction: it has more reported cases of rape and sexual violence than any other country in South America. Eight in ten of these victims are minors.
Researchers estimate that 35,000 pregnancies occur every year in Peru as a result of rape. Women and girls in this situation are faced with two options: seek an illegal abortion and risk going to jail or carry the pregnancy to term and suffer the psychological and physical trauma that go along with giving birth to your rapist’s child. Women who can prove that a pregnancy is the result of rape receive a “reduced” sentence of three months in jail (the standard prison sentence for illegal abortions in Peru is two years). Perversely, this reduced sentence does not apply to married women who are raped by their husbands, even though marital rape is a crime under Peruvian law. Doctors who perform abortions in cases of rape face up to six years in prison.
A coalition of women’s rights groups have launched a campaign to challenge this cruel violation of human rights. The campaign, Dejala Decidir (“Let her decide”), seeks to introduce a new law that decriminalizes abortion in cases of rape (currently, abortion is only permitted when the woman’s life or health is at risk). The groups, led by partners of the International Women’s Health CoalitionPROMSEXDemusCatholics for the Right to Decide-PeruManuela RamosCLADEM-Peru, and Flora Tristán—need to collect 60,000 valid signatures to petition Congress to consider the bill.

The Scream

At the peak of the uprising against now ousted Yemeni strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, Khadija al-Salami left her diplomatic post in Paris to film the mass participation by long-marginalized women in the revolt.

In her documentary “The Scream,” screened at the Dubai International Film Festival, Salami -- who was forced to marry aged just 11 -- focuses on the role women played during the year-long uprising in the impoverished Arab state.

“Traditionally, a woman’s voice must not be heard, just as her hair must remain covered,” said Salami, who herself does not cover her long dark hair.

“I chose this title for my film because women have shouted out through their uprising and movement that they exist” in Yemen’s male-dominated society, she said.

New Delhi Gang Rape Outrage

From Time World:
Last Sunday in New Delhi, at around 9.30 p.m., a 23-year-old woman was gang raped for almost an hour on a moving bus and then thrown semi-naked on the road to die. Hideous violence against women is nothing new in India, but this particular outrage has caused widespread anger. Perhaps it was the casual ferocity of it. Or the fact that it took place on some of the teeming capital’s busiest streets. Or perhaps a nation at great pains to modernize is finding it hard to stomach what feels like an increasingly predatory sexual culture.

Experts say blaming survivors of sexual assault is common in India. Rather than prosecute perpetrators, many say the fault belongs to rape survivors, who are shamed for, say, daring to walk alone, taking public transportation or wearing certain clothes. “Blaming the victim has been in some way also part of the larger design of the system, where you want to push the women to say they are responsible for what happens to them,” says Ranjana Kumari, a member of the National Mission for Empowerment of Women. “It is like saying men are not responsible but it is the women who lured them into this.”

Ancient Female Statue Found

A 2,500-year-old statue of a woman from the late Hellenistic period has been unearthed during the excavations at the Metropolis ancient city in İzmir’s Torbalı district.

According to a written statement made by the Sabancı Foundation, new artifacts are being unearthed during the excavation of the ancient city, which has been ongoing for 22 years as part of a collaboration between the Culture and Tourism Ministry, Trakya University, the Metropolis Association, the Torbalı Municipality and sponsored by the Sabancı Foundation. 

Legacy of Begum Akhtar

Once the toast of cultural circles, artistes and musicians often slip out of public memory as soon as they quit the stage. The late Begum Akhtar still rules hearts in the world of classical music, but in her home State, Uttar Pradesh, her soul-stirring voice has all but faded from the minds of music lovers. In fact, even as preparations are on nationally to celebrate her centenary year - in 2014 - the place of her birth and musical taleem (education) remains oblivious to her legacy.
But that may change soon if 80-year-old Shanti Hiranand has her way. A student of the great vocalist, Shanti has teamed up with fans of Begum Akhtar to revisit her work and has even restored her grave, which once lay forgotten in old Lucknow’s Thakurganj area.
Born in Faizabad, Begum Akhtar later moved to Lucknow and made it her home. She passed away here in 1974 aged 60 and is buried at a two-grave cemetery next to her mother, Mushtari Sahiba.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

FBI Files On Lana Peters

From the Huffington Post:

Newly declassified documents show the FBI kept close tabs on Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's only daughter after her high profile defection to the United States in 1967, gathering details from informants about how her arrival was affecting international relations.
The documents were released Monday to The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act following Lana Peters' death last year at age 85 in a Wisconsin nursing home. Her defection to the West during the Cold War embarrassed the ruling communists and made her a best-selling author. And her move was a public relations coup for the U.S.
When she defected, Peters was known as Svetlana Alliluyeva, but she went by Lana Peters following her 1970 marriage to William Wesley Peters, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright. Peters said her defection was partly motivated by the Soviet authorities' poor treatment of her late husband, Brijesh Singh, a prominent figure in the Indian Communist Party.

Maids Rescued From Captivity

From The Star:

Immigration officers rescued 105 foreign women found locked in a four-storey maid agency in Bandar Baru Klang here during a 7.47am raid on Saturday, said Amran Ahmad, Port Klang director of the Selangor Immigration Department.
The women, aged between 18 and 25 years, were locked up at level three and four of the premises, located above the maid agency.
"All the women - 95 Indonesians, 6 Filipinos and 4 Cambodians had only social visit passes and are believed to have entered the country in the last one to six months," he told reporters here.
Police arrested 12 people, including three local men, believed to be employees. The rest were women - five Indonesians, three Cambodians and a Filipino - who were believed to be supervisors of the rescued women, he said.

Women In Post-Taliban Afghanistan

Just before she leapt from her roof into the streets of Kabul, Farima thought of the wedding that would never happen and the man she would never marry. Her fiance would be pleased to see her die, she later recalled thinking. It would offer relief to them both.

Farima, 17, had resisted her engagement to Zabiullah since it was ordained by her grandfather when she was 9. In post-Taliban Kabul, where she walked to school and dreamed of becoming a doctor, she still clawed against a fate dictated by ritual.

After 11 years of Western intervention in Afghanistan, a woman's right to study and work had long since been codified by the U.S.-backed government. Modernity had crept into Afghanistan's capital, Farima thought, but not far enough to save her from a forced marriage to a man she despised.

Farima's father, Mohammed, was eating breakfast when he heard her body hit the dirt like a tiny explosion. He ran outside. His daughter's torso was contorted. Her back was broken, but she was still alive.

In a quick burst of consciousness, Farima recognized that she had survived. It was God's providence, she thought. It was a miracle she hadn't prayed for. But it left her without an escape. Suddenly, she was a mangled version of herself, still desperate to avoid the marriage her family had ordered.

Books & Reviews

It seems today every man and his dog has a blog reviewing books - some are professional reviewers, many are amatuers.  Many blog / review on a regular basis - others infrequently.  I would tend to lump myself in the latter of the two categories - an infrequent amatuer.  I don't get paid to review, I don't actively seek out works to review (I have on a couple of topics that have interested me), and I don't often post a review on every book I have read (I just don't have the time!). I have been approached to review books - some just don't interest me so I don't accept - occasionally one will spark my interest and I will accept.  Trouble is, once publishers (mainly located in UK and USA) realise that I am located in Australia, they quickly lose interest - like we don't read down under!

Anyway, I have posted a few reviews of books I have read here on this blog, Women of History, but now I will post mainly on my other blog, Melisende's Library (and also on Goodreads).

Melisende's Library will feature articles on authors I like, reviews of books I have read, posts on books / collections I own or on books or all things book-related that interest me.  To this end, I am going to collate those reviews I have posted here and send them over to the Library.  

You may find my taste rather eclectic - my favourite genre is history (and the women who have featured) but it is not limited to any particular time or country; however, having developed a passion for reading at an early age, I have gone through reading "phases" - eg: crime, mystery, historical fiction, biography, fantasy, sci-fi, series.  I have probably covered a lot of genres and my own personal Library reflects this.

I also have a passion for collecting books - okay I might be a bit OCD in this area - I collect (or hoard) books - can't throw away anything, even from childhood.  New or old books; printed or e-books; the good, the bad, the ugly - I have them all - and have read about 50% of what I actually own (like I said, not enough time!).

Hope you might spare a few moments and drop into the Library.