Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Afghan Wives, Self-Immolation

For many Afghan women, circumstance can lead to desperation. Forced marriages (for girls as young as 12), extreme poverty, family shame. Mental illness sometimes complicates the situation. New York Times reporter Alissa J. Rubin and photographer Lynsey Addario report on these women and their devastating solution: self-immolation. Setting oneself on fire is a common form of suicide in this part of Afghanistan.

Family members of the survivors are equally devastated. The mother of a teenage wife prays that her daughter does not die with her burns: “That would leave a scar of a thousand years on my heart.”

In October alone, seventy-five women arrived at the Herat Burn Hospital. According to Rubin:

It is shameful here to admit to troubles at home, and mental illness often goes undiagnosed or untreated. Ms. Zada, the hospital staff said, probably suffered from depression. The choices for Afghan women are extraordinarily restricted: Their family is their fate. There is little chance for education, little choice about whom a woman marries, no choice at all about her role in her own house. Her primary job is to serve her husband’s family. Outside that world, she is an outcast.

The Times sheds light on this disturbing trend. How might these Afghan women find options to setting themselves on fire to escape the entrapment of their daily lives?

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Filed under: afghanistan, global justice, human rights, women, , , , , , , , , , ,

Maine Votes Against Marriage Equality

Gay Marriage Maine

We knew it was going to be close. Polls leading up to yesterday’s referendum in Maine were split nearly evenly among those who supported marriage equality and those opposing it. In the end, the “No on 1” folks–those who support marriage only between a man and a woman–won with 53% of the vote.

Jesse Connolly, the manager of the “Yes on 1” campaign in Maine, released a statement that was less conciliatory than itching to continue the fight:

We’re in this for the long haul. For next week, and next month, and next year– until all Maine families are treated equally. Because in the end, this has always been about love and family and that will always be something worth fighting for.

For gay marriage advocates, the big picture encompasses several New England states that have sanctioned same-sex marriage: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Iowa is also a state that has legalized gay marriage. The grim news is that 31 states have voted against it.

Is the state-by-state approach to gay marriage our most effective strategy? Piece-meal, local political battles have seen many defeats, including prominent states like California and now Maine. It’s apparent that the need for a federal repeal of DOMA–for our national government to provide leadership in this human rights issue–is now more critical than before.

Filed under: gay rights, government, , , , , , ,

Bring a straight friend to see Milk today

milk1I’m fairly excited by the opening of Gus Van Sant’s Milk in theatres today. A little giddy to be honest, like the night that Brokeback Mountain opened and the Coolidge Corner Moviehouse (the best theatre in Boston) was packed with gay men and lesbians, coming together to witness a ground-breaking moment for mainstream America. Even reminds me a bit of the historic moment when Cambridge City Hall opened its doors at midnight to officiate the nation’s first gay marriages in May 2004 (check it out Rush Limbaugh–it’s been four years of same-sex marriage and our nation hasn’t been swallowed up in an apocalypse).

The timing of Milk‘s opening is great; what else do Americans have to do tonight? Why not treat a straight friend to the cinema tonight instead of slouching on the sofa with a bag of Cheetos?

Towleroad has collected extensive coverage of the film, including Sean Penn’s eloquent comments on the leadership of Harvey Milk:

Penn said, in an interview late last week, “I think less people would have died of AIDS [if Harvey Milk had not been assassinated]. I think Ronald Reagan would have been forced to address it. [Milk] was a leader, and he happened to be focused on the gay movement. He would have advanced that argument a lot sooner. I think people are dead because he died too soon.”

Penn also condemned Prop 8: “If we could have no excuse for being ignorant in human history, then the punishment for support of Proposition 8 would be minimally manslaughter. There will be teenage boys who will hang themselves [because of this].”

If you haven’t heard yet, avoid Cinemark theaters because the movie chain’s Mormon owner donated thousands to discriminate against same-sex marriage.

Get out there and support this important film!

Filed under: film, , , , ,

Florida court says gay adoption ban unconstitutional

132-26-16embeddedprod_affiliate56Good for you, Florida.

In contrast with Arkansas’ discriminatory new legislation making adoption by gay or lesbian parents against the law, a Florida court repealed Florida’s long-standing ban. Critics, of course, worry that gay and lesbian parents might make their children gay–when research actually proves the opposite: that gay and lesbian parents raise healthy, well-adjusted children.

CNN posted an audio slideshow and article about gay adoption with an awkward subtitle called “A new take on the American family.” The editors seem to reinforce heterosexist norms by claiming that the traditional take on the American family has always been two parents of opposite sexes. But what about this couple? And this legendary ruler? And these famous kids raised by gay and lesbian parents?

Filed under: politics, , , , ,

Publications

BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
August 2019
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Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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