Raelians in unexpected places

You may remember I posted a few months ago about the highly curious billboard by Nagoya’s central train station sponsored by the alien/free-love Raelian movement. They do pop up in odd places. I was looking through Wired magazine’s gallery of photos from Japan’s “Adult Treasure Expo” and noticed this somewhat curious photograph, accompanied by rather more curious text.

Clitoraid is an non-profit organization set up by the Raelian Movement to help women around the world who have suffered genital mutilation. The Raelians promote an “adopt a clitoris” campaign and claim to facilitate surgical clitoris reconstruction. The woman on the right of the photo is wearing a clitoris costume.

Genital mutilation doesn’t seem to be a big issue in Japan, and the Realians’ adoption of the issue is a mystery. There are several serious nonprofits around the world trying to stop genital mutilation. The Raelians are best known for claiming to have cloned the first human baby, without offering proof.

If you look at Clitoraid’s web site, you can find the following text:

 Following the announcement made by Dr Foldes, OBGYN in France, stating that women and children of all ages who have suffered the atrocities of clitoral excision, or female genital mutilation the equivalent of male castration in its barbarity, now have the possibility to regain sexual pleasure and be whole once again, thanks to medical advances and scientific progress. Rael, the spiritual leader of the Raelian Movement decided to help as many women as possible to regain their sense of pleasure and founded Clitoraid, a private non-profit organization with the aim to sponsor those women who want to have their clitoris rebuilt.

Considering the huge number of Burkinabe women who are candidates to be operated on and as Clitoraid received offer from a few doctors to travel to Bobo Dioulasso and help rebuild the clitoris of all the circumcised women, the Prophet Rael declared: “Instead of using Clitoraid’s collected money to operate on just a few women, we should create the first Raelian Hospital, the “Pleasure Hospital”, and operate on all African women, for free, with the help of Raelian or non-Raelian benevolent doctor”.

While offering medical aid to victims of genital mutilation is certainly a laudable goal, I am slightly disturbed that the motivation is because their space alien-inspired prophet told them to. Then again, how is this really different from any other religion?

Manila an “anti-birth-control dystopia”

At least, that is how it is described in the words of Carol Lloyd, blogger on women’s issues at Salon.com. Due to the centuries as a Spanish colony, The Philippines is a firmly Catholic country-one in which the Church holds a level of influence rarely seen in the western world. Although the Catholic Church has oddly never managed to have any appreciable effect on the Philippines endemic Southeast Asian liberalism towards homosexuality and gender identity, they have managed to keep abortion illegal in all circumstances but to save the life of the mother. (More information on abortion in SE Asia here.) Although pre-conception birth control remains legal throughout The Philippines, in 2000 conservative Catholic Mayor Jose “Lito” Atienza of Manila issued an executive order removing all contraception from free clinics within the city. Many women in the desperately poor slums of Manila find it impossible to fit contraception in with food and other basic needs into their family budget, which has the eventual effect of a larger and even harder to feed family. This is what has women living in three urban slums to file a lawsuit demanding revocation of the order. From Reuters:

Emma Monzaga, one of the petitioners, said she was getting injections once every three months to prevent her from becoming pregnant, but was told on her third visit to a public clinic that the treatment was no longer available. “I was asked to go somewhere else to get the shots because the city hall has stopped funding the family planning program,” Monzaga said, adding her family could not afford to spend extra for contraceptives. “We used to get it for free. It’s becoming a burden because we have to eat and send our six children to school.” She said she has given up the idea of saving some money from her husband’s 300 pesos ($7) daily wage as a construction worker to pay for the vaccines because of rising cost of basic needs.

Amazingly, it took almost eight years before a local NGO managed to file the lawsuit “because the women feared political reprisals.” Unsurprisingly, there is now a different mayor in charge, and many hope that he will revoke the previous order without the need for the lawsuit to proceed. The Center for Reproductive Rights has a 50 page report, full of testimony, on the issue entitled “Imposing Misery: The Impact of Manila’s Contraception Ban on Women and Families,” which may be downloaded in PDF from their website at the above link. The report claims that the executive order violates the Republic’s 1987 constitution, stating:

The 1987 Philippine Constitution guarantees the
rights to liberty, health, equality, information and education for all citizens,
as well as the right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their
personal religious convictions. These basic principles, reinforced by
several pieces of legislation, create the foundation under national law for a
right to reproductive health, including access to contraception. [p. 9]

The report suggests that “The Manila City government should revoke Executive Order No. 003” as well as various further plans. [p. 11]

While many people look at issues such as these primarily in terms of individual rights and their effect on individuals and families, it is critical to consider the broader picture as well.

The Philippines today has a population of just under 90 million, a staggering number of whom live in poverty. I can attest from my own visit to the country that the cities are clogged with slums, illegal shanty-towns line the rivers and fill public parks, and the ratio of the population with no gainful employment appears to be easily several times that of anyplace else I have ever been. I have even heard that the unemployment rate in Metro Manila may be almost 50%.

Without high quality and aggressive family planning, that 90 million could nearly double in a generation- and the country’s scarce economic resources would be stretched even thinner. Could the unemployment rate rise even above 50%? Will The Philippines be plunged into a Malthusian crisis like Bangladesh or parts of Africa? Lack of birth control is hardly the only factor that has made Manila, and many other third-world regions, into dystopias, but it is one.

Report: 5,400 living crappily in net cafes

After reading the initial wave of articles about the new trend of homeless young “freeters” and “NEETs” living in net cafes, I tried sleeping at a net cafe in Shibuya once while I was in Tokyo back in April or May. How was it? While Adam may have enjoyed his stays in net cafes, I found it so unpleasant that I left at around 3am and wandered the streets of Shibuya, at that hour mainly filled with solicitious Chinese prostitutes trying to entice me to come inside for a massage, or as one put it “you can have sex with me for 6000 yen,” until I found the capsule hotel I had spied a few days earlier. My back hurt such much from trying to curl up on the floor of the little padded computer cell that I was briefly tempted by the shady massages just by the thought of being able to lay down for a while, but despite my quite literally feverish state still had my wits about me enough to make it up-hill to the capsule hotel. How did I feel in the morning? Well, according to the latest article on the subject of net cafe homeless, telling us that a new government study estimates their population at 5,400:

 In 2005, 13 people contracted tuberculosis at a Net cafe in Kawasaki that health officials suspect originated from the cafe’s homeless population.

That, plus the backache, pretty much sums how I felt the next day. My throat was so irritated by whatever infection I had that I still, all these months later, have slightly more of tendency to cough than I did before, and I would probably have a full-on phlegmy hack if not for the THREE doctor’s visits I made after coming back to the US and probably 7 or 8 different medications ingested over that course of time. The lesson? Thinking that a net cafe would be a safe place to sleep because it was cheap and had a small non smoking section was a bad idea.