Write on: Letters to the editor


Iraqi women

Iraqi women suffer gender discrimination and oppression due to the implications of Iraqi family law and the policies of the Iraqi government. The UN's economic sanctions have also jeopardised living conditions and intensified women's exploitation.

The condition of women in Iraqi Kurdistan is the same, as the local Kurdish authority has implemented Iraqi family law. In addition to this, the Kurdish region has witnessed the rise of the Islamist groups which have declared war against women.

Independent Women's Organisation, as a radical group, committed itself to defend the rights of women and fight against gender discrimination. From its inception this organisation was attacked and criticised by all the Kurdish nationalist parties and Islamist groups. In July 2000, the office of Independent Women's Organisation and its shelter (the Women's Protection Centre) were closed down by the Kurdish ruling party in Sulaimani.

The Committee in Defence of Iraqi Women's Rights, which represents Independent Women's Organisation abroad, has just opened its own radio station in London, broadcasting in Kurdish and Arabic to the Middle East, including Iraq. This radio station provides a voice for women and is committed to promoting the struggle against gender discrimination and the patriarchal culture in Iraq.

Our organisation depends on the financial support of the progressive people to run this project. We appeal to all progressive women, students and workers' organisations and individuals to support our project. Please help the women in Iraq as much as you can. Donations can be made to Shokrya Z. Maoloud, Commonwealth Bank a/c no. 063234-10224783.

Layla Mohammed
Committee in Defence of Iraqi Women's Rights (Australia)

Image and obesity

I am writing in response to Lachlan Malloch's letter (GLW #444), because in my opinion he is confusing two different issues — poor health and obesity.

Malloch raises some of the very myths which we need to challenge head-on if women are to be freed from the body-size obsession. He implies that the average size 14 is perhaps the case because Australians tend to have a sedentary lifestyle and eat a lot of unhealthy processed food.

I challenge Malloch's assertion that 50% of Australian women are obese. Is it the 50% who are size 14 and over? I think there are problems with the diagnosis of medical obesity — many women have had humiliating experiences of being told by their doctors that they need to lose weight because they fall above the linear scale of the "correct" weight for a particular height.

Even if every women took on a more healthy lifestyle — ate healthy food and exercised regularly — I would argue that there would still be the same variation in body size. That's because people's bodies respond differently to food and exercise. Each person's body is genetically programmed to reach an ideal weight, which is why dieting is so disastrous for so many women, because the body defends that weight and puts it back on following a period of dieting.

Naomi Wolf takes up the issue of fat in her 1990 book, The Beauty Myth. "There is very little evidence to support the claim that fatness causes poor health among women .. the results of recent studies have suggested that women may actually live longer and be generally healthier if they weigh 10-15% above the life insurance figures and they refrain from dieting."

Wolf also cites studies linking obesity to heart disease and stroke which were based on male subjects. Studies of women released some time later showed that weight made only a fraction of the difference for women that it made for men. The film The Famine Within cites a 16 country study that fails to correlate fatness to ill health.

The average healthy 20-year-old woman has 28.7% of her body weight made up of fat. By middle age, women cross-culturally are 38% body fat. The body of the average model is 23% thinner than the average woman. A woman wanting to reach this ideal faces the risk of menstrual irregularities caused by hormone imbalance, diminished fertility, and increased likelihood of ovarian cancer and osteoporosis. Fat regulates women's reproduction. Underweight women double their risk of low-birth weight babies.

In response to Malloch's final question: Yes, women are oppressed by the notion that they would be size 10 or 12 if only they did some exercise and ate more salads. Being body conscious (which quickly becomes body obsessed) is very different from being motivated to live a fit and healthy lifestyle regardless of whether your body increases or decreases in size as a result.

Sarah Stephen
Bayswater, WA

Refugee intake

The GLW editorial of April 11 calls for a complete abandoning of any restrictions on refugee intake. While such a policy, given the huge number of potential refugees, is beyond our capacity, the approach is only treating the symptom and not the cause. Refugees are the result of a collapse of economic, environmental or political systems within their country. The victims do not want to flee their country merely the conditions that have made their life untenable.

To call for a more liberal policy on accepting refuges without addressing the cause of their plight is absurd. Australia has been responsible for considerable disruption in the Pacific region; mining companies have destroyed local environments and even created a civil war. Our history of overseas aid dispersion is appalling, we have supported both extreme right and left dictatorships in Asia and our military training for Indonesia was a decisive factor in maintaining the previous corrupt regime in power. Unfortunately it is not only government policies that are to blame, every time you buy "cheap" joggers from the Philippines or a "bargain price" shirt from China you are supporting a system that exploits workers and benefits corporations.

Don Owers
Dudley NSW

Natural Law Party

Why are factions in the labour movement creating a "McCarthyist" witch-hunt on organisations that don't in the least deserve it?

Dave Bell's article on leasing Currawong (GLW #431) is completely false and misleading in its treatment of the TM organisation and the Natural Law Party (NLP).

Perhaps to some narrow-minded bigots it may appear that what TM and the NLP stand for is "loopy", but that doesn't stand in the face of overwhelming scientific research.

It's totally inaccurate to say the NLP or the TM organisation is "the antithesis" of any union or the labour movement. It isn't only untrue; the very opposite is true. They fulfil the goals of the labour movement.

To describe the NLP as "ultra right" is malevolent nonsense.

I've been a branch councilor for the MEAA, and a member of several unions. In the last year I've heard three judges speak in Parliament House in Sydney for the immediate implementation of TM in our justice system on the basis of its unprecedented success in the US.

I also heard at a symposium in Sydney several professors who strongly supported Maharishi Ayurveda (natural, preventable health care) being introduced in our health care system.

In addition to their proven success in crime prevention and reducing disease, the international TM organisation has been working to implement programs to eliminate poverty in the developing nations and restore peace in the world. It's high time they had a fair go.

Stephen Doric
Beacon Hill NSW