After the heartbreaking revelations about the treatment of children in Irish industrial schools, documented in the Ryan Report, it is difficult to imagine how any action by the state or the Catholic Church could continue to shock. Children in industrial schools, run by the Church on behalf of the state, were routinely enslaved, raped, beaten, tortured and starved. Now, it has come to light, that some of these children were also used as test subjects in experimental medical trials. Continue reading
Thursday was the first anniversary of the publication of the Commission of Inquiry into Child Abuse. Commonly called the Ryan Report, its publication cumulated in the realisation of the extent of the violence, rape and sexual assault that children suffered in the care of the Catholic Church. I have written more here. Eight organisations (Barnardos, CARI, Children’s Rights Alliance, Irish Association of Young People in Care, ISPCC, One in Four, Rape Crisis Network of Ireland and Dublin Rape Crisis Centre) met to discuss progress on the implementation of the Ryan Report.
To this day not a single additional penny has been paid by the eighteen religious congregations that committed crimes against children. I say additional because the Irish Government struck a shameful deal with the religious orders in 2002. The then Minister for Education Michael Woods and Attorney General Michael McDowell struck a secret deal. It was never put before parliament and there was no vote. In short, religious orders were awarded indemnity against all legal claims provided they supplied €128m in cash and property. The idea was that if there was a shortfall, the taxpayer would provide. Woods expected around 2000 claimants and a total cost of around €300m.
Fast forward to 2010, and 14 000 claimants have come forward. The bill is expected to be around €1.3bn. And the religious orders have not contributed a single additional penny. The congregations claim that the Irish Government had not yet provided the details of what further contributions are required. Continue reading
Today is Mother’s Day and restaurants and florist shops are on overdrive, trying to keep up with the consumer-driven holiday we have created to celebrate motherhood. In advertising, I have seen everything from sofas and loveseats to big screen televisions (supposedly on sale) all meant to honour women who have raised or are currently raising children. Looking at the ads, it would be easy to believe that this is a universal concern because so much has been dedicated to this supposed holiday; however, it is far from the truth.
Jillian Michaels recently caused a stir when she announced that she did not want to have children for fear of losing her figure. Michaels has struggled with weight problems in the past and the fear of becoming fat again was too much for her to overcome. There are plenty of women who do not want to become mothers for various reason, but Jillian’s comments represent a particular frame of thought that has come to be associated with motherhood.
Photographers aggressively seek pictures of women with a baby bump and even when a woman is not pregnant, the slightest weight gain is enough to set people speculating as to whether or not she is with child. Once again, this might seem like an obvious love of motherhood, however, nothing could be further from the truth. These investigations are simply just more discipline of female bodies. If it is revealed that a woman is not pregnant, the fat shaming begins immediately and if she is pregnant, the policing of her personal activities ensues. Suddenly, every action and every single morsel of food that she consumes becomes the business of the public – all wrapped in so-called concern for the unborn child. Continue reading
Hayao Miyazaki’s “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” is another perfect illustration of why he may well be the most quietly influential feminist filmmaker out there right now.
Unlike previous works such as “Princess Mononoke” or “Spirited Away,” “Ponyo” is aimed squarely at very young children. Think of it as more in the realm of “My Neighbor Totoro.” For that reason the plotline has been simplified, and a lot of the background explanations that you’d usually find in Miyazaki movies eliminated, but the core characteristics that the man has built his career around remain.
“Ponyo” is a gorgeous movie. Though the plot is very similar to Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” the visual style is different. While the Disney version features a rather glamorous adolescent princess Ariel, Ponyo starts out as a goldfish with a face, one of many identical but smaller sisters (let’s all pause to give thanks for a filmmaker who actually understands where little fish come from). If you’re a parent looking for movies for your little girl that won’t warp her body image, Miyazaki is always a good bet, and “Ponyo” is no exception. It’s incredibly refreshing to see children in animation who actually look like children, with soft round faces and little round bellies.
It is public knowledge that the Catholic Church ruled the roost in Ireland. The Church’s education system was harsh and children in school were beaten. The allegations of child sexual abuse were proved true and compensation was provided – ten percent coming from the Catholic Church and ninety percent from the state.
An investigation commission was set up in 2000 to hear from persons who allege they suffered abuse in childhood, in institutions, during the period from 1940 or earlier, to the present day; to conduct an inquiry into abuse of children in institutions during that period and, where satisfied that abuse occurred, to determine the causes, nature, circumstances and extent of such abuse; and to prepare and publish reports on the results of the inquiry and on its recommendations in relation to dealing with the effects of such abuse.
The report of the Commission was published on 20 May. The revelations contained therein are obscene:
Nebraska was the last state to institute a safe haven law. The original intent of this law was to stop mothers from leaving their newborn infants in dumpsters, if they decided they did not want them, or for some reason could not care for them. The legislature could not decide on an appropriate age limit; and therefore employed the word “child.” This meant that any child under the age of 18 could be left at a Nebraska hospital, and the parent could not be charged with abandonment by law.
Now the law has been changed and an age limit of 30 days has been introduced.
The full text of LB 157 read: “No person shall be prosecuted for any crime based solely upon the act of leaving a child in the custody of an employee on duty at a hospital licensed by the State of Nebraska. The hospital shall promptly contact appropriate authorities to take custody of the child.”
In the lifetime of this law 27 drop offs occurred and 36 children were given up by their parents. Parents drove from as far away as California to relinquish their parental rights. One man left all 9 of his children behind.
According to USA Today, Todd Landry of Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services stated that, “the four oldest of the nine siblings were placed together in an emergency shelter and the others in a foster home. They’re struggling to varying degrees with what’s happened to them.”
To be abandoned by a parent can be an extremely traumatic thing for a child. In this case many of the children were of an age that they could understand exactly what the parent was doing even as it was happening. One can only imagine the pleading of the child, and the promises they must have made about behavioural changes as the parents headed toward the hospital exit. Continue reading