Did the organizers stop at nothing for profits?
20 people died in the horrific stampede at the July 24 Love Parade festival in the German city of Duisburg, 500 were injured and, for a time, over 1 000 people were officially listed as missing. The revellers panicked at a tunnel entrance. But, already in the build up to the parade many thought there was a risk of mass panic developing.
By Jan Röder and Sebastian Förster, CWI Germany
Elisa O’Donovan, Dublin Socialist Youth
“Want to be the hottest girl on campus?” This was the slogan used to advertise the first Miss UCD beauty pageant, a competiton sponsored by the UCD Students’ Union in conjunction with the Sun and the News of the World.
UCD Students’ Union, like all student unions, should be vehemently opposed to all forms of sexism and be promoting a positive view of women. Beauty pageants are demeaning to women and are an excuse for putting sexism on parade. They encourage the idea that women should be seen as sex objects to be judged by men, as well as making women believe that to be desirable they have to conform to unrealistic types of “beauty”.
Socialist Party members demanded the immediate withdrawal of support for this so-called competition by the Students’ Union. In response the student union officials justified holding this sexist pageant by running it as a charity event for the primary immunodeficiency association; a charity that helps mothers and fathers cope with raising a child with an incurable paediatric condition.
It is ironic that in order to raise money to help struggling families, UCD Students’ Union has to resort to using a competition that bans mothers and wives from entering! Along with this the competiton banned all women under 5’4”!
By Cian Prendiville, Limerick Socialist Youth
In January’s Finance Bill VAT on condoms was lowered from 21% to 13.5%. Any reduction should be welcomed, the crucial question is why, given the problems with sexually transmitted infections (STIs), is there VAT on condoms, or indeed why are they not free?
The VAT cut got some mixed reactions. As could be expected the Catholic Church was up in arms against it. The Union of Students in Ireland simply welcomed the reduction and called for the VAT to be reduced to 5%, unfortunately accepting the logic that there must be VAT and a price tag on safer sex.
This is at a time when according to one survey, 40% of students didn’t use a condom the last time they had sex. This is particularly worrying given the growing problems of STIs such as Chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV. Between 1998 and 2003 the reported number of STIs increased by almost 400%.
Yet despite this condoms are more expensive in Ireland than most other parts of the EU, with companies such as Durex and Mates making billions. It is the height of hypocrisy that the government can claim to be trying to tackle the spread of STIs and yet allow this profiteering to take place.
As well as this there is a shocking lack of decent, non-judgmental sex education for young people. In report after report there are stories of teenagers not using condoms correctly or following myths such as “you can’t get pregnant if its her first time”. In order to tackle STIs and unplanned pregnancies, sex education, free contraception, STI tests and treatment must be provided without stigma or judgment to all.
By Ann-Katrin Orr, Limerick Socialist Youth
According to a survey, 32% of women said that the price of the contraceptive pill discourages them from using it. At a time when there are high levels of crisis pregnancies, particularly amongst young women, this is a frightening statistic.
There’s a vital need for sex education but also the provision of free and easily accessible contraception.
The cost of the first 6 months taking the pill can easily come to ?200. This is because of the costs of GP visits, the pill itself and related charges such as the cost for smear tests and nurses’ consultation. Whilst in the South third level students may have access to free or reduced cost health care through their college, most have to pay the full costs involved. This is disgraceful, especially when compared to the North where young people can get the pill free of charge.
On top of the financial burden women are also often confronted with the social taboo attached with getting contraception. They can feel intimidated and judged by their GPs, especially family GPs, some of whom actually refuse point blank to prescribe the pill. It should be the right of each and every woman to choose if she wants to use the pill as a contraceptive.
By Elisa O’Donovan
Students across Ireland are having to resort to prostitution in order to pay their way through college.
“19 year old Waterford student, tall attractive, badly in need of a few quid”; “Open minded, young sociology student looking for fun”.
Adverts such as these are now common among the booming business of escort agencies in Ireland – a business that is thriving on the financial insecurities of young female and male students.
It is becoming increasingly more expensive for students to further their education in Ireland. With many students unable to afford decent accommodation or even books for their course, and with agencies such as Escort Ireland network offering students ?135 an hour it is not difficult to see why students are being reduced to selling their bodies in order to afford a decent standard of living. One agency, D4 escort agency, even boasts “many of our ladies are students or recent graduates”.
The lack of any decent affordable accommodation for students reached crisis point this summer with some students having to resort to sleeping on the streets . The maximum higher education grant stands at ?3,420 yet students living in Dublin can expect to pay ?500 a month on accommodation costs alone. With the maximum grant hardly covering living expenses let alone money for food, books, lab equipment etc. students are forced to work low paid inflexible jobs which badly affect their studies. The governments inaction on students plight has only pushed students to desperate measures such as prostitution to see them through their course. The student support bill which was to offer a definite schedule for reform of the grants system is now 6 months overdue.
There is no doubt that the gradual glamorisation of the so-called “sex industry” has had an impact on the attitudes of some students towards prostitution. Escort agencies promise glamour by showing pictures of models in luxury hotels with expensive underwear however the reality is very different. A large majority of prostitutes experience violence including rape, at the hands of men who pay for sex.
When asked about the increasing number of students having to turn to prostitution to pay their way through college, Education Minister, Mary Hannafin ,said she was “appalled” at the situation.
But the government is responsible for this scandal. USI should take on the government and mobilise students nationally in a campaign for a living grant for all students.
Posted in capitalism, education, gender issues, ireland, low pay, minimum wage, prostitution, sexual politics, student fees, students, women's rights, youth