Clueless in Africa

| Tue Jan. 17, 2006 11:37 PM EST

While touring Africa and defending her husband's use of international AIDS funds to market abstinence, First Lady Laura Bush said: "I'm always a little bit irritated when I hear the criticism of abstinence, because abstinence is absolutely 100% effective in eradicating a sexually transmitted disease."

She went on to say: "In many countries where girls feel obligated to comply with the wishes of men, girls need to know that abstinence is a choice."

We cannot even get middle-class American girls to understand that abstinence is a choice, yet Bush is suggesting that girls whose only source of income involves having sex, and women whose husbands have never heard of equality in marriage just say no. Many young girls are forced to marry their husbands, and part of that obligation is sex; many other girls are forced into prostituion. A popular belief in Africa, especially South Africa, is that having sex with a virgin cures AIDS, and the men who opt for this "treatment" are not asking the virgins' permission.

The Bush administration has already endangered the lives of thousands of women and girls by restricting the counseling and educational activities of family planning clinics. Laura Bush's advice to African girls truly adds insult to injury.

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