What Else Is On This Bite, Colltalers
The irruption of the Zika virus, now detected in 23 countries, is the latest global scare do jour. It’s what the Ebola virus had been and what many others may become: a virtually invisible threat that periodically sponsors our collective nightmares.
But it’s neither a new virus – none of them are – nor the worst happening now or at any given time. And if we can hold the paralyzing hysteria for a second, it may actually shed light into two crucial issues of our age: abortion and child brides.
That’s not making light of the devastating effects Zika is visiting upon those communities exposed to its outbreak. Fear of widespread microcephaly is indeed worth of an international effort to contain it and develop a quick vaccine against it.
But the pressure on societies that still deny women their reproductive rights has a new-found momentum, and a public debate over it is all the more relevant in the long run. Which means, suddenly, the ever so smiling Pope Francis is on the spot.
In fact, if anything, that may be the perfect moment for him to move from rhetoric to more substantial actions, and confront the obscurantism of the Catholic Church head on. It’s the right time for the ‘progressive pope’ to own his P.R. mantle.
That kind of public discussion should be welcome, of course, and its timing couldn’t be more appropriate. After a few years basking in the glow of a populist image of change, Francis may have hit a snag. Call it overexposure fatigue, if you would.
But if this moment is ideal to revive and reaffirm his avowed intention of bringing back Catholics from the brink of social irrelevance, even among other religions, somehow we have our doubts that he’s looking forward to re-engage the Vatican.
Rome conservatives seem to be slowly regaining the upper hand, as even the commission in charge of investigating priest sexual abuses is beginning to look as if it’s going nowhere fast. A female clergy and abortion issues may wane as well.
But assuring rights for women to make decisions affecting their futures, and that of their communities, is crucial to address the threat of Zika, and not just because there’s a heartbreaking birth defect involved. The church must be on board for that.
Time and again, women have been at the forefront of infectious diseases outbreaks in poor countries, and considering their vital role as a force for social stability, entire communities are directly at risk. More so if choice equals a crime and a sin.
The other issue that may be highlighted during this crisis is the either religious-promoted or poverty-driven, or both, child marriage institution. Ingrained in Africa and Asia, it’s also common in much of the Polynesian islands and Latin American countries,
in what has been established as pathways for this virus, all the way to New York, via U.S. backwaters. We fear for the worst.
‘Children should not have children,’ specially physically and mentally challenged ones. Guess who’s going to handle this extra burden of social responsibility? yes, adult women who are not even free to make their own reproductive decisions.
Somehow the backlash always comes to, well, bite back women, being armed conflicts, refugee crisis, extreme poverty, race or sexual discrimination. If church, and us, are not willing to challenge the status quo, why bother with anything else?
But apart the focus on Zika, the world is not holding anything back. North Korea and its mad dreams of leveraging nukes for power, and political instability in Haiti, are but two, not completely unexpected, also-ran bad news of the week.
Fortunately, for millions in Brazil and elsewhere, it’s time to dive into that Hedonistic pagan party, carnival, while billions throughout Asia celebrate a new year today. And why not? we need to be glad to fully exist, virus or high water be damned.
We’ve been doing this way before war, diseases, social mores, and religion have tried, and failed, to spoil the fun of being human. Enjoy the Year of the Monkey and Fat Tuesday. And congrats to Peyton Manning, his beautiful career and wonderful win for the Broncos. WC