Columnists

Of belts and rights

Torn Apart: BOYD PHIRI
WHEN was the last time you removed your belt at a security checkpoint and hoped your trousers won’t drop in front of the airport security officer scanning your luggage?
When I was asked to remove my belt at the airport security, I thought my right to privacy was being infringed upon although it was not the first time I was being asked to remove my belt.
But little did I know that I would have an opportunity to learn that young people in Africa are vigorously fighting for rights beyond the belt, sexual autonomy, if I may mention.
Well, being told to remove your belt at a security checkpoint is not like tightening your belt during austerity measures.
Although removing things, except underwear, at airport security checkpoints comes with the pleasure of travelling by air, you get a feeling that your rights are being taken away momentarily.
Certainly, you don’t want to appear like you’ve just been from defecating by the roadside when female travellers see you trying to belt up quickly at the end of the checkpoint.
Even after being cleared at the checkpoint you fear drawing attention to yourself lest the security man wonders why you are struggling to fasten your belt again.
This is why I like travelling locally by bus because you don’t see Lusaka Intercity Bus Terminus security officers asking male travellers to remove their belts, except when they start harassing them by holding them by their belts.
But thanks to growing security threats nowadays, all passengers at airports are being asked to remove their belts and shoes and restart the process of dressing up in front of every other passenger.
Perhaps, this is why most male travellers prefer to go shopping for a new pair of socks in readiness for the airport security.
Of course, you don’t want the airport security officer to suspect that the holes in your socks are as a result of pressure from a sharp object hidden in your shoes.
As you can imagine, some socks from the hood can reveal quite huge holes to the extent of attracting sniffer dogs because of the stench coming out through them.
But on this day, things didn’t go quite like that, everyone seemed to have been prepared for the shoe removal security exercise.
If you thought the police phrase seluka munsapato, which literally means “step down from your shoes” only applies to suspects at police posts and stations, wait until you get an invitation to attend a workshop on human rights outside the country.
Talking about human rights, it would appear that rights of individuals are being infringed upon in every aspect of life beyond being asked to remove one’s belt.
For example, a group of young people recently stirred up debate at a workshop in Johannesburg when their representative sought to spell out their rights using Article 5 of the IPPF declaration on sexual autonomy.
Part of Article 5 of the IPPF declaration says all persons have the right to seek to experience their full sexual potential and pleasure within the framework of non-discrimination.
In opposition to this view, one of the participants said young people should not bite more than they can chew because they have a lot to learn from their parents before they can have their rights to sexual autonomy.
Participants said although during adolescent period young people discover themselves, they should not fight for sexual autonomy, especially when they have a lot to learn about issues of responsibility.
Participants noted that although the IPPF declaration talks about right to sexual reproductive health and sex education, young people should not fight for sexual autonomy yet.
Perhaps, this is why I still see some fathers in the hood removing their belts to mete punishment on their teenage children who seek the right to experience their full sexual potential and pleasure.
Needless to say, fathers in the hood don’t have to be told to remove their belts by security officers to use them to beat their erring teenage children who seek sexual autonomy before their time.
I guess if such parents were to be given an opportunity to travel by air, they would wonder why airport security officers force people to remove their belts when there are no teenagers seeking sexual autonomy to beat.
So, if you thought being told to remove your belt at airport security was taking away your right to privacy, wait until your teenage girl demands the right to sexual autonomy.
That’s one of the many rights I learnt key populations are now seeking during a workshop in Johannesburg last week.
bjboydphiri@yahoo.com

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