In tonight’s Dispatch, we’re celebrating the Cannes premiere of Rafiki, a lesbian love story banned in its home country.
Elsewhere: concerns are raised about violence against women in Puerto Rico, Google bans abortion referendum ads in Ireland, and a study confirms that the HPV jab is a force for good.
Lesbian film banned in Kenya makes its debut at Cannes
A Kenyan film about a love affair between two young women has premiered at the Cannes Film Festival – less than two weeks after being banned in its native country.
Rafiki, the second film by Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu, was banned by Kenya’s Film and Classification Board (KFCB) in late April for “its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism”. The board claimed this was “contrary to the law and dominant values of the Kenyans”.
Kahiu expressed her disappointment after the film was banned, writing on Twitter: “We believe adult Kenyans are mature and discerning enough to watch local content but their right has been denied.”
The film has made history as the first Kenyan movie to premiere at Cannes. Early reviews have been positive – and actors Samantha Mugatsia and Sheila Munyiva (pictured top) have been an adorable addition to the Cannes red carpet.
Read more on this story at CNN.
Puerto Rican women subjected to sexual violence after hurricane
Organisations supporting domestic abuse and sexual assault survivors in Puerto Rico have reported a rise in violence against women in the months since Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
However, according to a new investigation, official statistics are unlikely to accurately reflect the scale of the problem.
Vilmarie Rivera is the executive director of Casa Nueva Mujer, an organisation that operates a domestic violence shelter in Puerto Rico. She told Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (the Puerto Rican Centre for Investigative Journalism) that official government statistics on violence against women do not reflect the reality of what organisations like hers are seeing on the ground.
The World Health Organisation says that levels of sexual violence and intimate partner violence tend to increase in the wake of natural disasters, in part due to the breakdown of social networks and high levels of stress. Even before the hurricane, Puerto Rico had one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world.
Read more on this story here.
Google bans abortion referendum ads in Ireland
Ahead of the historic abortion referendum in Ireland on 25 May, Google will ban all adverts related to the vote on its search engine and on YouTube.
“Following our update around election integrity efforts globally, we have decided to pause all ads related to the Irish referendum on the Eighth Amendment,” the tech giant said in a statement on Tuesday.
The company said it had already started to block ads related to the referendum that originated from outside Ireland. All advertisements about the poll will eventually be banned in Ireland.
Eamon Ryan, the leader of Ireland’s Green Party, said that the announcement was “of international significance”.
“It’s not just important for the referendum on the Eighth Amendment,” he said. “It’s important for how referenda and elections can be protected from undue influence all around the world.”
Read more on this story at The Irish Independent.
The HPV jab is highly effective and safe, new study confirms
In 2008, the NHS started offering the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine to girls aged 12 to 13. Since HPV is usually spread through sexual contact, an instant controversy ensued, with some religious groups and parents arguing it was irresponsible to offer the jab to underage girls.
There will doubtless still be some who believe that schoolgirls shouldn’t be vaccinated against HPV. However, a comprehensive new study has proved that the jab is highly effective at preventing the precancerous signs of cervical cancer in women and girls.
Experts say that the analysis by the Cochrane Group should reassure any parents who were having doubts about whether to have their daughters immunised.
Importantly, the review also shows that the vaccine is almost totally safe, with reports of serious side effects being rare.
“This study adds to the wealth of growing evidence from around the world which shows that the HPV vaccine is the most effective way for young girls to protect themselves against cervical cancer,” said Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at Public Health England.
Read more on this story at BBC News.
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Images: Getty Images / Big World Cinema