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Colette Fitzpatrick: Demi, sex slavery isn't funny -- and nor are your star-studded, tasteless and totally weird ads

I'M still red with embarrassment. I've been looking through my fingers at the laptop screen and squirming with discomfort.

If you haven't already seen them, have a look at the star- studded anti-sex slavery ads put out by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore's foundation, seeking to combat the sexual exploitation and slavery of minors.

Chainsaw

Big names like Jamie Foxx, Sean Penn and Bradley Cooper have taken part in what seem to be public service announcements that attempt to use humour to make the assertion that men who buy young girls aren't 'real men'.

In one, Sean Penn proves that 'real men know how to use an iron' by ironing a sandwich before eating it.

In another, Justin Timberlake exemplifies that 'real men know how to shave' by going at his facial hair with an electric chainsaw. Bradley Cooper says 'real men know how to make a meal' by pouring milk into a cereal box and eating it with a giant spoon.

The ads are confusing at best and wildly inappropriate, espcially given the severity of the issues highlighted in our Herald special investigation by Adelina Campos this week into the horrors of human traficking.

Fluffy

All are set to upbeat muzak with a grossly lighthearted feel and beautiful women like Eva Longoria and Jessica Biel asking seductively, 'Are you are a real man?' at the end of each ad.

This fluffy approach is weird, it's creepy, and given the real and given the horrific nature of the subject matter, the real and present sex slavery trade, it is tastelessly off-key. How these A-list stars thought that using comedy to being attention to the appalling sex slavery trade was a good idea, I cannot begin to fathom.

The Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women has been rightly quick to condemn the ludicrously superficial ads.

"This is what happens when celebrities don't work in collaboration with people who have been doing this for a long time. This is what you end up with," says Norma Ramos.

Sickening

"There is a general dumbing down going on and this is an example of dumbing down a social justice movement with the narrowest message possible," she says. And she couldn't be more spot on.

Sex slavery is no laughing matter and these sickening adverts just go to show how utterly divorced from reality some of these 'stars' really are.

Talk about good intentions going wildy wrong.

Banning the veil is not anti-Muslim, it's pro-woman

Broadly speaking, I don't really care what anyone wears. Burqas (garments concealing the entire body with only mesh for the eyes), clerical collars, cassocks, hijabs (headscarves leaving the face uncovered), habits, niqabs (the veil worn around the head and hair which may or may not leave the face uncovered), miniskirts, hoodies, albs and veils. Specifically, I am pro women's rights.

And I don't buy the claim that every Muslim woman who dresses in some or all of the traditional Muslim clothing is oppressed, repressed and brainwashed, silently begging to be able to dress in 'Western' style clothing.

The scene in the last Sex And The City film where the Muslim women lift their burqas to reveal Western designer clothing that they secretly wore underneath was particularly nauseating.

I also feel deeply uncomfortable about state interference in our private lives and in particular linking state and religion.

For too long in this country, the state was shaped by the stranglehold religion had on it. And given our own history of religious persecution, I believe everyone should have the right to practise their culture, faith and beliefs within the law.

Muslims and Islam have become easy targets in recent years. Many people link terrorism with Muslims. Isn't that kind of like linking all Irish people with the IRA back in the '70s and '80s?

Of course it would be unfair if you were banned from wearing ashes on your forehead on Ash Wednesday because it was a religious symbol or if you had to remove a cross from around your neck for the same reason.

But wearing a cross or ashes is simply not in the same ballpark as covering women.

And while some Muslims quite freely choose to wear the religious garb of Islam, there is no doubt many are forced to by fanatical fathers, husbands, families and communities; victims of a cruel denial of their basic human rights.

Yes, there are those who choose to dress like this and say it is Western women that are oppressed; ruled by fashion and society's pressure to look pretty and dress in a certain way. The veil, they say, sets them free from that. They can truly be themselves and judged equally.

But I would say that this means being judged equally only among other covered women.

Where is the equality in hiding yourself from the society you are meant to be part of?

That is why I believe that banning the veil may not be anti-Muslim or racist after all. Saying and doing nothing about it is not a display of tolerance and political correctness. Banning the veil could very well be pro-women.


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