- oD 50.50
50.50 Editor's pick
Structures of sexism
Highlights of 2013
Towards nuclear non-proliferation
Challenging militarism and violence
Afaf Jabiri wrote from Jordan about honouring Mahfoutha Shtayyeh from Palestine in the 50.50 blog 16 Days Against Gender Violence. This week women's rights advocates working with Karama in Palestine www.elkarama.org have issued a statement about the living conditions in Gaza:
"This the most difficult period we have ever experienced. They are targeting the basic needs of us. What we are asking for is not luxury material but the most basic of the basics to live humanely. Injured people have no hope of survival--if injured, there is no means to reach the hospital, and if they reach the hospital, then there is not any medicine for treatment. Women and children are the most affected of all by what's happening: children have not been able to take their needed vaccines and medical check-ups for months, and women face serious danger giving birth in people's houses without any medical observation.
This blog has previously featured writing from and about women in Iran, in particular the inspiring One Million Signatures campaign. It is therefore with sadness that we received the following news from Nayereh Tohidi of California State University about the revocation of the license of the Iranian feminist magazine, Zanan. Nayereh writes:
Dear colleagues and friends,
As you might have already heard, on January 28, 2008, the Press Supervisory Board of Iran backed by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has announced revocation of the license of Zanan magazine, Iran's most prominent and important feminist journal.
The processes of globalisation sweeping across the world today are being driven by neo-liberal ideologies which celebrate untrammelled market forces, the free movement of capital and the sovereignty of the citizen-consumer. Labour remains subject to many more restrictions than capital, but it too has become a global resource. As governments are increasingly forced to pursue competitive advantage in the global economy through the construction of flexible labour markets, in which workers can be hired and fired with impunity, women have emerged as the flexible labour force par excellence.
As George Bush leaves Israel and the West Bank and heads for Gulf states talks, Robi Damelin, a member of Parents Circle Families Forum, laments the failure of leaders to understand that the same pain is shared by all.
Robi Damelin writes: Roll up roll up and join the queue to receive your certificate for missed opportunities. Spread the red carpet from Ben Gurion to Har Herzl or Kiriat Shaul and let them pontificate over open graves. Play the National Anthem and let's listen to all the voices of doom and gloom. Fly the flag and stay glued to your identity. (more...)
Last month Roja Bandari blogged about Iranian women's rights campaigner Jelveh Javaheri as part of our 16 Days Against Gender Violence coverage. Jelveh had been summoned to court and taken to the Evin prison on the charges of disrupting public opinion, advertising against the system, and publishing lies.
Jelveh and her colleague and journalist Maryam Hosseinkhah were finally released on bail last week - meaning their activities will be restricted until they go to trial. Both were members the One Million Signatures Campaign. [more...]
Roja Bandari tells us that "two other activists, Ronak and Haana, are still in custody in Kurdistan region and we are very concerned about their conditions".
In south Asia as elsewhere in the world, religion has come to play an increasing role in shaping and reshaping women's lives. This process is a particular challenge to people like myself, a feminist who "grew up" intellectually and politically via involvement in the women's movement of the 1980s in Bangladesh. The activism of that period was explicitly secular; its main priorities were the issues of rights, inequalities and violence prevalent in a young state which had achieved independence only in 1971.
Listening to the news last night, I was struck by a particularly depressing story - that of a British woman beaten to death by her boyfriend in August this year. Just one day after the official 16 Days Against Gender Violence campaign ended, news of yet another tragic and preventable death. The case was raised in the UK parliament, but, it seems, for all the wrong reasons.
Today is International Human Rights Day. When I started writing for this blog, it was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The 16 days in between have been packed with truly inspiring activism around the world. The Centre for Women's Global Leadership which originally launched the 16 days campaign in 1991 is currently compiling a full calendar of events which include actions from every continent.
The coverage on this blog has been similarly diverse and inspiring. The themes have incorporated the five I set out to explore (Rape and impunity, Healthy bodies, Coercion and control, Security, masculinities and the state, Women as trade) but also much much more.
"Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human-rights violation. And it is perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development, and peace." - Kofi Annan
Bangladesh's pioneering micro-finance revolution is also helping to fuel the twin abuses of dowry and domestic violence. Santi Rozario investigates
Provided with the necessary knowledge and awareness, every woman has the capacity to help stop violence against women. Evre Kaynak of Turkey's Human Rights Education Programme says participatory projects are the key to success.
by Kylie Thomas
In January of this year Nomawethu Ngalimani, a woman I would call my friend if that were not to disavow all that made real friendship possible between us, was stabbed to death in her home in Khayelitsha, a township outside of the city of Cape Town in South Africa.
I met Nomawethu in 2002 while I was working on a book project that told the stories of the lives of 13 HIV positive South African women. Over the course of several months Nomawethu was one of the participants in an art and narrative therapy workshop process through which she shared the narrative of her life. She also created a life-size self-portrait that conveys how the context of extreme violence in which she lived has made its marks on her body.
She had always been a loud-mouth, a fighter, confident and self-assured. As a teenager she had been attacked by a group of men. She had been stabbed but she refused to give them the money she was carrying. She had been carrying a knife of her own and she wounded one of the men in his chest and they had run away.
The last time I saw her, in December 2006, she had had an operation to remove the cancerous growth in her eye and it had been successful. She seemed different - she looked happy, more at ease in herself. She was wearing a green dress.
by Stella Victor
In Sri Lanka's tea estates most families live in line rooms. All of these have common pavement, and residents belong to all age groups, and can interact all the time. When parents go to work, the children who are not going to school are left behind with elderly people. Unemployed men also stay there during the day, and many boys try to follow their older companions. Young boys start to behave as the men they spend their days with and some start to control and harass their female counterparts, avoiding any involvement in "female" work.
Young girls follow their mothers, grandmothers and older sisters, and are compelled to do all kind of household activities including caring for their younger siblings and giving priority to their male counterparts. This is how the "gender socialization" in the tea plantation sector is rapidly growing and pervasive.
Human security in tea plantations
In this housing system women and girls do not have privacy, which presents a higher risk for sexual harassment against women and girls.
by Cath Elliott
There have been a number of articles in the UK press over recent weeks highlighting the increasing prevalence of sex selective abortions. Even though abortion on the grounds of gender is not permitted under UK law, there is currently nothing to stop women from travelling overseas to deal with unwanted female foetuses.
Female foeticide is illegal in India, but it still appears to be easily accessible, as this report from the BBC illustrates:
"Sex selective abortion - female foeticide, as it is known - has been illegal in India since the early 1980s. Having a scan to find out the sex is also against the law.
But the law has simply forced the practice underground and UN figures state that 750,000 girls are aborted every year in India."
I can understand why, in certain cultures, women are driven to female foeticide. In patriarchal traditional societies it's easy to see how girl children come to be considered a burden: when marriage still means a dowrie to be paid; when the family business is still the son's inheritance, and when the care and financial security of the elderly is the responsibility of sons and not daughters, what possible motivation can there be for families to cherish their baby girls?
by Sue Turrell
"The attainment of MDG 3 will require a comprehensive approach to overcome not only violence against women, but also gender-based discrimination in laws and policies, and deeply embedded social and cultural norms that perpetuate gender inequality." (WHO)
the recognition by the international community that violence against women is a serious and fundamental problem limiting progress in human
development, reading the UK Equal Opportunity Commission's new publication,
‘The Gender Gap', is depressing. It includes the stark statistic that
conviction rates for rape stand at 6%, making it understandable that 95% of
women never report an attack in the first place.
Sue Turrell is the executive director of WOMANKIND worldwide It can be easy for women in the UK to think that the equality debate has been won and that it doesn't concern us any more. But this ignores both the ongoing structural inequalities in our own country - and the fact that women's struggle for equality is only just beginning in many other parts of the world. For example:
- The World Health Organization has reported that up to 70% of female murder victims are killed by their male partners
- More than 60 million women are "missing" from the world today as a result of sex-selective abortions and female infanticide, according to an estimate by Amartya Sen, the Nobel Laureate
- At least one out of every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime, according to a study based on 50 surveys from around the world
by Marufa Akter
Ms. Marufa Akter is Field Researcher for the Pathways of Women's Empowerment Development Studies Programme at BRAC University Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is one of the signatories of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women signed in 1993. Yet today it is known that about 47% of women in Bangladesh are being subjected to different kinds of violence by men and male relations. Bangladesh is a country in which the structure of the society strongly upholds patriarchal values, norms and traditions. Women here have been subjected to exploitation and negligence for centuries. The status of women has been ranked the lowest in the world on the basis of twenty indicators related to health, marriage, children, education, employment and social equality.1 Women in Bangladesh are victims of inequality, abuse, oppression and exploitation, social customs and traditions, illiteracy and face a lack of employment opportunities which have hampered the total integration of women in the mainstream development activities in Bangladesh.
All these aspects have made women more vulnerable and maintained the unequal status between men and women. The value of women's unpaid work in Bangladesh needs to be critically addressed.
by Susanna J. Smith and Whitney Welshimer
The BBC's recent story on Tamali Mbogella, a Tanzanian woman who was beaten by her husband after she sought an HIV test ("Outcry at Tanzanian HIV beating"), sadly illustrates what we have known for too long: until we secure women's rights and respect within relationships, the world will fail at protecting women and girls against HIV/AIDS.
Globally, one in three women will be raped, beaten, or abused in her lifetime. In regions where the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is particularly high, violence against women puts them at a significantly greater risk for contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). For too many girls, their first sexual experiences are coerced or forced. In South Africa, 30 percent of girls say their first intercourse was forced, and 71 percent report being subjected to sex against their will in the past.
When women cannot control when or with whom they have sex, they cannot negotiate condom use or take the steps needed to protect their health. In South Africa, women who are in abusive relationships are 50 percent more likely to contract HIV. Violence may also lead women to engage in more risky behaviors such as having multiple, concurrent sexual partners. In South Africa, women who were abused by their partners were two to three times more likely to engage in transactional sex.
by Huda Jawad
Unlike other parts of the Middle East, Iraq was a country with significant advances in the spheres of health, education and academia, business, the arts and an expanding middle class: that is, up until the imposition of UN sanctions. Women's status and accomplishments in every sphere of life was something that was noted as a beacon for all the Middle East and the West to aspire to. Not only did they excel at the traditional roles of employment such as nursing, teaching and administration, but were found in significant numbers in non-traditional roles such as engineering, pharmaceuticals, medicine, science, the telecommunications industry, politics, the military - and they were entrepreneurs in their own right.
Huda Jawad is Program Director of Forward Thinking
As war gripped the country and the vacuum of power created opportunities for all kinds of desperate and fundamentalist doctrines, the horrors being inflicted on women and girls became increasingly apparent. But the violence and oppression of women in Iraq is not a new phenomenon. Whether administered by the state or ‘the clan' directly against women, or indirectly through violence committed against their husbands and sons, the often cited progress of women in Iraq was made despite such violence, not because of its absence.
Violence and fear aimed specifically
against women was a form of torture that was professionalised and refined
by the regime of Saddam and some Western countries are implicated in
the supply of torture ‘products' and training to the regime. It
is notable that the silence of Saddam's former allies on such abuses
did not break until late 2002 when the drums of war were being heard.
by Janet Veitch
The End Violence against Women Campaign was set up to bring together women working on this dreadful, invisible, issue. According to the crime statistics, stalking, domestic violence, and sexual harassment affect around half of all women, at a cost of £23 billion a year for domestic violence alone. Not a small problem, so why is it often ignored? Our members are working at all levels - grassroots service provision, public policy development and research - to change things for women.
Janet Veitch is the vice chair of the End Violence Against Women campaign.One of the ways we do this is by publishing "Making the Grade".
by Joanne Miller
WAITS' mission is to enable women disadvantaged by low self-esteem, status, poverty and domestic abuse to take a positive step forward in their lives and become role models in their communities.
Although violence against women and children is widespread, it is especially hidden in Black and Minority Ethnic women in the UK. Many of them still find it difficult to receive appropriate support, information and access to services. Many encounter specific barriers such as language needs, immigration and lack of financial status. Asylum Seekers and Refugee women are usually in total dependence on their spouse/partners or families because they do not having any recourse to public funds. These women may seek low paid work, or beg on the streets to support themselves and children. As the children are usually with their mothers they also suffer because of the mother's status and sometimes end up in care. When the woman leaves her husband, protection, housing and welfare benefits are restricted, hence they end up in the community living destitute lives.
Joanne Miller is WAITS' Women's support and Development Officer I am a survivor of domestic violence for 24 years and I have worked at WAITS as a lead support worker for nine years I now. I have developed many life-skills and self-awareness training programme and deliver the workshops to women WAITS supports - women who have left violent partners or husbands, and have said that they feel abused all over again - but this time by the system. Violent partners have been given access to their children through the court system, even if the children have witnessed abuse and said that they don't want to have contact because they are afraid. When the non-violent parent expresses this concern to the local authority they are sometimes blamed for leading the child's thoughts and emotionally abusing the child and risk the child being put on the Child Protection (CP) register or removed from the non-violent parent. CP is one of the main issues that is affecting the women we support - nearly 80% of our clients have CP orders against them. One result of this is that when we meet women who are suffering domestic violence, we are unable to get down to the issues of her experiences and why her self-esteem and confidence is low because her main issues are everything but! Straight away we are having to deal with CP and civil courts actions, housing, and financial issues, rather than with her safety and well-being.
Much of the inertia around taking action on the abuse of women in its form as prostitution appears to me to frequently be the result of a problematic conception of the nature of choice.
Opponents of the criminalization of prostitution argue that prostitution is a legitimate occupation that women should be able to choose. They believe that 'sex work' is something a woman is entitled to take on as it is her body and her decision to trade it for money. Yet according to Madeleine Bunting:
In the UK, more than half of prostitutes have been raped or sexually assaulted. Three-quarters have been physically assaulted, 95% are drug users, and 90% want to get out.
This obviously means that at its maximum, only 10% of women working as prostitutes in the UK actually want to be doing the 'work'. The rest, it would seem, have no choice.
Today, I spoke to Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson, and Graca
Machel on the phone. I wish I could say that happened often!
Global Voices Online was asked to invite only six bloggers to
participate in a conference call to help spread the word about their
new alliance of 13 world leaders, The Elders, and the campaign
they are launching tomrorrow called Every Human has Rights. I
joined from Berlin. The Elders were in Cape Town, taking a break from
talking to UNICEF youth leaders on CNN.
Tomorrow is Human Rights Day and the beginning of the 60th anniversary for the UN Declaration of Human Rights. These world leaders of activists are marking it with an effort to "reclaim human rights for individuals". Inspired by the possibilities of new technology, they are reaching out to world citizens and asking them to tell their own stories of resistance and survival, and broadcast them through blogs and citizen video networks like The Hub.
The Elders have also launched an online petition in support of the Declaration of Human Rights. Desmond Tutu said he would like to see “a billion” signatures on it. I wonder how many have even read it? Considering the enormous mailing lists of organizations like Amnesty International, UNICEF, Action Aid, and other who are partnering in the effort, it shouldn’t take too long to reach the first million signatures. But 1 billion signatures? Has that even been done before?
By Farah Mihlar
Earlier this year I was in my home country Sri Lanka on research. The little Indian Ocean Island in the last year has plunged back into war leaving more than 3500 civilians dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. The recent battles fought mainly in eastern Sri Lanka between the government and the Tamil Tigers - the militant group fighting for a separate state for ethnic Tamils - shattered a five year cease-fire that had given a breather to the country plagued by over two decades of conflict.
In the outskirts of the eastern town of Batticaloa the bare land is lined with thousands of tiny white tents housing some 290,000 people who fled their homes. Families, some with four of five kids, live cramped in each one of the tent.
When we visited the camps it was mostly women who were there. They talked of their harrowing experience of fleeing their homes dead at night whilst explosives rained down on them. As we spoke explosions could be heard in the nearby villages. At the time, the government faced with severe criticism over the huge numbers of displaced and the subsequent humanitarian crisis, had decided to repatriate these families to some villages deemed safe. The women told us they did not want to go back. 'As long as the army is there we don't want to go back. They have in the past attacked us and raped women....and as long as they are there the Tigers will try to attack them and we will be in the middle,' they said.
The many contradictions of anti-abortion arguments serve only to reinforce to me the extent to which the anti-choice agenda is actually about undermining women's right to have control over what happens to their bodies.
Take the argument that anti-abortion is about being pro-life put forth by the Catholic Church or the government of Nicaragua. In August Amnesty International, after two years debating the issue, took the decision to
'support access to abortion for women in cases of rape, incest or violence, or where the pregnancy jeopardises a mother's life or health'.
In response, the Vatican asked all Catholics to boycott the organization, likening abortion to murder. As Cath Elliot points out this effectively means that the Catholic Church values a woman's present life less than the potential life of the unborn. I fail to see how condemning a woman who is currently alive to death-by-childbirth is pro-life. Forcing such a woman to term in full knowledge that it will kill her is anti-life just as surely as asking her to sit on a ticking bomb is.