50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/17655/all cached version 04/07/2018 16:37:11 en “We’re not just here to learn – we can lead too”: young women human rights defenders speak out https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sara-vida-coumans/young-women-human-rights-defenders-speak-out <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Young activists from four continents talk about their local struggles and what motivates them.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Madeline stolen lands top_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Madeline Wells (right)."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Madeline stolen lands top_0.jpg" alt="Madeline Wells (right)." title="Madeline Wells (right)." width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Madeline Wells (right) at a march supporting Aboriginal and Islander rights in Burnie, Tasmania, 2015. Photo: Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Millennials often get a bad rap, accused of being politically apathetic and selfie-obsessed. But around the world, young people who are sick of government inaction are stepping up to speak passionately on behalf of their communities. </p><p dir="ltr">These four young women live in different continents and have had diverse experiences. Each is involved in Amnesty International campaigns, fighting for human rights from Australia to Peru. Here they talk about their local struggles, and what motivates them.</p><hr /><h2 dir="ltr">Madeline Wells, indigenous rights activist in Tasmania.</h2><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Madeline Wells.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Madeline Wells."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Madeline Wells.jpg" alt="Madeline Wells." title="Madeline Wells." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Madeline Wells. Photo: Lara Van Raay. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><strong> </strong>Wells represented Australia at last year’s UN Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law. “As a First Nations person, I have always felt I have a duty to fight for the rights of my people, a feeling of being part of something much bigger than me,” she said. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Activism can come in many different forms. It doesn’t have to be rallies or marches."</p><p dir="ltr">Climate change disproportionately impacts indigenous communities, and indigenous youth “face many other injustices: deaths in custody, high rates of youth detention, racism and discrimination, high suicide rates, and poor healthcare,” she added. “Activism can come in many different forms. It doesn’t have to be rallies or marches – art, music and dance are equally powerful ways of speaking out, and social media has had a huge impact.”</p><hr /><h2 dir="ltr">Nancy Herz, student and author from Norway.</h2><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/nancy_everk_mai_2016_2_fullres.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Nancy Herz."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/nancy_everk_mai_2016_2_fullres.jpg" alt="Nancy Herz." title="Nancy Herz." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Nancy Herz. Photo: Vincent Hansen. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In 2016 Herz wrote an article entitled “<a href="https://theactivistarchives.wordpress.com/2016/05/13/we-are-shameless-arab-women-and-our-time-is-now/">We Are the Shameless Arab Women and Our Time Starts Now</a>” – and a movement of women reclaiming the word “shameless” subsequently started in Norway. “We don’t want to have our identities defined by others,” she said. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“We don’t want to have our identities defined by others.” </p><p>“I feel so proud when I receive messages from young girls who say I have encouraged them to speak out – that because I dare to be myself, they do too,” said Herz. “This is what fighting against injustice is about. By using our voices, we can make the space for freedom of expression bigger...it’s an ongoing struggle, but I believe that we have to keep pushing towards a world in which everyone can enjoy their basic right of living freely.”</p><hr /><h2 dir="ltr">Sandra Mwarania, youth activist from Kenya. </h2><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Sandra.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Sandra Mwarania."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Sandra.jpg" alt="Sandra Mwarania." title="Sandra Mwarania." width="460" height="330" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sandra Mwarania. Photo: Kenneth Kigunda / Amnesty International Kenya. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Mwarania co-founded the <a href="https://scohra.wordpress.com/">Student Consortium for Human Rights Advocacy</a>. “Young people are brilliant creatives, strategic thinkers, problem solvers, innovative communicators and active doers,” she said. “It is unfortunate that we are yet to be taken seriously by decision-makers who still perceive us as inexperienced and rowdy.” </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"We’re not just here to learn – we can lead too.”</p><p dir="ltr">“As well as being well-informed on human rights issues, students and young people need the skills to address the pressing socio-political issues around them,” Mwarania added. “When young people are engaged at every level of the decision making process, the results can be amazing. We’re not just here to learn – we can lead too.”</p><hr /><h2 dir="ltr">Fabiola Arce, women’s rights defender from Peru. </h2><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Fabiola1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Fabiola Arce (holding megaphone)."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Fabiola1.jpg" alt="Fabiola Arce (holding megaphone)." title="Fabiola Arce (holding megaphone)." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Fabiola Arce (holding megaphone) in #NiUnaMenos protest in Lima, Peru, 2016. Photo: Andrick Astonitas / Amnesty International Peru.</span></span></span>Arce has campaigned to pressure her government to investigate cases of forced sterilisation of women in the 1990s. “This serious human rights violation mostly targeted indigenous women, and caused a huge amount of pain and suffering,” she said. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"Peru has a huge historical debt to women, and that's part of what motivates me."</p><p dir="ltr">“We are determined not to let the injustices of the past go unaccounted for. Peru has a huge historical debt to women, and that’s part of what motivates me to work towards shaping a different future.”</p><p dir="ltr"><em class="blockquote-new">Amnesty International’s BRAVE campaign works with young women human rights defenders like these and fights for their recognition and protection. <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/brave/">Find out more</a>. </em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sian-norris/12-feminist-authors-for-your-college-reading">12 feminist authors who may not be on your college reading list – but should be</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Australia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Peru </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Kenya </div> <div class="field-item even"> Norway </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Norway Kenya Peru Australia Civil society 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 newsletter women's human rights young feminists Sara Vida Coumans Fri, 15 Sep 2017 11:12:13 +0000 Sara Vida Coumans 113361 at https://www.opendemocracy.net "This is a war": Inside the global "pro-family" movement against abortion and LGBT rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost/global-anti-abortion-lgbt-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span class="st">At a recent summit in Budapest, anti-abortion celebrities and anti-gay rights activists gathered with their political allies waging a ‘spiritual war’ for the ‘traditional family.’</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/FullSizeRender(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="World Congress of Families summit in Budapest."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/FullSizeRender(1).jpg" alt="World Congress of Families summit in Budapest." title="World Congress of Families summit in Budapest." width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>World Congress of Families summit in Budapest. Photo: Claire Provost. </span></span></span>In a darkened hall at the Budapest Congress Centre, an image of the classic American TV show, The Brady Bunch, appears illuminated on a giant screen. At the podium is Jack Hanick, a former Fox News producer who describes television as “at the centre of a spiritual war”.</p><p dir="ltr">Hanick points to the 1950s as the golden age, when “the father was the central figure” and “the mother stayed at home.” The Bradys were not his wholesome ideal but the beginning of the decay: a “blended family” of stepparents and stepchildren, where the father “has power over only half of the children”.</p><p dir="ltr">Fast forward to today and the hit sitcom Modern Family “idealises same sex marriage”. This, Hanick said, is the latest chapter in “TV’s role in the destruction of the traditional family”. He claimed: “This is a war, but it is not a war to be waged in the physical world”.</p><p dir="ltr">Hanick was in Hungary in late May for the 11th World Congress of Families summit, with hundreds of other anti-abortion and anti-LGBT activists and their political allies from across the globe. The conference programme described its goal as “to unite and equip leaders to promote the natural family”.</p><p dir="ltr">Speakers were explicit: this means a married mother and father and their children. They name-checked diverse fights against comprehensive sexuality education, abortion, same-sex marriage, “gender ideology,” surrogacy, and euthanasia.</p><p dir="ltr">But they called for positive, “winning messages,” alliances, and strategies that go after “hearts and minds” – recalling the shorthand used repeatedly by the US for winning over supporters and public opinion in the context of wars. </p><p dir="ltr">Several speakers talked specifically about “appropriating the language” of human rights to bolster conservative campaigns.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"this is a war, but it is not a war to be waged in the physical world"</p><p dir="ltr">Attendees included anti-abortion celebrities like Lila Rose, founder of <a href="https://www.liveaction.org/">Live Action</a> – the online “pro-life” movement using new media to “target millennial women.” Others came from groups like the <a href="https://www.nationformarriage.org/">National Organisation for Marriage</a> (NOM) and the <a href="https://www.adflegal.org/">Alliance for the Defence of Freedom </a>(ADF).</p><p dir="ltr">These groups are well-known to women’s rights activists. In the US, the WCF has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Centre as an anti-LGBT “hate group”. The progressive thinktank <a href="http://www.politicalresearch.org/tag/world-congress-of-families/#sthash.rcFDiM89.dpuf">Political Research Associates says</a> it’s among “the major driving forces behind the US Religious Right’s global export of homophobia and sexism”. </p><p dir="ltr">NOM was <a href="http://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/10/21/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-anti-lgbtq-world-congress-of-families-wcf/#sthash.cv1p5ezu.SpWGLKHh.dpuf">formed in 2007 specifically to pass California’s Proposition 8</a> bill to prohibit same-sex marriage. ADF also focuses on legal advocacy. Its founder, Alan Sears, co-wrote a book called <a href="http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/the-homosexual-agenda">The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">On the WCF programme there were pastors and bishops along with MPs, activists and academics. Delegates came from around the world, including Trinidad and Tobago, Nigeria, and Kenya. Many were from Hungary and the US. </p><p dir="ltr">The theme of the summit – “Building Family-Friendly Nations: Making Families Great Again” – included a hint of the “Make America Great Again” slogan used by US President Donald Trump in his election campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">Registration was free – though <a href="https://wcf11.org/wcf-xi-registration/?vip">“VIP” tickets</a> were also available at $350 per person, or $500 per married couple, including special receptions, lunches, and a “networking lounge.” There was also an extra one-day European pro-life forum. </p><p dir="ltr">After lunch, participants split into groups for sessions like “family advocacy at international institutions” and an “emerging leaders pro-family training” focused on “how to win at networking, campaigning, fundraising and advocacy.” </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/FullSizeRender(6).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Budapest family festival."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/FullSizeRender(6).jpg" alt="Budapest family festival." title="Budapest family festival." width="460" height="299" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Budapest family festival. Photo: Claire Provost.</span></span></span>There was music, and games too. On Saturday night: a “Symphony of Life.” And on Sunday: a “Viva Familia” Family Festival in Budapest. “We are the builders of the new culture that… will span the globe,” said one speaker at the summit. “We need to redeem Hollywood,” said another.</p><p dir="ltr">From South Africa, one speaker said that, after the fall of apartheid in 1994, “the doors were thrown open and an ultra-liberal constitution was imposed on us...and all kinds of wickedness came into South Africa including pornography”.</p><p dir="ltr">The “LGBT agenda” he added, “is an ideology that's been imposed on us...it is not part of African culture, it is imported from other nations”. </p><p dir="ltr">“This is a war,” he insisted.</p><h2 dir="ltr">A transnational “anti-rights” alliance</h2><p dir="ltr">For years women’s rights activists have warned that groups pushing back against rights related to gender and sexuality have become increasingly organised and interconnected. Last year, a new <a href="https://www.oursplatform.org/">Observatory on the Universality of Rights</a> (OURs) was set up by more than a dozen organisations to monitor these groups.</p><p dir="ltr">Their <a href="https://www.oursplatform.org/resource/rights-risk-trends-report-2017/">first report</a>, released last month, mapped how a “transnational community” of “anti-rights actors” has formed and the impact it's had on “watering down of existing agreements… deadlock and conservatism in negotiations; sustained undermining of UN agencies… and success in pushing through regressive language in international human rights documents”.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/OURS-graphic1_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="OURs infographic"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/OURS-graphic1_0.png" alt="Mapping anti-rights groups and connections." title="OURs infographic" width="460" height="280" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mapping anti-rights groups and connections. Infographic: OURs initiative.</span></span></span>At the Budapest summit, WCF president Brian Brown said “something new is happening.” He insisted: “what unites us is so fundamental...we have to be willing to speak together.”</p><p dir="ltr">Several speakers said “the family” is a “common cause” between countries including Russia and the US regardless of other tensions.</p><p dir="ltr">One man said explicitly that attendees should “appropriate" human rights language and use positive messages of love, joy, peace and hope to draw people in.</p><p dir="ltr">Another stressed the “key to winning any campaign” is to “bring the majority of the public”. He said: “that's a war of culture, of a whole society”.</p><p dir="ltr">After the event, a<a href="http://www.manilatimes.net/family-takes-center-stage-global-politics/329818/">&nbsp;delegate from the Philippines</a> said the WCF has “created a new model of cooperation between government and national and international family organisations on the defense of human life, the family and marriage”. </p><p dir="ltr">In the Philippines, <a href="https://www.reproductiverights.org/sites/crr.civicactions.net/files/documents/pub_fac_philippines_1%2010.pdf">abortion has been criminalised for over a century</a> and President Rodrigo Duterte has recently said the country will not legalise same-sex marriage, stressing that it is <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/world/asia/duterte-same-sex-marriage-philippines.html?_r=0">Asia’s bastion of Roman Catholicism</a>. Last month, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/27/rodrigo-duterte-jokes-to-soldiers-that-they-can-women-with-impunity">Duterte also “joked” with soldiers</a> on Mindanao island, where he imposed martial law, that they could rape women with impunity. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In a session at the Budapest summit, Claudio D'Amico read a statement from Matteo Salvini, leader of the Italian right-wing Lega Nord (“Northern League”) party, urging collaboration to defend the “natural family” that is “constantly being threatened”.</p><p dir="ltr">D'Amico said pro-family agreements can be struck between MPs from diverse parties. Last year, he said, he helped organise a “Family Lunch” with representatives from countries including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Sweden and Switzerland, on the sidelines of an Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) parliamentary assembly. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/FullSizeRender(5).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="World Congress of Families summit in Budapest."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/FullSizeRender(5).jpg" alt="World Congress of Families summit in Budapest." title="World Congress of Families summit in Budapest." width="460" height="299" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>World Congress of Families summit in Budapest. Photo: Claire Provost.</span></span></span>A representative from the Dveri party in Serbia said support from the WCF was “life-changing.” In 2013, “we managed to stop the Gay Pride parade in our capital city,” he said to applause. “We're looking at our neighbours, the Hungarians, as an example of how to create a family-friendly country,” he added.</p><p dir="ltr">Hungary is “the hero of pro-family and pro-life leaders from all over the world,” <a href="https://wcf11.org/wcf-xi-description">according to the WCF</a> website, celebrating the government’s “defense of family, life, and Christianity”. </p><p dir="ltr">The summit itself had opened with a “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/26/hungary-lgbt-world-congress-families-viktor-orban">pugnacious speech</a>” by Hungarian President Viktor Orban, in which he claimed the European Union was dominated by a “liberal ideology that’s an insult to families”. The <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/26/hungary-lgbt-world-congress-families-viktor-orban">Guardian called Hungary’s hosting of the summit</a> “the latest episode in Orban’s quest to position himself as a self-styled defender of “European Christian values”, a role he has used to justify his Fidesz government’s draconian treatment of mainly Muslim refugees and migrants”.</p><p dir="ltr">Under Orban’s leadership, Hungary has defined marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman, and life as beginning at conception, in its new 2011 constitution. The government has also introduced new policies to promote large families with many children in particular.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“the hero of pro-family and pro-life leaders from all over the world”</p><p dir="ltr">Access to abortion, while legal, has been limited by “unnecessary waiting periods, hostile counselling or conscientious objection,” according to <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/02/06/dispatches-hungary-tells-women-wait">a UN working group</a>. Homophobic remarks have been made at the highest level, including by the mayor of Budapest who in 2015 reportedly said homosexuality is “<a href="http://index.hu/belfold/2015/06/04/tarlos_a_pride_visszataszito/">unnatural and repulsive</a>”.</p><p dir="ltr">Many of the summit attendees were from the US where Vice President Michael Pence – an “<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/07/15/what-it-means-that-mike-pence-called-himself-an-evangelical-catholic/?utm_term=.9af5786b5af4">evangelical Catholic</a>” – declared that “<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/mike-pence-abortion-rally-life-washington-dc-donald-trump-annual-event-a7550476.html">life is winning again in America</a>” at an anti-abortion rally in January.</p><p dir="ltr">Trump’s administration has already reinstated and expanded the '<a href="http://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(17)30084-0/fulltext?rss=yes">Global Gag Rule</a>' prohibiting US foreign aid money from going to organisations that provide or even give information about abortion. It has also <a href="http://time.com/4724227/unfpa-funding-trump-mexico-city-policy-abortion/">defunded the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)</a>. </p><p>Earlier this year, the US government’s official delegation to the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women meetings in New York also<a href="http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2017/03/15/trump-is-sending-anti-lgbt-activists-to-un-womens-rights-conference/">&nbsp;included an activist from the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM)</a> – a key player in the “pro-family” lobby at the international level. Among other things, C-FAM sends out e-mail newsletters with subject lines like: “Anti-Christians Continue Attack on Pro-Lifers, Your Help Needed” and “8 Days and Counting...Radical Feminists Descend on UN”.</p><h2 dir="ltr">"Positive stories"</h2><p dir="ltr">The OURs report warned that “anti-rights actors are making inroads into human rights standards” with growing numbers and networks and “imaginative and sustained re-conceptions of what human rights norms should and do mean”.</p><p dir="ltr">At the international level, it said, these groups “are no longer merely on the defensive or reactive; they are strategic and proactive”. Their goal, it suggested, is to insert and insist on language at the international human rights level “that validates patriarchal, hierarchical, discriminatory and culturally relativist norms”.</p><p dir="ltr">Numerous alternative or parallel human rights declarations and documents have been drawn up and promoted by these groups over the years including the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.familywatchinternational.org/fwi/declaration_on_the_rights_of_children.cfm">Declaration on Rights of Children and their Families</a>, the&nbsp;<a href="https://civilsocietyforthefamily.org/">Family Articles</a>, the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.worldfamilydeclaration.org/">World Family Declaration</a>, the&nbsp;<a href="http://rightsofthefamily.org/">Declaration on the Rights of the Family</a>, the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.politicalnetworkforvalues.org/aims.html">Decalogue of Commitments for Human Dignity and the Common Good</a>, and the&nbsp;<a href="http://sanjosearticles.com/?page_id=2">San Jose Articles</a>&nbsp;– which assert state responsibility to “protect the unborn child from abortion”.</p><p dir="ltr">The WCF summit closed with its own declaration – a “Budapest covenant.” It says: “The natural family is the true reservoir of liberty and the foundation of effective democracy”. For avoidance of doubt, it defines this natural family as one man and one woman, married, for life, for “the purposes of procreation”.</p><p dir="ltr">It calls on “peoples and nations to make new alliances" for the "natural family" and put it "at the centre of political and cultural life”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“to restore the natural family we must use TV”</p><p dir="ltr">In his speech, Hanick, the former Fox News producer, insisted, more specifically: “To restore the natural family we must use TV.”</p><p dir="ltr">“As more positive stories about any topic appear, public opinion in the US moves,” he said, adding that, when this happens, politicians and courts move too. He closed with a specific challenge to the audience: to “get one positive story about the natural family up every three months on your local TVs”.</p><p dir="ltr">Once that’s accomplished, he said, try for every month, then every week, then every day. “Public opinion will change,” he declared. For single, divorced and unmarried parents, LGBT communities, and the reproductive rights of women everywhere, it was an ominous promise indeed. </p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Equality International politics Tracking the backlash 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Gender and the UN 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 newsletter feminism fundamentalisms gender patriarchy sexual identities women's human rights Claire Provost Tue, 06 Jun 2017 08:59:55 +0000 Claire Provost 111297 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How do we fight anti-rights fundamentalism at the United Nations? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/observatory-on-universality-of-rights/fundamentalism-united-nations <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An extract from the <a href="https://www.oursplatform.org/resource/rights-risk-trends-report-2017/">first report</a> of a new initiative tracks how fundamentalist groups have embraced the UN as a site to foster conservative social change.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/OURS-graphic1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Mapping anti-rights actors and their connections"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/OURS-graphic1.png" alt="Mapping anti-rights actors and their connections." title="Mapping anti-rights actors and their connections" width="460" height="280" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mapping anti-rights actors and their connections. Infographic: OURs Initiative. </span></span></span>The trend is unmistakable and deeply alarming: in international human rights spaces, religious fundamentalists are now operating with increased impact, frequency, coordination, resources, and support.<br /><br />The worldwide rise in religious fundamentalist actors is not happening in a vacuum. This growing phenomenon is inextricably linked to geopolitics, systemic and growing inequalities and economic disparities, conflict, militarism, and other political, social, and economic factors. In turn, these factors drive religious fundamentalists to regional and international policy spaces in search of increased impact.<br /><br />Our ongoing analysis of religious fundamentalisms and fundamentalist discourses and strategies underpins our understanding of the forces currently at play at the United Nations. Religious fundamentalisms are about the strategic use and misuse of religion by particular state and non-state actors to gain power and control. They are about the authoritarian manipulation of religion, as well as references to culture and tradition, rhetoric linked to sovereignty, and employment of patriarchal and absolutist interpretations of religion to achieve political, social and/or economic power. Across regions and religious contexts, fundamentalisms seek to employ references to religion, culture, and tradition to justify violence and discrimination.<br /><br />A common theme amongst conservative and anti-rights actors is their fixation on gender and sexuality. Gender justice is greatly undermined by the strategies of religious fundamentalisms, which use the bodies of women, girls, and individuals with non-conforming gender identities or sexual orientations as a battlefield in their struggles to appropriate and maintain institutional and social power. Time and again, across regions and levels, women are turned into symbols of community, embodiments of the nation's 'culture and tradition' and its future reproduction. Women and non-conforming bodies and sexualities become key sites of religio-political preoccupation and control, as they are considered the custodians of family norms and honor.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">...women are turned into symbols of community, embodiments of the nation's 'culture and tradition'...</span>Unsurprisingly then, in a recent study on young feminist organising worldwide, a significant percentage of the 1,400 survey participants described fundamentalisms as a top challenge to their work, and a significant threat to their safety and security. In a previous survey of over 1,600 Women Human Rights Defenders worldwide, activists listed the top negative impacts of religious fundamentalists as: limited health rights and reduced fulfillment of reproductive rights; less autonomy for women; increased gender-based violence; restrictions on sexual rights; and diminished rights for women in the public sphere.</p><p>We now watch as these fundamentalist strategies and preoccupations manifest themselves at the international human rights level. The United Nations has become another space in which bodies and autonomy are used as pawns in a struggle to appropriate institutional power. But here the impact of religious fundamentalisms is not to violate our rights directly, but to erode the very basis on which we can make claims at all. If, according to their arguments, we have no rights to violate, then there will be no basis to claim rights or hold our governments accountable.<span class="mag-quote-center">Anti-rights actors are chipping away at the very content and structure of our human rights...</span></p><p>Anti-rights actors are chipping away at the very content and structure of our human rights concepts, institutions, and protections, with disastrous consequences for human rights and gender justice. These manifest in sexual rights, including rights to bodily integrity, the right to choose one's partner, and the right to decide on sexual relations; rights related to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI); reproductive rights and health, including access to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), contraception, and safe abortion; equal property and inheritance rights; equal rights in all aspects of family law including marriage, divorce, and custody of children; freedom of expression, belief, assembly, and opinion; the right to reclaim, reaffirm, and participate in all aspects of religious and cultural life; the right to live free from gender-based violence; and women's full equality. </p><p>Anti-rights mobilisation at the international level constitutes a response to the significant feminist and progressive organising and impact therein over the past three decades. It also represents ultra-conservative actors' new commitment to multilateral processes as a space of influence. Today we are witnessing a set of interlocking factors that paint an unsettling picture of our human rights system under attack: increased coordination of religious fundamentalists across regional, institutional, and religious lines in human rights spaces, and the strategic and proactive undermining and co-optation of our human rights framework.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/OURS-graphic2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Key anti-rights strategies"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/OURS-graphic2.png" alt="Key anti-rights strategies. " title="Key anti-rights strategies" width="460" height="280" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Key anti-rights strategies. Infographic: OURs Initiative.</span></span></span>Although fundamentalisms are often shaped in opposition to globalisation, they also embrace the international realm as a site to foster conservative social change. Similarly, while their messaging is often situated in an opposition to modernity, they are both a product of modernity and happy to fight using 'modern' tools. Fundamentalist discourses are strongly focused on the primacy of 'state sovereignty' and question the very legitimacy of international standards and their universal application to all. Their engagement in the international arena operates as a Trojan horse meant to undercut the objectives and operation of human rights systems, transform the human rights framework, and transmit new rights norms infused with their values and messaging.</p><p>In international human rights spaces anti-rights actors are misusing religion, along with arguments based on culture, tradition, and national sovereignty, to erode and undermine the universality of human rights. Common themes emerge in their advocacy: emphasis of the 'traditional family,' 'morality,' protection, and fixed gender roles; emotive and divisive language; misleading and co-opted discourses and misinformation; charges of elitism; and arguments based on ideas of moral superiority and cultural 'authenticity.'</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Although fundamentalisms are often shaped in opposition to globalisation, they also embrace the international realm as a site to foster conservative social change.</span></p><p>Feminist and other progressive activists have worked hard to hold our ground and to push back against these hostile initiatives to protect and further our rights. We now need a sharper understanding of these trends, including key actors, discourses, and their current impact, in order to continue countering them. Based on this knowledge, we need to organise collectively and creatively to maintain and continue developing human right standards to reclaim our rights, protect universality, and hold governments accountable for their rights violations.<br /><br /><em>The Observatory on the Universality of Rights (OURs) is a new collaborative initiative to monitor, analyse, and share information on anti-rights initiatives. The focus of its <a href="https://www.oursplatform.org/resource/rights-risk-trends-report-2017/">first report</a> is the international human rights sphere. It includes information on anti-rights actors, their discourses, strategies, and significant impacts in 2015 and 2016.</em></p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Equality Tracking the backlash 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism Gender and the UN women's movements women's human rights women and power patriarchy gender fundamentalisms bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter The Observatory on the Universality of Rights Thu, 25 May 2017 10:18:15 +0000 The Observatory on the Universality of Rights 111115 at https://www.opendemocracy.net "Visionary and creative resistance": meet the women challenging extractivism – and patriarchy https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/inna-michaeli-semanur-karaman/women-resistance-extractive-industries <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Environmental degradation is deliberate, violent and patriarchal. From Turkey to Guatemala, women are on the frontlines of resistance.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Afro-descendant Women’s Organising in Latin America_credit Gabby de Cicco.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Afro-descendant Women’s Organising in Latin America"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Afro-descendant Women’s Organising in Latin America_credit Gabby de Cicco.jpg" alt="Afro-descendant women organisers in Latin America." title="Afro-descendant Women’s Organising in Latin America" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Afro-descendant women organisers in Latin America. Photo: Gabby de Cicco.</span></span></span>“What is the state? We are the state! The state is the state thanks to us” <a href="http://www.birgun.net/haber-detay/havva-ananin-isyani-kimdir-devlet-devlet-bizim-sayemizde-devlettir-84583.html">said Havva Ana</a> (Mother Eve), a 63-year old woman who, in July 2015, joined a demonstration to block the demolition of ancient forests in Rize, Turkey. </p><p dir="ltr">What Havva Ana meant was that the state depends on the people for its legitimacy – and that it must not prioritise short-term profit over their rights and wellbeing. The forests of Çamlıhemşin have, for hundreds of years, provided livelihoods and ancestral connection in the Black Sea region.</p><p dir="ltr">In the face of the destruction, she resisted bulldozers and security forces, forming a human chain with other protesters to block their advance. She confronted this violence with all she had: putting her body on the line. Police forcibly removed the protesters from the site, enabling the demolition to go ahead. </p><p dir="ltr">Havva Ana is a part of a larger ecosystem of women on the frontline of struggles to defend land, territory and livelihoods from violent models of “development” based on extractivism and the unconstrained commodification of nature. <span class="mag-quote-right">Globally, economic and political elites are destroying the planet...</span></p><p dir="ltr">This is dangerous work and human rights and environmental defenders have faced systematic attacks. Globally, economic and political elites are destroying the planet, violating international human rights standards and treaties to protect the rights of indigenous people.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In 2015, 156 killings were recorded by the <a href="https://www.protecting-defenders.org/en/reports-and-documents">UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders</a>; 45% were of defenders of environmental, land and indigenous rights. For that same year, the <a href="https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/dangerous-ground/">NGO Global Witness</a> documented killings of 185 human rights defenders across 16 countries, with Brazil, the Philippines and Colombia in the lead and many of those killed indigenous activists. </p><p dir="ltr">Berta Cáceres’ assassination last year in her home in Honduras, following years of activism to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/03/honduras-berta-caceres-murder-enivronment-activist-human-rights">protect the Gualcarque River</a> from the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project, is emblematic of reprisals against women who resist environmental destruction and powerful interests. Recent<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/28/berta-caceres-honduras-military-intelligence-us-trained-special-forces"> legal evidence</a> indicates the Honduran government may have collaborated with US-trained paramilitary forces to murder her.</p><p dir="ltr">Many other attacks and killings likely go unreported. </p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, <a href="https://www.awid.org/publications/women-human-rights-defenders-confronting-extractive-industries">new research</a> from <a href="http://www.awid.org/">AWID</a> and the <a href="http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/">Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition</a>, based on consultations with women from Africa, Asia and Latin America, reveals clear gender-specific patterns of violence against women defending lands and communities – and looks at women's strategies for action and resistance to extractive industries and corporate power.</p><p dir="ltr">“When they threaten me, they say that they will kill me, but before they kill me they will rape me. They don’t say that to my male colleagues. These threats are very specific to indigenous women,” said Lolita Chavez, an indigenous woman human rights defender from Guatemala, in her testimony gathered as part of this research. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">Women experience additional gender-specific threats...</span></p><p dir="ltr">Many human right defenders worldwide face criminalisation, stigmatisation, and violence – but women experience additional gender-specific threats.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">For instance, stigmatisation may involve sexually-degrading terms or question a woman as a good mother; the economic marginalisation of women can make it difficult to raise money for bail if arrested; private security, paramilitary and police officers protecting corporate interests have used rape, sexual violence, and intimidation against women human rights defenders. </p><p dir="ltr">Importantly, women confronting extractive industries challenge not only corporate power, but also patriarchy – and they face repression on both fronts. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Visionary and creative resistance</h2><p dir="ltr">Mirtha Váazquez, a woman human rights defender from Peru said:&nbsp;"For us, development has to do with the welfare and dignity of people and with the self-determination of how they want to live.”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/A snapshot of WHRDs at an AWID convening in Kenya. Photo credit Hakima Abbas-AWID.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="WHRDs at an AWID convening in Kenya. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/A snapshot of WHRDs at an AWID convening in Kenya. Photo credit Hakima Abbas-AWID.jpg" alt="Women human rights defenders." title="WHRDs at an AWID convening in Kenya. " width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women human rights defenders at an AWID meeting in Kenya. Photo: Hakima Abbas-AWID.</span></span></span>Despite the violent treatment they too often face, women defenders of land, people and nature have been visionary and creative. Critically, our research also highlights successful and inspiring work of women confronting extractive industries and corporate power.</p><p dir="ltr">One such story is that of Aleta Baun, an indigenous woman from Indonesia who travelled village to village to organise local opposition to marble mining. </p><p dir="ltr">She faced arrests, beatings and death threats. But, with courage and determination she reached hundreds of people and together with other women spent an entire year occupying the entrance of a mining site, weaving traditional textiles.&nbsp;In 2010, after a year of peaceful protest, public pressure forced the companies to abandon their operations. In 2013, Baun won the Goldman Environmental Prize.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Around the world, women are demanding an end to corporate power destroying the planet for short-term gain and greed, and bringing forward visions of development committed to people and nature instead. </p><p dir="ltr">As Bonita Meyersfeld, law professor at the&nbsp;University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, put it: “A project that will generate economic benefits can only be called development if those profits are reinvested in the community. If not, we are talking about exploitation, not development”. </p><p>Havva Ana, Aleta Baun, Berta Caceres, and many thousands of other women around the world are resisting the equation of development with foreign investment and profit for the few. Instead, they offer a critical, progressive vision of development driven by self-determination, dignity and caring respect for nature.&nbsp;We must listen to them.</p><p><em><strong>Read the report <a href="https://www.awid.org/publications/women-human-rights-defenders-confronting-extractive-industries">Women human rights defenders confronting extractive industries</a>. </strong></em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Women's rights and corporate power Women and the Economy 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders women's movements women's human rights women and power violence against women patriarchy 50.50 newsletter Inna Michaeli and Semanur Karaman Wed, 03 May 2017 10:00:51 +0000 Inna Michaeli and Semanur Karaman 110554 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Older women living with HIV in the UK: discrimination and broken confidentiality https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jacqui-stevenson/older-women-living-with-hiv-facing-discrimination-and-broken-confidentiality-i <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Women accessing HIV care services in the UK report being told to use separate cutlery, being refused help to shower, and having visitors being told by care workers not to associate with them. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/WomenlivingwithHIVUKNov2016(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/WomenlivingwithHIVUKNov2016(1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="282" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women living with HIV in the UK. Image: The Salamander Trust </span></span></span></p><p><em>“We're worried about care homes for people with our disability. In other words they will mistreat you.” </em>Workshop participant</p> <p>As life expectancy grows, more of us can anticipate needing some kind of care in our older age. Worry over such potential future care is not uncommon. This can be fears generated by <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27266963">terrible stories in the media</a> about poor treatment in residential care homes. Or worry over burdening family and friends. Concern over the costs of care and how they might be met loom large. Some though face additional cause for concern, particularly those living with stigmatised conditions such as HIV. In recent years, increasing evidence has emerged both of discriminatory treatment of people living with HIV in residential or domiciliary care, and of the fears that many people living with HIV have over facing this in their future. </p> <p>As huge advances have been made in HIV treatment and care, people living with HIV can now expect a <a href="http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/3106.aspx?CategoryID=118&amp;SubCategoryID=126">normal life expectancy</a>. Due to this, the population of older people living with HIV is growing, with <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/574667/HIV_in_the_UK_2016.pdf">one in three people</a> accessing HIV care services in 2015 aged over 50, <a href="http://www.tht.org.uk/~/media/Files/Publications/Policy/uncharted_territory_final_low-res.pdf">29.960 people</a> in total. This is also driven by increasing rates of diagnosis of HIV amongst older people: in 2015, <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/574667/HIV_in_the_UK_2016.pdf">17% of new diagnoses</a> were amongst people aged over 50.</p> <p><a href="http://www.tht.org.uk/~/media/Files/Publications/Policy/Uncharted_territory_summary_Final_low-res.pdf">Recent research by the HIV charity THT</a>, with people living with HIV over the age of 50, found that 82% of respondents were concerned about being able to access adequate social care as they grew older, and 88% had not made financial plans to meet their care needs. This lack of financial preparation was rooted in high rates of poverty experienced by older people with HIV, with 58% of the THT survey respondents living on or below the poverty line. In addition, people taking part in the survey reported poor experiences with social care where they were already accessing it, including having their HIV status revealed to friends and family without their consent.</p> <p>The National AIDS Trust published <a href="http://www.nat.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/NAT_Res_Dom_Care_Report_July_2015.pdf">guidance on HIV for care providers</a> in 2015, to address knowledge gaps and potential stigma and discrimination amongst care workers and in care settings. The guidance includes experiences shared by people living with HIV and specialist social workers, describing discrimination and broken confidentiality, including people being refused help to shower, being made to use separate cutlery, or having visitors or other residents informed of their HIV status and advised not to visit or associate with them. These experiences reflect those reported in the THT research, and in other studies.</p> <p>Many people living with HIV will be familiar with such experiences, and know or know of people who have faced stigma and discrimination in care settings. In <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_5XkUwJTVGwQUh2WDdJdkxzWTA/view">my own research</a>, exploring the experiences of ageing with HIV for women in London, with a focus on health and social care needs, such concerns have been shared repeatedly by older women living with HIV.</p> <p>Women make up <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/574667/HIV_in_the_UK_2016.pdf">almost a third</a> of people living with HIV in the UK, yet are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/jacquistevenson/minority-within-a-minorit_b_15184762.html">often missing from research and under-represented in policy</a>. In terms of ageing, women face specific gendered experiences and challenges, including biological issues like menopause and loss of bone density and social experiences such as providing care for others. Women also have significant concerns around care and care homes, which are sometimes underrepresented in discussions about care challenges for older people with HIV. In my study, women have reported a range of worries, in addition to concerns about discrimination, including the fear of navigating a care system without children or other family members to act as advocates, and about losing the ability to maintain confidentiality and control disclosure of their HIV status to those close to them. The following are quotes from older women living with HIV taking part in either workshops or a participatory literature review as part of my research, and illustrate the range of concerns that women have.</p> <p>For older women living with HIV who do not have children, or have children that live elsewhere, the prospect of entering care without family to advocate for their needs and ensure they receive good treatment is a source of real worry. In many cases, this is compounded for women who have experiences in navigating the care system on behalf of others, with women I spoke to who have parents in care describing how they felt they played a significant role in ensuring their parent(s) was safe and well-cared for, and feared having no-one to play that role for them:</p> <p><em>“…if that plays out as dementia I feel very fearful of how that scenario is going to be without a family to sort of advocate on my behalf.”</em></p> <p><em>&nbsp;“I would be concerned because I've been directly you know looking after my parents and facilitating their care in both a nursing home last year and now a residential care home and I can just see the vulnerabilities once you're in the care system, in an institution, it's really difficult to negotiate anything for yourself and you really are at the mercy, you know, if you've got nobody keeping an eye on things, you just have to hope that it goes alright”</em></p> <p>For others, their fears were shaped or increased by the experiences of friends or others in their networks, who had experienced discrimination, from poor care to disclosure of HIV status:</p> <p><em>“… also a concern because some of the carers would gossip about other patients so yeah there was a possibility that they were gossiping about her to other patients.”</em></p> <p><em>“Again I'm going to give an example because I do peer support. There is someone who lives with HIV and she's partially blind and she has been allocated carers. They come to her for her daily needs, personal care. This still happens, they disclosed her status.”</em></p> <p>Some women described fears over losing the ability to manage their own medication and clinic appointments, and becoming dependent on others, which would necessitate others knowing their HIV status, and potentially lead to discriminatory treatment:</p> <p><em>“…I always think of the time when I'll start losing my senses, not being able to do things for myself, that alone kills me. I personally, I would say, if I had to go, I don't want to get to that age where someone will have to give me my medication… I mean because of the stigma.”</em></p> <p>Overall, when women described their future care needs and how they might be met, they described fear and worry, over the treatment and standard of care they could expect to receive:</p> <p><em>&nbsp;“… you know my, my most fear is getting old and being put up in a home where people are so ignorant and they're going to treat me, and they can show my files to each other, and gossiping about me. I have nightmares, I have nightmares about this....”</em></p> <p>To alleviate this anxiety, it is essential that training in HIV is implemented as a requirement for all care providers, and that care homes and other facilities are supported to ensure they provide a safe and non-discriminatory setting for people living with HIV. A number of women in my study also suggested the need for care system navigators and advocates for people living with HIV, who could speak up on their behalf and had the training and knowledge to support people living with HIV to access high quality care and to solve challenges where they emerge. Beyond this, HIV stigma is a social issue that needs to be addressed across society. HIV specific support services must also be protected and supported, yet just this past week, it was revealed by a Freedom of Information request by the <a href="http://www.nat.org.uk/press-release/exposed-huge-national-cuts-hiv-support-services">National AIDS Trust</a> that such services have received a 28% funding cut between 2015/16 and 2016/17. This must be reversed to ensure that to ensure that people living and ageing with HIV have access to the specialist support and care that they need. The population of older people living with HIV will continue to grow, and urgent action, resources and attention is needed to ensure they are able to access quality, non-discriminatory and comprehensive care and support.</p> <p><strong><em>Read more articles on openDemocracy 50.50's platform:</em> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-aids-gender-and-human-rights">AIDS Gender and Human Rights </a></strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn-luisa-orza/welcome-to-our-house-women-living-with-hiv">Welcome to our house: women living with HIV</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/silvia-petretti/hiv-both-cause-and-consequence-of-violence-against-women">HIV: both the cause and the consequence of violence against women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/hivaids-and-holistic-healthcare-can-spirituality-and-science-meet">HIV, AIDS and holistic healthcare: can spirituality and science meet?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/silvia-petretti/i-am-one-of-those-foreigners-living-with-hiv-in-uk">&quot;I am one of those foreigners&quot;: living with HIV in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marama-pala/nobody-left-behind-lives-of-indigenous-women-with-hiv">Nobody Left Behind? 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Ayesha Khan presents her analysis of the way religious fundamentalism impacts on gender and development in Pakistan.Photo: Rahila Gupta</span></span></span></p><p>Ruth Pearson, Emeritus Professor of International Development at the University of Leeds, one of the speakers at a seminar on Gender, Fundamentalism and Development, recounted how issues on which a consensus could not be reached in international conferences, such as the 1995 Beijing Women’s conference, would be placed in a square bracket.&nbsp; Unsurprisingly, ‘gender’ more often than not ended up in a square bracket, usually as the result of pressure from religious, conservative governments like Iran or the Vatican because they found the idea that gender was socially constructed rather than biologically fixed a threatening one. In this interesting series of seminars, organised jointly by SOAS and UEL (University of East London), on ‘Gender, fundamentalism and… ’ the third issue changes each time to ensure that gender and fundamentalism are foregrounded whether we are looking at the government’s PREVENT strategy or development issues. There was a truly international dimension to the discussion with some speakers zooming in on countries as diverse as Kenya, Myanmar, Pakistan and Jordan, while others roamed the globe more broadly at a dizzying speed.</p> <p>The most obvious, most recent and most well-known example of the way in which these three issues intersect is the so-called ‘global gag rule’ imposed by Donald Trump which blocks US funds to any organisation involved in abortion care and advice. Ruth explained that while this has been the kneejerk policy reinstatement of every Republican president since Reagan, Trump’s order goes further and applies to any healthcare organisation in receipt of US Aid, not just family planning organisations. </p> <p>Speaker after speaker outlined the way in which the aid and development agenda has been skewed by a new world order shaped by the rise of religious forces. &nbsp;According to Ruth, the reason why there has been no further UN conference since Beijing 1995 is because progress in universal human rights and reproductive rights for women could no longer be relied on in the post-cold war world with the dissolution of the Soviet Bloc and its commitment to secularism.</p> <p>The shrinking of the state under neo-liberalism in many parts of the world combined with austerity budgets and reduced welfare spending has left it wide open for FBOs (faith based organisations) to take over services, many of which are delivered to women in need. &nbsp;Ruth cited a WHO report which estimated that 40% of health services in Sub-Saharan Africa are provided by the faith-based sector and between 30 to 70% of health sector infrastructure there is owned by FBOs. Afaf Jabiri, Senior Lecturer at the School of Social Sciences, UEL, pointed out that in Jordan, shelters for women are run by the women’s wing of the Islamic front which refuse to admit women escaping sexual violence as they are seen to be ‘immoral’ women who were in some way complicit in the crime. </p> <p>In Pakistan, local religious actors have been flexing their muscles on a range of issues such as education for girls and reproductive rights for women; the development paradigm there has been affected by Talibanisation.&nbsp; Ayesha Khan, who works with the Collective for Social Science Research in Karachi, reported that ‘There is a new interest in faith based programming, new support for informal justice mechanisms and sidelining of rights based discourse. Aid agencies are shrinking their vision of the achievable.’&nbsp; USAID spent time and money trying to win over local mullahs to support their campaign for increased contraceptive uptake although there is no empirical evidence to suggest that this strategy might work. In fact, family planning is one area where there is a convergence of views between the Taliban and mainstream political parties. Militants believe that family planning is a cover for a conspiracy to reduce the Muslim population. Their slogan, <em>‘barra khandan, jihad asaan </em>’ i.e. bigger families makes jihad easier, is hardly like to be a good fit with women’s reproductive rights.</p> <p>The power of local religious actors to impact the women’s rights agenda is very clearly visible in the impact that the Pakistani Taliban has had on the delivery of primary health services in the border areas contiguous with Afghanistan. The women who worked in the <a href="http://www.who.int/workforcealliance/knowledge/case_studies/CS_Pakistan_web_en.pdf">Lady Health Workers programme</a>, partly funded by external aid agencies, delivering vaccinations, ante-natal screenings, nutrition counselling and contraceptives were discredited for the crime of leaving their homes to carry out their duties and earning money. Many stopped going to work when the Taliban decreed that they should be punished by sexual assault or death. </p> <p>The post 9/11 punitive atmosphere fomented by the War on Terror initiatives across the world has also encouraged a counter movement of engaging enthusiastically with faith based organisations (FBOs), or rowing back on women’s rights in a placatory measure. A commander of the Britsh Metropolitan police <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/jun/26/immigration.childprotection">complained</a> that police work on forced marriage was being hampered by the British government’s desire to keep religious leaders onside in the bigger fight against extremism. In Pakistan, the government trades women’s rights in exchange for the integration of its religiously conservative tribal areas into the political system of the country. Ayesha described government moves to legalise the <em>jirga</em>, or tribal council, used in conflict resolution, a move opposed by women’s groups. A range of international donor agencies, including DFID and the World Bank are funding capacity building and training for jirga members despite the fact that their record of delivering justice to women stands on shaky grounds. In the UK too, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/pragna-patel/&#039;shariafication-by-stealth&#039;-in-uk">cuts in legal aid</a> have been partly responsible for increased uptake of parallel legal systems like the sharia councils.</p> <p>In many of the war zones, political power has been gained at gunpoint by religious leaders and ensured their inclusion in peace settlements. Syria is a prime example of this where <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/madeleine-rees/syrian-women-demand-to-take-part-in-peace-talks-in-geneva">women’s presence in the peace negotiations</a> is negligible even though research quoted by Valerie Amos, Director of SOAS, showed that the presence of women increased the prospect of lasting peace by 20 per cent.</p> <p>Whilst Valerie made a passionate case for the importance of the law in challenging gender discrimination, Ayesha showed how the law itself could be bypassed by the alternative dispute resolution system in Pakistan and Afaf explained how there was a deliberate blurring between laws and fatwas in Jordan as a way of bringing religious discourse into the mainstream. NGOs in Jordan have been campaigning for legislation to criminalise honour killings and to end the practice of forcing women to marry their rapists. Instead of passing laws, the Fatwa department issued fatwas to that effect, a move that was welcomed by UN Women as well as Jordanian feminists who had not taken fatwas seriously to date. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/WP_20170318_16_30_40_Pro(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/WP_20170318_16_30_40_Pro(1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>From l to r: Awino Okech, Nadje Al-Ali, Ayesha Khan, Ruth Pearson and Afaf Jabiri, SOAS seminar. Photo: Rahila Gupta </span></span></span></p> <p>International aid agencies have enforced new ways of networking for change: a DFID initiative to deal with domestic violence in Jordan expected NGOs to strategize together with ‘moderate’ religious leaders of different faiths. Afaf pointed to the irony of the easy alliance struck up between Muslim and Christian leaders against women’s rights. At the meeting between Jordan and CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women), Jordan was represented by two sharia judges, among others, despite the fact that it prides itself on its modernity. Afaf reported that CEDAW told the NGOs that now was not the right time to raise the issue of women’s rights in Jordan because it had enough on its plate with containing refugees and fundamentalism. In the past the NGOs would have been outraged but it is a sign of the extent to which they have co-opted.</p> <p>The unwillingness or inability of development agencies to understand the dangers of religious forces, moderate or otherwise, is one issue. There is also the issue of how fundamentalism is framed. Afaf referenced Edward Said’s notion of ‘imperial continuity’ in relation to the notion of fundamentalism and to whom it should apply, while referring to the <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/03/official-resigns-israel-apartheid-report-170317182241142.html">furore</a> over the ESCWA (Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia) report which documented religious fundamentalism within the settler colonial state of Israel. Rima Khalaf, Head of ESCWA, resigned in protest at being asked by the UNSG to withdraw the report because it labelled Israel an apartheid state. Afaf questioned the hypocrisy of international organisations which do not challenge Jewish claims to land promised by God while condemning ISIS for its claim to land in Syria and Iraq on the same grounds. </p> <p>It seems as if the ambitions on paper expressed in the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN, particularly <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/women-and-the-sdgs/sdg-5-gender-equality">SDG 5</a> which deals with gender equality, will continue to stand in inverse proportion to their likelihood of being achieved on the ground unless we are prepared to challenge religious forces which are implacably opposed to women’s rights.</p><p><em>Read more articles on openDemocracy 50.50's platform</em> <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-frontline-voices-against-muslim-fundamentalism">Frontline Voices Against Fundamentalism </a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/conflict-and-custom-in-new-world-order-conversation-with-gita-sahgal">Conflict and Custom in the New World Order : a conversation with Gita Sahgal</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/pragna-patel/sharia-debate-who-will-listen-to-us">The Sharia debate in the UK: who will listen to our voices? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/fundamentalism-and-education">Fundamentalism and education</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yasmin-rehman/muslim-women-and-met-only-pawn-in-their-game">Muslim women and the Met: Only a pawn in their game</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/preventing-violent-extremism-noose-both-too-tight-and-too-loose">Preventing violent extremism: a noose that is both too tight and too loose </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/pragna-patel/transnational-marriage-abandonment-new-form-of-violence-against-women">Transnational marriage abandonment: A new form of violence against women? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/chlo%C3%A9-lewis/religion-gender-and-migration-beyond-obedience-vs-agency%E2%80%99">Religion, gender and migration: beyond &#039;obedience vs agency’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/gita-sahgal/sharia-law-apostasy-and-secularism">Sharia law, apostasy and secularism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti-gita-sahgal/soft-law-and-hard-choices-conversation-with-gita-sahgal">&#039;Soft law&#039; and hard choices: a conversation with Gita Sahgal</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/culture-versus-rights-dualism-myth-or-reality">Culture versus rights dualism: a myth or a reality?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/progressive-muslims-in-world-of-isis-and-islamophobes">Progressive Muslims in a world of ISIS and Islamophobes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/faith-know-thy-place">Faith: know thy place</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/from-war-on-terror-to-austerity-lost-decade-for-women-and-human-rights">From the war on terror to austerity: a lost decade for women and human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sajda-mughal/ending-forced-marriage-in-uk-problem-with-top-down-policy">Ending forced marriage in the UK: the problem with top down policy </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/why-relentless-assault-on-abortion-in-united-states">Why the relentless assault on abortion in the United States?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 World Forum for Democracy 2017 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion women's human rights patriarchy gender fundamentalisms feminism 50.50 newsletter Rahila Gupta Mon, 03 Apr 2017 08:03:33 +0000 Rahila Gupta 109815 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'Faith and family': shrinking common ground at the UN CSW https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/stephanie-sugars/UN-CSW-Worldwide-Organisation-Women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Worldwide Organization for Women took a hard line against all forms of comprehensive sexual education, often provided by UN bodies, highlighting ideological differences within the CSW.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/CSW Open.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/CSW Open.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Opening of Commission on Status of Women 61st Session. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas</span></span></span></p><p>The conference room in the UN Church Center, New York, hummed with conversation. Like many of the events that had taken place over the last week and a half, women from around the world were gathered as part of the Commission on the Status of Women. But, the forum event hosted by the Worldwide Organization for Women on Tuesday was unlike almost all others: many speakers focused on condemning comprehensive sexuality education, a key policy of the UN long-advocated by the CSW.</p> <p>WOW was founded in 1977 with the motto: Faith, Family, Sovereignty. Their 14 Principles highlight traditional gender roles, the sanctity of life beginning at conception, and the “natural family.” Their stances on comprehensive sexual education, abortion, and LGBT issues tend towards the conservative, and they have not hesitated to vocally <a href="http://wowinfo.org/articles/do-you-know-what-really-happening-united-nations">resist</a> and condemn efforts the United Nations has made to address these issues. </p> <p>WOW is not alone: conservative groups such as Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam) and The Heritage Foundation have acted similarly. WOW’s concerns, and indeed even their motto, are reflected in a 2001 Heritage Foundation report: “How U.N. Conventions on Women’s and Children’s Rights Undermine Family, Religion, and Sovereignty.” Both C-Fam and The Heritage Foundation were included in the US’s official delegation to the CSW, and their influence on negotiations has never been higher.</p> <p>Yet WOW has worked in concert with other NGOs and the CSW in the past to sponsor and co-author statements on <a href="http://undocs.org/E/CN.6/2012/NGO/13">rural education</a>, <a href="http://undocs.org/E/CN.6/2012/NGO/65">mental health</a>, and <a href="http://undocs.org/E/CN.6/2013/NGO/78">gender-based violence</a>. In recent years, however, WOW has not contributed to any NGO statements to the CSW, instead focusing on events promoting their views on the “natural family” and motherhood. There is considerable room for collaboration and success on issues such as prevention of sexual violence against children and domestic and care work—both key focuses for the organization this year. But addressing WOW’s ideological concerns would roll back hard-won advances in women’s rights around the world.</p> <p>Amaka Ada Akudinobi, an active leader in WOW Africa, spoke on the state of sexual violence in Nigeria, highlighting persistent issues of child marriage, abduction, and rape, and the key role of the family. This aligns with the values and aims of the CSW and UN both. The importance of family to preventing or recognizing the signs of abuse was also stressed by Cecilia Anicama, a Programme Specialist on Violence against Children, during <a href="http://www.salvationarmy.org/isjc/csw6018">last year’s CSW</a>. And Special Representative to the UN Secretary General on Violence against Children Marta Santos Pais herself&nbsp;<a href="http://srsg.violenceagainstchildren.org/story/2017-03-10_1538">placed</a> protection of children from violence at the forefront of the Human Rights Council session earlier this month.</p> <p>There continues to be room for meaningful collaboration between conservative groups like WOW and the UN on issues of sexual violence, but this is not the case when it comes to Comprehensive Sexual Education. CSE has been central to United Nations efforts since the UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, UN Population Fund, UNICEF, and World Health Organization published <a href="http://www.unesco.org/new/en/hiv-and-aids/our-priorities-in-hiv/sexuality-education/international-technical-guidance-on-sexuality-education/">the first global guidance</a> on sexuality education in 2009. Today, it is integral to UNESCO’s strategy on HIV/AIDS, and is implemented by UNFPA with the help of local governments around the world. CSE “enables young people to protect their health, well-being and dignity,” UNFPA <a href="http://www.unfpa.org/comprehensive-sexuality-education">writes</a> on their website. “And because these programmes are based on human rights principles, they advance gender equality and the rights and empowerment of young people.”</p> <p>Speakers during WOW’s forum event were far from supportive of these programs. “We are not against sex education,” said Sharon Slater, president of Family Watch International. “But this goes way beyond sex education… its an assault on our children: on their health, on their innocence.” </p> <p>During the event, Slater screened an excerpt of “The War on Children,” a video produced by Family Watch International about CSE and what they term the “sexualization of children.” It highlighted the CSE’s “obsessive focus on abortion;” discussion of gender identity, claiming it leads to “gender confusion” and amounts to “mental molestation;” and Planned Parenthood’s goal of “hooking children on sex” because it “is a multi-billion-dollar industry for Planned Parenthood.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Pence_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Pence_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vice President Mike Pence speaks in front of the March for Life Friday, Jan. 27, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Credit: TNS/SIPA USA/PA Images</span></span></span></p><p>The FWI film contained multiple inaccurate or misleading statements. While it repeatedly condemned the inclusion of speaking with children between the ages of two and six about masturbation as an “assault on their innocence,” <a href="http://www.summitmedicalgroup.com/library/pediatric_health/pa-hhgbeh_masturbation/">multiple</a> <a href="http://nctsn.org/nctsn_assets/pdfs/caring/sexualdevelopmentandbehavior.pdf">pediatric</a> <a href="http://www.tncac.org/documents/3-child-sexual-behavior.pdf">associations</a> have <a href="https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/healthy-sexual-behaviour-children-young-people/">established</a> that it is healthy and normal for children around this age to discover and practice masturbation on their own. The film also claimed that abstinence-only or -focused education is as effective as CSE. However, research <a href="http://www.siecus.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.ViewPage&amp;PageID=1193#_edn1">has</a> <a href="http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/1487">found</a> that teens who received CSE as compared to abstinence-only education start having sex later, have less sex and fewer partners, are more likely to use protection, and are less likely to become pregnant or contract a sexually transmitted infection.</p> <p>Understanding WOW’s opposition to CSE requires recognizing one of the biggest threats they see to children: “moral grooming.” Yvonne Averett, vice president of WOW, identified “moral grooming,” as opposed to that done by sexual predators, as the most common form children are exposed to online. A slide during her presentation indirectly defined ‘moral grooming’ as exposure to “ideas that conflict with religious and family values.” It is this exposure that underlies many of the critiques WOW has of CSE, namely its inclusion of abortion, same-sex relationships, and exploration of gender identity. The education on these issues is seen as partisan and contrary to the values central to the cultural and religious beliefs of WOW and its members.</p> <p>It is on these issues that CSW and WOW, with the support of other conservative organizations and governments, have typically differed. The 61st session of the CSW has focused on women’s economic empowerment. WOW continues to champion traditional gender roles: “WOW knows that motherhood is the most important occupation and provides the most for world peace and economic global sustainability than any other occupation a woman can engage in,” said Nicholeen Peck, president of WOW. “When a mother sees her role of mother as the most significant role in her life, then she is more happy and her children are more happy.” While CSW has, for the first time, included language on sexual orientation and gender identity in the agreed conclusions, WOW’s centering of the “natural family” stands inherently opposed to what they regard as LGBT “lifestyles.” </p> <p>Reconciling these views are increasingly difficult and, for individuals on both sides, undesirable. The question remains: Is there room and reason to work together? On some issues, the answer appears to be yes. The inclusion of care and domestic work performed in the home in measures of GDP is a win for both WOW and the CSW this session, with the current draft stating that laws and policies should recognize “that work of the home, including unpaid care and domestic work, generates key human, social, and moral capital essential for sustainable development.” Yet conservative organizations are influencing language: well-established and widely-accepted references to sexual and reproductive health services are under threat this year because of their association with abortion services.</p> <p>The CSW does not need a unified front, even though it presents ‘agreed conclusions’ at the end of the meeting. Some issues will be left unaddressed far longer than their advocates would like; others will be fought against by those who see them as regressive or damaging. Norms and values shift and change as the push for fuller, more comprehensive protections and rights persists. Akudinobi, in reference to combatting female genital mutilation, said something applicable in many struggles for human rights: “How do you do that to a child? All in the name of culture? Maybe it was once our culture, for we all know that culture is not static. Culture was created by all of us, the community, and it’s time we stood up against it.”&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/culture-versus-rights-dualism-myth-or-reality">Culture versus rights dualism: a myth or a reality?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maggie-murphy/traditional-values-vs-human-rights-at-un">&#039;Traditional values&#039; vs human rights at the UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/zohra-moosa/csw-its-time-to-question-vaticans-power-at-un">CSW: it&#039;s time to question the Vatican&#039;s power at the UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maxine-molyneux/of-rights-and-risks-are-women%E2%80%99s-human-rights-in-jeopardy">Of rights and risks: are women’s human rights in jeopardy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/gender-wars-women-redefining-customs-as-crimes">Gender wars: women redefining customs as crimes </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Gender and the UN 50.50 Women's Movement Building UN Commission on the Status of Women 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 newsletter bodily autonomy fundamentalisms gender justice secularism women's movements Stephanie Sugars Sat, 25 Mar 2017 16:08:58 +0000 Stephanie Sugars 109679 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Without global solidarity the women’s movement will collapse https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nazik-awad/without-global-solidarity-women-s-movement-will-collapse <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Borders are closing across the world, blocking women from the Global South both from seeking refuge, having a voice and working on global gender justice.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div style="color: #666;font-size:110%;;margin-bottom:30px"><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women"><img style="float:right;width:auto !important" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/5050-uncsw2017-d-140x80px_1.png" /></a><p style="background-color:#f7f7f7;padding:10px;margin:0">This article is part of our <a style="color:#333;text-decoration:underline" href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women">coverage</a> of the United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women, New York, March 2017</p></div><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/PA-30571275.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/PA-30571275.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Halima Muzammil is one of many displaced women in Sudan, a country that the UN says is on the brink of genocide. Credit: PA Images/TNS.</span></span></span></p><p>In the wake of rising populism and authoritarianism in many countries where democracy and human rights used to prevail, women rights and gender justice are in danger of losing ground like never before. The xenophobic policies that aim to build walls and close borders are harmful to many, but for millions of women around the globe it could be no less than a death sentence. These policies are not closing the borders in the face of terrorists. They are killing the hopes of women who are fleeing wars, terrorism and other authoritarian regimes. Those women once dreamt of safety and security for themselves and their children. They will now be forced to endure more violence and terror.&nbsp; And while US President Donald Trump’s travel bans <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/sanam-naraghi-anderlini/trump-s-slap-in-face-of-lady-liberty">stamp the seal</a> on what we can expect from his policies and views toward Muslims and migrants, they also have a dangerous effect on our ability to push for global gender justice.</p> <p>As women from the Global South, we were already facing major challenges to enter the United States in any capacity; especially those from the countries now banned by Trump's executive orders. For example, women refugees from Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya already wait up to three years to be vetted by the American Migration authorities. We already face problems applying for visas to attend United Nations meetings or to engage with US-based women groups, deterring many from even attempting it. </p> <p>This year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women, coming after President Trump’s travel bans, only worsens an ongoing trend. Women from the Global South have been denied access to the UNCSW for the most racist and xenophobic reasons over the years. A group of women from Sudan, one of the countries now banned, was denied the visa in 2014. They reported that the main reason was that the migration officer didn't like their accent and broken English. He said to them, "If you can't speak English well, why are you going to the United States and what are you going to do in the United Nations?" A member of the group replied, "The United Nations is a global ground and we are allowed to speak any language we can."&nbsp; One of the women said that "he denied us the visa not knowing that some of those women are witnesses of war crimes and genocide. He did not know how hard they worked to arrange this opportunity. They were trying to make the voices of their sisters heard, those who are facing mass rapes every day. Their hope was to demand justice and protection for the victims at home, and ask for international solidarity and support."&nbsp; Another member said that "the migration officer only saw those colored women with broken English as not more than potential asylum seekers or illegal migrants. He did not just deny us the visa; he silenced the voices of those women victims of war we were representing."&nbsp; </p> <p>While the world is facing the worst refugee crisis in modern history, many countries are stepping back from their commitments to basic human rights under the pressures of right-wing populism. The international community is tragically failing to protect over 60 million displaced people, of whom 70 to 80 percent are women and children. Women’s rights to security and protection are being compromised, as more countries are adopting closed border policies. The situation of women refugees in camps or in urban settlements is an extension of the horrifying circumstances they left at home. Sexual harassment, rape, human trafficking and discriminating working conditions are all risks faced by women and girl refugees while waiting for resettlement in a second country.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.womensrefugeecommission.org/populations/adolescent-girls/research-and-resources/373-refugee-girls-the-invisible-faces-of-war">Young women</a> and girls waiting for resettlement are exposed to child marriage, early pregnancy and denial of basic education.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Afghan refugees.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Afghan refugees.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Afghan refugees rally against Trump, racism and their living conditions outside the US embassy in Athens on January 21, 2017. Credit: PA Images</span></span></span></p><p>According to the <a href="http://reporting.unhcr.org/population">United Nations High Commission of Refugees</a>&nbsp;only a hundred thousand out of 21 million refugees are being resettled every year; this is less than 0.5 percent of the numbers of refugees in the world. More than half of the refugees and displaced peoples in the world are women and girls, while the <a href="http://blogs.cfr.org/women-around-the-world/2017/02/03/how-trumps-executive-order-harms-women-refugees/">United States Homeland Security</a> admitted that 72 percent of the refugees entering the United States are actually women and children. Therefore, the question remains, what is the USA and Europe afraid of? Are they afraid of vulnerable women and sick malnourished children? </p> <p>One such woman, now affected by the <a href="http://www.smh.com.au/world/donald-trump-freezes-refugee-program-orders-new-vetting-for-entry-20170128-gu0id6.html">ongoing freeze</a> on the American refugee program, is that of Aziza * from my home country, Sudan. Aziza is an activist and victim of mass rape, twice. She survived mass rape by Islamic jihadists in her home country of Sudan back in the 1990s. When the fundamentalist Islamic regime in Sudan incited war again in her region in 2011, she decided to speak out and started an organization helping displaced women. That’s when she was arrested and gang raped again. She had to flee the country carrying her psychological and physical wounds, hoping to find refuge and support. After waiting for four years she was finally referred to be resettled in the United States by the UNHCR. But President Trump's executive order came to stop the whole process, which has forced her to continue to work as a maid to feed her five children in a very hostile environment in Egypt . Her only hope was to be able to regain her life, and to be in a position where she can continue to claim justice for herself and for her people.</p> <p>The accomplishments of the women’s rights movement over the last five decades are now in danger from closed borders and rising intolerance. Gender justice cannot be achieved without the strength of <a href="https://www.globalfundforwomen.org/travel-ban/#.WM5OHZ-xXqA">women’s solidarity</a> around the world. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/58c03cabe4b0a797c1d397ca">Women’s rights</a> groups all over the globe are challenged to fight; not just for the causes they support, but for their mere existence. Authoritarianism, fundamentalism, populism, and terrorism are dominating more countries every day, while women’s rights groups find their workspace shrinking locally and globally. Grassroots women’s movements in conflict and unstable countries are being suffocated under hostile working conditions. Without the solidarity and support from more established women groups in the developed countries, the women’s movement will slowly vanish, and lose all ground gained over the last decade.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/without change.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/without change.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>International Women's Day, March 8, 2017, New York City. Credit: PA Images / Erik McGregor</span></span></span></p><p>Therefore, open borders for women’s movements does not just mean access to engage in international venues and learn from other women’s experiences. It also means hope, the right to be free as equal humans and to have a voice. Hope for change and hope for justice, which can only be claimed through women’s solidarity. </p> <p>Women in solidarity are undefiable. Consequently, women activists decided to do what they know best: to resist. Dozens of women groups recently <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/opendemocracy-5050/no-borders-on-gender-justice">organized campaigns</a>, signed petitions and rallied in the Global South to demand open borders for gender justice and women’s rights. Hopefully this new wave of the women’s movement will lead the world out of hatred and xenophobia into a better future for all.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>*Aziza is not her real name.</strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lisa-davis-yifat-susskind/standing-our-ground-at-un-commission-on-status-of-women-csw">Standing our ground at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sanam-naraghi-anderlini/trump-s-slap-in-face-of-lady-liberty">Trump&#039;s slap in the face of Lady Liberty</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/clare-church/indigenous-women-brave-storm-to-begin-talks-for-uncsw">Indigenous women brave the storm to begin talks at UN CSW</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sophie-giscard-destaing/where-is-gender-sensitive-humanitarian-response-to-protecting-women-refugees"> UN CSW: ending impunity for gender-based crimes against women refugees </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/time-for-fifth-world-conference-on-women">Time for a Fifth World Conference on Women?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-reeve/pr-profit-and-empowering-women-in-garment-industry">PR, profit and ‘empowering women’ in the garment industry</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/stephanie-sugars/queer-and-trans-issues-are-sidelined-again-at-united-nations-csw">Queer and trans issues are sidelined again at the United Nations CSW</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karin-attia/who-run-world-girls-not-at-un-csw">Who runs the world? Girls! Not at the UN CSW</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> South Sudan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 South Sudan World Forum for Democracy 2017 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Gender and the UN 50.50 Women's Movement Building UN Commission on the Status of Women 50.50 Our Africa women and militarism gender justice feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Nazik Awad Thu, 23 Mar 2017 14:07:28 +0000 Nazik Awad 109636 at https://www.opendemocracy.net No borders on gender justice https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/opendemocracy-5050/no-borders-on-gender-justice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) takes place in New York, gender justice advocates from around the world are uniting around the following principles.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div style="color: #666;font-size:110%;;margin-bottom:30px"><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women"><img style="float:right;width:auto !important" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/5050-uncsw2017-d-140x80px_1.png" /></a><p style="background-color:#f7f7f7;padding:10px;margin:0">This article is part of our <a style="color:#333;text-decoration:underline" href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women">coverage</a> of the United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women, New York, March 2017</p></div><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/HearOurVoice.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/HearOurVoice.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>International Women's Day March, New York, 8 March 2017. Credit: PA Images / Erik McGregor</span></span></span></p><p><em><strong>Initiated by: MADRE, Just Associates (JASS), Center for Women’s Global Leadership, AWID, Urgent Action Fund, Women in Migration Network and Outright Action International.</strong></em></p><p>This year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York comes as multiple governments have succumbed to a dangerous right-wing populism and authoritarianism, unleashing resurgent anti-migrant, misogynist, racist, neocolonialist, and neoliberal policies.</p><p>In the face of this, and at a time of ongoing wars, refugee crises and attacks on human rights, women civil society and gender justice advocates from around the globe are coming together in New York to develop and share strategies of resistance, and to reassert that women’s rights are human rights. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><h3><strong>Platform of Principles</strong></h3><p>We stand together for gender justice and migrant rights. Inspired by the March 8th International Women’s Strike, we call for civil society actions during the CSW to ignite resistance to the conditions that have produced right-wing populism and given rise to authoritarian governance. These conditions include neocolonialism, neoliberalism and the wars that have been waged to uphold those systems. We stand in solidarity with women and our allies who have been blocked from coming to New York to lobby the world’s governments by anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies of the United States. We seek to highlight the voices of these missing civil society actors during the CSW and to demand their access to this and other UN spaces.</p><p>We unite around the following principles:</p><h3><strong>Freedom of Movement and an End to Border Imperialism</strong></h3><p>We recognize that the rights of refugees and migrants are endangered by racist and xenophobic border policies, and that women face particular gender-based threats. We know that migration is driven in significant part by policies that place corporate profits over the lives and wellbeing of people and the environment. We call for governments to respect the rights of all refugees, including those fleeing war, poverty, gender-based violence and climate disasters. We call for governments to remove barriers to migrants seeking safety and economic stability, for an end to criminalization of migration, and for an end to raids, arrests, deportations, detentions and other police actions against immigrant communities. We further call for governments to respect the rights of women and girls to move freely within their own countries, to go to work or school, and to socialize and organize with their communities, without hindrance from state or private actors.</p><h3><strong>Civil Society Access to the UN Commission on the Status of Women and All UN Spaces</strong></h3><p>For too long, the inter-governmental meetings at CSW have sidelined and ignored the voices of civil society, and failed to recognize the expertise and leadership of grassroots women activists. We demand that CSW become a space for civil society feminist policymaking that unites women and gender justice advocates from all parts of the globe while centering the needs of those women who have been historically marginalized and are today on the frontlines of our global crises. As the only nominally democratic institution of global governance, we demand that the UN system live up to its promise of upholding the full range of human rights for all people.&nbsp;</p><h3><strong>An End to Gender-Based Violence</strong></h3><p>We demand governments take measures to prevent and to ensure justice and reparations for all forms of gender-based violence, whether committed by private actors, police, soldiers, border agents or other state actors. We call on states to grant legal status and lives of dignity to refugees fleeing gender-based violence. We demand that governments refrain from using women as human shields when they cite women’s rights violations to justify imperial wars. We call on governments to consult with and lend support to civil society women’s organizations, particularly local, grassroots women’s groups that fight for gender justice and provide necessary services to people fleeing gender-based violence in war and disaster zones. We further call for women human rights defenders and their families to be protected and to receive justice and reparations for violence, forced disappearance or murder committed against them.</p><h3><strong>Reproductive Justice for All</strong></h3><p>We affirm reproductive justice as a cornerstone of human rights for all women, cis and trans. We assert the full range of reproductive rights as fundamental to women’s autonomy and self-determination, and we stand in defense of every mother’s right to raise her child in a safe and healthy environment. This vision includes the right to choose whether or not to have children, the freedom to determine the number and spacing of those children, and the financial and material support to ensure wellbeing. To realize this vision, we call for full protections for the rights to abortion, contraception and universal health care for all, irrespective of income, race, nationality, sexuality, gender identity, HIV/AIDS status, or other status.</p><h3><strong>LGBTIQ Rights</strong></h3><p>We recognize that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, gender non-conforming and queer-identified people are disproportionately subject to discrimination and violence. We demand the full spectrum of human rights protections for LGBTIQ people and call on governments to eliminate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. &nbsp;</p><h3><strong>Labor Rights and Full Social Benefits</strong></h3><p>The world’s wealth is based largely on women’s labor, paid and unpaid. As states have abdicated their responsibility for social and economic rights through neoliberal austerity measures, women – already the primary caretakers for everyone – are forced to absorb the unpaid work burden of defunded public services. We demand living wages and full labor protections for women working in formal and informal sectors. We call on governments to end austerity and to ensure women’s full access to all social welfare benefits necessary to live free of poverty.</p><h3><strong>Environmental Justice for All</strong></h3><p>While poor, rural and Indigenous women are made especially vulnerable to climate change by discrimination and poverty, they are more than victims: they are sources of solutions. Women leverage their roles as stewards of natural resources to devise innovative, locally-rooted responses to climate change. Yet the voices of women are routinely excluded from policymaking—despite the visionary solutions they offer. This results in climate policies that further marginalize women, undermine human rights generally and reinforce assumptions that created the climate crisis in the first place. We call for meaningful consultation with women, with Indigenous Peoples, and all others who are modeling sustainability, acting as environmental stewards, and standing up to pollution and resource exploitation. We furthermore call for consistent global enforcement of the principles of free, prior and informed consent to combat expansion of extractive industries and other environmental destruction.&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>Gender justice is central to realizing a world where all people enjoy the full range of human rights. Women and allies joining together in New York during CSW understand that our international networking, our collaborative organizing and our creative change strategies are more necessary than ever. We will gather at CSW to:</p><p>Renew strategies to reclaim international democratic spaces, address the current global political climate, and defend the full range of women’s human rights and the international norms and institutions meant to uphold them.</p><p>Protest the racist and Islamophobic policies that bar access for many to UN Headquarters. Amplify the demands of those who have been excluded, and reassert our commitment to the human rights of migrants and refugees, without discrimination.</p><p>Deepen a process of consultation and collaboration rooted in international solidarity with women who have been historically marginalized and those who are most at risk from the authoritarianism of a growing number of countries, particularly Muslim women and migrant and refugee women.</p><p><strong><em>The #NoBordersOnGenderJustice initiative have signed a letter to the Members of the UN Commission on the Status of Women expressing their concerns. You can sign it <a href="https://www.madre.org/press-publications/human-rights-report/letter-members-un-commission-status-women">here.</a>&nbsp;</em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lisa-davis-yifat-susskind/standing-our-ground-at-un-commission-on-status-of-women-csw">Standing our ground at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/culture-versus-rights-dualism-myth-or-reality">Culture versus rights dualism: a myth or a reality?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/time-for-fifth-world-conference-on-women">Time for a Fifth World Conference on Women?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/missing-link-in-women%27s-human-rights">The missing link in women&#039;s human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lyric-thompson/towards-feminist-united-nations-six-point-agenda-for-new-sg">Towards a feminist United Nations: a six-point agenda for the new SG</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sanam-naraghi-anderlini/trump-s-slap-in-face-of-lady-liberty">Trump&#039;s slap in the face of Lady Liberty</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/ninth-man">António Guterres: The Ninth Man </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/gender-wars-women-redefining-customs-as-crimes">Gender wars: women redefining customs as crimes </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rosalie-fransen/un-csw-women-s-reproductive-rights-or-culture-of-death"> UN CSW: debating women’s reproductive rights or a “culture of death” ? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sophie-giscard-destaing/where-is-gender-sensitive-humanitarian-response-to-protecting-women-refugees"> UN CSW: ending impunity for gender-based crimes against women refugees </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karin-attia/how-do-we-engage-men-and-boys-as-allies-in-ending-violence-against-women">UN CSW: engaging men and boys in ending violence against women as allies not protectors</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/joanna-lockspeiser/un-csw-still-failing-to-count-all-women">UN CSW: still failing to count all women </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/margaret-owen/un-csw-cedaw-article-5-must-be-applied-now">UN CSW: the way to empower women is to use CEDAW Article 5, not the CSW</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women%27s-rights-have-no-country">Women&#039;s rights have no country</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/sound-trumpet">Sound the Trumpet </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/ninth-man">António Guterres: The Ninth Man </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/clare-church/indigenous-women-brave-storm-to-begin-talks-for-uncsw">Indigenous women brave the storm to begin talks at UN CSW</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/stephanie-sugars/queer-and-trans-issues-are-sidelined-again-at-united-nations-csw">Queer and trans issues are sidelined again at the United Nations CSW</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-reeve/pr-profit-and-empowering-women-in-garment-industry">PR, profit and ‘empowering women’ in the garment industry</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Gender and the UN 50.50 Women's Movement Building UN Commission on the Status of Women 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy women's movements gender justice feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Multiple authors Mon, 13 Mar 2017 11:13:46 +0000 Multiple authors 109403 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Will Nepal give equal citizenship rights to women? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/amal-de-chickera-catherine-harrington/will-nepal-give-equal-citizenship-rights-to-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Nepali women are treated as second-class citizens, due to discriminatory nationality law.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/6081164334_212e3b6fdc_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/6081164334_212e3b6fdc_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Nepali woman holds a sign as part of the World Bank 'Think EQUAL' campaign. Credit: Stephan Bachenheimer / World Bank </span></span></span></em></p><p><em>“Is it my fault that I don’t have a nationality?” </em>a young Nepali girl asked recently on one of the country’s prime-time talk shows. <em>“No it is not. It is your mother’s,” </em>replied the male authority figure. The girl is one of countless women, men, girls and boys in the country who are classified as stateless, despite being born in Nepal to Nepali mothers.&nbsp;</p> <p>Nepal remains <a href="http://equalnationalityrights.org/the-issue/the-problem">one of twenty-six countries</a> that denies women the equal right to confer nationality on their children, and one of roughly fifty that denies women the right to pass nationality to their spouses and to even acquire and retain their own nationality. </p> <p>We recently travelled to the country, on behalf of the <a href="http://equalnationalityrights.org/">Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights</a> to increase government authorities’ and legislators’ awareness of the significant harm done by this discriminatory nationality law to individuals, families, and indeed to the country’s economy and reputation. </p> <p>We witnessed a country striving to write a new chapter marked by stability and a shared prosperity. Ten years after its historic peace agreement, one year after the establishment of its new Constitution, and still recovering from the devastating 2015 earthquake, this young democracy is considering how to lay the foundation for a fairer society that transcends the political conflict and economic hardship of the past. &nbsp;</p> <p>Like too many countries though, it is trying to do so having tied one of its own hands behind its back. </p> <p>The impact of gender discrimination in nationality laws is significant and wide-ranging: from denied access to education and healthcare, to the inability to own property, hold a bank account or drivers license, vote, or run for public office. Many end up statelessness, not considered citizens by their own countries, or indeed, any other country in the world.</p> <p>Denied equal rights, the child of a Nepali woman whose father is ‘unknown’ (a term with great stigma attached) should, according to the Constitution, have access to citizenship. In practice, such children can only apply for naturalized citizenship – which is citizenship not by right, but at the discretion of state authorities, most of whom are deeply conservative. The child of Nepali woman and a foreign man may only apply for naturalized citizenship <em>if</em> the child has not acquired any other citizenship <em>and</em> is a permanent resident of Nepal. Even when it comes to securing one’s own citizenship, Nepali girls must do so through their father and married Nepali women through their spouse. </p> <p>This year, laws that conflict with the new constitution, including the nationality law, are expected to be amended. This presents an opportunity to advance the nationality rights of Nepali women and their children in some circumstances – an opportunity that, if leveraged, would benefit the country and further gender equality. However, to achieve equal nationality rights for Nepali men and women, a Constitutional amendment is urgently needed.</p> <h3><strong>The cost of exclusion</strong></h3> <p><em>“If my daughters become refugees in another country, will they then be able to get a nationality?”</em> This was the question being asked by Deepti Gurung, a Nepali woman unable to secure Nepali nationality for her children born in Nepal, despite trying everything possible for many years. That an educated woman would even fleetingly consider refugee status in a foreign country as a ‘solution’ to securing her children’s future, points to a profound sense of helplessness.</p> <p>When we visited Deepti and her family, sitting in her living room and eating her expertly made samosas, we could feel the deep sadness, frustration, and desperation of this mother who would do anything to give her daughters the opportunity to succeed in life. She knew that, despite all her efforts, the list of opportunities that her daughters would be denied was long and the burden heavy.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/6853075257_8befe136b5_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/6853075257_8befe136b5_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Nepali woman and daughter outside a clinic. Credit: Possible Health</span></span></span></p><p>When speaking with her daughter, what struck us was not just that here was an intelligent young woman who would never become the doctor she dreamt of being, or whose plans to be a lawyer were indefinitely put on hold until she got citizenship. Here also was a country heavily dependent on its next generation, but missing out on some of its best and brightest young talent due to an ill-conceived and discriminatory law that most countries have relegated to the history books. </p> <p>Though ‘lucky’ is never a word Deepti would use to describe her family’s situation, many affected families face situations that are far more dire. Sapana Pariyar's husband abandoned her and their two children, refusing to grant his citizenship to his wife or daughters. Single mothers who were married before applying for citizenship have little chance of securing theirs or their children's. Lacking the documents needed for formal employment, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtIlhGSIM80">Sapana does hard labor</a> to try to put enough food on the table for her children. The meager salary was not enough, however, to pay primary school fees or rent in their modest home. As a result, the family is homeless and the two young daughters cannot go to school. </p> <p>The personal cost of statelessness is <a href="http://www.institutesi.org/worldsstateless.pdf">well-documented and wide-ranging</a>, but states are not necessarily motivated into action by this alone. However, the cost of statelessness is not only individual. States also pay a price: an opportunity cost of a growing disenfranchised population with no means to support itself or contribute to the formal economy; the development cost of not being able to benefit from the full potential of all its people; the socio-political cost of ever-increasing inequality and tension. </p> <p>The link between gender equality and sustainable economic development is not groundbreaking. Development experts and human rights actors have emphasized the connections for years. That is why the <a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs">Sustainable Development Goals</a> (SDGs) include ending discrimination against women as a stand-alone goal (Goal 5), while also integrating gender indicators throughout the other sixteen goals. Nepal and countries with similar laws will not be able to reach targets on nine of the seventeen SDGs, as long as they retain gender-discriminatory nationality laws. These include targets related to achieving peace, justice and strong institutions (Goal 16), quality education (Goal 4), the eradication of poverty and hunger (Goals 1 &amp; 2), and the reduction of inequalities (Goal 10).</p> <p>We have all been patriarchal societies and continue to be, to varying degrees. No country has a monopoly on that history. But it is a legacy that is holding every country back – notably so when gender discrimination is sanctioned by law and prevents access to citizenship. Discriminatory nationality laws provide insight into the state’s position that despite whatever else is written, rights and responsibilities are ultimately defined (and denied) by gender. They show that all citizens are really not equal before the law. &nbsp;</p> <p>Nepal will be drafting a new citizenship law in the coming year. Like other countries with discriminatory nationality laws, it will also be establishing a national action plan to realize the Sustainable Development Goals. And so, well into the 21<span>st</span>&nbsp;century, it has a dual opportunity to finally end one of the great exclusions of the 20<span>th</span>&nbsp;century and to set its course on the path to equality, justice, and sustainable development for all. For the sake of its people, its future, we can only hope that this is an opportunity it will take.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nicoal-desouza/nepal-struggle-for-equal-citizenship-rights-for-women">Nepal: the struggle for equal citizenship rights for women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/blog/nepals_widows">Nepal&#039;s widows</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Nepal </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Nepal 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 People on the Move gender justice 50.50 newsletter Amal de Chickera Catherine Harrington Thu, 09 Mar 2017 09:56:13 +0000 Amal de Chickera and Catherine Harrington 109324 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Time for a Fifth World Conference on Women? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/time-for-fifth-world-conference-on-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Not holding a fifth UN world conference in 2015 has left a vacuum, a dangerous thing when patriarchal ethno-nationalists are colonizing public space. It is time to insist that international human rights institutions deliver for women.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/IWD march.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/IWD march.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Participants in the International Women's Day March in Los Angeles, California on March 5, 2017. Credit: Ronen Tivony/PA Images</span></span></span></p><p>The call to topple patriarchy might once have been seen as a fringe feminist fantasy but it has increasingly gained mainstream cachet. &nbsp;At the UN, the <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2015/3/change-is-coming-change-has-to-come-executive-director">Executive Director of UN Women is calling for it</a>. Emmy-award winning producer of <em>Trans/Parent</em>, <a href="http://ew.com/article/2016/09/18/jill-soloway-topple-patriarchy-emmys/">Jill Soloway is calling for it</a>. Bollywood superstar <a href="http://www.india.com/showbiz/dangal-quick-movie-review-aamir-khan-delivers-a-knockout-punch-kicks-patriarchy-in-its-gut-1717671/">Aamir Khan has called out patriarchy</a> more than once and is credited with “kicking patriarchy in the gut” in his film Dangal. The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau has <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUtRnkm1GlY">called for all men to be feminists</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>How do we square the amplification of these calls with the resurgence of strongmen (and a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/02/world/europe/political-strategy-for-europes-far-right-female-leaders-wooing-female-voters.html?rref=collection%2Fbyline%2Fsomini-sengupta&amp;action=click&amp;contentCollection=undefined&amp;region=stream&amp;module=stream_unit&amp;">growing number of strongwomen</a>), with elections giving us ethnic nationalists and patriarchs like Trump, Erdogan, Duterte, and many others? &nbsp;Insecure, bullying autocrats are nothing new, but what is new is their growing appeal in democracies.&nbsp; Also new is their conversion of traditional social conservatism into a much coarser unfiltered misogyny. Is this patriarchy’s last gasp? Or is it now dealing out an increasingly vicious and vindictive comeuppance? </p> <p>It is stating the obvious, we know, to point out that feminist anti-patriarchal strategies need a massive global re-think. The strategies of the 70s, 80s and 90s have helped us make great strides, but the terrain has changed. Which is why we are re-visiting – and re-echoing – <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women&#039;s-rights-have-no-country">our call in January 2015</a> for a United Nations Fifth World Conference on Women. If women’s rights had no country – a dwindling number of champions and defenders in international negotiations – when we wrote two years ago, things have deteriorated with recent political developments, including the catastrophic outcome of the US presidential election. &nbsp;Stalwart national defenders of women’s rights are toppling, and conservative populist nationalists now unashamedly and explicitly make restrictions of women’s social, economic and sexual freedoms foundational to their political projects.&nbsp; Plans for a fifth world conference on women were shelved a few years ago for fear that these forces would unravel established women’s rights agreements.</p> <p>Retreat is not an option. Protections for human rights and human security are eroding fast. The institutions that are supposed to uphold them – the courts, the media, our political leaders and parties, trade unions, education, religious, and health care institutions, the United Nations itself – are being corporatized, de-funded, compromised and undermined. &nbsp;But if it seemed such a major risk to hold a fifth Women’s World Conference in 2015, surely even to bring up the topic now is nothing short of reckless. </p> <p>Or is it?&nbsp; Arguably it is much more dangerous not to.&nbsp; Not holding a global summit on accelerating the drive towards gender equality is a signal that we have lost faith that the institutions built to advance human rights will deliver for women</p> <h3><strong>Feminist retreats from institutions exacerbates default patriarchy</strong></h3> <p>The real victory of nakedly patriarchal, racist, authoritarian leaders is that they systematically undermine faith in the institutions that are supposed to advance and protect our interests, and in so doing, erode interest in participating in institutions that have the potential to check authoritarian power. </p> <p>As more and more opportunistic ethno-nationalists come to power – and as they usher in reforms that close political space for opposition and reasoned, well-informed public debate – the decisions we make about our interactions and negotiations with mainstream institutions become more and more fraught. &nbsp;For most of the world, public institutions and ideological frameworks have been oriented to debates on the proper roles of states versus markets.&nbsp; Choices about how to engage have often featured ‘right’ versus ‘left’ perspectives.&nbsp; These perspectives have been grounded in understandings of public life dating from the industrial revolution and are less and less meaningful in contemporary politics.&nbsp; Feminist economists like <a href="http://www.cepal.org/mujer/curso/elson3.pdf">Diane Elson</a>, <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/19452829.2014.884057">Gita Sen</a>, <a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/C/bo5969753.html">Lourdes Beneria</a>, <a href="https://oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/why-its-time-to-put-gender-into-the-inequality-discussion/">Naila Kabeer</a>, have long pointed out that these perspectives are ignorant of the deep – but invisible and disparaged – economy of care in which women are the unrewarded workhorses.&nbsp; Feminist environmentalists like <a href="http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/wangari-maathai">Wangari Maathai</a> and <a href="https://www.dukeupress.edu/staying-with-the-trouble">Donna Haraway</a> have shown how our economies are parasitical on the natural world – whose value is similarly unrecognized.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Erdogansmug.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Erdogansmug.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="421" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Supporters of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan celebrates his victory in the presidential election vote, August 2014. Credit: Depo Photos / PA Images</span></span></span></p><p>The capacities of both the care and natural worlds endlessly to provide without compensation or renewal are finally snapping, and these convulsions have in part triggered the current neo-nationalist backlash.&nbsp; Women’s flight from marriage and motherhood in some contexts (like Japan, Italy) are rational responses to a labor market that does not reward care.&nbsp; Elsewhere the fact that women have been more willing than men to tolerate the degraded working conditions of globalized capital has altered power relations in families, triggering men’s deep insecurities, expressed in the form of elevated violence against women, or votes for despots who promise a return to male privilege. &nbsp;Old political distinctions between left and right have become almost meaningless.&nbsp; What matters now is <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/03/opinion/tony-blair-against-populism-the-center-must-hold.html?_r=0">open versus closed</a>, inclusive versus isolationist, and institutions for tolerant societies versus approaches to social organization that rely on atavistic appeals to ethnic and male supremacy.</p><p>As institutions have struggled to keep up with these changes, they have become less meaningful, and less attractive spaces for social change projects, triggering in some cases an exodus by liberals.&nbsp;&nbsp;As feminists who have been part of that exodus – and acknowledging the privileges that enabled us to enter and exit formal institutions, a privilege that many women and marginalized communities do not have – we must weigh our principles against the costs of losing power in institutions. It is not as if there is plenty of institutional space for feminists – far from it. Governments, political parties, international organizations, churches, corporate boards remain hostile to leadership by women and especially feminists. Many feminists find the default patriarchy of these institutions corrupting, which is why so many feminists seek alternative spaces.&nbsp; </p><p>We are not making a <a href="https://leanin.org/book/">‘lean in’</a> argument. But are we ceding political space when we disdain running for political office or refrain from supporting potential candidates because politics can corrupt and is increasingly dangerous? Are we enabling rapacious capitalism when we refuse to sit at tables with potential allies in the private sector or military because they are clubbed as irredeemable members of the military-industrial complex?&nbsp; Do we create self-inflicted crevasses in our movements when we condemn feminists who have chosen to work inside of institutions as sell-outs, contributing to their isolation?&nbsp; Some of us give up on joining trade unions to reform them from the inside, or turn off the mainstream media because it only represents corporate interests. But far from dying away because of our disengagement, these institutions revert to patriarchal management.&nbsp;&nbsp; We are doing exactly what toxic masculinity wants: handing over large swathes of public space to a resurgent, revived patriarchal command.</p> <p>And, so it goes with the United Nations. &nbsp;Not holding a fifth world conference has left a vacuum, a dangerous thing when empowered social conservatives are colonizing public space.&nbsp;</p> <h3>Flirting with a Counter-factual: &nbsp;What if…</h3> <p>We can read the decision not to hold a fifth Women’s World Conference in 2015 as an example of ceding institutional space, giving ground.&nbsp; It was a significant thing NOT to do.&nbsp; Other major global projects continue to hold massive summits – notably the meetings addressing <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/news-event/un-climate-change-conference">climate change</a>, <a href="http://www.un.org/en/ga/69/meetings/indigenous/#&amp;panel1-1">indigenous people’s rights</a>, <a href="http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/campaigns/AIDS2016">HIV/AIDs</a>, the <a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/summit">Sustainable Development Goals</a>, the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/03/world/arms-trade-treaty-approved-at-un.html">Arms Trade Treaty</a>. Addressing global problems requires global negotiation and coordination. &nbsp;&nbsp;None of these agendas has retreated from global negotiation processes.&nbsp; Just the women’s rights agenda.</p> <p>The decision not to hold a fifth Women’s World Conference was actually taken several years before 2015 when there were worrying signs. &nbsp;Already the annual meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women registered increasing difficulty in reaching consensus because of conservative opposition.&nbsp; In 2012 a coalition of member states of the United Nations began to negotiate together to attack existing women’s rights agreements and prohibit any further advances – for instance on <a href="http://www.rightwingwatch.org/post/how-the-religious-right-made-life-more-difficult-dangerous-for-worlds-lgbt-people-in-2016/">issues of sexual orientation, or adolescent sex education, or recognition of the wide variety of families</a> that do not conform to the heterosexual nuclear model. </p> <p>It is hard not to ask: what if.&nbsp; What if, in 2012, plans had been set for a Women’s World Conference?&nbsp; What if it had taken place in 2015, and what if it had been held in Turkey, one of the first countries to offer to host it?&nbsp; </p> <p>Counterfactuals are hollow, they are ‘I told you so’ taunts without the satisfaction of seeing events confirm warnings. &nbsp;But let’s indulge in this for just a moment, and ask how a conference in 2015 might have changed history.&nbsp; A women’s conference would certainly have mobilized global opposition to women’s rights – the people that feel that secularism has gone too far, that women’s rights are the markers of decadence, that ‘gender’ threatens the divinely-ordained binary of man/woman, that social disintegration is upon us.&nbsp; Conservative opposition has been present at all the four women’s conferences so far and would certainly have been stronger and better organized than ever before. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>But so too would the world’s feminist voices.&nbsp; Indeed, by 2015, feminist movements the world over were energized and emboldened by international successes, such as the recognition of <a href="http://www.stoprapenow.org/">rape as a punishable, systematic tactic of war</a> or sustained infusion of gender equality across the globally-approved&nbsp; 2015 <a href="http://www.bridge.ids.ac.uk/updates/bridge-gender-update-sustainable-development-goals-gender-and-indicators">Sustainable Development Goals framework</a>.&nbsp; On top of this, a women’s conference could have provided a feminist destination for a new generation of young people. Their voices could have risen to a global roar for intersectional equality and their activism – as part of a preparatory process of national, regional and global consultations – could have laid the ground for new solutions to global threats, and might have amplified their voices in their own countries, to diminish the appeal of national reactionary forces.</p> <p>Those who are most marginalized and threatened – refugees and minorities fleeing untenable conditions of war or ethnic/racial/religious persecution, civil society groups whose actions are increasingly under scrutiny, women’s human rights defenders who live under the constant threat of violence, girls vulnerable to harmful traditional practices or school-related gender-based violence – would have had a global platform to make their experiences heard by far larger numbers of people and power holders than in any past women’s conference. Alliances between women’s rights networks across countries in conflict and in disintegrating democracies would have been strengthened. &nbsp;Had the conference been held in Istanbul, it might have provided a platform for women of Arab and Muslim societies to offer counter-narratives to authoritarian governments, the political projects of religious extremists, and Islamophobes. The asymmetries and divisions between women – whether on the basis of race, class, sexual preference, geographic location and other unacknowledged privileges – could have received much greater scrutiny.&nbsp; We might have come up with new ways to address these, while recognizing that the political and environmental emergencies we face require united action. &nbsp;</p> <p>We cannot say that a Fifth World Conference on Women would have prevented the election of leaders like Trump or Duterte. &nbsp;We do, however, posit that the collective strength and engagement that is catalyzed by these global processes have many unexpected consequences. Mobilization and transformation are connected.</p> <h3>Don’t sit around waiting for the time and the politics to be just right</h3> <p>The tens of millions of people around the world, of all genders, ages and nationalities, <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/21/politics/trump-women-march-on-washington/">who marched on January 21</a>st, showed two things. &nbsp;First: ordinary people the world over are horrified about atavistic ethno-nationalists and their calls for a closing of minds and a destruction of the institutions that promote tolerance and justice.&nbsp; Second: feminist movements are at the forefront of this resistance, and gender equality is a foundational principle of building open societies. The women taxi cab drivers in India, the all-women peace negotiating team from Sweden, the <a href="http://www.glamour.com/story/women-of-the-year-black-lives-matter-founders">women at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter</a> movement, the men who stand up to end violence against women in more and more countries and the transwomen who speak about the toxicity of male privilege are proof that feminists have the numbers, the conviction, and are inflicting body blows to patriarchy. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/BLMIWD.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/BLMIWD.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Black Lives Matter protest on July 10, 2016 in New York. Credit: PA Images / Monica Jorge</span></span></span></p><p>It is not clear that another women’s world conference – for instance in 2020 – is necessarily the best way to channel this energy. But it is worth debating whether it would help to build intersectional feminist strategies to rebuild inclusive democracies.&nbsp; </p> <p>To be effective, another world conference cannot take the form of any of its predecessors.&nbsp; It cannot be about governments negotiating women’s rights, or using them as proxies and bargaining chips for other battles.&nbsp; We need a process unlike any other that the UN has hosted to date. We could build on the Paris/Accra ‘<a href="http://www.oecd.org/dac/effectiveness/parisdeclarationandaccraagendaforaction.htm">aid effectiveness</a>’ process whose purpose is to mobilize resources to deliver results. </p> <p>As the UN Commission on the Status of Women convenes from March 13 to 24 in New York – and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lisa-davis-yifat-susskind/standing-our-ground-at-un-commission-on-status-of-women-csw">thousands of women’s rights movements and organizations gather</a> – we propose that there be serious debate about the merits and possible approaches to holding a world conference in 2020. Maybe it is a process that does not result in a ‘global’ gathering, but rather has simultaneous regional and/or national gatherings. Maybe it is a process that does not have a final governmental declaration of future goals, but rather commits to institutional reforms and a new accountability agenda. It must be a process that includes leadership by people under 35 and avoids the endless negotiations and bartering that waters down other UN processes. </p> <p>We would hope for, at least, a commitment by the CSW, the UN Secretary-General, and UN Women to launch a consultative process and figure out what kind of world conference could make a significant difference.&nbsp; It should be a process that amplifies the voices and aspirations of young people all over the planet, that creates space and opportunities for the voices of those who are most marginalized to create new approaches to social and economic organization. &nbsp;It cannot be a process constrained by anxious readings of the tea leaves of political risk.&nbsp; Times are tough, they could get worse, and that is precisely why women’s rights can’t wait in the hope that the political environment will improve.&nbsp; From <a href="http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/seneca-falls-convention-begins">Seneca Falls</a> in 1848, to The <a href="http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/international-congress-of-women-opens-at-the-hague">Hague International Congress of Women in 1915</a>, to the <a href="https://tavaana.org/en/content/how-women-liberia-fought-peace-and-won">2003 Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace</a>, women don’t wait for the time to be right.&nbsp; We make it right.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women%27s-rights-have-no-country">Women&#039;s rights have no country</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/missing-link-in-women%27s-human-rights">The missing link in women&#039;s human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lyric-thompson/best-time-to-be-born-female-worst-to-be-feminist-advocate">The &quot;best time to be born female&quot;: the worst to be a feminist advocate</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/gender-wars-women-redefining-customs-as-crimes">Gender wars: women redefining customs as crimes </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofu-tawamba/awake-to-challenge-african-women%27s-leadership-at-beijing20">Awake to the challenge: African women&#039;s leadership at Beijing+20</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lyric-thompson/world%27s-girls-no-voice-no-rights">The world&#039;s girls: no voice, no rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/madam-secretary-general">Madam Secretary-General?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/soraya-chemaly/under-trump-we-are-all-women">Under Trump, we are all women </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/sound-trumpet">Sound the Trumpet </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/still-no-woman-at-helm-UN">Still no woman at the helm of the UN</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Equality World Forum for Democracy 2017 Nobel Women's Initiative 2017 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women, Peace & Security 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 newsletter feminism gender justice women and power women's human rights Joanne Sandler Anne Marie Goetz Wed, 08 Mar 2017 09:00:11 +0000 Anne Marie Goetz and Joanne Sandler 109310 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Berta Vive! Lessons from Honduras on resistance https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lisa-veneklasen/berta-vive-lessons-from-honduras-on-resistance-and-justice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A year on from the assassination of indigenous leader Berta Caceres, five Honduras leaders give key lessons on carrying forward the global fight.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Berta Multiplied.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Berta Multiplied.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>New York Rally, March 2016. Credit: Natalie Jeffers, Matters of the Earth.</span></span></span></p><p>One year ago, Honduras became headline news with the assassination of Berta Caceres. A distinguished indigenous leader, feminist, environmental defender and recipient of the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize, Berta was killed for organizing opposition to a hydroelectric dam on the Agua Zarca River in Lenca territory. In the days following her murder, hundreds of organizations and thousands of people worldwide mobilized a sustained outcry for justice in support for her organization, COPINH, and her family. My organization (JASS) and I were involved from the beginning and I can honestly say that in three decades of activism, I’ve never witnessed an instantaneous mobilization of that scale, diversity and impact.</p> <p>Berta touched many people through her smart, openhearted political work, including her adversaries in the US State Department and World Bank. She worked with dozens of organizations, social movements and activists across the globe. </p> <p>We worked closely with Berta and her loss felt deeply personal. As a gravitational force, Berta powered all of us. Collective outrage and political love seemed to connect people, institutions and issues that don’t easily mix and match, opening many doors and igniting political momentum. Environmentalists, journalists, feminists, priests and nuns, indigenous peoples, government officials, investors, racial justice activists and donors joined forces, putting aside affiliations and identities to get things done. </p> <p>Her assassination took place just before the UN Commission on the Status of Women (a global gathering of government and civil society representatives due to take place again this month). Overnight JASS joined with others to organize a Honduran women’s delegation to New York – led by one of Berta’s extraordinary daughters, Bertita Zuniga – to use the spotlight of the Commission to call for global solidarity and frame the agenda. The passion and natural leadership of my young Honduran sisters mixed with the outpouring of support, resources, expertise and access garnered prime-time visibility and influence over five, hectic, 11-hour days. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/13419236_10154315981719744_5157908721202024965_n.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/13419236_10154315981719744_5157908721202024965_n.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="533" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bertita Zuniga, Honduras. Credit: Daysi Flores</span></span></span></p><p>I remember vividly a rally in the rain on 1<span>st</span>&nbsp;Avenue; a wet crowd stretched down the block, holding paddles with Berta’s face printed on them and listening to Bertita and an Irish nun from the Sisters of Mercy, their fiery words interspersed with drumbeats and chants from a group of Filipinos from Mindanao who face a similar fight. </p> <p>Then, I remember that we were gathered across the street from the Trump Tower. </p> <p>What a difference a year makes. To one Honduran colleague, today’s US politics resemble Honduras’s “soft coup” in 2009, which created the crises and violence they currently face: “Welcome to Honduras,” she tells me. &nbsp;The parallels between Standing Rock and the Lenca resistance are too many to name. </p> <p>Over the last year, attacks have escalated against COPINH and other communities across Honduras that are defending land and resources against corrupt business deals and land grabs. Journalists, feminists and LGBT activists – among other dissenters and democracy defenders – have been killed, sued and slandered, while the government shrinks freedom of expression and expands the definition of terrorism. </p> <p>A dispiriting scenario, at least from afar. But look closer. The gains achieved by this scrappy mix of movement-led grassroots organizing, global solidarity and smart advocacy are pretty impressive: the Dutch and Finish investors (FMO and FinnFund) in the dam project are pulling out; eight men have been charged with Berta’s murder and taken into custody; an independent international commission has been formed to investigate the crime; the US House of Representatives has introduced the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act to suspend US military aid; and this story remains headline news from the <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21716687-commodities-technology-and-bad-policing-why-latin-america-deadliest-place"><em>The Economist</em> </a>to the <em><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/berta-caceres">The Guardian</a> </em>as journalists and analysts connect the dots of corruption and violence between government, business interests and US military aid.&nbsp; </p> <p>Of course, uncertainties about these gains are many and significant. The situation is volatile. As we say in JASS, “Change is physics: plan for reaction and conflict.” Honduran justice activists of all stripes know that power will attempt to reverse, derail or delegitimize these gains and the people behind them, sometimes violently. </p> <p>One year on, then, what can we<strong> </strong>learn from Hondurans about what has mattered most in the efforts to organize, resist, and sustain #justice4berta?&nbsp; Here as some insights garnered from JASS conversations with five prominent Honduran leaders on the frontlines of this effort. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h3><strong>1. Nature, humanity and the future are a worldview not a single issue </strong></h3> <p>When Berta accepted the Goldman prize, she explained from the stage: “The Lenca people are ancestral guardians of the rivers. Protecting rivers means giving our lives for the wellbeing of humanity and of this planet.” &nbsp;The river is not an issue, it’s part of a philosophy of life that Berta invited all of us to share. Berta saw no separation between economic, environmental and identity issues. &nbsp;The worldview is critical to sustaining this effort.&nbsp; Tomas Membreno, COPINH Coordinator, says, “Our cosmovision is what brings us all together. It gives us strength, it guides our choices and it permits us to draw on the wisdom of our ancestors.” &nbsp;Miriam Miranda, Coordinator of OFRANEH – an organization of and for the Garifuna people - and a close friend of Berta’s, believes this worldview helps educate and awaken people: “we have contributed to the growing global consciousness about the urgent need to defend nature as a common good.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/IMG_2492.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/IMG_2492.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Miriam Miranda, Honduras. Credit: Patricia Ahern</span></span></span></p><h3><strong>2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>Shared political analysis builds organization and guides strategy</strong></h3> <p>Translating a worldview into action requires “integrated thinking” (Bertita) or political-economic analysis to inform goals and strategy: it is important to “be clear that the enemy is the capitalist, racist and patriarchal system that’s driven by dispossession,” (Tomas). &nbsp;But “integrated thinking” and power analysis demand time, space and structured dialogues to “build trust and a common ethic, clarity of common thinking, respect for differences, and a level of transparency. … Coherence among activists and organizations operating in adverse and different contexts allows us to respond quickly,” (Gilda Rivera, Director of the Center for Women’s Rights).&nbsp; </p> <h3>&nbsp;<strong>3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>Concrete demands keep everyone’s eyes on the prize</strong></h3> <p>“A clear set of demands developed by COPINH and our allies allows us to channel all the solidarity in support of this struggle toward one goal,” (Bertita). These leaders agree that concrete demands offer solutions and respond to the problems felt by communities, giving everyone a measure against which to gauge their organizing and enable advocates in other parts of the world to remain aligned with COPINH and Hondurans. For example, COPINH and allies called for the cancellation of the dam project and withdrawal of investors, and this clarity guided Dutch and Finish advocates in their direct engagement with the investors.</p><h3><strong>4.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>Narratives are a primary battleground</strong></h3> <p>“Today, the world knows what’s happening in Honduras; that the coup in 2009 devastated life here; that Honduras is a dictatorship where the institutions of the state are collapsing, that the violence and criminalization of defenders is on the rise and that communities are in full resistance,” (Miriam) When Berta was killed, “the government and the local media spoke about it as a ‘crime of passion’ or an internal dispute within COPINH.” (Tomas) The movement worked intensively to recast events. “We shifted the narrative from a crime of passion to a crime of the state and that’s how we shaped our demands and the strategy. We also exposed the role of the investors and the myths of “green” energy by showing the real costs to people and communities.” (Bertita)</p> <p>Quality headlines are not just about narratives – they require a media advocacy that relies on a network of allies. “Solidarity at national and international levels helped us break through the tight media circles.” (Tomas) &nbsp;This combined with credible research <a href="https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/honduras-deadliest-country-world-environmental-activism/">like that of Global Witness</a> have framed and substantiated what’s happening in Honduras for maximum media reach.&nbsp;</p><h3><strong>5.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>Community organizing and women are key to resistance and resilience</strong></h3> <p>Tomas describes COPINH as a “school that’s permanently under construction.” The process of training and education “is the reason why our capacity to mobilize and our conviction is so strong” in the face of violence. Lilian Lopez, who co-leads COPINH’s &nbsp;women’s leadership program, says “the struggle is waged within and outside” because COPINH helps women and men “challenge patriarchy” and develops women’s roles within the organization.&nbsp; These activists recognize the critical role women play in holding communities together and in many other ways. For Lilian, organizing involves “knowing what’s happening in communities and the struggles they are having. We make sure we’re all in touch with each other and continuing to build our unity.”&nbsp; Organizing is crucial to survival. &nbsp;&nbsp;Some weeks back Miriam put it this way, “we should recognize the protecting force that comes from our ancestors and learning spaces.’</p> <h3><strong>6. &nbsp;Living with fear </strong></h3> <p>&nbsp;“It’s important to recognize that we’re human, we’re afraid. Afraid of what might happen, of the repression, of the assassinations, of the violence.&nbsp;But it doesn’t paralyze us. It motivates and connects us to keep going“ (Gilda). &nbsp;Fear is ever-present for these leaders, their communities and organizations. &nbsp;It’s something they name, embrace and resist everyday.&nbsp; My colleague at JASS, Daysi Flores, put it in words when she said, “I’m more afraid of remaining silent than I am of speaking out.” &nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps this is one of many reasons that music, dance, and ritual are so vital to this movement. They believe that &nbsp;creating and feeling joy is as important to movement-building and sustaining resistance as any strategy. .&nbsp; After all, Berta told us: “The right to be happy is very subversive. For this reason, we should aspire to be happy."</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofu-tawamba-kate-kroeger-tatiana-cordero/berta-s-struggle-is-our-global-struggle">Berta’s struggle is our global struggle…</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/daysi-flores/voice-of-berta-c-ceres-has-become-voice-of-millions">The voice of Berta Cáceres has become the voice of millions </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ana-abelenda/behind-murder-of-berta-c-ceres-corporate-response">Behind the murder of Berta Cáceres: corporate complicity </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/laura-carlsen/honduras-battle-to-protect-women-human-rights-defenders">Honduras: the battle to protect women human rights defenders</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Honduras </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Honduras Civil society 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy violence against women gender justice gender feminism 50.50 newsletter Lisa Veneklasen Fri, 03 Mar 2017 14:02:47 +0000 Lisa Veneklasen 109201 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The right kind of money: Part 3 on funding women's rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nicky-mcintyre-esther-lever/part-3-funding-womens-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Mama Cash explores how funding women and girls translates (or doesn’t) into money for feminist movements. The final of this three-part series highlights how funding can reach women activists.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Normal1"><em><strong>This is Part Three of a 3-part series. See <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/mama-cash/on-funding-for-women-s-rights-more-money-less-access">Part One </a>and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nicky-mcintyre-esther-lever/title-article-2-more-money-less-access-quality-collaborations-for-w">Part Two</a>.&nbsp;</strong></em></p><p class="Normal1"><strong><em><a href="http://www.mamacash.org/" target="_blank">Mama Cash&nbsp;</a>is an international funder supporting&nbsp;groups, organisations, networks and women’s funds&nbsp;that are led by women, girls and trans people.</em></strong></p><p class="Normal1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Aireana photo Javier Alberto Medina 17web.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Aireana photo Javier Alberto Medina 17web.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="338" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Aireana Grupo por los derechos de las lesbianas is the first lesbian-feminst group in in Paraguay. Credit: Javier Alberto Medina</span></span></span></p><p class="Normal1">The bureaucratisation of funding has had significant implications on the quality of funding. Here we must ask who gets access to funding and what is counted as being important or valuable. Funding is more and more tied to the outcomes funders want to see, meaning that groups sometimes need to shift or report on their activities in such a way to meet the objectives of donors rather than being led by their own agendas. For example, what are the implications of weighing more heavily internal financial and reporting systems over understanding to what extent work is rooted in the priorities set and led by women’s, girls’ and trans* people? We saw how this shift impacted the results of the Dutch <a href="http://www.flowprogramme.nl/Public/HomePage.aspx">FLOW2 fund</a>,<strong> </strong>where women’s rights organisations, networks and funds initially did not receive funding for their work and many did not even pass the threshold criteria. &nbsp;</p> <p class="Normal1">Donors need to shift away from the default of who receives funding: those who they are familiar with, often larger organisations in donor countries or in a country they know well who can deliver familiar formats of results. Rethinking criteria to ensure that<a href="http://www.justicefunders.org/Choir-Book"> transformative</a> social change is prioritised, in addition to technical requirements, may be one way forward. From this perspective, it is imperative to challenge assumptions that funding will reach women’s rights organisations through general civil society organisations, and for us to demonstrate why it matters to directly support a range of feminist organising—from small or informal organising to large or formal organisations led by women, girls and trans* people.&nbsp;</p> <h3><strong>Funding that trickles down: whose priorities lead?</strong></h3> <p class="Normal1"><a href="http://globalphilanthropyproject.org/2016/07/03/the-road-to-successful-partnerships/">Research</a> commissioned in 2016 by the Global Philanthropy Project sought to “identify and discuss government funding case studies that yield good practices, lessons learned and opportunities for funding LGBTI+ groups and movements in the Global South and East.” The report gives concrete examples of partnership models where “governments work with intermediaries to fund and support LGBTI+ groups on the ground” — pulling out lessons on what works and does not work to advance LGBTI+ movement agendas. Its key lesson is that to do this work well, for governments the challenge "does not lie in selecting exactly the right model, but rather in <em>ensuring that key elements</em> <em>are in place</em> <em>in the partnership</em> that promote effective collaboration grounded in trust, transparency and shared decision-making.”&nbsp;</p> <p class="Normal1">One hurdle within the context of European government funding, particularly the Dutch context, is that applicants are asked to invest significant amounts of energy into accessing resources without any certainty of success.&nbsp; Professionalisation is required – but not funded: elaborate applications including complex theories of change are prioritised, including significant work to systematise internal processes in order to meet threshold requirements, and usually requiring experts and consultants to support the conceptualising and proposal writing phases. This investment seems largely invisible to funders who demand criteria be met, but do not acknowledge the high cost to applicants.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Normal1">The ‘make bigger grants to fewer organisations’ trend, which severely limits who accesses funding directly, could be an opportunity for women’s funds to act as fund managers <em>as well as</em> receive funding to ensure that they reach smaller groups. Small grassroots groups are often inaccessible by larger funders (and vice versa) and are therefore at real risk of being excluded from receiving funding for their own agendas and priorities. This is the case also for larger women’s groups that may be considered too small to access large government grants and too big to access funding from foundations working on women’s rights. The emphasis on global south and priority countries may also mean women’s rights organisations in Europe and Central Asia are <a href="http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/how-do-you-make-a-region-visible/">excluded</a> from funding. Theo Sowa of the <a href="http://awdf.org/">African Women’s Development Fund</a> notes that bilaterals in particular want to commission out their work because they don’t have the space and capacity to do it themselves. How can we, as women’s funds, respond to this trend responsibly and be accountable? We know that large consultancy organisations have learned to cost in communications and technology into their work in a way that women’s funds and organisations have not—and are very adept at securing contracts to administer funds. As Theo Sowa shared, “we end up giving away our knowledge for very little in return.” In the context and discussions about how funding is allocated and the role of intermediaries, we need to have conversations about which intermediaries can deliver funding in a way that is supportive of feminist principles, movement agendas and priorities.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Normal1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/4. 1 in 9 Campaign South Africa ne in Nine.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/4. 1 in 9 Campaign South Africa ne in Nine.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The One in Nine Campaign works with the justice system in South Africa to improve the implementation of laws related to violence against women. Credit: Mama Cash</span></span></span></p><p class="Normal1">This starts with shifting the narrative that says that just because feminist organising can bring about transformative change on shoestring budgets, they don’t need more or better funding. Let’s be clear: underfunded movements are not the result of a lack of strategic vision. Funders can and must do better to support efforts to communicate victories achieved, lines held as well as challenges experienced by feminist organising.&nbsp;</p> <h3><strong>Looking forward</strong></h3> <p class="Normal1">We owe it to our movements to ask who gets counted in and can access funding and on what terms. It is within this context that supporting and resourcing movements means that we as funders need to be more intentional: when we make the case for ‘more’ funding, it should be within a framework of ‘better’ funding. Better funding helps to link actors, build joint agendas, and contribute to the infrastructure of movements. Funding needs to take into account the fabric of what makes up a movement, at the organisational level and the collective level. It is in the collective mobilisation, the collective power of many activists and organisations that we see change happen.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Normal1">For funders, the environment we find ourselves in today calls on us to do better and ensure that the quality of funding is at the forefront of our conversations and practices— this means resourcing the infrastructure of movements, moving beyond single issue areas or organisation types, and reaching out to form and support collaborations that aim to transform and redistribute resources in more equitable ways. When we track data on where funding goes, let’s understand better who is at the helm of organisations— who sets agendas? Collaboration can provide ways to streamline information and help funders understand their role in a broader landscape. It is important to invest in the communications capacities of women’s movements to ensure that their advocacy messages and successes are heard particularly in the current global climate where the rights of many communities are under threat—shifting hearts and minds and cultural change is ongoing work, where significant backlash is a real threat to the lives and well-being of women, girls and trans* people. &nbsp;As stated on Mama Cash’s <a href="//C:\Users\n.mcintyre\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Outlook\DCGW8S8C\%D2Make%20no%20mistake,%20this%20affects%20us%20all.%20The%20rights%20of%20women%20and%20girls%20are%20under%20fire,%20but%20also%20trans%20people,%20gay%20men%20and%20lesbians,%20religious,%20ethnic%20and%20other%20minorities%20are%20increasingly%20being%20driven%20into%20a%20corner.%20We%20must%20join%20forces%20and%20support%20each%20other%D5s%20initiatives.%D3">website</a>, “Make no mistake, this affects us all. The rights of women and girls are under fire, but also trans people, gay men and lesbians, religious, ethnic and other minorities are increasingly being driven into a corner. We must join forces and support each other’s initiatives.” &nbsp;</p> <p class="Normal1">It is also important to keep in mind that we are talking about social change, which is not and cannot be stagnant. While we know certain levels of bureaucracy and professionalism are necessary, it can go too far – so far that movements can become static and harmed. As professionalisation is being required, the funding industry demands requiring elaborate applications that include joint or many theories of change, significant work to systematise to meet threshold requirements, usually requiring experts / consultants to support such processes. This time and resource investment seems to be invisible to funders who demand these criteria be met.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Normal1">Private philanthropy especially has a role to play in funding what governments more and more will not or cannot fund— the under-addressed, underfunded populations, areas, movements. Evidence shows that autonomous feminist organising is a key lever for lasting change: for example, <a href="https://polisci.unm.edu/common/documents/htun_apsa-article.pdf">a global study</a> concluded that, in over 40 years of data drawn from 70 countries, the presence of strong feminist movements was the single most important factor in bringing about changes in a country’s willingness to recognise and address gender-based violence. In determining that feminist movements were more important than a country’s economic growth, an increase in women’s representation in government, or the presence of a left-wing government, researchers revealed that countries with strong women’s movements operating independently of political parties were more likely to have progressive social policies, in this case, on preventing violence against women.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Normal1">There are fantastic examples of philanthropy resourcing social movements well. For example, flexible, long-term funding bolstered <a href="http://history.mamacash.nl/grantees/namibia-womens-health-network-namibia/">organising efforts of HIV positive women in Namibia to stop forced sterilisation</a>, or the IM Defenders Initiative to protect women human rights defenders in Mesoamerica (see <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/mama-cash/on-funding-for-women-s-rights-more-money-less-access">Part One</a> of this series). Emerging new funds, such as the <a href="http://www.astraeafoundation.org/what-we-do/philanthropic-advocacy/international-trans-fund">International Trans Fund</a> and <a href="http://www.astraeafoundation.org/what-we-do/philanthropic-advocacy/lgbtq-racial-justice-fund">the LGBTQ Racial Justice Fund</a> are seeking to shift philanthropic practice and channel resources to underfunded movements.&nbsp;</p><p class="Normal1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/2. NWHN FS march 3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/2. NWHN FS march 3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Namibia Women’s Health Network participates in a protest against the forced sterilization of women who are HIV positive. Credit: Mama Cash</span></span></span></p><p class="Normal1">Given the shifting and complex environment we find ourselves in today it is pertinent to continue pushing for more and better funding for movements, including feminist movements where autonomous women’s, girls’ and trans* rights organisations are in the driver’s seat, are well-funded and seen as key partners in efforts aimed at bringing about lasting and transformative change. This work is not going to get any easier: with a Trump Administration, Brexit, closing space for civil society and physical danger facing women human rights defenders around the world, we must find stronger ways to make the case to decision makers who are not yet convinced of the value of including and directly funding women’s, girls’ and trans* people’s perspectives and solutions.&nbsp;<strong></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mama-cash/quantity-quality-funding-womens-rights">Quantity and quality: Part 1 on funding women’s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nicky-mcintyre-esther-lever/collaborations-funding-womens-rights">Collaborations: Part 2 on funding women&#039;s rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy feminism 50.50 newsletter gender justice Nicky McIntyre Esther Lever Wed, 22 Feb 2017 11:49:30 +0000 Nicky McIntyre and Esther Lever 108975 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Quantity and quality: Part 1 on funding women’s rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mama-cash/quantity-quality-funding-womens-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The first international women’s fund explores how funding women and girls translates (or doesn’t) into money for feminist movements. Part 1 of 3, this article defines quality in funding.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Normal1"><em><strong>This is Part One of a 3-part series. See <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nicky-mcintyre-esther-lever/title-article-2-more-money-less-access-quality-collaborations-for-w">Part Two </a>and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nicky-mcintyre-esther-lever/right-kind-of-money-part-3-on-funding-womens-rights">Part Three.&nbsp;</a></strong></em></p><p class="Normal1"><strong><em><a href="http://www.mamacash.org/" target="_blank">Mama Cash&nbsp;</a>is an international funder supporting&nbsp;groups, organisations, networks and women’s funds&nbsp;that are led by women, girls and trans people.</em></strong></p><p class="Normal1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Red-Flag-Women&#039;s-Movement-Sri-Lanka.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Red Flag Women&#039;s Movement, Sri Lanka. Credit: Mama Cash"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Red-Flag-Women&#039;s-Movement-Sri-Lanka.jpg" alt="" title="Red Flag Women&#039;s Movement, Sri Lanka. Credit: Mama Cash" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Red Flag Women’s Movement, Sri Lanka. Credit: Mama Cash</span></span></span></p><p class="Normal1">Never has there been more awareness or consensus in the international funding community about the importance of including women and girls in efforts to bring about lasting change. Various <a href="https://www.awid.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/New%20Actors%20FInal%20Designed.pdf">initiatives</a> focused on women and girls have been launched in the past several years, including from governments and foundations (corporate as well as private).</p> <p class="Normal1">Central to this consensus is an increasing emphasis on partnership—among donors themselves, but also with regards to their grantees: asking for organisations to work together as a pre-condition to be eligible to access funding. What does partnership—often experienced as collaborative work—mean in terms of the quality of funding available to women’s, girls and trans* rights movements? How are funders supporting movement agendas, and how do we make sure that we as funders don’t get in the way, but instead resource and support movements?&nbsp;</p> <p class="Normal1">Here quality funding refers to resources that are flexible and supportive of feminist agendas, moving from project support to core, operating support that can cover the priorities set by feminist groups. Further, quality funding is about more than the types of grants or their duration. It also means critically examining who can access this funding and who can’t—and why; who makes decisions based on what assumptions and criteria; what thresholds are put into place that are exclusionary; and what is counted as meaningful impact.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Normal1">It is with this definition in mind that this short series explores<strong> </strong>the quality of funding for women’s, girls’ and trans* rights organisations currently and whether the demand of donors that women’s organisations formally collaborate has been backed with better quality funding, as well as how the trend towards more donor collaboration has affected the quality of funding more broadly. </p><p class="Normal1">The recent election of Donald Trump in the United States, on top of Brexit, and in advance of multiple European elections represent a trend towards nationalism, nativism and populism which are already resulting, or will likely result, in a targeting of feminist and queer organising, a closing of the space for civil society, increasing Islamophobia, and an increase in state-sponsored rhetoric about traditional values and heteronormativity. It prescribes and attempts to enforce traditional patriarchal values, heteronormativity, and national identity. This puts those advancing women’s rights, gender justice, the rights of LGBTQI people, racial justice, the rights of religious and ethnic groups, and others at particular risk—they are on the frontlines and will need even more support. It also means that some of the (especially) government funding that was going to these strategies and populations in the past may be diverted to other priorities.&nbsp; This is critical for us to address as funders, individually and collectively, as we will need to step up and support – with financial and non-financial resources— organizing led by these communities around the world.</p> <h3><strong>The state of funding for women’s rights </strong></h3> <p class="Normal1"><a href="http://www.mamacash.org/">Mama Cash</a> is located in the women’s funding movement as well as the funder community. As a women’s fund we both raise money and give it away in grants. Mama Cash recognises that how we fund, and where we allocate resources as funders, is inherently political. Separate from fundraising for our own work, we seek to shift peer donors’ practice to be more transformative in their giving. As we navigate the funding landscape in our dual role as funder and grantee, we recognise that more funding does not necessarily equate to better funding, and that without the latter, the former may not further feminist movement agendas. What are the trends in the quality of money available for feminist organising?&nbsp;</p> <p class="Normal1">The major and oft-quoted report by the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), <a href="https://www.awid.org/publications/2011-awid-global-survey-where-money-womens-rights-preliminary-research-results"><em>Where is the Money?</em></a> revealed that women’s rights groups are chronically underfunded, with average budgets globally around 20,000 USD. The research showed that the large majority of women’s organisations remain small not by choice, but because they have difficulty accessing resources that would allow them to implement their own programmatic visions and plans. Emily Esplen, at the time Team Leader - Gender Equality and Women's Rights at the OECD's Development Co-operation Directorate, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/emily-esplen/donor-funding-beyond-gender-equality-funds">found</a> that just 8% of gender focused aid goes directly to civil society in the Global South—this excludes funding via Northern intermediaries or organisations that subcontract to ‘local partners’. Importantly, in November 2016, the <a href="http://www.oecd.org/dac/gender-development/">DAC GENDERNET</a> published a <a href="http://www.oecd.org/dac/gender-development/donor-support-to-southern-women-s-rights-organisations.htm">study</a> on DAC donor approaches to supporting women’s rights organisations, which will shed further light on these trends.&nbsp; <a href="http://humanrightsfunding.org/populations/women/">Recent research</a> by the International Human Rights Funders Group shows that 21% of foundation human rights funding in 2013 focused on women and girls—with the largest percentage (approximately 35%) going to Northern America and the lowest percentage (approximately 0.7%) going to the Caribbean. This research does not show a breakdown of who accesses this funding— are these women-led organisations or generalist organisations working with or for women and girls?</p> <p class="Normal1">We need to uncover this type of data and use it to inform our discussions as and with funders. It is not just about how much money is out there, but also analysing who is getting access to it so that we can deepen our understanding of whether this funding for ‘women and girls’ is contributing to feminist agendas and transformative change or not.&nbsp;</p> <h3><strong>In pursuit of quality funding</strong></h3> <p class="Normal1">A simple place to start is to continue shifting the focus away from project-specific support and towards long-term flexible funding. This is not a new insight – there are <a href="http://www.tpw.org/images/files/supportive_to_the_core.pdf">articles</a> illustrating why unrestricted funding matters – but it remains a major challenge in practice. Limitations on the percentage of a project budget that can be spent on overhead costs can mean that a project barely pays for its own administration and the staff who apply for grants. So even organisations that seek to grow their capacities to mobilise resources (so that they can work toward a responsibly resourced model that will allow them to do their core work creatively and flexibly) often cannot, because there is no money available to pay for long-term sustainability.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Normal1">The <a href="https://www.government.nl/topics/grant-programmes/contents/mdg-fund">Dutch MDG3 fund</a> was groundbreaking at its time in 2006 and serves as an example of strong, quality funding where women’s rights organisations, networks and funds from the Global South were able to access large amounts of funding that was flexible and responsive to their needs. Theo Sowa, Executive Director of the African Development Women’s Fund said this initiative “helped really tackle inequality and it understood the value of movement building.” Yet, this kind of funding has become increasingly rare, signaling a worrying trend in terms of the quality of funding. We have seen this occur recently with the <a href="http://www.flowprogramme.nl/Public/HomePage.aspx">Dutch FLOW2 fund</a>, whose final awards were limited to coalitions led by large INGOs, mostly in the Global North—with, before appeals, no women’s rights organisations, networks or funds from the Global South accessing this funding directly when the announcement was made in December 2015. The barriers that Flow 2 introduced in the <a href="https://www.government.nl/documents/decrees/2015/06/12/funding-leadership-and-opportunities-for-women-flow-2016-2020">application</a> and review process made it very hard for women’s organisations to succeed—raising questions about accessibility. For example, the minimum application amount increased by two million from FLOW1 to five million euros, and emphasized detailed theories of change. Around 60% of applicants <a href="http://www.ru.nl/rscr/vm/news/news/?ActLbl=ngo-funding-game&amp;ActItmIdt=1035598">did not pass the threshold criteria</a>, compared to 34% for FLOW 1. This also raises <a href="http://viceversaonline.nl/2015/2015/12/de-veranderingstheorie-van-het-ministerie-van-buitenlandse-zaken/">questions</a> about the costs of preparing applications, which may increase as formats and requirements become more complex.&nbsp; As funders, the question of access is important—how does our approach to due diligence maintain a status quo of unequal access to funding? How can we as funders aim to be more transformative versus merely transactional in our practices? The Bay Area Justice Funders Network has released a “<a href="http://www.justicefunders.org/Choir-Book">Choir Book</a>” with practical tips to address precisely these questions.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Normal1">There are a few <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/emily-esplen/donor-funding-beyond-gender-equality-funds">positive examples</a> in recent years, including <a href="https://amplifychange.org/">Amplify Change</a>, a new fund for reproductive health and rights advocacy predominantly for Global South organisations. Resourced initially by the Dutch and Danish governments and two private foundations, this fund was awarded to a consortium that includes two women’s funds, enabling the development of&nbsp;a mechanism influenced by women’s rights principles and leading to a more enabling (if not perfect) access for direct funding for feminist organisations.&nbsp;</p><p class="Normal1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/RED-Madre-de-Tierra-2015.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/RED-Madre-de-Tierra-2015.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Red Nacional de Mujeres de la Madre Tierra strengthens the capacity, advocacy, and leadership skills of women affected by destructive and exploitative impacts of industries in Bolivia on their lands. Credit: Alexandra Meleán Anzoleaga</span></span></span></p><p class="Normal1">Nevertheless, shifts in the economic climate, particularly as it relates to austerity measures instituted after the 2008 financial and economic implosion, are resulting in new competition for fewer resources, and impacting the quality of funding available. Funding for international development within the European context is under scrutiny, with budgets being reduced to cover shortfalls, and discourse being framed around the need to show concrete impact and results over short grant periods. Staff in government aid agencies have been reduced, meaning they have fewer people to manage relatively large sums of grant money, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/emily-esplen/donor-funding-beyond-gender-equality-funds">resulting</a> in a move to make fewer, but larger grants to organisations that can demonstrate having effective finance and monitoring systems in place—this directly affects the quality of funding available as it sets a high threshold for accessing these resources.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Normal1">In the Netherlands, as a result of budget cuts to the foreign aid budget, well-funded organisations, particularly Dutch INGOs, could no longer make their budget and needed to restructure and compete with women’s rights organisations for resources. This trend constitutes a worrying progression away from the quality funding that Mama Cash and our peers advocate for. Even for those of us who can access fewer, larger grants, we are restricted by region, issue-area and sometimes professional criteria in our ability to distribute it to women, girls and trans* rights groups working locally and nationally. In the face of threats and actual harm to women human rights defenders and other girls and trans* activists, their exclusion from funding for social change, community empowerment and security can be literally lethal.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/emily-esplen/donor-funding-beyond-gender-equality-funds">Donors thinking big: beyond gender equality funds</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nicky-mcintyre-esther-lever/collaborations-funding-womens-rights">Collaborations: Part 2 on funding women&#039;s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nicky-mcintyre-esther-lever/part-3-funding-womens-rights">The right kind of money: Part 3 on funding women&#039;s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala/transformative-strategy-true-value-of-investing-in-women%E2%80%99s-rights">A transformative strategy: the true value of investing in women’s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/angelika-arutyunova/womens-human-rights-watering-leaves-starving-roots">Women&#039;s human rights: Watering the leaves, starving the roots </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Women and the Economy 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Voices for Change women and power gender justice feminism 50.50 newsletter women's work Esther Lever Nicky McIntyre Wed, 22 Feb 2017 11:47:39 +0000 Nicky McIntyre and Esther Lever 108881 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Trump's slap in the face of Lady Liberty https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sanam-naraghi-anderlini/trump-s-slap-in-face-of-lady-liberty <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Will women be turned away from the UN Commission on the Status of Women, to be held in March, in New York? The world's global institutions must fight the 'Muslim Ban', starting with the United Nations.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>&nbsp;<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/PA-29917706(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/PA-29917706(1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Crowds protest Trump's Muslim travel ban across US airports. Image: Miami Herald/TNS/ABACA ABACA/PA Images</span></span></span></strong></p> <p>On November 9th&nbsp;as the dust settled and we took in the Republican victory in the US elections, I hugged my daughter and told her, “WE will be ok. WE will be safe.” I reminded her that as a child I had lived through the Iranian revolution, where we had seen our lives upended.&nbsp; I insisted that those events – travel bans, arrests, families separated, assets frozen - would not take place in America, regardless of the rhetoric against Muslims or citizens of Muslim majority countries. &nbsp;In conversations with friends and family, who were anxious, we deployed dark humor but we did not overdo it.&nbsp; Rightly so, our sympathy lay with the undocumented women, men and children, who’d be at the mercy of the new sheriff in town.&nbsp; Compared to them, we were and are the lucky ones.&nbsp; Or so I thought. </p> <p>At 4.30 pm on January 26, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order that effectively bans the citizens of seven countries from visiting the United States.&nbsp; Iranians, Iraqis, Libyans, Syrians, Yemenis, Somalis and Sudanese who wish to travel to the US, regardless of whether they are refugees fleeing war and terror, students bringing their brilliance and talent to US universities, tourists wishing to spend their hard earned cash in the US, or parents, lovers, siblings and children hoping to visit their US based relatives, are barred.&nbsp; As they arrived at airports in the US, chaos ensued. People were arrested, interrogated, had their social media sites checked and some were deported. &nbsp;An Iraqi interpreter for the US army was cuffed for 17 hours.&nbsp; Elderly women in wheelchairs and young children were in the mix along with doctors and scientists. The US officials and Trump supporters claimed this is done for national security, but politics of the extreme right is driving this agenda. </p> <p>The initial statement was broad enough that it also dragged Green Card holders, i.e. legal permanent residents of the US into its draconian net. Even nationals of those seven countries, with other citizenship could be barred. &nbsp;For a while the silence of the UK government and others was simply deafening. Then Prime Minister Trudeau – Captain Canada – came out strongly supporting his dual citizens. Angela Merkel followed and Boris Johnson finally stated that the vast majority of UK citizens who were nationals of these seven countries were also exempt. But as of Sunday night, the US Department of Homeland Security has stated, while Green card holders would have right of entry they could be subject to ‘case-by-case’ determination.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>The outcry against this EO has been loud, proud, spontaneous and so very humane spilling out in airports across the country. The weekend’s heroes were the lawyers and judges who came out in droves and fought heroically for seemingly small but life-changing victories. They proved that the separation of powers and rule of law that are the foundations of democracy, do work.&nbsp; Judges across the country chastised the government for lacking legal grounds for barring entry to visa holders and legal residents.&nbsp; But they are small victories, as hundreds of people remain in detention. </p> <p>These events touch many of us directly as we have childhood memories of flight from revolution, war or dictatorship to new lives in the United States and Europe.&nbsp; The memory of upheaval and the fear of uncertainty may be burrowed deep in our psyches but it is never erased. Yet on election night when the Republican victory was announced, none of us imagined that those fears could be inflamed again here in the United States, where we live as legal residents or citizens.&nbsp; I did not imagine the possibility of ever again leaving my home for a 10-day trip and not being able to return for seven years, as happened when I was an 11 year old in Tehran.&nbsp; Yet these past few days that thought has crossed my mind.&nbsp; It is so unimaginable to consider packing up my home, that I dose it with humor, wondering who would water my plants and whether my children – who luckily are US citizens – would remember to take Myrtle our turtle back to their father’s home. &nbsp;</p> <p>The very thought of banning people from the United States is an anathema to the very essence and identity of this country.&nbsp; The beauty, exceptionalism and greatness of America compared to other countries, has always been its willingness to embrace and celebrate diversity and pluralism. European countries have democracy and liberty. They also have better education, infrastructure and health care.&nbsp; But they falter in their ability to fully embrace the multiculturalism that is the new norm of our world.&nbsp; America was formed and thrived on that very idea.&nbsp; If this is destroyed, than what is great about America?</p><p>Coming from a president with a history of abuse against women, it is difficult not to see it as a punch in the face for Lady Liberty. </p> <p>When America catches the flu, the world catches pneumonia – as many of my colleagues say. So it was no surprise that this EO implicates so many others – not least the beleaguered but still relevant United Nations.&nbsp; If the visa ban is issued, than the state officials and citizens of these seven countries cannot attend UN meetings in New York.&nbsp; </p> <p>Given that the first to protest profoundly against the age of Trump were America’s women, and that the annual UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is coming up in March, it is perhaps apt, that the first to also test and taste the ban will be women.&nbsp; That Yemenis, Iraqis and Syrians will be among the absentees is even more poignant. They are the invisible and unsung heroes of their countries. Through the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL) which I spearhead, we know that these women are the few who dare to work for peace and equality, to provide relief and aid in the midst of war, to envision and work for the betterment of their societies in every way they can.&nbsp; They are perpetually at risk from violent armed movements and predatory governments. </p> <p>From Syria and Yemen to Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Sudan, women are at the literal frontlines of the struggle against Daesh and other extremist groups. They aren’t full of hot air and rabid rhetoric. They’re putting their own lives on the line to pull young men out of the clutches of these groups. Coming to the UN is their opportunity to inspire and show solidarity with each other, and share their expertise with the powerful states of the world.&nbsp; But herein lies the irony: &nbsp;in attempting to come to the UN – home of universal human rights &nbsp;–&nbsp;they will be barred by the extreme radicalism of one member state, that claims their exclusion is a means of preventing violent extremism.&nbsp; If Lewis Caroll were alive, he’d say the bananas are running the republic. &nbsp;</p> <p>We may be cynical about the UN, but now when so much that was built so carefully over years, is being destroyed so quickly, taking the UN for granted is a bad idea. Despite the shenanigans of many governments, the UN, in its very spirit and since its inception, has been about ‘we the people’, and rooted in the principles of the universality of human rights. &nbsp;The conferences where citizens get to meet, overcome prejudices, and convey their thoughts and solutions, are more necessary than ever in our collective history.&nbsp; The participation of women in matters of world peace and security – especially from countries affected by war and violence – is of particular and urgent importance.&nbsp; Even the crusty UN Security Council has acknowledged this, with not only the US, but also Russia and Theresa May’s UK issuing no less than eight resolutions calling for women’s full participation and representation in decision-making pertaining to war and peace.&nbsp; </p> <p>Yet the Trump administration’s EO will mean a unilateral and clearly arbitrary ban against women coming to the UN. It will be flouting the Security Council’s resolutions and thus against international law. &nbsp;Of course Mr. Trump’s coterie are also sharpening their knives against the entire United Nations infrastructure. And those who know the new President say his style of leadership is to create conflict among those around him. When he was a CEO it was among his own staff. Now he is president, it will be to pit one country against the other. </p> <p>António Guterres, the new UN Secretary-General – already much respected and with tremendous responsibility and expectation on his shoulders – has enough on his plate. But neither Guterres nor the UN General Assembly can stand in silence now that the EO is passed.&nbsp; It is an early warning sign of worse things to come, for the US and the world. </p> <p>Here in the US, individually and through our civic organizations, we continue to fight back. We understand that living in America – even as non-citizens –&nbsp;&nbsp;is about standing up for our own rights, while respecting those of others. It is advanced citizenship, like none other, with deep roots in the rule of law.&nbsp; But since January 20th, the rule of bad law is being seeded. We cannot let it take root and become normalized. &nbsp;And when the impact goes beyond the borders of the US, the world’s global institutions need to take a stand.&nbsp;</p><p>So, on behalf of ‘we the peoples’, it is time for the United Nations to also stand against the so-called Muslim Ban, and to do so, before it is too late.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/soraya-chemaly/under-trump-we-are-all-women">Under Trump, we are all women </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/sound-trumpet">Sound the Trumpet </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/after-london-womens-march-what-now">After the Women&#039;s March on London: what now? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lisa-davis-yifat-susskind/standing-our-ground-at-un-commission-on-status-of-women-csw">Standing our ground at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 United States Civil society Democracy and government Understanding the rise of Trump 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Gender and the UN UN Commission on the Status of Women 50.50 People on the Move patriarchy feminism 50.50 newsletter Sanam Naraghi Anderlini Mon, 30 Jan 2017 09:43:21 +0000 Sanam Naraghi Anderlini 108438 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Under Trump, we are all women https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/soraya-chemaly/under-trump-we-are-all-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The same strategies used against women for decades by the Christian right and the anti-abortion movement are now, under Donald Trump's presidency, being turned on the American people as a whole.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong><em>“Finally, considering the right's success in capturing state houses, the ever-rightward tilt of Congress, SCOTUS' recent Hobby Lobby decisions regarding contraception, and their ruling on buffer zones, prochoice activists must feel like Roe is as vulnerable as a wildebeest at a watering hole. Indeed, the lions of the right would certainly like to devour it. Were that the case, then the religious right's ascendance would bring another tipping point not just for abortion, but for the very nature of governance in the United States.</em>”</strong> <em><strong>– </strong>Douglas Jamiel, July 22, 2014&nbsp;</em></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/March.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/March.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, during the March for Life. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite AP/Press Association Images</span></span></span></p><p>Thousands of people gathered yesterday in Washington, DC, as they have for 44 years, for what is known as the <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/01/27/511992534/demonstrators-descend-on-d-c-calling-for-end-to-legal-abortion">March for Life.</a> This anti-abortion protest takes place annually near the anniversary date of the 1973 passage of Roe v. Wade, the US Supreme Court’s landmark abortion rights decision.&nbsp; Yesterday’s marchers, whether they individually like Trump or not, were happy, hopeful, and enthusiastic in the knowledge that his administration is so clearly and explicitly “pro-life.”</p> <p>The March was a celebration of the right’s electoral victory, the result of decades of work that had almost nothing at all to do with Donald Trump or his personal goals and pathologies.&nbsp; His election has enabled the religious right’s movement, one that has coalesced around abortion rights for decades, to gain political power. This march, and not Trump’s inauguration, should be the focal point for understanding the new administration’s rejection of modernity, science and secularism, as well as its undemocratic policy objectives.</p> <p>This assertion might mystify people inclined to think, “The problems we face are so much more than about abortion.” The point isn’t abortion per se, but the model established by a right wing Christian ideology. It’s a model of strategies and tactics, arrayed against women’s rights during the past fifty years, now being applied more broadly. When public harm is going to be done, perpetrators usually practice first on women and children, to see what society will tolerate. This situation is no different.</p> <p>The conservative right’s pro-life agenda – anti-science, anti-secular, and anti-equality – has been a fertile practice ground for decades.&nbsp; Religious ideas infuse personhood for fetus theories, medical truths are ignored and overlooked, and the deleterious political and economic effects of compulsory pregnancy on women are trivialized.&nbsp;</p> <p>Additionally, the anti-abortion movement’s use of language and framing also presaged what we see today.&nbsp; In anti-abortion activism, “alternate facts” and “fake news” have long distorted public understanding with expressions such as “partial-birth abortions.”&nbsp; Verbal and visual slights of hand are the lingua franca of the movement.</p> <p>On a deeper level, however, the anti-abortion movement starkly illustrates the right’s authoritarian and anti-democratic core. Despite the intent of individual people, the political anti-abortion movement willfully subsumes women’s autonomy, privacy, dignity, bodily integrity and moral competence in religious beliefs about innocence, sin and the promised rewards or punishments of an afterlife.&nbsp; Hardline religious conservatives that dominate “pro-life” activism and politics fundamentally assume that women are to men as men are to god and, as such, that women are subject to male intervention and governance.&nbsp; In the same way that biblical notions of gender hierarchy, submission and guardianship was used to established the basis for racialized slavery, this treatment of women has been used to establish the basis for undermining broader and intersectional equality. &nbsp;</p> <p>Trump is vehicle food to the religious right, whose ideas about gender hierarchies and roles overlapped just sufficiently enough with his to justify the rank hypocrisy of purportedly religious people supporting a man who so thoroughly embodies the abject failure of the compassion, empathy, respect, dignity and love that they claim to hold so dear. The animating force in this relationship is hierarchies and status – first based on gender, because it operates intimately, then on everything else.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Pence.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Pence.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the March for Life. Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta AP/Press Association Images</span></span></span></p><p>Trump himself has, over the years, vacillated in his opinions about abortion, but his Vice President, Mike Pence, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan have been among the most vocal and rabid anti-choice advocates in US politics in decades.&nbsp; Under Pence’s governorship, Indiana enacted draconian laws criminalizing pregnant women in violation of their civil rights. Ryan, a believer in personhood for fertilized eggs, supported what came to be called the "<a href="https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr358">Let Women Die Bill</a>" and was recorded explaining that, after all, rape is simply another method of conception.&nbsp; Both men endorse practices that, despite what they might say or believe, perpetuate systemic racism and sexism. Both believe, fundamentally, that men govern and women nurture; men produce, women reproduce. Information to the contrary, information that challenges status, is rationalized out of existence.</p> <p>What is interesting in either case – &nbsp;the right using Trump or Trump using the right – is the degree to which winners are perceived in terms of dominant and powerful ‘masculine’ ideals, and losers in terms of defeated, submissive and weak ‘feminine’ ones.&nbsp; The “pro-life” movement is steeped in ideas about gender hierarchies and those hierarchies now define the corruption of democratic ideals.&nbsp;</p> <p>An understanding of gender as an ordinal frame of institutional life is important to parsing how it is that Trump and his administration can so cavalierly seem to ignore the constitution, a tradition of compromise, and ultimately violate our rights as citizens. &nbsp;</p> <p>Many people believe that women’s equality means giving us access to what men have historically had, need and want. But gender isn’t only a matter of individual expression or behavior, nor does the movement of women into traditionally male spheres erase sexism and bias. Ideas about gender, persistently stereotypical, infuse everything from the organization of labor in homes and at work to the language and metaphor that shape our thinking.&nbsp; These ideas, to our collective detriment, remain, overwhelmingly, binary and hierarchical: men and women; higher status and lower status; public and private; strong and weak; dominant and submissive; leaders and lead; protectors and nurturers; rational and emotional; public actors and privately acted upon. &nbsp;</p> <p>It is in this framework that Trump is treating the polity in the way that women, threats to their equality and their “issues”, have been treated.&nbsp; What women say, experience and need remains minimally consequential to men and the institutions that they dominate. This approach has been the standard political, public and media response to gross violations of women’s human and civil rights for decades – rights that have often been challenged by anti-abortion politicians. &nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/trumpsigns.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/trumpsigns.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="324" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Donald Trump signs anti-abortion executive order surrounded by men. Credit: CNP SIPA USA/PA Images</span></span></span></p><p>Men <a href="http://wmc.3cdn.net/3d96e35840d10fafd1_7wm6v3gy2.pdf">dominate coverage</a> of abortion and other reproductive rights issues in all media.&nbsp; They are also the majority of cited and sourced experts.&nbsp; On US cable programs, Catholic officials are six times more likely to appear as media experts to discuss abortion than gynecologists or obstetricians. The last to be consulted, in media or in legislatures, are women. Media also, for example, failed to explicitly call years of extremist abortion clinic attacks terrorism, hate crimes or direct challenges to women’s equality and citizenship. &nbsp;</p> <p>If, as the result of anti-abortion violence and laws, women’s rights were degraded, if women were criminalized for the outcomes of their pregnancies, if their dignity was routinely impugned, if their lives threatened, if their ability to support themselves and their families was reduced, and if their freedom of movement and choice were monitored and restricted, well, there are always more critical Section A issues.&nbsp; Media has, for years, failed to consult women and scientists in matters of women’s health and needs or to hold public office holders accountable to women as citizens. Media is, therefore, entirely complicit in cultivating a poor public understanding of abortion, one that hinges on the disingenuous pitting of a woman’s selfish wants against a “baby’s life.”&nbsp;</p> <p>This is the same sort of vacuous “tell both sides” false equivalence that feed widespread climate denial and the rejection, in the United States, of theories of evolution. The same standards had the destructive effect, in coverage of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s candidacies, of suggesting that they were equally potentially unfit or dangerous.&nbsp; If women’s rights were considered part of the fundamental scaffolding of democracy, instead of private matters or negotiable political bargaining chips, then our culture might not have been as primed to ignore the dangers represented by Trump’s candidacy or the ascendance of an authoritarian conservative white supremacist religious right in the White House. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>It is an interesting development that what can be perceived as multiple re-institutionalizations of women’s inequality may indeed be a symptom of just the opposite, in that men and women, to consider an unprecedented upside, can now be categorized under the universal generic, “women,” because that’s how this administration, an administration that puts white male aggrieved entitlement on display in spectacular and destructive ways, is going to treat everyone. Equally.&nbsp;</p> <p>If you are a man, and you find yourself thinking, “How is what is going on even possible?” congratulations, you are now a woman. If you are saying, “That makes no sense. It’s not true or accurate, not medically or scientifically sound,” welcome.&nbsp; If you are wondering why the media persists in framing critical issues “neutrally” by employing dangerous false equivalences, it’s nice to have you.&nbsp; If you wonder how anyone can take senseless language seriously, happy to talk. If you are enraged that your rights, needs and experiences are being ignored, or worse, still, if you are being told that others know better what is good for you, get in line.&nbsp;</p> <p>We are all women now.</p> <p>When Donald Trump outlives his usefulness and popularity, the conservative leadership of the Republican Party will do their best to make light work of him, leaving Mike Pence and Paul Ryan to fill offices they could never have been elected to. Along the way, and via techniques well honed in the battle against women’s rights and access to safe and legal abortion, great damage will be done to women, LGTBQ communities, racial, religious and ethnic minorities, immigrants, the economy and the environment.&nbsp; In other words, less palatable words, heterosexual white male supremacy will have politically exerted itself.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sanam-naraghi-anderlini/trump-s-slap-in-face-of-lady-liberty">Trump&#039;s slap in the face of Lady Liberty</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/soraya-chemaly/under-trump-we-are-all-women">Under Trump, we are all women </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sashalynillo/storming-capitol">Women storm the capitol</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/sound-trumpet">Sound the Trumpet </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/after-london-womens-march-what-now">After the Women&#039;s March on London: what now? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lisa-davis-yifat-susskind/standing-our-ground-at-un-commission-on-status-of-women-csw">Standing our ground at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 United States World Forum for Democracy 2017 Understanding the rise of Trump 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy gender bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Soraya Chemaly Sat, 28 Jan 2017 13:52:04 +0000 Soraya Chemaly 108418 at https://www.opendemocracy.net On India’s Republic Day, we must remember Kunan Poshpora https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/amrit-wilson/on-india-s-republic-day-we-must-remember-kunan-poshpora <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As the Kunan Poshpora mass rape hearings continue, we talk to the co-author of a book which seeks to remember the 1991 events as an act of resistance.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Kashmir Rep.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Kashmir Rep.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A paramilitary soldier standing guard in Srinagar on Jan 26, 2017 as separatists called for a general strike in the Indian-controlled Kashmir region on India's Republic Day. Credit: AP /Dar Yasin</span></span></span></p><p>On 26<span>th</span>&nbsp;January as India’s right-wing Hindu supremacist government celebrates Republic Day with a massive show of military might and ‘crack downs on anti- nationals’, large swathes of India’s population, in Kashmir, Manipur, Chhattisgarh and elsewhere will be placed under ‘high alert’. For them this celebration of India’s national pride most likely entails an added dose of repression.</p> <p>In Kashmir, 2016 was a terrible year. Between July and November, the India's armed forces and police ruthlessly attacked a series of spontaneous protest demonstrations following the killing of a popular militant leader. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/08/india-crackdown-in-kashmir-is-this-worlds-first-mass-blinding">Some 17,000</a> people were injured, at least 90 killed and hundreds (many of them children) blinded, some permanently, from plastic pellets fired directly at their eyes. Meanwhile, in Delhi, the twitter handle of Digital India, one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's flagship projects, was <a href="http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/digital-india-twitter-handle-poem-to-kill-kashmiri-by-indian-army-deleted-shankar-pradad-3021298/">tweeting</a> a poem promoting the killing of Kashmiris by the Indian Army.</p> <p>In December last year, I met Kashmiri social worker, legal activist and author Essar Batool while she was visiting London, to discuss a remarkable new book she has co-authored with four other young Kashmiri women.&nbsp;<em><a href="http://zubaanbooks.com/shop/do-you-remember-kunan-poshpora/">Do you remember Kunan Poshpora</a></em>&nbsp;focuses on a horrific mass rape carried out in 1991. Twenty years later, in the aftermath of the Delhi&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/delhi-gangrape-victim-narrates-the-tale-of-horror/article4230038.ece">gang-rape</a>&nbsp;case of 2012, the five women, all involved in social activism, came together to help the survivors push for the case to be reopened. Memory, silence and the patriarchies of the Indian state and Kashmiri society, are the underlying themes which run through the book.&nbsp;</p> <h3><strong>Remembrance as resistance</strong></h3> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Do-You-Remember-Kunan-Poshpora-393x600.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Do-You-Remember-Kunan-Poshpora-393x600.png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="366" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>The central focus of <em>Do you remember Kunan Poshpora</em><em> </em>are the events of a bitterly cold night in February 1991 when the 4th Rajputana Rifle battalion of Indian armed forces cordoned off the twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora in the remote Kupwara district of Kashmir. &nbsp;The men were taken away at gun point and severely tortured, while the women - girls as young as thirteen, women as old as sixty, pregnant women - were repeatedly gang raped. <em><span></span></em></p> <p>There followed a massive cover-up by the Indian state. The gang-rape allegations were declared baseless and an infamous Press Council of India investigation by senior journalist B.G.Verghese concluded that the alleged incident was a "<a href="http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/unravelling-a-mass-rape/article4892195.ece">dirty trick to frame the army</a>". Verghese stationed himself at a military base, flew to Kunan Poshpora in an army helicopter and used someone from the local police station as an interpreter - clearly even a pretence of impartiality was not considered necessary. </p> <p>The book was written and published in November 2015, providing an exposé of the state and its agencies and an analysis of the systematic use of sexual violence by the armed forces, as well as a sensitive account of people's experiences. The Kunan Poshpora mass rape, it shows, was just one of the terrible human rights violations faced by Kupwara in the 1990s: reprisal rapes were common against a population seeking ‘Azaadi’, the Kashmiri word for freedom.&nbsp; So was forced labour, horrific tortures, disappearances and extra-judicial killings.</p> <p>One striking chapter uses the accounts of survivors to demolish the state's discourse and create an alternative narrative. I asked Batool whether it was difficult to get the people of Kunan Poshpora to speak out.&nbsp; She tells me that the events of February 1991 have taken their toll on the mental and physical health of the survivors. Some have died, many others suffer symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for which they have received no treatment or care. In addition, as in other South Asian societies, women are seen as the bearers of honour and those who have been raped are stigmatised along with their children. It has led to deep-rooted feelings of shame on the one hand, and social ostracism on the other. This has meant many have been unable to get married or even receive an education. </p> <p>At the same time, she says, &nbsp;"they have been used as "media fodder", pressurised to give endless interviews, to fact-finding teams and state investigations. The local media even forced them to be photographed holding up blood stained clothes. But nothing had changed for them....initially they did not want to speak, but after they got to know us and realised that we were with them in a collective struggle for justice, their attitude&nbsp; changed".</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Kashmir mother.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Kashmir mother.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Neelofar Jan's mother at Shopian, after the government exhume the bodies of her daughter and that of another woman, whose unsolved rape and murder sparked weeks of protest. Credit: AP Photo</span></span></span></p><p>"Forgetting", she says, "has been a coping mechanism. People push memories into remote corners of their minds... then remembrance becomes resistance." In a patriarchal society, she elaborates, silence is inculcated into women as a survival technique,&nbsp; and the state is then able to use this to stop women indicting their rapists and fighting for justice. A key idea of the book is that the very act of remembering and speaking out challenges the power of the state.</p> <p>Silence, as Batool and her co-authors write, has also shaped their own lives. Batool's family never spoke about the occupation, and till her early teens she was brought up to regard the army as Rakshaks, or protectors - the word emblazoned on armoured vehicles. Rape was never mentioned in her home. It was the same for her co-authors. So all encompassing was the silence that Samreena Mushtaq found out about her father's arrest, torture and death in a newspaper cutting when she was fourteen years old. </p> <p>As these young women write in their book, "silence is unfortunately taught as a survival technique, to women across society. Patriarchy seems eternal and natural. It is the governing principle of the lives of women, imbibed through society, religion, tradition and culture. But we bear another burden: the silences of an occupation are even more deafening."</p> <h3><strong>A collective action by the women of Kashmir</strong></h3> <p>Twenty-one years later, in December 2012, a massive&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/amrit-wilson/indias-anti-rape-movement-redefining-solidarity-outside-colonial-frame">anti-rape movement swept India</a>&nbsp;following the gruesome rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi. At that time Samreena Mushtaq, one of the book's co-authors, was documenting sexual violence cases for the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS). She was struck by the fact that the frequent rapes by the army in Kashmir, even mass rapes as in Kunan Poshpora, had not led to protests in India. On the anniversary of the Kunan Poshpora rapes in 2013, she and her women colleagues decided to petition the Jammu and Kashmir’s High Court to reopen the Kunan Poshpora case, and to organise 'a collective action' by women in Kashmir against the sexual violence perpetrated by the Indian armed forces. There has been many attempts to re-open the case prior to this, but none had been successful.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Delhi2012rape.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Delhi2012rape.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="263" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protesters outside the Indian Presidential Palace during a protest against the gang rape of a 23-year-old student in New Delhi, India. Dec 22, 2012. Credit: Tsering Topgyal AP/Press Association Images</span></span></span></p><p>This was when Batool got involved as one of the petitioners. As more and more women heard about the attempts to reopen the case, nearly a hundred came forward eager to be petitioners. The State agencies then demanded their ID cards. This was clearly intimidation since it is well-known that without a card one can be arrested, tortured or even 'disappeared'. In the end, about fifty women stood their ground and petitioned the High Court, sitting through endless court hearings under the hostile, misogynistic and patronising gaze of the authorities. The court admitted the petition and reopened the case. More recently, however, the Supreme Court <a href="http://www.jkccs.net/army-petitions-supreme-court-to-shut-down-kunan-poshpora-case/">stayed the proceedings</a> after the Indian Army objected to a new investigation. But the case continues, with hearings still going on. </p> <p>Reprisal rapes are routinely used in India by the powerful against those who resist - by <a href="https://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/india/India994-06.htm">dominant caste landlord armies against Dalit women</a> fighting for land rights and dignity in Bihar, by the state and paramilitaries against Adivasi women who are fighting displacement by powerful corporates in the mineral rich central states of India, like Chhattisgarh, or by the army against women in the <a href="http://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/indian-army-rape-us/296634">North Eastern state of Manipur, where, as in Kashmir, the Armed Forces Special Forces Act (AFSPA) is in force</a> giving total impunity to the men in uniform.</p> <p>If the AFSPA were repealed, would the situation in Kashmir change? "It would mean an end to legal impunity but the armed forces will continue to have moral and political impunity to rape and kill", says Batool. One of the arguments which she and her co-authors frequently heard, she says, was that "rape was forgivable when committed by uniformed men".</p> <p>Batool sees the years 2008 and particularly 2010 (when <a href="http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/kashmir-s-summers-of-discontent-why-the-protests-in-2010-and-2016-are-different/story-xy9w5KiPO7VGSehQcwJ2bM.html">120 people, most of them young, were killed</a>) as turning points in terms of women's participation.&nbsp; While the stereotype of the Burkha-clad Kashmiri women, the perpetual victim, with no opinion of her own, still lingers, a new image of the Kashmiri woman is emerging. "She is dressed", as filmmaker, Sanjay Kak, <a href="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/sunday-times/deep-focus/The-last-option-A-stone-in-her-hand/articleshow/6272689.cms">wrote</a> back in 2010 "in ordinary salwar-kameez, pastel pink, baby blue, purple and yellow. Her head is casually covered with a dupatta and she seems unconcerned about being recognized. She is often middle aged, and could even be middle-class. And she is carrying a stone. A weapon directed at the security forces".&nbsp;</p> <p>Do the women of Kunan Poshpora and the petitioners expect justice? In the words of Samreena Mushtaq, "We filed the petition not because we expect justice... but to make the Indian army answerable, to make it understand that its personnel cannot go scot free and repeat the same crime". </p> <p>As for the book which she co-authored, it is a record of this enormously important struggle: "a remembrance, a tribute, a movement against forgetting, a way of preserving and giving our memories back to ourselves".</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 India 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building women's human rights gender justice feminism 50.50 newsletter Amrit Wilson Thu, 26 Jan 2017 11:07:17 +0000 Amrit Wilson 108369 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A jail, not a shelter: women’s refuges in India https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/prita-jha/jail-not-shelter-women-s-refuges-in-india <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On the tenth anniversary of a major law dealing with domestic violence in India, we explore how the poor quality of refuge provision impacts on women’s choices. (Part 2 of a three-part series.)</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong><em>See Part 1 of the series: "<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/prita-jha/is-indian-law-on-domestic-violence-fit-for-purpose">Is the Indian law on domestic violence fit for purpose?</a>"</em></strong></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/IMG_20160908_144604.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/IMG_20160908_144604.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A sign hung at an Indian national conference on women's shelters reads 'Respect, not violence, is our human right.' </span></span></span></p><p>The women’s movement has long recognised that shelters and counselling&nbsp; are crucial to enable women to leave violent relationships and rebuild their shattered self-esteem, to imagine a new life and new self, free from the shackles of patriarchal demands, control and violence.</p> <p>In line with all modern legislative frameworks targeting violence, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) mandates that states must provide shelters, counselling services and legal aid to survivors. Given that <a href="http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/179/5/602">research</a>&nbsp; reveals that that&nbsp; over 90 per cent of domestic violence incidents are never reported to any formal agency (such as police, social workers, lawyers) it is imperative that women suffering violence in their homes have a viable alternative that they can easily and voluntarily access to give them space to think about their future options in a warm, nurturing space.&nbsp;</p> <p>The chasm between warm, nurturing, safe spaces and the real spaces inside shelters could not be greater. “Preytna”, one of the cases of the NGO, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Peace-and-Equality-Cell-634646713314333/">Peace and Equality Cell</a>, who ran away to save her life after years of physical violence and psychological warfare by her violent, alcoholic partner was shocked beyond belief by the unhygienic conditions inside the women’s shelter in Ahmedabad. She filed evidence about her horrendous experience of staying in jail-like conditions to as party to a legal challenge to the way shelters were functioning in Gujarat.</p> <p>She would recall years after leaving that the shelter was a punishing and exploitative space where she and other residents felt deeply unsafe and unhappy. She was required to give baths to mentally disabled residents, clean up after those who did not have control of their bowel movements and, worst of all, she had to live in complete isolation, cut off from friends and family. Residents’ &nbsp;valuables, including phones, &nbsp;were taken away from “inmates” as part of admission procedures. The only person she could see was her lawyer and social worker and the only time she left the “ jail” was to attend court hearings.&nbsp;</p> <p>Unlike the West, where women’s refuges grew out of the feminist movement and women’s&nbsp; autonomy and right to make decisions about their lives, even in conflict with their families or community, are widely accepted, in Indian society this is largely not the case. Girls and women who go against their family or community&nbsp; find themselves abandoned in extremely difficult and vulnerable situations. Shelters were first established to ‘protect’ vulnerable women from prostitution and trafficking rackets under the <a href="http://www.protectionproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/India_Acts_1986.pdf">Immoral Traffic and Prevention Act 1956</a>. The language and existing practices of shelters reflect the deeply troubling reality of jail-like conditions in shelters: ‘Superintendents’ are in charge of ‘inmates’ in institutions<strong>&nbsp; </strong>where no one is very concerned about the emotional wellbeing and recovery of survivors – there are no individual case files and certainly no long or short-term planning&nbsp; with survivors about their future options.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/IMG_20160908_144609 (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/IMG_20160908_144609 (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>The Nari Gruhs (women’s homes) staff don’t exactly welcome the women with open arms. The moral framework of society penetrates that of shelters, where such women are seen as “immoral” or “ deviants” who transgressed social and community boundaries, thus deserving of the punishment of living inside a shelter. In one case, a 14-year-old girl “Pooja” was sent to the main state shelter in Ahmedabad after she and the man she ran away with were found by the police. Her grandmother explained that she was sent there basically to ensure that she could not run away, given the jail-like security of state shelters, to teach her a lesson so that she would never run away again and, last but by no means least, to coerce Pooja to agree to a&nbsp; marriage quickly so that the family honour could be restored.&nbsp;</p> <p>These conditions drove a number of residents of Odhav Nari Gruh shelter to escape from their prisons. The resulting <a href="http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/ahmedabad/a-story-behind-midnight-journey-of-nine-women-to-find-freedom">media coverage</a> was used by Peace and Equality Cell in collaboration with the late fearless socialist and feminist Trupti Shah and activist Afroz Jahan (deceased) to initiate Public Interest Litigation(PIL), a unique tool that was actually developed by the Indian judiciary to ensure that those who were most vulnerable could access the courts directly especially where their fundamental rights to live with dignity were being violated. The court proceedings were initiated in September 2014 and have resulted in the court taking some substantive steps to ameliorate conditions in shelters.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>The PIL drew the court’s attention to the inhuman living conditions inside Odhav Nari Gruh, lack of medical facilities, hygiene, freedom of movement, exploitation of residents and absence of rehabilitation plans for them. There was no evidence of any admission or exit procedure or policy. There were serious allegations of misconduct and misuse of residents by the government servants running the institutions. There was also a lack of transparency in the running of the institutions. </p> <p>The High Court eventually delegated a committee of citizens, including a judicial officer and &nbsp;women leaders ofprominent NGOs, to visit eight shelters and report to &nbsp;the court. The report documents the deep unhappiness of residents with the manner in which they were treated by staff and their lack of contact and communication with the external world. The court has appointed a committee to reframe the rules for all state shelters in Gujarat, recognising that the rules framed more than 30 years ago do not fit with the &nbsp;expectations and demands of modern society.</p> <p>It is impossible to present a coherent, uniform picture on operation of shelters at state and national levels, given the acute shortage of data capturing not just the facilities available but the experiences of women residents in state and NGO-run shelters. There are efforts underway by feminist groups to collect data in their respective states in order to bring about the required changes in the running of shelters that do exist and to demand shelters where they don’t. It is clear from the multiplicity of issues and diverse needs of survivors&nbsp; that bringing about institutional change is going to take a very long time indeed. Shelters in Gujarat, are dealing with a&nbsp; heterogeneous group of women, including Bangladeshi trafficked women, women from other states who speak languages not understood by staff, women with physical and mental disabilities, survivors of domestic violence and women who have been &nbsp;abandoned by their families.</p> <p>The quality of counselling services provided is poor; its availability is patchy. LCRWI (Lawyers Collective Women's Rights Initiative) reported that on paper there are a number of service providers providing counselling services; many police stations and courts also have a counsellor, however there is little information on the nature of counselling, whether it is provided by professionals, what are the circumstances and stages at which counselling is provided, the objective of such counselling and whether it is at the request of the woman and respects her wishes.</p> <p>There is a need for a pool of senior qualified counsellors, psychiatrists and mental health experts to assess the mental health needs of survivors to ensure that they are given the appropriate level of support and to prioritise cases where there are risks of serious self-harm or suicide. Particularly, there is a need for counsellors to support survivors and families who have taken on the long-term stress of engaging with the justice system. The biggest obstacle to securing justice is the systemic problem of delay confronting the Indian judicial system.&nbsp;</p> <p>The provision of counselling services as mandated by PWDVA envisions empowering the survivor to choose a future without facing coercion to reconcile with the perpetrators of violence. Certainly my interactions with counsellors revealed that most counsellors and advocates are overwhelmingly committed to reconciliation and saving the marriage and family. Given the lack of infrastructure, economic and housing support&nbsp; and absence of reliable social security schemes for women fleeing violence, it is not surprising that many women “choose” to go for the reconciliation option.</p><p><strong><em>Part three is here: "<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/indian-judiciary-are-paper-tigers">The Indian judiciary are paper tigers.</a>"</em></strong></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 India 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy violence against women gender justice bodily autonomy Prita Jha Fri, 13 Jan 2017 12:33:49 +0000 Prita Jha 108086 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The voice of Berta Cáceres has become the voice of millions https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/daysi-flores/voice-of-berta-c-ceres-has-become-voice-of-millions <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Graffiti on the walls<em> </em>in Honduras <em>- Berta Vive! </em>Teenagers chanting as they march<em> - Berta Caceres Flores, sown in the heart of all rebellions ! </em>&nbsp;Berta didn’t die, she multiplied. <strong><em><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/daysi-flores/la-voz-de-berta-c-ceres-se-ha-convertido-en-la-voz-de-millones">Español</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Rostro8marzo13Berta_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Rostro8marzo13Berta_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="365" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Berta Caceres at the 8th of March Women´s demonstration in 2013. Credit: Daysi Flores/JASS</span></span></span></p><p>I spoke to Berta Cáceres the day she was murdered. I never imagined that later this year I would be in a demonstration along with almost a thousand women in Honduras asking for justice for her murder.</p> <p>That day we had been talking about a workshop we were doing together on collective healing and power.&nbsp;The last thing she said to me was, “Take care, <em>compita</em>.” She called some of us <em>compita</em> or <em>compa</em>, short for <em>compañera</em>, a political term we use for a friend in the struggle. She didn’t care who you worked for or where you came from. When she said, “This is a <em>compa, compa</em>,” it meant, “This person is one of us, an ally.” </p> <p>Sometimes, I still can hear her voice and this reality of having her gone forever feels like a dream. </p> <p>Nine months have passed already since she was murdered, and by now the world knows all about Berta Cáceres. Just as we know how <a href="http://www.rejectedprincesses.com/princesses/the-mirabal-sisters">The Mirabal sisters</a> fought against the regime controlled by a cruel dictator, Rafael Trujillo, in the Dominican Republic, and were killed on government orders on November 25th 1960. This is the reason why we commemorate that date every year around the world as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. </p> <p>Berta was an extraordinary feminist, environmental activist, and indigenous leader among the Lenca people in Honduras. She was a brilliant organizer and strategist, a firm and inspiring teacher, and a true <em>internacionalista</em>. </p> <p>Berta recognized how the Lenca communities’ struggle to protect their land and rivers was a global struggle, and at the same time she knew how to sow the love in her struggle in the heart of each person that she was involved with. </p> <p>For more than a decade, the <a href="https://www.copinh.org/">Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras</a> (COPINH) - the community-based movement she co-led, organized one community after another, building a network among 200 Lenca communities with allies across Honduras and in every part of the world. It is this movement that is giving us the hope that our future can be different. One of these communities fought for years against the construction of the Agua Zarca Dam, a hydroelectric project that would have destroyed water resources, livelihoods and displaced the community. Berta always knew they would win their fight to save the river, the river itself told her so. That was how COPINH, along with Rio Blanco people, managed to throw out a huge Chiñese company.</p> <p>After the 2009 coup in Honduras, Berta received dozens of threats for her activism, particularly in defense of the land and natural resources in Lenca territory when it seemed that every inch would be auctioned off (there are 49 concessions on their land today).</p> <p>On March 2, she was killed for her defense of the river Gualcarque. And she’s not the only one. Honduras is the <a href="https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/how-many-more/">most dangerous country in the world</a> for environmental activists, according to Global Witness.&nbsp;Between 2010 and 2015, 109 people were killed there for taking a stand against destructive dams, mining, logging, or agricultural projects. Of the eight people whose deaths were reported in 2015, six were indigenous leaders.&nbsp;</p> <p>I met Berta and COPINH when I was a teenager, and from 2011 onwards I worked closely with her and other <em>compitas</em> to support their struggles, and to create and activate her security and protection plan, while JASS and many other allies built the National Women Human Rights Defenders Network in Honduras, and the Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative (known for its Spanish acronym, IMD). The IMD is a collaborative effort of six organizations that develops feminist movement-building strategies to address the specific forms of violence, stigma and sexism that women human rights defenders face. Berta survived every imaginable threat and harassment – that she would be raped and killed, and that her children would be raped and killed.</p> <p>In 2012, while organizing protests against the proposed dam on the Rio Gualcarque in the Lenca community of Rio Blanco, Berta was picked up by a police truck, framed and taken into custody, and charged with illegal possession of weapons. Aware that she was in danger of being killed or “disappeared,” she called us, activating the network. Within hours, all of Honduras and more than 150 international and Latin American organizations began calling the Chief of Police demanding her release. After just two days, she was allowed to go home, although the charges remained. </p> <p>We fought the legal battle but she was never really safe. New accusations, charges of criminal behavior and slander about her personal relationships and her role as a mother became public. It was difficult for her, but her commitment to life, to saving the river, and to human rights activism never wavered. Nor did the attacks against her, right up until the time of her murder. </p> <p>When I first heard that this leader: my friend, my teacher, one of my political guides was assassinated, I didn’t believe it. In fact, I was not able to cry until I was coming home from the second demonstration mobilized to denounce her murder. I saw graffiti—<em>Berta Vive</em>—on a wall with her face, right there in front of me, and I burst into tears. I used to wonder, if they can kill a high-profile activist like her, what does that mean for the rest of us, for the thousands of other activists in Honduras who put their lives on the line every day to demand justice and respect for people’s rights and to protect the planet?</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/25NHonMovFeminista2016.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/25NHonMovFeminista2016.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="272" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women's demonstration demanding Justice for Berta. 25th November 2016. Credit: Daysi Flores/JASS</span></span></span></p><p>Today, in this demonstration, nine months later, I undestand... her voice has become millions! Her assassination will never be forgotten, just like the Mirabal sisters who opposed the dictatorship they were living under, were assassinated for their activism, and became symbols of of both popular and feminist resistance. In this century when we are facing a global dictatorship performed by different actors, Berta embodies three different resistances: anti-patriarchal, anti-racist and anti-capitalist. </p> <p>Because Berta was one of Honduras’ most recognized human rights defenders, her murder captured worldwide attention, even in a country as violent as ours. In 2015, she received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize which honors grassroots activists.&nbsp;She and COPINH have many allies around the world because of their active involvement on so many issues that are important to indigenous peoples and to Honduras. The power of her story, and the vast networks tied to her and COPINH unleashed an explosion of activism after her murder, mobilizing environmentalists, feminists, indigenous rights leaders, and human rights advocates around the world, who are still calling - in a loud collective voice today - for those responsible to be held accountable, and for an end to construction of dams and other projects that threaten people's lives. </p> <p>FMO, the Dutch investors in the Agua Zarca dam project, earlier this year <a href="https://www.fmo.nl/k/n1771/news/view/28133/20819/fmo-suspends-all-activities-in-honduras-effective-immediately.html">announced</a> the suspension of all activities, and after a <a href="https://www.fmo.nl/k/n1771/news/view/33138/538/independent-fact-finding-mission-issues-their-report-on-agua-zarca.html">Fact Finding </a>mission they decided to seek what they call “a responsible exit from the project”. However this million-dollar commission delivered a <a href="https://www.copinh.org/article/el-fmo-y-su-informe-mentiroso/">report on the Agua Zarca project</a> in September that ommitted evidence, and did not adequately address the key issue of prior informed consent </p> <p>Two weeks after her murder, JASS worked with many international groups and donors to pull together a delegation of Honduran women defenders to the <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw60-2016">U.N. Commission on the Status of Women</a>. The delegation, which included the co-coordinator of COPINH, was led by Bertha Zúniga Cáceres, Berta’s daughter, who <a href="https://www.justassociates.org/sites/justassociates.org/files/speech_bertha_csw_eng.pdf">testified before the </a><a href="https://www.justassociates.org/sites/justassociates.org/files/speech_bertha_csw_eng.pdf">plenary</a> on March 18.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/BertayLauraRioGualcarque.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/BertayLauraRioGualcarque.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Berta's daughters (Laura and Berta) at the Gualcarque River on the 23rd Anniversary of COPINH, March 27th, 2016. Credit: Daysi Flores/JASS</span></span></span></p><p>In her testimony, Bertha Cáceres called for the creation of an independent expert group supported by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to investigate her mother’s murder, and for the Honduran government to take steps to end a culture of impunity. She received a standing ovation.&nbsp;The trip to New York was the first international visit led by Bertha Cáceres, COPINH, and other Honduran justice leaders. Since then, there have been two other delegations to the US and a full tour of Europe. </p> <p>Five men have been <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/05/08/did-corporate-goons-plot-to-murder-activist-berta-caceres.html">charged</a> with Cáceres’ murder, including a mid-level employee of Desarollos Energéticos (DESA), the Honduran company leading the dam project. Despite our best efforts, Cáceres couldn’t be protected at all times. But people who work to protect the environment and their communities shouldn’t need protection. The Honduran government must come clean about its role in the systematic persecution of indigenous and environmental leaders under its watch. </p> <p>It must end the careless destruction of land belonging to indigenous peoples. It must end the persecution and criminalization of activists demanding justice and democracy, and start listening to local communities who have their own proposals for how to improve their own lives and simultaneously protect the planet. Cáceres called this idea “People’s power.”</p> <p>The murder of Berta Cáceres,&nbsp;and other members of COPINH,&nbsp;has provoked an enormous international solidarity response and a push for justice around the world, while also bringing to the forefront the responsibility of governments, banks, and corporations in human rights violations against communities that defend territories and natural resources. Based on JASS’s experience accompanying COPINH and Berta’s family, we experience the continuous violations against the Lenca community and women human rights defenders in Honduras, and the power of international solidarity.</p> <p>Nine months later, the search for justice has not gone cold dispite of the robbery of the case file on Berta Cáceres’ assassination, and the <a href="https://www.fidh.org/es/temas/defensores-de-derechos-humanos/honduras-roban-evidencia-e-informacion-clave-del-caso-berta-caceres">poor results on her case</a>. Numerous human rights groups, both in Honduras and internationally, have called for an independent investigation. Berta´s daugthers, friends, and organizations have been tireless <a href="https://www.copinh.org/article/copinh-y-familia-de-berta-caceres-pide-al-minister/">demanding justice </a>for her and all Human Rights Defenders who face <a href="http://criterio.hn/2016/12/01/denuncian-ante-la-cidh-la-ineficacia-del-mecanismo-hondureno-proteccion-personas-defensoras-derechos-humanos/">different kind of threats </a>- including death - just for doing what they have the right to do. That is why we have all <a href="https://www.justassociates.org/en/article/international-support-creation-group-experts-investigate-berta-caceres-murder-honduras">welcomed</a> the creation of an International Experts Advisory Group (<a href="https://gaipehonduras.org/justificacion/">GAIPE</a>) to support and pursue the investigation of the murder of Berta Cáceres Flores, and the attempted murder of human rights defender, Gustavo Castro Soto. </p> <p>On the 25th November this year, in the streets of this dangerous city (Tegucigalpa) a thousand women were demanding justice for Berta, not just because <a href="http://nacla.org/news/2016/10/27/environmental-activists-face-renewed-repression-honduras">COPINH</a> has <a href="https://copinh.org/article/alerta-intentos-de-asesinato-contra-el-coordinador/">been </a>increasingly <a href="http://copinhonduras.blogspot.mx/2016/11/el-copinh-denuncia-intento-de-entrada.html">targeted</a>, but because the demand for justice for Berta´s case is the demand for all of us. We know that any of us can be the next one. But inspite of the fear we face every day, the chant of the voices of a bunch of teenagers: <em>Berta Caceres Flores, sown in the heart of all rebellions</em> ” flowing right there on those roads, holds our hearts together and gives us the courage to shout the slogan that has been echoed around&nbsp; the world: “Berta didn’t die; she multiplied.”</p><p><em>Read more articles on openDemocracy 50,50 in this year's</em> <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-based-violence">16 Days: Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.&nbsp;</a></strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofu-tawamba-kate-kroeger-tatiana-cordero/berta-s-struggle-is-our-global-struggle">Berta’s struggle is our global struggle…</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ana-abelenda/behind-murder-of-berta-c-ceres-corporate-response">Behind the murder of Berta Cáceres: corporate complicity </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/laura-carlsen/honduras-battle-to-protect-women-human-rights-defenders">Honduras: the battle to protect women human rights defenders</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jody-williams/defending-defenders-daunting-challenge">Defending the Defenders: a daunting challenge </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-activisms-front-line">Women human rights defenders: activism&#039;s front-line</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sarah-marland/women-human-rights-defenders-protecting-each-other">Women human rights defenders: protecting each other </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-reigniting-embers">Women human rights defenders: reigniting the embers</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Honduras </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Honduras 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Continuum of Violence 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy women's human rights violence against women gender justice gender feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Daysi Flores Sat, 10 Dec 2016 00:03:36 +0000 Daysi Flores 107510 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A move to set free child sex abusers: in the name of “our culture” https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/yakin-erturk/midnight-motion-to-set-free-child-sex-abusers-in-name-of-our-culture <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Recent law reform initiatives on sexual crimes against children in Turkey reveal the growing danger for women and girls, and the need to interrogate the myths and biases underlying the “our culture” discourse.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Turkishprotest1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Turkishprotest1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protest banner: "Withdraw the law clearing sexual assault" </span></span></span></p><p>Midnight of 17 November 2016, six MPs of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) tabled a surprise motion that would amount to amnesty for&nbsp;perpetrators of sexual abuse of minors, who committed their crime before 16 November 2016 - if the victim marries the offender, and if the act is committed without “force, threat, or any other restriction on consent.&nbsp; The motion was proposed as part of a draft bill to amend Article 103 of the Turkish Penal Code on sexual assault of children. With the votes of AKP MPs, the motion was included in the reform package as a “temporary” clause. </p> <p>Protestors from all walks of life, particularly women’s organizations, went to the streets demanding its withdrawal. Critics argued that the motion is scandalous, particularly on two grounds. Firstly, the reference to “marriage” as a precondition for amnesty implies, given the illegality of same sex marriage in Turkey, that sex crimes against boys are punishable, while against girls they are admissible. This violates the equality principle of the Constitution and normalizes rape and forced marriage of girls. Secondly, by seeking consent of the child to the act, a blind eye is turned to the entrapment of the girl into a state of coercion and violence.</p><p>Following the public outcry, the motion was withdrawn, and on 24 November the draft bill was adopted by the parliament without the controversial motion. </p> <p>While the withdrawal of the infamous clause was celebrated as a victory, it soon became clear that there is an inherent danger in the adopted bill itself. Feminist lawyers and women’s organizations - particularly the TPC 103 Women’s Platform made up of nearly 140 autonomous women’s organisations - are concerned about the age categorization that now exists in the amended Article 103. Although 15 years is still the age of consent, because of the way it is stated it leaves room for interpretation, which given Turkey’s judicial history, could entice some judges to seek consent from the girl child between 12 and 15 years of age. </p> <p><strong>The background <br /></strong></p> <p>The initiative to amend Article 103 was motivated by the Constitutional Court <a href="http://constitutionalcourt.gov.tr/">rulings</a> of December 2015 and July 2016 that annulled two clauses of Article 103, and gave the government twelve and six months respectively to amend the law accordingly. The annulments were justified on the grounds that the penal sanctions of the law do not differentiate the nature and circumstances of the act against victims in different age groups. </p> <p>In 2002, the minimum age of marriage was raised to&nbsp;17 years for both men&nbsp;and women, with a provision that allows marriage at the age of 16 with the consent of the court under “exceptional circumstances”. In 2004, the new Penal Code defined all sexual acts against children under the age of 15 as sexual abuse. With the going into force of the reformed laws, widespread abuse of the laws and problems burdening the courts were recorded. While most legal experts and women’s groups recognize and agree that these problems need to be addressed, the predicament is 0ver how to address them. </p> <p>Women’s organizations that have been advocating for abolishing child marriages by confronting its underlying causes, argue that while the new amendment toughens sentences for offenders targeting children under 12, the age categorization for 12 to 18 year- olds paves the way for lowering the age of consent below 15. </p> <p>Furthermore, reference to “circumstances of the case”, i.e. social context, customs and traditions, invites an unconditional shift from punitive justice to reparative justice, thus laying the ground for the violation of the Constitution as well as international treaties Turkey is party to.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Turkeychildabuse.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Turkeychildabuse.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="301" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protest demanding the withdrawal of the bill.</span></span></span></p><p><strong>Reality of culture and customs <br /></strong></p> <p>The architects of the infamous ‘motion’ of 17 November,<em> </em>as well as the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice who backed them up, were arguably acting under the premise that punitive measures overlook the reality of “the custom of child marriage” and the deprivations that result from sanctions applied to those involved. The Prime Minister, in defense of the motion, argued that there are over 3,000 men who are arrested for marrying a minor by conducting a religious ceremony with the “consent” of the family and the girl. “They don’t know the law, then they have kids, the father goes to jail and the children are alone with their mother… This is a law to eliminate this victimization for <em>just one time</em>.”<strong><em> <br /></em></strong></p> <p>The government’s approach to solving such a deep rooted problem by legalizing child marriages and the sexual abuse of girls, rather than taking measures to confront discriminatory values, empower girls and women, encourage girls’ education and the implementation of its own laws with diligence, is nothing short of state accomplice to crime. It is estimated that one in three marriages in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/turkey">Turkey</a> involves an underage girl, which implies that girls become mothers before they grow up. Advocacy and lobbying of women’s groups gave visibility to the magnitude of the problem, which motivated the Parliamentary Commission on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men in 2009 to conduct an investigation into child marriages and make recommendations towards its eradication. </p> <p>Governmental policy and action over the past years show a shift away from the understanding that led to the Commissions’ work, which was embraced with enthusiasm by its AKP members as well as those of other parties. In this sense, the AKP’s stand on sexual abuse and child marriage, irrespective of the intention, represents an ethical regression<strong>. </strong>The danger of such regression lies in its implications for eroding the moral fabric of society in the long run. Meanwhile, petty patriarchs, who are encouraged by those in authority, become empowered and voice their misogynous ideals without any need for restraint. </p> <p>For example, a pro-AKP author speaking at a TV program shortly after the infamous motion was opened to public debate, made provocative statements in defense of the government’s approach to child sexual abuse and early marriage.&nbsp; He took it upon himself to speak on behalf of the “Turkish culture” in declaring that a child at age of 12 or 13 should be able to get married if they wanted - the designation of 18 as the legal age for consent, according to him, is a Western invention.&nbsp; </p> <p><strong>Persistence of culture-based discourses</strong><em> <br /></em></p> <p>Regrettably, when it comes to the universality of women’s human rights and their validity in a given local context, such culture-based claims continue to dominate the public discourse in many societies. These discourses also provide a reference point for judicial systems in excusing acts of violence against women or justifying sexual abuse of a child, as is the case under discussion. </p> <p>The fact that, women’s rights are rejected in the name of&nbsp; “our culture” in seemingly diverse cultural contexts raise many questions and continually compel us to unpack, confront, and demystify such claims. </p> <p>During my six year tenure as UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, I witnessed how in almost all countries I visited, cultural references were made to excuse or reject women’s human rights. Authorities would invariably refer to “our culture” when questioned about their poor record in complying with their international obligations to combat violence against women and enhance gender equality.&nbsp; This prompted me to devote one of my thematic reports to the Human Rights Council to the subject of “Intersections of Culture and Violence against Women”. I have also included the text in my book, <a href="http://www.learningpartnership.org/violence-without-borders-paradigm-policy-and-praxis-concerning-violence-against-women"><em>Violence without Borders:</em> <em>Paradigm, policy and praxis concerning violence against women</em> (</a>2016).&nbsp;<em> <br /></em></p> <p><strong>Common myths <br /></strong></p> <p>In challenging cultural claims, I draw attention in the book to the myths surrounding dominant cultural paradigms. These myths serve to protect the interests of those who monopolize the right to speak on behalf of culture; they also develop a life of their own as they spread, take root, and transform into widely taken for granted “facts of life” over time.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>According to one myth, culture is presented as static and immutable time-honored “traditions.” Customary law, in particular, derives its legitimacy from this claim to tradition. However, throughout the world, the customs and traditions that constitute the foundation of local customary law have been distorted, eroded, and transformed as a result of factors such as colonialism, wars, invasions, mass migrations, national integration, etc. and have changed and reproduced themselves according to the shifting social dynamics and balances of power. </p> <p>The world order that has been spreading over the past few centuries has adjoined different cultures economically, politically, and socially within a hierarchical system of power. “Customs” that are positioned in opposition to women’s rights today have in fact been molded within the very cultural imperialism they claim to oppose and have served as a point of reference for hegemonic powers to solidify their positions through manipulating culture<strong>. <br /></strong></p> <p>Another common myth is that culture is homogenous and monolithic. A dominant, discriminatory paradigm is presented as the only legitimate interpretation of culture, while diverse voices are silenced, particularly if they are those of women or other marginalized groups. The concept of “Asian values” is a case in point. Similarly, The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (1990) presumes that there is one homogeneous Muslim view of Islamic values based on very intransigent human interpretations of the Qur’an. Human rights activists, reformist clerics and women’s rights groups working from within Islamic jurisprudence, among others, have <a href="http://www.musawah.org/">contested this monolithic representation</a> of Islamic culture. </p> <p>A third myth is that culture is apolitical and detached from the prevailing power relations as well as the economic and social circumstances it operates in. This view provides a convenient veil to disguise various interests and balances of power that underlie cultural practices that are harmful to women.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>Armed conflict, occupation, the war against terror, and militarist cultures, although with diverse outcomes, often reinforce dominant cultural paradigms that discriminate against women. Sustenance of group boundaries, family honor, and the maintenance of everyday life fall on the shoulders of women, for whom this means conformity to the strict norms of patriarchy. During conflict, the perceived need to “rally ’round the flag” of group identity or the wider, more “noble” causes is instrumentalized as a pretext to further entrench patriarchal control within the group or trivialize women’s movements. </p> <p>Similar dynamics can also be observed in immigrant, minority, or indigenous communities that experience ethnic or religious discrimination. In an effort to define themselves in opposition to the majority that rejects them, or to preserve the group identity threatened by the majority, there is a strong tendency among these groups to adopt essentialist or fundamentalist interpretations of their own culture. Men who regard themselves as the makers and protectors of culture impose rigid codes of conduct on women who are regarded as the transmitters and bearers of culture. Violence is used, where necessary, to enforce women’s compliance with these impositions. </p> <p>Militarist discourse also reinforces the public approval for violence as it promotes rigid notions of womanhood that draw on the traditional role of women as mothers to serve the national interest, including by raising “good soldiers,” and notions of manhood that favor violence-prone masculinity. In addition, in the case of failed states or when extremist groups besiege state institutions, the most oppressive and violent interpretations of culture are imposed on society, undermining the notion of rule of law, primarily when it comes to women’s rights.<strong><em> <br /></em></strong></p> <p>On the other hand, reducing violence to specific cultural practices of the “other” de-link the problem from its structural root causes and hinders women’s struggles for their rights. Particularly for women in the global south, such an approach implies that their “salvation” lies in denouncing their own cultural identity and surrendering to imperialist projects. </p> <p>In short, culturalizing the problem of women’s rights (whether in its orientalist or occidentalist form) diverts attention from the unequal gendered structures, as well as from the wider economic and political environment in which these hierarchies evolve and persist<em>.</em> It provides a perfect alibi for traditional patriarchs to evade any responsibility to accommodate women’s rights claims. Cultural interpretation of women’s subordination relieves the developed countries of the responsibility for poverty, dispossessions and destruction caused by capitalism, neoliberal economic policies, militarism, occupation, and armed conflicts. </p> <p>Compromising women’s rights or abandoning them to the mercy or compassion of the powerful is not an option. Therefore, the response to the challenges that confront us today in the name of cultural essentialism and relativism is to resist and disclose the oppressive practices in the name of culture, while respecting our diverse cultures and interpreting universal human rights on the grounds of not “uniformity” but rather “difference.”&nbsp; </p> <p>The 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Campaign that started in 1991—spanning from November 25, International Day on the Elimination of Violence against Women, to December 10, International Human Rights Day—emphasizes the need for the recognition of violence against women as an international human rights issue. The 16 Days Campaign has become a cultural event symbolizing women’s resistance to gender inequality. It draws on local culture to raise awareness while strengthening solidarity at a global level.</p> <p><strong>Pushing forward <br /></strong></p> <p>In the final analysis, the realization of women’s demands for rights and freedoms requires a consistent political commitment and a non-compromising willingness on the part of the state. In Turkey, the past decade has witnessed a steady decline in this respect. Parallel to this decline are the growing tensions with the West; a deep polarization in society; the refugee crisis; <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/yakin-erturk/call-to-engender-turkey%E2%80%99s-peace-process">the breakdown of Turkey’s peace process</a>; devastation caused by terrorism and counterterrorism measures; internal displacements; intolerance of all forms of criticism of the government; and finally, following the bizarre coup attempt of July 15, mass dismissals civil servants from all sectors, arrests of journalists, academics, politicians, including the Kurdish leaders of HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) and near breakdown of the EU accession process. </p> <p>Against this background, the backlash against women in Turkey will likely continue to accelerate with the blessing of the government. This is a serious setback and challenge for <a href="http://www.sunypress.edu/p-5728-shaping-gender-policy-in-turkey.aspx">feminist advocacy and activism</a>, which accounts for the many progressive laws concerning women’s rights passed under AKP administration since early 2000.<strong> </strong>Ironically, the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, which an AKP administration took ownership of and housed its inauguration in Istanbul in 2012, is also at risk of being trivialized. </p> <p>Nonetheless, as demonstrated in the reaction to the sexual harassment bill, the women in Turkey are determined to continue with their feminist struggle, although the stakes are higher and the challenges tougher today.</p><p>Human rights and secularism, with all their short comings, need to be defended to the end.</p><p><em>Yakin Erturk's new book was published by WLP in March 2016. It will shortly be available on Amazon. </em><a href="http://www.learningpartnership.org/violence-without-borders-paradigm-policy-and-praxis-concerning-violence-against-women"><strong><em>Violence without Borders:</em> <em>Paradigm, policy and praxis concerning violence against women</em></strong>.</a> </p><p><em>Read more articles on openDemocracy in this year's</em> <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-based-violence">16 Days: Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.&nbsp;</a></strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dilar-dirik/erdogan-s-war-on-women">Erdogan&#039;s war on women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mona-tajali/promise-of-gender-parity-turkey-s-people-s-democratic-party-hdp">The promise of gender parity: Turkey’s People’s Democratic Party (HDP)</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/gender-wars-in-turkey-litmus-test-of-democracy">The gender wars in Turkey: a litmus test of democracy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/margaret-owen/to-demand-peace-is-not-crime-turkish-academics-on-trial">&quot;To demand peace is not a crime&quot;: Turkish academics on trial </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/bingul-durbas/silencing-womens-rights-activists-in-turkey">Silencing women&#039;s rights activists in Turkey</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ayse-bugra/turkey-what-lies-behind-nationwide-protests">Turkey: what lies behind the nationwide protests? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/tangled-web-politics-of-gender-in-turkey">A tangled web: the politics of gender in Turkey</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/safak-pavey/rise-of-political-islam-in-turkey-how-west-got-it-wrong">The rise of political Islam in Turkey: how the west got it wrong </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk-and-jennifer-allsopp/due-diligence-for-womens-human-rights-transgressing-conventio">Due diligence for women&#039;s human rights: transgressing conventional lines </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/feminism-and-soul-of-secularism">Feminism and the soul of secularism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/not-church-not-state-gender-equality-in-crossfire">Not the Church, Not the State? Gender equality in the crossfire</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maggie-murphy/traditional-values-vs-human-rights-at-un">&#039;Traditional values&#039; vs human rights at the UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Turkey Culture Democracy and government 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter bodily autonomy feminism fundamentalisms gender women and power Yakin Erturk Fri, 02 Dec 2016 08:45:33 +0000 Yakin Erturk 107233 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Honduras: the battle to protect women human rights defenders https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/laura-carlsen/honduras-battle-to-protect-women-human-rights-defenders <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Protection of women human rights defenders must be based on recognizing not only their existence, but also their contribution to creating better societies.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>­­­</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/bertaanniversary.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/bertaanniversary.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A shrine in memory of Berta Cáceres. Photo: Just Associates ( JASS) </span></span></span></p> <p>You shouldn’t have to risk your life to demand respect for your rights and the rights of others, but in Honduras hundreds of defenders have been threatened and murdered for doing just that. Most of these cases are not investigated or prosecuted.&nbsp; </p> <p>Honduran women human rights defenders delivered this message to UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, during a visit to the country in August. Just days before arriving in Tegucigalpa, Forst issued a <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20397&amp;LangID=E">joint press release</a> with the Inter-American Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, José de Jesus Orozco, <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20397&amp;LangID=E">publicly</a> declaring, “Honduras is one of the most hostile and dangerous countries in the world for human rights defenders.” His visit focused on impunity, which he deemed “a huge obstacle to access to justice for defenders”. </p> <p>Just weeks later, an armed commando <a href="https://www.yahoo.com/news/theft-case-files-environmentalist-killing-worries-un-012848930.html">stole the case file</a>s on the assassination on 2 March of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/ndana-bofu-tawamba-kate-kroeger-tatiana-cordero/berta-s-struggle-is-our-global-struggle">world-renowned feminist and environmental leader Berta Cáceres</a>. The masked men, as yet unidentified, took the files at gunpoint from the car of a judge who claimed she was taking them home “to study.” Although six people have been arrested, including two military men and employees of the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ana-abelenda/behind-murder-of-berta-c-ceres-corporate-response">company building the dam</a> Cáceres opposed, the masterminds of the crime are suspected to be higher up and as yet untouched. Forst issued a statement saying that the theft demonstrated the incapacity or lack of will of the Honduran authorities to investigate. </p> <p>Seven UN Rappoteurs co-signed a <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=19805&amp;LangID=E">call to end impunity</a> in Honduras a month after the assassination, citing “A backlash against women human rights defenders,” and explaining that “Women human rights defenders are generally further exposed to retaliation, harassment and violence as they usually challenge the patriarchal culture and deep-rooted gender stereotypes about the role of women in society.” </p> <p>With Berta Cáceres’s case moving farther, rather than closer to justice, and assassinations of human rights defenders unabated, a surreal sense of outraged impotence has settled on Honduras. In death, Cáceres's case and her cause continue to create a stir. People around the world shook their heads in disbelief at the latest news of the bizarre abduction of the files. The UN again called for an independent investigation into the murder, which the Honduran government has rejected.</p> <p>The Honduran justice system fails in more than <a href="http://www.laprensa.hn/honduras/778877-410/honduras-90-de-los-delitos-quedan-en-la-impunidad">90% of cases, </a>criminals are not tried, found guilty and punished. This is especially true when the culprits are powerful economic or political actors, or government officials and members of the police and armed forces. Daysi Flores, national director of <a href="http://justassociates.org/en/jass-mesoamerica">Just Associates (JASS)</a> in Honduras, said that this context of impunity has allowed organized crime to flourish, “And not just drug trafficking, but also the organized crime that carries out illegal land grabs and usurps communities’ natural resources, and the organized crime that loots our social security system and public goods to the detriment of the people’s living conditions.” </p> <p>While unable or unwilling to prosecute crimes, the government has moved aggressively in charging human rights defenders on the basis of weak or non-existent evidence. Three years before being murdered, <a href="http://justassociates.org/en/action/call-action-freedom-berta-caceres-honduras">Caceres was arrested</a> in a military operation and accused of “illegal arms possession” and being a threat to Honduran security. The courts released her only after an international campaign demanding her freedom. More recently, <a href="https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-gladys-lanza-ochoa">Gladys Lanza</a>, director of the Movement of Women for Peace “Visitacion Padilla”, was charged and convicted of defamation for defending a woman who denounced a government official for sexual and labor harassment. Due to the constant stream of threats against her, she was granted precautionary measures until her death in Sept. 2016 from an illness that many say was exacerbated by the legal harassment she faced. </p> <p>Forst’s visit opened up a forum for Honduran human rights defenders to recount the attacks and threats they suffer in their daily work in defense of land and territory, political rights, and sexual and reproductive freedom. Marcia Aguiluz of <a href="https://www.cejil.org/en">CEJIL</a>, warned in the meeting that&nbsp; “Criminalization is becoming one of the obstacles that governments use to limit the right to defend rights.” Others described a nation where those who seek justice are assassinated, threatened, imprisoned and slandered. The attacks take place as the government looks the other way - or actively delivers the blows. </p> <p>In a <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20397&amp;LangID=E">press release</a> on 19 August, Forst and Orozco urged the Honduran government to “Immediately adopt and apply effective measures to protect human rights defenders, so they can carry out their human rights work without fear or threat of violence or murder.” </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/ada460.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/ada460.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="415" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ada Osorio, leader of the Miskita Indigenous Women / Mairen India Miskitu Asla Takanka. Photo: Just Associates </span></span></span></p> <p>Most of those who testified at the forum were women human rights defenders (WHRD) who face a double burden of risk due to discrimination. Despite their vulnerability, they lead many of the most significant and dangerous battles for defense of rights.&nbsp; </p><p>Just Associates ( JASS) presented a new <a href="http://justassociates.org/es/publicaciones/enfoque-genero-proteccion-defensoras-experiencias-mexico-honduras" target="_blank">report</a>, produced with <a href="https://protectioninternational.org/" target="_blank">Protection International</a> and the Center for Justice and International (<a href="https://www.cejil.org/en" target="_blank">CEJIL)</a>, entitled “<em>Gender Focus in the Protection of Women Defenders</em>” which examines protection measures and legislation in Honduras and concludes, “Despite that Honduras is one of the countries in the region with the highest rate of violence against defenders, it’s among those that has had the fewest tools to confront it.”&nbsp; The authors add that what measures there are, tend to exist only on paper. In this context, international protection can be an essential shield for defenders. </p> <p>Daysi Flores, said “We’ve been warning that there are government reprisals againt defenders and that’s why we’ve had to resort to international mechanisms. The whole state apparatus and the laws are used to retaliate against women and men defenders, especially when they appeal to these protection mechanisms.”&nbsp; Those present at the forum asked for protection mechanisms that specifically take women into account because “The current mechanisms tend to see defenders as objects of protection,” Flores noted. “We’re active subjects in protection. We have to have an integrated understanding that takes into account our particular circumstances and our diversity, but also recognizes that patriarchy is an intrinsic philosophy, and that protection without a gender focus isn’t protection.” </p> <p>As if to underline the point, on Aug. 25 two defenders returning from the meeting with the UN Rapporteur, Karen Mejia and Carmen Gabriela Diaz, were apprehended by police and questioned for three hours without being allowed to contact their lawyers. Thanks to an alert sent out by defenders networks, the two were finally released. Forst’s office strongly <a href="http://tiempo.hn/ddhh-feministas-detenidas-estigmatizadas/">denounced the incident</a>, noting that it vividly demonstrated the situation they had just described to him as the UN representative. Human rights organizations sent out a statement saying, “The response of the state, instead of activating protection mechanisms, was to discredit and stigmatize both them and organizations of women’s human rights defenders,” </p> <p>The continued vulnerability of women human rights defenders results in part from the top-down design and implementation of protection mechanisms. No one is asking the women. Flores said, “We can’t expect mechanisms to respond to the needs of women if women aren’t included in developing those mechanisms and actions that have to do with their protection<em>,</em>” She pointed out that active and empowering participation of WHRD in developing ways to be safe breaks with the failed patriarchal model of armed guards and restrictions. The forum concluded that “Protection of women defenders must be based on recognizing not only their existence, but also their contribution to creating better societies.” </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Tomas.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Tomas.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>COPINH leader Tomas Gomez lights incense in memory of Berta Cáceres. Photo: Just Associates ( JASS).</span></span></span></p> <p>Honduras is now confronting a full-blown human rights crisis that makes headlines throughout the world, but has somehow not triggered any meaningful action on the part of the international community. Last March, after a second COPINH leader was murdered, UN experts <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53486#.V_eNGLVEahQ">warned</a> that violence and impunity are so high the nation is at risk of turning into “a lawless killing zone.” </p> <p>“What we’re experiencing today in Honduras is the result of the fateful coup d’état of June 2009,” stated Gilda Rivera, director of the national Center for Women’s Rights. Rivera explained in a <a href="mailto:http://rompeviento.tv/%3Fp=11586">recent interview</a> that the military takeover virtually destroyed the institutional order, which has not been restored. “When a country is left in conditions of impunity, illegality and disrespect for institutions, what happens is that this turns against you and the instability and political crisis grows deeper.” Add to that, an economic model “That intensifies inequality, repression and looting of public goods” and you have a recipe for the kind of violence and rights violations that Honduras is experiencing today. Extractive industries that exploit raw materials such as minerals, oil, water and land have created tremendous pressure to transfer territory and resources from the traditional ownership and stewardship of indigenous and rural farmers to transnational corporations. The Honduran government has been an indispensable ally in this momentous shift. </p> <p>Women like Berta Cáceres are at the forefront of defense against corporations’ incursions on their lands. Current models of protection largely ignore these causes of the attacks on defenders. The US and Honduran governments have pretended impunity is a technical problem, without political or economic roots. The strategy of pouring public money into US ngos, private security companies and the Honduran military and police has not resolved the problem. It has got worse. &nbsp; </p> <p>The <em>Coalition against Impunity</em> made up of some fifty Honduran human rights organizations, is <a href="http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/19058">now calling</a> for an immediate suspension of all foreign aid to Honduras security forces due to widespread corruption, abuse and violation of human rights. More than fifty US Congressional members have presented the <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/5474">Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act</a> to suspend security aid until hers and ­­­more than 100 other assassinations are investigated and brought to justice, police and military are prosecuted for crimes, and the armed forces are removed from policing.&nbsp; </p> <p>­­­</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>­</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofu-tawamba-kate-kroeger-tatiana-cordero/berta-s-struggle-is-our-global-struggle">Berta’s struggle is our global struggle…</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ana-abelenda/behind-murder-of-berta-c-ceres-corporate-response">Behind the murder of Berta Cáceres: corporate complicity </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Honduras </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 DemocraciaAbierta Honduras Civil society Democracy and government 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 newsletter feminism gender justice violence against women women's human rights Laura Carlsen Thu, 27 Oct 2016 07:33:27 +0000 Laura Carlsen 106286 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Repeal the Eighth: putting intersectionality into practice https://www.opendemocracy.net/harriet-burgess/repeal-eighth-putting-intersectionality-into-practice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A long-established conservative media frames the terms of abortion politics in Ireland. The pro-choice activism challenges dominant discourses with the inclusivity and diversity of the movement demonstrating intersectionality in practice. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/14600926_943966689082439_5386067744164356872_n.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/14600926_943966689082439_5386067744164356872_n.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>March for abortion rights. Image: Abortion Rights Campaign/Facebook. </span></span></span></p> <p><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-theory/wp/2015/09/24/why-intersectionality-cant-wait/?utm_term=.95b42d61109d">“The better we understand how identities and power work together from one context to another, the less likely our movements for change are to fracture”.</a> </p> <p>On Saturday the 24th of September, an estimated 20,000 people took to the streets of Dublin to protest against Ireland’s oppressive abortion laws. This represents a near ten-fold increase in attendee numbers since 2012. Who exactly marched for choice that Saturday? Are their views reflective of that of the general Irish body politik? Or are they the <a href="https://twitter.com/betaburns/status/780723276779782144/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5etfw">‘usual suspects’</a>, as some might say -‘liberal students from Dublin universities’, ‘Trotskyites’? </p> <p>‘Hey hey, mister mister, get your laws off my sister!’ ‘Not the Church, not the state, women must decide their fate!’, ‘Get your rosaries off my ovaries!’ </p> <p>The media has painted a picture of pro-choice campaigners as, quoting, a “<a href="http://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/why-my-fellow-repealers-cant-face-the-facts-around-abortion-35039115.html">Shrill Repeal Sisterhood</a>”. Representatives of the Church have also implied that reform is only wanted by a <em>particular</em> section of society. Describing Ireland’s stance on abortion (found in the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution) as ‘<a href="http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/eighth-amendment-precious-and-wonderful-says-archbishop-1.2814077">precious and wonderful’</a>, Catholic Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin set out that the Church ‘would wonder if this is really the big issue that people on the doorsteps of Ireland want to talk about.’ </p> <p>Comments such as the above ignore the lengthy trajectory of reproductive rights activism in Ireland: members of the Church, journalists and politicians continue to shirk away from acknowledging this movement’s ever-growing momentum. <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ie/cases/IESC/1973/2.html">The McGee case</a> marked a key moment for Irish women’s reproductive rights, when in 1973, a challenge was successfully brought against legislation that criminalised the use of contraceptives. Mrs McGee was a mother of four, living on a small income in a mobile home with her husband and four children. Facing a considerable risk of death were she to become pregnant again, she sought to import contraceptives from the UK, which were seized by the Irish immigration authorities. The Supreme Court <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ie/cases/IESC/1973/2.html">held</a> that the legislation violated her right to marital privacy, </p> <p class="blockquote-new">“by frustrating and making criminal any efforts by her to effectuate the decision her husband and herself made responsibly […] on medical advice, to avail themselves of a particular contraceptive method so as to ensure her life and health as well as the integrity, security and well-being of her marriage and family”. </p> <p>The decision generated national debate, and it took six years before contraception was legislated for. Even then, the Health (Family Planning) Act<em> </em>1979 only allowed for contraception on prescription, and only for ‘bona fide’ family planning purposes. The import of this was that only married couples were legally able to access contraception. It was famously described by then Minister for Health Charles Haughey as <em>an Irish solution to an Irish problem: </em>a compromise between dominant Catholic conservatism and emerging liberal ideals. It was <a href="https://www.ifpa.ie/Media-Info/History-of-Sexual-Health-in-Ireland">only in 1994</a> that contraception became freely available in Ireland, 21 years after Mrs McGee successfully brought her claim. </p> <p>Abortion remains illegal in Ireland, save where the continuance of a pregnancy poses “a real and substantial risk” to the life of the woman. Access to abortion under these circumstances was legalised under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act&nbsp;2013, following the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died whilst undergoing a miscarriage at Galway University Hospital. However, in the absence of any <a href="https://www.imo.ie/news-media/news-press-releases/2014/protection-of-life-during/">supporting guidelines</a> accompanying the legislation, it’s unclear how many, if any women can in reality get an abortion in Ireland. A woman would have to undergo a minimum of three medical assessments, from two psychiatrists and one obstetrician, in order to ‘certify’ that she meets the requirements for a lawful abortion in Ireland. Often, politicians frame arguments in terms of morality, rather than acknowledge the healthcare and medical aspects of legislating for abortion: <a href="http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/existing-abortion-laws-are-too-restrictive-says-leo-varadkar-1.2040072"><em>“I consider myself to be pro-life in that I accept that the unborn child is a human life with rights. I cannot therefore accept the view that it is simply a matter of choice</em></a><em>”. </em>Irish political cowardice has resulted in half-baked legislation that is practically unworkable. Dominant discourses continue to cloud real issues in the abortion debate, in 2016 much the same as in 1973. </p> <p>A challenge to such conservatism can be found in the diverse and dialogic narrative of the pro-choice movement. The terms of the abortion debate are shifting from moral arguments of (male) politicians to the personal accounts of all those uniquely affected by Ireland’s abortion laws: Repeal the Eighth makes for an example of what a true intersectional movement looks like. Intersectionality is a theory about how oppression operates in multiple, overlapping ways. Crenshaw’s theorisation of the particular position of black women proved that a single axis framework analysis focusing on race, gender or class in isolation limits inquiries into complex phenomena, by erasing the experiences of those who exist at the intersections of interlocking systems of oppression. Repeal the Eighth as a movement deploys intersectionality, by drawing attention to the diversity of the Irish population that is calling for change. Following reductionist portrayals of pro-choice campaigners as ‘militant feminists’, the twitter hashtag, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/knowyourrepealers?src=hash">#KnowYourRepealers</a> gained traction:&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>" Proud dad. Lost one child and nearly mum during a pregnancy. Doctors should be making healthcare decisions, not solicitors".</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>" 44yr old mam of 2 teen boys, youngest ASD. Divorced. Live in close knit farming community. Self-employed. Floating voter".</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>" 43, mam of 2 boys and Sadhbh who wasn't for this world. Health care professional. No political leanings".</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>" Born in 1978. Adopted in 1981. Met biological mother who couldn't keep me. Still 100% pro #repealthe8th. I trust women". </em></p><p>The current phase of the movement highlights the multiple ways in which Ireland’s abortion laws oppress, across different sections of society. Examples were voiced at the march, one speaker discussing how as a disabled Irish woman she is affected by the Eighth Amendment: </p> <p class="blockquote-new">“When you are physically disabled you have to make very specific choices your entire life. So if I become pregnant, I want to know that the medical support I’ve had for all my life wasn’t for nothing. My body is my body and I don’t want that to change just because I’ve moved from the orthopaedic ward down to the maternity ward.” </p> <p>Representatives from the Asylum Seeker Movement spoke at the march, highlighting how abortion laws disproportionately impact refugee women living in Ireland. Direct Provision is a state-run welfare system to house asylum seekers and their families waiting on asylum application decisions. Asylum seekers receive 19.10 euro a week, and until recently, were barred from working. Travelling to the UK to access abortion becomes a monetary impossibility under such circumstances. The Y case concerned a young migrant woman who had been raped in her home country. She repeatedly requested an abortion in an Irish hospital, expressing suicidal thoughts to doctors. She was ultimately subject to an <a href="http://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/they-said-they-could-not-do-an-abortion-i-said-you-can-leave-me-now-to-die-i-don-t-want-to-live-in-this-world-anymore-1.1901258">order of forced hydration and birth by caesarean section.</a> </p> <p class="blockquote-new">“It was very difficult for me. I cried. I said I am not capable of going through with this. I said I could die because of this... They said to me abortion was not legal here, but people like me are sent to England&nbsp;for abortions . . . I asked to go and they said they would have to arrange the documents and that could take six weeks.” </p> <p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jc_PrjNWEQE">These voices</a> show that Ireland’s stance on abortion is a race and class issue. Women caught between state systems – of asylum-seeker welfare provisions and abortion legislation – experience a unique form of racism and patriarchy. The Y case reportedly occurred after the enactment of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act&nbsp;2013, demonstrating just how shamefully unworkable the current legislation is.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/163454_146_news_hub_145259_677x251.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/163454_146_news_hub_145259_677x251.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="171" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Amnesty International Campaign in support of repealing the Eighth.Image:Amnesty International.</span></span></span></p><p>By opening the door up for a diverse dialogue, cohesion has been created across this movement. An alliance of organisations marched in solidarity on Saturday the 24th of September: Akidwa, Anti-Austerity Alliance, Anti-Racism Network, Doctors for Choice, Asylum Seekers Ireland, HUN Real Issues, Sex-Workers Alliance Ireland, Outhouse Ireland, National Traveller’s Women Forum, Lawyer’s for Choice, Transgender Equality Network Ireland, Rape Crisis Network Ireland, People Before Profit Alliance, DziewuchyDziewuchom. Further protests were held on Tuesday, October 3rd, outside the Polish consulate in Dublin to strike in solidarity with the <a href="https://twitter.com/Dublinheadshot/status/783045821180809216">#CzarnyProtest.</a></p> <p>Feminists theory describes a ‘butterfly effect’ – where a movement brings about positive, unimagined consequences. Repeal the Eighth has the potential to bring about change in Ireland that perhaps the earliest campaigners could not have foreseen. The current phase of campaigning highlights the multiple ways in which repressive abortion laws are felt across the Irish community, making the problems they pose for each of us individually easier to understand. This movement has created an intersectional space where different ideas have converged and new alliances have been forged. <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Discursive-Politics-Gender-Equality-Policy-Making-ebook/dp/B002BU24WY">“Politics is the action of taking risks in a future that is unknowable because it is being codetermined with all the other actors with whom one must necessarily struggle”</a>. Though the future is ‘unknowable’, these new alliances may allow the pro-choice community to more effectively challenge Ireland’s oppressive abortion laws that affect us all. Acknowledging difference has enriched our political action, and strengthened the momentum for change. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/beatrix-campbell/abortion-ireland%27s-reckoning-with-amendment-8">Abortion: Ireland&#039;s reckoning with Amendment 8</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ramya-ramaswami/why-migrant-mothers-die-in-childbirth-in-uk">Why migrant mothers die in childbirth in the UK </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson-marisa-viana/our-bodies-as-battlegrounds">Our bodies as battlegrounds</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/why-relentless-assault-on-abortion-in-united-states">Why the relentless assault on abortion in the United States?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/liz-cooper/liberty-train-because-i-decide">The Liberty Train: &quot;Because I Decide&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ann-rossiter/abortion-in-ireland-small-step-forward">Abortion in Ireland - a small step forward</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alda-facio-cristina-hardaga/handmaid%27s-tale-of-el-salvador">The Handmaid&#039;s Tale of El Salvador </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/agnieszka-mrozik/polands-politics-of-abortion">Poland&#039;s politics of abortion</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ireland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Ireland Civil society 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy women's human rights women's health violence against women gendered migration gender fundamentalisms feminism bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Harriet Burgess Mon, 17 Oct 2016 07:45:27 +0000 Harriet Burgess 105987 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Self-care in a digital space https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch-ramsden/self-care-in-digital-space <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For feminist activists, burnout is the norm. How can we best preserve collective wellbeing while practicing security in the digital world?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="p1"><strong>This article is part of 50.50's</strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016"><strong> in-depth coverage</strong></a><strong> of&nbsp;the&nbsp;2016 AWID Forum&nbsp;being held on&nbsp;8th -11th September in Bahia, Brazil.</strong></p><p><span>“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single issue lives!” AWID’s 13</span><span>th</span><span>&nbsp;International Forum began with Audre Lorde’s call to an intersectional movement. The euphoric atmosphere, not encouraged so much as reflected by an hour’s worth of live music so early in the morning, was balanced by a panel discussion of the realities faced by today’s feminist movement. From climate change to violence against women’s and trans people’s bodies, to religious extremism and conservative attacks on democracy: women’s spaces are shrinking and under threat.</span></p> <p><span>In a difficult global context with specific and urgent local challenges, it is unsurprising that feminist activists are ‘burning out’. Sonia Correa, Co-Chair of Sexuality Policy Watch and Research Associate at ABIA, concluded the opening plenary of by asking the panellists how they “go beyond burnout,” and I was particularly struck by the responses which referenced friendship and collective support.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/imagine.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/imagine.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="247" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Feminist Internet eXchange Hub, 13th AWID International Forum.</span></span></span></p><p>Yara Sallam from the <a href="http://eipr.org/en">Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights</a> reminded us that “self-care is not an individual act, it is a collective act” and said that, for her, “supportive family and friends” have been hugely important in retaining her strength. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/author/awino-okech">Awino Okech</a> agreed, pointing to her friendships (“I cannot overemphasise [their] importance”) and the fun and relaxation they bring as being “the spaces I go to to recharge.”<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>This sentiment – which Correa invited us to ponder as “the politics of friendship” – stuck with me as I spent the day discussing and workshopping digital security for women human rights defenders. The digital sphere is one which enables and supports friendships, but it is also used by governments, corporations and bullies to watch, intimidate and abuse human rights defenders.</p> <h3><strong>Digital security</strong></h3> <p>The session ‘Digital Security as feminist practice’ explored tools and strategies for protecting women human rights defenders from digital threats. Maryam Al-Khawaja (<a href="http://www.gc4hr.org/">Gulf Centre for Human Rights</a>) described some of these threats: online harassment, defamation campaigns, spyware attacks, surveillance, destruction of your data, disruption of your work. It is intimate and nasty, “paying a personal price for work you do as an activist.”<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>“A lot of times, we don’t care about our own security,” explained Maryam, before reminding us that when we compromise our digital security, we are putting all of our contacts at risk, too. This also applies to international NGOs and funders who are not familiar with the tools and strategies employed at a local level – all of which will vary by country – and do not think to ask questions and make appropriate choices around encryption; data storage and backup; and which software, platforms, and anti-spyware to use.</p> <p>In terms of dealing with harassment and defamation, Maryam described how, to begin with, she made a decision to ignore online abuse. However, she now documents it so that she can build trends and report it. I asked how this affected her wellbeing, to read and be exposed to personal attacks. “I’m really bad at that,” she said, describing how she can brush off threats to herself, before admitting that it does affect her emotionally when she receives abuse directed at her family.</p> <p>Daysi Flores Hernandez (<a href="http://www.justassociates.org/en/">JASS</a>) described a similar position: while “you are not supposed to get used to threats, you do have a tolerance for them;” however, “human rights defenders become alarmed when attacks are framed for their families.” This resonated with her own personal experience; “the first time they said they knew I had a partner and where she worked, it scared the hell out of me” – she and her partner left Honduras for two months.</p> <p>The final session I attended was an impromptu workshop titled ‘Holistic Security’ where those who were interested, after the Digital Security session, could explore some of the ideas and issues in the round. Fifteen of us joined. Facilitator Ali Ravi&nbsp;immediately got us in touch with our emotions by asking us, quite simply, how we were feeling in that moment. He then asked us how we felt in response to the discussion we had just had around digital security.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/holistic.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/holistic.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tactical Technology Collective (2016), Holistic Security: A Strategy Manual for Human Rights Defenders.</span></span></span></p><p>Because we were talking about feelings and not ideas, the emotions evoked by the session extended beyond it, and were strongly linked to past experiences. The first person to speak up explained a feeling of helplessness when she had been unable to protect colleagues whose devices had been seized and whose work was unencrypted. Others also spoke about colleagues, friends and their organisations. The feelings we expressed ranged from worry, panic, fear, anger and vulnerability, to a single positive expression which was described as empowerment through knowledge (“the more I know, the less paranoid I am”).<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Ali explained that our overall response was fairly typical, and people often feel overwhelmed or paranoid when they are in digital security training. Our associations with ‘security’ are mainly negative (our group associated it with words like ‘locks’, ‘guards’, ‘alarms’ and ‘trauma’ – as well as a single positive, ‘safe space’) and while Ali insisted that there is nothing <em>wrong</em> with any of our emotions, he pointed out that anxiety and irrationality could be paralysing and therefore made us less effective activists, at least for the time we are experiencing anxiety or recovering from it. He suggested that it was necessary to “reframe ‘security’ so that our behavioural response is different.” When we start framing security as an opportunity rather than a liability – “something I can build on, not have to worry about” – we can start dealing with it constructively, and expand our ability to stay secure.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <h3><strong>Holistic wellbeing</strong><span>&nbsp;</span></h3> <p>Previously, when they trained people on digital security, Ali and his colleagues tried to ‘surprise’ them into behaviour change by illustrating how insecure their commonly-used applications, like Facebook or e-mail, are. They were frustrated that people were not taking digital security seriously. As Peter Steudtner&nbsp;explained, “the sound of a lion’s roar evokes fear, yet not Facebook” – even when you know that the lion is mostly imaginary and, in any case, far removed from your context and location (unlike Facebook!). But what the facilitators discovered was not necessarily that people were not taking their digital security seriously, but that they had other security needs which outweighed concerns about online privacy and potential threats.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>If you are a gay person living in Uganda, for example, isolation and fear may be combatted through the creation of a caring, nurturing online social network. It may be your lifeline; to be told that this online group is compromising your digital security in turn negatively impacts your emotional security. For many activists who are forced to live or work away from their family and friends, social media provides contact with their loved ones. Remembering Yara Sallam’s and Awino Okech’s assertions in the morning plenary about the friendships which sustain and ‘recharge’ them, this could reinforce the tension between digital and emotional securities.</p> <p>Ali, Peter and their colleague Dan Ó Cluanaigh drew a Venn diagram with three overlapping circles: digital security, physical security and emotional security. Others could be added, for example legal security, which would map the protection of the individual and/or organisation by legislation. It is in the small area where the three or more circles intersect that a ‘safer’, more secure place exists, where our needs for digital, physical and emotional security are all met as far as possible.</p> <p>We were asked to raise our hand if we had been trained on digital security (the majority had), followed by physical security (again the majority) and finally emotional security (only 3 of 15 of us raised our hands). To illustrate how nonsensical this was, Ali relayed a cake-baking analogy inherited from his grandmother: ‘we do not bake our separate ingredients next to each other in different ovens.’</p> <p>It evokes Audre Lorde’s intersectional struggle: when it comes to the digital, physical and emotional securities, single-issue security is ineffective, because we engage across all three spheres at once. To extend Ali’s metaphor, security planning which does not encompass all spheres is half-baked.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The session was led by men with a background in digital security – unsurprisingly, given the male-dominated tech industry and the overlapping ‘security' emphasis which also carries patriarchal connotations. Yet it is particularly women who need a holistic approach in order to sustain our activism. Women so frequently undertake emotional labour, providing care, scaffolding and security for others, yet no one returns the favour for us.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Holistic security seems an important step in many respects. Firstly, it acknowledges different aspects of our humanity at once. Second, it recognises that there will be tensions between these different parts of our lives and that our priorities might shift, particularly if our family, friends and colleagues are involved. Finally, it allows for more effective planning, which takes time but will ensure greater protection for women activists overall, not least because self-care and wellbeing are integrated into the approach.</p><p><span>All images by&nbsp;</span><em>Ché Ramsden</em></p><p class="p1"><em>Ché Ramsden will be reporting daily for 50.50 from the AWID Forum.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/chloe-safier/young-feminist-movements-power-of-technology">Young feminist movements: the power of technology</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/security-is-not-just-cctv-valuing-ourselves-is-security">Security is not just CCTV: valuing ourselves is security</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala-geetanjali-misra-nafisa-ferdous/to-build-feminist-futures-suspend-judgment">To build feminist futures, suspend judgment! </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women, Peace & Security 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 women's movements women's health violence against women everyday feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Ché Ramsden Fri, 09 Sep 2016 11:34:44 +0000 Ché Ramsden 105229 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Our movements and collective struggles thrive despite backlash https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/semanur-karaman-ana-cernov/our-movements-and-collective-struggles-thrive-despite-backlash <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Activists across the world are re-imagining their strategies, and engaging in cross-movement collaboration, in response to a global crackdown. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/semanur-karaman-ana-cernov/prosperando-pesar-de-la-represi-n" target="_self">Español</a> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/semanur-karaman-ana-cernov/prosperando-apesar-da-repress-o" target="_self">Português</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>Although our movements and collective struggles lack sufficient resources to explore the current state of our operating environment, extensive research points to a gruesome fact: </span><a href="http://www.civicus.org/images/documents/SOCS2016/summaries/State-of-Civil-Society-Report-2016_Exec-Summary.pdf">democratic spaces are experiencing a severe global backlash</a><span> from governments and violent non-state actors. And the worst part is that there is very little accountability for the risks, threats and violence being experienced by inspiring and committed individuals all around the world who are striving for one collective aim: living in free, equal and just societies and communities where all of our identities are not only accepted unconditionally, but also celebrated.</span></p> <p>Threats and restrictions targeting civic freedoms came under the spotlight when the UN Human Rights Council appointed a <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/AssemblyAssociation/Pages/SRFreedomAssemblyAssociationIndex.aspx">Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Assembly and Association</a> in 2010 and 2013, making it clear that internationally acknowledged and guaranteed freedoms that enable all of us to participate in democratic processes, were experiencing a backlash. Additionally, last year, Freedom House <a href="https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/FH_FITW_Report_2016.pdf">declared</a> 2015 to be the tenth consecutive year of the decline of global freedom in terms of curbs on civil liberties. Alarmingly, <span><a href="http://www.civicus.org/index.php/en/media-centre-129/news-and-resources-127/2245-new-civicus-report-civil-society-rights-violated-in-96-countries">CIVICUS</a> </span>further backed this claim by identifying a growing list of 96 countries in which there are “serious threats” to civil society operations.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Image 1 (1).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Image 1 (1).png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="458" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A sign in solidarity with Istanbul Pride, banned by the Turkish government in June 2016, at an LGBTQ march in Berlin.</span></span></span></p><p>We are both activists and come from <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/07/28/turkey-media-shut-down-journalists-detained">Turkey</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/14/brazil-protests-crackdown-arrests-online-media">Brazil</a> respectively.&nbsp; Both our countries have launched full-on attacks on those who hold their governments accountable for human rights violations, as well as those who actively work together with movements to live in a world free from violence and discrimination. &nbsp;However, the resilience of movements in both our countries prevent us from being overly pessimistic about our collective ability to prompt meaningful change.</p> <p>Realizing how movements across the world are <a href="https://www.google.com.tr/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&amp;ion=1&amp;espv=2&amp;ie=UTF-8#q=awid%20civic%20space">re-imagining</a> their strategies and connecting with struggles from diverse regions and issues, we are slightly revising our framing of the crackdown that various forms of activism across the world are experiencing. Movements all across the world are reclaiming democratic spaces and are pushing back the backlash. &nbsp;</p> <p>Unfortunately, the most powerful states all across the world from the US to China, to Russia and South Africa - with immense economic resources, sophisticated state apparatus’ and the most powerful militaries at their disposal - are terrified of one thing above all else:&nbsp; individuals, organizations and movements who document human rights abuses, and expose their governments’ shortcomings with respect to justice and equality. In a very shortsighted attempt to ramp up illegitimate governments or leaders, activism has increasingly become a national security issue. In the eyes of governments, we are the threat, we are the vandals, and we bring the kind of undesirable dissent that questions their legitimacy and accountability.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Image 2 (1).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Image 2 (1).png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="410" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>In the US, the <a href="http://blacklivesmatter.com/">#Blacklivesmatter</a> movement challenges structuralized racism, while holding the security forces accountable for the systematic targeting of Black lives. In Russia, the <a href="https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2016/country-chapters/russiahttps://www.hrw.org/world-report/2016/country-chapters/russia">clampdown</a> on LGBTQ activism is a pathetic attempt to maintain the hetero-normative and patriarchal optics required to sustain Putin’s ruthless and highly macho rule. The thriving queer activism is perceived as an imminent threat that disrupts the hetero-normative status quo.&nbsp; In China, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/feb/05/china-womens-rights-crackdown-exposes-deepening-crisis-in-chinese-society">despite immense surveillance and intimidation</a>, women’s rights organizations are challenging gender-based discrimination and violence, and collectively advocating for a public space free from sexual harassment. In South Africa, strong indigenous activism in defense of land, territory and life is resisting the <a href="http://www.ishr.ch/news/extractive-industries-africa-towards-better-protection-human-rights">colluded public-private partnerships</a> of extractive industries. Despite the rise of new forces of oppression, there are growing cracks in old systems of power thanks to the committed efforts of all that operate to reclaim democratic spaces.</p> <p>While doing so, cross-movement efforts to rethink strategies and learn from each other’s experiences are used as a deliberate tactic to strengthen responses to threats, risks and violations. A recent example is the establishment in March 2015 of the <a href="http://nazra.org/en/2015/03/founding-statement-coalition-women-human-rights-defenders-middle-east-and-north-africa">WHRD MENA Coalition</a> (Women Human Rights Defenders Middle East and North Africa) to collectively respond to restrictions and violence. Although MENA women have a long history of regional collaboration, this formal effort to bring together WHRDs (women human rights defenders) from different movements to collectively strategize, brainstorm and learn from one another is consistent, structured and has the ability to strengthen regional responses. One must note that the Coalition has come into existence at a time when the region is shaken to its core by wars, sectarian violence and highly polarized competing interests.</p> <p>In December 2015, the MENA Coalition met the Mesoamerican WHRD Initiative (<a href="http://im-defensoras.org">IM-Defensoras</a>) - a WHRD network operating in Mexico City and Oaxaca - to learn from their unique experiences, and share their own strategies.&nbsp; On the value of this exchange, Sara Abughazal, from WHRD MENA Coalition said the get-together was a unique learning experience as they realized “networks are able to provide vital support, and most importantly break the feeling that a WHRD is alone. Because they provide a sense of belonging and act as a bridge to bigger movements, we realize no WHRD is an island.” Anamaria Hernandes, from Consorcio Oaxaca, backed this sentiment by stating, “These kinds of experiences make us stronger and broaden our outlook on the multiple ways of working. We are filled with the necessary energy to continue working on a new way of social coexistence.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Image 3 (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Image 3 (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pre-world cup protest in Sao Paulo on May 22, 2014, demanding better housing policies and programs. Credit: Laura Daudén</span></span></span></p><p>The value of cross-movement collaboration is immeasurable in a world where states routinely invoke strategies that deliberately attempt to isolate and demoralize activists. In 2012 Turkey, a broad alliance between the women’s rights, LGBTQ and minority rights movements pressured the government and provided direct input into one of the most progressive pieces of <a href="http://www.loc.gov/law/foreign-news/article/turkey-parliament-adopts-law-on-prevention-of-domestic-violence/">anti-violence legislation</a> in the region, and definitely in the world, although problems with the implementation of the law do exist. No one can argue that Turkey is a country free from gender-based violence and discrimination. However one must also acknowledge the significant contributions of cross-movement alliances in pushing back the backlash on identities and struggles. Similarly in Brazil, cross-movement collaboration was crucial to reduce the harm brought about by <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16709&amp;LangID=E">draconian anti-terrorism legislation.</a> The intricate alliance of social movements and organizations of all sizes and sectors pressured the government and several arbitrary and disproportionate restrictions, which would criminalize activism, were removed.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>In November 2015, during a global civil society roundtable, Maina Kiai, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, <a href="http://freeassembly.net/news/regional-dialogue-seoul/">said:</a> “The old methods aren’t working. Maybe it’s time for us to think of new ways to push this agenda. We need to think outside the box.” And we are. For this very particular reason, the <a href="http://forum2016.awid.org/home">AWID Forum</a> in Bahia, Brazil from 8-11 September is bringing together diverse components of democratic spaces to collectively reassess our current methods and explore innovative responses and strategies to reclaim it.</p> <p>In order to push back the backlash and enlarge our spaces for action, we should internalize a culture of democracy within our movements. There must be absolutely no room for any obstacles that prevent the absolute acceptance and celebration of our diverse identities and struggles. Movements from different regions and demands complement each other due to the wealth of distinct experiences and strategies. It is only through providing the space and resources for movements to meet, collaborate and learn from each that we will be able to build responses in a creative and innovative manner. &nbsp;In our path to building new and effective strategies, we should all build on the experiences of activists and movements who preceded us and who resisted backlashes similar to the ones we are experiencing currently.</p><p class="p1"><strong><em>Ana Cernov&nbsp;</em></strong><strong><em>will be a facilitator in one of the umbrella sessions - Reclaiming Democratic Spaces -&nbsp;at the forthcoming AWID Forum</em> </strong><a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/"><strong>Feminist Futures: Building Collective Power for Rights and Justice</strong></a><strong>, <em>8-11 September, Bahia, Brazil</em>.</strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/angelika-arutyunova-rochell-jones/feminist-futures-building-collective-power-for-rights-and-jus">Feminist Futures: building collective power for rights and justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ayesha-imam-isabel-marler-laila-malik/womens-rights-development-and-religious-fundamentalisms-devil-">&#039;The Devil is in the Details&#039;: development, women&#039;s rights and religious fundamentalisms</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/writing-new-feminist-text-for-our-times">Writing a new feminist text for our times </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/chloe-safier/young-feminist-movements-power-of-technology">Young feminist movements: the power of technology</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 temp women's movements women's human rights women and power gender justice gender feminism everyday feminism 50.50 newsletter Ana Cernov Semanur Karaman Tue, 06 Sep 2016 10:36:30 +0000 Semanur Karaman and Ana Cernov 105136 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is a feminist United Nations possible in our lifetime? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lyric-thompson/is-feminist-united-nations-possible-in-our-lifetime <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Hopes for a female, feminist UN Secretary-General look increasingly unlikely, but there are creative ideas circulating for feminist system reforms that would spur progress from the bottom-up.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/IMG_6671.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/IMG_6671.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vesna Pusic, Croatia, speaking at the informal dialogue with UN Secretary-General candidates at the UN, April 2016. Photo: Ourania Yancopoulos. </span></span></span></p><p>A glimmer of hope was riding on the possibility that the world might get its first female - and possibly feminist - United Nations Secretary General. The current Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, is coming to the end of his second five-year term this December, with his replacement to be named within months. </p> <p>For the first time, there was a slate of female candidates vying publicly for the UN’s top job. As Croatia’s Vesna Pusic - the candidate who most loudly proclaimed her feminism (and, regrettably, so quickly shuffled to the bottom of the rankings, withdrawing her candidacy after the first straw poll) so aptly put it: “I happen to be a woman, I don’t think this is enough, I happen to be a feminist and I think this is (important).” </p> <p>Yet old habits die hard - or more to the point, do not seem to die at all. With news that female candidates consistently polled at the bottom of the ranks, the vision of a feminist Secretary General ushering in a new era of equality and reform seems as likely as <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/anne-marie-goetz/still-no-country-for-women-double-standards-choosing-next-UN-Secretary-General">unlikely as ever</a>. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/PA-24057495.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/PA-24057495.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="366" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>United Nations,New York. Photo: Press Association. All rights reserved</span></span></span></p> <p>This comes as no surprise to feminist activists at the UN, who have developed a healthy amount of cynicism over the years. The <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/charlotte-bunch/powerful-womens-agency-will-un-deliver">promise of a powerful super agency for women’s rights</a> has fallen flat. UN Women has been chronically underfunded, politically hamstrung, and apparently, if the mandate listed on its website is to be believed, not actually an agency for women’s rights at all (did anyone notice the words were <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/about-us/about-un-women">scrubbed from the mandate listed on the website</a>?). There is, bless it, one reference to human rights, which apparently no longer include women’s rights in 2016. </p> <p>To be sure, all blame is not to be heaped on the system’s newest and least-powerful agency - there is plenty of patriarchy to go around. Take the most egregious example of the continued, heartbreaking exposés of unspeakable abuses by UN peacekeepers and mission staff - unspeakable not only in the horror they invoke, but also in the inexcusable silence with which episodes of exploitation continue to be met by UN leadership. <a href="http://www.codebluecampaign.com/">The Code Blue Campaign</a> has some good ideas about how to end impunity for this abuse once and for all.&nbsp; </p> <p>Against this grim backdrop the symbol of a feminist, female Secretary General is certainly powerful and long overdue. However, absent that ideal, what glimmer of hope is there for women? Here are a few ideas crowdsourced by some clever leaders of feminist thought: </p> <p>1.<strong> </strong>Start at the (almost) top<strong>:&nbsp; </strong>If the Secretary General is neither female nor feminist, at least the <a href="https://www.change.org/p/member-states-call-for-a-feminist-un-secretary-general">chorus of voices</a> calling for that ideal may be loud enough to exert some pressure for feminist appointments at the Assistant Secretary General and Under Secretary General level (all of which must tender their resignations at the appointment of the next Secretary General, an “overnight opportunity for parity,” as one activist recently suggested). </p> <p>2. Model transparency<strong>:&nbsp;</strong> One activist recently called the UN the most closed system on the face of the planet, with the possible exception of North Korea. Transparency is urgently needed at the U.N. Taking a page from the Secretary General debates, UN meetings system-wide should be public, open and televised. A freedom of information policy would go far to foster transparency and accountability by allowing advocates to demand - and publish - such important information as to how many (and which gender and what type of background) candidates were vetted for key positions critical to reform, or which member states or outside donors are funding which posts. </p> <p>3. Empower feminists at the UN: While the term “empowerment” has worryingly replaced “rights” for most women’s issues at the UN - <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/economic-empowerment">see the economic section</a> - there is an opportunity to redeem it by modeling real empowerment for feminist activists who tirelessly, thanklessly - and increasingly futilely - push for progress at the UN. The International Labor Organization’s tripartite model of shared leadership by UN. corporations and workers is a good one that has been proposed to UN Women in the past and could be adopted in a package of feminist reforms. </p> <p>4. Adopt a feminist framework for Sustainable Development Goals accountability: As the world finalizes its measurement framework, linking the Global Goals to CEDAW would both advance the substance of gender mainstreaming throughout the goals, as was intended, as well as provide an urgently needed accountability framework, inclusive of a platform for civil society voices through shadow reporting. </p> <p>5. Save the CSW or kill it: Either way, the annual Commission on the Status of Women is at once the symbol of all that is possible for feminism at the UN <em>and</em> emblematic of all that is wrong with the system as it currently stands. Worth saving is the unique platform for thousands of civil society activists to actually access “the most closed system in the world,” petitioning their states for overdue action on their rights. At no other Commission does this happen at this scale or to this effect. Worth killing is the annual, excruciating, Sisyphean brawl over women’s rights standards, out of which new ground is rarely gained, and where, occasionally, important progress is reversed. This past year, these standards were negotiated in advance, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lyric-thompson/best-time-to-be-born-female-worst-to-be-feminist-advocate">making the 2015 meeting more theatre than a true opportunity for negotiation</a>. Additionally, the great expense to which states and activists must go to in order to travel to New York, which exacerbates the real problem of northern and elite voices dominating conversations at the UN, CSW or otherwise, for governments and civil society alike - a rare moment of shared challenge. Further, some activists may find it difficult to obtain visas to attain the CSW, limiting their ability to contribute to the process. </p> <p>Certainly, additional creative ideas will surface as we move forward, but for now these few represent a starting point, a glimmer of hope from our feminist fallback position in the likely event that hopes for feminist leadership at the very top are indeed put to rest for another five years. &nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/madam-secretary-general">Madam Secretary-General?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourania-s-yancopoulos/is-un-really-moving-toward-gender-equality-or-is-it-trying-to-cover-up-lack-of">Is the UN really moving toward gender equality? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/still-no-country-for-women-double-standards-choosing-next-UN-Secretary-General">Still no country for women? Double standards in choosing the next UN Secretary-General </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/time-to-vote-pick-feminist-woman-to-lead-un">Choose a woman to lead the UN!</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ourania-s-yancopoulos/choosing-next-secretary-general-real-change-ahead">Choosing the next UN Secretary-General: real change ahead? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ourania-s-yancopoulos/lone-raised-hand-who-will-become-next-un-secretary-general">A lone raised hand: who will become the next UN Secretary-General ?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women%27s-rights-have-no-country">Women&#039;s rights have no country</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ourania-s-yancopoulos/world-s-top-diplomat-administrator-figurehead-or-leader">The next UN Secretary-General: administrator, figurehead, or leader?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/immunity-and-impunity-in-peace-keeping-protection-gap">Immunity and impunity in peace keeping: the protection gap</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/melanie-cura-deball/un-peacekeeping-blue-banner-for-hope-or-red-flag-for-abuse">UN peacekeeping: blue banner for hope, or red flag for abuse?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sophie-giscard-destaing/gender-and-terrorism-un-calls-for-women-s-engagement-in-countering-viol">UN calls for women’s engagement in countering violent extremism: but at what cost? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/un-gender-generation-and-counter-terrorism-in-women-peace-and-security-debate">UN resolution 2242: gender, generation, and counter terrorism </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/sexual-violence-access-to-justice-and-human-rights">Sexual violence, access to justice, and human rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Gender and the UN 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women and power gender justice gender feminism 50.50 newsletter women's work Lyric Thompson Mon, 22 Aug 2016 11:27:33 +0000 Lyric Thompson 104878 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Reclaiming Black women’s history: the Montgomery bus boycott 60 years on https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rahila-gupta/reclaiming-black-women-s-history-montgomery-bus-boycott-0 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>With police violence against Black communities giving rise to the #Blacklivesmatter campaign, anniversaries of civil rights victories are an opportunity to bring to light the invisible actors behind historic moments.&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/unnamed_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/unnamed_0.png" alt="" title="" width="388" height="319" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jo Ann Robinson, Head of the Women's Political Council which initiated the Montgomery Bus Boycott</span></span></span></p><p>In 2013, Angela Davis came to the UK on a lecture tour on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech and argued elegantly and eloquently about how such celebrations, represented as the high point on the road to triumphal democracy, enact historical closures. That is to say, the celebration suggests that the civil rights movement has achieved its goals when the reverse is true – when vigilante violence is at its height, when continuing police violence against black communities has given rise to the #Blacklivesmatter campaign and when the prison industrial complex continues to imprison disproportionate numbers of young black men. She argued that freedom is a constant struggle and such commemorations must be used to highlight the continuities. From the fabric of that argument, she pulled out another thread: that an anniversary is an opportunity to bring to light the invisible actors of that historical moment. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-14511653.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Angela Davis, 2012. Photo:Press Association, All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/PA-14511653.jpg" alt="Angela Davis, 2012. Photo:Press Association, All rights reserved." title="Angela Davis, 2012. Photo:Press Association, All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Angela Davis, 2012. Photo:Press Association, All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p>Martin Luther King rose to prominence as a result of the boycott but his larger than life figure eclipsed from view the Black women who organised and sustained the boycott; we may know that Rosa Parks kicked off the boycott through her brave and defiant gesture, but it was the Women’s Political Council (WPC) who had been planning a boycott for some time who realised that Rosa Parks’s legendary action in December 1955, of continuing to sit in her seat in order to stand up for her rights, &nbsp;was the inciting incident they had been waiting for. It was also predominantly black women, 90 per cent of whom were domestic workers who depended on the Montgomery buses to travel to work, who kept it going. Without their commitment, the year-long bus boycott which ended in December 1956 would not have been successful. Angela Davis even speculated whether King would have risen to prominence. On the 60th anniversary of that boycott, there is another important lesson to be learnt, especially in the era of privatisation, that the boycott hit the bus company hard precisely because it was privately run and the boycott was burning a large hole in its pockets.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/bus_boycott.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/bus_boycott.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="315" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Black residents walking to work during the Montgomery bus boycott 1955 -1956. Photo: public domain. </span></span></span></p> <p>The memoir of Jo Ann Robinson, a professor of English at the Alabama State College, <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Montgomery-Bus-Boycott-Women-Started/dp/0870495275"><em>The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It</em></a><em> </em>tells this little known<em> </em>story of the role of the WPC which she headed. It is startling and predictable in equal measure as is the case with all women’s histories that have been erased from the record. She says modestly that her reasons for writing the memoir are to leave an accurate account of the struggle of Black people for justice in the Deep South – nowhere does she mention that it is to give Black women their due place in history. The WPC had received many complaints from other Black passengers and, along with other black organisations, had met with the city administration and bus company officials and won small temporary victories like bus stops at the same distance in Black areas, i.e. every block, as in the white areas.</p><p>In 1955 two Black women had been arrested and fined for refusing to give up their seats to white people even though they were not sitting in the seats reserved for whites before Rosa Parks’s action on 1st December. There was a rumbling discontent among the Black community yet no organisation, nor any of the church leaders like Martin Luther King, called for a boycott. But the night after Rosa Parks’s arrest, on Friday morning, Jo Ann Robinson decided that the time had come. With a small group of helpers, she stayed up all night to duplicate over fifty thousand leaflets calling for a boycott on Monday 5 December, the day that Rosa Parks was going to appear in court. They asked Black taxi drivers to drop their rates and private car owners to drive people to work for free. The organisers had planned to keep it secret from white people but one domestic worker handed the leaflet to her white employer who alerted the media and the news was splashed across television and the papers in the intervening weekend. The unexpected publicity contributed to the success of the strike because news spread to those parts that the leaflets didn’t reach.</p> <p>Media scaremongering about ‘Negro goon squads’ who were apparently going to harass those who ignored the boycott also ensured the success of it by dissuading the timid hearted from travelling. The buses ran mostly empty as 75 to 80 percent of bus riders were black. The shops were empty and their takings were down.&nbsp; Seeing that ‘the masses were ready, and they were united’, black Church ministers (of all denominations) for the first time in the history of Montgomery decided to come together under the auspices of a newly formed organisation, the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) with Martin Luther King as president. All the officers, bar one, were men and all the secretarial staff were women, drawn from the ranks of the WPC. Jo Ann Robinson and one other member of the WPC were the only women to be elected to the 35-member Executive Board of MIA. Without a trace of resentment, Robinson attributes the success of the boycott to the fact that the church leaders came on board which, no doubt, played a significant role. </p> <p>The success of the first day of the boycott made everyone determined to keep going until conditions had improved. Despite mass support for the end of segregation, the proposals put forward by MIA were modest: demanding courtesy from bus drivers; proposing that Black people sit from the back of the bus towards the front and whites from the front to the back until all the seats were taken and that nobody should have to stand over an empty seat or surrender a seat once they had taken it; and the third proposal was to employ Black drivers on routes used overwhelmingly by black people. Again it was the women who were far more radical – Robinson says that the end goal for the WPC had been integration from the start but, in his press statements, Martin Luther King denied that they wanted integration. Explosively Robinson says, ‘Men lie sometimes to get by … For the sake of a peaceful fight, we kept silent on integration.’ </p> <p>It took 13 months to achieve their goal. Setting up an alternative transport system, which had to be run with military efficiency, could not rely for so long on a volunteer workforce.&nbsp; Buying station wagons, petrol, paying for repairs and paying drivers to drive people to work was an expensive business. Again, it was the women who organised the fundraising and large sums of money soon poured in from across America and the world. Leaders of the campaign faced harassment from the police: Robinson’s windows were smashed; King’s housed was firebombed; many of them were arrested and imprisoned.&nbsp; They received hate mail and threatening phone calls. It took a protracted legal battle to get the courts to declare that segregated transportation was unconstitutional; the battle went all the way to the Supreme Court. </p> <p>The bus company was losing money, shutting down routes, laying off workers. Ditto businesses as people were simply not travelling to the shops and not buying for Christmas. The head of the bus company would have been happy to accede to the boycotters’ demands as the quest for profit trumps everything, including racism, but his hands were tied by the segregation law. He even went to Mobile, Montgomery’s sister city, to study their integrated system and reported that both Black and white people were happy with the system but Montgomery city commissioners rejected his recommendations for implementing the system, even on a trial basis. Here was an example of how privatisation can unintentionally work in the interests of justice.&nbsp; It is a significant reminder of our collective power as consumers to bring about change through boycotts. Of course, in this instance, victory was finally possible only through the courts. That victory also rested on the nerve, the organising ability and the radicalism of the women, the unsung heroes, who provided the backbone to this action. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 United States Civil society Equality 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Editor's Pick women's movements women's human rights women and power gender justice gender 50.50 newsletter Rahila Gupta Thu, 18 Aug 2016 09:45:33 +0000 Rahila Gupta 104821 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Self-immolation and asylum in Australia: ‘This is how tired we are’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/tiffany-page/self-immolation-and-asylum-in-australia-this-is-how-tired-we-are <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The slow violence inflicted upon the <a href="https://www.border.gov.au/ReportsandPublications/Documents/statistics/immigration-detention-statistics-31-mar-2016.pdf">28,621 individuals</a> seeking refuge in Australia waiting on bridging visas to hear whether they can remain, can be seen as a form of state sanctioned “letting die.”&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/kkk_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Four Darks in Red, Mark Rothko (1958)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/kkk_0.jpg" alt="Four Darks in Red, Mark Rothko (1958)" title="Four Darks in Red, Mark Rothko (1958)" width="426" height="374" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Four Darks in Red, Mark Rothko (1958)</span></span></span>On 27 April 2016, Iranian Omid Masoumali set himself on fire on Nauru in front of visiting representatives of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Nauru, a small country in Micronesia with a population of just 10,000, is the location of one of Australia’s two offshore “regional processing centres,” the other being on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. All those who arrive in Australia by boat and claim asylum are transferred to one of these two detention facilities. The Australian Government does not run either regional processing centre, instead the Governments of Nauru and Papua New Guinea manage each centre under their own law, and receive funding from the Australian Government. The <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/apr/26/papua-new-guinea-court-rules-detention-asylum-seekers-manus-unconstitutional">Papua New Guinea Supreme Court</a> recently ruled that the detention of asylum seekers was illegal and in breach of the country’s constitution. According to <a href="https://www.border.gov.au/ReportsandPublications/Documents/statistics/immigration-detention-statistics-31-mar-2016.pdf">government records</a>, as of 31 March 2016 there are currently 1,373 people being detained on Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Those that are found to have valid claims for refugee status are able to settle on Nauru or in Papua New Guinea. The Australian government maintains a policy that no one held in its offshore detention facilities will be given protection and allowed to settle in Australia.</p> <p>Omid, who was 23, suffered third degree burns and died in hospital in Australia several days later, after waiting over 24 hours for the medical airlift team from Australia to arrive. In reading about the actions of Omid my thoughts turned to Leorsin Seemanpillai. I wrote about Seemanpillai in my PhD research, being drawn to his story because self-immolation is a rare event in Australia. Seemanpillai was a 29 year old Sri Lankan. His family escaped violence against Tamils in Sri Lanka and had lived in India as refugees since 1990. Seemanpillai arrived by boat in early 2013, prior to the Government’s move to transfer all maritime arrivals offshore, and was living in the community on a temporary bridging visa while awaiting the outcome of his claim for asylum. He had the right to work, share a house, and travel within the country. Seemanpillai was an active member of his local church, volunteered at an aged care facility, acted as a translator for other Tamils, and regularly gave blood. And yet something happened to mean he decided on 31 May 2014 to set himself on fire in the front yard of his house in Geelong, just outside of Melbourne. He did not make a public declaration. Seemanpillai died from his burns the following day.</p> <p>At the time Seemanpillai’s self-immolation was reported as an isolated incident. It was <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-02/scott-morrison-warns-asylum-seeker-assumptions-geelong/5493656">described</a> by the then Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison as a “terrible and tragic accident,” and Morrison informed the media that “I frankly don't think anyone is&nbsp;in any position - to draw any&nbsp;conclusions about what is in a&nbsp;person's mind in this&nbsp;situation.” Seemanpillai was the second Sri Lankan in the space of several months to self-immolate in Australia in 2014. His act was followed by another incident on 20 June 2014 by an unnamed man, and the self-immolation of Khodayar Amini on 18 October 2015, a Hazara Afghan who was also on a bridging visa awaiting his claim for asylum.</p> <p>Omid was a recognised refugee, whose claims of persecution in Iran were found to be valid. Omid and his wife were living in the community within the Nibok settlement on Nauru. While previously those seeking asylum were held in closed detention until their claims were determined, in October 2015 the government of Nauru allowed all asylum seekers held at Australian detention centre facilities to move freely around the island, with the camps run as “<a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-asylum-nauru-idUSKCN0RZ0AF20151005">open centres</a>.” The Australian government began to release people into the community in 2014 after their claims were met, and the threats to personal safety and violence faced by women, often unaccompanied by family members, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/dec/31/refugees-living-on-nauru-say-they-want-to-return-to-detention-to-flee-violence">led to some to plead</a>: “Let me stay in the camp, because the camp at least is better than outside.”</p> <p>Several days after Omid’s self-immolation, a young Somali woman, Hodan Yasin, set herself alight on Nauru, causing burns to 70 percent of her body. Yasin was flown to a Brisbane hospital where her condition is listed as critical. There are no further updates readily available from media as to whether Yasin is recovering. She had been returned to Nauru recently after receiving medical treatment in Australia. Media reports state that in between these two events, at least six other acts of self-harm or suicide occurred on Nauru.</p> <p>While we are drawn to the spectacle of a person setting their body on fire, the self-immolations of Omid, Yasin and Seemanpillai, while occurring under different conditions, suggest there might be a connection between these cases. Omid and Yasin faced the uncertainty of many more years spent living on Nauru and without any hope of settling in Australia. Seemanpillai had not been informed of the status of his claim for asylum, had not attended an interview, and did not know how long the process would take. Between October 2012 and September 2014, which was during the time that he was living in country, the Australian government <a href="http://www.smh.com.au/comment/the-nightmare-of-returning-to-sri-lanka-20140929-10njvg.html">deported</a> approximately 1,300 Sri Lankan asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka. Seemanpillai had witnessed friends and members of his community having their asylum cases rejected. &nbsp;</p> <p>It was reported that before Omid set himself on fire, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/apr/29/refugee-who-set-himself-alight-on-nauru-dies-of-injuries-in-hospital">he cried out</a> “This is how tired we are, this action will prove how exhausted we are. I cannot take it anymore.” Why are individuals setting themselves on fire on Nauru, and while living in Australia? What are the modes of exhaustion that impact upon those individuals detained by Australia’s immigration policies?</p> <p>It is tempting to speculate as to the cause of self-immolation. In her <a href="http://cup.columbia.edu/book/starve-and-immolate/9780231163408">work on hunger strikes</a> among political prisoners in Turkey, Politics Professor Banu Bargu’s uses the term “weaponization of life” to designate political struggles undertaken through non-lethal actions and those more likely to lead to fatalities. After being tortured in prison, one participant in Bargu’s <a href="http://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/policing-and-prisons-in-the-middle-east/">research</a> stated, “We did not have any other means of resistance than our bodies at hand. Either our bodies would be transformed into weapons against us, through torture, or we would use those bodies as means of resistance against the state.” Sociologist Michael Biggs suggests the <a href="http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199276998.001.0001/acprof-9780199276998">definition of self-immolation</a> as a protest pivots on a particular “declared intent to advance a collective cause.” As an act of protest it is “intended to be public.” However, does this mean that suicide or forms of self-harm performed within the home or within the yard, which are more frequently undertaken by women in this location (the <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15082345">highest reported rates</a> of self-immolation occur in India, Egypt Iran and Sri Lanka), and occur without declared intention, are not political statements? Self-immolation in public declares the person as having political agency, and yet Seemanpillai’s actions confound the ease of attaching such forms of intention to those who set themselves on fire in public. It leads to questioning whether the self-immolations occurring by those seeking asylum can be singularly understood as political acts.</p> <p>The Australian government has its own interpretation. While Seemanpillai’s act was an “isolated incident,” current Immigration Minister Peter Dutton claims that the recent self-immolations were not about the conditions on Nauru but because of economic frustrations in not reaching Australia after paying people smugglers. Refugee advocates in contact with those on Nauru have also been <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/may/03/peter-dutton-accuses-refugee-advocates-of-encouraging-suicide-on-nauru">blamed</a> for encouraging political action, and for providing “false hope” to those living on Nauru. In each case, the government has taken a lead role in determining the intention of each person, and giving meaning to self-immolation.&nbsp;</p> <p>Anthropologist <a href="https://www.dukeupress.edu/economies-of-abandonment">Elizabeth Povinelli</a>, who has lived and worked with Indigenous communities in the far north of Australia for over 30 years, describes a particular form of violence that occurs under liberal governments who try to govern and control social and cultural difference through social policy and legislation. Povinelli describes this governmental violence as “the violence of enervation, the weakening of the will rather than the killing of life.” The resulting feeling of exhaustion or fatigue is mirrored in the words spoken by Omid. In her work Povinelli explores the differences between certain spectacular acts of “state killing” and those that involve barely perceptible, or unspectacular acts of “letting die.” These forms of letting die can be camouflaged as modes of giving life.</p> <p>Povinelli has written more directly on the exhaustion of Indigenous populations in Australia, however it is not possible to ignore the similarities in the treatment of those seeking refuge and those who are Indigenous in both being told they do not belong. For example, these modes of giving life can include enabling those awaiting decisions on their temporary protection visas to remain in the community. However, with long processing waiting times and without access to public funds, this uncertain situation, rather than offering protection, inflicts other forms of violence upon those who are vulnerable. Seemanpillai’s roommate <a href="http://www.examiner.com.au/story/2336020/leo-battled-with-fear-of-being-deported-back/?cs=7#slide=1">said at the time</a>, “Leo was always talking about the fear of being deported back. That fear is in everyone.” In describing the psychological trauma of being in a period of waiting, a close friend of Seemanpillai’s and an advocate at Rural Australians for Refugees, Cathie Bond, <a href="http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/leo-seemanpillai-took-his-own-life-as-he-gave-up-hope-of-refuge-20140602-39etg.html">stated</a>, “Such is the terror of being sent back … they know they will be picked up within days. They're totally vulnerable.''</p> <p>Therefore time plays a crucial role in how self-immolation might be understood in particular contexts and under conditions of vulnerability, beyond the heightened catastrophe and media focus on the political nature of the act. While it appears that events in Nauru have escalated rapidly, there can be slow decomposition behind the spectacular event of self-immolation. Omid and Yasin lived in detention for three years before setting themselves on fire. Prior to his self-immolation Omid was allegedly informed he would need to remain on Nauru for 10 years. Seemanpillai waited 18 months without any indication of whether his claim for protection would be accepted, and had been living as a refugee since the age of six. These timings are not suggestive of heated actions or quick flare ups. Looking at self-immolation over a longer period of time suggests it that there is seldom a single point that leads to the acute response. It means it is highly unlikely, despite what Dutton has suggested, that refugee advocates were able to convince those on Nauru to self-immolate.</p> <p>In Povinelli’s work, “quasi-events” are the means by which the dispersed sufferings that can occur in attempting to sustain and keep on living, register beneath the surface. For those seeking refuge, the anxiety of uncertainty and the sheer effort involved in waiting might be thought of as imperceptible quasi-events that involve their own forms of endurance. These quasi-events exist alongside the spectacular media events of deprived conditions and detention centres. These are not so easily measured within metrics of vulnerability when assessed by healthcare workers, or when visitors arrive from the UNHCR. As Seemanpillai and Omid’s cases seems to attest, the violence of immigration detention extends beyond the government’s careful narratives that seek to contain the issue within financial transactions and tragic accidents.</p> <p>While self-immolation draws attention to the immediate act of violence, it can distract attention away from the “<a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674072343">slow violence</a>” of immigration detention. Writing in the context of the environment, Rob Nixon describes slow violence being incremental and accretive, where government and media appear only to react to the catastrophic time of natural disasters and ignore chronic and slow moving forms of deterioration. Here it is possible to see how slow violence can occur through living in conditions of uncertainty, and the forms of endurance required to maintain lives under conditions where nowhere seems to offer protection.</p> <p>In the current coverage and debate over Australia’s policy of offshore detention, there appears little room for stories of the slow violence inflicted upon the <a href="https://www.border.gov.au/ReportsandPublications/Documents/statistics/immigration-detention-statistics-31-mar-2016.pdf">28,621 individuals</a> currently waiting on bridging visas within the country, without any certainty as to whether they will be allowed to remain, if only on temporary protection visas, or be deported back to the violence or poverty they were trying to escape. While people are exhausted on Nauru and Manus Island, these forms of exhaustion and tiredness can be seen across those seeking refuge in Australia. In the deaths of both Omid and Seemanpillai it is possible to see how waiting in uncertainty becomes a form of state sanctioned “letting die.”&nbsp;</p><p><em>This article was first published 10 June 2016. It is republished here as Australia announces a plan to close the Manus Island Asylum Centre. </em></p><p><em><strong>Read more research-based articles on oD 50.50's</strong> <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-people-on-move">People on the Move</a></strong> <strong>platform showcasing the voices and analyses that are marginalised in the public debate on migration.&nbsp;</strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/qusay/idomeni-devil-s-game">Idomeni: a devil’s game </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/doing-business-at-border-complicity-legality-and-refusal-to-participate">Doing business at the border: abuse, complicity and legality</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nath-gbikpi/britain-s-disqualified-adults-no-passport-equals-no-home">Britain&#039;s &quot;disqualified adults&quot;: No passport equals no home</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/brian-martin/australian-medics-refuse-to-be-silenced-over-refugee-abuse-at-detention-centers">Australian medics refuse to be silenced over refugee abuse at detention centers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/pratibha-singh/migration-clock-is-ticking-in-asia-too">Migration: the clock is ticking in Asia too </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lisa-matthews/on-edge-of-nation-sitting-on-border">On the edge of a nation, sitting on the border</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/happy-kinyili/to-meet-nothing-that-wants-you-violence-against-migrants">&quot;To meet nothing that wants you&quot;: violence against migrants </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lucy-hovil/israel-refugees-not-welcome">Israel: refugees not welcome </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Australia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Australia 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter Tiffany Page Thu, 18 Aug 2016 09:45:33 +0000 Tiffany Page 102730 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A deadly politics of wealth: femicide in India https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rita-banerji/deadly-politics-of-wealth-femicide-in-india <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Census data shows that poverty and illiteracy are not key factors in India’s female genocide as many assume. The survival of girls is determined by a patriarchal politics of wealth control.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Prime Minister Modi’s ‘<a href="http://wcd.nic.in/BBBPScheme/main.htm" target="_blank">Beti Bachao, Beti Padao’</a>&nbsp;(Save the Girl, Educate the Girl) programme, launched in January 2015, was the first time since independence that the Indian government had raised the issue of female genocide in a public campaign. British&nbsp;<a href="https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/resource-pdf/UNFPA_Publication-39865.pdf" target="_blank">census data in the 18th&nbsp;century</a>&nbsp;had attributed India’s skewed sex ratio to female infanticide and other forms of femicide, such as sati, but after independence subsequent governments remained bizarrely indifferent to the issue even as it reached epidemic proportions.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/rita banerji_1_politics of wealth.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/rita banerji_1_politics of wealth.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Expanding Worlds: mural on the wall of a girls high school depicting career options for women. Photo: Rita Banerji</span></span></span></p> <p>Modi’s initiative was all the more surprising, given that Gujarat had <a href="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Child-sex-ratio-in-states-top-cities-below-Gujarat-average/articleshow/21011012.cms">recorded</a> the lowest Child Sex Ratio (CSR) for girls under his stewardship as state minister.&nbsp; Mr. Modi’s views on women often infuriated women’s activists, for example when he attributed <a href="http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/go-figure-figure-conscious-gujarati-girls-cause-malnutrition-in-the-state-says-modi/1/215245.html">&nbsp;the high rate of malnutrition</a> among girls under five in his state to dieting and fashion consciousness. &nbsp;However, as Prime Minister, his Save the Girl campaign appears to have the imprint of Maneka Gandhi’s (the Women and Child Development Minister) independent thinking on women’s issues.&nbsp; <a href="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/PM-Modi-launches-Beti-Bachao-Beti-Padhao-campaign-says-female-foeticide-is-a-sign-of-mental-illness/articleshow/45985741.cms" target="_blank">Mr. Modi observed that female genocide </a>&nbsp;is a national “crisis” although his plea to let girls live and to educate them was framed as the ‘Prime Minister… begging for the lives of daughters’ rather than in the language of rights.</p> <p>India’s female genocide is widely attributed to poverty and illiteracy even though data and facts say otherwise. As India’s most recent&nbsp;<a href="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Prosperity-doesnt-bring-good-fortune-for-girl-child/articleshow/7847806.cms?referral=PM" target="_blank">census data from 2011 shows</a>, the CSR, which is the ratio of girls to boys from birth to six years, is best among the poorest and least educated communities. Globally a CSR of 950 girls to 1000 boys&nbsp;is <a href="http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Layout/Includes/TOINEW/ArtWin.asp?From=Archive&amp;Source=Page&amp;Skin=TOINEW&amp;BaseHref=TOIPU%2F2013%2F06%2F03&amp;ViewMode=HTML&amp;PageLabel=3&amp;EntityId=Ar00300&amp;AppName=1" target="_blank">considered ‘normal’</a>.&nbsp; CSR in India gets worse in proportion to increases in wealth and education.&nbsp;The&nbsp;<a href="http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/prosperous-states-contribute-to-dwindling-child-sex-ratio/" target="_blank">wealthiest states have a CSR</a>&nbsp;of 850 and below, much lower than the national CSR of 914 in the 2011 census, itself the lowest since <a href="http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2011-03-31/news/29365989_1_ratio-males-girl-child">India’s independence</a>. This correlation between increase in wealth and a corresponding increase in the rate of killing of girls in the 0-6years age group is repeated&nbsp;<a href="https://genderbytes.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/why-education-and-economics-are-not-the-solution-to-indias-female-genocide/" target="_blank">across the spectrum</a>&nbsp;in neighbourhoods, districts, villages, cities and states.&nbsp; Even a religion wise comparison reveals that the worst CSRs are to be found among the wealthiest communities: <a href="http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/census-2011-sikhs-jains-have-worst-sex-ratio/1/559701.html" target="_blank">the Sikhs and the Jains</a>. Conversely,&nbsp;<span>the highest CSRs</span>&nbsp;are among the tribal and lower caste communities who are also the poorest and least educated.&nbsp; Yet <a href="http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/higher-sex-ratio-among-tribal-sc-groups-census/article5300478.ece">even among the tribals</a>, when there’s access to wealth through education and jobs, there is a corresponding decline in CSR.&nbsp; Kerala, with its matrilineal past and no history of female infanticide, had a higher than national average CSR which was always attributed to its high literacy rate (almost 92%). However by the 2011 census&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/kerala-census-child-population-declines/article4725074.ece" target="_blank">Kerala too showed a drop</a>&nbsp;of 8.44% in CSR with reports of rampant foeticide and infanticide. This corresponded with an&nbsp;<a href="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/nri/other-news/Remittances-by-NRIs-to-Kerala-cross-Rs-1-lakh-crore/articleshow/47570226.cms" target="_blank">influx of wealth</a>&nbsp;(almost $20 billion/year) into this historically communist state from Indians working overseas.</p> <p>What is this driving compulsion to be rid of daughters, particularly with upward social mobility? The answer is dowry - the insidious, misogynist, patriarchal politics of wealth ownership and distribution. The more wealth a family accrues, the more invested it becomes in the patriarchal retention of that wealth and views daughters as a threat to that goal.&nbsp; Indeed, the more educated a daughter is, and wealthier her family, the bigger the dowry she is expected to bring. Dowry is seen as a way of dispensing with a daughter who then can make no further claims on the family’s inheritance, but because of their education daughters are increasingly fighting for their legal share of parental property. On the other hand, a man not only has an inherent right to his own parents’ property but to his wife’s parents’ wealth too. A son is an easy means of wealth acquisition; the more educated he is, the larger the dowry the family feels entitled to demand. Indeed there are openly exchanged&nbsp;<a href="http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/grooms-on-sale-now-price-tags-become-bigger-bolder-and-flashier/1/206277.html" target="_blank">dowry rate charts</a>&nbsp;that list copious amounts of cash, luxury cars, property and gold and diamond jewellery by the kilos.&nbsp; In fact <a href="http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-06-11/chennai/32173881_1_dowry-harassment-dowry-deaths-husbands-and-in-laws" target="_blank">wealthier neighbourhoods record</a>&nbsp;the highest rates of dowry violence and dowry related murders and suicides.</p> <p>Nonetheless, this clear correlation of wealth and education with female genocide is anything but an evil-rich and pious-poor divide. The factors that save girls in poorer and illiterate communities, or at least don’t kill them in the same high proportions, are an inverted extension of the same patriarchal system in which women are simply dehumanised and turned into buyable, sellable, usable and disposable commodities. Daughters in poorer homes are allowed to live because as children they can be put to the economic servitude of their families. Poor families use daughters for cleaning, cooking, fetching fuel and water, and for earning an income for the family.&nbsp; Millions of girls are leased or&nbsp;<a href="http://abcnews.go.com/International/daughters-sale-indias-child-slavery-scourge/story?id=20540368" target="_blank">sold by their families</a>&nbsp;for work as domestic help in urban areas, as labour in fields and factories, and to the sex industry. Another thriving business involves the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/when-women-come-cheaper-than-cattle/story-EJD38cJ4kaTGVn03LJzUkJ.html" target="_blank">sale of thousands of girls as ’brides</a>’ through a network of agents to wealthier states with low sex ratios. These girls are kept as slaves, to sexually abuse, to bear babies, and are abused and exploited by all the men of the house, before they are resold as ‘bride’ to another family. In Hyderabad, there’s a flourishing business where wealthy paedophiles from Gulf countries pay poor Muslim families handsomely to arrange a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.indiatomorrow.co/nation/2047-hyderabad-a-shocking-saga-of-trafficking-in-the-garb-of-marriage" target="_blank">temporary “marriage”</a>&nbsp;with their underage daughters, who they enslave, abuse and divorce before returning to their countries. There are also thriving&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ndtv.com/telangana-news/ndtv-special-investigation-babies-being-sold-for-rs-30-000-in-telangana-757006" target="_blank">baby trafficking networks</a>, often operating out of government orphanages, where the babies, all girls, can be bought for as little as Rs 5000/- (approx. £60) from poor tribal communities.</p> <p>However, there are also numerous tribal communities like the Bedia, the Banchada, Kanjar, Sansi and Nut, where traditionally the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.fuccha.in/tradition-of-prostitution-bedia-community/" target="_blank">sex trafficking of daughters and sisters</a>&nbsp;has been a primary source of income for families and is considered a ‘family trade.’ These communities are also known to openly&nbsp;<a href="http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/sex-trade-and-tradition-family-business-bedia-families/1/316929.html" target="_blank">auction the virginities</a>&nbsp;of their daughters as young as ten, for large sums to the highest bidders. The 2011 census’s CSR for the Bedia population shows an interesting anomaly.&nbsp; While tribal communities generally have normal CSRs of about 950, census data shows the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.census2011.co.in/data/village/371753-bedia-jharkhand.html" target="_blank">Bedia community with a CSR of 1276</a>, which is abnormally high.&nbsp; Investigations reveal that tribal communities like the Bedia and Nut have interstate&nbsp;<a href="http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/Girls+drugged+into+puberty+sold+as+prostitutes/1/99132.html" target="_blank">networks to traffic girl babies</a>, who they&nbsp; adopt and raise as their own ‘daughters’ and prep for the ‘family trade’ by injecting them with hormones to sexually develop them by the time they are seven and eight.</p> <p>Although the ‘Save the Girl, Educate the Girl’ <a href="http://www.dnaindia.com/locality/gu/new-delhi/centre-released-rs-94-cr-under-beti-bachao-beti-padhao-scheme-92005">campaign</a> is well-funded, its emphasis on rhetoric instead of strategic and well thought out projects puts into question its ability to accomplish its goals. Common sense says that the focus needs to be on the middle and upper classes where census data shows CSR to be the worst. Yet, the campaign focuses on rural and poorer districts, instead of targeting the more powerful classes for fear of a political backlash. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/rita banerji_2_politics of wealth.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/rita banerji_2_politics of wealth.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" width="240" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Colour My Life: a mother buys a colouring book for her daughter from a vendor outside a primary school. Photo: Rita Banerji</span></span></span></p><p>A popular&nbsp;rural <span>project that’s been massively funded by this campaign is the planting of trees at the birth of a daughter. </span>The logic behind <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/10204759">planting trees</a> is that fathers of girls can harvest these trees to pay dowry. Encouraging the custom of dowry, the very factor contributing to female genocide, contradicts the campaign’s aims. <a href="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/PM-Modi-launches-Beti-Bachao-Beti-Padhao-campaign-says-female-foeticide-is-a-sign-of-mental-illness/articleshow/45985741.cms" target="_blank">Two of the most important and likely to be effective projects</a>&nbsp;suggested at the campaign’s inauguration unfortunately have not yet seen the light of day, and must be implemented. &nbsp;One of these projects is putting up public boards that note the CSR of every neighbourhood, on a monthly basis, thereby forcing members of communities to be watchful of and accountable to each other.&nbsp;These particularly must be set up in urban, middle and upper class areas in coordination with police and legal cells for effective action. &nbsp;</p> <p>The second recommended project that must be implemented is the compulsory registration of all births and deaths of girl children. Additionally, there must be a system of compulsory monitoring of all girls till they reach the age of 15, as 95 % of girls are killed or go missing between the ages of 1-15 years. Indeed, the low CSR is often falsely assumed to be due to sex-selective abortion. The breakdown of the CSR census data shows that more than 84% girls are actually <a href="https://genderbytes.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/this-confirms-indias-genocide-of-women-is-not-driven-by-sex-selective-abortions/">killed </a>from age one to six years. &nbsp;Less than one million girls were eliminated through sex selection and/or killed as infants after birth and up to age one. But by age six, that number escalated and&nbsp;<a href="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Sex-ratio-skew-worsens-with-age-Census-2011-data-finds/articleshow/22406192.cms?referral=PM" target="_blank"> 7 million girls were exterminated.&nbsp;</a> </p> <p>In order to save girls, the implementation of these two projects must be the campaign’s number one priority.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/global-femicide-watch-preventing-gender-related-killing-of-women">Global Femicide Watch</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/naila-kabeer/grief-and-rage-in-india-making-violence-against-women-history">Grief and rage in India: making violence against women history? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/disposable-girls">Disposable Girls</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/prajna-desai/legumes-vs-labour-rights-how-indian-women-pay-for-cost-of-dal">Legumes vs. labour rights: how Indian women pay for the cost of dal</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/priyanka-borpujari/when-scarred-female-bodies-demarcate-indian-subcontinent%27s-polity">When scarred female bodies demarcate the Indian subcontinent&#039;s polity </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amrit-wilson/indias-anti-rape-movement-redefining-solidarity-outside-colonial-frame">India&#039;s anti-rape movement: redefining solidarity outside the colonial frame</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amrit-wilson/gender-violence-narendra-modi-and-indian-elections">Gender violence, Narendra Modi and the Indian elections </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/sexual-violence-in-indian-cities">Sexual violence in Indian cities</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/breaking-free-womens-movement-India-universities">Breaking Free: a women&#039;s movement in Indian universities </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/pragna-patel/transnational-marriage-abandonment-new-form-of-violence-against-women">Transnational marriage abandonment: A new form of violence against women? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nicola-desouza/pondicherrys-marraige-market">From Pondi to Paris: Pondicherry&#039;s marriage market </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/prita-jha/why-backlash-against-dowry-laws-in-india">Why the backlash against dowry laws in India?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lyric-thompson/lives-of-endurance-sanitizing-crime-against-girls">Lives of endurance: sanitizing crime against girls</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lyric-thompson/world%27s-girls-no-voice-no-rights">The world&#039;s girls: no voice, no rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lyric-thompson/best-time-to-be-born-female-worst-to-be-feminist-advocate">The &quot;best time to be born female&quot;: the worst to be a feminist advocate</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lyric-thompson/girls-speaking-truth-to-power-at-un-global-2030-agenda">Girls speaking truth to power at the UN: the global 2030 Agenda </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lyric-thompson/once-in-lifetime-chance-to-protect-world%27s-girls">A once in a lifetime chance to protect the world&#039;s girls</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 openIndia India Civil society Equality 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter bodily autonomy feminism gender gender justice violence against women women's human rights Rita Banerji Tue, 02 Aug 2016 06:33:27 +0000 Rita Banerji 104397 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Still no country for women? Double standards in choosing the next UN Secretary-General https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/anne-marie-goetz/still-no-country-for-women-double-standards-choosing-next-UN-Secretary-General <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Six of the twelve candidates for the job of UN Secretary-General are women, but in the first informal vote at the Security Council only one woman made it to the top five. Why ?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Fiji U.N. Ambassador Peter Thomson, center, receives congratulations from U.N. diplomats on his election as the new U.N. General Assembly president.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Fiji U.N. Ambassador Peter Thomson, center, receives congratulations from U.N. diplomats on his election as the new U.N. General Assembly president.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Peter Thomson receives congratulations on his election as the new U.N. General Assembly president, June, 2016. Credit: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews</span></span></span></p><p><span>On July 21st</span><span>&nbsp;the UN Security Council conducted the first (but not the final by any means) informal poll to identify top candidates for the job of next UN Secretary-General.&nbsp; For the first time in history, fifty percent of the candidates - six of the twelve - are women.&nbsp; But a more familiar history repeated itself during the polling: the male candidates fared much better than the women. Only one woman figured amongst the top five. Four of the five at the bottom of the list are women. Old-style geopolitics may be responsible for the outcome: candidates from Eastern European countries that are in good odor with Russia did best. But the stern relegation of most of the women candidates to the bottom half of the list means we must ask if gender bias played a role. The secrecy of the process makes it hard to know, though it is obvious that the Council ignored civil society </span><a href="https://www.change.org/p/member-states-call-for-a-feminist-un-secretary-general">petitions</a><span>, </span><a href="http://passblue.com/tag/colombia-group-of-friends-to-elect-a-woman-secretary-general/">pressure from 60 Member States</a><span>, and an </span><a href="http://www.womansg.org/">Open Letter</a><span> signed by fifty UN experts and former leaders calling for the selection of a woman and feminist to lead the UN. &nbsp;</span></p><p>Since 1981 the Council has used an informal ‘straw poll’ to winnow out candidates who do not have the support of the permanent 5 (P5) and who will therefore be vetoed. In this rare<strong> </strong>instance of Security Council<strong> </strong>members vote anonymously, members indicate which candidates they would ‘encourage’ or ‘discourage’.&nbsp; They can also hedge and indicate ‘no opinion’. &nbsp;As is Security Council tradition, no results were shared officially. However a quickly leaked <a href="http://media.wix.com/ugd/296f72_a617f3032c5a4b5bbbe4b39b5037a866.pdf">tally of the votes</a> &nbsp;sparked a flurry of analysis of this first Council sorting of the contenders. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/670817-guterres.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/670817-guterres.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Antonio Guterres, former Prime Minister of Portugal and head of UNHCR, UN. Photo: Ourania Yancopoulos.</span></span></span></p> <p>The Portuguese former prime minister and former head of UNHCR, Antonio Guterres, came top apparently with 12 ‘encourage’ votes, an impressive zero ‘discourage’ votes, and 3 ‘no opinion’. Guterres had garnered respect for his performance in the series of meetings held between candidates and General Assembly members in April and mid-July.&nbsp; But the size of his lead over some of the women candidates - who also performed well and who <a href="http://interactive.aljazeera.com/aje/2016/un-debate-secretary-general/">topped an informal public poll</a>- is a surprise.&nbsp; At the bottom of the list with only 2 votes to ‘encourage’ votes and 11 to ‘discourage’, is Vesna Pusic, the former Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia. While she delighted observers with her candour in pointing out the UN’s flaws, defending LGBTQ rights, and declaring herself a feminist (the only candidate to do so), she had not been expected to do well, in part because of her lack of UN experience, while a government change, days after her nomination, has deprived her of strong national backing. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/670732-bokova.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/670732-bokova.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Irina Bokova, head of UNESCO, UN. Photo: Ourania Yancopoulos.</span></span></span></p> <p>Irina Bokova, currently the head of UNESCO, and the early front-runner in the process, landed in third place, with 9 ‘encourage’ votes and 4 ‘discourage’.&nbsp; Four negatives are a lot in this process because with only 15 voters in the Security Council<strong>, </strong>the chances that this includes one of the 5 veto-holders is high.&nbsp; Perhaps the biggest surprise was that Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and current head of UNDP, did not figure among the top three.&nbsp; She landed in sixth place with 8 ‘encourage’ votes and 5 ‘discourage’ votes.&nbsp; Another seasoned UN insider and Foreign Minister of Argentina, Susanna Malcorra, came 8th. &nbsp;Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica, the successful head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ourania-s-yancopoulos/lone-raised-hand-who-will-become-next-un-secretary-general">considered to have performed brilliantly</a> during the mid-July Al-Jazeera-moderated panels of candidates at the General Assembly, came 9th. </p> <p>Among the top five are four candidates from Eastern Europe. Russia’s friends in the region did well, with some of the lesser-known candidates, Serbian Vuk Jeremic and the Macedonian Srgjan Kerim, in the 4th and 5th place, each with 9 ‘encourages’ and 5 ‘discourages’.&nbsp; Countries with disputes with Russia saw their candidates sink: Moldova’s Natalia Gherman, which has a Russian-supported breakaway region, came 10th, while Montenegro’s &nbsp;Igor Luksic came 11th - payback for his country’s efforts to join NATO. &nbsp;The shock was the positioning of Jeremic and Kerim ahead of candidates with as much or more experience in national and international politics, and deeper UN experience, such as Clark, Malcorra and Figueres.&nbsp; It shows that geopolitical considerations trumped merit in the voting.&nbsp; While that is nothing new at the UN, it indicates that the arguments in favor of selecting women candidates made little impression. </p> <p>The placement of Antonio Guterres and Danilo Turk in the top two slots illustrates the East-West tension in the Council.&nbsp; The success of Turk, former President of Slovenia, is no surprise. Turk represented his country to the UN, including a period on the Security Council, and also held a post as Assistant Secretary-General in the Department of Political Affairs. He is known as a consummate negotiator with friends everywhere in the male-dominated hierarchies inside the UN bureaucracy and across member states. This is what it means to be in the old boy’s network. </p> <p>Guterres’ evidently robust support across the Council membership suggests that a contradictory dynamic <strong>is</strong> at work -&nbsp; that in spite of the Council’s default preference for the custom of geographic preference, Guterres has something they want.&nbsp; What is it? His self-presentation during the last few months of public scrutiny at the UN was as a truth-teller, frankly laying bare the fact that the international humanitarian system is broke and <a href="https://www.ipinst.org/2015/11/leadership-and-global-partnerships-in-the-face-of-todays-refugee-crisis#5">broken</a>, and that contemporary conflicts have exposed the UN’s peace-making tools as inadequate. He is articulate and empathetic. He is perceived as a candidate offering change.&nbsp; </p> <p>It is important to scrutinize the ‘candidate for change’ label, and the contrasting perception of some of the female candidates: that they have campaigned as ‘continuity’ and ‘establishment’ candidates. What is the ‘change’ that Guterres proposes?&nbsp; His campaign appearances have been compelling and intelligent, but on the specifics of reform he seems mainly to endorse proposals made in the 2015 peace operations review, peacebuilding architecture review, and the UN’s global study on women peace and security.&nbsp; </p> <p>In this lack of specificity Guterres is not different from the other lead candidates.&nbsp; Most of the candidates offer observations about how the UN needs to adapt to the times. Guterres, as well as Bokova and Clark, emphasize that they have streamlined and cut staff numbers in the UN entities that they manage.&nbsp; This is clearly intended to appeal the biggest financial contributors to the UN.&nbsp; Beyond underlying their efficiency as managers, they have been cagey on what else they plan to do. </p> <p>Guterres, who has just concluded a decade as the High Commissioner on Refugees, was Prime Minister of Portugal, and President of the European Council. It is striking that these ‘establishment’ qualifications, and his many years as a UN ‘insider’ has been treated as a virtue, not a potential constraint, as it has been for Helen Clark.&nbsp; In the April hearings at the General Assembly, one Member State suggested to Clark that, as the Administrator of the UNDP, her leadership might not bring anything new.&nbsp; Her <a href="https://www.devex.com/news/un-secretary-general-dialogues-did-anyone-come-out-on-top-88039">response</a> cut straight to the point: </p> <p class="blockquote-new">“I have never been an establishment contender for anything. I have come from the outside to everything I have done. From rural upbringing to urban life, as a woman breaking into a man’s world, as PM, as the first woman to be administrator of UNDP.&nbsp; I come from out of the box and I will always be a bit out of the box.”</p> <p>&nbsp;Guterres’s critiques of the UN’s shortcomings likewise have not generated the hostility triggered by critical observations made by, for instance, Vesna Pusic. Saudi Arabia chose to interpret her accurate observation of the UN as a ‘flawed’ organization to accuse her of having an ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ourania-s-yancopoulos/choosing-next-secretary-general-real-change-ahead">adversarial attitude’</a>.&nbsp;&nbsp; Hints of vision, charisma, and courage from the women candidates have not been appreciated. During the April debates, Saudi Arabia sarcastically asked Clark if she planned to act as ‘<a href="http://thespinoff.co.nz/featured/15-04-2016/two-hours-88-questions-and-one-baring-of-teeth-reviewing-helen-clarks-massive-job-interview/">the conscience of the world’</a>.&nbsp; While that might be what most people want, there are no prizes for knowing the answer that the Saudis (and the Security Council) want to hear. </p> <p>Guterres, however, has projected change, conscience, and charisma without triggering taunts from Member States.&nbsp; His gender is not immaterial to his success in doing this.&nbsp; Coming from an elder statesman, his critiques of the UN and expressions of principle are interpreted as reassuring, straight-talking, and visionary.&nbsp; From stateswomen, critiques come across as stern or hectoring – or ‘adversarial’.&nbsp; If the women candidates have been perceived as campaigning as continuity candidates, this ignores their reform messages and fails to acknowledge the harsh judgement some of them have received for offering frank critiques. </p> <p>Richard Gowan, a seasoned observer of UN politics, <a href="http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/19458/big-power-politics-threaten-to-upset-u-n-secretary-general-race">recently argued</a> that power, not gender, governed the outcomes of the July 21 straw poll, and the analysis above supports this.&nbsp; However, gender may play an outsize role in shaping the way candidate rhetoric is interpreted - rhetoric which is often similar in content - as vision and courage when it comes from men but dull ‘continuity’ from women. Double standards are not just affecting this race – statements by Hillary Clinton that would be anodyne coming from a man are routinely given the most <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/if-hillary-clinton-were-a-man/2016/07/25/b1592e36-5292-11e6-b7de-dfe509430c39_story.html">uncharitable interpretation</a> possible. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/646040_0_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/646040_0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>UN General Assembly debate, New York. Photo: UN.</span></span></span></p> <p>Gender bias is profound at the UN, where perspectives on women’s leadership are sometimes stuck in the same era as the mid-century architecture at its HQ in New York.&nbsp; The UN has made commitments to promote gender equality in its own staff and its work, but these resolutions are implemented so poorly that they reek of raw cynicism.&nbsp; The UN has no quota system to help meet its gender parity hiring commitments.&nbsp; Staff who want promotions in the Secretariat have to work in difficult duty stations – including conflict-affected locations to which families are not permitted.&nbsp; This experience-building requirement in effect discriminates against women with families.&nbsp; It has weeded out female mid-managers to the point of freezing the proportion of women in the senior management pipeline to around 20%. &nbsp;This has contributed to a worsening gender ratio at the top of UN entities; last year, either a bias against or a lack of women candidates meant that <a href="http://peaceoperationsreview.org/commentary/the-lost-agenda-gender-parity-in-senior-un-appointments/">84% of new appointments to Under- and Assistant-Secretary-General positions were male.</a></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/84739905_o.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/84739905_o.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="285" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>United Nations General Assembly, New York. Photo: UN</span></span></span></p> <p>The maddening thing about the SG selection process is that the lack of clear rules makes it hard to know what comes next.&nbsp; In any other contest, the July 21 result would mean that the whole thing is over.&nbsp; But it is far from over.&nbsp; It could be just the beginning of the horse-trading and the bargaining for key posts (a crucial piece of UN reform that no candidate has ventured to articulate is to bar P5 countries from providing candidates to head UN entities).&nbsp; The fact that Russia clearly did not cast a ‘discourage’ vote for Guterres is a sign that it is willing to negotiate.&nbsp; And there are potential new candidates in the wings – former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has already asked the Australian government to nominate him, Mexico might come forward with Kofi Annan’s former Chef de Cabinet Alicia Barcena, and some die-hard optimists still hold out hope that an Eastern European country other than Bulgaria will nominate European Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva. </p> <p>While growing the pool of strong women candidates to be the next UN Secretary-General is a good idea, there is now less than ever a sense that they - or anyone - will get the job on their merits.&nbsp; Gone too, after last week’s poll, is the sense that any member of the Council was ever sincerely interested in a woman in the top position. According to <a href="http://passblue.com/">PassBlue</a>, even before the Council met, the British Permanent Representative, Matthew Rycroft, hedged on the UK’s earlier endorsement of the idea that the next Secretary-General should be a woman, <a href="http://passblue.com/2016/07/21/men-voting-for-men-un-security-council-holds-its-first-straw-poll-to-pick-a-secretary-general/">telling the press that the UK would not use its veto to make sure that happened</a>. </p> <p>Vetoes and quotas are what works in other political contests to ensure that women get a fair shot.&nbsp; This is called affirmative action.&nbsp; It is ironic that the UN, which has no hesitations about reserving positions for individuals of particular nationalities, should shy away from doing so on the grounds of gender.&nbsp; If regional rotation of the top post is considered an informal ‘tradition’, then surely a gender-based alternation could be constructed as a new one?&nbsp; But at no point was there a serious discussion of an all-female shortlist for the SG position. An enduring critic of Ban’s administration, Stephen Lewis, has been the only observer to declare that if we seriously want a woman SG, all the male candidates should be considered ‘<a href="http://www.aidsfreeworld.org/Publications-Multimedia/Video-Commentaries/2016/April/Week-in-Review-112.aspx">disqualified’</a>. </p> <p>Security Council members may vote more vindictively in the next straw poll, giving an even stronger sense of likely vetoes, and shaking off the stronger candidates. </p> <p>Everyone, except perhaps for those who can vote in this process, want someone honest, brave, principled, effective, and committed to gender equality and justice. </p> <p>No-one wants a lowest-common denominator winner.&nbsp; </p> <p>And to answer the question constantly posed to campaigners for the selection of a woman, no, we don’t want a woman in the job just because she is a woman, just for the sake of ending the 70–plus years of sole male occupancy. Most of those who support the selection of a woman want a feminist for the job.&nbsp; </p> <p>A measure of the impact of the campaigns for a woman UNSG is that all of the male candidates have declared themselves gender equality champions, dutifully appending commitments to gender mainstreaming to their proposals. Late comers to feminism are always welcome, of course, and whoever wins will be held to their promises to reach gender parity in staffing and improve the UN’s work on women’s rights.&nbsp; </p> <p>Many people worldwide want to see serious changes in the UN.&nbsp; It would be the opposite of ‘continuity’ to have a feminist woman Secretary-General, promoting gender equality at the UN and in international politics.&nbsp; It would send the strongest possible signal of a break with the dysfunctional traditions of the UN. </p> <p>There are feminist women candidates who are able and willing to do this job.&nbsp; Security Council members are able to make this happen and to signal that the UN belongs in the 21st century.&nbsp; But on the evidence of last week’s poll, they are not willing.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/madam-secretary-general">Madam Secretary-General?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ourania-s-yancopoulos/lone-raised-hand-who-will-become-next-un-secretary-general">A lone raised hand: who will become the next UN Secretary-General ?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/immunity-and-impunity-in-peace-keeping-protection-gap">Immunity and impunity in peace keeping: the protection gap</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/time-to-vote-pick-feminist-woman-to-lead-un">Choose a woman to lead the UN!</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourania-s-yancopoulos/is-un-really-moving-toward-gender-equality-or-is-it-trying-to-cover-up-lack-of">Is the UN really moving toward gender equality? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ourania-s-yancopoulos/world-s-top-diplomat-administrator-figurehead-or-leader">The next UN Secretary-General: administrator, figurehead, or leader?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/edward-mortimer/choosing-next-un-leader-should-not-be-left-to-three-people">Choosing the next UN leader should not be left to three people</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ourania-s-yancopoulos/choosing-next-secretary-general-real-change-ahead">Choosing the next UN Secretary-General: real change ahead? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Gender and the UN 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter everyday feminism gender gender justice women and power women's work Anne Marie Goetz Thu, 28 Jul 2016 06:07:33 +0000 Anne Marie Goetz 104310 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The distance travelled: Beijing, Hillary, and women's rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/marion-bowman/distance-travelled-beijing-hillary-and-women%27s-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Hillary Rodham Clinton will need to listen to the voices of women working at grassroots on the frontline, and be prepared to use her power, should she win, to defend the human rights defenders.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published by openDemocracy in April 2015</em></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/HillaryBeijing.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/HillaryBeijing.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hillary Clinton, before the 2015 premiere of "Makers: Once and for All", chronicling the lead up to U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Credit: Julie Jacobson / PA Images</span></span></span></p><p>So Hillary is running again. And the campaign against her has also taken off, with her gender and her record on women’s rights part of the story. How far will Clinton go this time in positioning herself as a champion of women? </p><p>On the morning of Hillary Clinton’s low key announcement that she is running for President for the second time, potential Republican rival Senator Rand Paul weighed in with a CNN interview, managing to patronise her as a woman in the same breath as saying it would be wrong to patronise her. He said it would be ‘sexist’ to suggest that Clinton deserves not to be treated aggressively in the political fight ‘because she’s only a woman’.</p> <p>Clinton herself avoided a gender-based strategy in her 2008 bid for the Democratic nomination but this time, she is building it <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/4/10/8383283/hillary-2016-campaign-gender-strategy">into her campaign</a>. An ‘<a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/02/grandmother-in-chief/385238/">America’s Grandmother</a>’ theme has emerged to improve Clinton’s appeal to voters and the campaign is <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/live/2015/apr/12/hillary-clinton-announces-2016-presidential-campaign-iowa">prioritising</a> women and young people, emphasising the chance to make history by putting the first woman President in the White House and leading on policies such as equal pay and paid leave as part of her broader programme on improving the incomes of workers and reducing inequality.</p> <p>In the years since her earlier Presidential bid failed and Clinton became the world’s most powerful diplomat as Obama’s Secretary of State, she felt able to be more vocal on gender. She launched the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review initiative, making the <a href="http://www.state.gov/s/dmr/qddr/">empowerment of women</a> one of the objectives of US diplomatic missions abroad. The Clinton Foundation, which Hillary runs with husband Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea, recently launched the ‘No Ceilings’ project, an initiative to inspire and advance the <a href="https://www.clintonfoundation.org/our-work/no-ceilings-full-participation-project">full participation</a> of women and girls around the world, and in a recent television interview marking twenty years since the UN World Conference on Women in Beijing she said: ‘In the 21st century, the biggest piece of <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05nz2r1">unfinished business</a> is the full rights of women and girls and that’s what we should be focused on.’&nbsp; </p> <p>The <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/">Fourth World Conference on Women</a> held in Beijing in 1995, attended by more 30,000 activists, was a landmark breakthrough for women’s rights, and Clinton’s part in it cannot be underestimated. She was First Lady, not an elected official, but nevertheless her speech proclaiming ‘<em>women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights</em>’ was electrifying, not just for what she said but for the fact that there was someone with real influence in the White House prepared to say it. </p> <p>The speech put the moral and legal force of the <a href="http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/">Universal Declaration of Human Rights</a> in the service of women. Running for the nomination and possibly being a candidate, and even elected President next year, once again places Clinton, and progress on women’s rights, in a historic position at a time when real political will could make all the difference.</p> <p>Since Beijing, while the UN itself has devoted more attention to the status and conditions of women and some progress has been made, there have also been alarming developments. Violence against women has become an undeniable and widespread universal reality, and speaking out against it no longer a taboo, as it once was.&nbsp; Everything from rape as a weapon of war to sex trafficking to female genital mutilation (FGM) are far better understood, acknowledged and addressed in public discourse and policy. </p> <p>But even in the midst of progress at this level, the tide of violence has continued to rise and a special brand of violence has come to the fore: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malala_Yousafzai">violence</a> against women and girls who defend human rights such as Malala Yousafzai - now a Noble Peace laureate - and Salwa Bugaighis, a Libyan lawyer who played a key part in the Arab Spring and who was <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lindsey-hilsum/desolation-and-despair-in-libya-murder-of-salwa-bugaighis">murdered</a> in her own home last year as Libya descended into jihadist conflict.&nbsp; </p> <p>The challenge is no longer simply to promote women’s rights themselves. There is an additional struggle: to fight the backlash and protect the women who defend all human rights. Whether it is because of the rise of religious fundamentalism, the spread of criminal networks, the land grabs of corporations or the inertia, resistance or weakness of governments, women who promote human rights have very little protection from the powers and forces they challenge, and as a result their own lives are often at risk. Even when not in mortal danger, such women are regularly and extensively targeted around the world through judicial harassment, travel bans, threats, smears and detention as <a href="http://www.awid.org/Get-Involved/Urgent-Actions">evidence</a> gathered by the <a href="http://www.awid.org/">Association for Women’s Rights in Development</a> shows. </p> <p>A new front has opened up: the defence of women human rights defenders which is to be the subject of the <a href="http://www.nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women’s Initiative’s</a> biennial conference in the Netherlands April 24-26. </p> <p>As with so much in the political sphere, the struggle for progress at the highest levels hinges on language and ideas. As a new concept, ‘human rights defenders’ first gained currency in a UN resolution in <a href="http://www.ishr.ch/news/un-declaration-human-rights-defenders">1998</a>, then in <a href="http://www.awid.org/Library/First-Resolution-on-Protecting-Women-Human-Rights-Defenders-Adopted-at-the-UN-Amid-Strong-Conservative-Opposition-to-Already-Agreed-Rights">2013</a>, the General Assembly adopted a resolution specifically on protecting <em>women</em> human rights defenders. The resolution was a breakthrough but was a hotly contested matter with difficult negotiations about the final wording on several flanks. The resolution expressed the UN’s ‘grave concern’ about the risks and violations that women human rights defenders faced. But initial drafts contained contentious references to issues including matters of sexual and reproductive health, reproductive rights and sexuality that were later dropped in the final text. Key points that would have strengthened the text were excluded as a result of opposition voiced by a number of states from Africa, Asia and the Vatican.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>When the resolution was adopted four global rights organisations issued a <a href="http://www.ishr.ch/news/un-adopts-landmark-resolution-protecting-women-human-rights-defenders">statement</a> saying: ‘It is deeply regrettable that this last minute consensus came at the expense of a crucial paragraph containing language calling on states to condemn all forms of violence against women and women human rights defenders, and to refrain from invoking any customs, tradition or religious consideration to avoid obligations related to the elimination of violence against women.’ </p> <p>The focus now is on implementation. Nicole Bjerler of Amnesty International’s UN Office in New York said: ‘The resolution urges states to put in place gender-specific laws and policies for the protection of women human rights defenders and to ensure that defenders themselves are involved in the design and implementation of these measures,’ adding that ‘effective implementation of such measures by states will be key to enabling women human rights defenders to carry out their important and legitimate work.’</p> <p>This week's Nobel Women’s Initiative conference is designed to move from international resolution to action, building support for women human rights defenders and developing strategies for real progress on the ground through looking in detail at case studies from different regions around the world.&nbsp; Topics include digital and internet security, funding, media training, climate change and the protection of natural resources and the environment, and the monitoring and documenting of specific threats against women. </p> <p>The conference is an essential move in keeping up the pressure to make governments and other agencies take action, not just make resolutions. The issue could so easily slip off the agenda otherwise. The Nobel Women's Initiative have pointed out that recent studies, echoed by <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/SRHRDefendersIndex.aspx">findings</a> of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, demonstrate that women environmental activists and women protecting land against mining and other resource developments are often facing the highest level of risk, and that 'to date, governments are doing very little to address their specific needs.' </p> <p>&nbsp;At the recent meeting of the UN <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw59-2015">Commission on the Status of Women</a>, a Political Declaration was issued that failed to include a reference to women human rights defenders. Lydia Alpizar, Executive Director of the Association of Women’s Rights in Development, did not let it pass unremarked in her <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/lydia-alpizar/csw-vital-need-to-defend-women-human-rights-defenders">speech</a>. '<em>A vital prerequisite for the continuity of the achievements and the future progress of our work is the integrated protection and prevention of violence against women human rights defenders in all our diversity,’ she said. ‘It is a shame that all language on defenders was removed from the Political Declaration.'</em></p> <p>Alpizar added: ‘This is the moment; there are important opportunities before us. This is the moment when we must have all resources needed - the political commitment and the action - to achieve real transformations.’ </p> <p>With Hillary Clinton declaring her candidacy for the Democratic nomination on a gender-inflected programme, the distance travelled from Beijing is considerable. The possibility of having a woman with power in the White House who at least has a track record in women’s rights, and who could yet have the political commitment, is a historic opportunity. </p> <p>The Nobel Women’s Initiative is providing the route through for the voices of women at the grass roots and in the frontline to be raised and amplified. Hillary Clinton will need to do more than campaign, but to listen to them and be prepared to use her power, should she win, to defend the human rights defenders. </p><p><strong><em>&nbsp;</em></strong><em><em>Marion Bowman will be reporting for 50.50 from </em>the </em><em><a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women’s Initiative</a><em> </em>conference on the defence of women human rights defenders, 24-26 April. </em><em><em>Read more <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers</a> attending </em>conference.&nbsp; Read <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/8432/all">previous years' coverage</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women%27s-rights-have-no-country">Women&#039;s rights have no country</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lyric-thompson/best-time-to-be-born-female-worst-to-be-feminist-advocate">The &quot;best time to be born female&quot;: the worst to be a feminist advocate</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/debating-5th-world-conference-on-women-defiance-or-defeatism">Debating a 5th World Conference on Women: defiance or defeatism ?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lyric-thompson/lives-of-endurance-sanitizing-crime-against-girls">Lives of endurance: sanitizing crime against girls</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson/claiming-rights-facing-fire-young-feminist-activists">Claiming rights, facing fire: young feminist activists </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lydia-alpizar/csw-vital-need-to-defend-women-human-rights-defenders">CSW: the vital need to defend women human rights defenders </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-activisms-front-line">Women human rights defenders: activism&#039;s front-line</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sarah-marland/women-human-rights-defenders-protecting-each-other">Women human rights defenders: protecting each other </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-reigniting-embers">Women human rights defenders: reigniting the embers</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> 50.50 50.50 Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Nobel Women's Initiative 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's human rights women and power gender justice gender feminism 50.50 newsletter Marion Bowman Wed, 27 Jul 2016 08:35:36 +0000 Marion Bowman 92159 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ending HIV: ideology vs evidence at the UN https://www.opendemocracy.net/ending-HIV-ideology-vs-evidence-at-UN <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This week’s negotiations over the UN’s <em>Political Declaration Ending AIDS</em> are rife with circular debates, and sex, gender and sexuality are flashpoints of polarization.&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/CopyrightUNAIDSpeopleA.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/CopyrightUNAIDSpeopleA.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="184" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"Ending AIDS requires evidence-informed, rights-based global leadership”. Photo: UNAIDS</span></span></span></p><p>When you hang around the United Nations long enough, you hear some of the strangest things.&nbsp; In the past few months, I’ve been following the process leading up to the <a href="http://www.unaids.org/en/aboutunaids/unitednationsdeclarationsandgoals/2016highlevelmeetingonaids">UN High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS</a> (8-10 June) in New York.&nbsp; In advance of the meeting, Member States of the UN have been negotiating a <em>Political Declaration on Ending AIDS</em> that’s supposed to represent the way forward. Though one might hope that such a global stocktaking would be dominated by conversations that move us toward a vision for “ending AIDS epidemic by 2020,” it has been quite the contrary. The space of diplomacy in 2016 is often rife with circular debates in which wealthy countries resist financial commitments for addressing key concerns, and evidence-informed information is contested by extremist politics and conservative ideas about gender, sex and sexuality.</p> <p>In the current negotiations three disputes have reached new heights of absurdity: first, whether we can “name” the communities that are most affected by HIV globally - “key populations”- composed of men who have sex with men [MSM], transgender women, drug users and sex workers; second, whether evidence supports the claim that gender-based violence increases women’s and key populations’ vulnerability to HIV; and third, whether we can name “comprehensive sexuality education” as one important strategy to reduce vulnerability to HIV and increase access to services. The debates illustrate a toxic combination of cowardice, misogyny, homo-and trans-phobia, religious fundamentalism, and a closing of space for realistic discussion of how to solve pressing global challenges by governments and civil society together. </p> <p>The term “key populations” itself, as well as the groups that it encompasses, has been contested regularly by a number of member states of the UN. The resistance to using the term stems from a view that simply naming key populations acknowledges their existence without judgement. This might seem bizarre in the context of HIV where there is an abundance of evidence about “key populations” carrying the greatest burden of HIV across epidemic contexts.&nbsp; Perhaps this represents magical thinking that if “we don’t name them, they will go away.”&nbsp; This fantasy hampers effective HIV responses that require the full meaningful participation of all the people who are most affected.&nbsp; Not surprisingly civil society groups are contesting attempts to exclude and misrepresent:&nbsp; <a href="http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=1efcb45b2d3a4abde06876054&amp;id=40098f83e3&amp;e=528b1c6c3b">in a strongly worded statement</a>, the Global Forum on MSM and HIV and the Global Network of Sex Work Projects noted: </p> <p class="blockquote-new">We emphatically reject revisionist characterizations of the global HIV epidemic.&nbsp; We do not accept negative characterizations of men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people, and people who inject drugs, and we certainly disagree with the idea that key populations are only worthy of mention in the context of discussions about risk – especially since it reinforces old stereotypes about our communities as being irresponsible.&nbsp; We are not surprised by these actions because using key populations as a political wedge is&nbsp;a routinely&nbsp;employed tactic by governments to subjugate, oppress, debase, and belittle its citizens.&nbsp;These are also tactics deliberately used to throw activists off their game and to distract global attention away from State-sanctioned abuses and corruption.</p> <p>Governments’ effort to mischaracterize and deny the association between gender-based violence and HIV is another example of the misinformation game being played at the UN. Fifteen years ago, at the time of the&nbsp; <a href="http://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/sub_landing/files/aidsdeclaration_en.pdf">2001 Declaration of Commitment</a> (the outcome document from the UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV), evidence about the association between gender-based violence and HIV was extremely limited.&nbsp; While we had many testimonies, observations and logical analyses of the connection, there was almost no well-documented epidemiological evidence demonstrating the relationship. Over the past fifteen years this has changed, and today we have <a href="http://www.pepfar.gov/press/2013/205796.htm">solid empirical evidence of the connection</a>. The fact that some member states seek to deny the connection shows how many governments still refuse to grapple with the extensive reality of gender-based violence, especially violence against women and girls and violence against “key populations” (those unmentionable men who have sex with men, transgender people, drug users and sex workers). <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/BCopyrightUNAIDSpeople-final-1 (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/BCopyrightUNAIDSpeople-final-1 (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="200" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Finally, the current draft of the <em>Political Declaration</em> contains no reference to “comprehensive sexuality education.”&nbsp; This despite the fact that the draft declaration itself notes that “that only 36 per cent of young men and 28 percent of young women (15-24) possess accurate knowledge of HIV, and that laws and policies in some instances exclude young people from accessing sexual and reproductive health-care and HIV-related services..."<a href="http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/publications-a-z/2390-sexuality-education">&nbsp; Comprehensive sexuality education</a> (CSE) means the provision of scientifically accurate, non-judgmental information about the body and puberty; including education about bodily development, sex, sexuality, and relationships, along with skills-building to help young people communicate about and make informed decisions about sexual health and sexuality. It attempts to empower people to deal positively with their sexuality, protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy, HIV and sexually transmitted infections, learn values of mutual respect and non-violence in relationships, and have the ability to plan their sexual and reproductive lives.&nbsp; Almost <a href="https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/pub-pdf/CSE_Global_Review_2015.pdf">80 per cent of countries</a> have policies&nbsp;or strategies in place that support CSE. That some governments seem to see this important health and education strategy as anathema rather than essential to national HIV responses is scientifically indefensible and substantively difficult to explain. It represents a potentially life-threatening triumph of ideology over common sense. </p><p>Such disagreements illustrate how the process leading up to this High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS has been fraught.&nbsp; At the outset, a number of global and regional HIV networks focusing on LGBTI and drug users were excluded from participation. This isn’t unusual, especially as UN spaces today are marked by highly polarized ideological differences among governments and a persistent effort to close the space to active civil society engagement.&nbsp; However, given the urgency of engaging, educating and ensuring the exercise of rights for those who are most affected by HIV – women and girls (especially adolescent girls and young women in Eastern and Southern Africa), “key populations” (men who have sex with men, transgender women, people who inject drugs and sex workers), and young people – the choice to proffer ideology over evidence means that this meeting on <em>ending AIDS</em> unfortunately won’t meaningfully move us in that direction. </p> <p>The battle between ideology and evidence is set to continue at this week's UN High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS. </p> <p><em><strong>Read more articles on openDemocracy 50.50's platform: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-aids-gender-and-human-rights">AIDS, Gender and Human Rights</a></strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn-luisa-orza/welcome-to-our-house-women-living-with-hiv">Welcome to our house: women living with HIV</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/cecilia-chung/hiv-call-for-solidarity-with-transgender-community">HIV: a call for solidarity with the transgender community </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/hiv-witnessing-realisation-of-raw-human-rights">HIV: witnessing the realisation of raw human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ida-susser/microbicide-success-feminism-is-essential-to-good-science">A microbicide success: feminism is essential to good science</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/aids-and-adolescents-denying-access-to-health">AIDS and adolescents: denying access to health </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ida-susser-zena-stein/bioinsecurity-and-hivaids">Bio-insecurity and HIV/AIDS </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anonymous/hiv-homophobia-and-historical-regression-where-next-for-uganda">HIV, homophobia and historical regression: where next for Uganda?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/alice-welbourn/hiv-and-aids-language-and-blame-game">HIV and AIDS: language and the blame game</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/susana-t-fried-sonia-correa/amnesty-international-should-sex-work-be-decriminalized">Amnesty International: should sex work be decriminalized? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/louise-binder/criminal-law-hiv-and-violence-against-women">Criminal law: HIV and violence against women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/parinita-bhattacharjee/sex-work-violence-and-hiv-experience-from-rural-karnataka">Sex work, violence and HIV: experience from rural Karnataka</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/end-to-aids-not-through-medication-alone">An end to AIDS?: Not through medication alone</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/hiv-free-generation-human-sciences-vs-plumbing">An HIV-free generation: human sciences vs plumbing </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/aziza-ahmed/is-evidence-all-it-will-take">Is evidence all it will take? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/hiv-and-global-plan-turning-tide-or-wash-out-for-women">HIV and the Global Plan: turning the tide or a wash-out for women?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/silvia-petretti/i-am-one-of-those-foreigners-living-with-hiv-in-uk">&quot;I am one of those foreigners&quot;: living with HIV in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/hajjarah-nagadya/aids-targets-fear-factor">AIDS targets: the fear factor </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sindi-putri/indonesia-facing-life-with-hiv">Indonesia: facing life with HIV </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/susan-paxton/positive-and-pregnant-in-asia-how-dare-you">Positive and pregnant in Asia - How dare you</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maria-de-bruyn/hiv-what-kind-of-evidence-counts">HIV: what kind of evidence counts ?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/aziza-ahmed/is-evidence-all-it-will-take">Is evidence all it will take? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Science </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society International politics Science 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 AIDS, Gender and Human Rights 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's human rights women's health gender justice 50.50 newsletter Susana T. Fried Wed, 08 Jun 2016 08:41:23 +0000 Susana T. Fried 102760 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'The Devil is in the Details': development, women's rights and religious fundamentalisms https://www.opendemocracy.net/ayesha-imam-isabel-marler-laila-malik/womens-rights-development-and-religious-fundamentalisms-devil- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Dealing with the escalation of violence against women across the world requires a wider adoption of a feminist approach to working at the nexus of development, religious fundamentalisms and women’s rights.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Kurdish Women Against ISIS IWD 2015 Isabel Marler.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Kurdish Women Against ISIS IWD 2015 Isabel Marler.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kurdish women march against "ISIS" in London on International Women's Day 2015. Photo: Isabel Marler</span></span></span></p><p>In August 2015, the United Nations adopted the <a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs">Sustainable Development Goals</a> (SDGs), the agenda that will guide global development priorities until 2030. The agenda is not without its shortcomings, but the inclusion of a stand-alone goal to&nbsp; “<a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld">Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls</a>” and the recognition of gender equality as&nbsp; “<a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld">a crucial contribution to progress across all the Goals and targets</a>” constitute a significant step up from the minimal gender commitments of its predecessor, the <a href="http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/goals/">Millennium Development Goals</a> (MDGs). However, the widespread growth of religious fundamentalisms across the world stand as a huge barrier to achieving the transformation envisioned by the SDGs. </p><p class="normal">Fareeda Afridi, a Pashtun feminist and women's rights activist in Pakistan who criticised patriarchy and the Taliban, was shot dead on her way to work in July 2012, at the age of 25.&nbsp; Talata Mallam was one of nine women polio vaccinators shot and killed in attacks in Kano, Nigeria in February 2013.&nbsp; In November 2015, Jennifer Markovsky, Garrett Swasey, and Ke'Arre Stewart were killed by a Christian extremist at a Planned Parent Federation Clinic in Colorado Springs, USA. Attacks by fundamentalists in Bangladesh on NGOs like BRAC and the Grameen Bank, which provide health, information, education services and economic opportunities particularly to rural women, have included beating and killing NGO workers and burning hospitals.&nbsp; These are just a few examples of the thousands of attacks by religious fundamentalists of all persuasions on women’s rights and development work.&nbsp; </p> <p class="normal">Religious fundamentalisms degrade human rights standards, roll back women’s rights, entrench discrimination, and increase violence and insecurity.&nbsp; However, fundamentalists do not only use physical force. Fundamentalist forces are selectively using human rights language, with culturally relativist arguments, to attack existing international human rights standards, and block progress. Yet, so far, little work has been done to address the specific challenge of religious fundamentalisms to development or to formulate effective responses.</p> <p class="normal">&nbsp;<strong>A worldwide problem for women’s rights</strong></p> <p class="normal">The control of women’s bodily autonomy and the policing of strict gender norms is a hallmark of fundamentalist ideology that transcends all religious and geographical boundaries. </p> <p class="normal">And things are getting worse. In 2014, Brunei introduced a <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/30/sultan-brunei-sharia-penal-code-flogging-death-stoning">new Penal Code</a> based on an extremely conservative interpretation of Muslim laws, which included death by stoning as a punishment for adultery.&nbsp; In the United States, the strengthening of the Christian right led to the enactment of <a href="https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2015/04/trends-states-first-quarter-2015">more than 288 measures</a> impeding access to abortion between 2010 and 2016.&nbsp; From <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/poland-ban-abortion-women-speak-out-against-their-governments-plans-for-a-total-ban-on-abortion-a6968601.html">Poland</a> to <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/12/brazil-women-abortion-sexism/421185/">Brazil</a>, recent months have seen the religious right pushing countries closer to all-out bans on abortion. </p><p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/1. BentoXVI-37-10052007_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/1. BentoXVI-37-10052007_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Anti abortion banner at a gathering of youth to meet Benedict XVI at the Estádio do Pacaembu in São Paulo, Brazil. Photo: Agência Brasil</span></span></span></p> <p class="normal">In <a href="http://www.awid.org/news-and-analysis/womens-rights-activists-resist-myanmars-proposed-law-protection-race-and-religion">Burma</a> and <a href="http://www.awid.org/news-and-analysis/activists-reflect-rights-implications-indias-new-government">India</a>, fundamentalists use gender as a central mobilizing tool in anti-Muslim hate campaigns; stereotypes about Muslim men <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/08/17/how-life-in-india-has-changed-under-modi-and-why-some-muslims-arent-happy-about-it/">coercing women to convert to Islam</a> and rumours about <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/03/buddhist-nationalists-stoke-hatred-in-myanmar/">Muslim men raping Buddhist</a> or Hindu women are used as a basis for restricting women’s choice of partner and to provoke anti-Muslim violence.</p> <p class="normal">From the terrifying rise of <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/05/jihadist-girl-marry-liberation-failed-islamic-state">Da’esh</a> in the Middle East, to the “army” formed by the <a href="http://www.telesurtv.net/english/analysis/Lawmaker-Warns-Christian-Fundamentalism-Growing-in-Brazil-20150318-0003.html">evangelical Universal Church of the Kingdom of God</a> in Brazil, and the 2,500 <a href="http://prochoice.org/education-and-advocacy/violence/violence-statistics-and-history/">attacks on abortion providers</a> in the USA between 2005 and 2013, non-state actors pose violent threats to women’s freedoms and lives.</p> <p class="normal">The violence fundamentalists are wreaking on women’s lives may manifest in different ways in different contexts, but it is clear that we are currently witnessing an escalation across the world.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>The development sector’s capacity to respond</strong></p> <p class="normal">Faced with this situation, the promises to “leave no one behind” from the development agenda feel rather far from reach.&nbsp; Some development organizations are only starting to grapple with fundamentalisms’ implications for sustainable development and their strategic approach to the issue. Others have policies and internal capacity-building programmes designed to ensure staff are aware of “gender and diversity” issues. These can offer some space for discussions that touch on religious fundamentalisms. However, discussions of diversity tend to remain superficial and often do not examine the politicization of identities, and are devoid of a strong power analysis. Instead, they simply reinforce the notions that “we are diverse, and must all respect one another”.&nbsp; Meanwhile, fundamentalists often manipulate ideas of diversity for their own gain, shutting down criticism of their brand of women’s oppression with complaints of cultural insensitivity.</p> <p class="normal">Development policy-makers’ reluctance to engage in discussions on the ways religion is being used to justify discrimination and violence, may be because religion overall is seen by many as simply too sensitive. There may be a general “risk averse” culture within some organizations, which limits willingness to take on such challenges. Moreover, they may also feel that this area is best left to others, and there may be a fear of getting in above their heads or offending local staff and beneficiaries.&nbsp; Development organizations must develop a collective capacity to recognize and collaboratively address religious fundamentalisms if they are to advance social, economic, and gender justice and the human rights of all people in sustainable development. </p> <p class="normal"><strong>A feminist approach</strong></p> <p class="normal">What is needed is something that goes deeper - assessing the root causes and power relations that underlie the rise of religious fundamentalisms. Feminist organizations have been at the forefront of documenting and analysing the problem, and building strategies for resistance.&nbsp; A wider adoption of a feminist approach is crucial for working at the nexus of development, religious fundamentalisms, and women’s rights. A feminist analysis reveals women’s bodies to be a site of control for religious fundamentalists and allows one to see gender-based violence across social levels - from the state down to the family. It is also vital for imagining ways of combatting fundamentalisms that do not create further conflict, inequality, or oppression.&nbsp; What this looks like in practice, however, can be hard to figure out.&nbsp; The <a href="http://www.awid.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/final_web_the_devil_is_in_the_details.pdf">latest research</a> from the <a href="http://www.awid.org">Association for Women’s Rights in Development</a> (AWID) suggests some concrete actions that can be taken in seven main areas in order to resist fundamentalisms and strengthen women’s rights. </p> <p class="normalCxSpMiddle"><strong>Act on the warning signs <br /></strong></p> <p class="normal">Religious fundamentalisms do not spring up “fully grown”. Generally, there is a gradual process, beginning with control over women’s bodies - the way they dress, their presence in public space, their sexual and reproductive autonomy - along with the policing of a strict gender binary and gender roles, the valorization of a patriarchal family form, and the imposition of heterosexual “normalcy”.</p><p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/2.2 Gay Pride Cape Town 2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/2.2 Gay Pride Cape Town 2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gay Pride march in Cape Town 2014 in solidarity with LGBT people of Uganda. Photo: Samantha Marx </span></span></span></p> <p class="normal">Often, and especially in times conflict, insecurity, or political upheaval, women’s and LGBTQI people’s decreasing freedoms are dismissed as unimportant or “not the main issue”.&nbsp; To combat the rise of religious fundamentalisms it is vital that development actors take action when these groups raise the alarm, and that they do not wait for fundamentalisms to grow stronger and more embedded in society before considering them a serious problem. </p> <p class="normalCxSpMiddle"><strong>Do away with homogenising identities <br /></strong></p> <p class="normal">There is often a temptation to assume that religion is the primary identity marker of a community. However, in reality people’s identities are made up of many facets. Reducing a community to a single identity based on religion essentializes that community and the individuals who constitute it, in a similar way to fundamentalists. Furthermore, religious discourses are often used to protect power and privilege, so allowing an issue to be framed in religious terms alone can risk not only conceding the terms of debate, but also missing the chance to effect change.</p> <p class="normal">It is important that development actors do not assume that a conservative religious discourse is the only one that a community can relate to. Instead of the bounded, <em>othering</em> identities fostered by fundamentalists, development actors can help promote positive inclusive forms of identity.&nbsp; Development interventions can use non-religious language that speaks to common goals such as peace, justice, rights, quality of life, an end to violence, access to water, or better health, for example. Combining arguments from multiple sources - human rights and gender equality, constitutional law, progressive religious interpretations, empirical data - can be very effective.&nbsp; </p> <p class="normalCxSpMiddle"><strong>Promote a feminist understanding of religion, culture, and tradition <br /></strong></p> <p class="normal">Religious fundamentalists tend to claim that they are guardians of “authentic culture” and are resisting domination by “foreign” or “western” powers. However, in reality fundamentalists often introduce norms that not only destroy cultural diversity and pluralism, but which are also often neither “authentic” nor local; being modern ideologies or imported from other contexts. The myth of a single “Islamic law”, for example, has long obscured the actual diversity of Muslim laws and practices and their intersection with culture and history across the world. Appeals to notions of “African culture” in anti-homosexuality discourse obscure the reality of diverse sexualities in Africa historically and that growing anti-gay sentiment in many African countries is fuelled and funded by <a href="http://fpif.org/just-uganda-behind-christian-rights-onslaught-africa/">Christian fundamentalists from the USA</a>.</p> <p class="normal">Sometimes development initiatives appear to accept the culturally relativist arguments that curtail women’s rights, either out of a pragmatic desire to enable a project to move ahead, or out of fear of being seen as interfering in a sensitive topic.&nbsp; However, it is important that religion culture, or tradition is never accepted an excuse for human rights violations or the subordination of women, and that religious leaders are not assumed to represent an entire community.&nbsp; </p> <p class="normal">A positive way forward would be for development organizations to ensure that all staff are sensitized to understand that religious discourses, like all discourses, are not static, but are continually contested, reinforced, and altered.&nbsp; Furthermore, development actors can have a positive impact by supporting the local actors, often women’s organisations, who are enabling people to discuss religious discourses that are congruent with human rights and gender justice.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>Address marginalization, including racism</strong> </p> <p class="normal">Fundamentalist groups capitalize on the grievances of those who feel marginalized, or who have little hope of gaining social and economic power, or being represented through democratic political means. The numbers of middle-class Western recruits to Da’esh speaks to the racism and alienation experienced in Europe and North America by non-white youths.&nbsp; In many countries “progressives” (leftists, pro-poor, anti-imperialists) have been unable to muster sufficient support to pose a credible alternative to elites in power. As a solution to marginalization and disaffection, fundamentalisms offer their followers hope, certainty, a sense of purpose and an emotional community. In some countries, Poland and Egypt for example, religious organizations have historically been persecuted as dissidents, which has given them credibility as alternatives to corrupt regimes.</p> <p class="normal">It is therefore important that opposition to fundamentalism does not take forms that reinforce racist and other marginalising discourses.&nbsp; It is also important that development interventions work concomitantly on the politics of inclusion and representative, responsive governance, the rule of law, and against corruption. Programmes should cultivate the values of and skills for peaceful negotiation and dialogue, not only for marginalized groups but also for those with power, to ensure that the various levels of governance and administration are responsive to dialogue.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p class="normal"><strong>Address structural inequality</strong></p> <p class="normal">As much as religious fundamentalisms relate to ideas about culture, identity, and tradition, the reality is that fundamentalist movements are also intrinsically linked to structural inequalities. Neoliberal economic policies have produced inequality, which has fed the power of fundamentalisms. The destruction of states’ responsibility for social welfare has provided fertile ground for the ascent of conservative religious actors. Where states have ceased to provide services such as healthcare and schooling, fundamentalists have stepped into the breach, reaping rewards in the form of loyalty of the populations they serve and access to new channels to spread ideology.&nbsp; </p> <p class="normal">It is therefore necessary that development organizations do not support programs that minimize state responsibility for providing services and social safety nets. They should add their voices to the calls for alternative economic models that focus on redistribution, state provision of services, and that place women’s rights and justice at the center of their policies.&nbsp; It is also vital that they take a role in holding states, financial institutions, and corporations accountable for the effects of their policies on human rights and gender justice.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>Make the right partnerships</strong></p> <p class="normal">There is often a belief that religious organizations should be chosen for development partnerships, based on assumptions that they have better access to the population, and respect amongst the community; and also as a response to a lack of state institutions to work with.&nbsp; Not only can such assumptions can be unfounded, but it must be recognised that partnering with any organization builds their legitimacy and access to resources, and supports their ideology, including gender ideology.&nbsp;&nbsp; A desire for short-term efficacy has in some cases led to negative effects in the long-term. </p> <p class="normal">In the aftermath of Pakistan’s 2005 earthquake and 2010 floods, humanitarian partnerships led to the strengthening of Islamist groups, for example. There were documented reports of INGOs and the UN establishing <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/aug/03/islamist-groups-pakistan-aid-void">working relationships with Islamist groups</a> - even those linked to terrorist activities in Pakistan in 2005 - and channelling aid and relief through their networks. Similarly, religious groups involved in development interventions to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS have been known to “moralize” messages around sexuality and gender, causing further stigmatization of sex workers, drug users, and LGBTQI persons, while leaving the structural drivers of the epidemic untouched. </p> <p class="normal">It is important that development organizations do not choose partners based solely on short-term goals, but prioritise long-term objectives of sustainable development and gender equality.&nbsp; Prioritizing progressive positions on human rights, women’s rights, and gender equality when choosing partners for development initiatives is a key step in channelling resources and legitimacy away from religious fundamentalists. </p> <p class="normal"><strong>Support women’s movements</strong></p> <p class="normal">Women’s rights organizations have long been active in challenging religious fundamentalisms. They already have the knowledge and strategies they need - but the missing factor tends to be financial backing. Women’s rights organizations remain massively under-resourced in absolute terms and by comparison to other types of NGOs, often having access only to project funding for direct service provision. Whilst new actors deploying resources have entered the field over the last five years or so, much of those new resources are directed to individual women and girls, thus “watering the leaves and starving the roots”, as described by a <a href="http://www.awid.org/publications/watering-leaves-starving-roots">2013 report</a> from AWID.</p> <p class="normal">It is important that development organizations are able to look beyond the usual mainstream groups and pursue partnerships with the in-region or in-country actors, and women’s organizations in particular, who are already working to resist fundamentalisms. It is vital that donors direct resources towards women’s rights organizations that build and support autonomous women’s movements. Given the length of time this takes, this means providing multi-year and core funding. We have recently seen moves by some donor organizations towards this approach, which is a step in the right direction. </p> <p class="normal">There is now strong evidence that the single most important factor in promoting women’s rights and gender equality is an autonomous women’s movement. Srilatha Batliwala, <a href="https://issuu.com/awid/docs/wmm_final">has noted</a> the “significant amount of evidence…demonstrating how organizations with a strong focus on women’s rights and gender equality can “move mountains” in a relatively short space of time” when they are adequately resourced over a reasonable period of time, and supported to use the strategies they have crafted rather than donor-driven approaches. Women’s rights groups have the know-how to resist fundamentalisms and - when adequately supported and resourced - hold the key to weeding out religious fundamentalisms, whilst cultivating social and equality and gender justice.</p><p class="normal"><em>The full report by AWID can be read here</em>: <a href="http://www.awid.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/final_web_the_devil_is_in_the_details.pdf"><em>The Devil is in the Details: At the Nexus of Development, Women’s Rights, and Religious Fundamentalisms.&nbsp;</em></a><a href="http://www.awid.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/cf-devilisinthedetails-7pointers-eng.pdf"></a>.</p><hr size="1" /><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson-devi-leiper-o%27malley/young-feminists-resisting-tide-of-fundamentalisms">Young feminists: resisting the tide of fundamentalisms</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofu-tawamba-kate-kroeger-tatiana-cordero/berta-s-struggle-is-our-global-struggle">Berta’s struggle is our global struggle…</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson-marisa-viana/our-bodies-as-battlegrounds">Our bodies as battlegrounds</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson-deepa-ranganathan/defending-ourselves-defining-rights-of-girls">Defending ourselves: defining the rights of girls </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rosalie-fransen/un-csw-women-s-reproductive-rights-or-culture-of-death"> UN CSW: debating women’s reproductive rights or a “culture of death” ? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sophie-giscard-destaing/gender-and-terrorism-un-calls-for-women-s-engagement-in-countering-viol">UN calls for women’s engagement in countering violent extremism: but at what cost? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/iraqs-female-citizens-prisoners-of-war">Iraq&#039;s female citizens: prisoners of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/skye-wheeler/yazidi-women-after-slavery-comes-lasting-trauma">Yazidi women after slavery: trauma</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson/claiming-rights-facing-fire-young-feminist-activists">Claiming rights, facing fire: young feminist activists </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marieme-h%C3%A9lielucas-maryam-namazie/promoting-global-secular-alternative-in-isis-era">Promoting the global secular alternative in the ISIS era</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/in-memory-of-sabeen-mahmud-%E2%80%9Ci-stand-up-for-what-i-believe-in-but-i-can%E2%80%99t-fight-">Sabeen Mahmud: “I stand up for what I believe in, but I can’t fight guns”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-mbarka-brahmi/opposing-political-islam-mohamed-brahmis-widow-speaks-out">Opposing political Islam in Tunisia: Mohamed Brahmi&#039;s widow speaks out</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/preventing-violent-extremism-noose-both-too-tight-and-too-loose">Preventing violent extremism: a noose that is both too tight and too loose </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/preventing-violence-against-women-sluggish-cascade">Preventing violence against women: a sluggish cascade?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/iran-%27bloody-stain%27-on-nation">Iran: a &#039;bloody stain&#039; on the nation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ana-abelenda/behind-murder-of-berta-c-ceres-corporate-response">Behind the murder of Berta Cáceres: corporate complicity </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deepa-shankaran/right-to-have-rights-resisting-fundamentalist-orders">The right to have rights: resisting fundamentalist orders</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/naila-kabeer/grief-and-rage-in-india-making-violence-against-women-history">Grief and rage in India: making violence against women history? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/visible-players-power-and-risks-for-young-feminists">Visible players: the power and the risks for young feminists</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Culture Equality 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women and power violence against women gender justice gender fundamentalisms feminism 50.50 newsletter Laila Malik Isabel Marler Ayesha Imam Wed, 04 May 2016 07:45:27 +0000 Ayesha Imam, Isabel Marler and Laila Malik 101789 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Behind the murder of Berta Cáceres: corporate complicity https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ana-abelenda/behind-murder-of-berta-c-ceres-corporate-response <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The corporate denial of violation of human rights in the death of Berta Cáceres reveals the web of complicities and impunity that prompted her assassination.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Photo 1_BertaCaceres.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Photo 1_BertaCaceres.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Berta Cáceres and local assembly community members campaigning against the Agua Zarca dam. Photo: courtesy of the Goldman Prize.</span></span></span></p><p class="normal">Berta Cáceres was killed while sleeping in her home in La Esperanza, Honduras on 3rd March 2016. Over the past few years, she had been harassed, and received multiple death threats for her role in the movements she led opposing the <a href="https://ejatlas.org/conflict/proyecto-hidroelectrico-agua-zarca-honduras">Agua Zarca dam project</a>. The project threatened to cut off the water supply to the Indigenous Lenca community in Honduras, depriving them of the right to sustainably manage and live off their territories and sacred river. </p> <p class="normal">Cáceres <a href="https://youtu.be/AR1kwx8b0ms">won the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize</a> for her work. But even before her death she had already paid a heavy price for her activism, because of which, her daughters and son had been forced to leave the country as their lives were under threat. Less than two weeks after Berta’s murder, 150 families members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), founded by Berta, were evicted from the community of Rio Lindo, Cortés, by the Military Police and the Special Force ‘Cobras’.&nbsp; And Nelson García, also a member of <a href="http://www.copinh.org/">COPINH</a><span>, </span>who had assisted families evicted earlier in the day, was murdered. </p> <p class="normal"><strong>Global outrage</strong></p> <p class="normal">Caceres’ assassination, the obvious climate of widespread human rights violations, and overwhelming impunity in Honduras, have provoked outrage in the country and across the globe. This has manifested in massive demonstrations in Tegucigalpa, New York and elsewhere, in strong effort to put pressure on the government and corporations involved in the ring of complicity to Berta’s murder, to respond and put an end to the escalating violence.&nbsp; </p> <p class="normal">On the very same day as Berta’s murder, Hidroeléctrica Agua Zarca, a project of the Honduran private energy company Desarrollos Energéticos, SA (DESA), issued a statement immediately <a href="http://www.hidroelectricaaguazarca.hn/assets/documentos/PRONUNCIAMIENTO_ANTE_ASESINATO_BERTA_CACERES.pdf">den</a><a href="http://www.hidroelectricaaguazarca.hn/assets/documentos/PRONUNCIAMIENTO_ANTE_ASESINATO_BERTA_CACERES.pdf">ying</a> any involvement in the murder: “Hidroeléctrica Agua Zarca roundly affirms that there is no direct nor indirect connection between the project and the regrettable event that ended the life of the indigenous leader.” </p> <p class="normal">The Caceres family and members of COPINH however, dispute this position, pointing to DESA in a <a href="http://www.copinh.org/article/comunicado-familia-bertha-caceres-y-copinh/">communiqué</a> as the main source of multiple threats, persecution and aggression against the Lenca community and COPINH members. </p> <p class="normal"><strong>Who’s involved</strong></p> <p class="normal">A deeper look at who is behind the Agua Zarca dam project points to both national and global complicities by financial institutions and corporations. </p> <p class="normal">At the national level, DESA is the local private energy company in charge of implementing the project. The company is partially controlled by the wealthy Honduran Atala family, whose billionaire member Camilo Atala recently turned his Grupo Financiero Ficohsa into the biggest financial conglomerate in Central America by <a href="http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/grupo-financiero-ficohsa-takes-control-of-citi-operations-in-nicaragua-300107289.html">acquiring most of Citibank’s assets in the region</a>.&nbsp; </p> <p class="normal">The Atala family has done little to hide their support for the 2009 Honduras military coup that ousted democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya. With the backing of Honduras’s business elites, the Lobo administration that followed the military coup embraced the neoliberal development model with the slogan "<a href="http://www.coha.org/honduras-is-open-for-business/">Honduras is Open for Business</a>" granting 41 hydroelectric dam illegal concessions in 2010 alone, including the Agua Zarca project. </p> <p class="normal">Most of these dam projects were granted on indigenous territory without prior and informed consent of the affected communities, and in blatant violation of <a href="http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:C169">International Labor Organization Convention 169</a>, which requires that "consultation with indigenous peoples should be undertaken through appropriate procedures, in good faith, and through the representative institutions of these peoples". </p> <p class="normal">But the Agua Zarca project also has crucial international funding support from at least the <a href="http://www.bcie.org/?prj=56&amp;title=Desarrollos%20Energ%E9ticos%20(DESA).%20Proyecto%20Hidroel%E9ctrico%20Agua%20Zarca&amp;lang=en#.VvADjXQrKto">Central American Bank for Economic Integration</a>; the <a href="https://www.fmo.nl/">Dutch development bank FMO</a>; <a href="http://www.finnfund.fi/en_GB/etusivu/">Finnfund</a> from Finland and German company <a href="http://www.voith.com/en/group/organization/group-divisions/voith-hydro-106.html">Voith Hydro</a>. The <a href="https://finances.worldbank.org/ifc">World Bank via the International Finance Corporation (IFC),</a> the private sector arm, has <a href="http://www.brettonwoodsproject.org/2013/09/ifc-denies-financial-involvement-honduran-dam/">denied</a> their involvement in the project. </p> <p class="normal"><strong>Projects continued regardless of community resistance</strong></p> <p class="normal">Chinese state-owned <a href="http://eng.sinohydro.com/">Sinohydro Group</a>, one of the largest hydropower engineering companies in the world, was the original contractor hired to build the dam.&nbsp; But in late 2013, Sinohydro decided to withdraw from the Agua Zarca Project, publicly citing ongoing community resistance and outrage following the death of COPINH environmental activist Tomas García who was <a href="https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/tomas-garcia">shot and killed</a> by the army near the project site. Responding to a query by the <a href="http://business-humanrights.org/">Business &amp; Human Rights Resource Centre</a> Sinohydro Group <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=2&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;sqi=2&amp;ved=0ahUKEwjL5_TxsrPLAhWFChoKHSMFAQgQFggiMAE&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fbusiness-humanrights.org%2Fsites%2Fdefault%2Ffiles%2Fmedia%2Fdocuments%2Fcompany_responses%2Fsinohydro-response-re-agua-zarca-25-nov-2013-en.doc&amp;usg=AFQjCNGFKE7hRARKMjVfa2J9mUHGSBP2YQ&amp;sig2=LrFAt3FzTe4hf_Lc-IVGwA&amp;bvm=bv.116274245,d.d24">said</a>: <em>“Right from the very beginning of our mobilization, it was noticed that there were serious interest conflicts between the Employer of the Project, i.e. DESA, and the local communities, which were treated as unpredictable and uncontrollable to the Contractor. Therefore, Sinohydro Corporation Limited instructed to suspend all the site performance and ongoing preparations, and demobilized all his manpower from the project site on July 15th 2013.”</em> The surprising withdrawal of the Chinese company in 2013 citing conflict with local communities however, did not elicit any doubts from the <em>ostensibly human rights bastions</em>, Dutch and Finnish backers of the project, who continued business as usual until Berta’s murder was too much of a scandal to conceal. </p> <p class="normal"><strong>Too little too late</strong></p> <p class="normal">Hours after Berta was murdered FMO and the Finnish corporation, released a <a href="https://www.fmo.nl/k/n1771/news/view/27258/20819/fmo-statement-on-the-violent-death-of-berta-caceres.html">statement</a> regretting the murder and calling “for a thorough investigation on the events and to hold those responsible to account” while they state to be “currently working with our contacts in Honduras to review exactly what has happened.” </p> <p class="normal">However, the day after publishing the statement, FMO published a document on <a href="https://www.fmo.nl/k/n1771/news/view/27260/20819/faq-agua-zarca-project-honduras.html">FAQ on the project</a> clearly responding to the obvious negative attention following Berta’s killing. The document focuses only on the benefits of the project promising to “prioritize local recruitment and provide school materials to all students of the 11 communities”. In addition they say,<em>“FMO is also aware that in many cases, our clients do not possess the knowledge and/or experience in implementing projects to the international standards of best environmental and social practice that FMO requires…”</em>And so with a stated civilizing mission oriented towards “developing countries with weak governance” as the FAQs refer to Honduras, any doubts of complicity in violation of human rights are cleared. Green-washing corporate neo-colonialism at its finest. </p> <p class="normal">It was only after the <a href="http://www.coha.org/nelson-garcia-another-honduran-activist-gunned-down-while-washington-gives-a-muted-response/">murder of Nelson García</a>, another COPINH member, on Tuesday 14th March that FMO announced in a <a href="https://www.fmo.nl/k/n1771/news/view/28133/20819/fmo-suspends-all-activities-in-honduras-effective-immediately.html">statement</a> its decision "<em>to suspend all activities in Honduras, effective immediately. This means that we will not engage in new projects or commitments and that no disbursements will be made, including the Agua Zarca project”</em></p><p class="normal">FinnFund decided to follow suit, to suspend disbursements to the project, though the CEO of the fund, Jaakko Kangasniemi, explained to <a href="http://www.development-today.com/magazine/Frontpage/finnfund_suspends_disbursements_to_honduran_dam_project"><em>Development Today</em></a> “<em>we still believe that the people in the affected areas want this project. But at this juncture we have to take a look at the situation</em>”. </p> <p class="normal">The suspension of activities is a welcome decision; but is too little, too late. Suspending activities in Honduras is not nearly the same as pulling out permanently, something that COPINH members have been demanding for a long time. </p> <p class="normal"><strong>US complicity, unrestrained corporate power, and government impunity </strong></p> <p class="normal">Attempts to wash the guilt away also holds true for the US State Department, who <a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/9/hillary-clinton-honduraslatinamericaforeignpolicy.html">admittedly supported the coup</a> in Honduras in 2009.&nbsp; In a short <a href="http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2016/03/253997.htm">statement</a> released March 4, it offers “the full support of the United States to help bring the perpetrators to justice”.&nbsp; </p><p class="normal">There is absolute silence, as one can expect, about the permanence of US military aid and troops in Honduras that have only fuelled repression of social movements and violence, putting the country on the podium as “the deadliest place for environmental activists” <a href="https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/how-many-more/">according to Global Witness</a>. </p> <p class="normal">Berta’s murder is not an isolated case fuelled by the specific context in Honduras but one of the most extreme examples of deadly complicity between unrestrained corporate power, government impunity and elites across the world. Examples abound: from the Niger Delta where women continue to <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/views/2012/04/02/women-face-down-violence-build-peace-niger-delta">challenge oil exploration</a> by international oil companies; in Mexico where <a href="http://business-humanrights.org/en/mexican-human-rights-defender-bettina-cruz-exposes-human-rights-risks-posed-by-wind-farm-companies-in-indigenous-lands">indigenous women are fighting</a> to keep their communities’ land from large scale wind energy production projects; in Brazil where the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/20/brazil-dam-disaster-judge-freezes-assets-of-miners-bhp-and-vale">collapse of a mining dam</a> in 2015 resulted in deaths of the local community and continues to pose a risk to the survivors; in South Africa where pharmaceutical companies continue to <a href="http://www.tac.org.za/news/mbeki-shows-no-remorse-role-aids-deaths">block the access</a> of affordable generic antiretrovirals to the poor and vulnerable communities infected with HIV; and in The Philippines where malicious attacks and threats perpetrated by State agents, against women human rights defenders (WHRDs) resisting repression and operations of mining companies increased in August 2015 prompting the <a href="http://www.awid.org/news-and-analysis/philippines-women-human-rights-defenders-are-targeted-legitimate-human-rights">condemnation</a> of the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRDIC). There are millions of Bertas around the world that simply cannot be stopped by selected killings, for they are the seed in the persistence of struggles. </p> <p class="normal">“We must shake our conscience free of the rapacious capitalism, racism and patriarchy that will only assure our own self-destruction”, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AR1kwx8b0ms&amp;feature=youtu.be">said Berta</a> when she accepted the Goldman Environmental Prize. She was only describing the web of complicities and impunity that prompted her assassination. </p> <p class="normal">The corporate denial of complicity in the violation of human rights and death of Berta Caceres is green-washing corporate neo-colonialism at its finest. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofu-tawamba-kate-kroeger-tatiana-cordero/berta-s-struggle-is-our-global-struggle">Berta’s struggle is our global struggle…</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nathalie-marji/women-on-frontlines-of-climate-justice-defending-land-and-community">Defending land and community: women on the frontlines of climate justice </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/melina-loubicanmassimo/awaiting-justice-%E2%80%93-indigenous-resistance-to-tar-sand-development-in-cana">Awaiting justice: Indigenous resistance in the tar sands of Canada</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson/claiming-rights-facing-fire-young-feminist-activists">Claiming rights, facing fire: young feminist activists </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/osprey-orielle-lake/mapping-womens-resistance-to-social-and-ecological-degradation">Mapping women&#039;s resistance to social and ecological degradation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ruby-johnson/pulse-of-young-feminist-organising">The global pulse of young feminists organising</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-activisms-front-line">Women human rights defenders: activism&#039;s front-line</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/visible-players-power-and-risks-for-young-feminists">Visible players: the power and the risks for young feminists</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/melina-laboucan-massimo/energy-democracy-building-solar-dream-in-tar-sands-nightmare">Energy democracy: building a solar dream in a tar sands nightmare</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofutawamba/at-margins-of-visibility-recognising-women-human-rights-defenders">At the margins of visibility: recognising women human rights defenders </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Honduras </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Honduras Civil society Conflict 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women, Peace & Security 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy feminism violence against women women and power women's health women's human rights Ana Abelenda Mon, 25 Apr 2016 07:11:04 +0000 Ana Abelenda 101510 at https://www.opendemocracy.net UN CSW: debating women’s reproductive rights or a “culture of death” ? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rosalie-fransen/un-csw-women-s-reproductive-rights-or-culture-of-death <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In a cynical ploy, conservative religious groups based in the Global North now frame reproductive rights advocacy in the Global South as the neocolonialist imposition of a uniquely western value system.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal">After more than a year of legislative debate, on March 18 Chile’s parliament decriminalized abortion in three extreme cases: when the woman’s life is in danger, when she has been raped, or when the foetus is diagnosed as unviable. Chile’s decision, made under the progressive leadership of President Michelle Bachelet shrinks the<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/international-abortion-laws-the-six-nations-where-it-is-still-illegal-to-have-an-abortion-10229567.html"> number of nations that forbid abortion under all circumstances</a><span> </span>to five. However, anyone who works in the area of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights knows better than to assume inexorable forward progress. </p> <p class="normal">At this year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the usual tension in intergovernmental negotiations on the inclusion of reproductive rights in the Commission’s consensus outcome document was intensified by a hardening of conservative positions on the family around the world. Parallel civil society discussions saw growing assertiveness and complexity in the arguments used by conservative groups advocating for restrictions on women’s reproductive rights.&nbsp; Recent events such as the spread of the Zika virus in Latin America raise the stakes in international debates on women’s right to terminate pregnancy.&nbsp; So too does the much-anticipated imminent release of Pope Francis’s<a href="http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2016/03/18/pope-francis-finalizes-much-anticipated-teaching-document-on-family-issues/"> </a><a href="http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2016/03/18/pope-francis-finalizes-much-anticipated-teaching-document-on-family-issues/">post-synod&nbsp; document</a> on family issues. </p> <p class="normal">The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See has always assumed a prominent public presence at CSW.&nbsp; This year it&nbsp; partnered with conservative family rights organizations such as the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and the Campaign Life Coalition in a series of side events at UNHQ. At these events, pro-family rhetoric sidestepped traditional appeals to right to life in favour of a different approach. Speakers echoed Pope Francis’s recent condemnation of “<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/17/world/asia/after-meeting-with-pope-francis-philippine-president-criticizes-local-church-leaders.html?_r=0">ideological colonization</a> that tries to destroy the family,” and framed reproductive rights advocacy in the Global South as the neocolonialist imposition of a uniquely Western value system, one perpetuating a “culture of death.” </p><p class="normal"><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/Holy See Panel-min.jpg" alt="" width="460 " /></p> <p class="normal"><em>A Holy See panel at the CSW. Photo: Rosalie Fransen</em></p><p class="normal">“There is not one African culture, but we have one common thread that runs through many countries: our understanding that human life is precious,” a speaker from an African pro-life nonprofit said during a Holy See-led panel event on maternal health in Africa. “Through different platforms a lot of the West suggests strongly that abortion has to be legalized to reduce maternal mortality. This is diametrically opposed to a lot of our shared values, how we see life as being sacred from the moment of conception. So one cannot help but ask: is this another form of colonization?” </p><p class="normal"><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/Bernadito_Auza.jpg" alt="" width="460 " /></p> <p><em>Archbishop Bernadito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See at the UN. Photo: Wikimedia</em></p><p class="normal">The panel addressed a mostly Caucasian audience of about 400, amongst which were members of several prominent family rights groups. Archbishop Bernadito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, kicked off the event, lamenting incidents of discrimination against mothers and the perception of motherhood as an “antiquated concept.” He was followed by a panelist who cited World Health Organization statistics, stating only 9% of maternal deaths are a result of unsafe abortions, and advocated for a “91% solution.” </p> <p class="normal">“We need sort of a Marshall Plan for mothers, similar to how the world came together around the AIDS and Ebola pandemics,” the panelist said, as he flipped through a slideshow displaying graphic images of visibly ill and – shockingly - deceased African mothers. </p> <p class="normal">“Where is the fight from the women’s movement?” he asked, prompting loud applause from the audience. “Mothers are women too, right?” </p><p class="normal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/CSW Pamphlets.jpg" alt="" width="460 " /></p> <p class="normal"><em>Pamphlets handed out at one of the Holy See side events. Photo: Rosalie Fransen</em></p><p class="normal">Here, family rights discourse takes a novel turn. It positions progressive approaches to reproductive rights in direct opposition to African family values and culture, tapping into age-old Global South resentment about domineering, colonizing Western values. At the same time, it blames Western development actors for the persistence of maternal mortality on the African continent, accusing them of hijacking the conversation around maternal health and obscuring locally-appropriate obstetric care solutions with an undue emphasis on abortion. </p> <p class="normal">Pro-family activity at the UN is not a new phenomenon, but it has expanded significantly in the past year. January 2015 saw the formation of the <em>Group of Friends of the Family</em>, a coalition of 18 member states who believe human rights are<a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/12348Joint%20statement-friends%20of%20the%20family.pdf"> </a><a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/12348Joint%20statement-friends%20of%20the%20family.pdf">“best promoted and protected within the family environment.”</a><span> </span>The coalition had their first major victory in July, when the UN Human Rights Council passed a<a href="http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/E/HRC/d_res_dec/A_HRC_29_L25.docx"> </a><a href="http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/E/HRC/d_res_dec/A_HRC_29_L25.docx">resolution</a> on the “Protection of the Family.” The resolution, co-sponsored by <em>Friends of the Family</em> members Russia and Saudi Arabia, reaffirms the family unit as “natural” and “fundamental” and notes that “contribution of the family in society and in the achievement of development goals continues to be largely overlooked and underemphasized.” The Sexual Rights Initiative was quick to call the document<a href="http://sexualrightsinitiative.com/2015/hrc/hrc-29-session/sri-condemns-hrc29-resolution-on-protection-of-the-family/"> </a><a href="http://sexualrightsinitiative.com/2015/hrc/hrc-29-session/sri-condemns-hrc29-resolution-on-protection-of-the-family/">“damaging and divisive,”</a> noting it denied the rights of individuals in favor of protecting the ‘traditional’ family unit. </p> <p class="normal">In their presentations, panelists at Holy See-sponsored side events frequently quoted this resolution. They also referenced the 1959<a href="http://www.unicef.org/malaysia/1959-Declaration-of-the-Rights-of-the-Child.pdf"> </a><a href="http://www.unicef.org/malaysia/1959-Declaration-of-the-Rights-of-the-Child.pdf">Declaration on the Rights of the Child</a>, specifically the passage that states children need “special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, <em>before</em> as well as after birth.” Unsurprisingly, recent developments on the legislative reproductive and sexual rights front, such as the<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lyric-thompson/groundbreaking-policy-us-support-for-sexual-and-reproductive-health-and-rights"> </a><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lyric-thompson/groundbreaking-policy-us-support-for-sexual-and-reproductive-health-and-rights">US statement of support to sexual rights</a>, and the March 8 release of<a href="http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=E/C.12/GC/22&amp;Lang=en"> </a><a href="http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=E/C.12/GC/22&amp;Lang=en">General Comment 22</a> on sexual and reproductive health to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights were unequivocally condemned, with one panelist calling the latter “a disgrace.”</p><p class="normal">Legislative arguments are not new among those advocating a conservative family rights agenda, but for conservative religious groups based in the Global North to argue that women’s reproductive rights reflect a narrative of Western ideological domination is. &nbsp;As a tactic to garner support from developing countries this is a cynical ploy, but effective in an era of renewed geopolitical polarization. This approach glosses over the issues that go <em>unaddressed </em>in the Holy See’s CSW rhetoric. Among them are the<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/jan/21/pope-family-planning-contraception-family-size-developing-world"> </a><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/jan/21/pope-family-planning-contraception-family-size-developing-world">diversity of African perspectives on reproductive rights</a> beyond the views of a single African panelist, the<a href="https://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_IAW.html"> extensive consequences of unsafe abortions on women’s health</a> aside from death, as well as the well-established<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/saoyo-tabitha-griffith/why-are-women-in-kenya-still-dying-from-unsafe-abortions"> recognition</a> that abortion legislation needs to be paired with sufficient public education and medical capacity-building to be wholly effective in reducing maternal mortality. Also absent are discussions of women and girls impregnated via sexual violence, a group for whom restricting access to abortion<a href="http://www.reproductiverights.org/sites/crr.civicactions.net/files/documents/SR%20on%20Torture%20Report.pdf"> </a><a href="http://www.reproductiverights.org/sites/crr.civicactions.net/files/documents/SR%20on%20Torture%20Report.pdf">has been called a “form of torture”</a> by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. </p> <p class="normal">As a member of the audience stated during the Q&amp;A portion of a Holy See-led panel: “If you want to be sure not to start colonization anew, let people decide over their own bodies.” The final, adopted CSW outcome document took a noteworthy step in that direction: calling for universally accessible emergency contraception. Though one battle may be won, CSW does not resolve all issues and its theme this year - achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals – will require continued international determination to surmount harmful narratives and enable women around the world to control their reproductive choices.</p><p class="normal"><em><strong>This article is part of oD 50.50’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women">series</a> covering key debates at this year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women. </strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/maggie-murphy/traditional-values-vs-human-rights-at-un">&#039;Traditional values&#039; vs human rights at the UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zohra-moosa/csw-its-time-to-question-vaticans-power-at-un">CSW: it&#039;s time to question the Vatican&#039;s power at the UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/culture-versus-rights-dualism-myth-or-reality">Culture versus rights dualism: a myth or a reality?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/valeria-costa-kostritsky/csw-battle-over-womens-sexual-and-reproductive-rights">CSW: the battle over women&#039;s sexual and reproductive rights </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/shareen-gokal/taking-pope-to-court">Taking the Pope to court</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maxine-molyneux/of-rights-and-risks-are-women%E2%80%99s-human-rights-in-jeopardy">Of rights and risks: are women’s human rights in jeopardy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women%27s-rights-have-no-country">Women&#039;s rights have no country</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mariella-sala/forced-sterilization-and-impunity-in-peru">Forced sterilization and impunity in Peru</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/gender-wars-women-redefining-customs-as-crimes">Gender wars: women redefining customs as crimes </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/susan-tolmay/csw-resisting-backlash-against-womens-human-rights">CSW: resisting the backlash against women&#039;s human rights </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lyric-thompson/groundbreaking-policy-us-support-for-sexual-and-reproductive-health-and-rights">CSW: groundbreaking US support for sexual rights </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women's Movement Building UN Commission on the Status of Women women's human rights women's health gender justice gender fundamentalisms bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Rosalie Fransen Thu, 31 Mar 2016 10:27:36 +0000 Rosalie Fransen 101003 at https://www.opendemocracy.net UN CSW: the way to empower women is to use CEDAW Article 5, not the CSW https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/margaret-owen/un-csw-cedaw-article-5-must-be-applied-now <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The most effective international mechanism to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment is not the cumbersome UN CSW, it’s CEDAW, and it’s time to use it to make governments accountable.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>At the 60th Session of the annual <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw60-2016">UN Commission on the Status of Women</a> (CSW60) this month, 8,000 women’s NGOS, representing feminist and women’s movements around the world, had the golden opportunity to rally around this year’s priority theme: “Women’s Empowerment and its link to Sustainable Development”. </p><p>But will this year’s assembly bear fruit? Will governments do what they promised to do last Friday, the 25th March?</p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/IMG_4630.JPG" alt="" width="460" /></p><p><em>"Non-Violence" (also known as "The Knotted Gun"), sculpture by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd. Photo: Sophie Giscard d'Estaing</em></p> <p>Whilst government delegates in the UN building burnt the midnight oil arguing through 80 hours of negotiations to agree the “<a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw60-2016">final conclusions</a>”, in an atmosphere often tense with battles over language on such controversial topics such as <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/rosalie-fransen/un-csw-women-s-reproductive-rights-or-culture-of-death">reproductive and sexual health</a>, the definition of the family, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/joanna-lockspeiser/un-csw-still-failing-to-count-all-women">LGBT rights</a>, domestic and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/sophie-giscard-destaing/where-is-gender-sensitive-humanitarian-response-to-protecting-women-refugees">sexual violence</a>, and issues of culture and sovereignty, we, in our various shabbier locations across 1st avenue, networked and talked to each other, bringing the voices of the poorest, most invisible and vulnerable women and girls to our “parallel NGO events”. But who heard us?</p> <p>Our meetings, which so vividly described the realities of the often desperate needs and crucial roles of the world’s very poorest women and girls, were barely visited by the policy makers across the road in the UN building who are charged with the responsibility of implementing the Agreed Conclusions they have fought over with such intensity.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/development-agenda/">Sustainable Development Goals</a> (SDGs) is one of the most ambitious UN projects since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and Goal No. 5 on gender equality opens the door for women and girls to raise such issues as violence against women, and their sexual and reproductive rights. But the real challenge is to ensure that women and girls have an equal decision-making role in the 16 other goals, for clearly we women have important contributions to make towards ending poverty and hunger, ensuring health, education and decent work for all, and most of all for ending inequalities, addressing climate change and building a sustainable peace.</p> <p>The promise in the SDGs is to “<a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/women-and-the-sdgs">Leave No One Behind</a>”.&nbsp; This is a beautiful phrase, but words are not enough, and rarely have we NGOs seen the commitments made by Member States in <em>decades</em> of Agreed Conclusions implemented on the ground. </p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/IMG_4626.JPG" alt="" width="460" /></p><p><em>Sphere Within Sphere by Italian sculptor Arnaldo&nbsp;Comodoro</em>.</p><p>“Implementation!&nbsp; Implementation! Implementation!”&nbsp; Cried the indefatigable deputy CEO of UN Women, at the NGO consultation prior to the official CSW opening. Likewise, Ambassador Antonio Patriota, the Brazilian CSW Chair, stressed the vital roles of the women’s organisations in every country as the key monitors of progress in fulfilling these agreed obligations, and as the agents for filling the yawning gaps in data and identifying those categories of women and girls – such as the widows – who are so often forgotten and fall through all safety nets.</p> <p>Indeed, the scope and ambition of this <a href="http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/development-agenda/">2030 Agenda</a> (<a href="http://www.un.org/press/en/2015/gaab4182.doc.htm">A/RES/70/11</a>) poses huge data challenges. Existing sources of data are insufficient, and without filling this gap there can be no effective monitoring of its gender dimensions. </p> <p>&nbsp;For example, although we have much anecdotal evidence of the huge increase in the numbers of widows and wives of the missing due to armed conflict, revolutions, sectarian strife, HIV and AIDS and harmful traditional practices such as child marriage to far older men, there are no reliable statistics, or even adequate qualitative information to describe their life-styles, coping strategies, support systems, or experience of violence within the family – which is a vital precondition for evaluating any progress in improving their status.&nbsp; </p> <p>The role of men and boys in promoting gender equality is well referenced in the Agreed Conclusions, and there is a wealth of “best practice” around, the question of how to <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/karin-attia/how-do-we-engage-men-and-boys-as-allies-in-ending-violence-against-women">actually harness their potential</a> for this important task that could be so transformational in changing conventional patriarchal attitudes is not spelt out.&nbsp; Patriarchal attitudes block, so often, women’s access to justice, even where new modern laws have been enacted to comply with obligations under international agreements such as the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/">Beijing Platform for Action</a> and the CEDAW.</p> <p><a href="http://www.myrepublica.com/society/story/37037/women-rights-advocate-rana-awarded-with-women-distinction-award.html">Bandana Rana</a>, the Nepali feminist who won the Women of Distinction Award, who also spoke at the NGO consultation, prioritised the task of “changing the mind set of men and boys in the home”, and she looked forward to the day when “every home rejoices at the birth of a girl”. How to get this transformation on the road?</p> <p>As a UK barrister and lifelong human rights activist (now in my eighties), who has attended no less than nineteen annual CSW meetings, here is what I would like to see happen, and as soon as possible.</p> <p>&nbsp;I want to see as many Member States, who have ratified the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/">CEDAW</a> (Committee of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) to band together to collectively ask the CEDAW to consider a General Recommendation (GR) on their Article 5: <em>Stereotyping and Cultural Prejudices</em>.</p> <p>Article 5 requires States Parties to “<em>take all appropriate measures to modify social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women”</em>.</p> <p>For me, the most effective international mechanism to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, and make Governments accountable for their omissions to protect their women citizens from discrimination and abuse is not the cumbersome bureaucratic anti-NGO CSW, but the CEDAW. </p> <p>&nbsp;CEDAW now needs – pushed and persuaded by the best of its Member States – to enhance the importance of Article 5, and use its wording to interrogate States Parties at their 4 yearly reporting sessions, asking them what means they are using to change the attitudes of men and boys at all levels of society, from the top echelons to the village, in the informal as well as formal education structures, in the work place, in the army, in trade unions, political parties, and among religious and traditional leaders. </p> <p>CEDAW could engage the NGO community in providing them with examples of best practice that have succeeded in altering mind sets, starting in the family, so that little boys are taught to respect their mothers and their sisters, and see girls and women and equal partners in the development of their communities and society generally.</p> <p>In our struggle for the dignity, respect and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/margaret-owen/widowhood-invisible-for-how-much-longer">human rights of widows</a>, of whom there are now so many facing unacceptable discrimination, abuse, poverty and violence, often barred, whatever the constitution and law says about equality, to inherit and own land, access education, training, credit, or employment. Furthermore, these women and girls are often victims of life threatening and degrading mourning and burial rites, it is the traditional attitudes that must be changed, and it can be done if there is the political will. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/margaret-owen/hidden-lives-of-child-widows">All widows</a> must be able to live in dignity, their roles as sole heads of households supported, freed of the stigma and “inauspiciousness” so common to their status.</p> <p>CEDAW can “name and shame” those countries that are found to have done nothing to implement Article 5.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Those that can provide the details and evaluation of their projects to alter those attitudes that block women’s empowerment will see their reputation enhanced and their successful programmes highlighted, publicised and adapted, providing that support for the CSW60 Agreed Conclusions they so badly need if the 2015-30 Agenda for the SDGs is to be achieved.</p> <p>Such a CEDAW initiative would be a powerful driver of implementation of the <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw60-2016">CSW60 Agreed Conclusions</a>, and also help empower those women’s NGOs that will be the effective evaluators of progress in the coming years. </p><p><strong><em>This article is part of oD 50.50’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women">series</a> covering key debates at this year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women.</em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rosalie-fransen/un-csw-women-s-reproductive-rights-or-culture-of-death"> UN CSW: debating women’s reproductive rights or a “culture of death” ? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karin-attia/how-do-we-engage-men-and-boys-as-allies-in-ending-violence-against-women">UN CSW: engaging men and boys in ending violence against women as allies not protectors</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/margaret-owen/conflict-widows-agents-of-change-and-peacebuilding"> Conflict widows: agents of change and peacebuilding</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/margaret-owen/hidden-lives-of-child-widows">The hidden lives of child widows </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/joanna-lockspeiser/un-csw-still-failing-to-count-all-women">UN CSW: still failing to count all women </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sophie-giscard-destaing/where-is-gender-sensitive-humanitarian-response-to-protecting-women-refugees"> UN CSW: ending impunity for gender-based crimes against women refugees </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women%27s-rights-have-no-country">Women&#039;s rights have no country</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/debating-5th-world-conference-on-women-defiance-or-defeatism">Debating a 5th World Conference on Women: defiance or defeatism ?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leila-alikarami/cedaw-and-quest-of-iranian-women-for-gender-equality">CEDAW and the quest of Iranian women for gender equality </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jane-esuantsiwa-goldsmith/cedaw-designed-to-be-used">CEDAW: designed to be used</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leymah-gbowee/child-soldiers-child-wives-wounded-for-life">Child soldiers, child wives: wounded for life</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Gender and the UN 50.50 Women's Movement Building UN Commission on the Status of Women 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy women and power gendered poverty gender justice feminism 50.50 newsletter Margaret Owen Thu, 31 Mar 2016 10:21:03 +0000 Margaret Owen 101027 at https://www.opendemocracy.net