50.50 https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/5971/0 en “Our strategy is visibility”: the fight for LGBT rights in Romania https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sian-norris/strategy-visibility-lgbt-rights-romania <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Violence and anti-LGBT hate crime is on the rise in Romania, says activist Vlad Viski. But he and his colleagues refuse to stay silent.</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/563363/Trans Day of Remembrance vigil in Bucharest.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Trans Day of Remembrance vigil in Bucharest.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'>Trans day of remembrance vigil in Bucharest. Photo: Sian Norris.</span></span></span>It was freezing cold outside the Italian embassy in Romania’s capital city, Bucharest, on a late November evening. But the sudden drop in temperature didn't put off a group of LGBT right activists who gathered here for <a href="https://www.glaad.org/tdor">Trans Day of Remembrance</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Holding candles, they stood in front of a rainbow flag with "TransMem" penned across it. On the pavement were photocopied pictures of a young Romanian trans women, Laura, who was recently murdered in Italy.</p><p dir="ltr">A couple of people held each other, tears in their eyes, as a trans woman in jeans and a jacket shared Laura’s story. “She could have been me,” the woman said, her voice clear and determined. “She could have been so many of our brothers and sisters.”</p><p dir="ltr">Why have you come here today? I asked a young man carrying a tote bag emblazoned with a rainbow, the symbol of LGBT pride. “Because it is important to show our solidarity with the trans community,” he said. “It is the first Romanian trans person that we know who was killed.”</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">“Because it is important to show our solidarity with the trans community,” he said. “It is the first Romanian trans person that we know who was killed.”</p><p dir="ltr">Handing out candles to the assembled group was Vlad Viski, founding member of the activist group <a href="http://mozaiqlgbt.ro/">MozaiQ</a>. Two days after the vigil we met in a Bucharest cafe, to discuss the challenges facing the LGBT rights movement in Romania.</p><p dir="ltr">“I came back to Romania in 2015, having studied abroad,” he told me, as tinny Euro-pop blared out from the TV screen behind us. “And there was already a group of activists, artists and people from the corporate world coming together to discuss the need for a new LGBT rights organisation.” </p><p dir="ltr">“At that time, there was only <a href="http://accept-romania.ro/en/">Accept</a>, who focused on the legal and lobbying side of things,” he said, referring to the established, leading LGBT rights charity. “We wanted to create a group that dealt with the community itself, and MozaiQ became the missing piece of that puzzle.”</p><p dir="ltr">Viski and his colleagues wanted MozaiQ to be a political activist group, but also to provide social and cultural activities for the LGBT community. From sports clubs to board game nights, it aims to “forge bonds between people and take a more social approach to issues,” said Viski. “Not everyone wants to get involved in direct activism.” </p><p>But, a few months after MozaiQ was founded, the atmosphere around LGBT rights in Romania became a lot more hostile.</p><p>In November 2015, the Christian ‘family rights’ group, <a href="http://coalitiapentrufamilie.ro/">Coalition for Family</a>, published a ‘Citizens’ Initiative’ and collected 3 million signatures seeking a referendum to change Romania’s constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman exclusively.</p><p>Same-sex marriage is not currently legal in Romania; the proposed constitutional change would preempt efforts introduce marriage equality in the future. Last year, the Romanian parliament approved a referendum on the issue. However, the 2016 parliamentary elections delayed the vote and a date for the referendum is yet to be set.</p><p dir="ltr">This very public backlash against LGBT rights caused MozaiQ to evolve – and quickly. “On the day Romania’s constitutional court gave the green light to the Citizens’ Initiative,” Viski told me, “we went out in the streets to protest the decision.”</p><p dir="ltr">“A few months later, during the 2016 parliamentary elections, we organised a march called God Doesn’t Do Politics,” he added. “Our strategy now is visibility.”</p><p dir="ltr">But visibility in a country where homosexuality has only been legal for 16 years (same-sex relations were decriminalised in Romania in 2001) is not easy.</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/563363/Bucharest.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Bucharest.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'>Bucharest. Photo: Sian Norris.</span></span></span>Since the Coalition for Family launched its citizens’ initiative, Viski said there has been “an increase in hate speech in the public arena from the Coalition and from the Orthodox Church.”</p><p dir="ltr">Viski said he and and his colleagues in MozaiQ have seen “an increase in violent physical attacks against LGBT people, with more people being beaten on the streets and coming to us.”</p><p dir="ltr">This has not forced the LGBT community into hiding. Rather, Viski believes that being confronted with an emboldened and vocal opposition “kind of gave a boost to the community and the movement itself. It shook things up.”</p><p dir="ltr">“More LGBT people are coming out to their families and in the media,” he said, and the threat of a referendum has given MozaiQ and its allies more public exposure and attention.</p><p dir="ltr">MozaiQ has worked with partner organisations to host public debates in town halls across Romania, inviting politicians to share their views on LGBT issues, equal marriage and civil unions.</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/563363/Pride poster in Accept offices in Bucharest.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Pride poster in Accept offices in Bucharest.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="454" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pride poster in Accept offices in Bucharest. Photo: Sian Norris.</span></span></span>Last year saw the country’s biggest ever Pride parade in Bucharest, with a sister march in Cluj. Viski became a familiar face on TV screens, keeping his cool as he debates conservative and Orthodox figures determined to, in his words, “trash gay people.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Before, maybe people were on the fence,” Viski told me. “Maybe they didn’t care about the issue. But having this public national debate has forced them to take a stand and join the movement. That’s the positive side of it.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Maybe they didn’t care about the issue. But having this public national debate has forced them to take a stand and join the movement. That’s the positive side of it.”</p><p dir="ltr">However, there’s a long way to go to create an LGBT-welcoming environment in Romania. There’s still a lack of LGBT voices in the media, where “conservative voices...are always present,” said Viski, adding: “we don’t have gay couples that are present in TV shows.”</p><p>We left the giddy Euro-pop behind us to go and sit on the upstairs terrace, despite the chilly weather. I asked Viski if he feels optimistic about LGBT rights in Romania. He smiled.</p><p dir="ltr">“I kind of have to be optimistic, it’s like – my job!” he said. But, he added: “We live in a regional context where you have a backlash against progressive rights in Poland, in Hungary, in Russia, in Turkey... you see this slip towards authoritarianism and that’s being done against gay rights.”</p><p dir="ltr">“At the same time, for the very first time since 2001 when homosexuality was decriminalised, we have this chance to tell our story. To shape our identity in the public arena,” he said.</p><p dir="ltr">The young man at the vigil told me something similar. He said: “Our greatest hope, whether we win or lose the referendum, is that the LGBT community will come together and be stronger. That we’ll be able to use that strength to one day win.”</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Translation and research assistance by Alexandra Mitrofan-Norris.</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/romania-battleground-backlash-lgbt-rights">How Romania became a battleground in the transatlantic backlash against LGBT rights</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"> Romania </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 Romania Tracking the backlash sexual identities 50.50 newsletter Sian Norris Fri, 15 Dec 2017 08:28:31 +0000 Sian Norris 115045 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How Romania became a battleground in the transatlantic backlash against LGBT rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sian-norris/romania-battleground-backlash-lgbt-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Romania decriminalised homosexuality in 2001. Today it is witnessing a backlash against LGBT rights, supported by US Christian conservatives.</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/563363/Orthodox church in Bucharest.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Orthodox church in Bucharest.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="329" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Orthodox church in Bucharest. Photo: Sian Norris.</span></span></span>“What you have to understand,” says a man in his late 30s, “is the influence of the Orthodox Church. It’s…” he puts down his beer, searching for the word in English. “Mind control.”</p><p dir="ltr">In a late night jazz club in downtown Bucharest, I’m sitting with a group of young musicians chatting in a mix of Spanish, Italian and Romanian. “This bar is like our home,” one tells me, when I ask how they are allowed to stay past closing time, swapping stories and discussing music and films.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s my mention of the anti-LGBT organisation ‘<a href="http://coalitiapentrufamilie.ro/">Coalition for Family</a>’ – a <a href="http://coalitiapentrufamilie.ro/despre-coalitia-pentru-familie/">self-described</a> "civic initiative…open to those who share the values of the family" – that provokes a heated conversation.</p><p dir="ltr">The Coalition is “awful,” says one woman. “They come up with these crazy excuses against gay marriage – saying if we allow this, then people will be able to marry their dogs.”</p><p dir="ltr">Romania decriminalised homosexuality in 2001. Today it is witnessing a backlash against LGBT rights from conservative and religious forces determined to protect ‘traditional family’ values, led by powerful domestic groups and their allies in the US Christian right.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">The Coalition is “awful,” says one woman. “They come up with these crazy excuses against gay marriage – saying if we allow this, then people will be able to marry their dogs.”</p><p dir="ltr">A European Court of Justice case, originating from Romania, could impact definitions of <a href="https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/11/21/world/europe/romania-ecj-gay-marriage.html?referer=http%3A%2F%2Fm.facebook.com">marriage across the EU</a>. A national referendum is also expected next year, to challenge how marriage is defined in the country’s constitution, which could frustrate any future attempts to legalise same-sex unions.</p><p dir="ltr">In November 2015, the Coalition for Family published a ‘Citizen’s Initiative’ – the first step in a system that allows Romanian citizens to "<a href="http://akademiai.com/doi/pdf/10.1556/AJur.55.2014.2.6">directly participate in the law-making process</a>." It demanded that the constitution be changed to define marriage as between a man and woman exclusively (it currently uses the gender-neutral wording ‘two spouses’).</p><p dir="ltr">Same-sex marriage is not currently legal in Romania. However, the constitution’s current wording means that it could be legalised in the future without necessitating a constitutional amendment. The proposed change is a pre-emptive strike: this is the ultra-conservative anti-LGBT lobby on the offensive.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2016, the Coalition for Family said it had collected 3 million signatures in support of their citizens’ initiative. This kickstarted a process that led to parliament agreeing to hold a referendum. Parliamentary elections then delayed the vote, and a date is still to be announced.</p><p dir="ltr">In Bucharest, I visited the Coalition for Family to learn more about their campaign. Their office is housed behind huge red metal gates, not far from the city centre. An apologetic woman told me that she was too busy to talk, and said that I should email her instead. (I did, with no reply).</p><p dir="ltr">At leading LGBT rights organisation <a href="http://accept-romania.ro/en/">Accept</a>, I’m welcomed by two tabby cats. The office is blooming with pot plants, and on the walls are colourful posters with messages of equality and freedom.</p><p dir="ltr">Over mugs of fruit tea, programme coordinator Teodora Ion-Rotaru told me that Accept tried to oppose the Coalition for Family’s referendum campaign in multiple ways.</p><p dir="ltr">“We first tried to monitor signature collection to see what was happening,” Ion-Rotaru told me. “We had <a href="http://www.digi24.ro/stiri/actualitate/educatie/copii-implicati-in-luptele-adultilor-elevi-de-liceu-spun-ca-au-fost-obligati-sa-semneze-petitia-pentru-modificarea-constitutiei-482030">multiple reports of teachers collecting signatures in high schools</a>, and we reported that to the Ministry of Education.”</p><p dir="ltr">“<a href="http://www.gandul.info/stiri/marea-miza-a-bor-de-ce-vrea-biserica-sa-scrie-in-constitutie-ca-familia-e-formata-din-barbat-si-femeie-14958248">Churches were collecting signatures</a> by putting lists up in their doorways and asking people to sign. In a homophobic society, it is very difficult for people to refuse to sign publicly, as they fear being labelled as gay if they challenge anything,” she said.</p><p dir="ltr">The Coalition did not respond to requests for comment on the collection of signatures, or their goals for the referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">Accept also prepared submissions for judicial and constitutional committees, Ion-Rotaru said, but “political parties sent their most homophobic members to represent them at the committees...There was no possibility of dialogue or middle ground.”</p><p dir="ltr">When parliament approved the referendum, Accept established a platform called Respect, which united more than 100 civil society organisations against the proposed constitutional change.</p><p dir="ltr">Ion-Rotaru said the backlash against the LGBT population has made many groups realise “that signing a piece of paper agreeing with Accept’s aims wasn’t enough.” Instead they needed to “take action” and come together in solidarity.</p><p dir="ltr">Accept and the wider LGBT community face a powerful enemy in domestic conservative groups such as the Coalition for Family, the Orthodox Church, and evangelical churches in Romania, as well as their international allies – including US-based Christian legal charity <a href="https://www.lc.org/">Liberty Counsel</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Described as a <a href="https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/liberty-counsel">‘hate group’ by the Southern Poverty Law Centre</a>, Liberty Counsel calls itself an organisation dedicated to “restoring the culture by advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the family.”</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/563363/Coalition offices in Bucharest.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Coalition offices in Bucharest.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="329" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Coalition offices in Bucharest. Photo: Sian Norris.</span></span></span>In July 2016, it sent an <a href="http://lc.org/072016RomanianMarriageAmicusBrief.pdf">amicus briefing</a> to the Romanian government presenting a case for a referendum to change the constitutional definition of marriage and protect ‘traditional’ values.</p><p dir="ltr">It makes for difficult reading: it suggests that gay parents are more likely to commit child abuse, and makes wild claims that children of LGBT parents are more likely to be gay or asexual, mentally ill, or develop substance abuse issues.</p><p dir="ltr">This year, the group also sent <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Davis">Kim Davis</a> on a speaking tour of Romanian towns and cities. As a Kentucky clerk whose job it was to issue marriage licenses, Davis won fame when she was briefly jailed in 2015 after refusing to do so for same-sex couples. </p><p dir="ltr">Liberty Counsel lawyers defended her case; last month the group <a href="https://barbwire.com/2017/11/10/battle-marriage-fundamental-nations-identity-harry-mihet/">described</a> her as “courageous” in her refusal to “compromise...her faith.” Like the Coalition, this organisation also did not respond to requests for comment for this article.</p><p dir="ltr">Over nine days in October, Davis met the Coalition for Family and four of the six top archbishops in Romania’s Orthodox Church, as well as representatives from family rights groups.</p><p dir="ltr">The aim of the tour, said the <a href="https://barbwire.com/2017/11/10/battle-marriage-fundamental-nations-identity-harry-mihet/">Counsel’s radio show</a>, was to talk about “what happens when a country… goes the wrong way on the issue of marriage.” (Referring to the US, where in 2015 the supreme court guaranteed same-sex marriage rights in all states).</p><p dir="ltr">Davis spoke to thousands of ordinary Romanians in churches, cathedrals and conference halls. According to the Counsel, the tour <a href="https://barbwire.com/2017/11/10/battle-marriage-fundamental-nations-identity-harry-mihet/">would</a> show: “unless you define marriage in your constitution, then you invite activists, judges or runaway legislators to bring in same sex marriage in a very anti-democratic fashion.”</p><p dir="ltr">The involvement of organisations like Liberty Counsel in Romania’s battle over LGBT rights clearly frustrates Ion-Rotaru. Having failed to stop equal marriage from being introduced in the US, she says, “they come to countries that are a lot more vulnerable.”</p><p dir="ltr">“They come to Romania where you have LGBT people who are more vulnerable to public pressure...who are a lot more vulnerable to hatred, to being discriminated against in their daily lives, in their workplace, and in school.”</p><p dir="ltr">“I cannot understand how these people speak about Christian values,” she added. “They are actually just trying to spread hatred... to mobilise Christians against other human beings. What they are doing is so much against the values they are preaching.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“They are actually just trying to spread hatred... to mobilise Christians against other human beings. What they are doing is so much against the values they are preaching.”</p><p dir="ltr">The involvement of Liberty Counsel, and the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/12/world/europe/kim-davis-romania.html">welcome they received</a> from the Coalition for Family, also angers activist Vlad Viski. A founding member of the grassroots LGBT organisation <a href="http://mozaiqlgbt.ro/">MozaiQ</a>, he believes that Liberty Counsel is using “the referendum as a tool to further their agenda.”</p><p dir="ltr">“These organisations see eastern Europe as fertile ground to spread their anti-LGBT ideas,” he told me. “Having got involved in anti-LGBT work in Africa, they are reproducing here what they did there and using our popular consultations as a tool.”</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost-ella-milburn/christian-legal-army-court-battles-worldwide">ADF International</a>, the global wing of the controversial US legal advocacy group <a href="http://www.adflegal.org/">Alliance Defending Freedom</a> (ADF), has also supported the referendum campaign. In April, it <a href="https://adfinternational.org/detailspages/press-release-details/one-man-and-one-woman---romanian-referendum-on-marriage-definition">co-hosted a "referendum for the family" conference</a> at the Romanian Parliament in Bucharest, along with the Coalition for Family. </p><p dir="ltr">"The union between one man and one woman is timeless, universal, and unique. It expresses the reality that men and women bring distinct, irreplaceable gifts to family life," said ADF International lawyer Adina Portaru at the conference. The group also filed a&nbsp;<a href="https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/international-content/docs/default-source/default-document-library/resources/media-resources/europe/interventie-constitutionala-adf-international.pdf">friend-of-the-court brief</a>&nbsp;with Romania's constitutional court in favour of the referendum.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost-ella-milburn/christian-legal-army-court-battles-worldwide">A spokesperson for ADF International told 50.50</a> this week: "We should respect the sovereignty of countries when it comes to family and marriage law. We should let the people of Romania decide how they want to live and let not Brussels impose on them.”</p><p dir="ltr">Initially expected to happen in November 2017, <a href="https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/11/21/world/europe/romania-ecj-gay-marriage.html?referer=http%3A%2F%2Fm.facebook.com">some commentators </a>are now saying the referendum will likely take place next year. Whatever happens with the vote, the fight to defend LGBT rights goes beyond the ballot box.</p><p dir="ltr">“The work of the Respect platform is not only about being against the referendum,” Ion-Rotaru told me. “Because the pushback from conservative forces is not going to stop with that… This is just the beginning.”</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Translation and research assistance by Alexandra Mitrofan-Norris.</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/claire-provost-lara-whyte/tracking-the-backlash">Tracking the backlash: why we&#039;re investigating the &#039;anti-rights&#039; opposition</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost-ella-milburn/christian-legal-army-court-battles-worldwide">Christian ‘legal army’ in hundreds of court battles worldwide</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"> Romania </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 Romania Tracking the backlash sexual identities 50.50 newsletter Sian Norris Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:30:12 +0000 Sian Norris 115043 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Igor Yasin: “If there’s no freedom of assembly for LGBT, there’s none for anyone else” https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ekaterina-fomina/igor-yasin-lgbt <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Russian activist Igor Yasin on attitudes towards LGBT in Russia’s regions, why the opposition has a homophobia problem, and how to assert your rights — and still be heard. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/ekaterina-fomina/lgbt-aktivism-v-rossii" target="_self">RU</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/IMG_3287-014_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/IMG_3287-014_0.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Igor Yasin. Photo(c): Yulia Koroleva. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Life isn’t easy for representatives of Russia’s LGBT community who don’t hide their sexual orientation. A 2013 law on “gay propaganda” has, in effect, legalised LGBT discrimination. Today, when Russian courts<a href="https://meduza.io/feature/2017/10/31/kak-vy-nadoeli-so-svoey-golubiznoy"> examine</a> offences committed against LGBT people, they often do not even establish hate as a motivating factor.</p><p dir="ltr">As part of oDR’s series on Russian civic activists (check out our other articles <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/could-elections-wake-up-kalmykia-navalny">here</a> and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-rebrov/yulia-galyamina">here</a>), I spoke to Igor Yasin, one of the leaders of the Rainbow Association, an organiser of public meetings in support of LGBT and co-chair of the Union of Journalists, about attitudes towards LGBT in Russia’s regions, why the Russian opposition has a homophobia problem and how to speak about your rights and be heard.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How did you come to activism?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Igor Yasin:</strong> I was finishing my undergraduate degree in Egypt, at Cairo University, where I got interested in politics. I first took part in street protest in 2003, in anti-war demonstrations. When I returned to Russia, I decided to figure out what was happening here politically. At that point, I’d already realised left-wing views chimed with mine. I began searching online about organisations and found AKM [Avantgarde of Red Youth, the youth wing of Working Russia; its leader is Sergey Udaltsov - ed.], and spoke to a few of its activists. Later, I found Socialist Resistance, which was then renamed to the Committee for the Workers’ International. Back then, this was one of the few organisations that was organising in support of LGBT rights.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What did your activism consist of at the beginning?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>IY:</strong> At first, I took part in demonstrations against Russian military actions in Chechnya, and later, against the monetisation of benefits in 2005. In autumn 2006, we organised an anti-fascist campaign against celebrating Unity Day, a new Russian public holiday which the ultra-right was using to its own ends. Public actions in support of LGBT rights started in 2006, and at that time the GayRussia organisation tried to hold its first pride event. This provoked a public discussion, including among Russian leftists. It turned out that not everyone in our society was a homophobe. That’s when I found out we had a lot in common and began to work together.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Was Russian society ready to discuss LGBT rights back then?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>IY:</strong> People’s ideas about LGBT people were formed by the Russian tabloid press: they wrote about LGBT people as some kind of freaks, they wrote about sex, but not about rights or politics. We wanted to change this, to start a discussion about real problems. And it was hard. We had hopes that holding a pride event would help change the situation in Russia, but we were disillusioned fairly quickly. This was mostly due to personal circumstances, but everything played its own role — there was no escape from discussing LGBT rights.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The state and the authorities have created an atmosphere of impunity, in which attacks and crimes against LGBT people aren’t investigated</p><p dir="ltr">In 2010, we started a campaign for a “March of Equality” — an attempt to unite various social groups in the fight for universal equality. At its base, the march was organised around LGBT and feminist ideas. That’s when Russia had the first attempts to pass a law banning propagandising homosexuality among underage children.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What’s wrong with pride events? Why didn’t it work out?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>IY:</strong> The head of GayRussia, who was trying to organise the pride event, wasn’t planning to build a movement like Harvey Milk. There were a lot of arguments, discussions inside the community about whether was even worth going to public actions. This wasn’t a question for me. But the approach of the pride organisers led to a situation where people simply stopped seeing the reason for going out onto the street. Too many people were detained and beaten up. People began to perceive all of this activity as a provocation. Thankfully, now less and less people think that public LGBT actions are bad. But attitudes used to be quite negative.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>When different Russian regions started passing laws against “homosexual propaganda” and LGBT communities, was there an understanding of what to do with this?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>IY:</strong> Everything started with the Arkhangelsk regional assembly’s<a href="http://barentsobserver.com/en/society/arkhangelsk-gay-law-be-challenged-strasbourg-06-07"> law on “protecting the morals and health of children”</a> — this was in July 2011. In response, we went to picket the headquarters of Arkhangelsk regon in Moscow, and were pleasantly surprised how many people turned out. Before that, it seemed that we didn’t exist as a civic force in Russia. But by that time activism had already achieved something, although it was still at an early stage. In 2011, when the wave of protests against electoral falsification started, we went out to protest with everyone else, but a strong rainbow column had already formed.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>In Russia, LGBT activists who aren’t afraid to go out onto the street are often attacked. Who are the attackers? Did you understand that you were taking a risk when you went out with a rainbow badge or banner?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>IY: </strong>It’s mostly groups of young far-right people. We always prepared ourselves for this kind of aggression. Safety is a priority for us. It even got to the point where a group of comrades started going to self-defence courses. At big events, there were always people walking next to our column who were on the look-out safety-wise. But at big events there hasn’t been much in the way of attacks, it’s become safer.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Did you know who organised these attacks, the beating of activists on the streets?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>IY:</strong> We don’t have any documentary evidence to suggest who’s directing these attacks. But the state and the authorities have created an atmosphere of impunity, whereby attacks and crimes against LGBT people aren’t investigated. They gave these aggressive groups carte-blanche to do what they want. At the start, it was some kind of fascist and football fan groups. Then the Orthodox groups turned out, “God’s Will”, for example. Then the “Occupy Paedophile” movement after the laws against homosexual propaganda were passed. Even if no one was directly managing the attacks, they still had the opportunity to hurt people without fear of investigation.</p><p dir="ltr">After all, apart from LGBT, foreign students and migrants have also been subject to attacks…</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Given this atmosphere of hate, is a public conversation about LGBT rights even possible?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>IY:</strong> The situation was worse before this. Before, we didn’t even exist in the public debate.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>In April this year, an article in Novaya Gazeta<a href="https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/04/01/71983-ubiystvo-chesti"> stated</a> that people in Chechnya had been subject to <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/brothers-be-careful-don-t-meet-up-with-anyone-in-grozny">mass persecution</a> on the grounds of their sexual orientation.</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>IY: </strong>At the time, many activists didn’t even believe that this kind of thing was possible. It was so terrible, they said that it had to be overstated. We weren’t that familiar with the situation in Chechnya. But the reality is that in Chechnya, just like in other regions, there are men who are gay, and women who are lesbian. They didn’t talk about this publicly or openly, but then they had their private lives exposed, via their mobile phones, and repressions and purges were organised. This proved a sad fact: in Russia, you don’t even have to “do anything”, they’ll still come for you. After all, many people say that “If you don’t provoke us, you’ll be left alone.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/content_map_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="291" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Former military offices in Argun, Chechnya, which was used as a secret prison to detain and torture gay men in February 2017. Image: Novaya Gazeta.</span></span></span>In the beginning, we didn’t know how to react. The main thing was not to make it worse. We understand that people there [in Chechnya] were basically hostages. I spent a lot of time on a gay dating app, I used a fake GPS to create an account in the centre of Grozny. I tried to talk to people. Everyone there uses a pseudonym. In the end, I managed to start some conversations. People told me that they was no way out: “I can’t do anything with myself, but I understand I can’t live how I want to openly. I love my family and I understand them all-too well that they won’t accept this. There’s no way out — either a double-life or suicide.”</p><p dir="ltr">One person wrote that he’d rather take his own life, so that no one from his own family would have to do it and then have to go to prison. Several people thought: now all the Chechens will go to the west on the pretext that they’re being persecuted. This is rubbish: for them, to be openly gay is basically like suicide.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">If the authorities didn’t try and create confusion, an atmosphere of hate and didn’t hamper activism, then the situation inside the LGBT community would be different today</p><p dir="ltr">We created a<a href="https://www.change.org/p/%D1%82%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B1%D1%83%D0%B5%D0%BC-%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B5%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B8-%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%81%D1%81%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B8%D0%B5-%D0%BC%D0%B0%D1%81%D1%81%D0%BE%D0%B2%D1%8B%D1%85-%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%81%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B2-%D0%B8-%D1%83%D0%B1%D0%B8%D0%B9%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B2-%D0%B2-%D1%87%D0%B5%D1%87%D0%BD%D0%B5-chechen100"> petition</a> in support of Chechnya’s LGBT community. We demanded a real investigation into the murders and torture. It got over 500,000 signatures, we didn’t think it would get that kind of reaction.</p><p dir="ltr">We were also afraid of getting stuck in the swamp of prejudice. We decided to emphasise the fact that gay people are just another social group who are persecuted in Chechnya. In the past, there were many people who were detained on the pretext of extremism: people who broke traffic laws, people who use recreational drugs, alcohol, women who don’t dress “properly”. We didn’t hide the fact that the campaign was in support of gay people, but stressed that this was a violation of an human’s main right — to life. We managed to make sure this aspect wasn’t lost. Sure, the problem hasn’t gone away. But it has become a little bit safer.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>So, creating noise is the only way of guaranteeing safety for LGBT people right now?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>IY:</strong> Human rights defenders told us: we’ve been fighting for years to attract attention to problems in Chechnya. And the LGBT community was successful.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What’s the situation like for LGBT people in other Russian regions today?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>IY:</strong> Nowadays, there are really active groups in many cities: for example, Arkhangelsk, Tomsk, Omsk, Ekaterinburg. The North Caucasus is a different story. But the situation is worst in Chechnya. I’m sure that this isn’t connected so much to Chechen traditions, but rather the Kadyrov regime. Without Kadyrov, this kind of tragedy would never have happened. In Russia, the problem with LGBT rights isn’t that society is rude — although that, and people’s prejudices against LGBT aren’t going anywhere any time soon. But the Russian state’s policies only aid the growth and actions of marginal and aggressive conservative homophobes, who feel themselves to be outside the law. And people think that these groups communicate some kind of public mood. But that’s not the case. They just communicate the mood of their own marginal group.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/imageedit_3_6533094990_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/imageedit_3_6533094990_0.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Igor Yasin. Photo(c): Yulia Koroleva. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>On the whole, I think that the majority of people in Russia are indifferent towards LGBT people. If the authorities didn’t try and create confusion, an atmosphere of hate and didn’t hamper activism, then the situation inside the LGBT community would be different today.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>But are there some positive signs in comparison with the early 2000s?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>IY:</strong> Back then, there wasn’t even a serious discussion about LGBT rights, nor any open activism. Now<a href="http://www.bok-o-bok.ru/"> Side-by-side</a>, the LGBT film festival, brings together hundreds of people from across the country. The language around LGBT has even changed in official media — at least, you come across texts where there’s an attempt at covering LGBT communities neutrally. Russian media have learnt the LGBT abbreviation and use it widely — that’s already an achievement. We’ve got new allies, human rights defenders, who are ready to step up in order to defend out rights. In the past, the discussions among Russian liberals and leftists were rather embittered. But now these groups accept the fact that LGBT people exist, there’s no way of avoiding them. If the authorities didn’t interfere, then we could have got even bigger results. I’m not talking about legalising gay marriage, but at least limitations to discriminations in various spheres such as work or freedom of assembly. And we could show that you could hold pride events in Russia, and it wouldn’t be met with such disgust in society.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Our position is this: to connect our demands with general civil society, to show that there’s no contradiction between them</p><p dir="ltr">Another positive example: before, gay men were banned from giving blood in Russia. This was revoked a few years ago. Perhaps this wasn’t connected directly to activism. But we were against this discriminatory measure. And this is an indicator of what we can do.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How do you prepare to fight for your civil rights? For instance, to gain access to a partner who’s in hospital? What other rights are LGBT people deprived of in Russia?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>IY:</strong> Russia has not developed any anti-discrimination legislation. It’s important not only to make sure laws are passed, but that they’re enforced, too. As to the law on homosexual propaganda, then we need to focus on getting it revoked. It’s also important to ensure that courts start taking into account homophobia as a motivating factor in violent crimes — this still doesn’t exist, because LGBT aren’t considered a social group. In my opinion, these changes are quite realistic. We’re fighting to set up crisis centres across the country and the possibility of opening access to victims of violence. Our position is this: to connect our demands with general civil society, to show that there’s no contradiction between them. If there’s no freedom of assembly for LGBT, then there’s no freedom of assembly for anyone else.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Why don’t prominent people — actors, directors and other cultural figures, as well as other high-placed people — speak about their attitude towards LGBT?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>IY: </strong>They’re just afraid to lose their capital — both symbolic and financial. The situation won’t change when someone famous comes out publicly, but when the LGBT movement will achieve certain goals. It’s the same in the west: for instance, Ricky Martin came out very recently, in historical terms. Although I personally thought it would be a lot worse in Russia — several Russian celebrities behave well, they come out against homophobia.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>What do you mean about people losing capital?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>IY:</strong> It’s just about money. If they start openly supporting LGBT, certain doors will start closing for them in Russia.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>In your opinion, how effective is the practice of forcing people to come out? When activists publish the names of high-placed public officials who are gay.</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>IY: </strong>It’s very dangerous, and it goes against our aims. Our goal is to fight prejudice. We can’t use homophobia against homophobes.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>There’s a lot of homophobes in your circles, that is, leftists. Many leftists have split over attitudes towards LGBT, including anarchist groups.</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>IY:</strong> I’m confident that the real aim of leftists is to liberate people from any form of subjugation. This is why real leftists can’t be homophobes. But we live in a real society, and prejudices also affect people in leftist circles. Many leftists say: “If we’re going to support LGBT, then simple workers won’t understand us.” But that’s like saying 100 years ago: “We shouldn’t come out against anti-semitism and pogroms, because then the peasants and workers won’t understand us.”</p><p dir="ltr">The issue is also that LGBT people have become a favourite target for the Russian authorities. So when leftists or liberals come out against LGBT, then they place themselves on the side of the authorities. Over the past few years, the activities of LGBT people have given the Russian opposition a choice: either you’re on the side of the authorities in their policies against LGBT, or you’re on the side of LGBT.</p><p dir="ltr">Not everyone who found themselves in this situation quickly took the side of LGBT, but many were moved to rethinking their old positions. For some people, it’s enough just to find out more about what LGBT activists are really fighting for. Others have at least begun to doubt their prejudices — and that’s a good thing. You can sum LGBT activism up in the following phrase: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”</p><p dir="ltr">&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="/od-russia/dmitry-rebrov/yulia-galyamina">Yulia Galyamina: “Party politics has exhausted itself”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/alexander-kondakov/putting-russia-s-homophobic-violence-on-map">Putting Russia’s homophobic violence on the map</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/could-elections-wake-up-kalmykia-navalny">Could Russia’s presidential elections wake up Kalmykia?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ali-gubashev/chechens-alienated-amidst-gay-persecutions">Chechens alienated amidst gay persecutions</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/kirill-guskov/i-spoke-to-four-russian-gay-men-on-discrimination-rights-and-vladimir-putin-">&quot;You have to start improving yourself to improve Russia&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dmitry-okrest/brothers-be-careful-don-t-meet-up-with-anyone-in-grozny">“Brothers, be careful. Don’t meet up in Grozny”</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> oD Russia 50.50 oD Russia Ekaterina Fomina Russia Human rights Wed, 13 Dec 2017 20:14:11 +0000 Ekaterina Fomina 115277 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Christian ‘legal army’ in hundreds of court battles worldwide https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost-ella-milburn/christian-legal-army-court-battles-worldwide <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Women’s rights advocates say controversial US legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom is ‘exporting extreme ideologies worldwide’ against sexual and reproductive rights.</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/563363/470512616_58406dcb1d_b.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/470512616_58406dcb1d_b.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'>The Supreme Court of the United States. Washington, DC. Credit: Flickr/Kjetil Ree. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The international wing of a controversial US Christian ‘legal army’ is involved in hundreds of court battles and advocacy projects around the world, including cases defending opponents of abortion and same-sex marriage, often using freedom of expression and religious freedom arguments.</p><p dir="ltr">ADF International, the global arm of US group <a href="http://www.adflegal.org/">Alliance Defending Freedom</a> (ADF), has 580 “ongoing legal matters” in 51 countries, and an advocacy and operations budget of €3,754,822 (£3.3 million), according to its<a href="https://adfinternational.org/detailspages/blog-details/commentary/2017/11/30/annual-report-2017"> 2017 Annual Report</a>, published last month.</p><p dir="ltr">“We are committed to shaping a world in which religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family are robustly protected and culturally embraced,” says the report, with a goal to build “a powerful and strategic alliance that extends to every corner of the globe.”</p><p dir="ltr">50.50 reviewed dozens of legal and advocacy cases that <a href="https://adfinternational.org/#">ADF International</a> says it has supported – against countries from <a href="https://adfinternational.org/detailspages/press-release-details/sweden-faces-human-rights-problem">Sweden</a> to <a href="https://adfinternational.org/detailspages/press-release-details/one-man-and-one-woman---romanian-referendum-on-marriage-definition">Romania</a> to <a href="https://adfinternational.org/detailspages/case-details/constitutional-challenge-against-colombia-s-laws-on-same-sex-couple-adoption">Colombia</a> to <a href="https://adfinternational.org/detailspages/case-details/boissoin-v.-lund">Canada</a>. These include support for anti-abortion health care workers; opponents of same-sex marriage and adoption rights; and a pastor accused of hate speech for criticising “the promotion of homosexuality.”</p><p dir="ltr">Recently, the annual report says, ADF International “presented oral arguments at the UK supreme court in defence of pro-life laws in Northern Ireland” and celebrated “a huge victory for freedom of conscience” when Colombian courts “agreed with our arguments that the government cannot force private faith-based hospitals to conduct abortions.”</p><p dir="ltr">It is supporting a <a href="http://www.adfmedia.org/News/PRDetail/9796">long-running dispute against Sweden, including at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)</a>, arguing that health workers must have a right to ‘conscientiously object’ to provide abortion services which have been legal in the country for generations.</p><p dir="ltr">Against the UK, at the ECHR, it has intervened in several cases. It has <a href="https://adfinternational.org/detailspages/case-details/ladele-v.-united-kingdom">supported a registrar who objected to officiating same-sex civil partnerships</a>, for example, and a <a href="https://adfinternational.org/detailspages/case-details/s-v.-united-kingdom">mother fighting for custody of her child against the father and his same-sex partner</a>.</p><p>“Across countries and spaces, ADF is pursuing an ultra-conservative agenda that targets sexual and reproductive health and rights,” Naureen Shameem, from the<a href="https://www.oursplatform.org/"> Observatory on the Universality of Rights</a> (OURs) initiative of women’s rights organisations, told 50.50.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"Across countries and spaces, ADF is pursuing an ultra-conservative agenda that targets sexual and reproductive health and rights."</p><p dir="ltr">“Beyond the US, it's clear that the organisation is becoming a key anti-rights actor in both international and regional human rights spaces. And it’s increasingly intervening with litigation and legislation in multiple countries worldwide, particularly in Latin America and Europe,” Shameem said.</p><p dir="ltr">Gillian Kane at <a href="http://www.ipas.org/">Ipas</a>, the sexual and reproductive rights nonprofit, described ADF as “a right-wing religious legal organisation” and “one of the largest conservative legal organisations in the United States with an expanding international portfolio.”</p><p dir="ltr">“ADF has contributed to the rightward jurisprudential shift on religion in the public sphere, and that is a major concern. ADF works under the premise that religion trumps all other rights,” said Kane, who has <a href="http://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/07/13/latin-america-in-the-crosshairs-alliance-defending-freedom-takes-aim/#sthash.RZfXhOcw.YGUQjxkN.dpbs">written previously</a> about the group’s expansion into Latin America.</p><p dir="ltr">Headquartered in the small town of Scottsdale, Arizona, ADF was founded almost 25 years ago by its president Alan Sears who wrote <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Homosexual-Agenda-Exposing-Principal-Religious/dp/0805426981">a book denouncing “the homosexual agenda” </a>as the “principal threat to religious freedom.”</p><p>In America, the group “has mushroomed over the past few years into a Christian-right powerhouse,” wrote journalist Sarah Posner <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/the-christian-legal-army-behind-masterpiece-cakeshop/">in US magazine The Nation</a> last month, describing it as a “legal army” that now “rivals some of the nation's top law firms in supreme court activity."</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/563363/2599688635_cf473b73e1_b.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/2599688635_cf473b73e1_b.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 same-sex wedding cake. Credit: Flickr/Bev Sykes. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Last week, ADF lawyers were at the US supreme court arguing the closely-watched ‘<a href="https://www.supremecourt.gov/docket/docketfiles/html/public/16-111.html">Masterpiece Cakeshop</a>’ appeal brought by a conservative Christian baker in Colorado who was found to have violated anti-discrimination laws for refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.</p><p dir="ltr">In this case, baker Jack Phillips, with an ADF legal team behind him, claims his freedom of expression was violated. If the claim succeeds, Posner said, it could “erode advances in LGBTQ rights” with “enduring consequences.”</p><p>Shameem from the OURs initiative said this supreme court case mirrors ADF’s “expanding role worldwide.” She said the group is “a prime example of a US-based anti-rights actor that...works to export its extreme ideologies worldwide.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"ADF is a prime example of a US-based anti-rights actor that...works to export its extreme ideologies worldwide."</p><p dir="ltr">Alejandra Sarda-Chandiramani of the <a href="https://www.awid.org/">Association for Women’s Rights in Development</a> (AWID) added that ADF is increasingly present in United Nations processes.</p><p dir="ltr">It often focuses, she said, on “countries that already have restrictive legislations and positions on reproductive rights...and acts as a counterweight to more critical voices also coming from civil society (feminist and women’s movements in particular).”</p><p dir="ltr">In the US, The Nation reviewed 146 of ADF’s appellate and supreme court briefs. They found dozens challenging contraceptive health care coverage and same-sex marriage, and only two cases where ADF expressed support for religious-minority, non-Christian plaintiffs.</p><p dir="ltr">It traced the group’s influence and resources in America and the entrance of ADF-affiliated lawyers into state or federal government. The Trump administration, it said, has already appointed at least four ADF-affiliated federal judges.</p><p dir="ltr">Globally, ADF International has more than 3,000 allied lawyers, 17 “wins” at the ECHR and 50 team members in eight countries, according to its annual report. It has offices in cities including Strasbourg, Mexico City, London, and Brussels.</p><p dir="ltr">The group’s records in the<a href="http://ec.europa.eu/transparencyregister/public/consultation/displaylobbyist.do?id=69403354038-78#scrollNav-13"> EU Transparency Register</a> says it organises events and has submitted briefing papers, amicus briefs and legal briefings at European courts. It names focus topics including freedom of conscience, church relations, and ‘parental rights.’</p><p dir="ltr">A spokesperson for ADF International told 50.50 that the group is funded exclusively through private donations and that “we do consider ourselves a Christian organisation however our advocacy is to the benefit of all. We don’t say that only Christians should have rights.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“We do consider ourselves a Christian organisation however our advocacy is to the benefit of all."</p><p dir="ltr">He clarified that not all of the 580 “ongoing legal matters” mentioned in the group’s annual report are litigation cases; some are related advocacy projects, for example advocacy at EU institutions for the protection of religious minorities. </p><p dir="ltr">ADF International allied lawyers “often take up cases on a local and regional level, then they ask us for advice on human rights” and international law, the group’s areas of expertise, he said.</p><p dir="ltr">In the case of Romania, where there has been a movement to amend the country’s constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman exclusively, he said an ADF International lawyer was contacted by supporters of a proposed referendum on the issue. </p><p dir="ltr">“Most of our advocacy in those respects is to say we should respect the sovereignty of countries when it comes to family and marriage law. We should let the people of Romania decide how they want to live and let not Brussels impose on them.”</p><p dir="ltr">On abortion he said: “Ideally we would live in a society where it is not necessary for any woman to have an abortion, ultimately, it’s not good for the woman, and it is certainly not good for the child to not get a chance to live. As a society, should we not have other options?"</p><p dir="ltr">He said it’s necessary to debate such issues but that: "What we see right now is more and more debate is being shut off by naming and shaming, anyone who does not agree is called an ‘ultra-something’, everybody who contradicts an opinion becomes a bigot.”</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/claire-provost-lara-whyte/tracking-the-backlash">Tracking the backlash: why we&#039;re investigating the &#039;anti-rights&#039; opposition</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 Tracking the backlash women's human rights sexual identities 50.50 newsletter Ella Milburn Claire Provost Wed, 13 Dec 2017 13:06:53 +0000 Claire Provost and Ella Milburn 115139 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Free trade is bad for women. A WTO declaration won’t change that. https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/sophie-hardefeldt/free-trade-is-bad-for-women-wto-declaration-won-t-change-that <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Gendered exploitation is at the heart of the free trade agenda -- a few tweaks to the edges won’t make it feminist.</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/563544/Container_ships_President_Truman_IMO_8616283_and_President_Kennedy_IMO_8616295_at_San_Francisco-1024x605.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/original_size/wysiwyg_imageupload/563544/Container_ships_President_Truman_IMO_8616283_and_President_Kennedy_IMO_8616295_at_San_Francisco-1024x605.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="1024" height="605" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-original_size" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Container Ships, San Francisco bay. Wikimedia Commons.</em></p><p>Don’t be fooled by the news of a <a href="https://www.ictsd.org/bridges-news/bridges/news/group-of-wto-members-prepares-declaration-on-trade-and-gender">trade and gender declaration</a> at next week’s <a href="https://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/minist_e/mc11_e/mc11_e.htm">World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting</a> in Buenos Aires, or by stories of Canada’s new <a href="http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/canada+bring+feminism+nafta+talks/14188897/story.html">‘feminist’</a> approach to trade. Gendered exploitation is at the heart of the free trade agenda - a few tweaks to the edges won’t make it feminist. In fact, it won’t do anything much at all. If we really want an international trade system that works for women, tokenism won’t cut it. We need to overhaul our approach to trade.&nbsp;</p> <p>Trade policy has traditionally been presented as gender neutral, with women described as beneficiaries of an international trade system which, as this story goes, <a href="https://www.oecd.org/tad/35770606.pdf">increases their employment opportunities and expands their financial independence</a>. But after two decades of free trade fundamentalism, <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/pikettys-inequality-story-in-six-charts">inequality is on the rise</a> and the world’s richest <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/jan/16/worlds-eight-richest-people-have-same-wealth-as-poorest-50">8 men now have as much wealth</a> as the poorest 50% of the population. In 2017, women still make up <a href="https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/bp-an-economy-that-works-for-women-020317-en.pdf">majority of the world’s poor</a>.</p> <p>The notion that trade is gender neutral, and free trade good for women, simply doesn’t stand up to the evidence. Hence the push for gender aware trade policy. The problem is that non-binding measures like WTO declarations and the inclusion of <a href="https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/11/26/gender-chapters-in-trade-deals-could-become-standard-canadians-argue-in-nafta-negotiations.html">gender chapters</a> in trade agreements might make for nice news stories, but they won’t address the myriad ways our free trade system exploits women, particularly women of colour.&nbsp;</p> <p>This exploitation has been well documented in the ever expanding manufacturing sectors, where women represent nothing more than a <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/feature/trade/Effects-of-Trade-on-Gender-Equality-in-Labour-Markets-and-Small-scale-Enterprises.html">cheap form of labour</a> for global corporations looking to expand their profits. Female workers make up most of those employed in the <a href="http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@ed_dialogue/@sector/documents/publication/wcms_300463.pdf">notoriously exploitative export sectors</a>, particularly in garment and textile manufacturing. Most of these women lack basic employment security and experience widespread labour rights violations, working <a href="http://www.waronwant.org/sweatshops-bangladesh">up to 16 hours a day, seven days and week</a> while not even<a href="http://apwld.org/sdm_downloads/decent-work-and-living-wage-briefer/"> earning a living wage</a>.</p> <p><span class="mag-quote-center">measures like WTO declarations and the inclusion of&nbsp;gender chapters&nbsp;in trade agreements might make for nice news stories, but they won’t address the myriad ways our free trade system exploits women, particularly women of colour.&nbsp;</span></p><p>But it doesn’t stop there. Female farmers and agricultural workers have been devastated by free trade policies that open up agricultural markets to foreign investment. Trade liberalisation has systematically undermined subsistence and small-scale farming, opening up countries to <a href="https://www.iatp.org/sites/default/files/2013_02_14_LandGrabsFoodSystem_SM_0.pdf">corporate land-grabs</a> that strip women of <a href="https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/bp170-promises-power-poverty-land-women-090413-en_3.pdf">their land and food production capacity</a>. Local agricultural industries that are unable to compete with global corporations have also <a href="http://www.foei.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/newfinallowres.pdf">been decimated</a>, forcing farmers into exploitative cash-crop export sectors that largely exclude women. The outcome is <a href="http://www.fian.org/en/news/article/the_right_to_feed_off_equality/">widespread food insecurity</a> that destroys communities and deepens women’s poverty.</p> <p>Modern trade deals, like the <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/in-focus/ceta/index_en.htm">CETA</a> and the prospective <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/in-focus/tisa/index_en.htm">TISA</a> deal, are more focused on establishing a regulatory framework that lock-in liberalisation, deregulation and privatisation than regulating trade at all. Provisions that open up public services to privatisation and increase the price of medicine are bad for everyone, but they <a href="http://www.actionaid.org/australia/privatisation-womens-rights">hit women the hardest</a>. It’s women and girls that <a href="http://www.twn.my/title2/women/2011/a.economic/HBF-TWN/Trade_and_Gender_Brief_India_TWN-HBF_Vol_III_IPRs.pdf">go without medical treatment</a> when it becomes too expensive. And it’s women that fill the gaps where public services are no longer affordable, which adds to their <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/536c4ee8e4b0b60bc6ca7c74/t/595bc0383e00be98e37ea3dd/1499185211883/GADN+Making+trade+work+for+gender+equality+July+2017.pdf">domestic labour and care responsibilities</a> while reducing their access to education and healthcare. And as inequality increases, <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/neoliberalism-is-increasing-inequality-and-stunting-economic-growth-the-imf-says-a7052416.html">as we know it will</a>, it’s women that will be <a href="http://www.fao.org/3/a-mu268e.pdf">plunged further into poverty</a>.</p> <p>A non-binding gender declaration won’t reverse the tide of privatisation and it won’t signal a move away from the liberalisation and deregulation agenda that forms the core of our free trade system. If governments are serious about developing trade policy that works for women, we need a new approach to trade. An approach that’s not underpinned by a corporate agenda built on the exploitation of women. An approach that actually works to address poverty and inequality. </p> <p>This means paring back trade agreements to the regulation of trade in goods and granting human rights, labour rights and environmental standards supremacy over trade rules. It means protecting governments’ right to regulate – so they can make public policy that tackles gender inequality. It means enabling countries in the Global South to use tariffs and subsidies to protect their economies as they develop, so they can build industrial strategies that are compatible with their development agendas. In short, it means trade policy based on evidence not ideology.</p> <p>WTO members can sign as many gender and trade declarations as they like, but it won’t make a difference for women. Free trade is antithetical to gender justice. To make trade policy work for women the global trade system needs a total overhaul.&nbsp;</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> uk 50.50 uk Sophie Hardefeldt Sat, 09 Dec 2017 09:00:50 +0000 Sophie Hardefeldt 115197 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Five inspirational feminists you should know and honour today https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nana-darkoa-sekyiamah/five-inspirational-feminists-honour-today <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Documenting the lives of departed feminists, and sharing their stories, honours their memories and inspires future generations.</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/563363/Five main image.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Five main image.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="350" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: Illustration by Carol Rossetti / courtesy of AWID.</span></span></span>Every year, too many women’s rights activists are murdered or disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Some activists live long and full lives, and die of natural causes. Others, exhausted by often thankless work, die of preventable illnesses.</p><p dir="ltr">For the last five years, the organisation I work for, the <a href="https://www.awid.org/">Association for Women’s Rights in Development</a>, (AWID) has honoured the <a href="https://www.awid.org/whrd-tribute">memories of activists</a> who have fought for women, girls, and communities that have been denied their human rights for far too long.</p><p dir="ltr">Documenting the lives of departed feminists is important work. They are the giants on whose shoulders we stand. Here are five inspirational feminist activists, from South Africa to the Philippines, that you should know, and honour in this period and beyond:</p><h2 dir="ltr">Prudence Nobantu Mabele, South Africa</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Prudence_Nobantu_Mabele-red.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Credit: Illustration by Carol Rossetti / courtesy of AWID."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Prudence_Nobantu_Mabele-red.jpg" alt="" title="Credit: Illustration by Carol Rossetti / courtesy of AWID." width="460" height="578" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Prudence burst into the limelight as the first Black woman in South Africa to publicly disclose her HIV status. She founded the Positive Women’s Network, criticised the government for failing to support people living with HIV, and demanded the provision of antiretroviral medicines. She also organised for the rights of LGBT people including lesbians living with HIV.</p><p dir="ltr">She was the kind of leader who stood shoulder to shoulder with people who faced and challenged the tyranny of the powerful. She supported <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/nov/03/khwezi-showed-how-to-challenge-culture-fezekile-ntsukela-kuzwayo-fezeka-jacob-zuma">Fezekile ‘Khwezi’ Kuzwayo</a>, who bravely named South African President Jacob Zuma as her rapist. She spoke out against the systematic rape and murder of Black lesbians. She was a fighter, and also a Sangoma, a healer who brought her spirituality into her activism.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Edith ‘Edie’ Wilson, United States</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/563363/Edith Edie Windsor.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Edith Edie Windsor.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="597" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: Illustration by Carol Rossetti / courtesy of AWID.</span></span></span>Four years ago, Edith Wilson successfully sued the United States federal government, arguing that the 1966 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was a contributing factor to ongoing discrimination faced by gay Americans. Her case helped lead to the 2015 legalisation of same-sex marriage across the country.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Emilsen Manyoma, Colombia</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Emilsen Manyoma.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Emilsen Manyoma.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="541" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: Illustration by Carol Rossetti / courtesy of AWID.</span></span></span>Afro-Colombian activists have struggled for decades to reclaim ancestral land as communal property. Too many have been attacked or threatened by organised armed groups hired by wealthy landowners and corporations opposed to land reform.</p><p dir="ltr">Emilsen Manyoma was an Afro-Colombian leader of the Comunidades Construyendo Paz en los Territorios (CONPAZ) group which supports peaceful protection strategies and communities’ access justice including via international humanitarian law. Emilsen documented killings and forced disappearances in her community. In January, she and her partner were brutally murdered. They were decapitated, and their bodies showed evidence of torture.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Miriam Rodríguez Martínez, Mexico</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/563363/Miriam Rodriguez Martinez.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Miriam Rodriguez Martinez.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="679" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: Illustration by Carol Rossetti / courtesy of AWID.</span></span></span>In 2012, Miriam’s 14-year-old daughter Karen disappeared. Amid official inaction, Miriam launched her own investigation, found the remains of her daughter’s body, and uncovered evidence that implicated members of the violent drug cartel Los Zetas in her murder. Subsequently, the principal suspect in Karen’s murder was arrested and imprisoned.</p><p dir="ltr">Miriam became an activist leader, founding ‘The Movement for Our Disappeared’ which brought hundreds of families together to search for loved ones who went missing under suspicious circumstances in a region where rival drug cartels frequently clash. Miriam was shot 12 times and murdered on 10 May, Mother's Day in Mexico, when people take to the streets to protest disappearances.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Mia Manuelita Mascariñas-Green, the Philippines</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/563363/Mia Mascarinas-Green.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Mia Mascarinas-Green.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="668" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: Illustration by Carol Rossetti / courtesy of AWID.</span></span></span><span></span><span>Environmentalist and lawyer Mia Manuelita Mascariñas-Green took on legal cases challenging the destruction of land and natural resources in the Philippines. She was also a volunteer lawyer for the Environmental Legal Assistance Center network, often working pro bono.</span></p><p dir="ltr">In February, Mia’s van was attacked by armed men on motorcycles. Her three children and their nanny witnessed the attack. &nbsp;The Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for environmental defenders, according to <a href="https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/filipinos-front-line/">Global Witness</a>, an environmental monitoring group.</p><p dir="ltr">Deaths of activists like these represent huge losses to communities around the world. Intimidation, harassment and killings are often deliberately designed to end the resistance movements these activists lead.</p><p dir="ltr">Some activists have organised to <a href="https://www.awid.org/resources/weaving-resistance-through-action-strategies-whrds-confronting-extractivism-and-corporate">share strategies</a> on peaceful protection methods. Every year, AWID honours departed activists by publishing tributes to them during the <a href="http://16dayscwgl.rutgers.edu/">16 Days of Activism to End Gender Based Violence</a> campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">It is crucial that we hold the memories of these activists in our collective consciousness. They are the giants on whose shoulders we stand, and the foundation on which we build the future of our movements and struggles.</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/valerie-bah/remembering-murdered-disappeared-activists">Remembering murdered activists is important – but not enough</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's movements women's human rights women and power violence against women feminism 50.50 newsletter Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah Fri, 08 Dec 2017 15:04:19 +0000 Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah 115168 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Students hit the road to fight street harassment in Kuala Lumpur – in pictures https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/b-reng-re-sim/students-street-harassment-kuala-lumpur-in-pictures <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On a global day of action for sexual and bodily rights in Muslim societies, Malaysian students stood against harassment in public spaces.</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/563363/Photo7_CSBR_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Photo7_CSBR_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="329" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The organising team from Sisters in Islam sported shirts reading “Muslim Women Speak.” Credit: CSBR.</span></span></span>“Cats are cute, catcalls are not”; “Don’t keep calm and stop sexual harassment”; “My name is not baby.” These were some of the slogans on signs floating above a group of about 40 people gathered at Petaling Jaya city council square, in greater Kuala Lumpur last month.</p><p dir="ltr">The university students and activists chose to highlight fights against street harassment in the Malaysian capital as part of the annual&nbsp;<a href="http://www.csbronline.org/?p=1964">‘One Day One Struggle’ campaign</a>, on 9 November, organised by the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.csbronline.org/">Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Armed with audio samples of common verbal insults and catcalls, they invited passersby to listen, share their own experiences, and show support for the anti-harassment campaign.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Cats are cute, catcalls are not”</p><p dir="ltr">One of the organisers Andi Suraidah said the action was inspired by “rising awareness as a result of #MeToo campaign globally.” She said: “The time could not have been better to ride on the campaign by bringing it to the local level.”</p><p dir="ltr">“As a woman, being harassed on the street is not uncommon,” she said, describing having to wear “clothes that will attract less attention” and “assessing my surrounding consistently when going out alone.”</p><p dir="ltr">She added: “The experience of harassment could even be worse, depending on which race or religion you belong to, if you do not fit within the stereotype of male/female framework; these elements give harassers extra bullets to attack you with.”</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/563363/Photo1_CreditEmpower.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Photo1_CreditEmpower.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="429" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: Empower Malaysia. </span></span></span>University of Malaya students conducted a survey with 113 respondents on campus. 80% said that they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces before.</p><p dir="ltr">There is little official data on street harassment in Malaysia. There are statistics on <a href="http://www.wao.org.my/Statistics+on+Violence+Against+Women+2000-2016_99_6_1.htm">gender-based violence</a>, but street harassment specifically is poorly documented.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Photo2_SistersinIslam.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Photo2_SistersinIslam.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="329" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: Sisters in Islam.</span></span></span>Activists participating in the anti-street harassment action posed for a photo. One member of the team captured it on video.</p><p>Sisters in Islam, one of the organising groups, is a leading Malaysian organisation advocating for women’s rights within the framework of Islam and human rights.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Photo3_SistersinIslam.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Photo3_SistersinIslam.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'>Credit: Sisters in Islam.</span></span></span>Passersby were intrigued by the campaign. Some stopped to listen to audio samples prepared by students with examples of common verbal insults and catcalls.</p><p dir="ltr">This creative tactic was designed to encourage reflection and conversations on how one could respond and intervene when witnessing street harassment.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Photo4_SistersinIslam.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Photo4_SistersinIslam.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="328" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: Sisters in Islam.</span></span></span>University students talk to members of the public collecting pledges to combat street harassment.</p><p dir="ltr">The action engaged passersby to think of everyday personal actions they could take to build a culture of respect. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Photo5_SistersinIslam.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Photo5_SistersinIslam.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'>Credit: Sisters in Islam.</span></span></span>Sisters in Islam staff member Zaffan Ariffin acted as a ‘group leader’ for five university students talking to the public to raise awareness against street harassment during the action.</p><p dir="ltr">They used sandwich boards to highlight unwanted sexual advances that women commonly hear on the streets. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Photo6_CSBR.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Photo6_CSBR.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'>Credit: CSBR.</span></span></span>Volunteers hold signs asking drivers to “Honk if you’re against sexual harassment”!</p><p dir="ltr">Suraidah, one of the organisers, said tackling mindsets is one strategy against street harassment. Another is anti-discrimination law and policy.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Photo7_CSBR.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Photo7_CSBR.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="329" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: CSBR.</span></span></span>The organising team from Sisters in Islam sported shirts reading “Muslim Women Speak.”</p><p dir="ltr">The group aims to amplify women’s rights within the frameworks of Islam, universal human rights, and democratic politics.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Malaysia </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 Malaysia Photo Essay bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter young feminists Bérengère Sim Rima Athar Fri, 08 Dec 2017 09:18:24 +0000 Rima Athar and Bérengère Sim 114854 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Investigative journalist Jeta Xharra: challenging politicians and patriarchy in the Balkans https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lara-whyte-claire-provost-nora-jusufi/investigative-journalist-jeta-xharra-patriarchy-balkans <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Reporter Jeta Xharra talks about misogyny in journalism, and how she uses her live TV show to challenge politicians on gender inequality.</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/Jeta.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Jeta Xharra"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Jeta.png" alt="Jeta Xharra." title="Jeta Xharra" width="460" height="271" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jeta Xharra. Photo: Lara Whyte.</span></span></span>It’s hard to imagine someone underestimating Jeta Xharra. Today, she is one of the best-known investigative journalists in the Balkans. Last month, she travelled to Strasbourg, France to speak at the Council of Europe’s <a href="https://www.coe.int/en/web/world-forum-democracy/forum-2017">World Forum for Democracy</a>, which asked: is populism a problem?.</p><p dir="ltr">But underestimating her is exactly what a long series of men appear to have done. “They would treat me like I was a little bit stupid,” she said. “‘Let me tell you, you need to be enlightened.’ And, I would say: ‘Yes, please, I don’t know anything, please tell me.”</p><p dir="ltr"> <span class="mag-quote-center">“‘Let me tell you, you need to be enlightened.’ And, I would say: ‘Yes, please, I don’t know anything, please tell me.”</span></p><p dir="ltr">As a journalist, Xharra said she used this to her advantage, to get quotes and “get into stories and be a fly on the wall...because you’re considered as somebody that needs to have things explained three times, because you might be a less intelligent creature.”</p><p dir="ltr">Xharra started working for British TV stations in the Balkans in the late 1990s. For over a decade she has run the <a href="https://birn.eu.com/">Balkan Investigative Reporting Network</a> (BIRN) office in Prishtina, Kosovo. She also hosts the award-winning and widely-popular current affairs TV programme,&nbsp;Life in Kosovo. </p> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fopendemocracy5050%2Fvideos%2F1707727105926088%2F&show_text=0&width=450" width="450" height="270" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allowFullScreen="true"></iframe> <p dir="ltr">In Strasbourg, Xharra spoke on a panel entitled “Media: friend or foe of democracy?”. On the sidelines of the event, she talked to openDemocracy 50.50 and youth delegate Nora Jusufi about misogyny in journalism and how she uses her TV show to challenge politicians.</p><p dir="ltr">Recent, internationally-reported sexual harassment scandals have shown how pervasive abuse in the workplace is, with men using “their position as bosses to impose themselves sexually in women,” said Xharra, who also has master’s degrees in war studies and screenwriting.</p><p dir="ltr">But, in the Balkans there have been no high-profile legal cases, “unlike in the west, where men are actually starting to fear lawsuits from women.” Xharra faulted a deeply-rooted patriarchal culture with discouraging women from pursuing journalism careers in the first place.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Xharra faulted a deeply-rooted patriarchal culture with discouraging women from pursuing journalism careers in the first place.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s seen as a “tough” profession, she said, and male interviewees “might not want to look at you in the eye, but to look at you elsewhere...you have to make a point over and over again to hold people’s gazes, to go back to the subject.”</p><p dir="ltr">She said she found ways to use gender discrimination to her advantage, including while working as a reporter for the BBC in wartime Kosovo, in the late 1990s, when she found it easier than male colleagues to pass through police checkpoints. </p><p dir="ltr">But while she has built a high-profile career and is well-known in the Balkans today, misogyny still impacts her day to day life. “Rather than being called persistent and successful, I am often labelled aggressive,” she said. “By normal standards, I would be just a very persistent journalist.”</p><p dir="ltr">Using her TV show, and national platform, Xharra has sought to secure on-air gender equality commitments from politicians in Kosovo, including on the issue of property rights.</p> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fopendemocracy5050%2Fvideos%2F1707783602587105%2F&show_text=0&width=450" width="450" height="275" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allowFullScreen="true"></iframe><p dir="ltr">This is not a “legislative battle because in paper Kosovo laws are copy-pasted from the EU,” Xharra told us. Instead: “What we’re fighting is a mentality battle.” Currently, the vast majority of property in Kosovo is registered in men’s names, she said, because “dads leave their properties to their sons, the husbands are the only ones [that own] the entire family property.”</p><p dir="ltr">For women, this means “if you want to open a business, start a small business, you can’t get a loan because you have nothing under your name.” And, if women ask for property rights, it is seen as a request “for independence from the husband – ‘why would she ever do that?’ Supposedly, she should always be respectful to the man in the family.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“What we’re fighting is a mentality battle.” </p><p dir="ltr">On her TV programme, Xharra has invited mayoral candidates to commit on live broadcasts that they will equally share property rights with their wives and with their daughters. She said “families have gone for decades not having that conversation, because it’s a taboo,” though this is now starting to change.</p><p dir="ltr">Recently, Xharra has also interviewed the wives of mayoral candidates, about “the kind of life they lead, are they much richer or poorer, are they of the people.” These interviews have been controversial among some viewers for what they omitted: substantive questions about these women’s own viewpoints on work and politics. </p><p dir="ltr">We also asked Xharra about this in Strasbourg. “In order to encourage them to be on camera, one of the conditions was to not be asked about their political viewpoints,” she said. “It would be great” to have more women presenting their political views, Xharra added, but they’re unlikely to be candidates’ wives, who “would never go against the program of their husbands.”</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/khulan-baasanjav-lara-whyte/jazz-singer-lisa-simone-world-forum-for-democracy">Jazz singer Lisa Simone opens the World Forum for Democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost/hong-kong-activist-agnes-chow-world-forum-democracy">Hong Kong democracy activist Agnes Chow: “it&#039;s never easy to fight for what we believe in”</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"> Kosovo </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 Kosovo World Forum for Democracy 2017 Women's rights and the media women and power patriarchy gender 50.50 newsletter women's work young feminists Claire Provost Lara Whyte Nora Jusufi Tue, 05 Dec 2017 08:35:54 +0000 Nora Jusufi, Lara Whyte and Claire Provost 114883 at https://www.opendemocracy.net "The first prejudice to fight was mine": Italy's only publicly trans police officer https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claudia-torrisi/fight-prejudice-italy-trans-police-officer <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Italy is one of Europe's most transphobic countries, and its laws – and rates of violence – reflect that.</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/Pecchini.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Stefania Pecchini"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Pecchini.jpg" alt="Stefania Pecchini." title="Stefania Pecchini" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Stefania Pecchini. Photo: courtesy of Stefania Pecchini. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Stefania Pecchini, 51, has been a police officer in her small town near Milan since the early 1990s. When she joined the force, at 24, her name was Fabio.</p><p dir="ltr">Today she is the first and only publicly trans woman in the police in Italy, arguably one of Europe’s most socially conservative countries.</p><p dir="ltr">“My life was apparently perfect” she told me. “I had just got married with a beautiful woman, I had a job and I was ready to build a family. After two years, she had our first son and shortly afterwards our daughter was born.”</p><p dir="ltr">“She wanted me to be a good husband, a good father, a good man. And I tried to fulfill her desires,” Pecchini said. But after the police officer's beloved mother died of cancer, something changed. “It was like the cage I was closed in suddenly opened.”</p><p dir="ltr">Pecchini explained that this grief forced her to ask questions about who she was, even if she wasn’t ready to cope with the answers. “I tried to fight my feelings.”</p><p dir="ltr">In the following years Pecchini saw a psychiatrist, who diagnosed her with what was then referred to as “transexualism” – when a person’s biological sex does not match their sexual identity. Her initial reaction was confusion, shock and disbelief.</p><p dir="ltr">“I was a policeman, I used to think about transexuals as people who lived as prostitutes and drug dealers,” she said. “I can definitely say that the first prejudice I had to fight was mine.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">"the first prejudice I had to fight was mine”</p><p dir="ltr">When Pecchini decided to transition, she talked to colleagues and superiors at work. “Some of them were astonished. My bosses told me it wouldn’t be a problem and I felt relieved,” she said. But as hormone therapy went on, problems began.</p><p dir="ltr">“My body started to change. There was a moment where I had lost most of male features but I had still not gained a female appearance. People get scared when they are not able to put me into a category.”</p><p dir="ltr">Luckily, her area commander was supportive. “He just said that my team should be proud of me, because it was the time to tear down barriers. I was judged for my work and they had to accept it,” Pecchini said.</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/Stefania_Pecchini_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Stefania Pecchini."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Stefania_Pecchini_1.jpg" alt="Stefania Pecchini." title="Stefania Pecchini." width="460" height="534" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Stefania Pecchini. Photo: courtesy of Stefania Pecchini. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In Italy, transgender and transexual people<a href="https://www.asgi.it/wp-content/uploads/public/legge.164.1982.pdf"> are identified </a>by the gender given by their reproductive organs at birth. Unless they opt to undergo reassignment surgery, they cannot change what's recorded on their papers.</p><p dir="ltr">Pecchini recalls an incident when,&nbsp;at court with a suspect, she looked like a woman but had to give the judge her official, male name. “I remember the embarrassed silence of those moments,” she said.</p><p dir="ltr">Whilst Pecchini later had reassignment surgery, many trans women do not, meaning they remain recorded as men on their official papers. Though, this may be changing.</p><p>In 2015, <a href="http://www.lastampa.it/2015/07/21/italia/i-tuoi-diritti/cittadino-e-istituzioni/la-cassazione-per-cambiar-sesso-allanagrafe-non-serve-lintervento-oAN4nOZEFZbvnB0DoUCl0O/pagina.html">Sonia Marchesi,</a> a trans woman from Piacenza in northern Italy launched a successful legal challenge against how her sex was recorded at the civil registry.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“You cannot imagine how embarrassing this [law] is”</p><p dir="ltr">“You cannot imagine how embarrassing this [law] is,” she said outside the court that heard her case. “Once, at hospital, the doctors saw my documents and said: ‘Sorry, there is a mistake: you gave us your husband’s papers.’”</p><p dir="ltr">Italy’s constitutional court <a href="http://www.ilpost.it/2015/11/06/per-cambiare-sesso-allanagrafe-non-e-necessario-lintervento-chirurgico/">confirmed</a> the ruling later that year. In October 2017, a judge in Sicily <a href="https://www.ilgazzettinodisicilia.it/2017/10/11/tribunale-caltanissetta-si-al-cambio-sesso-senza-intervento/">made a similar decision</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Are these judgments the first steps towards enshrining legal rights to self-determination for trans people in Italy?</p><p dir="ltr">Italy has particularly high levels of discrimination against trans people. A 2014 EU agency for fundamental rights <a href="http://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2014/being-trans-eu-comparative-analysis-eu-lgbt-survey-data?_cldee=bWF1cml6aW9tb2xpbmFyaTc5QGdtYWlsLmNvbQ%3D%3D&amp;urlid=2">report</a> said 81% of those interviewed reported feeling victimised because of their identity; across Europe that figure was 59%.</p><p dir="ltr">Pecchini believes that her job in the police has protected her, not least in providing ongoing financial stability. “I already had a good job that allowed me to afford the hormone therapy,” she said.</p><p>Italian LGBT rights group Arcigay has found that 45% of trans people have experienced workplace discrimination – higher than 40% of all LGBT people. A staggering 25% <a href="https://www.arcigay.it/wp-content/uploads/Report-Io-sono-io-lavoro.pdf">reported losing their job after coming out as trans</a><a href="https://www.arcigay.it/wp-content/uploads/Report-Io-sono-io-lavoro.pdf">.</a></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">'Pecchini believes that her job in the police has protected her, not least in providing ongoing financial stability'</span></p><p dir="ltr">Employment and earnings have a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of trans people because of the often prohibitively high cost of hormone treatments. Only <a href="http://www.redattoresociale.it/Notiziario/Articolo/174347/Toscana-per-i-transessuali-terapie-ormonali-gratuite-Un-diritto-e-un-atto-di-civilta">a few Italian regions</a> provide therapy on the national health service.</p><p dir="ltr">Cathy La Torre, vice-president of the Transexual Identity Movement, told me that the price of hormones can range from 20-180 euros per month. On top of this there may be additional costs for psychological or aesthetic treatments.</p><p dir="ltr">To cover such costs some trans people turn to dangerous and illegal work, <a href="http://espresso.repubblica.it/attualita/cronaca/2012/08/06/news/io-trans-in-guerra-per-un-lavoro-1.45561">including prostitution</a>. This in turn makes them even more likely to be <a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/etudes/join/2014/493040/IPOL-FEMM_ET(2014)493040_EN.pdf">victims of violence.</a></p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="http://transrespect.org/en/research/trans-murder-monitoring/">Trans Murder Monitoring project </a>collects data on homicides of trans and gender-diverse people worldwide. By their research, between 2008 and 2016 at least 30 trans people were killed in Italy, compared to 8 in the UK and 5 in France. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Rights activist <a href="https://www.arcigay.it/wp-content/uploads/Report-Io-sono-io-lavoro.pdf">Ottavia Voza from Arcigay </a>is adamant: “Italy clearly has a problem.” She believes trans people must be more “serenely visible” and that Italy needs a “cultural revolution” to make this happen.</p><p dir="ltr">Pecchini told me that “the term ‘transexual’ was always linked to a certain and negative idea that is not real. I had to fight this myself when I began my transition.”</p><p dir="ltr">She described finding “no information on what being a trans person really means,” although “what a trans woman or man seeks is the same as everyone...normality.”</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/claudia-torrisi/persecuted-beyond-borders-italy-lgbt-refugees">Persecuted beyond borders: why Italy needs LGBT refugee shelters </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/claudia-torrisi/roma-women-rights-italy">“Change can start from us”: Roma women in Italy fight for their rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claudia-torrisi/abortion-italy-conscientious-objection">Abortion in Italy: how widespread &#039;conscientious objection&#039; threatens women’s health and rights</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"> Italy </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"> 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 Italy Culture Equality patriarchy gender feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Claudia Torrisi Fri, 01 Dec 2017 08:20:49 +0000 Claudia Torrisi 114225 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Remembering murdered activists is important – but not enough https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/valerie-bah/remembering-murdered-disappeared-activists <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>My organisation publishes annual, online tributes to activists who have passed away. What we really need is for states to guarantee their safety.</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/Gauri Lankesh.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Illustration of Indian activist Gauri Lankesh by Carol Rossetti."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Gauri Lankesh.jpg" alt="Illustration of Indian activist Gauri Lankesh by Carol Rossetti." title="Illustration of Indian activist Gauri Lankesh by Carol Rossetti." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration of Indian activist Gauri Lankesh by Carol Rossetti. Image: courtesy of AWID.</span></span></span>I work for a women's rights organisation that publishes annual <a href="https://www.awid.org/whrd-tribute">online tributes to activists</a> who have died or disappeared over the year. We compile epitaphs based on testimonies from loved ones, communities, and institutions that were close to these activists. We collect their images, illustrating and stylising the tributes for visual impact. </p><p dir="ltr">Greed and patriarchal violence constantly threaten the lives and well-being of too many women and nonbinary folks, particularly from the Global South, and from Black, queer, trans, people of colour, and indigenous communities. This year alone, over half of the 72 activists (62.5%) commemorated in our tributes were killed or disappeared, some under ‘suspicious circumstances,' others amid overt and targeted violence.</p><p dir="ltr">A pattern emerges from these stories. I think of <a href="https://www.awid.org/whrd/elise-ama-esso">Elise Ama Esso</a>, a women’s rights activist whose lifetime of human rights work in Togo far outweighs any possible memorial; <a href="https://www.awid.org/whrd/patricia-villamil-perdomo">Patricia Villamil Perdomo</a> from Honduras, who defended migrants’ rights, even against the threat of drug cartels; and <a href="https://www.awid.org/search/node/Gauri%20Lankesh">Gauri Lankesh</a> from India, whose writing defended the rights of Dalit people and denounced the caste system.</p><p dir="ltr">My team has pored over the biographies of these activists, examining, on some days, eight or more of their stories at a time. The online exhibit we have curated is a repository of lives, memories, and life-changing labour. Brief records of big legacies. I have made it a habit to light a candle while reading about them, though the gesture feels too small.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The online exhibit we have curated is a repository of lives, memories, and life-changing labour. Brief records of big legacies.</p><p dir="ltr">I'm also reminded of what Haitian-American writer<a href="https://www.graywolfpress.org/books/art-death"> Edwige Danticat</a> said about Audre Lorde’s reflection on mortality during her fight with breast cancer. Among other things, Danticat observed that the Black queer feminist refused to reduce her own story to one of loss.</p><p dir="ltr">After her mastectomy, when she couldn’t write, Lorde recorded her thoughts on cassette tapes. Danticat said, about these recordings: “Lorde is admonishing herself, even in her weakest state. Though she has become both a writer and a recorder of a dying body, she does not want to write only of loss and grief. She doesn’t want to make dying the central story.”</p><p dir="ltr">It would be absurd to limit our interest in Lorde to stories of her death. This would diminish her emotional and intellectual legacy, and most importantly, her humanity. The same applies to the activists we have lost. </p><p dir="ltr">On the other hand, mourning is an act of healing. And for those close to the deceased, through personal connection or shared identity, it’s a difficult process that speaks to the human cost of liberation. </p><p dir="ltr">It’s a horrific business to count the dead, especially when too many of the activists we have lost die because of their activism and their gender, defense of territory, natural resources and basic human rights. </p><p dir="ltr">States have a responsibility to respect, protect and create an enabling environment for women human rights defenders everywhere. On this, too many are currently failing. </p><p>During this year’s 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, please join others all over the world<a href="https://www.awid.org/whrd-tribute"> in remembering activists </a>who have given so much to our movements, and call on your governments to guarantee the safety of defenders everywhere.</p><p><em><strong>Visit the <a href="https://www.awid.org/whrd-tribute">online tribute to women human rights defenders</a>, and share your stories of activists who are no longer with us.</strong></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> </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 women's movements women's human rights women and power violence against women feminism 50.50 newsletter Valerie Bah Wed, 29 Nov 2017 08:18:44 +0000 Valerie Bah 114944 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Women’s voices must not be ignored in business and human rights talks https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/chiara-capraro-ayesha-carmouche/womens-voices-business-human-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The corporate rush for land and resources in the Global South has gender-specific impacts on women, who are routinely excluded from decision-making.</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/Uganda.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Women have to walk for miles to collect water after being displaced from their land in Uganda."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Uganda.jpg" alt="Women have to walk for miles to collect water after being displaced from their land in Uganda." title="Women have to walk for miles to collect water after being displaced from their land in Uganda." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women have to walk for miles to collect water after being displaced from their land in Uganda. Photo: Sarah Waiswa/Womankind Worldwide.</span></span></span>The link between corporations’ rush for natural resources and violations of women’s rights is increasingly evident. The 2016 murder of environmental activist <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/03/honduras-berta-caceres-murder-enivronment-activist-human-rights">Berta Cáceres</a> – who was leading the struggle of her indigenous community to oppose the construction of a dam on their sacred river in Honduras – showed how deadly the risks can be. Her story exemplifies the struggle of many women in the Global South who are standing up for their rights to dignified lives free from violence.</p><p dir="ltr">In recent decades, we’ve seen a proliferation of land-intensive, transnational mining and agri-business projects – from gold and coal mining to biofuel and palm oil production – in resource-rich developing countries. Yet, instead of promised prosperity, many local populations continue to struggle with poverty and food insecurity, along with growing conflicts over who controls and profits from high-value commodities and land.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Consequences of the corporate rush for natural resources in the Global South, including lost livelihoods, forced evictions, violence and environmental degradation, impact women in specific ways. When women rise up to defend their land they may also face threats and ostracisation from their own communities, as they <a href="https://www.awid.org/publications/women-human-rights-defenders-confronting-extractive-industries">defy</a> state and corporate power as well as patriarchal notions of women’s roles. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Women are the majority of the world’s small-scale farmers and are <a href="https://www1.essex.ac.uk/hrc/careers/clinic/documents/Engendering%20Human%20Rights%20Due%20Diligence.pdf">primarily responsible</a> for providing care, food and water for their families. But their work is often undervalued and unrecognised. When businesses violate human rights, gender-specific impacts remain largely invisible. Many of these violations are caused and exacerbated by entrenched and ‘normalised,’ everyday gender discrimination.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Many violations are caused and exacerbated by entrenched and ‘normalised,’ everyday gender discrimination.</p><p dir="ltr">Women’s financial and physical security is seriously jeopardised by transnational land-based corporate investment, according to <a href="http://corporate-responsibility.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Core_WomensRights_Final1.pdf">a new briefing</a> from UK civil society network on corporate accountability, <a href="http://corporate-responsibility.org/">CORE</a>, and the NGO <a href="https://www.womankind.org.uk/">Womankind</a>. Drawing on research from the Essex University Human Rights Clinic, it shows how women are also routinely denied opportunities to influence decisions regarding land use by overseas and domestic investors.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In <a href="http://www.nape.or.ug/publications/gender/51-women-led-action-oriented-booklet/file">Uganda</a>, the National Association of Professional Environmentalists, a local NGO, has shown how women are excluded from key decision-making processes due to a lack of land ownership rights. Household and community power dynamics often exclude women from land use consultations and the distribution of compensation. Companies make little effort to listen to women’s voices and incorporate them in investment plans.</p><p dir="ltr">This week, civil society, government and business representatives are meeting in Geneva for the <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Forum/Pages/2017ForumBHR.aspx">UN Forum for Business and Human Rights</a> to discuss corporate compliance with human rights and access to remedies when things go wrong. These talks will fail if they ignore women’s voices and do not challenge gender injustices.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Companies must explicitly acknowledge gender-specific impacts of their activities and introduce policies and mechanisms to engage and listen to women’s experiences. They must document and be able to clearly show how this informs their activities, so that they can be monitored and held to account for commitments.</p><p dir="ltr">But we cannot rely on businesses alone to deliver good practice. States should introduce mandatory human rights due diligence, compelling companies to conduct risk assessments of their operations, including oversight of subsidiaries and supplier practices and prominent gender analysis and attention to women’s rights.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Prolific corporate human rights abuse is beginning to galvanise international efforts to end it.</p><p dir="ltr">Today, prolific corporate human rights abuse is beginning to galvanise international efforts to end it. Ecuador is leading a process at the UN human rights council to create a <a href="http://corporate-responsibility.org/proposed-treaty-business-human-rights/">legally-binding treaty</a> that would force companies to uphold human rights and environmental standards across their operations.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Last week CEDAW, the <a href="http://www.ciel.org/news/un-committee-calls-norway-revise-energy-policy-noting-climate-impacts-arctic-oil-extraction/">UN committee</a> responsible for reviewing states’ women’s rights commitments called on Norway to reconsider its oil and gas extraction policies to mitigate the disproportionate impact on women of climate change. </p><p dir="ltr">A 2015 <a href="http://corporatejustice.org/news/353-corporate-duty-of-vigilance-another-step-forward-towards-the-french-law-s-adoption">French law</a> requires its largest companies to prepare ‘vigilance plans’ setting out measures taken to prevent human rights abuses throughout their operations. Several other European countries are now considering the introduction of mandatory human rights due diligence laws. The EU should build on this momentum, introduce a common standard and require all member states to introduce such legislation.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">These measures could enable women whose rights have been violated to take multinational companies to court in the countries where they are headquartered. Cases like these are not easy to mount, but currently most communities are restricted to remedy through local judicial systems where legal infrastructure may be limited and corruption may be widespread.</p><p dir="ltr">States and corporations must show that they take women’s rights seriously. They can no longer pay lip service to these rights, or relegate responsibility for them to profit-hungry corporations and patriarchal decision-makers. Women’s voices and women’s participation must be at the centre of talks and policies on business and human rights.</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 and the Economy women's human rights women and power patriarchy gendered poverty 50.50 newsletter Ayesha Carmouche Chiara Capraro Tue, 28 Nov 2017 07:00:46 +0000 Chiara Capraro and Ayesha Carmouche 114918 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How India's Café Sheroes fights back against acid attacks https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ritu-mahendru/india-cafe-sheroes-fights-back-acid-attacks <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Run by survivors of acid attacks, the café is part of broader campaigns for women’s access to public places and freedom of expression.</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/IMG_6574.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Women at Café Sheroes."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_6574.JPG" alt="Women at Café Sheroes." title="Women at Café Sheroes." width="460" height="310" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women at Café Sheroes. Photo: Ritu Mahendru.</span></span></span>Far from the limelight of the Taj Mahal, <a href="https://www.sheroeshangout.com/">Café Sheroes</a> in Agra, India is run by survivors of acid attacks. </p><p dir="ltr">Girls and women, who were attacked by their male stalkers, jilted lovers, relatives or fathers, are serving hot drinks and working as chefs. In one corner, t-shirts that read “Stop Acid Attacks” and “My beauty is my smile” are for sale.</p><p>Those who work here support broader campaigns for gender equality – for women to access public places without fear of violence, and express themselves freely.</p><p dir="ltr">21-year-old Bala told me that the first time she came to the café, she was a quiet person. She had stopped talking after an acid attack, but this place gave her confidence to “open up and talk”. </p><p dir="ltr">Bala was 17 when she was attacked by a landowner who had killed her father. Her brother reported the murder to the police, and the landowner was given a seven-year sentence. Despite this, he was shortly released, Bala said. “When he came out he attacked me with acid to take revenge.”</p><p dir="ltr">Rukkya, 30, was attacked by her sister’s brother-in-law who wanted to marry her at the age of 15. “I first thought he had thrown coffee on me. I was screaming. My face was melting and burning. I then realised he had thrown acid at me,” Rukkya told me.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“I first thought he had thrown coffee on me. I was screaming. My face was melting and burning. I then realised he had thrown acid at me.”</p><p dir="ltr">Acid attacks are often intended to disfigure women who refuse to marry a man or deny their sexual advances. They have also happened amid family conflicts, domestic violence and spousal abuse. Usually premeditated, and aimed at the victim’s face, the goal is long-term damage.</p><p dir="ltr">24-year-old Rupa says her stepmother attacked her when she was 15. She poured acid on the girl while she was asleep at home in a village in Uttar Pradesh. </p><p dir="ltr">Sana, now 23, was assaulted three years ago by her in-laws because she couldn’t meet their dowry demands. </p><p dir="ltr">Geeta, 40, and her 26-year-old daughter Neetu, were both disfigured when Geeta’s husband poured acid on them as they slept, because he wanted a son. He also targeted his younger daughter Krishna, who later died from the attack.</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/IMG_6609.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Geeta and Neetu at Café Sheroes."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_6609.JPG" alt="Geeta and Neetu at Café Sheroes." title="Geeta and Neetu at Café Sheroes." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Geeta and Neetu at Café Sheroes. Photo: Ritu Mahendru.</span></span></span>The women I spoke to had third and fourth degree burns. Each had suffered damage to their scalp, mouth, neck, chest, arms, hands, eyes, ears, and nose. The acid affected their skin and disfigured their faces. They endured extreme trauma and pain.</p><p dir="ltr">Most girls and women who work at the Sheroes café come from rural areas and smaller towns mainly from the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where little or no specialised health services exist to support them. </p><p dir="ltr">They told me they must travel long distances for treatment and often have to go to a special government-run hospital in New Delhi, where capacity is low, treatment is expensive, and waiting times are long. </p><p dir="ltr">All of the women I met have had several reconstructive surgeries. Although acid attack victims are entitled to compensation of up to INR 300,000 (around US$4,600), it is not easy to obtain and may not cover the total cost of treatment and rehabilitation. As a result, survivors may be driven into severe debt. </p><p dir="ltr">Bala has already had eight surgeries and explains her ordeal following the attack: “When I was assaulted, we called the police but the police wouldn’t listen. I was suffering for two to three hours before I was taken to a medical facility. It took me several hours to get proper treatment.”</p><p dir="ltr">Across the country, healthcare facilities are not always prepared to immediately deal with severe chemical burns. After initial consultations there is no guarantee of follow-up visits. Hospitals lack resources and women don’t always get seen on time. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Bala says she’s travelled to appointments in New Delhi only to find “there are no doctors available. We make such a long journey and we don’t get seen.”</p><p dir="ltr">Similar feelings and experiences were expressed by other survivors in the cafe. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Every year, an estimated 1,000 women &nbsp;are attacked with acid in India.</p><p dir="ltr">Women are <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/tanushree-ghosh/acid-attack-in-india-wher_b_9559790.html">a majority of the victims</a> of acid attacks. <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-23631395">Every year, an estimated 1,000 women are attacked with acid</a> in India. However, there is little official data on these assaults; most cases go unreported and unregistered. </p><p dir="ltr">In 2013, the Indian government amended the national penal code to better record and try to curb incidences of acid attacks. The legal changes restricted over-the-counter sales of acids, and made it the sellers’ responsibility to request and record identities of buyers, reasons for purchase, and quantities sold. </p><p dir="ltr">But this is a country where strong social networks seem to precede everything else. Acid still finds its way into the hands of attackers, and such assaults still occur. </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/IMG_6567.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Rupa at Café Sheroes."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_6567.JPG" alt="Rupa at Café Sheroes." title="Rupa at Café Sheroes." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rupa at Café Sheroes. Photo: Ritu Mahendru.</span></span></span>One accessible acid is Tezaab, commonly-used in Indian households to clean toilets and rusty items. It’s easily available and cheap to buy from local shops. </p><p dir="ltr">But attacks are driven by more than the availability of acids. Discrimination and violence against women are widespread in India and acid attacks are often carried out to ‘control’ women’s sexuality, limit their mobility, and generate fear.</p><p dir="ltr">My conversations with women at Café Sheroes suggested that many acid attack perpetrators go unpunished by offering bribes or using their own influence to circumvent laws. </p><p dir="ltr">However, the women did not express anger. They explained that justice can only come from the creation of spaces where they feel socially included, by the wider community, and from the reinforcement of government laws.</p><p dir="ltr">They demanded a greater focus on prevention, rather than crisis response. They also expressed gratitude that they may continue with their lives at the café. Their ongoing struggle for equality reveals the real face of India.</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-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 India Civil society women's human rights violence against women gender 50.50 newsletter Ritu Mahendru Mon, 27 Nov 2017 09:15:57 +0000 Ritu Mahendru 114716 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What does it mean to be a feminist father in America today? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/joe-shaffner/feminist-father-america-today <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Parents must talk to their kids about patriarchy, and confront mental barriers and social pressures that enforce gender roles and inequalities.</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/PA-33364573.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Children&#039;s jackets."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-33364573.jpg" alt="Children's jackets." title="Children&#039;s jackets." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Children's jackets. Photo: Uwe Anspach/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>My son’s first favourite colour was pink. He loved pink flowers, eating with pink spoons and playing with pink cars. But it wasn’t long before social norms steered him towards other colours, more ‘appropriate’ for boys. </p><p dir="ltr">More recently, he’s talked about how his younger sister cannot do certain activities simply “because she’s a girl.” My son is five years old, and my daughter is two.</p><p dir="ltr">How do I respond to this? Sometimes, my own internalised sense of what it means to be male, and what it should mean to be female, gets in the way. Mental barriers occasionally raise their ugly heads to prevent me from fully embracing the truly fluid nature of gender.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Mental barriers occasionally raise their ugly heads to prevent me from fully embracing the truly fluid nature of gender.</p><p dir="ltr">Lingering and very potent social pressures also counter any feminist perspective I attempt to ingrain in my son. Both of us learned that pink is ‘a girl’s colour’, and that there is ‘a girl’s way’ of fighting and playing. Both of us learned that boys don’t cry. </p><p dir="ltr">When I tell people that I am trying to counter such pressures, by engaging in what I hope to be transformative dialogue with my son, I am met with different responses. Some are supportive and share similar challenges in their lives. Others roll their eyes and laugh. Or, they say I’m doing my son a disservice by not teaching him to ‘toughen up’.</p><p>We may be living in a feminist-leaning era – with some leaders like Canadian prime minister <a href="http://www.marieclaire.com/politics/a12811748/justin-trudeau-raising-kids-feminist/">Justin Trudeau</a> proudly calling themselves feminists. But society in the US, as in many parts of the world, has not yet reached a tipping point.</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/Trudeau.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Justin Trudeau."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Trudeau.jpg" alt="Justin Trudeau." title="Justin Trudeau." width="460" height="290" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Justin Trudeau. Photo: Rouelle Umali/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Feminism is still seen as a protest, a dividing line in the political landscape – or a sound bite. Many boys and men are <a href="http://mashable.com/2017/10/07/teenage-boys-feminism/#2VxVAkIKASqG">reluctant</a> to define themselves as feminists, and even fewer are willing to put a cog in the patriarchal machine.</p><p dir="ltr">It may be a very long time before feminism shifts from being one of those divisive “isms” to an accepted and cherished norm. And while I consider myself an optimist, the historically cyclical backlash against feminism leaves more doubt than promise.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">Feminism is still seen as a protest, a dividing line in the political landscape – or a sound bite.</span> </p><p dir="ltr">Looking ahead to 2030, my son and daughter will be 18 and 15 years old, respectively. This is the year that the United Nations has set – through its <a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5">Sustainable Development Goals </a>– to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” </p><p dir="ltr">But the UN itself has yet to <a href="https://www.icrw.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Financing-for-Gender-Equality-FINAL-7.14.pdf">fund gender programs sufficiently</a> or even <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2017/3/speech-ed-phumzile-csw61-opening">lay the groundwork</a> needed to achieve gender equality by 2030. It’s 2017, and <a href="https://hbr.org/2017/08/what-the-science-actually-says-about-gender-gaps-in-the-workplace">gender gaps</a> and <a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/03/gender-pay-gap-facts/">pay gaps</a> persist in the workforce <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/countries-with-the-biggest-gender-pay-gaps-2017-10/#14-slovakia-ranking-94th-overall-thanks-to-the-equal-level-of-education-attained-by-both-boys-and-girls-slovakia-only-scored-375-out-of-seven-for-its-gender-pay-gap-1">worldwide</a>, in spite of <a href="https://www.economist.com/news/international/21729993-women-still-earn-lot-less-men-despite-decades-equal-pay-laws-why-gender">laws aimed to narrow them</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Public figures like Harvey Weinstein have normalised violence and the objectification of women. <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41836843">Allegations of sexual harassment</a> steadily mount, and while the <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23metoo&amp;src=typd">#MeToo</a> campaign surges, we face sobering realities.</p><p dir="ltr">Data suggest that <a href="https://www.nsopw.gov/en-US/Education/FactsStatistics?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1">18% of women in the US</a> have been raped. Globally, the World Health Organisation says that <a href="http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/">35% of women</a> – one out of every three – experience <a href="http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/">physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.</a></p><p dir="ltr">So what does it mean to be a feminist parent in this context, where disheartening statistics and systemic barriers cast a long shadow over our chances of achieving gender equality anytime soon? </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/PA-33607121.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Girls climbing."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-33607121.jpg" alt="Girls climbing." title="Girls climbing." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Girls climbing. Photo: Jorg Carstensen/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>We need a concerted effort – at all levels of society – to break the cycle of gender inequality. Verbal commitments must be linked to accountability. We need a level playing field, with access to resources and opportunities guaranteed for all.</p><p>Both personal and social attitudes must change – through mindfulness and legislation – to recognise and redress deep-rooted and often unconscious biases.</p><p dir="ltr">This is not about men saving the day or “allowing” women their moment. It’s about knowing how to speak out and stand up against injustices – and when to sit down and let others speak for themselves. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">This is not about men saving the day or “allowing” women their moment.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s about businesses going beyond boosting the overall number of women in the workforce, to paying and promoting them equally. It’s about moving past archaic “men are good leaders” ideas and voting more women into legislative bodies like the US congress – which is <a href="https://other98.com/cant-unsee-looks-like-photoshop-men-politics/amp/">predominantly made up of white males</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">We must expect resistance to such changes. As women’s movements grow, it will feel like men are losing ground – which is true, given the pervasiveness of male privilege. </p><p dir="ltr">White women may also feel like they are losing ground as women of colour make gains – and as transgender women do, and so on, as the intersections and cross-sections of society converge on a single plain. This is the price we must pay for true partnership and community.</p><p dir="ltr">As I look at my children, I know that both of them can play a role in catalysing change, propelling us to that feminist tipping point. They must both take on active roles in this movement – and it won’t be easy. </p><p dir="ltr">It will require checking, leveraging or relinquishing the privileges afforded them in the interest of equity. My son must embrace the idea of going against the grain and not expect his sister to do the heavy lifting. </p><p dir="ltr">As we look towards a more feminist future, large-scale social change is essential. But it’s also about the everyday interactions between a father and son – where we ask why pink can’t be a boy’s colour, or why white men are paid more than everyone else. </p><p dir="ltr">It’s about accepting “no” for an answer and holding each other accountable. It’s about asking those questions, engaging in sometimes uncomfortable conversations, and taking the necessary steps, on both an individual and societal level, to tip the scales. </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 patriarchy gender feminism 50.50 newsletter Joe Shaffner Fri, 24 Nov 2017 10:01:39 +0000 Joe Shaffner 114722 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Northern Ireland police must stop intimidating equality activists https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/kylie-noble/northern-ireland-police-equality-activists <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The force can't claim to be progressive whilst cracking down on those protesting hateful conservatism and oppressive, misogynistic laws.</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/PA-32333155.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Members of the PSNI join the Belfast Pride parade. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-32333155.jpg" alt="Members of the PSNI join the Belfast Pride parade." title="Members of the PSNI join the Belfast Pride parade. " width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Members of the PSNI join the Belfast Pride parade. Photo: Peter Morrison/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>“Fuck the DUP” – ballsy or rude? If you’re DUP politician Jim Wells, it counts as hate speech. He reported a young woman to the police for carrying a placard with the slogan at the Belfast Pride parade this summer. </p><p dir="ltr">Last month the Police Service of Northern Ireland <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-41571107">questioned</a> 24-year old Ellie Evans, who is currently waiting to hear whether public prosecutors will decide to investigate her for hate crime, or breach of public order.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The charity worker and activist moved to Belfast from England two years ago to study at Queen’s University. She has also started a “Fuck the DUP” campaign for a more progressive Northern Ireland <a href="https://www.facebook.com/FcktheDUP/">on Facebook</a> and makes t-shirts to fundraise for LGBT charities in the region.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Many university graduates in Northern Ireland leave and never return. It’s almost a rite of passage: complete an arts degree, do your time in a call centre, search for better jobs elsewhere, and go. </p><p dir="ltr">Young people like Evans should be made to feel welcomed instead of hounded. Hateful conservatism embodied by the DUP and others in politics, combined with sectarian divisions and poor job prospects, drives us away.</p><p dir="ltr">Today Northern Ireland's police is trying to position itself as a progressive force – while intimidating equality activists and those who dare to challenge the region's harmful, regressive laws.&nbsp; </p><p dir="ltr">There is also an nasty irony in Evans’ case, with a member of the DUP, which has a long history of ignoring and cultivating hate and homophobia, considers anger against it, from an equal rights activist, as hate speech. </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/DSC_7279.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Badges sold to raise money for charities Rainbow Project NI and Alliance for Choice. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/DSC_7279.jpg" alt="Badges sold to raise money for charities Rainbow Project NI and Alliance for Choice." title="Badges sold to raise money for charities Rainbow Project NI and Alliance for Choice. " width="460" height="291" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Badges sold to raise money for charities Rainbow Project NI and Alliance for Choice. Photo: Brendan Harkin.</span></span></span>When I last lived in Belfast (part of the army of call centre graduates), my home was in a working-class area which returns a very strong DUP vote. Walls were graffitied with K.A.T; “Kill All Taigs” (a derogatory term for Catholics). On 12 July, when bonfires are lit in loyalist areas, election posters of nationalist and cross-community parties, and the flag of the Republic of Ireland, were burnt.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In the 1970s, the DUP campaigned to "save Ulster from sodomy". Little seems to have changed in its thinking since then. Though, while it’s the party most clearly influenced by conservative Christianity, it’s not alone in holding regressive views on reproductive choice and women’s and LGBT rights.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/16/northern-ireland-strongly-backs-abortion-law-reform-survey">Only a minority of people seem to share these positions</a>, but they’re over-represented across the political spectrum. The Social Democratic and Labour Party, for instance, are the so-called party of civil rights, yet they are also firmly against abortion rights. </p><p dir="ltr">The issue of abortion has divided Sinn Fein. Last year, it changed its policy to support abortion rights in cases of rape or foetal abnormality. Outgoing party leader Gerry Adams has declared himself pro-choice. </p><p dir="ltr">This month, the party voted to support abortion rights where the woman's physical or mental health is in danger. This is worded vaguely, however, and is still a policy for limited rights.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/16/northern-ireland-strongly-backs-abortion-law-reform-survey"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-31622196.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-31622196.jpg" alt="DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds." title="DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds." width="460" height="334" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></a>What's new is the recent crackdown by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), on those who protest against our oppressive, homophobic and misogynistic laws.&nbsp; &nbsp; </p><p dir="ltr">In October, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/rallyforchoice">Belfast’s Rally for Choice</a> saw hundreds of people take to the streets to call for the decriminalisation of abortion. People Before Profit Belfast city councillor Fiona Ferguson said <a href="https://www.facebook.com/fiona.fhearghais/posts/10209832307835839">on her Facebook page</a> that police warned her to remove any signs saying “Fuck the DUP.”</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, the PSNI carried out <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/mar/13/northern-ireland-police-raided-premises-searching-for-abortion-pills">raids</a> at activists’ workplaces and homes, with officers looking for abortion pills ordered from abroad (which are <a href="http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/89/5/10-084046/en/">deemed safe by the World Health Organisation</a>, and which <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-41760959">Scotland has started offering on the NHS</a>).&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">My friend Tyler McNally, editor of a left-wing Belfast website, <a href="https://lastroundblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/17/a-shot-across-the-bow/">had his laptop and phone taken by the police in March</a> as part of their investigation into whether he possessed abortion pills or helped women access them. All charges were subsequently dropped, but not for four months. </p><p> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Ffiona.fhearghais%2Fposts%2F10209832307835839&amp;width=450" style="border: none; overflow: hidden;" scrolling="no" allowtransparency="true" width="450" height="590" frameborder="0"></iframe></p><p>Of course, the history of Northern Ireland’s police force is intricately tied to that of state oppression. </p><p>The PSNI’s predecessor, the RUC, were not neutral actors in the conflict that the British press likes to call “the Troubles.” Members attacked civil rights protesters, intimidated and killed civilians, and colluded with loyalist paramilitaries.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">During the conflict, Catholics were a <a href="https://www.catholicireland.net/concern-catholic-numbers-psni-drop/">small minority</a> in the RUC. Their representation has increased in the PSNI, though the force is still majority Protestant. Whilst all political parties now endorse it, distrust remains among nationalist communities.</p><p dir="ltr">Now, as then, the largest party in Northern Ireland is an extremely conservative unionist party. Throughout, the RUC and the PSNI have been majority male, white and heterosexual. Our police force consists overwhelmingly of individuals who don’t have their rights challenged or curtailed from the top. &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/PA-1097436.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="RUC police in riot gear in 1998."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-1097436.jpg" alt="RUC police in riot gear in 1998." title="RUC police in riot gear in 1998." width="460" height="270" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>RUC police in riot gear in 1998. Photo: PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The conflict claimed close to 4,000 lives, with loyalist and republican paramilitaries, the RUC and the British army all carrying out acts of terrorism and killing civilians. </p><p dir="ltr">Amid this violence, concern for social issues that stretched beyond the conflict’s tribal ethno-nationalist framework was (understandably) lower. But we can’t hide behind the conflict forever.<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ok-tags/p-good-friday-agreement-p"> </a></p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ok-tags/p-good-friday-agreement-p">The Good Friday Agreement</a> is now almost 20 years old. An entire generation has grown up without personal, lived experience of the conflict that still rumbles on in the hearts of our political parties.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">As imperfect as our peace is, it has opened up space for the patriarchal nature of the state to be confronted. </p><p dir="ltr">Evans participated in the same Pride demonstrations this summer that PSNI members marched in, for the first time. Last month, the force held its first recruitment event aimed at Belfast’s LGBT community.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Though the PSNI takes steps to present itself as a progressive institution, we are not fooled: until it ends its crackdown on our most marginalised and vulnerable communities, such posturing will remain farcical.</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/alex-moore/trans-northern-ireland-bigotry-schools">I&#039;m a trans teenager in Northern Ireland, where bigotry is taught at school</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lara-whyte/young-women-leading-ireland-campaign-against-abortion">On the warpath: the young women leading Ireland’s campaign against 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"> Northern 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"> 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 Northern Ireland Equality Tracking the backlash women and power sexual identities patriarchy 50.50 newsletter Kylie Noble Thu, 23 Nov 2017 08:48:23 +0000 Kylie Noble 114792 at https://www.opendemocracy.net I'm a trans teenager in Northern Ireland, where bigotry is taught at school https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/alex-moore/trans-northern-ireland-bigotry-schools <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>While LGBTQ+ rights groups are deemed “inappropriate” for educational environments, abusive and anti-choice activists are currently welcomed with open arms.</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/Classroom.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Classroom in Northern Ireland."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Classroom.jpg" alt="Classroom in Northern Ireland." title="Classroom in Northern Ireland." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Classroom in Northern Ireland. Photo: Vincent Li/Flickr. Creative Commons (CC by 2.0). Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>LGBTQ+ lives and rights in Northern Ireland are treated as nothing more than a controversial topic for a debate show. Bigots and crypto-fascists – and we have many – are constantly given platforms, soapboxes and huge live audiences to spread vile and dangerous views.</p><p dir="ltr">Transphobia and homophobia are entrenched in our culture and across the vast majority of our media. In my experience, this manifests itself most painfully and repeats itself most dangerously in our schools. </p><p dir="ltr">Northern Ireland’s Department of Education has no guidelines in place for supporting trans young people in school. There are no LGBTQ+ diversity workshops or education for either pupils or staff. Many of our state schools are specifically religious. Intolerance is not just allowed, but encouraged. Even within non-denominational schools, bigotry is rife. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Intolerance is not just allowed, but encouraged. </p><p dir="ltr">In 2015, a <a href="http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/assembly-business/legislation/2011-2016-mandate/primary-legislation-current-bills/addressing-bullying-in-schools-bill/">bill to address bullying</a> in schools was introduced by Sinn Féin, when they held the Education ministry. But it has amounted to faux-progressive window dressing, doing nothing to help LGBTQ+ youth.</p><p dir="ltr">Audaciously, the party claims to champion and support queer young people – but their bill failed to require schools to record homophobic or transphobic bullying for what it is, or to specifically tackle such bullying in their policies. </p><p dir="ltr">A 2017 <a href="https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/education/Research%20report%20no%2062_2017.pdf">Department of Education report</a> brought the issue of anti-LGBTQ+ bullying to the fore, along with institutional neglect within the education system. This report was unnecessarily and recklessly suppressed by the civil service for 17 months after its completion due to the “lack of a minister.” </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/PA-31915928.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Parliament buildings at Stormont, Belfast."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-31915928.jpg" alt="Parliament buildings at Stormont, Belfast." title="Parliament buildings at Stormont, Belfast." width="460" height="267" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Parliament buildings at Stormont, Belfast. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Prior to the collapse of the assembly, the ultra-conservative DUP party took hold of the education department. Leaving it up to a DUP minister to release a report on LGBTQ+ kids shows a complete contempt for us in the systems of government.</p><p dir="ltr">There was no valid excuse for waiting almost a year and a half to deliver vital information on anti-queer bullying to the public. That’s another year and a half where nothing is done to prevent it, another year and a half of hell for vulnerable queer youth across Northern Ireland.</p><p dir="ltr">Successive government ministers, including Sinn Féin’s own “progressive” and “equality-focused” representatives, have allowed anti-LGBTQ+ rules, biases, and attitudes to not only survive but thrive within schools. Nothing has been done to force schools to implement inclusion policies, or make schools more accommodating to trans young people. </p><p dir="ltr">According to the delayed Department of Education report, around half of LGBTQ+ pupils have experienced bullying specifically as a result of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Most said they were unsatisfied with their school’s response to these issues.</p><p dir="ltr">Unfortunately, this isn’t shocking in the slightest. So-called “pastoral care” is a buzzword in Northern Irish schools, but for most young queer people, it is a cruel joke. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">So-called “pastoral care” is a buzzword in Northern Irish schools, but for most young queer people, it is a cruel joke. </p><p dir="ltr">In my school, after reporting bullying, I experienced victim-blaming and relative inaction from many of the staff who are supposedly there to support victims. Not only do we face ridicule and harassment from fellow pupils, we also must tolerate neglect and victim-blaming from authority figures.</p><p dir="ltr">Unsurprisingly, the education department report also found that almost two thirds of respondents reported a negative impact on their emotional well-being as a result of their school’s hostile environment towards LGBTQ+ folks. </p><p dir="ltr">These educational spaces are filled with abuse and hatred (both subtle and entirely obvious), erasure, and so many other forms of queer neglect and oppression. </p><p dir="ltr">School syllabuses handle LGBTQ+ issues completely inadequately – if they touch on them at all. Most pupils reported that, if and when the LGBTQ+ community was mentioned, it was in religious education classes. Having been through these, I can tell you: they’re awful. </p><p dir="ltr">Our identities and rights are put up for hearty debate with teachers generally coming down on the queer-bashing side of the argument. Our right to marriage and a family is treated as an affront to the religious liberties of classmates. Our right to use the toilet which corresponds with our gender is treated as a threat to others’ safety. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Our identities and rights are put up for hearty debate with teachers generally coming down on the queer-bashing side of the argument. </p><p dir="ltr">Issues that are literally matters of life and death to so many people in the country or the classroom are ignored. Queer people are treated like yet another hypothetical, another obscure minority it’s okay to joke about, another group it’s okay to hate. Coming from supposed classroom authority figures, it’s an abhorrent attack. </p><p dir="ltr">When you treat us as hypotheticals, you are actively harming and erasing us. When you refuse to acknowledge our presence in your classrooms and your schools, you are actively making us unsafe in those spaces. You are setting us up for further harm outside these places, by fostering the same erasure. </p><p dir="ltr">We need drastic change so that schools can begin to accommodate the LGBTQ+ community. Guidelines for supporting trans youth in education would be a helpful start which should be drawn up in collaboration with trans organisations like <a href="https://genderjam.org.uk/">GenderJam NI</a> and <a href="https://sailni.com/">SAIL NI</a>. Senior civil servants could perhaps read some of <a href="https://sailni.com/education/">their own guidelines</a> too? </p><p dir="ltr">Comprehensive, LGBTQ+ inclusive sex and relationships education must be delivered in every school in the region (and until that happens, young people can find <a href="https://genderjam.org.uk/sexualhealth/">sexual health guides for trans people</a> online). </p><p dir="ltr">Overarching systems of oppression must also be confronted in this movement for LGBTQ+ liberation.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">While LGBTQ+ community groups are deemed “inappropriate” for an educational environment, abusive and anti-choice activists are welcomed with open arms.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.loveforlife.org.uk">Love For Life</a> is an abstinence-based, cis-hetero-normative organisation active in more than 70% of Northern Irish schools, where they miseducate young people regarding their sexual health. This harmful group must be banned from schools. </p><p dir="ltr">Extremist anti-rights groups such as <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lara-whyte/young-women-leading-ireland-campaign-against-abortion">Precious Life</a> – which actively harass and abuse those attempting to access basic sexual and reproductive health care rights – are invited into our schools to instil their evangelical brand of social conservatism in children and radicalise students against us. This further enables the systemic oppression of minorities. </p><p dir="ltr">While LGBTQ+ rights groups are deemed “inappropriate” for educational environments, abusive and anti-choice activists are currently welcomed with open arms. </p><p dir="ltr">We need intersectional support from feminists and queer-rights activists to overhaul how the education system handles social issues and supports minorities and vulnerable groups. Without this, oppression and bigotry will continue to replicate itself within the young for years to come.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>This article is adapted from a blog that originally appeared on <a href="http://challengesni.com/">challengesni.com</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/claudia-torrisi/fight-prejudice-italy-trans-police-officer">&quot;The first prejudice to fight was mine&quot;: Italy&#039;s only publicly trans police officer</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lara-whyte/young-women-leading-ireland-campaign-against-abortion">On the warpath: the young women leading Ireland’s campaign against 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"> Northern 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"> Culture </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 Northern Ireland Culture Tracking the backlash sexual identities gender 50.50 newsletter young feminists Alex Moore Mon, 20 Nov 2017 15:01:24 +0000 Alex Moore 114674 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The invisible #MeToo: how anonymous testimony can help survivors of sexual abuse https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/emma-hyndman/invisible-metoo-anonymous-testimony-sexual-abuse <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A college campus project showed me how anonymity can give survivors critical freedom to tell their truth, free from judgement or interruption.</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/PA-33498784.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="#MeToo protest in Paris."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-33498784.jpg" alt="#MeToo protest in Paris." title="#MeToo protest in Paris." width="460" height="290" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>#MeToo protest against gender-based and sexual violence in Paris, October 2017. Photo: Somer/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>If you spent any time on social media recently, it would have been almost impossible to miss <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/metoo">#MeToo</a>. First created by black activist <a href="https://twitter.com/taranaburke?lang=en">Tarana Burke</a> in 2006, the hashtag resurfaced in the wake of sexual harassment and rape allegations against Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein.</p><p dir="ltr">#MeToo originally aimed to empower low-income women of colour who had experienced sexual violence. The hashtag identifies survivors of abuse who share their stories, and fosters solidarity by clearly letting others know: you are not alone. </p><p dir="ltr">It is a growing movement – and a global phenomenon. #MeToo and related hashtags have been tweeted <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2017/10/30/health/metoo-legacy/index.html">1.7 million times in more than 85 countries</a>. In France, there’s <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/balancetonporc">#BalanceTonPorc</a>. In Italy: <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23quellavoltache&amp;lang=en">#QuellaVoltaChe</a>. In Latin America:<a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2017/10/30/health/metoo-legacy/index.html"> </a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/yotambien?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Ehashtag">#YoTambien</a>. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">#MeToo and related hashtags have been tweeted&nbsp;1.7 million times in more than 85 countries.</p><p dir="ltr">Online media has enabled us to share stories that reach around the globe, and connect with others in creative and sometimes challenging ways. In the process, it is transforming solidarity movements for those who had previously been repeatedly and systematically silenced. </p><p dir="ltr">In the US, for three years I was an activist against sexual assault on college campuses. I spoke about bystander intervention strategies, reporting options for survivors, and <a href="https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/tix_dis.html">Title IX</a> (a federal law to protect students from gender discrimination, including harassment). </p><p dir="ltr">My alma mater, Santa Clara University, is <a href="https://projects.chronicle.com/titleix/">one of 355 American universities</a> currently under investigation by the Office of Civil Rights for Title IX violations. The more I learned about sexual violence on campus, the more frustrated I felt over how survivors were deprived of justice.</p><p dir="ltr">The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that <a href="http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_factsheet_media-packet_statistics-about-sexual-violence_0.pdf">1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men</a> are sexually assaulted while in college in the US. <a href="http://endrapeoncampus.org/eroc-blog/2016/1/26/bjs-campus-climate-survey-key-highlights">According</a> to Bureau of Justice statistics, 30% of rape survivors report suffering academically; 22% consider leaving school; 44% experience problems with friends and peers. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college in the US.</p><p dir="ltr">Too many women, women of colour, and LGBTQ+ students are not protected or supported after experiencing trauma. Institutions that promise to provide students with quality education have failed to uphold this core promise.</p><p dir="ltr">In January 2017, I created&nbsp;<a href="https://amplifyproject.wordpress.com/">The Amplify Project:</a> an anonymous platform for student survivors of sexual assault to tell their stories of trauma, recovery, and more. My goal was to empower them by amplifying their voices, while also keeping them safe. </p><p dir="ltr">Anonymous storytelling can be a powerful way to encourage solidarity amongst survivors (whether or not they share their own experiences), while also engaging readers in personal stories about sexual violence.</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/Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 9.00.26 AM.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="The Amplify Project."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 9.00.26 AM.png" alt="The Amplify Project." title="The Amplify Project." width="460" height="237" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Amplify Project. Photo: Charmaine Yuen/Youtube. </span></span></span>Over five months, <a href="https://amplifyproject.wordpress.com/blog/page/2/">11 stories</a> were contributed to the platform and most were re-published in our school newspaper. Most were about trauma experienced, but included details that paint rich pictures of what it means to survive. </p><p dir="ltr">"There is not a ‘right’ way to be a survivor and you deserve to be treated with respect and you deserve to treat yourself with respect. We all heal differently and we are all entitled to heal in whatever ways we can," said one <a href="https://amplifyproject.wordpress.com/2017/01/19/no-right-way-to-cope-no-right-way-to-survive/">contribution</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">"Standing in court in my white dress as the judge confronted my rapist reminded me that I am still here, I am in control of my future and I am more than what he took away from me that night," said <a href="https://amplifyproject.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/survivors-set-the-world-on-fire-with-your-truth/">another</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">A third, entitled <a href="https://amplifyproject.wordpress.com/2017/03/09/an-open-letter-to-the-survivor-i-didnt-support/">An Open Letter to the Survivor I Didn't Support</a>, said: "He would later ask me to testify against you and mention all the Saturday night boys. I did and I’ve been sick ever since."</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“I am still here, I am in control of my future and I am more than what he took away from me that night." </p><p dir="ltr">Survivors can feel pressure to lay bare their personal stories in hopes that a public audience will ‘get it,’ and empathise with their pain. Perhaps they hope to reach other survivors. But we can’t place a heavier onus on those who have already experienced trauma.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s important for stories to be told, but the Amplify Project was about how the story is told. It didn’t force a survivor to relive their trauma, sacrificing their self-worth and dignity for web surfers who, with the click of a button, can “react” and apathetically scroll to the next story.</p><p dir="ltr">Anonymous writing makes a story simultaneously personal and universal. It doesn’t matter whether the author chooses to officially report their experience, or disclose it to friends, family, or peers. What matters is that they have the right to tell their truth, free from judgement or interruption.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">What matters is that they have the right to tell their truth, free from judgement or interruption.</p><p dir="ltr">The Amplify Project also forced our campus to publicly recognise that survivors exist among us, not just in faraway news clips or sound bites.</p><p dir="ltr">The stories showed how sexual violence operates within a larger system. Individual events are perpetrated by specific people.&nbsp;A larger culture allows abuse to thrive, in silence, turning a blind eye to those affected.</p><p dir="ltr">Unfortunately, the Amplify Project ended after I graduated from Santa Clara earlier this year. While our Women’s and Gender Studies department was extremely supportive of the project, the university administration was not. </p><p dir="ltr">What’s stuck with me is this: protecting privacy does not require silence, which can stigmatise survivors and engender shame and loneliness. ‘Invisible’ sexual violence is normalised. It ‘erases’ the individuals affected, who must carry and work through their pain alone.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">‘protecting privacy does not require silence, which can stigmatise survivors and engender shame and loneliness’</p><p dir="ltr">I think about the stories that aren’t told. The survivors who ask whether their experience “counted” as sexual assault. Those who may have believed in our campus project, and wanted to participate, but sat in front of a blank page on their computer screen, unable to write a word. </p><p dir="ltr">The survivors who don’t know where or how to start telling their stories. And those who don’t call themselves survivors, who struggle daily to focus on classes, maintain friendships, andsleep at night. Their experiences, which may never be disclosed, are the silent part of #MeToo.</p><p dir="ltr">Anonymous writing isn’t about hiding behind a curtain, but empowering those who have experienced trauma by passing the mic. It can enable survivors to tell their stories, safe from denial, doubt, and attack. </p><p dir="ltr">As the conversation around power-based violence continues to dominate the news cycle and our social media feeds, survivors should know that justice may mean something different for different people. There’s more than one way to say #MeToo.</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/claudia-torrisi/italian-media-harvey-weinstein-asia-argento">Harvey Weinstein: Italian media coverage of the scandal has been predictably outrageous</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/claudia-williams/young-women-mobilise-against-revenge-porn-online-abuse">Young women mobilise against ‘revenge porn’ and online abuse</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"> Culture </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 Culture Equality Women's rights and the media women's health Sexual violence 50.50 newsletter young feminists Emma Hyndman Thu, 16 Nov 2017 14:25:22 +0000 Emma Hyndman 114606 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sexual harassment at work: Italy misses out on Weinstein-inspired moment of reckoning https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claudia-torrisi/sexual-harassment-at-work-italy-weinstein <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Instead of opening a conversation about workplace sexual harassment, the Italian debate has focused on shaming those who come forward.</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/PA-33498769.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Women protest against sexual violence in Paris."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-33498769.jpg" alt="Women protest against sexual violence in Paris." title="Women protest against sexual violence in Paris." width="460" height="335" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women protest against sexual violence in Paris in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Photo: Somer/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>As the Harvey Weinstein scandal continues to erupt, there’s been an outpouring of allegations against <a href="https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/10/harvey-weinstein-effect-roy-price-mark-halperin-john-besh-sexual-harassment-assault">powerful men</a>, accused of committing similar abuses during their careers.</p><p dir="ltr">The media, <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-41798728">politics</a>, <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/robert-scoble-alleged-sexual-and-verbal-harassment-2017-10?IR=T">the tech industry</a>, and the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/30/well-stay-silent-no-more-over-sexual-harassment-in-the-art-world">art world</a> are all having their own Weinstein-inspired moments of reckoning, although it’s too early to say if there will be a sea change in behaviour. </p><p dir="ltr">Experiences shared via the <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23metoo&amp;src=tyah">#metoo</a> hashtag on social media have shown how widespread this kind of abuse of power is; women around the world face sexual harassment at work everyday.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">‘women around the world face sexual harassment at work everyday’ </p><p dir="ltr">In Italy, however, media coverage of the Weinstein scandal has been <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claudia-torrisi/italian-media-harvey-weinstein-asia-argento">predictably outrageous</a>, focusing on actress Asia Argento’s behaviour. Instead of focusing on abuse, and how to end it, we have been victim-blaming.</p><p dir="ltr">There has been no “Weinstein effect” here, and discussions around sexual harassment at work remain largely taboo. Of course that’s not to say Italy doesn’t have a sexual harassment problem; we do.</p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="http://www.istat.it/it/files/2011/01/testointegrale20100915.pdf?title=Le+molestie+sessuali+-+15%2Fset%2F2010+-+testointegrale20100915.pdf">only research</a> on this topic is from 2008-2009, when the Italian National Statistics Institute (ISTAT) revealed that over one million women in Italy have been harassed or ‘sexually blackmailed’ at work.</p><p dir="ltr">This number is huge, but the true figure is likely even larger. The ISTAT study said almost 99% of victims do not report such abuse to the police. Women stay silent for many reasons: concerned over proof, shame, fear of being treated badly, or not believed at all. </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/PA-33531076.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="An artist&#039;s effigy of Harvey Weinstein."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-33531076.jpg" alt="An artist's effigy of Harvey Weinstein." title="An artist&#039;s effigy of Harvey Weinstein." width="460" height="690" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>An artist's effigy of Harvey Weinstein. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In 2015, an Italian journalist published a book entitled <a href="http://www.chiarelettere.it/libro/reverse/toglimi-le-mani-di-dosso-9788861906556.php">Toglimi le mani di dosso (“Get your hands off of me”)</a> about her experience of sexual harassment in a national newsroom. She used a pseudonym, Olga Ricci, and anonymised the newspaper and identifying details. </p><p dir="ltr">In the book she described how her editor-in-chief promised her a contract, then began making advances, inviting her to dinner, before more explicit requests to spend the night in a hotel room with him, and finally blackmailing her. In the end, she lost her job.</p><p dir="ltr">Harassment and <em>ricatto sessuale</em> (‘sexual blackmail’ – when a man takes advantage of a position of power over women who want to start or progress in their career, or are fearful of being fired) is “pervasive in Italian media”, Ricci told me. </p><p dir="ltr">After her book was published, she received messages from other female journalists who tried to guess the identity of her harasser, suggesting editors and publishers who had behaved in similar ways. </p><p dir="ltr">These stories have yet to come out.</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/PA-33501088.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="#Metoo protests continue."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-33501088.jpg" alt="#Metoo protests continue." title="#Metoo protests continue." width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>#Metoo protests continue in the wake of the Weinstein scandal. Photo: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The lack of debate on workplace sexual harassment in Italy also means there’s a lack of awareness of what it is. </p><p dir="ltr">Ricci herself did not immediately realise what was happening to her. “I thought that my boss’s behaviours were normal,” she said. “He treated lots of women in the same way in the newsroom.”</p><p dir="ltr">She explained that harassment can be difficult to prove, as there may not be witnesses. Such behaviour may also be minimised by other women.</p><p dir="ltr">“We learn it as children. It is unimaginable, according to ‘common sense’, to consider a dinner invitation, a compliment, a shoulder massage, or a hand on a hip as harassment. Even sexual jokes are considered normal. And if you point out [these acts] to your colleagues...they will call you tragic or a bigot.” </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Sexual jokes are considered normal. And if you point out [these acts] to your colleagues… they will call you tragic or a bigot”</p><p dir="ltr">For her, awareness of this issue came only after she left Italy to study. She told me: “Now, I use the word ‘violence’ to describe what happened to me. Too many women still do not use it, because they do not know they can.”</p><p dir="ltr">“I still receive messages from women who say that after reading the book they finally are able to give a name to what they have been through,” she added.</p><p dir="ltr">Italian ‘showgirl’ Miriana Trevisan is one of the very few women on Italian TV who disclosed her own experiences of workplace sexual harassment in the wake of the Weinstein scandal.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month, Trevisan <a href="https://www.vanityfair.it/people/italia/2017/11/03/miriana-trevisan-accusa-tornatore">said</a> she had been in Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore’s office about 20 years ago, and that he “put me against the wall and started to kiss my neck and my ears, and touched my breast aggressively.” </p><p dir="ltr">“He may not recall it, but I do,” she said. <a href="http://www.ilpost.it/2017/11/04/giuseppe-tornatore-smentito-accuse-molestie-sessuali-miriana-trevisan/">Tornatore </a>has denied the allegations and announced legal actions, while Trevisan has been engulfed in a flurry of piublic criticism.</p><p dir="ltr">She also <a href="http://www.linkiesta.it/it/article/2017/10/13/miriana-trevisan-ha-ragione-asia-argento-se-non-la-dai-te-la-fanno-pag/35829/">described</a> a case of sexual assault by an unnamed TV personality. “His approach was sneaky. At first he flattered me – which made me think I had an opportunity. Then the conversation became sexual,” Trevisan told me. </p><p dir="ltr">At this point, she remembers feeling confused, asking herself: “Did I do something he misunderstood? Am I dressed too sexily? Am I overreacting?”</p><p dir="ltr">Then, “he said I had to be nice to him, because we could only talk about work if we were close. Then he tried to kiss me, but I said no.” </p><p dir="ltr">Leaving his room, she met his assistant: “She gave me a quick look and said: ‘You still have your lipstick on, I think we will never see you again.’”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Did I do something he misunderstood? Am I dressed too sexily? Am I overreacting?”</p><p dir="ltr">“I was not able to give a name to the discomfort I felt. I almost convinced myself that it was the way it worked. I felt that everyone around me was addicted to these behaviours,” said Trevisan. </p><p dir="ltr">But after Asia Argento came forward, with her allegations against Weinstein, “all the pain resurfaced, together with the anger” that she had previously repressed.</p><p dir="ltr">“I think there’s a problem in our media. Newspapers and TV are showing no courage in talking about the implications of Weinstein case,” Trevisan said. </p><p dir="ltr">“They talked a lot about Asia Argento and said almost nothing about ‘our Weinsteins’. We have them, and everybody knows it.”</p><p dir="ltr">Recently, a few actresses – some of them anonymously –&nbsp;have <a href="https://www.iene.mediaset.it/video/attrici-molestate-chi-e-il-weinstein-italiano_12634.shtml">recounted experiences</a> of sexual harassment on the Italian TV show Le Iene; though most of their abusers have not been named.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Harsh treatment endured by Argento is a clear example of why women may feel forced to choose between staying silent about abuse or being blamed – and if they talk after many years, they may be blamed for having waited too long.</p><p dir="ltr">“Public opinion is uneducated, sexist and fierce,” said Ricci. “Those commentators [who attacked Argento] will never change their point of view if the debate in the media doesn’t offer them new ones.”</p><p dir="ltr">“When a boss invites you to dinner, talks to you about his private life or his problems, says how beautiful or attractive you are, when he kisses you, hugs you, touches you, he is abusing his power,” she insists.</p><p dir="ltr">And this is the whole point: sexual harassment is not about sex. It’s about power. If we want women in Italy to speak up, Italian public opinion needs to understand this first. Our reaction to the Weinstein scandal has shown the dire need for cultural change. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Italy </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"> 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 Italy Culture Equality Women's rights and the media women and power Sexual violence patriarchy gender 50.50 newsletter women's work young feminists Claudia Torrisi Wed, 15 Nov 2017 08:59:49 +0000 Claudia Torrisi 114603 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘Shame has to switch sides’ – Feminist activist Inna Shevchenko on #MeToo https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/moana-genevey-lara-whyte-claire-provost/shame-metoo-femen-inna-shevchenko <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">The Femen 'partisan' talks about #MeToo protests and why a recent Roman Polanski celebration in France was “an insult to all women”. </p> </div> </div> </div> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fopendemocracy5050%2Fvideos%2F1684821778216621%2F&show_text=0&width=560" width="460" height="260" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allowFullScreen="true"></iframe><p dir="ltr">“2017 should be marked as another victory in women’s rights, women’s fights and feminism in general,” says feminist activist Inna Shevchenko. Finally, people have been forced “to turn their heads and look," she said, about the sexual abuse scandals and <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/metoo">#MeToo</a> protests that have erupted in recent weeks.</p><p dir="ltr">Why didn’t women speak up about their experiences of abuse before? Shevchenko said she was “shocked” to hear people ask such questions. “Society’s ears that were ignorant and closed towards our issues,” she said.</p><p dir="ltr">Shevchenko’s activist group Femen is best known for its controversial use of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rahila-gupta/politics-nudity-feminist-protest">nudity as a form of feminist protest</a>. She spoke about #MeToo on the sidelines of last week’s <a href="https://www.coe.int/en/web/world-forum-democracy/">World Forum for Democracy</a> (WFD) in Strasbourg.</p><p dir="ltr">Women have been speaking up about sexual harassment and abuse "forever," though few have been listening, said Shevchenko. It’s time for shame and fear to “switch sides,” she argued, from survivors to perpetrators.</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/Inna and Moana.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Moana Genevey (left) and Inna Shevchenko."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Inna and Moana.jpg" alt="Moana Genevey (left) and Inna Shevchenko." title="Moana Genevey (left) and Inna Shevchenko." width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Moana Genevey (left) and Inna Shevchenko. Photo: Lara Whyte.</span></span></span>Shevchenko said growing attention to women’s experiences of abuse has made 2017 a year of feminist victory. She also talked about a recent Roman Polanski celebration in France, and why it was “an insult to all women."</p><p dir="ltr">Polanski fled statutory rape charges in the US in the 1970s and has lived in France since. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/oct/23/roman-polanski-marianne-barnard-allegations">Last month</a> new allegations emerged against the film director (which he has denied).</p><p dir="ltr">Originally from Ukraine, Shevchenko also lives in France. She was one of dozens of speakers at the WFD, hosted by the Council of Europe and focused on the question: is populism a problem?</p><p dir="ltr">Shevchenko was interviewed by Moana Genevey, a French youth delegate at the forum. Genevey is a co-creator of the website "<a href="https://allonscontre.com/">Allons Contre</a>" which aims to counter populist hate speech in France, online and offline.</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/claire-provost/hong-kong-activist-agnes-chow-world-forum-democracy">Hong Kong democracy activist Agnes Chow: “it&#039;s never easy to fight for what we believe in”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/khulan-baasanjav-lara-whyte/jazz-singer-lisa-simone-world-forum-for-democracy">Jazz singer Lisa Simone opens the World Forum for Democracy</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 World Forum for Democracy 2017 Video Women's rights and the media women's movements violence against women Sexual violence feminism 50.50 newsletter Claire Provost Lara Whyte Moana Genevey Mon, 13 Nov 2017 15:33:05 +0000 Moana Genevey, Lara Whyte and Claire Provost 114613 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Hong Kong democracy activist Agnes Chow: “it's never easy to fight for what we believe in” https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost/hong-kong-activist-agnes-chow-world-forum-democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Founding member of the Demosistō political party talked to World Forum for Democracy youth delegates about the importance of social movements and direct action.</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/AgnesChow.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Agnes Chow."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/AgnesChow.jpg" alt="Agnes Chow." title="Agnes Chow." width="460" height="346" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Agnes Chow. Photo: Okstartnow/Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons (CC0 1.0).</span></span></span>Agnes Chow was still a teenager in September 2014, when she joined thousands of other young people on the streets of Hong Kong, in a historic pro-democracy protest lasting 79 days that became known as the “umbrella movement.” </p><p dir="ltr">Last week Chow travelled to Strasbourg, France, to attend the Council of Europe’s 2017<a href="https://www.coe.int/en/web/world-forum-democracy"> World Forum for Democracy</a> (WFD). This year’s event focused on populism and the crises of traditional political party and media institutions. </p><p dir="ltr">“It’s never easy,” she said, to take on “an authoritarian regime, and to fight for things we believe in.” Chow spoke to WFD youth delegates Karla Ng and Skye Riggs on the sidelines of the conference.</p><p dir="ltr">Protest is important “even though it might fail, even though it might not be a success every time,” she said. “It’s not easy to fight for democracy, but the most important thing is we should not give up.”</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/IMG_4817.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Agnes Chow talks to WFD youth delegates."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_4817.JPG" alt="Agnes Chow talks to WFD youth delegates." title="Agnes Chow talks to WFD youth delegates." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Agnes Chow talks to WFD youth delegates. Photo: Claire Provost.</span></span></span>Now 21, Chow is a student at Hong Kong Baptist University – and one of the founding members of Demosistō, a new political party formed last year by some of the organisers of the 2014 umbrella movement protests. </p><p dir="ltr">Those demonstrations saw tens of thousands take to the streets, to demand ‘universal suffrage’ and the right to directly elect Hong Kong’s chief executive, its top political leader, currently chosen by an elite selection committee. </p><p dir="ltr">Police responded with tear gas and pepper spray, and eventually evicted occupiers from city spaces. Since then, activists have been arrested, prosecuted, and jailed. Others are awaiting trials. </p><p><a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2017/09/hong-kong-dark-times-hope-people/">Amnesty International</a> warns the state “is toughening its stance” against pro-democracy organisers, with freedom of expression and assembly under attack.</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/HKUmbrellaProtests_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Umbrella movement protests, September 2014."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/HKUmbrellaProtests_0.jpg" alt="Umbrella movement protests, September 2014. " title="Umbrella movement protests, September 2014." width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Umbrella movement protests, September 2014. Photo: Pasu Au Yeung/Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).</span></span></span>Joshua Wong, the skinny bespectacled student who became an icon of the movement, was imprisoned with two other activists in August. They were recently<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/24/world/asia/hong-kong-joshua-wong.html"> released on bail</a> while courts consider their appeals. </p><p dir="ltr">The umbrella movement captured attention internationally, with media coverage and solidarity rallies around the world. Wong is the subject of a recent Netflix documentary,<a href="https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/80169348"> Joshua: Teenager Vs Superpower</a>, in which Chow also appears.</p><h2 dir="ltr">A generation’s “political awakening”</h2><p dir="ltr">2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the handover of the former British colony Hong Kong to Beijing. The city has its own separate political and legal systems but it is not independent and Beijing’s influence over it has provoked numerous protests. </p><p>The umbrella movement was called a defining “<a href="https://qz.com/285345/the-umbrella-movement-marks-a-coming-of-age-for-hong-kongs-princess-generation">political awakening</a>” for an entire generation – including<a href="https://qz.com/285345/the-umbrella-movement-marks-a-coming-of-age-for-hong-kongs-princess-generation"> young women</a> who appeared on front lines and organised “everything from food and water distribution to communications,” according to <a href="https://qz.com/285345/the-umbrella-movement-marks-a-coming-of-age-for-hong-kongs-princess-generation/">one report</a>.</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/PA-21087242_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, October 2014."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-21087242_0.jpg" alt="Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, October 2014." title="Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, October 2014." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, October 2014. Photo: Stowers Chris/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The movement’s name came from the umbrellas protesters used as shields against tear gas and pepper spray. Yellow ribbons – long an emblem of women’s suffrage movements – also became symbols of the protests.</p><p dir="ltr">Pop singer Denise Ho was an outspoken supporter of the movement. A<a href="https://amp.theguardian.com/news/2017/jun/16/the-infamous-chalk-girl-the-battle-for-democracy-in-hong-kong"> 14-year old girl</a>, arrested for drawing a chalk flower on a wall, was another icon.</p><p dir="ltr">But there were also reports of discrimination and abuse against women protesters. Last year, activist Yau Wai-ching<a href="http://time.com/4567570/hong-kong-yau-wai-ching-independence-democracy-china/"> said</a> she had been trailed by a local tabloid reporter looking to uncover details about her sex life.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2014, Human Rights Watch researcher <a href="https://qz.com/285345/the-umbrella-movement-marks-a-coming-of-age-for-hong-kongs-princess-generation/">Maya Wong</a> said that many young women and girls faced “hostility” over their participation in the protests. She blamed a “gender expectation that for women their role belongs at home. If they stand up in public, they should stand back.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">a “gender expectation that for women their role belongs at home. If they stand up in public, they should stand back.”</p><p dir="ltr">At the WFD, Chow told youth delegates Ng (also from Hong Kong) and Riggs (from Australia) that she hopes “more and more females can have the bravery to participate in politics in the future.” </p><p dir="ltr">This summer, following arrests at a<a href="https://www.hongkongfp.com/2017/06/29/pictures-xi-jinping-can-hear-us-hong-kong-democracy-activists-arrested-scaling-monument/"> sit-in protest</a>, she and other activists<a href="https://www.hongkongfp.com/2017/07/13/hong-kong-police-urged-respect-detainees-rights-privacy-womens-dignity/"> filed</a> a formal complaint with the city over male officers patrolling female holding cells, and a lack of privacy using the toilet while detained.</p><p dir="ltr">Some Hong Kong <a href="http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/education-community/article/2098717/hong-kong-ignoring-15-million-marginalised-women">campaigners</a> have also warned that women’s rights<a href="http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/education-community/article/2098717/hong-kong-ignoring-15-million-marginalised-women"> </a>progress is being held back by a lack of funding, with money going first to pro-government groups. </p><h2 dir="ltr">From protest to political party</h2><p dir="ltr">“In Hong Kong it is more and more common for women to be involved in politics,” said Chow, though this doesn’t necessarily mean she agrees with their policies.</p><p dir="ltr">In March, Hong Kong appointed its first<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/26/hong-kong-chooses-new-leader-amid-accusations-of-china-meddling"> female chief executive</a>, Carrie Lam, described by<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/26/hong-kong-chooses-new-leader-amid-accusations-of-china-meddling"> the Guardian</a> as “China’s preferred candidate... in a contest that pitted popular appeal against lobbying by Beijing.” </p><p dir="ltr">Chow says Demosistō’s priorities are “advocating universal values such as democracy, freedom, human rights and equality,” along with “self-determination for Hong Kong,” with residents given “the right to decide their own future.”</p><p dir="ltr">She says the party must be clear and uncompromising on core values, whilst “careful not to start any kind of politics of hatred or fear or discrimination” in their opposition to the Chinese government.</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/Demosisto1_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, and other Demosisto members."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Demosisto1_0.png" alt="Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, and other Demosisto members." title="Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, and other Demosisto members." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, and other Demosisto members, August 2016. Photo: Jason940728/Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).</span></span></span>“We are different from other traditional or conservative political parties in Hong Kong, because we actually came from social movements and direct participation of people,” said Chow, who says Demosistō members still believe in direct democracy. </p><p dir="ltr">“People should have some direct channels to participate in politics, not only for voting for someone...to be in some role, but also to directly be involved, and respected and heard by the government.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“We are different from other traditional or conservative political parties in Hong Kong, because we actually came from social movements and direct participation of people”</p><p dir="ltr">As student activists, Chow said they focused primarily on “big issues” like ‘universal suffrage’. As a party, they’re also going to “different communities, different districts... to understand what social issues are more relevant for people’s lives,” such as housing policy, rent, and the distribution of resources including land.</p><p dir="ltr">Public education is also needed “to help people understand the meaning of democracy... [and] how to get involved,” she said. “We are partly advocating social movements, we’re partly advocating civil disobedience... and we also advocate direct action.” </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/IMG_4812.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Youth participants at the European Youth Centre."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_4812.JPG" alt="Youth participants at the European Youth Centre." title="Youth participants at the European Youth Centre." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Youth participants at the European Youth Centre. Photo: Claire Provost.</span></span></span>The Council of Europe, founded in 1949, has a stated mission to uphold human rights, democracy and rule of law in its now-47 member states. It has a committee of ministers, parliamentary assembly, and court of human rights.</p><p dir="ltr">The WFD is held each November, bringing civil society, political, and academic representatives together to discuss challenges facing contemporary democracies. Youth political participation has been a main theme over the years.</p><p dir="ltr">Ahead of the 2017 forum, dozens of youth delegates also gathered at the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg for workshops and a special youth programme. </p><p dir="ltr">During the WFD, a group of youth delegates worked with 50.50, the gender and sexuality section of openDemocracy, to explore issues related to populism and women’s rights.</p><p dir="ltr">Forum sessions focused on topics from fake news and storytelling to women’s political empowerment and the increasingly ‘female face of the far 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/khulan-baasanjav-lara-whyte/jazz-singer-lisa-simone-world-forum-for-democracy">Jazz singer Lisa Simone opens the World Forum for Democracy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Hong Kong </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 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 Hong Kong Civil society Democracy and government International politics World Forum for Democracy 2017 openmovements women and power gender 50.50 newsletter young feminists Claire Provost Mon, 13 Nov 2017 08:50:54 +0000 Claire Provost 114573 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “Mum, I am into kink”: why it’s so hard to talk to parents about sex https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/tiffany-kagure-mugo/mum-i-am-into-kink <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Talking about cunnilingus with parents may sound like a type of medieval torture. But we pay for silence in lost pleasure – and health risks.</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/563363/YES IX-resized.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/YES IX-resized.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'>Photo: Siphumeze Khundayi. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>I’m not ashamed to say I know a thing or two about sex. Some of the things I know are polite and some less so. These things I have learned from many sources: porn, past partners, reading pamphlets or articles and friends. None I have learned from my parents or other adults in my life.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr">This may be unsurprising. Who wants to learn about the reverse cowgirl from their dad, or how to stretch before a marathon session from their aunt?</p><p dir="ltr">The sex advice parents give is often very basic, covering biology and little else. Sometimes AIDS is mentioned, along with risks of pregnancy and the sexy possibility Jesus might be peephole-spying at you should you be having some company outside of marriage. My parents have made me worry that our Lord and Saviour is literally standing outside the window when I have sex, judging my exposed rear end.</p><p dir="ltr">Why don’t we speak, practically, to our parents about sex? Part of it is that parental advice is so bad. “If you hang out with boys too much you will get pregnant,” is up there with “AIDS is real, my baby” in terms of usefulness. Then there’s the classic: “Why are you even talking to boys?”</p><p dir="ltr"><span><span class="mag-quote-center">“If you hang out with boys too much you will get pregnant,” is up there with “AIDS is real, my baby” in terms of usefulness.</span></span><span>Recently,</span><a href="http://holaafrica.org/2016/12/19/holaa-loves-talking-sex-with-african-parents-with-tshego-and-black-women-be-like/"> as part of the HOLAAfrica safe sex and pleasure series,</a><span> we held a dialogue for middle-aged Kenyan women, many of whom are mothers. They lamented that so much of the “sex talk” they received from their parents consisted of freaking them out about boys and making sure that they hid their periods.</span></p><p dir="ltr">Despite having this direct experience of limited, unhelpful conversation, they all swore that they could not talk to their own kids about sex, and this included those with tween and teenage children.</p><p dir="ltr">A fear-mongering style of sex education within homes can lead to very problematic ideas about sex. This is despite the fact that across Africa there is a history of teaching safe, healthy and pleasurable sexual practices at a community-level.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s only recently that sex advice has been relegated to porn or random movies. Some of my own, earlier ‘this is so good’ noises mirrored the women I had seen in some of the more risqué media I watched – until I woke up and realised that was not what<a href="http://holaafrica.org/2016/08/19/holaa-loves-chatting-faking-orgasms-with-black-women-be-like/"> my pleasure</a> sounded like.</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/563363/YES I-resized.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/YES I-resized.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'>Photo: Siphumeze Khundayi. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Sticking to speaking about sex just before or after people get married is not a good strategy. It leaves young people at risk for much of their lives, exposed to some bad or even dangerous experiences because frankly, they just don’t know any better.</span></p><p dir="ltr">We can't continue to pretend that young people are not having sex, or that teenage pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) are not serious issues.</p><p dir="ltr">In Africa more than<a href="http://www.avert.org/africa-hiv-aids-statistics.htm"> 23 million people</a> are HIV positive. Rates of curable STIs are<a href="http://www.avert.org/std-statistics-worldwide.htm"> rising faster</a> on the continent than anywhere else. In Ghana<a href="http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/s/stds/stats-country.htm"> almost 5 million people</a> are believed to be living with an STI; in Rwanda it’s almost 2 million; in Zambia we are talking about 2.6 million people.</p><p dir="ltr">These rates are rising despite health risks being one of the few sex topics that some parents actually do talk to their children about. Meanwhile, schools may offer little better in the way of sex education and sadly some young people have had devastating sexual experiences at school with teachers being the predators their parents never told them about.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Back in 2001,<a href="https://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/safrica/"> Human Rights Watch</a> warned that in South Africa, rape, sexual harassment and abuse were seen as “an inevitable part of the school environment.”</p><p dir="ltr">In Mozambique, school girls<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/johanna-higgs/mozambique-sexual-harassment_b_11080484.html"> have spoken out</a> about teachers who ask them for sex in exchange for grades. "They [the teachers] give the girls their phone number and ask them to call them,” one girl told anthropologist Johanna Higgs. “They just want to have sex with the girls and leave them."</p><p dir="ltr">Higgs said a teacher told her that, in one school: “The male teachers would work together...if one female student wouldn't sleep with a teacher the other male teachers would gang up on her and all give her bad grades.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“The male teachers would work together...if one female student wouldn't sleep with a teacher the other male teachers would gang up on her and all give her bad grades.”</p><p dir="ltr">Negative experiences in childhood can plant bad ideas about what sex is, that may continue into adolescence and adult relationships. Safe sex, bodily autonomy and physical agency need to be learned well before we ‘believe’ children should have sex. It’s easier to learn positive attitudes than unlearn negative ones.</p><p dir="ltr">The silence surrounding sex when we are young makes for some tense, awkward and even dangerous situations later on. We need to start having open and frank conversations, earlier and more often – no matter how much talking about cunnilingus with your parents may feel like some form of medieval torture.</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/tiffany-kagure-mugo/osunality-sex-lessons-from-africa">Osunality: sex lessons from Africa</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/tiffany-mugo/digital-future-of-sex">Coitus and conversation: the digital realm is taking sex to new levels</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/tiffany-kagure-mugo/domestic-violence-lesbian-relationships">Look that monster dead in the face: tackling domestic violence in lesbian relationships</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 Africa </div> <div class="field-item even"> Mozambique </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> </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 Mozambique South Africa Culture women's health bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter young feminists Tiffany Kagure Mugo Thu, 09 Nov 2017 13:58:47 +0000 Tiffany Kagure Mugo 114443 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Jazz singer Lisa Simone opens the World Forum for Democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/khulan-baasanjav-lara-whyte/jazz-singer-lisa-simone-world-forum-for-democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The daughter of Nina Simone performed at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on Wednesday, and talked about her mother's legacy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="border: none; overflow: hidden;" height="300" width="460" src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fopendemocracy5050%2Fvideos%2F1680539251978207%2F&amp;show_text=0&amp;width=560"></iframe>Lisa Simone, daughter of musician and American civil rights activist Nina&nbsp;Simone, performed at the Council of Europe's 2017 <a href="https://www.coe.int/en/web/world-forum-democracy"><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><span style="color: #0066cc;">World Forum for Democracy</span></span></a> (WFD) on Wednesday.</p><p>openDemocracy is reporting from the WFD in Strasbourg, France which this year is focused on the question: Is populism a problem?</p><p>“My mother stood, in her own way, for justice and civil rights," said Simone. "To be here doing what I love, singing songs that hopefully uplift lives and hearts and souls, is how I choose to carry out this legacy."</p><p>Simone grew up on the road with her mother travelling for performances around the world. At the age of 18, she joined the US air force and served in the military for 11 years, including during the first Gulf war.</p><p>Now 55, she said: "The one thing that I say, everywhere that I go: if Mother Earth,&nbsp;if she decides, that she doesn’t want us here anymore, it doesn’t&nbsp;matter what colour we are, what language we speak, where we come from,&nbsp;we’re all going together.”</p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/LISANEW.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Lisa Simone performs at the WFD 2017."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/LISANEW.jpg" alt="Lisa Simone performs at the WFD 2017." title="Lisa Simone performs at the WFD 2017." width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Lisa Simone performs at the WFD 2017. Photo: Khulan Baasanjav.</span></span></span><p>Politicians, researchers, and youth participants from across Europe and beyond have travelled to Strasbourg for the event this week. Through plenary sessions and workshops it is looking at "the role of political parties and media in the context of rising populism."</p><p>The WFD says: "A growing disconnect between citizens and political elites and dramatic changes in the media ecosystem are a challenge for democracy as we know it. At the same time, new political and media actors and practices are emerging, offering new opportunities for members of the public to participate in political life."</p><p>Sessions&nbsp;focus on topics including how to respond to populist discourse and action, fact-checking and fake news, participatory democracy and civic education.</p><p>On&nbsp;Thursday attention will also turn to "the female face of the far right," how and why women appear increasingly engaged in right-wing politics, as members of parties and as voters. Speakers include policy analysts, academics, and student activists. </p><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 Culture Democracy and government World Forum for Democracy 2017 World Forum for Democracy 50.50 newsletter Lara Whyte Khulan Baasanjav Wed, 08 Nov 2017 18:45:35 +0000 Khulan Baasanjav and Lara Whyte 114540 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Kashmir abuses: women searching for justice challenge state use of forensics https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/priyanka-borpujari/kashmir-forensics-state-abuses <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Thousands of young men have 'disappeared' in Kashmir and there have been numerous allegations of sexual assaults. But the fight for answers and justice continues.</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/Parveena Ahangar_demonstration APDP.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="An APDP demonstration."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Parveena Ahangar_demonstration APDP.jpg" alt="An APDP demonstration." title="An APDP demonstration." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>An APDP demonstration. Photo: APDP. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>This year, India and Pakistan celebrated 70 years of freedom from British imperialism. But the horrors of partition – dividing the subcontinent, creating the new country of Pakistan – have not been forgotten. More than a million people were killed and several million displaced.</p><p>In Kashmir, a still-contested border region, residents continue to cry out for azadi, or freedom. The Indian-administered valley remains one of the most militarised areas in the world, with as many as <a href="https://scroll.in/article/812010/do-you-need-700000-soldiers-to-fight-150-militants-kashmiri-rights-activist-khurram-parvez">700,000 armed and paramilitary forces</a> stationed here. Human rights groups have repeatedly condemned extrajudicial killings by <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/ASA2018742015ENGLISH.PDF">Indian forces</a>.</p><p>According to the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (<a href="http://apdpkashmir.com/about/">APDP</a>), between 1989 and 2006, <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2007/02/15/india-investigate-all-disappearances-kashmir">up to 10,000</a> people were ‘disappeared’ in Kashmir. Many were abducted and held in custody by Indian forces, and never seen again. There have been numerous allegations of sexual assaults as well.</p><p>Gazala Peer grew up in Kashmir. Now a lawyer who has worked with the APDP, she told me that such abuses have been enabled by laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (<a href="https://thewire.in/58447/kashmir-lets-call-war-rightful-name/">AFSPA</a>). An extension of a British colonial ordinance, it lets the army enter any premises at any time, without a search warrant, and use lethal force and ‘shoot to kill.’</p><p>Peer said this act has been used to “terrorise” the population and that the state has employed a range of strategies to shirk responsibility for abuses.</p><p>An emphasis on forensic evidence, for instance, has been used to challenge women’s allegations of rapes by the Indian army, and limit their access to justice, she says. Meanwhile, for the disappeared, modern forensics may help identify corpses, but what about their abductions, detentions, possible tortures, and those responsible?</p><h2>A mother's quest for justice</h2><p dir="ltr">Disappearances in Kashmir appear to have declined sharply since 2006, amid increased campaigning by groups like APDP, and the election of a new chief minister for the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, who specifically instructed security services to avoid <a href="http://ia.rediff.com/news/2005/nov/04azad.htm">human rights violations</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">But the work of unearthing the truth about what happened to the disappeared continues. It is believed that many cases ended in extrajudicial killings or deaths by torture. In 2011, special investigators from the Jammu and Kashmir Human Rights Commission found more than 2,000 corpses buried in <a href="http://in.reuters.com/article/idINIndia-58890020110821">unmarked graves</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">A majority of Kashmir’s disappeared are young men, including minors. Parveena Ahangar told me that in 1991, her then 17-year old son Javaid was abducted by armed officers, and never heard from again. Searching for him, over the years she met other parents on similar quests.</p><p dir="ltr">In 1994, Ahangar filed a habeas corpus petition in Jammu and Kashmir’s High Court, demanding that the state produce evidence of what happened to her son after he was picked up by the army.</p><p dir="ltr">That same year, she founded the APDP, supported by other human rights activists and lawyers in Kashmir, to organise efforts to seek justice and information on the whereabouts of missing family members. It presently consists of the relatives of about 1,000 people.</p><p>This year, Ahangar won the 2017 <a href="https://www.rafto.no/news/the-2017-rafto-prize">Rafto human rights prize</a> in recognition of her decades of campaigning.</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/Parveena Ahangar @APDP.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Parveena Ahangar."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Parveena Ahangar @APDP.JPG" alt="Parveena Ahangar." title="Parveena Ahangar." width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Parveena Ahangar. Photo: APDP. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Over the last 25 years, thousands of habeas corpus petitions have been filed in quests to locate the disappeared. But there are still disputes about basic facts. The government has admitted that <a href="http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/3-084-kashmir-youth-still-in-pok-824-missing-youth-joined-militancy-govt/story-iuOpn1sIpjni8vuxA562NK.html">nearly 4,000 people are missing in Kashmir</a>, but claims that some may have crossed into Pakistan to join militant groups.</p><p>Peer says such claims are a way for the state to shirk responsibility for abductions, torture and extrajudicial killings. Another state strategy, she says, is encouraging families to file missing persons reports which, by definition, exonerate abductors of wrongdoing.</p><p>The police have <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/02/fake-encounters-expendable-kashm-20142281139146859.html">‘solved’</a> just four disappearances: each of which appear to have ended in premeditated murders, staged to look like deaths in crossfire, or as the result of self-defence by the police.</p><p dir="ltr">And then there are the numerous allegations of sexual assaults committed by the Indian army. Police stations across Kashmir are filled with missing persons reports, but not the paperwork required to set the criminal process in motion in sexual violence cases.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">'The official investigation was over before it began.</p><p dir="ltr">Peer told me that even when women report such assaults to the police, officers may simply refuse to fill out the requisite paperwork. Reports that are filed, may not be investigated. Forensic samples may not be collected on time. Samples or results may be mishandled.</p><p dir="ltr">In one case in February 1991, at least 100 women were allegedly raped by Indian army soldiers in the villages of <a href="https://thewire.in/111344/26-years-after-kunan-poshpora-army-still-enjoys-immunity-for-sexual-violence/">Kunan and Poshpora</a>. The state denied the assaults altogether. No forensic evidence was collected. The official investigation was over before it began. </p><p>More recently, in 2009 two women were raped and murdered in the district of <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8076666.stm">Shopian</a>. Their bodies were found a day after they went missing, but were not sent for autopsies. Paramilitary forces appear to have pressured the families to bury them immediately.</p><p>This case sparked mass protests in Kashmir that lasted for several months. Amid this pressure, police exhumed the bodies and sent them for autopsies. The official report said their hymens were intact, ruling out rape. But it also cited drowning in a nearby stream as their cause of death, even though the water level was only ankle-deep.</p><p>For a brief moment, there was hope that forensic evidence could reveal the truth and enable access to justice for human rights abuses. Instead, many who followed this case concluded that forensics will always be used by the state to suit its own purposes.</p><h2>Remembering the disappeared</h2><p dir="ltr">For the disappeared, DNA tests can determine the identity of individuals buried in unmarked graves. For APDP this is an important step, but it is not enough.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Peer describes a larger quest for justice and accountability, which requires fully uncovering the fate of victims, the circumstances of their abductions, detentions and deaths. In this struggle, remembering the disappeared is a collective, political act.</p><p dir="ltr">On the 10th of every month, in a public park in Kashmir’s capital Srinagar, APDP members share their own stories, and display court and police documents containing contradictions and statements they say have been manipulated.</p><p dir="ltr">They present their own facts, identifying army officers who abducted their relatives, and interrogation centres their kin were taken to. They relay denials from army officers, police officials and state bureaucrats.</p><p>In Argentina, mothers of those disappeared during the 1970s and 1980s have vigorously opposed the presumption that their loved ones are dead. <a href="https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/ghostly-matters">Sociologist Avery Gordon</a> has noted that “death exists in the past tense, disappearance in the present.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“death exists in the past tense, disappearance in the present”</p><p dir="ltr">Across Kashmir, ‘martyr graveyards,’ memorials at the sites of individual killings, and the commemoration of killings as sacrifices, are seen as part of a process of bearing witness to the oppression. There are also sports tournaments named after martyrs. </p><p dir="ltr">Women are prominent in the struggle for justice for the disappeared as they are in many other areas of the public sphere in Kashmir, where ongoing conflict has obliged many to take on the traditionally male role of breadwinner. </p><p>Tradition-based objections to women’s role in the public sphere cannot be sustained in this context. It would be premature, however, to declare this a victory for gender equality.</p><p dir="ltr">In his book <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/jun/05/curfewed-night-basharat-peer-review">Curfewed Night: A Frontline Memoir</a>, journalist and writer Basharat Peer describes how mothers of the disappeared in Kashmir will lay an extra place for dinner every night. After dinner, the uneaten food from this extra plate is thrown away.</p><p dir="ltr">Night after night, this has became a ritual, a way of not forgetting lost sons. Such rituals will likely continue as long as answers and justice remain elusive, and the disappeared will continue to haunt Kashmiri life.</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 class="field-item even"> Pakistan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> 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 Pakistan India Conflict International politics 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism women's movements Sexual violence 50.50 newsletter Priyanka Borpujari Mon, 06 Nov 2017 10:03:40 +0000 Priyanka Borpujari 114391 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Living without men: women-only organising is as old as time https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sian-norris/living-without-men-women-only-organising <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As long as patriarchal societies dominate, we shouldn’t be surprised to see women turning to single-sex spaces for safety and solidarity.</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/563303/11094357895_3134e48daa_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Reclaim the Night demonstration in Brisbane, Australia, 2013."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/11094357895_3134e48daa_k.jpg" alt="Reclaim the Night demonstration in Brisbane, Australia, 2013." title="Reclaim the Night demonstration in Brisbane, Australia, 2013." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Reclaim the Night demonstration in Brisbane, Australia, 2013. Photo: Ursula Skjonnemand/Flickr. Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Women-only space has always been important. From the political meetings where women share their experiences, plan for change, or rally together for <a href="http://www.reclaimthenight.co.uk/">Reclaim the Night</a> marches against male violence, to the personal ‘girls night out’, they have the potential to be transformative, safe spaces, enabling us to speak up and express ourselves.</p><p>I’ve often treasured the support and solace that can be found in women-only spaces, and have long been intrigued by the history of women forming single-sex communities – from Lesbos in 600 BC, to 1790s Wales and 1990s Yorkshire, to contemporary Kenya.</p><p>Today women-only organising may be less common than in the past, and whether and how to involve men in feminist organising have become faultlines in the movement. Some radical feminists insist that women-only spaces must be protected, while others contend that men must be included.</p><p>Amid these debates, it’s important as well as fascinating to explore the reasons why women have sought support and solidarity in women-only organising throughout history – and ask whether those reasons still exist today.</p><p>In Ancient Greece, the poet <a href="https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/sappho">Sappho</a> is believed to have lived in a female-only community. In reality little is known about the poet, and her biography is the subject of considerable academic debate. Some say Sappho’s poems were <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/03/16/girl-interrupted">expressions of homoerotic love and lust</a>, written from a women-only community.</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/563303/15455071068_87f20b7f4e_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Sappho."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/15455071068_87f20b7f4e_k.jpg" alt="Sappho." title="Sappho." width="460" height="329" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sappho. Photo: AK Rockefeller/Flickr. Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0). Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Queer women many centuries later continued to be inspired by this story of an early all-female community, where women could express same-sex desire and sexuality, away from men. </p><p dir="ltr">In the early 20th century, charismatic American heiress and “notorious lesbian” <a href="https://www.theparisreview.org/letters-essays/3870/a-natalie-barney-garland-george-wickes">Natalie Barney</a> travelled to Lesbos to set up "what she hoped to be a lesbian school for poetry and love." This didn’t come to pass, but Barney “gathered a similar community of women around her in Paris,” says writer Andrea Weiss in her book <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Paris-Was-Woman-Portraits-Left/dp/004440929X">Paris was a Woman</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">Other women-only communities have been documented by historians, including those established in Europe in the 18th century, centred on utopian politics rather than lesbian sexuality specifically.</p><p>Rachel Hewitt is author of the new book <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Revolution-Feeling-Decade-Forged-Modern-ebook/dp/B075JPYBZH/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1509484691&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=rachel+hewitt">A Revolution of Feeling</a>, about the “politically turbulent” 1790s. I asked her why this period in particular saw women coming together to create single-sex “utopian” communities, some of which endured for decades.</p><p>She told me that there was an “emphasis on the social role of the passions in the 18th century,” and that “for radical men and women, it became an important idea to found utopias based on the regeneration of emotion... in which 'social passions' might flourish, and anti-social emotions (anger, hatred, envy) might wither away.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">"utopias based on the regeneration of emotion... in which 'social passions' might flourish"</p><p>Men also dreamed of establishing sexual, utopian communities. Hewitt said the romantic poet <a href="https://www.bl.uk/people/samuel-taylor-coleridge">Samuel Taylor Coleridge</a> wanted to travel to Pennsylvania to form a new community where “male libido might be liberated and marriage abolished.” Writer George Cumberland envisaged a sexual utopia on an island, free from the “suppression of the natural fires.”</p><p>But while these men’s visions never came to pass, numerous women-only communities were actually attempted. Unlike men, women in 18th century Europe would have been driven by very real material concerns and the need to escape the constraints of patriarchal society (including forced marriages, forced pregnancies, and the lack of independent status).</p><p>One detailed vision for a woman-only community came from British writer Sarah Scott, in her 1762 book&nbsp;<a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/90244.Millenium_Hall">Millennium Hall</a>. It included schools, businesses and something of a ‘welfare state’ to help impoverished and vulnerable women to thrive. Sexual desire was not her concern. Instead, it was liberating women from marriage and sexual exploitation.</p><p>Scott’s vision was an imaginative exercise. Other women formed real communities. Often, they “began from the same starting point: from a reaction against, and evasion of, the constrictions placed on women by 18th century marriage,” said Hewitt. “Finding a viable alternative… was both an ideological imperative and a pragmatic, personal necessity.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“finding a viable alternative…was both an ideological imperative and a pragmatic, personal necessity”</p><p>One of the most famous examples is that of the <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ladies-Llangollen-study-Romantic-Friendship-ebook/dp/B005CPHSXA/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1509440115&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=ladies+of+llangollen">Ladies of Llangollen</a>. The story is that two women Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby ‘eloped’ in the late 1700s to escape unwanted marriages. Speculation remains as to whether their relationship was sexual. If you visit their house in <a href="https://www.denbighshire.gov.uk/en/visitor/places-to-visit/museums-and-historic-houses/plas-newydd.aspx">North Wales</a>, as I did in 2015, the audio tour discusses this at length.</p><p dir="ltr">More recently, in the 20th century a flurry of new women-only and lesbian communities were established in the 1970s and 1980s. Some drew on separatist feminist theory and called themselves ‘womyn’s lands’.</p><p dir="ltr">Others had anti-war activism at their core, including the Seneca women’s encampment in the US, and the Greenham Common peace camp in the UK, the latter of which was founded in 1981, and only disbanded in 2000.</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/PA-1253726.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="At the Greenham Common women&#039;s peace camp, 1983."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-1253726.jpg" alt="At the Greenham Common women's peace camp, 1983." title="At the Greenham Common women&#039;s peace camp, 1983." width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>At the Greenham Common women's peace camp, 1983. Photo: PA/PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Feminist activist and writer <a href="http://people.uwe.ac.uk/Pages/person.aspx?accountname=campus%5Cf-mackay">Finn Mackay</a> moved to a women-only anti-nuclear peace camp in <a href="http://www.cnduk.org/campaigns/no-to-us-missile-defence/menwith-hill">Menwith Hill</a>&nbsp;in north Yorkshire at the age of 18, inspired by the women of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/mar/20/greenham-common-nuclear-silos-women-protest-peace-camp">Greenham Common</a> and a “vision of women being powerful and living powerfully.” She lived there for a year and a half in the mid-1990s and describes it as a transformative experience.</p><p dir="ltr">Mackay told me it felt “like together we could change the world, because in a way we were. We took our politics and our values to the very gates of the industry we were protesting, and we forced them to engage with us. There is really nothing like sitting in a road... singing songs and staring down a nuclear convoy or military police or soldiers with guns.”</p><p>She added that living in the peace camp gave her and other feminists the chance to learn new skills – from chopping wood and building toilets, to defending themselves in courtrooms after arrests – and empower themselves in every sphere of their life.</p><p>Planning and carrying out large demonstrations, amid terrible weather, evictions, and police violence, “did bring a great sense of sisterhood and togetherness,” Mackay said.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">a “feminist protest” against a “patriarchal, capitalist, military industrial complex”</p><div>She describes the Menwith Hill camp, which has since disbanded, as clearly a “feminist protest” against a “patriarchal, capitalist, military industrial complex.” It was understood, she said, that “this machine was run by mainly men and that meanwhile women and children often paid a great price.”</div><p><span>She told me she’s “sorry that young women today can not benefit from those types of political communities.”</span></p><p>However, across the global south, women are still coming together to create their own communities away from men – again, often in reaction to male violence. One example is Umoja, Kenya, an all-female village whose name means “unity” in Swahili.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/2217031070_ba4b707d7d_b.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A woman in Umoja, Kenya."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/2217031070_ba4b707d7d_b.jpg" alt="A woman in Umoja, Kenya." title="A woman in Umoja, Kenya." width="460" height="615" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A woman in Umoja, Kenya. Photo: Madelinetosh/Flickr. Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Established in 2004, <a href="https://unitywomensvillage.wordpress.com/home/">its website</a> describes it as: “a refuge for women looking to start new, independent lives with their children free from oppression, abuse and other inequities.” In 2015, writer Julie Bindel visited the village and wrote <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/aug/16/village-where-men-are-banned-womens-rights-kenya">in the Guardian</a> about a unique place where women can live without fear of male violence.</p><p dir="ltr">I tried to contact the village to ask the women why they chose to live in an all-female community. Their partners, The Unity Project, an international development charity based in Canada, got back to me to explain their role providing education and literacy programmes for village residents. However I was unable to speak to any of the women directly.</p><p dir="ltr">Some of the women-only and lesbian communities established in the 1970s and 1980s still exist today – including <a href="https://alapine.org/">Alapine</a> in Alabama in the US. In 2009 the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/01/fashion/01womyn.html?pagewanted=all">New York Times</a> said it was one of “about 100 below-the-radar lesbian communities” in primarily rural North America, though the report cited concerns about its survival.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2015, artist Leah DeVun documented some of the remaining 'womyn's lands'&nbsp;in a photography series. She told <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/30/leah-devun_n_7690580.html">the Huffington Post</a> she hoped more women would “revisit some of the more radical, more utopian visions that were central to [past] movements.”</p><p dir="ltr">Also in the US are the <a href="http://www.sugarloafwomensvillage.com/Welcome.html">Sugarloaf Women's Village</a> in Florida and Mississippi’s <a href="http://unityms.org/news/history-the-hensons-and-camp-sister-spirt.html">Camp Sister Spirit</a>, founded in 1993. There are <a href="https://www.ic.org/wiki/feminist-ecovillages/">feminist ecovillages</a>, women-only squats, and in north London an&nbsp;<a href="http://www.owch.org.uk/">Older Women’s Co-Housing</a> collective has recently formed.</p><p dir="ltr">In Rojava, in northern Syria, Jinwar is an ecological women’s village under construction. The project’s <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pg/jinwarwomensvillage/about/?ref=page_internal">Facebook page</a> says it will be a place for women to “collectively rediscover, reestablish and reclaim” freedom.</p><p dir="ltr">Women-only communities have a long and varied history, therefore – as spaces to express lesbian desire, refuges from male oppression, and sites of political protest. For me, they show the empowering potential of organising and living away from men. As long as patriarchal societies dominate, we shouldn’t be surprised to see women continue to create and turn to such spaces for support, safety, and solidarity.</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-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </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 Equality Ideas women's movements women and power violence against women patriarchy feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Sian Norris Thu, 02 Nov 2017 10:47:38 +0000 Sian Norris 114378 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Tracking the backlash: why we're investigating the 'anti-rights' opposition https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/tracking-the-backlash <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Growing and globalising networks of conservative and fundamentalist groups are pushing back against our sexual and reproductive rights. Help us investigate.</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/tracking backlash.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/tracking backlash.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Women’s rights and the rights of LGBTQ individuals are under threat in countries around the world. Growing and globalising networks of conservative and fundamentalist groups are pushing back against our sexual and reproductive rights. Who are they, and where does their money and power come from? What specific strategies are they using, and with what impact?</p><p dir="ltr">50.50 is a uniquely global, independent media platform for in-depth coverage of gender, sexuality and social justice, worldwide. Today, we need this space to be bolder than ever. We need truly fearless feminist media to investigate and expose threats to our rights&nbsp;<span>–&nbsp;</span>and how to resist them.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">'We need truly fearless feminist media to investigate and expose threats to our rights&nbsp;<span>–&nbsp;</span>and how to resist them.'</p><p>This year, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/tracking-backlash">we’ve begun to investigate</a> how conservative and fundamentalist actors, from different faiths, and from around the world, are joining international “anti-rights” alliances to try to block or roll back progress on sexual and reproductive rights.&nbsp;</p><p>This is complicated, delicate work. Many of these interconnected groups have seemingly deep pockets, long-term strategic plans and community organisers across the globe, often ‘weaponising’ the infrastructure of religious organisations and making agile, creative use of online communications.</p><p dir="ltr">In May <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost/global-anti-abortion-lgbt-rights">we reported on the 11th World Congress of Families summit</a>, where hundreds of anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ activists and their political allies gathered in Budapest, Hungary for four days of talks and workshops “to unite and equip leaders to promote the natural family.”</p><p dir="ltr">Speakers at the Budapest summit were explicit: this means a married mother and father and their children. They name-checked fights against comprehensive sexuality education, abortion, same-sex marriage, “gender ideology,” and surrogacy. One emphasised: “this is a war.”</p><h2><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&amp;id=27">Donate to 50.50</a>: every £1 goes into more in-depth and critical journalism, commentary and analysis from women around the globe.</em></h2><p dir="ltr">We also zoomed in on the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost/re-branding-hate-family-friendly">communications strategies of ultra-conservative groups</a> at the summit and how they are increasingly using the language of human rights activists to organise under a “family friendly” banner – with seemingly worrying success.</p><p dir="ltr">We looked at <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/observatory-on-universality-of-rights/fundamentalism-united-nations">how to fight anti-rights fundamentalism at the United Nations</a>, publishing an extract from the first report of the Observatory on the Universality of Rights, a new initiative of women's rights organisations. It sounded the alarm on the growing influence of these groups at the highest levels of international decision-making.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In Italy, we saw how the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claudia-torrisi/abortion-italy-conscientious-objection">widespread use of “conscientious objection”</a> to abortion can restrict our rights and threaten our health even in countries where it has been legal for decades. Journalist Claudia Torrisi found that as many as seven out of ten Italian gynecologists refuse to perform abortions.</p><h2><em>See all stories in the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/tracking-backlash">tracking the backlash</a>&nbsp;series.</em></h2><p dir="ltr">This is a trend that we will continue to follow: the use of ‘religious freedom’ arguments to push back against women’s reproductive rights. Some “anti-rights” groups run training camps on how to use strategies like these.</p><p dir="ltr">Helping us to develop this series is investigative journalist Lara Whyte, who has joined 50.50 as a commissioning editor focused on special projects and our <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/tracking-backlash">tracking the backlash</a> investigation.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">This summer she wrote two stories about <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/lara-whyte/the-rise-of-citizengo">the tactics of ultra-conservative Spanish group CitizenGo</a>, including how it used the tragedy of an infant’s terminal illness to launch a viral campaign for ‘parental rights.'</p><p dir="ltr">In September, Whyte reported on anti-abortion campaigners in Ireland and how they are <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lara-whyte/young-women-leading-ireland-campaign-against-abortion">successfully recruiting young, articulate millennial women into fighting</a>&nbsp;potential changes to Irish laws that would open the doors to reproductive justice.</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/Lara ireland article_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Lara ireland article_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="301" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Last month, US social worker and sex-positive feminist blogger Feminista Jones wrote about how <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/feminista-jones/anti-abortion-extremists-exploiting-blacklivesmatter">anti-abortion extremists are exploiting #BlackLivesMatter to vilify African-American women</a>. This shows how “fighting anti-choice campaigns requires more than a gendered approach – reproductive justice demands direct anti-racist work too,” she said.</p><p dir="ltr">Upcoming pieces include reports from Mexico and Romania and investigations into how the backlash against our rights is taking place online, as well as offline. </p><p dir="ltr">Anti-rights groups appear to be using the internet and social media to organise and radicalise supporters in innovative and cynical new ways, hijacking conversations and spreading misinformation and emotionally-manipulative narratives to specially-targeted audiences vulnerable to extremism.</p><p>As feminist investigative journalists, our goal is to track but ultimately disrupt this backlash against our rights. We aim to reveal how these groups work at local, regional and international levels, and the impact they are having; to puncture false narratives with facts, and to help gather the information women need to effectively mount resistances.</p><p>Join us, and watch this space.&nbsp;</p><h2><em><a href="mailto:5050@opendemocracy.net">Contact us</a> with story tips and ideas for this series.</em>&nbsp;</h2><h2><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.us1.list-manage.com/subscribe/post?u=9c663f765f28cdb71116aa9ac&amp;id=89d6c8b9eb">Subscribe to</a> </em><em>our monthly newsletter.</em></h2><h2><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&amp;id=27"></a></em></h2><h2><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&amp;id=27">Donate to 50.50</a>: every £1 goes into more in-depth and critical journalism, commentary and analysis from women around the globe.</em></h2><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/write-for-opendemocracy-5050">Pitch your story to 50.50</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 Tracking the backlash women's movements women's human rights women's health women and power sexual identities gender fundamentalisms feminism bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter young feminists Lara Whyte Claire Provost Wed, 01 Nov 2017 08:43:43 +0000 Claire Provost and Lara Whyte 113924 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Young women mobilise against ‘revenge porn’ and online abuse https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claudia-williams/young-women-mobilise-against-revenge-porn-online-abuse <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Survivors of cyber attacks and young feminist digital rights activists tell of the damage done by this violence – and why they’re fighting back.</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/563303/32647325663_7df19ad7fc_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Emma Holten."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/32647325663_7df19ad7fc_k.jpg" alt="Emma Holten." title="Emma Holten." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Emma Holten, from Denmark, in March 2017. Photo: United Nations Development Programme. Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>In 2011, someone hacked into then 20-year old, University of Copenhagen student Emma Holten’s email account. Her private photographs and personal information were stolen and uploaded onto the internet, for all to see, along with the message: “Ruin This Bitch’s Life”.</span></p><p dir="ltr">People around the world suddenly had access to naked images of Holten, her contact details, workplace, a Google street-view image of her house, and the names of family members. She received hundreds of sexually explicit messages, rape and death threats, and extortion attempts.</p><p dir="ltr">A form of sexual assault, ‘revenge porn’ – sharing sexually explicit images without consent – is also a crime against privacy, Holten told me. Now a digital human rights and feminist activist, she says such crimes depend “on social structures that devalue women’s humanity.”</p><p dir="ltr">I spoke with Holten following her talk at the <a href="http://www.womenlobby.org/HerNetHerRights">#HerNetHerRights</a> online conference earlier this month, organised by the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), and funded by Google, which brought researchers, activists, survivors of online violence together. </p><p dir="ltr">During the conference, Holten said she still faces the consequences of her cyber attack on a daily basis, and continues to receive graphic abuse. It remains a factor in every decision she makes. She describes feeling “extremely vulnerable” in real life, as well as online.</p><p dir="ltr">Holten explained how such abuse is constantly reproduced on the internet. “Non-consensual pornography is never linear. It’s not seven years ago that this happened to me – if someone uploads it to a new site, it happened yesterday.”</p><p dir="ltr">As a result, she said there is no space to gain distance or start healing. “In a way, I will forever be 17 years old, and naked in my boyfriend’s bedroom."</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“In a way, I will forever be 17 years old, and naked in my boyfriend’s bedroom.”</p><p dir="ltr">While shocking, Holten’s story is not unique. According<a href="http://eige.europa.eu/rdc/eige-publications/cyber-violence-against-women-and-girls"> to research</a> released this year by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), cyber violence is a growing global problem, which disproportionately affects women and girls.</p><p dir="ltr">Such violence includes non-consensual pornography, or<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jul/15/revenge-porn-cases-increase-police-figures-reveal"> ‘revenge porn’</a>, cyber stalking and sexual harassment. Misogynistic abuse may also combine with racism, homophobia, transphobia and other forms of discrimination online.</p><p dir="ltr">Survivors have found little recourse in courts and official institutions. There have been <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2013/07/31/world/europe/italy-facebook-suicide/index.html">several reports</a> of <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-37380704">suicide of victims</a>. Many rely on the work of charities – and young women across the world are starting to take action themselves.</p><p dir="ltr">Pierrette Pape is policy and campaigns director of the EWL, and coordinator of the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/hernetherrights">#HerNetHerRights</a> project, which aims to “take stock of the reality of online violence against women and girls.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Activism gives the collective strength and opportunity to make policy and social change,” Pape told me. “By building campaigns and mobilising their peers, young women want to make sure that society is respectful of their rights, offline and online.”</p><p dir="ltr">The EIGE report describes an “inadequate” response to online violence from law and policy makers across Europe. In the UK – considered an example of “good practice” – of 1,160 cases of revenge porn reported in 2015, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37278264">61% saw no action taken</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Tech companies, including Google, have also been <a href="https://techcrunch.com/2017/10/12/twitters-abuse-problem-is-absolutely-a-failure-of-leadership/">criticised</a> for<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/aug/22/uk-considers-internet-ombudsman-to-deal-with-abuse-complaints"> not doing enough</a> to support victims or combat abuse.</p><p>Meanwhile, with each new tech development – such as the option to live-broadcast on social media – comes the possibility of new forms of cyber violence. This year, Facebook ‘live’ was used in widely-reported cases in <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38717186">Sweden</a> and the<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/chicago-teenager-gang-rape-facebook-live-video-dozens-watched-a7642866.html"> US</a> to share real-time, streaming footage of rape.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">with each new tech development – such as the option to live-broadcast on social media – comes the possibility of new forms of cyber violence</p><p dir="ltr">Negin Nazem Zorromodi is a 20 year old IT student and youth activist for girls, based in Stockholm. She told me that awareness of how cyberattacks happen – including via spyware and ‘keylogging’ – is the most powerful strategy against them.</p><p dir="ltr">At the #HerNetHerRights conference, she also talked about supporting girls who have experienced online crimes. “Our job is to listen and to make sure to tell them that it is never their fault,” she said.</p><p dir="ltr">Some suggest that victims of online abuse ‘simply’ turn off their computers, or block perpetrators. Others insist that women have a<a href="https://www.article19.org/data/files/Internet_Statement_Adopted.pdf"> human right to safe digital space</a> and that internet access is a<a href="https://www.one.org/us/2015/09/26/the-connectivity-declaration-demanding-internet-access-for-all-and-implementation-of-the-global-goals/"> modern economic necessity</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">It’s also not easy to disconnect, or disrupt, online abuse. New accounts and domains can be made with ease. Online violence may be connected to offline violence. Internet harassment may be related to<a href="http://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2014/violence-against-women-eu-wide-survey-main-results-report"> ‘real life’ domestic violence</a> or bullying.</p><p dir="ltr">Zorromodi gave an example of a woman who found spyware – which can secretly gather information, without your knowledge – installed on her phone by an ex-partner. By blocking notifications, he had been controlling her real life relationships.</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/HNHR Conference Panel 1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Screenshot."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/HNHR Conference Panel 1.png" alt="Screenshot from the #HerNetHerRights online conference, October 2017." title="Screenshot." width="460" height="229" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot from the #HerNetHerRights online conference, October 2017.</span></span></span>But young women around the world are also using the internet to develop grassroots or independent movements for their rights.</p><p dir="ltr">At the #HerNetHerRights conference, Sodfa Daaji, 24 – an activist for women's rights in Italy and Tunisia, working with the Afrika Youth Movement and the EWL – noted that the internet can play a positive role in enabling victims and activists to share stories and strategies.</p><p dir="ltr">This year, in response to the online racist and sexist “vitriol, recycled hate and scrutiny” received by British politician<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/14/racism-misogyny-politics-online-abuse-minorities"> Diane Abbott</a>, Sophie Duker, 27, organised a<a href="https://www.gofundme.com/dianeabbottcarepackage"> gofundme page</a> for a “Diane Abbott Care Package”. The 606 participants raised nearly £6,000.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2014, three years after she was hacked, Holten published an<a href="http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:S-aZzUsTZtEJ:www.hystericalfeminisms.com/voices1/2016/10/16/consent+&amp;cd=1&amp;hl=en&amp;ct=clnk&amp;gl=uk"> online essay</a> and photo series entitled CONSENT.<a href="http://ceciliebodker.com/consent/"> The images</a>, taken by Danish photographer and activist Cecilie Bødker, show Holten in her home, in various states of nakedness.</p><p dir="ltr">Holten says the treatment of revenge porn victims is at odds with general societal attitudes towards sex in Denmark. “We talk extremely liberally about sexuality and nakedness…how could it be that a picture of a naked person was still so taboo?”</p><p dir="ltr">Non-consensual pornography, CONSENT highlights, is not about naked women. Attackers specifically want to share images without permission: it is the unwilling participation of victims which is considered erotic. </p><p dir="ltr">Holten told me: “I didn’t really feel ashamed that people saw my breasts, but I felt ashamed that I hadn’t got the right to decide."</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“I didn’t really feel ashamed that people saw my breasts, but I felt ashamed that I hadn’t got the right to decide.”</p><p dir="ltr">The CONSENT project went<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/video/2015/jan/21/naked-pictures-this-is-what-i-did-revenge-porn-emma-holten-video"> viral</a>. This year, Danish law changed, so that perpetrators of non-consensual pornography may face two years rather than six months in prison. “Victims will not meet the same world that I met,” Holten believes.</p><p dir="ltr">As an activist, Holten says she finds speaking at high schools most effective, visiting three or four each week – though notes that she does not find it productive to vilify young people who share non-consensual pictures. </p><p dir="ltr">In her experience, many participants in this abuse do not see it as such, but rather akin to a joke or “reality show”. Humiliation, she believes, is core to much of the entertainment many young people consume. </p><p dir="ltr">“I think we have to look at the structures that have created children who gain respect in their social circles by being the best to ridicule other people,” she told me. Online search algorithms, that prioritise popularity over content, also play a role, she added.</p><p dir="ltr">The person who hacked Holten’s email account has never been identified. Her activism against online abuse has “an incredible sadness connected to it,” she said, but: “channeling that sadness into criticism has been basic for my survival.”</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/ella-milburn/supernova-project-lgbtq-domestic-abuse">Can a feminist tech collective help end the silence around LGBTQ+ domestic abuse?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/tiffany-mugo/digital-future-of-sex">Coitus and conversation: the digital realm is taking sex to new levels</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 Can Europe make it? World Forum for Democracy 2017 violence against women 50.50 newsletter young feminists Claudia Williams Mon, 30 Oct 2017 08:00:44 +0000 Claudia Williams 114243 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In pictures: Chouftouhonna – a North African feminist festival https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nora-silva/in-pictures-chouftouhonna-feminist-festival <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This unique arts festival began in 2015, in post-revolutionary&nbsp;Tunisia. This year it challenged patriarchy, gender roles, and class privileges.</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/563303/1festival_image.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Chouftouhonna festival."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/1festival_image.jpg" alt="Chouftouhonna festival." title="Chouftouhonna festival." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Chouftouhonna festival. Photo: Narjes Chebbi. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Chouftouhonna is a unique feminist arts festival, launched in 2015 as a grassroots initiative in post-revolutionary&nbsp;Tunisia. Created by and for women, this year it challenged gender roles, patriarchy – and class privileges.</p> <p>The 2017 event was held in September, in the Tunisian National Theater, a palace in the working class neighbourhood of the <em>medina</em>, or old city, in Tunis. This location was chosen to send a message about class privileges, but also about the elite cis-male monopoly on the arts.</p> <p>Chouftouhonna is the only festival of its kind in the region. This year it brought together more than 250 women and women-identifying artists from more than 50 different countries. There were exhibitions, screenings, live performances, workshops and lectures on feminist issues.</p><hr /><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/2festival_image_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="At the Chouftouhonna festival."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/2festival_image_1.jpg" alt="At the Chouftouhonna festival, on the roof." title="At the Chouftouhonna festival." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>At the Chouftouhonna festival, on the roof. Photo: Ons Jalel. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Jalila Baccar, one of the festival’s jury members, looks at the program on the roof of the Tunisian National Theater. The festival was attended by a diverse mix of people including artists and residents of the <em>medina</em>.</p> <p>A percussion workshop was held on the roof. Two elderly local residents told one of the organisers that attending the festival was the first time they had ever entered the elite cultural venue.</p><hr /><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/3festival_image_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Tunisian performance artist Gluco Mania."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/3festival_image_2.jpg" alt="Tunisian performance artist Gluco Mania." title="Tunisian performance artist Gluco Mania." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tunisian performance artist Gluco Mania. Photo: Ahlem Metoui. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Tunisian performance artist&nbsp;Gluco Mania&nbsp;performed her first public project, "Chairy-tale" at the festival. A metaphor for human relationships told through her interaction with a chair, it received unanimous applause.</p><hr /><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/4festival_image_3_resized.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="At Chouftouhonna’s fanzine workshop."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/4festival_image_3_resized.png" alt="At Chouftouhonna’s fanzine workshop." title="At Chouftouhonna’s fanzine workshop." width="460" height="354" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>At Chouftouhonna’s fanzine workshop. Photo: Salma Agrebi. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>At one workshop participants produced “fanzines”, self-made magazines that are essential political, social and cultural tools in Tunisia today. Such independent media allows women to document feminist struggles as well as to claim space in the media that is rarely given to them.</p><hr /><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/5festival_image_4.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="The Italian artist Senith."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/5festival_image_4.jpg" alt="The Italian artist Senith." title="The Italian artist Senith." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Italian artist Senith. Photo: Chaima Sayeh. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The Italian artist&nbsp;Senith performed her cabaret “Drag queer show" at the&nbsp;festival, challenging patriarchal domination and the criminalisation of people with non-normative sexualities. Her performance was the only one during which many audience members left the room, reflecting the need for such questioning.</p><hr /><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/6festival_image_5_resized.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="At the football workshop."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/6festival_image_5_resized.png" alt="At the football workshop." title="At the football workshop." width="460" height="354" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>At the football workshop. Photo: Salma Agrebi. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Women in Tunisia have extremely limited access to sports and to football in particular, though they can be effective tools to challenge social and family pressure around gender roles. Jamie Zulauf led a women’s football workshop, where many participants played the sport for the first time. She worked with them on developing body confidence, and encouraged them to think of football as a mirror of society, and take their rightful place in it.</p><hr /><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/7festival_image_6_resized.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="At a festival discussion."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/7festival_image_6_resized.png" alt="At a festival discussion." title="At a festival discussion." width="460" height="354" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>At a festival discussion. Chaima Dridi. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The festival also brought academics together including Nada Hasan, from Egypt, and Nidal Azhari, from Morocco, to discuss problems with the normative gendering of bodies, and ways to challenge this. In one session, panellists talked about Amazigh matriarchal societies, and Nubian societies of Egypt, among other things.</p><hr /><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/8festival_image_9_resized.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="At the last session of the festival."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/8festival_image_9_resized.png" alt="At the last session of the festival." title="At the last session of the festival." width="460" height="354" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>At the last session of the festival. Photo: Chaima Sayeh. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Nicoletta Nesler, Italian director of the film Lunàdigas, winner of a festival prize for cinema, at Chouftouhonna's final discussion. The group conversation “started off with more conceptual issues such as representations of violence and differences of fiction and documentary ... [and] ended with artists getting to their more personal stories, recounting episodes of violence they experienced within their families," said facilitator Anna Antonakis.</p><hr /><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/9festival_image_10.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="At the festival&#039;s closing ceremony."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/9festival_image_10.jpg" alt="At the festival's closing ceremony." title="At the festival&#039;s closing ceremony." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>At the festival's closing ceremony. Photo: Narjes Chebbi. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>At the festival’s closing ceremony, actors Wissal Labidi, Marwa Mannai and Nesrine Mouelhi paid tribute to the late Tunisian actor and director Raja Ben Ammar – who was also director of the Mad'Art Carthage space, which hosted the first two editions of Chouftouhonna. They recalled how she had always pushed them to ask questions.</p> <p><strong><a href="https://www.awid.org/news-and-analysis/photo-essay-claiming-space-north-african-feminist-festival">* </a><em><a href="https://www.awid.org/news-and-analysis/photo-essay-claiming-space-north-african-feminist-festival">This is an edited version of a photo essay first published on Awid.org</a>.</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/kiran-stallone-julia-zulver/in-pictures-daily-life-farc-demobilisation">In pictures: female FARC fighters&#039; daily lives in a demobilisation camp</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/valeria-costa-kostritsky/in-pictures-london-latin-market">In pictures: life at London’s latin market, under threat from developers</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"> Tunisia </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"> 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 North-Africa West-Asia Tunisia Culture Equality patriarchy gender feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Nora Silva Fri, 27 Oct 2017 07:52:31 +0000 Nora Silva 114238 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Young feminists: the future belongs to us, not transnational corporations https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/felogene-anumo/young-feminists-corporate-impunity-treaty <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Corporate impunity impacts young women and girls disproportionately. Young feminists must join the growing mobilisation for a UN treaty on transnational corporations and human rights.</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/RS1260_YFA Day - participants.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Participants at the Young Feminist Activist Conference, 2011."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/RS1260_YFA Day - participants.jpg" alt="Participants at the Young Feminist Activist Conference, 2011." title="Participants at the Young Feminist Activist Conference, 2011." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Participants at the Young Feminist Activist Conference, 2011. Photo: Nelly Bassily/AWID.</span></span></span>This week in Geneva, members of a United Nations intergovernmental working group are discussing a long-awaited, legally binding treaty to regulate the human rights impacts of transnational corporations.&nbsp; </p><p dir="ltr">It’s about time. Today, power inequalities between states and corporations are vast. Out of the <a href="http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/news/2016/sep/12/10-biggest-corporations-make-more-money-most-countries-world-combined">top 100 global economic entities, 69 are corporations, 31 are countries</a>. The combined revenues of the ten biggest corporations surpass those of more than 180 countries. Corporations are claiming responsibility for delivering public goods and global development goals, gaining access to new resources and powers through public-private partnerships (PPPs).</p><p dir="ltr">These are key issues for all young feminists. Consolidated corporate power and <a href="https://www.escr-net.org/corporateaccountability/corporatecapture">corporate capture</a> have disproportionate impacts on young women and girls. The privatisation of public services, particularly in education and health care, has increased inequalities and compromised quality, adding to the obstacles that young women, trans youth and girls face in accessing their rights.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Consolidated corporate power and&nbsp;corporate capture&nbsp;have disproportionate impacts on young women and girls.</p><p dir="ltr">In countries including&nbsp;<a href="http://depts.washington.edu/sphnet/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Coovadia.pdf">South Africa</a>, when family planning services were privatised amid wider neoliberal reforms we saw the systematic introduction of user fees including on essential maternity care, assisted reproduction, abortion, and other gynaecological services. Many lost access to such services as a result, leading to<a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/press-releases/2017/01/south-africa-women-and-girls-risk-unsafe-abortions-after-being-denied-legal-services/"> unacceptably high rates of unsafe abortion</a> and harmful self-treatment regimens.</p><p dir="ltr">Growing corporate influence on governments has also meant that national and international legislation privileges corporate interests, for example, in labour laws. Young people are disproportionately impacted by the results –&nbsp;including deplorable working conditions, lack of access to quality public services, and failures to recognise unpaid and low-paid care work.</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/IMG_20171023_163846_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Inna Michaeli."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_20171023_163846_0.jpg" alt="Inna Michaeli." title="Inna Michaeli." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Inna Michaeli from AWID reading a statement on behalf of the #Feminists4BindingTreaty in Geneva, October 2017. Photo: Alex del Rey.</span></span></span>The plight of young migrant workers in the garment sector is a well-known example of the disposability and commodification of women’s labour; <a href="http://www.feminist.org/other/sweatshops/sweatfaq.html">85% of sweatshop workers</a> are women between 15-25 years old. There is industry-wide eagerness in the media, fashion and the arts, and increasingly across sectors, to rely on the ‘precarious’ and poorly-compensated labour of young women.</p><p dir="ltr">According to International Trade Union Confederation <a href="http://www.ituc-csi.org/new-ituc-report-exposes-hidden?lang=en">research</a>, only 6% of workers in the global supply chains of 50 large multinational companies are direct employees. Others are part of a “hidden workforce.” Significantly, precarious work prevents young workers from joining unions that could help them access needed labour protections.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">85% of sweatshop workers&nbsp;are women between 15-25 years old</p><p dir="ltr">Illicit financial flows (IFFs) also have a <a href="https://www.awid.org/publications/illicit-financial-flows-why-we-should-claim-these-resources-gender-economic-and-social">disproportionate gender impact</a>, draining critical resources that could otherwise be allocated for the advancement of women’s human rights – a point emphasised at the first ever African Feminist Macroeconomic Academy, held in Johannesburg last week.</p><p dir="ltr">IFFs from Africa result in estimated losses of over $50 billion per year – with 65% of these due to <a href="http://femnet.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Factsheet-on-Gender-and-IFFs-by-FEMNET-2017.pdf">commercial tax evasion and tax avoidance</a>, including the transfer of income to tax havens. Current legal and political frameworks allow multinational corporations to benefit from tax abuse to the detriment of people and the planet.</p><p dir="ltr">We are living in times when it is deadly to take a stand against corporations encroaching on land and destroying the environment. According to a 2016 report by<a href="https://www.globalwitness.org/en-gb/campaigns/environmental-activists/defenders-earth/"> Defenders of the Earth</a>, at least four environmental and land defenders are murdered each week.</p><p dir="ltr">In Honduras, environmental defender and indigenous leader Berta Cáceres was murdered last year. This year, Bertha Zúniga Cáceres, her 26-year-old daughter, survived an attempted attack by a assailants wielding machetes.</p><p dir="ltr">Young women human rights defenders continue to face violent attacks as they defend the environment and the rights to land of indigenous peoples and rural communities. Many more face daily threats.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">We have the most to gain from ending corporate impunity.</p><p dir="ltr">A path to ending corporate abuses is now visible, including this week’s discussions in Geneva. But states must also address gender-specific impacts of business activities.</p><p dir="ltr">Feminist demands include: addressing corporate tax evasion as a violation of human rights, including women’s rights; holding corporations accountable for environmental destruction and lowered labour standards and working conditions; and respecting and protecting the work of women human rights defenders.</p><p dir="ltr">Young feminists must join the growing mobilisation for a binding UN treaty on transnational corporations and human rights. We have the most to gain from ending corporate impunity.</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/felogene-anumo-and-valerie-bah/four-lessons-african-feminist-organising">&quot;The revolution will not be NGO-ised&quot;: four lessons from African feminist organising</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's movements women's human rights women and power gendered poverty feminism 50.50 newsletter women's work young feminists Felogene Anumo Tue, 24 Oct 2017 11:46:53 +0000 Felogene Anumo 114203 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Can a feminist tech collective help end the silence around LGBTQ+ domestic abuse? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ella-milburn/supernova-project-lgbtq-domestic-abuse <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Supernova Project is a new online platform that aims to provide crucial information and support to those in queer relationships.</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/563363/Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 8.16.39 PM.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 8.16.39 PM.png" 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'>The Supernova Project. / supernovaproject.org</span></span></span>Marco (a pseudonym), had always been confident, talkative and strong-minded. So, when he first told his friends that he thought he was experiencing domestic abuse, he says no one could believe him. “At the beginning, they think you're crazy,” Marco told me. “Everybody was like, that's not true, it's impossible that someone is doing that to you.”</p><p dir="ltr">The abuse started with "stupid things...so I was accomodating," he said. Soon, “I had to ask him what to do all the time, because I was afraid something was going to happen after. I stopped going out, [I was] at home all the time," he continued. "At a restaurant, I had to ask him what I wanted to eat, just in case he would getting angry.”</p><p dir="ltr">Marco, now 36, was living in Spain in 2009 when, two years into his relationship, he realised that he needed help. He searched for support online, but came up empty-handed. </p><p dir="ltr">Everything, he said, appeared targeted to people in heterosexual relationships. “I was in a male-male relationship. I couldn't find anything related to me, where I was like 'oh yeah, this is what is happening to me', I'm going to call this place, or something, to see if they can help me.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Everybody was like, that's not true, it's impossible that someone is doing that to you.”</p><p dir="ltr">But Marco was far from alone in what he was going through. Stonewall – a British charity campaigning for LGBT equality – <a href="http://www.stonewall.org.uk/help-advice/criminal-law/domestic-violence">reports</a> that nearly 50% of gay and bisexual men in the UK, and up to <a href="http://www.scottishtrans.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/trans_domestic_abuse.pdf">80%</a> of trans people, have experienced some form of domestic abuse.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">One in four lesbian and bisexual women have experienced domestic abuse, it adds, with two thirds reporting that the perpetrator was a woman.</p><p dir="ltr">In the US, other&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_sofindings.pdf">figures</a> suggest that more than 40% of lesbian and 60% of bisexual women have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, and 30% of lesbian and 50% of bisexual women have suffered “severe physical violence” from a partner.</p><p dir="ltr">It's difficult, with the data available, to tell whether such abuse is more common in queer or heterosexual relationships. The UK government <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/compendium/focusonviolentcrimeandsexualoffences/yearendingmarch2016/domesticabusesexualassaultandstalking">estimates</a> that 26% of women and 14% of men have experienced domestic abuse since the age of 16, without specifying sexual orientation.</p><p>What is clear, is that domestic abuse and violence is an LGBT issue too – despite the fact that most of the stories we hear are about a woman facing abuse at the hands of a man. While there is growing awareness that men may also experience abuse, at the hands of women, such issues in queer relationships are still rarely spoken about.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">‘If no one’s talking about queer relationships, how do you know you’re in a healthy one?"</span></p><p dir="ltr">Why is this the case, and what can be done about it? These are the questions that a unique, feminist, open-source tech collective called Chayn (pronounced Chan) has set out to address. Their <a href="http://supernovaproject.org/">Supernova Project</a> launched in July to tackle the silence and lack of information around abuse in queer relationships with a new online platform. </p><p dir="ltr">In the UK, <a href="http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2016/06/04/lgbt-domestic-violence-charity-broken-rainbow-shutting-down/">Broken Rainbow</a>, a charity offering specialist support to LGBT victims of domestic abuse and violence, shut down in 2016. LGBTQ+ anti-violence charity <a href="http://www.galop.org.uk/">Galop</a> has compiled domestic abuse resources and details about services, but it has little information beyond <a href="http://www.galop.org.uk/domesticabuse/">London</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">This summer, Supernova Project team member Maryam Amjad <a href="https://medium.com/hack-for-chayn/the-supernova-project-do-you-know-what-abuse-looks-like-in-a-queer-relationship-bcd23df1bc32">described</a> the problem like this: ‘"f no one’s talking about queer relationships, how do you know you’re in a healthy one?"</p><p dir="ltr">Marco has first-hand experience with the silence around these issues. Same-sex marriage was legalised in Spain in 2005, “but it’s still a Catholic country,” he said. “Talking with some people, just saying that I was gay, they would look at me differently, so obviously… I'm not going to continue, saying I think I'm having domestic abuse.”</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/563363/Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 8.27.02 PM.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 8.27.02 PM.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="216" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot of The Supernova Project's 'Queer Abuse' section. / supernovaproject.org</span></span></span>Chayn is entirely volunteer-run. Michelle Parfitt has been leading the planning and coordination of the Supernova Project, from working on ways to gather content to building and designing the site.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“If you don't hear about something, and if you don't think that people are talking about something, it's also a lot harder to identify it,” she said, about the problem the project is trying to address. Certain abusive patterns only occur within queer relationships, she added.</p><p dir="ltr">“Using the threat of 'outing' as a way to control someone, isolating someone within the queer community, or hiding your relationship as a way to manipulate your partner – if you find content online about heterosexual relationships, you won't come across these things.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Using the threat of 'outing' as a way to control someone…if you find content online about heterosexual relationships, you won't come across these things.”</p><p dir="ltr">The Supernova Project hopes to combat this using Chayn’s ‘design with, not for’ principle; the platform is working with queer domestic abuse survivors to directly inform its content. </p><p dir="ltr">Different pages on the online platform give in-depth information about different queer identities, so that it is specialist and tailored to different LGBTQ+ experiences of abuse. </p><p dir="ltr">On the page for <a href="http://supernovaproject.org/index.php/queer-abuse/same-sex-female/">female-female relationships</a>, it debunks the myth that “butch” or "masculine" women are more capable of abusive behaviour. In content dedicated to <a href="http://supernovaproject.org/index.php/queer-abuse/transgender-woman/">transgender experiences</a>, it warns that “intentionally triggering gender dysphoria” is a potential form of emotional abuse.</p><p dir="ltr">The project invites users to share their own stories. This means that it will evolve and expand, Parfitt said. “We want to make sure that there isn't too much distance between us and the people who we're trying to help.”</p><p dir="ltr">At Durham University, PhD student Kate Butterworth has been researching police response to same-sex partner abuse in England and Wales. She said officers tend to be “unaware of LGBT-specific support for victims … and would refer them to non-specialist organisations.”</p><p dir="ltr">A platform like the Supernova Project, she suggested, could be useful in this context, and “could be used by the police, to suggest to victims.”</p><p dir="ltr">Parfitt says the project wants to work on search engine optimisation along with offline outreach, “to organisations who are going to be in contact with people on the ground; universities, support systems, and wellbeing centres.”</p><p dir="ltr">“You want the right people to find it at the right time,” she explained. Though this is not a simple task. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“You want the right people to find it at the right time.”</p><p dir="ltr">Marco heard about the Supernova Project through a friend. He agreed that was an important initiative, and wanted to support it. </p><p dir="ltr">He says it had taken him years to realise unequivocally that he was in an abusive relationship. By that point, his partner was so controlling, that “there was only one friend I was allowed to talk to. And by allow I mean allow – because he had a list of people I couldn't talk to.”</p><p dir="ltr">“He had all my passwords, he was checking my emails continuously, when he was arriving home he was getting onto my phone to see what I was texting, who I was texting, everything,” Marco said. “I feel like I lost four years of my life.” </p><p dir="ltr">Could a new online platform actually make a difference to those struggling with such abuse? Marco suggests the answer is yes. If there had been more discussion, and information, about these issues, he says, "I suppose for me it would have been easier, from the beginning, to be stronger.”</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/tiffany-mugo/digital-future-of-sex">Coitus and conversation: the digital realm is taking sex to new levels</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/tiffany-kagure-mugo/domestic-violence-lesbian-relationships">Look that monster dead in the face: tackling domestic violence in lesbian relationships</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"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </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 Equality Internet violence against women Sexual violence sexual identities 50.50 newsletter young feminists Ella Milburn Mon, 23 Oct 2017 09:36:42 +0000 Ella Milburn 113579 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Harvey Weinstein: Italian media coverage of the scandal has been predictably outrageous https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claudia-torrisi/italian-media-harvey-weinstein-asia-argento <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Italian media has failed, once again, to focus on systems of power and abuse. Actress Asia Argento has been treated particularly harshly.&nbsp;</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/PA-10712278.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Harvey Weinstein."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-10712278.jpg" alt="Harvey Weinstein." title="Harvey Weinstein." width="460" height="314" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Harvey Weinstein at the "Fk Me I'm Famous Party" in Cannes, May 2011. Photo: Bellak Rachid/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Over the last two weeks, Harvey Weinstein –&nbsp;co-founder of Miramax studios and one of the most powerful men in Hollywood – has been accused of using his power and his position to sexually assault and harass dozens of women who worked with him: assistants, employees and actresses.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s also become clear that concerns about Weinstein's actions were <a href="http://digg.com/2017/harvey-weinstein-jokes-macfarlane-fey">known</a> in the industry, but that they went largely unspoken, and unchallenged. As if Weinstein was too powerful to touch.</p><p dir="ltr">The scandal has attracted worldwide attention –&nbsp;particularly in Italy. One of Weinstein’s named accusers is Italian actress and director Asia Argento.</p><p dir="ltr">Argento told<a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/from-aggressive-overtures-to-sexual-assault-harvey-weinsteins-accusers-tell-their-stories"> The New Yorker</a> that she has been sexually assaulted by Weinstein in an hotel room in 1997, when she was 21. She described how the incident marked her for life, and how she felt that she had to continue sexual relations with him for several years afterwards. She said she did not speak out before out of fear that Weinstein would “crush” her.</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/PA-13570269.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Asia Argento"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-13570269.jpg" alt="Asia Argento." title="Asia Argento" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Asia Argento in Cannes, May 2012. Photo: Hahn-Marechal-Nebinger/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The Italian media has devoted significant space to the scandal –&nbsp;but they have failed, once again, to focus on the alleged perpetrator, and the systems of power and abuse that run through Hollywood and work environments everywhere.</p><p>Instead, media scrutiny has fallen on the victims. Argento has been treated particularly –&nbsp;but predictably –&nbsp;harshly by our newspapers, focusing on her own behaviour, describing her as an opportunist, and questioning why she had waited so long to come forward.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>A flurry of social media users criticised Argento, as did prominent Italian media personalities. Former politician and TV host Vladimir Luxuria<a href="https://twitter.com/vladiluxuria/status/918030593417531392"> blamed</a> her for not reporting the alleged assault earlier, and for not “saying no to Weinstein as other actresses did”.</p><p>Media commentator Selvaggia Lucarelli <a href="https://www.facebook.com/selvaggia.lucarelli/posts/10154959667680983">wrote</a> on her Facebook page that “harassment is horrendous but it is not sexual violence,” adding that it is not “legitimate” to complain “after 20 years to a US newspaper, about your relationships as an adult consensual woman… depicting these as ‘abuses’.”</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center" style="color: #666666; font-size: 22px; font-weight: bold; text-align: center;">'The Italian media have failed, once again, to focus on the alleged perpetrator and the systems of power and abuse that run through Hollywood and work environments everywhere.'</span></p><p>Alessandro Sallusti, editor in chief of the right-wing newspaper Il Giornale, <a href="https://twitter.com/MatrixCanale5/status/918236764728385536?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&amp;ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fthesubmarine.it%2F2017%2F10%2F12%2Fasia-argento-weinstein%2F">stated</a> on the current events TV programme Matrix that reporting the incident now “is cowardice. You are not a victim, you are a partner in crime.”</p><p>Veteran journalist and writer Natalia Aspesi –&nbsp;who describes herself as feminist –&nbsp;<a href="https://www.vanityfair.it/news/approfondimenti/2017/10/11/weinstein-commento-natalia-aspesi">said</a> that if Weinstein asked Argento for a massage “and you gave it to him, then it is difficult to be shocked by the evolution of events.”</p><p>“In these accusations there is a fundamental insincerity,” Apesi continued. “They are late laments, a chorus that does not take into account the reality of facts that producers, since I have memories of similar stories, have always acted like this.”</p><p>One of the worst attacks against Asia Argento came from the right-wing newspaper Libero, with <a href="http://www.liberoquotidiano.it/news/opinioni/13264032/harvey-weinstein-renato-farina-scandalo-sessuale-hollywood.html">a column</a> entitled: “First they give it away, then they whine and pretend to repent”.</p><p>On Twitter, Argento said <a href="https://twitter.com/AsiaArgento/status/918867536103559168?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&amp;ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilpost.it%2F2017%2F10%2F14%2Fasia-argento-libero%2F">she has sued</a> the newspaper, which she said offended her “dignity as a woman” and her reputation. But inexcusable coverage and commentary has continued.</p><p>Libero’s editor-in-chief, Vittorio Feltri,<a href="http://www.liberoquotidiano.it/news/sfoglio/13264213/cunnilingus-vittorio-feltri-asia-argento-e-quella-leccatina.html"> said on the radio</a> that Argento (who has alleged that Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her), “had to give something to her producer” and that “in the end it was cunnilingus. That’s a little lick...and a little lick is always pleasurable.”</p><p>“Other women refused,” he continued, and became “shop assistants or cashiers in a supermarket. No one obliges you to become a big actress.”</p><p>Libero and other newspapers have also chosen to illustrate articles about the scandal with photos of Argento from the 2007 movie Go-Go Tales, in which she played a lap-dancer.&nbsp;</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">"we live in a country based on a deeply patriarchal system where the social and economic power is completely on the male side.”</span></p><p>“Argento received such treatment from Italian media because we live in a country based on a deeply patriarchal system where the social and economic power is completely on the male side,” said journalist and writer Giulia Blasi.&nbsp;</p><p>“We treat harassed and raped women as they are guilty, we put them on a ‘public trial’: they have to prove their innocence, that they do not want revenge, or that they do not want to use their complaint to get fame. Asia Argento was accused for all this. It is indecent, and it is systematic,” Blasi told me.&nbsp;</p><p>Supported by a group of women and LGBTI and feminist websites <a href="http://www.gaypost.it/quellavoltache-14-anni-lamico-papa-mi-blocco-sul-marmo-non-lo-dissi-nessuno">Gaypost.it</a> and <a href="http://pasionaria.it/quellavoltache-ti-hanno-molestato-e-non-hai-denunciato-le-vostre-storie/">Pasionaria</a>, Blasi launched the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/quellavoltache">#quellavoltache </a>(“that time when”) campaign on Twitter, calling on women to speak out about their own experiences of abuse.</p> <blockquote data-lang="en" class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="it">Il Momento che raccoglie <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/quellavoltache?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#quellavoltache</a> è ormai lungo come Infinite Jest. <a href="https://t.co/jCuxcPJGVp">https://t.co/jCuxcPJGVp</a></p>— Giulia Blasi (@Giulia_B) <a href="https://twitter.com/Giulia_B/status/919468431656833025?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 15, 2017</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <p>‘Slut-shaming’ and victim-blaming are not solely Italian phenomena, of course. But Blasi argues that in this country “voices like the ones that accused and insulted Argento are considered common sense… like ‘what your grandmother would have said to you.’”</p><p>The #quellavoltache campaign was launched, Blasi said, by women who are “frustrated seeing everybody blame the victims and say nothing about the offenders and what led a man to harass or rape women or use his power to blackmail them.”</p><p>“We saw the lack of support for Asia Argento, who was brave to tell her story, and we decided that the only way to give victims voice was to make them speak all together,” she explained.</p><p>The result was something of a collective story of hundreds of tweets telling daily of a range of sexual abuses against women of all ages: on the bus, on the streets, at a party, at work, during the day or at night, by a friend, a colleague, a father, a cousin, a stranger.</p> <blockquote data-lang="en" class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="it"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/quellavoltache?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#quellavoltache</a> mi hai aggredito sotto casa. Mi hai sbattuto contro un muro. Ti sei masturbato sulla mia gonna. Ti ho denunciato. Sei stato condannato a un anno di carcere. Non hai mai fatto nemmeno un giorno di prigione. Era il 1998.</p>— Francesca Nava (@franziskanava) <a href="https://twitter.com/franziskanava/status/920613685143404547?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 18, 2017</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <p dir="ltr">Women in other countries have also taken to social media with similar campaigns in the wake of the Weinstein allegations. US women are using <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-41633857?SThisFB">#metoo</a> to expose the scale of sexual abuse and show solidarity with victims. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/16/france-considers-tough-new-laws-to-fight-sexual-harassment-and-abuse">In France</a>, the relevant hashtag is #balancetonporc ("Expose the Pig").</p> <blockquote data-lang="en" class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MeToo?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MeToo</a> Way too many times. Early I learnt that it is a man's world. Men live while women survive... Better laws are needed.</p>— Ms Aina Isenskjold (@Isenskjold) <a href="https://twitter.com/Isenskjold/status/920659523366371328?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 18, 2017</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <p dir="ltr">In Italy, outrageous media coverage of the Weinstein scandal was predictable. Argento – well-known since childhood, the daughter of a famous horror director – has long been a divisive figure, the imperfect victim the media loves to hate.</p><p dir="ltr">But Blasi says the response to the #quellavoltache campaign was not expected. It was as if it “hit a nerve and intercepted a moment of deep frustration,” she said. “A lot of women raised their voice at the same time, and every tweet encouraged the next to speak.” </p><p>She does not seem too optimistic, however, about a sea-change in how such abuse is discussed and confronted. “This is a system that tends towards self-preservation,” she said. Blasi added, of the men who have tweeted messages of support: “Where have they been, all these years?.”</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Italy </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 Italy Women's rights and the media women and power violence against women Sexual violence feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Claudia Torrisi Fri, 20 Oct 2017 05:06:31 +0000 Claudia Torrisi 114141 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Look that monster dead in the face: tackling domestic violence in lesbian relationships https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/tiffany-kagure-mugo/domestic-violence-lesbian-relationships <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Art can create safe spaces for queer women to address often-ignored domestic violence. This is important to end the silence, and to heal.</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/563363/IMG_20170920_211927_122.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/IMG_20170920_211927_122.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'>Siphumeze's character in the play 'Beneath the Same Silence' smokes on stage trying to self medicate to deal with her abuse. Credit: Deekay Ndoni Sibanda/All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Domestic violence is the global boogie man under the bed. We know it exists but we are too scared to look that monster dead in the face. In heterosexual spaces, there is a murmur of a conversation, but within queer women's spaces there is only silence. Whilst all victims of such violence face an uphill battle for justice, the hill is made even steeper once you throw homophobia into the mix.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal, human rights lawyer Monica Godiva Akullo has researched queer women's access to legal recourse in cases of domestic violence. Resources for survivors “are already mediocre at best,” she says, but the situation is starker for queer women. One of the women Akullo interviewed told police that her housemate had beaten her, as there was no way to legally describe abuse by her partner. </p><p dir="ltr">Fear of speaking out as a queer woman, Akullo argues, is compounded by the fear felt by the queer community and frequent lack of support from close ties such as family. Stigmatisation of queer relationships can, she believes, add to the abuse suffered. All of the lesbian women she spoke to in Kampala said that they believed the shelters open to hetrosexual victims of domestic abuse were not open to them. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Stigmatisation of queer relationships can add to the abuse suffered.</p><p dir="ltr">In South Africa, where I live, there are laws against domestic abuse and same-sex partnerships are recognised. Legal recourse for survivors of abuse in queer relationships is, in theory, available. However, cultural homophobia and threats of societal backlash remain significant obstacles. The silence around domestic violence in queer relationships persists.</p><p dir="ltr">The troubling question is: if certain pain is seen as basically non-existent, never really acknowledged, how can we tackle and address it? My partner at <a href="http://holaafrica.org/">HOLAAfrica</a>, photographer and theatre-maker <a href="http://www.ithongomusings.com/">Siphumeze Khundayi</a>, has used art to try and do just this. Her piece, <a href="http://holaafrica.org/2017/09/23/holaa-loves-beneath-the-same-silence-a-performance-piece-on-intimate-partner-violence-in-a-queer-womans-relationship-2/">Beneath the Same Silence</a>, explores the dark hidden realm of a queer woman in an abusive relationship, and the isolation and sadness she can feel.</p><p dir="ltr">Through video, music and movement, it takes the audience on an emotional journey. Directed and performed by Khundayi, alongside musician Bongile Lecoge-Zulu, it formed part of the <a href="http://www.w24.co.za/Love/Sex/catch-the-sex-actually-festival-in-braamfontein-20170917-2">SexActually</a> festival<a href="http://witsvuvuzela.com/2017/09/24/sex-actually-headlines-heartlines-and-hashtags/"> in Johannesburg last month</a>. At a post-performance discussion, one woman said the performance reminded her of abuse she had experienced herself; another said it had made her think differently about her abuser’s actions, allowing her to see his flaws.</p><p dir="ltr">To prepare for the performance, Khundayi spoke to three survivors of intimate partner violence, and read as many articles and academic papers on the subject as she could find. She told me that she had wanted to speak to more survivors, but that several pulled out at the last minute, and that getting women to speak openly about such experiences is extremely difficult. </p><p dir="ltr">In the end, the collaboration with her co-performer turned out to be the most pertinent tool for conceptualising the project. Lecoge-Zulu had been in an emotionally abusive relationship for a few years, and the two “sat for quite a few rehearsals talking about her experiences.”</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/563363/IMG_20170920_211927_072.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/IMG_20170920_211927_072.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'>Sex as a weapon. Siphumeze and Bongile simulate a sexual encounter on stage to show the presence sex and pleasure as a weapon during abuse. Credit: Tiffany Mugo/All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Using the medium of art as a safe space to explore these issues, Lecoge-Zulu could “step out of herself because in this case she played the abuser”, Khundayi said. This enabled her to see things from her ex-partner’s perspective – though the pair had to take precautions to ensure the storytelling process did not “retraumatise” her.</p><p dir="ltr">“Art is a container, but not the most sealed-tight container, you need to come ready to deal with the things that you are speaking about.” Khundayi explained. </p><p dir="ltr">This goes for audiences as well. There is a scene in Beneath the Same Silence, in which eggs are broken and this action of breaking can trigger memories of how abuse can impact on your person and spirit. At last month’s post-performance discussion, one woman said this scene made her remember the harm caused by the violence of her parents’ relationship. </p><p dir="ltr">For another woman, it made her remember a rape. It enabled her to “start putting dots together … seeing that this person was damaged and put all of their damage on [her],” said Khundayi.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Art is a container, but not the most sealed-tight container, you need to come ready to deal with the things that you are speaking about.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://holaafrica.org/2017/09/13/queeringthecloak-an-explanation-of-the-project/">#QueeringTheCloak</a> is another innovative project that wants to end the silence around abuse within African queer women’s relationships, and address a lack of information about these issues. As part of this <a href="http://holaafrica.org/2017/09/23/queeringthecloak-twitter-conversation/">online project</a>, women from across the continent have chronicled their own stories as a means of release and also to start building a culture of accountability. </p><p dir="ltr">One woman based in Egypt wrote that, after being assaulted by a fellow feminist, she felt that she couldn’t reach out for support or protection from within her own feminist community. Being able to write about this now, and have her words read by the world (even under a pseudonym), allowed her to work through things that she had been struggling with.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">After being assaulted by a fellow feminist, she felt that she couldn’t reach out for support or protection from within her own feminist community.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, South African writer Maneo Mohale wrote a brave article for the US magazine Bitch entitled<a href="https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/ithappenedtous/how-chosen-families-support-queer-survivors-sexual-assault"> #ItHappenedToUs: How chosen families support survivors of queer sexual assault</a>. She discussed her own private, invisibilised experience of abuse and subverted narratives of “women do not rape,” risking backlash from others by putting her name and history out there. </p><p dir="ltr">Maneo told me that writing this article meant engaging with what had happened to her, in her sexual assault, as well as an element of letting it go. She described how writing allowed her to confront scars and start to look towards healing, a non-linear but necessary process. </p><p dir="ltr">Putting your experience out there for the world to see can be cathartic, and a form of release. In this way, art’s ability to act as a mirror and a lens can provide a vital space, be it on the page, or on the stage, to speak out loud and disrupt resounding silence, but also to move forward.</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/tiffany-kagure-mugo/osunality-sex-lessons-from-africa">Osunality: sex lessons from Africa</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ella-milburn/supernova-project-lgbtq-domestic-abuse">Can a feminist tech collective help end the silence around LGBTQ+ domestic abuse?</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's movements women's health violence against women 50.50 newsletter Tiffany Kagure Mugo Wed, 18 Oct 2017 08:37:40 +0000 Tiffany Kagure Mugo 113909 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How anti-abortion extremists are exploiting #BlackLivesMatter to vilify African-American women https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/feminista-jones/anti-abortion-extremists-exploiting-black-lives-matter <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Fighting anti-choice campaigns requires more than a gendered approach – reproductive justice demands direct anti-racist work too.</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/563363/Radience Foundation - Black Lives Matter_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/Radience Foundation - Black Lives Matter_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Radiance Foundation. Photo: Facebook.</span></span></span>Several years ago, I was caught completely off-guard by a huge billboard in my native New York City emblazoned with the words: “The most dangerous place for an African-American woman is in the womb,” and the image of a precious little African-American girl.</p><p dir="ltr">The billboard was for a clearly extremist “pro-life” website, but to be so bold as to spend that much money on advertising in such an expensive city, well, that was a lot to digest. As an African-American mother and someone who has experienced abortion, I continue to be completely disgusted by the racist, classist propaganda that is so readily spread about our reproductive decisions.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"Vilifying African-American mothers is nothing new..."</p><p dir="ltr">Vilifying African-American mothers is nothing new: from the earliest days of European colonialism when enslaved African women were robbed of every human right and choice over their reproduction, we have been subjected to demonising rhetoric that blames us for everything negative that happens to our children. The lives and bodies of African-American women have been ‘regulated’ since they were first brought to this new world as owned labourers; their bodies and production (and that of their children) belonged primarily to white men. </p><p dir="ltr">Over time, ideas about African-American womanhood became shaped by their ability to work for and serve white men and white women. African-American women have even been denied access to same notions of womanhood and femininity; we are seen first as workers, not as mothers and partners as white women are. This likely contributes to the lack of equitable consideration afforded African-American women when it comes to reproductive justice work. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"...we are seen first as workers, not as mothers and partners as white women are."</p><p dir="ltr">Whereas African-American women should be visible at the forefront of the movement, we are often relegated to footnotes when statistics about reproductive health are concerned. An example of this is in the invisibility of our maternal death rates, which are <a href="https://www.vox.com/health-care/2017/7/3/15886892/black-white-moms-die-childbirth-north-carolina-less">three times</a> higher than white women’s. This alarming fact should sound off more alarms and calls to action, but we don’t see a lot of advocacy on this from white American reproductive activists.</p><p dir="ltr">In her book <a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/155575/killing-the-black-body-by-dorothy-roberts/9780679758693/">Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty</a>, Dorothy Roberts points out that certain issues such as reproductive rights have been considered “white women’s issues”. And while white women have historically been encouraged to be mothers, African-American women were regularly denied opportunities to engage in any activity that didn’t prove to be valuable to whites, including the development of their own families. </p><p>Stereotypes about African-American women’s ability to be good mothers formed and have beeen perpetuated until present day, with even African-American men subscribing to them. This established hierarchy of womanhood, where white women were elevated above African-American women, continues to manifest itself in various institutions, including the judicial system. Now, we hear disturbing language that denounces African-American women for exercising their legal right to have abortions.</p><p>Extremist organisations like the Radiance Foundation, an anti-abortion group that claims to be “pro-life”, use <a href="https://www.facebook.com/radiancefoundation/photos/a.389296973821.166868.112984268821/10155252547748822/?type=3&amp;theater">targeted ads</a> on Facebook with images of African-American women in their campaigns against Planned Parenthood. They even use tragedies like this month’s Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas shooting to push their anti-abortion agenda, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/radiancefoundation/posts/10155249165433822">likening</a> abortion to the mass shooting that took the lives of more than 50 people.</p><p> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fradiancefoundation%2Fposts%2F10155249165433822&amp;width=480" style="border: none; overflow: hidden;" scrolling="no" allowtransparency="true" width="480" height="538" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>Histrionic, anti-choice “activists” are also pushing a ridiculous narrative that Planned Parenthood is a white supremacist organisation that targets African-Americans by terminating our lives before they begin.</p><p dir="ltr">This includes the self-loathing <a href="http://www.lifenews.com/2017/08/17/want-to-stop-white-supremacy-start-with-the-266-black-babies-planned-parenthood-aborts-every-day/">Ryan Bomberger</a>, who says: “If you want to tear down present vestiges of “white supremacy”, let’s start with Planned Parenthood. Yes, the nation’s leading abortion chain birthed in eugenic racism and elitism… Planned Parenthood kills over 260 unarmed black lives every day in America.”</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/563363/PP-LEADING-KILLER-TRF-IG-1024x1024-400x400.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/PP-LEADING-KILLER-TRF-IG-1024x1024-400x400.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="400" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Radiance Foundation. Photo: Facebook.</span></span></span>Bomberger twists the language of the <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23BlackLivesMatter&amp;src=tyah">#BlackLivesMatter </a>movement to fit his irrational narrative, self-consciously using the terminology of the justice movement and applying it, cynically, to his anti-abortion extremist ramblings.</p><p dir="ltr">Prominent reproductive justice advocate, Imani Gandy, has already <a href="https://rewire.news/article/2015/08/20/false-narratives-margaret-sanger-used-shame-black-women/">debunked</a> the myth of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger’s ‘evil plot’ to convince African-American women to have abortions. Anti-abortion extremists use revisions of history to shame African-American women; they also ignore the fact that Sanger was herself against abortion, so she did not create the organisation to force us to terminate pregnancies.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"Anti-abortion extremists use revisions of history to shame African-American women..."</p><p dir="ltr">Many African-American women have been reluctant to align themselves with contemporary feminist movements because they often do not feel as though their unique needs and concerns are addressed by mainstream white feminism. </p><p dir="ltr">We were virtually ignored during the Suffrage Movement, and the Women’s Lib Movement of the 1960s. Today, we remain excluded from tables in which we could “lean in” and have our say, so we have taken to carving out our own digital spaces instead. We have found ways to be heard in spaces that have traditionally excluded us, including major publications, feminist conferences, empowerment marches, academic panels, radio and television.</p><p dir="ltr">When racist anti-abortion ads came out and began spreading, even within our own communities and spaces, we received little support from mainstream white feminists who cannot empathetically connect to the abhorrence of the suggestion that abortion equals racism. White white women have been called murderers for having abortions, they have not experienced the increased pain of being accused of race-based murder for terminating their pregnancies. </p><p dir="ltr">When enslaved African-American women self-induced abortions rather than birth babies into a life of slavery, white women joined in with their husbands, fathers, and brothers to vehemently deny them their “choice”. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"reproductive justice will only be achieved with direct anti-racist work"</p><p dir="ltr">There have been opportunities for white feminists to be more introspective about the history of this movement, including the ways in which African-American women’s unique experiences have been dismissed and ignored. But, as Angela Davis has <a href="https://marshall.ucsd.edu/doc/doc2/Angela%20Davis%20-%20Racism%20Birth%20Control.pdf">explained</a>, ignoring our historical experiences with forced sterilisation and forced labour misses the mark and leaves room for racist rhetoric to continue to be used against us. </p><p dir="ltr">Increasing discussion of these issues is amplifying our unique experiences with reproductive choice and more activists are realising that fighting against anti-abortion rhetoric requires more than a gendered approach – that reproductive justice will only be achieved with direct anti-racist work.</p><p dir="ltr">Now, we face an administration that is absolutely terrifying – a complete affront to any marginalised individual seeking equality and freedom from oppression. The House of Representatives recently <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-gop-late-term-abortion-ban-20171003-story.html">passed a bill</a> that would implement a nationwide ban on abortions after 20 weeks (another attempt at pushing an agenda that may be more symbolic than anything – the bill has fallen flat the last two times it was brought to the Senate). </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/Ben Carson PA-25160352_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Ben Carson in 2015. Photo: Louise Wateridge/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Ben Carson PA-25160352_2.jpg" alt="Ben Carson in 2015. Photo: Louise Wateridge/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved." title="Ben Carson in 2015. Photo: Louise Wateridge/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ben Carson in 2015. Photo: Louise Wateridge/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>This administration has tried, <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-administration-moves-on-abortion-cheer-antiabortion-movement-1505505209">unsuccessfully</a>, to remove all Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood. Trump’s housing and urban development secretary, African-American doctor Ben Carson, once <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2015/10/25/ben-carson-likens-abortion-to-slavery-wants-to-see-roe-v-wade-overturned/">likened</a> abortion to slavery. Rick Perry, his choice for Secretary of Energy, pushed abortion restrictions as governor of Texas that were eventually ruled <a href="https://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/2016/06/27/supreme-court-strikes-landmark-texas-abortion-case">unconstitutional</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">I have experienced the difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy. There was nothing remotely easy about making the choice or going through with the procedure. Do I still think about it? Sometimes. Do I wonder how my life might be different had I not gone through with it? Occasionally. Do I regret my decision? Absolutely not. I did what was best for me and exercised my <a href="https://www.pbs.org/wnet/supremecourt/rights/landmark_roe.html">legal right</a> to make private medical decisions about my own reproduction. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Do I regret my decision? Absolutely not. I did what was best for me and exercised my legal right to make private medical decisions about my own reproduction. </p><p dir="ltr">I did the same exact thing when I decided to carry my son to term and raise him for the last 11 years. I did the same thing when I decided to continue a pregnancy and suffered a miscarriage. None of my decisions had to do with my cultural allegiance and my pride in being black, nor did they reflect any desire to uphold and promote some misguided, internalised white supremacy. </p><p dir="ltr">We cannot accept this racist backlash against our reproductive rights, and we have to be vigilant in countering this disparaging propaganda. We are witnessing a concerted effort to end abortion rights in America unlike anything we have seen in over 40 years, and we have to remain committed and engaged in civic action to ensure abortion access for all who seek it.</p><h2><strong><i>Read other stories in 50.50's series&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/tracking-backlash">tracking the backlash against our sexual and reproductive rights</a>.</i></strong></h2><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/lara-whyte/young-women-leading-ireland-campaign-against-abortion">On the warpath: the young women leading Ireland’s campaign against abortion</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lara-whyte/the-rise-of-citizengo">&quot;They are coming for your children&quot; – the rise of CitizenGo</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"> 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 Equality Tracking the backlash women's human rights women and power feminism bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Feminista Jones Mon, 16 Oct 2017 07:52:52 +0000 Feminista Jones 113929 at https://www.opendemocracy.net We need a new, radical vision of feminist sisterhood https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-heuchan/radical-vision-feminist-sisterhood <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The racism of white feminists, whether overt or covert, contributes to the oppression of women of colour, and holds the movement back. </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/Women at the Black Women’s March in Brasilia_ 18 November 2015. Image_ Sabriya Simon. Some rights reserved.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="The Black Women’s March in Brasilia, 2015. Photo: Sabriya Simon. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Women at the Black Women’s March in Brasilia_ 18 November 2015. Image_ Sabriya Simon. Some rights reserved.jpg" alt="Black Women’s March in Brasilia, 2015. Photo: Sabriya Simon. Some rights reserved." title="The Black Women’s March in Brasilia, 2015. Photo: Sabriya Simon. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Black Women’s March in Brasilia, 2015. Photo: Sabriya Simon. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The feminist movement has a race problem. This is nothing new – in fact, the problem has been there since the movement began. The racism of white women, whether it is overt or covert, actively contributes to oppression experienced by women of colour. That racism also undermines the efforts of feminist struggle by upholding white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy.</p><p dir="ltr">For some white women, the benefits of white privilege seem to outweigh the gains to be made through dismantling the hierarchies at the root of widespread social inequalities. And those white feminists who have made no conscious effort to unlearn their own racism will find that it manifests itself within their feminism not randomly, but as an organic product of their beliefs.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">'The feminist movement has a race problem.'</p><p dir="ltr">Writers considered pioneers of feminist thought, including American activists Kate Millett and Betty Friedan, are also responsible for a pattern of universalising white women’s experiences. Positioning whiteness as the ‘standard’ of womanhood obscures the realities lived by women of colour, and the role of hierarchies beyond gender in shaping female experience.</p><p dir="ltr">Feminism is a social movement devoted to liberating all women and girls from structural oppression. And yet, within the mainstream of this movement, the liberation of some women is treated as a higher priority than that of others.</p><p dir="ltr">When feminism prioritises the interests of white, middle-class women over those of their more marginal sisters, it only replicates the after-the-revolution mentality that has historically been used to sideline women within progressive politics. When gender is positioned as the main hierarchy for all women to overcome, a strange sort of trickle-down liberation logic is applied to justify how racism, classism, ableism, and lesbophobia are overlooked.</p><p dir="ltr">Ignoring a form of oppression that shapes the lives of countless women simply because you do not experience it doesn’t resemble sisterhood, not by any stretch of imagination – yet this is a standard excuse given for disregarding the political issues facing women of colour. </p><p dir="ltr">We are told that talking about race divides the feminist movement, that it jeopardises solidarity between women. But valuing white women’s comfort over women of colour’s liberation is the antithesis of sisterhood. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">'We are told that talking about race divides the feminist movement, that it jeopardises solidarity between women. But valuing white women’s comfort over women of colour’s liberation is the antithesis of sisterhood.'</span> </p><p dir="ltr">The expectation that women of colour remain silent about our experiences of racism, for the convenience of white women, removes the possibility of sisterhood. The expectation that women of colour devote our energies to helping white women attain socioeconomic parity with white men – the entitlement behind that assumption! – makes interracial solidarity unlikelier still. </p><p dir="ltr">Yet such solidarity can exist. I know this first-hand. I have experienced sisterhood with white women and value those connections. That being said, I will never condemn a woman of colour who says otherwise – the racism of white women means that mixed feminist spaces can be a minefield to navigate. </p><p dir="ltr">For this situation to improve, for interracial solidarity between women to become not an exception but the rule within feminist spaces, a great deal must change. Fortunately, there is no greater vehicle for change than the feminist movement.</p><p dir="ltr">Altering the dynamic of race within the feminist movement demands critical self-reflection, persistent effort, and white women’s willingness to break with old patterns of behaviour.</p><p dir="ltr">Every good liberal is fed the message that nobody should see race – but not seeing race means not seeing racism, and being blind to racism precludes the possibility of identifying or challenging it. White women must acknowledge the differences in experience brought about by race if they are ever to have a meaningful understanding of women of colour’s lives.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">'Every good liberal is fed the message that nobody should see race – but not seeing race means not seeing racism.'</p><p dir="ltr">It is such a fundamental thing, so obvious it almost doesn’t bear saying, but white women also need to acknowledge women of colour as human beings who have thoughts and – too often neglected in discussions of race – feelings. </p><p dir="ltr">Race isn’t an abstract conversation for us. It has very real implications and consequences. Empathy is crucial. We often talk about how misogyny makes women vulnerable, but the reality that women of colour are in an even more vulnerable position – thanks to what Frances Beale described as a 'double jeopardy' of racism and sexism – is not always given due consideration. </p><p dir="ltr">White women who want to share trust and solidarity with women of colour need to consider how they conceptualise us – are we your sisters, or are we tokens? Are we necessary agents of feminist struggle, or a pat on the back for diversity? </p><p dir="ltr">Honest, inward reflection is essential. I invite every white feminist to analyse how she thinks of us, critically evaluate why that might be, and work from there. None of this is easy or comfortable – but nobody ever said the politics of liberation would be. </p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong><em>Claire Heuchan is speaking on Saturday, 14 October at the <a href="https://filia.org.uk/welcome">FiLiA feminist conference</a> in London.</em></strong></h2><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <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 Equality women's human rights feminism 50.50 newsletter Claire Heuchan Fri, 13 Oct 2017 08:34:56 +0000 Claire Heuchan 113963 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Migration and sexual abuse in Italy: inside a toxic news cycle https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/annalisa-camilli/toxic-news-italy-migration-sexual-abuse <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Italian newspapers have abandoned their fact-checking role, giving in to the political exploitation of immigrants – a sensitive issue ahead of next year’s elections.</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/PA-20640609.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Photo: Nicolas Armer/dpa/PA Images."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-20640609.jpg" alt="Photo: Nicolas Armer/dpa/PA Images." title="Photo: Nicolas Armer/dpa/PA Images." width="460" height="292" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Photo: Nicolas Armer/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span><span>At the end of the summer, the front pages of Italian newspapers were filled with morbid and tabloid-like accounts of two high-profile cases of sexual violence. The first occurred in Rimini – a city on the Adriatic coast – on the night of 26 August. Four men of foreign origin assaulted and raped a young Polish tourist and later abused a transsexual woman from Peru.</span></p><p><span>The second case was in Florence, on the night between 6 and 7 September. Two female American students accused two officers of the carabinieri police force of raping them after giving them a ride home in their patrol car.&nbsp; &nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr">Media coverage of the rape in Rimini focused on the nationality of the rapists and their legal status (some of them had obtained asylum in Italy). Little or no attention was given to the victims. “<a href="http://www.secoloditalia.it/2017/09/stupro-rimini-disumano-butungu-italia-motivi-umanitari/">Rimini rape, the inhuman Butungu was in Italy for humanitarian reasons</a>” was one of the headlines of the regional newspaper Secolo XIX.</p><p>In reports on the incident in Florence,<a href="http://www.ilpost.it/giuliasiviero/2017/09/09/i-giornali-e-i-due-carabinieri-accusati-di-stupro-a-firenze/"> attention shifted to the victims</a>. Journalists said that the young women had been drinking and smoking marijuana, and that their accounts were marred by inconsistencies – as if to justify the officers’ conduct and blame the women for what had happened.</p><p>Some newspapers – including La Stampa, Il Messaggero and Il Mattino – even declared that in Florence police receive 150-200 rape accusations every year, but that 90% of them are false.<a href="http://www.valigiablu.it/denunce-stupro-firenze-fake-news/"> This claim</a> was later retracted but it still reinforced the stereotype of the woman who ‘provokes’ sexual violence.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><a href="http://www.ilpost.it/2017/09/10/nardella-firenze-studenti-americani/">The mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella</a> also focused on the victims and their origins in his comments, saying: "It is important for US students to learn, also with the help of universities and our institutions, that Florence is not a city of perdition.”</p><p>This “extremely serious” case, Nardella continued, had “shone a light on the way foreign students live in our city. I would like for them to be more integrated in the cultural and collective life, instead of considering Florence a Disneyland to get drunk and high in.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>In both cases, Italian newspapers abandoned their fact-checking role and gave in to the political exploitation of immigrants, a sensitive issue in the run-up to next year’s elections<span>.</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Italian newspapers abandoned their fact-checking role and gave in to the political exploitation of immigrants”</p><p dir="ltr">Journalists should have carefully pieced together the facts, verified the news, and put the incidents in the appropriate context of Italy’s high rates of violence against women. Instead, they stressed the nationality of the rapists in Rimini and that of the victims in Florence.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">There are unfortunately precedents here. In May, governor of the northeastern Friuli Venezia Giulia region,<a href="http://www.repubblica.it/politica/2017/05/12/news/_stupro_piu_odioso_se_commesso_da_profugo_coro_di_critiche_a_serracchiani-165264189/"> Debora Serracchiani of the centre-left Partito Democratico, said</a>: “Sexual violence is always a hateful and repugnant crime, but it becomes socially and morally even more unacceptable when it is carried out by someone who requests and receives asylum”.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Serracchiani’s statement, reacting to an incident of sexual abuse by an asylum-seeker in Trieste, was controversial, and it was criticised including on social media. But it bolstered two dangerous theses: that there are more heinous rapes (committed by foreigners) and less heinous rapes (committed by Italians) and that asylum is a concession and not a right.</p><p dir="ltr">The majority of Italian newspapers reported on the cases in Rimini and in Florence in exactly the same way, pushing us further away from an honest analysis of both migration and sexual violence.</p><h2><em>Read:&nbsp;<a title="1657 words, 0 comments" href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claudia-torrisi/italian-media-violence-against-women">Monsters, jealousy and “sick love” — how the Italian media covers violence against women</a></em></h2><p dir="ltr">Instead of reflection and analysis on these complex issues, too often we receive simplistic interpretations that make it difficult to understand our reality and possible solutions. </p><p dir="ltr">Sociologists have spoken of a ‘<a href="http://online.scuola.zanichelli.it/capirepsicologia/files/2012/04/Dal_Lago_migranti.pdf">mirror function</a>’ whereby we project our deepest fears onto those who come from abroad and arouse our distrust.</p><p dir="ltr">In other words: our accusations against migrants can say more about ourselves than about them; more about our dysfunctions and our crises than about theirs. This mechanism then fuels a vicious cycle because a phenomenon that is misunderstood and exploited for political gain can generate even worse problems and deeper crises.</p><p dir="ltr">What’s new is not so much that xenophobia, the fear of foreigners, is widespread, and that politicians use it to create consensus. What’s new is how the press has abandoned their role of spreading verified news and framing facts in social and historical context while scrutinising the statements and opportunisms of politicians.</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/PA-31873001.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Migrants on a boat near Salerno, Italy."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-31873001.jpg" alt="Migrants on a boat near Salerno, Italy." title="Migrants on a boat near Salerno, Italy." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Migrants on a boat near Salerno, Italy, June 2017. Photo: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Immigration has become a main topic in the electoral campaign already underway, leaving the inside pages of newspapers and moving to the front pages and prime time TV.&nbsp; </p><p dir="ltr">Worrying trends include a schizophrenic back-and-forth between the criminalisation and victimisation of migrants, and the lack of articulate debate that is representative of different stances on migration (all political parties express similar positions on the issue). </p><p dir="ltr">There is a gradual dehumanisation of migrants, who have become a broad and vague category in which people who have just arrived in Europe are mixed without distinction with people of foreign origin who have been living here for many years – including refugees, legal and illegal residents, and Italian citizens of foreign origin.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“migrants are portrayed both as victims and as criminals”</p><p dir="ltr">Migrants are portrayed both as victims – who must be saved, fed, helped, protected and welcomed – and as criminals. These equally toxic narratives can appear on the same newspaper page. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Behind this is the spread of ‘fake news’: that migrants earn 35 euros a day from the government, that they live in five-star hotels, that they are all economic migrants, that they carry illnesses, that they take jobs away from Italians, that they’re all Muslim, that they don’t respect women.</p><p dir="ltr">Misleading links between migration and terrorist attacks are also to blame, along with the ‘ethnicisation’ of crimes – whereby the nationality of the accused is highlighted if he is a foreigner, and the crime is explained on this basis – and growing distrust of associations and people who help migrants.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s a cycle: inflammatory statements by politicians are picked up and amplified on social media, where they are reinvented and perfected in their communicative effectiveness and end up in newspaper headlines and televised debates.</p><p dir="ltr">Such statements are used to measure and shape common sense and popular belief – and they become claims that politicians, in turn, say that they cannot ignore. Meanwhile, the same politicians draw up policies that are less and less capable of effectively integrating migrants and refugees into our society.</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/claudia-torrisi/italian-media-violence-against-women">Monsters, jealousy and “sick love” — how the Italian media covers violence against women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sally-nyakanyanga/violence-against-women-journalists-zimbabwe">‘Swept under the carpet’: violence against Zimbabwe&#039;s women journalists</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 Women's rights and the media Sexual violence gender 50.50 newsletter Annalisa Camilli Wed, 11 Oct 2017 08:38:04 +0000 Annalisa Camilli 113902 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘Swept under the carpet’: violence against Zimbabwe's women journalists https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sally-nyakanyanga/violence-against-women-journalists-zimbabwe <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Women journalists in Zimbabwe have been beaten and harassed by state security. The male-dominated media largely ignores these abuses.</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/IMG_2503[1]_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Journalists at the Harare central police station, demonstrating against police brutality."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_2503[1]_0.JPG" alt="Journalists at the Harare central police station, demonstrating against police brutality." title="Journalists at the Harare central police station, demonstrating against police brutality." width="460" height="336" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Freelance reporters Lucy Yasini (second from the right) and Anna Chibhamu (third from the left) sit with other journalists at the Harare central police station, demonstrating against police brutality. Photo: Sally Nyakanyanga.</span></span></span>Many journalists in Zimbabwe have experienced beatings, harassment, and detention by security forces. The constitution enshrines press freedom on paper, but in practice journalists are too often restricted and attacked whilst doing their work. </p><p dir="ltr">For female journalists, there is a double-edged sword, working in the media in a country that is so hostile to reporters and where gender equality can feel like a farfetched dream.&nbsp; </p><p dir="ltr">Freelance journalist Lucy Yasini says she was beaten up by police last year whilst covering youth protests that turned violent, with police throwing teargas into the crowd and demonstrators retaliating by throwing stones.</p><p dir="ltr">At first, Yasini said, police officers told her to run. Then, “one of them started beating me up with a button stick [extendable baton]. I could not comprehend why I was beaten even after having shown him my press card.”</p><p dir="ltr">Freelance journalist Anna Chibhamu was with Yasini at the protest last year. She says she was also attacked by police. “I started vomiting, feeling weak and dizzy,” she said. “What is the point of having a press card then?”</p><h2 dir="ltr">"Swept under the carpet"</h2><p dir="ltr">Violence against Zimbabwe's women journalists is not new, says Edinah Masanga, founder of the <a href="https://wefsa.org/">Women's Empowerment Foundation of Southern Africa (WEFSA)</a>. “It just gets swept under the carpet, because the newsrooms where these women are working are not bringing these issues to light.”</p><p dir="ltr">Zimbabwe's newsrooms are overwhelmingly male-dominated, Masanga explained. They may also include perpetrators of sexual abuse among their staff. In some cases, “decision-makers within the media houses in Zimbabwe abuse their power and sexually harass their female counterparts,” she said. </p><p dir="ltr">Masanga recently interviewed Thelma Chikwanha, former political editor for the Daily News in Zimbabwe, for a profile on WEFSA's website. “I have been harassed and hauled before the courts just for doing my work," said Chikwanha. "I have also been threatened many times by Zimbabwean authorities and government ministers.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“it gets swept under the carpet because the newsrooms where these women are working are not bringing these issues to light”</p><p dir="ltr">Yasini and Chibhamu are both single mothers, trying to eke out a living as freelance reporters. It is not an easy time to do this: the Zimbabwean economy has taken a nosedive, with poverty and unemployment widespread.</p><p dir="ltr">“How am I supposed to survive and look after my children?” Chibhamu asked. She said the current state of the media in Zimbabwe has forced many women journalists to pursue other careers. “We are very few women in the mainstream media and often easy targets particularly for police brutality."</p><h2 dir="ltr">'Not for the faint-hearted'</h2><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/zimbabwe">Human Rights Watch’s 2017 report</a> on Zimbabwe notes that the constitution guarantees freedom of expression and press freedom, but journalists are often subject to arbitrary arrest, harassment, and intimidation. </p><p dir="ltr">According to the <a href="http://zimbabwe.misa.org/issues-we-address/media-regulation/">Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)</a>, since January 2016 police have assaulted, harassed, arrested, or detained at least 31 journalists reporting on protests in Zimbabwe. </p><p dir="ltr">A <a href="http://veritaszim.net/sites/veritas_d/files/SADC%20Gender%20Protocol%202015%20-%20Zimbabwe.pdf">Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) report</a> notes that growing numbers of female students in media studies departments has not translated into rising women's participation in newsrooms and media houses. Women who do work in the media more often find jobs in administrative support roles, in advertising and marketing, or in human resources.</p><p dir="ltr">Men dominate media leadership positions. In newsrooms, they report on politics, economics and sports, while women report primarily on social issues and gender equality. Zimbabwe has the lowest proportion (25%) of female academic staff in media and journalism programmes in the region. Just 13% of workers at Zimbabwe's media houses are women.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">'just 13% of workers at Zimbabwe's media houses are women'</p><p dir="ltr">“This has affected our career growth and development, as many [women] are forced to pursue other career options or more friendly working conditions such as consultancy,” Yasini said. </p><p dir="ltr">She describes journalism as not for the faint-hearted; one has to be a soldier as the playing field will never be level for women. </p><p dir="ltr">Yasini adds, more broadly: “as journalists we lack unity and support of each other as the attacks by the state security is common among freelance journalists and those from the independent media.”</p><p dir="ltr">At WEFSA, Masanga believes that empowering female journalists with skills can alter power dynamics in newsrooms. Her group is involved in a mentorship programme, which will pair Zimbabwean women reporters up with journalists from around the world, to “receive training in various area of reportage so as to strengthen their skills.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"there is no guarantee for our safety, in fact violence is going to increase...the government is trying to muzzle the media"</p><p dir="ltr">As Zimbabwe heads for elections next year, Chibhamu warns: “There is no guarantee for our safety, in fact violence is going to increase...The government is trying to muzzle the media.”</p><p dir="ltr">Garikai Chaunza, MISA Harare province chairperson, appealed to the police: “Remember, journalists are there to continuously search for truth and honesty for the public good and the police been seen throwing teargas to citizens exercising their democratic rights; these are the social ills that as journalists we are exposing.”</p><p dir="ltr">Chaunza also urged journalists to speak with one voice and come together to fight police brutality. “We can earn respect from the society including the law enforcement agents if we support each other,” he said. </p><p dir="ltr">Masanga, a journalist herself, encourages women to make calculated and careful decisions particularly when choosing between their safety and getting a byline. She said: “It is a personal issue, I cannot prescribe a solution but I would always say safety comes first."</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/claudia-torrisi/italian-media-violence-against-women">Monsters, jealousy and “sick love” — how the Italian media covers violence against women</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"> Zimbabwe </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 Zimbabwe Civil society Women's rights and the media 50.50 newsletter gender violence against women women and power women's work Sally Nyakanyanga Mon, 09 Oct 2017 10:17:09 +0000 Sally Nyakanyanga 113440 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Period poverty flows worldwide, and it’s a bloody injustice https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/anastasia-kyriacou/period-poverty-worldwide-bloody-injustice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>From costly sanitary products to feelings of stigma and shame – why do we put up with this?</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/563303/1024px-Vlozka0693_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Sanitary pads."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/1024px-Vlozka0693_0.JPG" alt="Sanitary pads." title="Sanitary pads." width="460" height="286" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sanitary pads. Photo: Pastorius/Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 3.0. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Women everywhere must endure pain, every single month, for up to a week or longer, from the <a href="http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/periods/Pages/Introduction.aspx">age of around 12 to 50.</a> Yet society still makes us feel as if our periods are disgusting – dirty aspects of our existence that we should hide, regardless of how much pain or discomfort we face. Like J.K. Rowling’s Lord Voldemort, even the word ‘period’ can feel stigmatised beyond utterance; He-Who-Must-Be-Renamed “that time of the month”.</p> <p>In the UK, a 2015 survey suggested that women spend <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/09/03/women-spend-thousands-on-periods-tampon-tax_n_8082526.html">more than £18,000</a> on their periods over the course of their lifetime. Sanitary products are pricey – a fact not helped by the 5% VAT charge for being considered a “luxury item” (while baked goods like Jaffa Cakes are considered essential items, and are untaxed). A recent investigation by the charity <a href="https://rightsinfo.org/exclusive-thousands-women-depending-charities-food-banks-get-monthly-periods/">RightsInfo</a> revealed that 5,000 women (and perhaps many more) collect sanitary products each month from food banks and homeless shelters.</p><p>In north London, the voluntary organisation <a href="https://www.bloodygoodperiod.com/">Bloody Good Period</a> was set up precisely to tackle the financial burden of sanitary protection. It distributes sanitary products to 1,200 asylum seekers and refugees a month. Founder Gabby Edlin told me that periods are stigmatised “because they’re female and not sexy, not pretty and not clean.” She added: “Women are already disadvantaged by government cuts, and so combine that with all too common poverty, and ‘unpalatable’ problems like periods are pushed further down the list of priorities.” </p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Women are already disadvantaged by government cuts, and so combine that with all too common poverty, and ‘unpalatable’ problems like periods are pushed further down the list of priorities.” </p> <p>In developing countries, periods and insufficient access to menstrual hygiene can even limit girls’ access to education. UN estimates suggest that <a href="http://www.ungei.org/news/247_5761.html">approximately one in 10</a> African schoolgirls skips school during menstruation or drops out entirely due to a lack of clean and private sanitation facilities.&nbsp;</p><p>In Uganda, an organisation called AFRIpads produces reusable and locally-manufactured sanitary pads. Founder Sophia Grinvalds <a href="https://www.aid-expo.com/blog/all-about-afripads-the-period-pads-empowering-women-and-local-communities?utm_source=OpenDemocracy&amp;utm_medium=Article&amp;utm_campaign=PERIODPOVERTY">told AidEx</a> – the international aid platform, where I work – that the goal is “to enable girls and women to live productive and dignified lives where something as natural and normal as periods doesn’t hold them back”.</p><p>Menstrual hygiene is also important to wider social and economic growth and empowerment, and to the achievement of the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) on education, gender equality, and water and sanitation. It’s necessary to realise our right to health, as enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights. But how can we ensure that every single woman on this planet has access to this basic necessity?</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/PA-22707996.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Students holding sanitary pads."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-22707996.jpg" alt="Students in Ethiopia holding sanitary pads." title="Students holding sanitary pads." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Students in Ethiopia holding sanitary pads. Photo: Carola Frentzen/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Progress is slow, but some positive measures have been taken. In 2015, the Inidan government launched new <a href="http://www.ungei.org/resources/files/pub_doc107.pdf">national guidelines on menstrual hygiene management</a> that recognise this issue as a society-wide concern, and attempt to break the silence of officials and in the classroom. That same year, <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/tampon-tax-scrapped-in-canada-after-">Canada</a> stopped taxing female hygiene products following a “scrap the tampon tax” petition which successfully pressured the conservative government at the time.&nbsp; </p><p>More recently, in August <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/aug/09/scotland-stop-period-poverty-food-banks">Scotland</a> committed to roll-out a pilot project to give low-income women in Aberdeen free sanitary products. No other government-backed scheme in Britain has attempted to tackle period poverty in this way – though last month, shadow women and equalities minister <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/labour-plans-to-end-period-poverty-with-free-sanitary-products-in-schools-and-foodbanks_uk_59c3f9ede4b06f93538d36cd">Dawn Butler announced</a> that a Labour government would provide universal free access to sanitary products for secondary schools, food banks and homeless shelters.&nbsp; </p><p>Such government initiatives will hopefully inspire other nations to follow suit – but they are also not enough. Each of us has a role to play in normalising menstruation. Women and girls need accessible sanitary hygiene to manage their cycles with dignity. Men must be just as educated about this part of women’s lives if we are to end the shame and embarrassment associated with even discussing our periods. </p><p> While contexts and challenges differ, from a rural village in sub-Saharan Africa to a council estate in Aberdeen, period poverty is a widespread issue. It is only once we have access to affordable sanitary products, accurate information about our menstrual health, and absolutely zero feelings of shame and stigma, can we bring this bloody injustice to an end.</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 health everyday feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Anastasia Kyriacou Fri, 06 Oct 2017 08:19:11 +0000 Anastasia Kyriacou 113697 at https://www.opendemocracy.net