50.50 https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/5971/0 en Táhirih unveiled: poet, theologian and revolutionary https://www.opendemocracy.net/asiya-islam-naim-bro-khomasi/tahirih <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Táhirih – an important figure in Persian history – helps us imagine a more diverse feminism and a more progressive Middle East. Her legacy is not limited to Bahá’ís but belongs to all of us.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>&nbsp;</strong><em>"Just let me paint my flashing eyes&nbsp;with&nbsp;black, </em></p><p><em>and I&nbsp;would turn&nbsp;the&nbsp;day&nbsp;as&nbsp;dark&nbsp;as&nbsp;hell". </em>- Táhirih.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/TahirihillustrationbyIvanLloyd-crop.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/TahirihillustrationbyIvanLloyd-crop.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="316" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tahirih. Illustration by Ivan Lloyd in Tahirih – “A Poetic Vision” (Desert Rose Publishing). </span></span></span></p><p>Around the same time as the 1848 <a href="https://youtu.be/OFtkVKu9usk">Seneca Falls Convention</a>, commonly seen as the first chapter of the women’s movement in the West, several thousands of miles away, in Iran, a lone woman was creating ripples.</p> <p>Eighty one Babis – the precursors of present-day Bahá’ís – were gathered in the village of <a href="https://escholarship.org/uc/item/8r22d22q">Badasht</a> after their leader, the Bab, had been captured by the king. The emerging religious movement needed to decide what to do next and define the identity of the movement in a moment of crisis. One of the leaders in Badasht,<span> Táhirih - </span>a poet, theologian, and the only woman among the 81 Babis – advocated for a definitive break from Islam.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Badasht, Effie Baker 1930.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Badasht, Effie Baker 1930.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="266" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Badasht, 1930. Photo: Effie Baker </span></span></span></p> <p>One day <span>Táhirih</span> appeared adorned and unveiled in an all-male gathering. As she entered, all stood “aghast before this sudden and most unexpected apparition,” narrated witness <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/67803260">Abu Turab</a>, as beholding “her face unveiled was to them inconceivable.” Abu Turab then goes on to describe a man who “was so gravely shaken that he cut his throat with his own hands. Covered with blood and shrieking with excitement, he fled away from the face of Táhirih.”</p> <p>While to Bahá’ís this episode represents the point of break with Islam, Táhirih – also known as Qurrat al-'Ayn or Fatimah Baraghani – remains relatively unknown in mainstream feminism. People like University of Virginia professor <a href="https://youtu.be/OFtkVKu9usk">Farzaneh Milani</a>, however, think that Badasht should be seen as “the beginning of women’s movement” in the Middle East.</p> <p>Born in Qazvin in the mid-1810s into a family of high clerics, Táhirih did not stake any claims to feminism. But her journey indeed gives us the opportunity to trace an alternative history of modern feminism, one that is deeply tied to its Middle Eastern roots. This differs from the usual picture showing the West as the source of all good or all evil, and other cultures as receiving vessels.</p> <p>What made Táhirih and the Babi movement revolutionary comes down to their progressive understanding of history. They believed that God’s will unveils from time to time, according to culture and context. Religion is relative, not absolute, and, most crucially, time moves forward. This matters because conceptions of time and social change are <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/190822268">intertwined</a>.</p> <p>To <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/8387300">Mangol Bayat</a>, an independent Iranian scholar, the Babi’s progressive conception of history goes back to twelfth century Ismailis of Alamut, who thought that the Qur’an’s inner truth would unfold progressively. <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/18256692">Abbas Amanat</a>, a Yale history professor, traces this philosophy’s roots back to sixteenth century Persian theosophers, especially Mulla Sadra and his students.</p> <p>Independently of this philosophy’s exact lineage, we known that by the nineteenth century Babis were extending its implications to the social realm. Religious revelations, they thought, produce not only humanity’s spiritual but also material evolution. And no one made the logical implications of this idea clearer than <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/18256692">Tahirih</a>. “And day after day,” she wrote in 1845, “the cycle of the universe is in progress… and there is no suspension in His emanation.”</p> <p>Most religious traditions have important female figures. What makes Táhirih remarkable is that she did not play the roles of a good daughter, wife, or mother – at least in the traditional sense. Deeming herself a bigger place in the world, Tahirih left her husband and children in order to spread the word of what she thought as a new age.</p> <p>In a letter to her husband, she <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/43475242">wrote</a>: “If your desire had really been to be a faithful mate and companion to me, you would have hastened to meet me in Karbila … Three years have lapsed since our separation. Neither in this world nor in the next can I ever be associated with you. I have cast you out of my life forever.”</p> <p>Our hero left her native Qazvin for Najaf, Baghdad, Karbila, then went back to Qazvin, and finally travelled through Tehran and Mazandaran. According to <a href="https://youtu.be/OFtkVKu9usk">Farzaneh Milani</a>, freedom of movement represents one of Táhirih's most meaningful struggles in a time when women were expected to stay at home.</p> <p>As Táhirih moved from place to place and her following grew, she started challenging senior clerics to public debates – an arena where she could hardly be beaten. “No ranting shaykh rules from his pulpit throne,” she sentenced in a <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/55098467">poem</a>. “No sham, no pious fraud, no priest commands!... Good riddance! We are done with folly’s show!” </p> <p>Not surprisingly, people in power vilified her. In his chronicles, a royal court historian named <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/24429138">Sepehr</a> accused Táhirih of dressing like a “peacock of paradise” and letting her male followers “come to her throne and kiss those lips of hers which put to shame the ruby of Ramman, and rub their faces against her breasts, which chagrined the pomegranates of the garden.” Sepehr – who was not exactly a restrained writer – also alleged that Tahirih recommended the marriage of one woman to nine men.</p> <p>The mix of hate and fascination that Táhirih produced among her enemies apparently reached the Shah of Iran, who – some sources indicate – asked for the poet’s hand in marriage. “… I’ll walk the beggar’s path – though bad – it’s mine,” she wrote in a <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/55098467">poem</a>, presumably as a response. “It’s Alexander’s road that you pursue. Ride past my camp, on your road to nowhere. May you have all you wish, for it’s your due”.</p> <p>Badasht was not the first time Táhirih unveiled in public. During the first day of Muharram of 1845, she attended a gathering in the city of Karbila unveiled and wearing bright colours, not black as is customary during the month of mourning for Shia Muslims. When the word spread, a mob attacked her house and the governor put her under arrest. A Babi troubled with Táhirih’s radical views <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/18256692">wrote</a> a letter to the Bab saying: “…this woman has exceeded the limits and abrogated the shari’a that we inherited from our fathers and grandfathers.” </p> <p>Why would she be so disruptive? To Táhirih, it seems, unveiling served as shock therapy, a way of attacking prevailing norms, generating intense emotions, and mobilising other Babis to action. Her unapologetic deliberate radicalness in appearing unveiled in public can be read as a form of protest that only she, as the sole woman among several men, had access to. At the time, Babis were trying to figure out their relation to Islam and decide whether Shari’a still applied. Táhirih’s public unveiling was a dramatic sentence saying no.</p> <p>And her strategy seems to have worked. The Babi who wrote the accusatory letter received a response from the Bab himself, which was read before 70 of his followers in the Kazimayn district of Baghdad. It <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/18256692">said</a>: “Do not dispute al-Tahira in her command for she is aware of the circumstances of the cause and there is nothing for you but submission to her since it is not destined for you to realize the truth of her status.”</p> <p>Among the followers of the Bab, Mulla Husayn and especially Quddus are often considered as the most prominent leaders. We would like to argue that, in fact, Táhirih was equally, if not the most, influential individual in shaping the overall direction of the Babi movement once the Bab was put under arrest.</p> <p>In the days after Táhirih’s unveiling in Badasht, some participants renounced their faith. But according to <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/67803260">Nabil</a> – the most famous chronicler of early Babi history – those who stayed, “witnessed the most revolutionary changes in the life and habits of the assembled followers of the Bab. Their manner of worship underwent a sudden and fundamental transformation. The prayers and ceremonials by which those devout worshippers had been disciplined were irrevocably discarded.”</p> <p>Táhirih herself refused to assume a secondary role within the movement. At one point, Nabil <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/67803260">says</a>, she called Quddus “a pupil whom the Bab has sent me to edify and instruct.” “By all accounts,” states Columbia University professor <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/709594643">Hamid Dabashi</a>, “[Tahirih] was the Lenin of this ‘Marxism,’ the chief theorist and leader of revolutionary action.”</p> <p>Táhirih helps us imagine a more diverse feminism and a more progressive Middle East,&nbsp;not the one&nbsp;the media sells us. Her legacy is not limited to Bahá’ís but belongs to all of us. Revisiting figures like Tahirih helps us appreciate the plurality of ways in which women have changed history.</p> <p>Two years after Badasht, Táhirih was arrested and taken to Tehran. On separate accounts, the <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/67803260">son</a> of the mayor and an <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/844230981">Austrian physician</a> – both eye witnesses – described her death during a wave of repression that <a href="http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/martyrs-babi-babi">took the lives</a> of thousands of Babis. On a&nbsp;night in August 1852, government guards forced Táhirih from the place she was arrested and took her to a field just outside Tehran. In her mid-thirties, she was strangled to death – with her own veil, as she requested. Her body was pushed into a hollow well and rocks were thrown on top of it.</p> <p>It is for us to take one by one the rocks&nbsp;out of&nbsp;that&nbsp;well.</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/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sukhwant-dhaliwal-chitra-nagarajan-rashmi-varma/feminist-dissent-why-new-journal-on-gender-and-">Feminist Dissent: why a new journal on gender and fundamentalism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson-devi-leiper-o%27malley/young-feminists-resisting-tide-of-fundamentalisms">Young feminists: resisting the tide of fundamentalisms</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/shirin-ebadi-who-defines-islam">Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/bringing-radicalism-of-seneca-falls-into-21st-century">Bringing the radicalism of Seneca Falls into the 21st century</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/fundamentalism-and-education">Fundamentalism and education</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deepa-shankaran/right-to-have-rights-resisting-fundamentalist-orders">The right to have rights: resisting fundamentalist orders</a> </div> </div> </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"> Iran </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 Iran Culture Equality 50.50 Frontline voices against Muslim fundamentalism 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick feminism fundamentalisms gender justice women and power Naim Bro Khomasi Asiya Islam Mon, 24 Oct 2016 06:45:33 +0000 Asiya Islam and Naim Bro Khomasi 106152 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'Not a tomboy, a lesbian or a Hijra but a transman' https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nicola-desouza/gender-in-india-not-tomboy-lesbian-or-hijra-but-transman <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>‘Whenever laws and bills in India are passed regarding transgender rights, transmen are almost never called to the discussion table. So what can I, a transman expect? Sometimes I feel I am in ‘No Man's Land’.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/sid rain resized.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/sid rain resized.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="370" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Siddhant More. Image: Siddhant More.</span></span></span></p> <p>The transgender man somehow hasn’t made it to India's collective public imagination, and continues to remain an inscrutable figure in the LGBTI discourse. Siddhant More, a transman from Mumbai laments the fact that his identity is akin to that of an alien’s. In a refreshing interview, he speaks about his identity, the physical process of his transition and LGBTI politics in India. </p> <p>Born into a healthy female body, 38 year-old Siddhant More can today pass off as any regular male in his late 20s. The first time I met Sid, as he is popularly known, was in Mumbai along with Nepali transgender activist <a href="http://queer-ink.com/an-interview-with-bhumika-shrestha/">Bhumika Shrestha</a>. Neesha, a friend who came along was dumbstruck upon learning that Sid was born female, and repeatedly scanned his muscular frame and beard exclaiming, 'But he.. I mean she.. I mean he’s just like a guy. Even his voice. Are you pulling a fast one on me?'</p> <p>City-born and bred Neesha is no stranger to American sitcoms televised in India where LGBT characters are prominent (Will &amp; Grace, etc) however meeting Siddhant the transman was like a far-out phenomenon unfolding before her eyes. Having grown up in Mumbai through the 90s, Neesha has known tomboyish girls who dressed like boys, but who never quite passed off as males. To her, Siddhant was no tomboy — he was a '100 percent male!' She went on, 'Imagine if I dated a transman like him who hid this fact from me, and I found out only after marriage. Wow, after today, I'll always doubt who is a real man and who is a transman.' A barrage of emotions swept over her from shock, anger and even betrayal. This is just one of the reactions Siddhant comes across when he decides to 'out' himself to certain people. </p> <p>He says, 'I’ve always been a tomboy. Only on the first day of work in 2001 I wore a <em>salwar kameez</em>. The next day onwards I started wearing pants and shirts. Back then I wasn't even aware that I was transgender. I thought I was a lesbian as I was attracted to girls. However I realized I was different from them. While lesbians were comfortable with their bodies, I wasn’t. I've always been ill-at-ease with my breasts. It was finally in 2008 I realized I was transgender when I met another transman on the social-networking site, Orkut. The day he came out to me as a transman, was the first time I heard this word. When he spoke, I felt like he was speaking about my own experiences. I realized that most transmen think they are lesbians initially. Some figure out their gender identity when they are really old. I was 30 which is also quite old. I should have figured it out at 20 or 21. I feel like I wasted ten years of my life in a woman's body.'</p> <p><strong>The transition process</strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Sidhant More Pic resized.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Sidhant More Pic resized.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="265" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br /></strong></p> <p>Siddhant started his transition from female-to-male in May 2012 when he began taking testosterone shots. Within 3-4 months, the changes brought upon by the male hormones were visible. His voice deepened, a moustache grew and he gained weight. He decided to tell his boss about his transition only after the changes were impossible to hide. Siddhant's boss initially thought that transgender meant <a href="http://www.satyamevjayate.in/accepting-alternative-sexualities/episode-3article.aspx?uid=s3e3-ar-a3">'<em>hijra</em>'</a> – transwomen - because in the Indian context, transgender equals male-to-female transgender individuals, more specifically <em>hijras</em>. Transmen are an unheard of species, aliens at best. Sid says, 'I explained to him that my soul was that of a male, but I was trapped in a woman's body. &nbsp;He was supportive and sanctioned a loan and leave for my surgery. I finally came out last year to my colleagues — three whole years after I started my transition. Before that, I tried hiding my moustache by shaving it but they had realized much before that I was transitioning. If you want people to start addressing you as a male, it's important to come out to them.'</p> <p>As his transition progressed, Siddhant experienced changes in the way people perceived and addressed him — a constant reminder that his transition is a success. He beams, 'I feel like a man when servers in restaurants address me as 'Sir'. Over the phone too, candidates call me 'Sir' as I no longer sound girlish. When women check me out, l feel good about it. Today, not one single person believes I was born a girl.'</p> <p>'I think we all are quite gender-fluid in a way. Though I identify as a male, I have so many qualities a female is expected to have in Indian society. I do housework, I cook and I like it. I remember once telling some transmen that I was cooking, and they felt so let down. My best friend is a straight woman who likes adventure sports and riding bikes. I sit behind on her bike even as Indian men give me disapproving looks for letting a woman ‘take control’. </p> <p>I identify as a heterosexual transman. Although I believe that gender can be fluid, I’m unable to understand how gay men can be attracted to other men. Similarly gay men can't understand how I am attracted to females. Perhaps this is why many transpeople feel that they can never truly belong to the LGBTI umbrella. Gender identity and sexual orientation are completely different things. Still, the community should stand together.'</p> <p><strong>The law and LGBTI</strong></p> <p>Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, without making explicit references to LGBTI people, criminalizes the sexual expression and identity of homosexuals as it reads:</p> <p>“377. Unnatural offences. Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.</p> <p>Not surprisingly, this law has been used as a tool of harassment and extortion by the <a href="http://www.caravanmagazine.in/vantage/how-section-377-became-payday-extortionists-and-police-alike">police</a>. Films have been made specifically on this subject such as ‘<a href="https://vimeo.com/174338206/29bdafba81">Any Other Day</a>’ produced by Shobhna S. Kumar. </p> <p>Siddhant says, ‘As <a href="http://www.lawyerscollective.org/vulnerable-communities/lgbt/section-377.html">Section 377 only mentions unnatural sex</a>, I think it doesn’t apply to lesbians, and to transmen because there is no penetration involved. Still, the entire community feels criminalized. We don't get into the technicalities of what constitutes 'unnatural sex'. The rules are so grey that even lesbians and transmen can be harassed and blackmailed. In fact, it's heterosexual couples too who could be indulging in 'unnatural sex' but when it comes to them, it's always and strictly a bedroom matter. They won’t land up in jail for ten years or undergo life imprisonment. Our community is a softer target. That said, I can't think of any actual convictions under section 377.'</p> <p><strong>The transmen of India</strong></p> <p>Siddhant says that an organization for Indian transmen exists, and that only transmen can register on the website; outsiders aren't allowed. Given that India's law criminalizes homosexuality, chances of abuse of information and blackmail are heightened particularly as transmen are seen as violating Indian culture by rejecting their female-born bodies, in a country whose <a href="http://www.census2011.co.in/sexratio.php">sex ratio</a> is already skewed in favor of males. </p> <p>Siddhant also rues the fact that the show <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIUQJN1B0aQ">Satyamev Jayate</a>, hosted by Aamir Khan invited two transwomen, a lesbian, and a gay man but not a transman. He says, 'That show broke ground with millions of Indians who for the first time saw that members of the LGBTI community were just normal human beings looking for acceptance. It's unfortunate they could not invite a transman citing time-constraints. They could have had a transwoman and a transman each instead of two transwomen. It could’ve made a difference. On a positive note, I was transitioning around the same time the show was televised, and several people who watched it said they understand trans issues better now. '</p> <p>Sometimes, Indian parents are known to pressurize their gay sons to marry, and continue having male lovers on the side if need be. Immortality though continuing bloodlines and grandchildren almost always takes precedence over the child's personal choice and happiness. Does Siddhant feel a similar pressure? He says, 'I'm not concerned about never having my own children. If my future partner wants a child, we will probably adopt. If she really wants to have her 'own' baby, I'm okay with an anonymous IVF donor.' The question of family inheritances and legacies often arises.. When a transman transitions from female to male, his brother could be threatened that another male heir has suddenly appeared on the scene. A transman is a nightmare to a male sibling, his wife and children. Even if the transman adopts a child and starts his own family, the biological children of his brother would be more favored by aging parents who see their own immortality in these 'blood’ grandchildren. Sometimes even close family members like aunts who support you through your transition could tell you things like, 'Even if you adopt, that child is an outsider and not from this family bloodline. Your brother's son is the actual blood heir so let the parental house nomination be in his name.' </p> <p>Fortunately, there are supportive parents who are concerned that their trans children could be abused and thrown out of the house by greedy siblings once the parents have passed away. It's all very complicated. </p> <p><strong>Making changing from female to male formal </strong></p> <p>Siddhant announces proudly that he now has an Indian passport with MALE written on it. This is his first passport. He explains, 'I first made an affidavit that I changed my gender and have become Siddhant More. My doctor had given me a certificate after my surgery stating that I could be considered as ‘male’. I attached newspaper clippings regarding my name change, and submitted the documentation at the passport office. I got my passport after five months. My Election Card, Adhaar Card and Pan Card are all MALE too. I just can't change my education certificates where my name is the female birth name. That's irreversible.’ </p> <p>Siddhant says, ‘Luckily, I changed my official documents during the time of the <a href="http://www.lawyerscollective.org/updates/supreme-court-recognises-the-right-to-determine-and-express-ones-gender-grants-legal-status-to-third-gender.html">path-breaking 2014 NALSA judgement</a> by India’s Supreme Court which gave Indians the right to choose their gender without doing sex reassignment surgery. Transgenders were given recognition in government forms and an option for ‘Transgender’ was added to ‘Male’ and ‘Female’. The current proposed <a href="http://thewire.in/56299/failures-of-the-new-transgender-bill/">Transgender Rights Bill</a> of 2016 however takes away a transperson’s right to self-determination of gender identity. According to the bill, a transgender is someone who is neither wholly female nor wholly male, or a combination of male or female, or neither male nor female. How could they get the basic definition of ‘transgender’ so wrong? Also, a team of doctors and professionals will decide who qualifies as ‘transgender’. Hopefully this bill will be amended.’</p> <p><strong>Transmen in policy-making </strong></p> <p>Siddhant says, ‘Whenever laws and bills are passed regarding transgender rights, transmen are almost never called to the discussion table. Not once, have I been called, nor am I aware of other transmen who've been invited to sit with policy-makers. It's as if the word 'transgender' in the Indian context is exclusively reserved to <em>hijras</em> and transgender women.&nbsp; </p> <p>This isn’t all. I've been intimidated at transgender consultation meetings where <em>hijras</em> (trans women) have said I had no right to be there since my official documents state 'Male' and not 'Transgender'. They assume I’m ashamed of the 'transgender' label and wish to disappear into the male species. Transwomen who can easily pass for females aren’t spared either, and are considered traitors. So what can I, a transman expect? Sometimes I feel I am in ‘No Man's Land’. </p> <p>It appears like the Indian transman has much distance to cover when it comes to achieving personal happiness, safety and financial security. Siddhant was born into a privileged family in cosmopolitan Mumbai but can all of India's transmen claim the same? </p> <p>Will this society allow for them to blossom and realize what they were meant to be? Or will they forever be considered transgressors who left behind their female bodies in a rejection of the CIS hetero-patriarchy?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/trans-women-and-feminism-struggle-is-real">Trans women and feminism: the struggle is real</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala-geetanjali-misra-nafisa-ferdous/suspend-judgment-feminisms-and-feminists-com">Feminists and feminisms come in many forms: Suspend judgment! </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/cecilia-chung/hiv-call-for-solidarity-with-transgender-community">HIV: a call for solidarity with the transgender community </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ray-filar/questioning-imperative-to-be-gendered">Questioning the imperative to be gendered</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/transgender-challenge-to-feminist-politics">Transgender: the challenge to feminist politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/juliet-jacques/remembering-our-dead-global-violence-against-trans-people">Remembering our dead: global violence against trans people</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dee-borrego/who-was-rita-hester">Who was Rita Hester? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 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 openIndia India Culture 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy gender bodily autonomy Nicola Desouza Thu, 20 Oct 2016 06:27:03 +0000 Nicola Desouza 105956 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Lost childhoods: age disputes in the UK asylum system https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/kamena-dorling/lost-childhoods-age-disputes-in-uk-asylum-system <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Children seeking asylum in the UK are regularly disbelieved about how old they are and can end up facing harmful, protracted disputes. The culture of disbelief so often criticised in the Home Office has now seeped into some local authorities.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>&nbsp;“The only concern held by the assessors was that his shyness and apparent uncomfortable disposition may have been due to his being an adult attempting to hide his physical appearance and project an image of a young person.”</em> (Quote from a local authority age assessment)</p> <p>Two years ago, Coram Children’s Legal Centre <a href="http://www.independentageassessment.co.uk/caselaw/Y%20v%20Hillingdon%202011.pdf">secured a victory</a> in the High Court of Justice of England and Wales for a victim of trafficking, known as ‘Y’. The case centred not on convicting Y’s traffickers of a criminal offence, nor on securing damages for the years of systemic abuse she had experienced having been kept as a domestic slave since the age of five. Instead, the legal battle centred on the decision taken by the local authority, to whom she had turned for support and protection, to dispute her age. </p> <p>Y knew her date of birth, but like many other asylum seekers and victims of trafficking who come from countries that do not register all births, or who have had to destroy their documentation while fleeing to the UK, she had no passport, birth certificate or other documentation to prove how old she was. Rather than accepting her account, the social workers carrying out an assessment of Y concluded that she was over 18, not 16 as she claimed, and moved her into accommodation with adults.&nbsp; That assessment could only be challenged in court, by initiating a judicial review of the local authority’s decision, and by spending three days in a ‘fact-finding’ hearing so that the judge could come to their own view with regard to Y’s age. In the event the judge believed Y and held that she was the age she claimed to be. </p> <p>After the case, Y pledged to ‘make the most of my life’ and went on to study child care at college. But the process of being disbelieved and of having to challenge the local authority legally had taken nearly three years: yet more time wasted on top of the ten years of her childhood she had already lost. Crucially, while the dispute was ongoing, she was also denied the <a href="http://www.childrenslegalcentre.com/index.php?page=faqs_trafficking">protection to which she was entitled as a victim of trafficking</a>, such was the focus on her chronological age rather than her needs and vulnerability.</p> <p>Each year, <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/tables-for-immigration-statistics-january-to-march-2013">at least one quarter</a> of all unaccompanied children claiming asylum in the UK have their ages disputed. These children are alone, without family, trying to rebuild their lives, often while <a href="http://www.childhoodbereavementnetwork.org.uk/documents/Finalseminarreport_000.pdf">dealing with</a> bereavement, trauma, experiences of exploitation and abuse, and mental health problems. Their age is fundamental both to their access to local authority care and to the proper determination of their asylum, immigration or trafficking case, but these children are regularly disbelieved about how old they are and can end up facing harmful, protracted disputes, during which they frequently do not receive the support and protection to which they are entitled. </p> <p><strong>A long, costly and damaging system</strong></p> <p>Assessing age is <a href="http://www.unicef.org/protection/Age_Assessment_Practices_2010.pdf">extremely difficult</a>. Within different ethnic and national groups there are wide variations in young people’s growth and ages of puberty, and children may look and act older as a result of their experiences in their country of origin. Even when using medical evidence, it is impossible to identify a child’s exact chronological age, and a <a href="http://www.clusterweb.org.uk/UserFiles/KSCB/File/Resources_and_Library/The_Health_of_Refugee_Children_1.pdf">margin of error of up to five years either side</a> applies. While the UK government has <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17567082">focussed</a> on dental x-rays as a means of determination, the simple truth is that there is no magic bullet for establishing precise age. The system that has developed in the UK involves an age assessment conducted by social workers, with the only guidance being the criteria developed through jurisprudence as these assessments have been challenged in the courts. There is no appeal process; as demonstrated in the case of Y, the only way a child can challenge the outcome of the assessment is by judicial review.</p> <p>As a <a href="http://www.childrenslegalcentre.com/index.php?page=happy_birthday?">new report</a> published by Coram Children’s Legal Centre highlights, the age assessment process is long, costly and most importantly damaging to the children involved. In the 35 age dispute cases reviewed for the report, the length of time taken to resolve the issue of the child’s age ranged from ten months to over four years, with many children denied access to support, accommodation and appropriate education during that time.&nbsp; As one judge in a recent age assessment case in the Court of Appeal <a href="http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed104952">stated</a>: ‘These appeals show how disputes as to age assessments can generate prolonged and costly litigation. The expense is bad enough. But even worse is the damage that delay and uncertainty may cause to the interests of children’.</p> <p>The case of ‘H’ highlights the many problems and safeguarding concerns raised by age disputes. Arriving in the UK at aged 16, having suffered years of abuse in Afghanistan, H was assessed to be an adult and dispersed to Home Office accommodation. The social workers had concluded that he looked older than 16 and that he was ‘deliberately trying to make himself appear younger’. Months later, despite concerns raised by a nurse&nbsp; working with H regarding his mental health and her firm belief that he was a child for whom it was dangerous to be housed with adults, H was assessed again to be over 18. Eventually he was detained in an immigration removal centre. Following a court order ordering his release, he was assessed by a third local authority, who found him to be the age he claimed to be.&nbsp; In all it took a year, three assessments, and costly legal action to resolve his case, during which time he was detained for nearly a month. </p> <p><strong>Unnecessary disputes</strong></p> <p>A principal problem is that, instead of accepting the child’s age where there is no reason to doubt it and applying the benefit of the doubt <a href="http://www.seekingsupport.co.uk/images/pdfs/seek_supp_age_disputes_02_12_12.pdf">in line with case law</a>, immigration officials and social care professionals regularly dispute age and put the children through unnecessary age assessments. The <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/james-souter/asylum-decision-making-in-uk-disbelief-or-denial">culture of disbelief</a> so often criticised in the Home Office has seeped into some local authorities, and this, as well as conscious and unconscious attitudes to asylum, immigration and race, affects how assessments are conducted.&nbsp; Many assessments examined for the report showed unsound conclusions frequently based solely on the child’s appearance and demeanour. If one child is aggressive this is deemed to be ‘adult behaviour’; if another child is passive it is used to draw the same conclusion.</p> <p>More worryingly, the focus on protecting the child and determining their needs is often lost entirely, and the risks and potential damage of treating a child as an adult overlooked. While it is important to be vigilant so that adults claiming to be children are not placed in foster care or in schools with younger children, it is equally important to ensure that <em>every</em> child is protected and that children do not end up placed in immigration detention, or at risk of abuse in unsupervised accommodation with adults.</p> <p><strong>A less contentious and distressing process</strong></p> <p>What is needed is a shift in the default position of the Home Office and local authorities so that the age of a child is disputed only when there is clear reason to doubt their account of how old they are or the evidence they provide. Where an assessment is necessary, it should be conducted in a fair and lawful manner, with the views of independent professionals feeding into a holistic, multi-agency assessment process. While supporting migrant children imposes sometimes unwelcome financial burdens on cash-strapped local authorities, the financial burden of protracted legal challenges is significant too. Rather than litigation, an alternative, less distressing resolution process should be considered to reduce the contentiousness and costs of disputes and enable faster resolution. In addition, the Home Office, as a matter of urgency, must take further action to ensure that no unaccompanied child is placed in immigration detention, an ongoing concern <a href="http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/latest/news/766_new_government_stats_show_children_still_being_detained_our_response">raised</a> by charities such as the Refugee Council.</p> <p>The vulnerabilities of young refugees and migrants can often be forgotten in the race to prioritise immigration control over individual rights. No organisation working with children in the immigration system would deny that there may be occasional cases of people claiming to be younger than they are. Nor can it be ignored that some children will be briefed by smugglers who facilitate their journeys to this country. But these exceptional cases should not shape the whole system for children who do not have proof of their age, and should not excuse a process that does not adequately consider the needs and rights of children within it.</p><p><em>This article was first published in June 2013</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/sarah-campbell/uk-immigration-control-children-in-extreme-distress">UK immigration control: children in extreme distress</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-kennedy/us-immigration-bill-silence-on-deportation-of-children">US immigration bill: silence on the deportation of children </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/nando-sigona/life-in-limbo-for-uk%E2%80%99s-irregular-migrant-children-and-families">Life in limbo for UK’s irregular migrant children and families</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/is-there-alternative-to-locking-up-migrants-in-uk">Is there an alternative to locking up migrants in the UK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nando-sigona/triple-vulnerability-lives-of-britains-undocumented-migrant-children">Triple vulnerability: the lives of Britain&#039;s undocumented migrant children</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-kennedy/usa-dreaming-comprehensive-immigration-reform">USA: DREAMing comprehensive immigration reform</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/uk-border-agencys-long-punitive-campaign-against-children-helped-by-g4s-an">The UK Border Agency&#039;s long, punitive campaign against children (helped by G4S and Serco)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-kennedy/through-hell-to-limbo-in-lorry">Through hell to limbo in a lorry </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/lorena-cotza/who-does-this-world-belong-to-unaccompanied-immigrant-children-in-italy">&quot;Who does this world belong to?&quot; - unaccompanied immigrant children in Italy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/james-souter/asylum-decision-making-in-uk-disbelief-or-denial">Asylum decision-making in the UK: disbelief or denial?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/david-rhys-jones/is-she-victim-or-illegal-immigrant-uk-border-agency-decides">Is she a victim or an illegal immigrant? The UK Border Agency decides</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anna-musgrave/when-nowhere-is-safe">When nowhere is safe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anna-dixie/double-standards-dispersal-and-pregnant-asylum-seekers-in-britain">Double standards: dispersal and pregnant asylum seekers in Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/natasha-tsangarides/pregnant-detained-and-subjected-to-force-in-uk">Pregnant, detained, and subjected to force in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/zubair-gharghasht/afghan-voice-radio-frontline-of-%E2%80%98new%E2%80%99-afghanistan">Afghan Voice Radio: The frontline of a ‘new’ Afghanistan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nando-sigona/uk-migration-policy-we-need-to-talk-about-citizens">UK migration policy: we need to talk about citizens</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-sachrajda/uk-immigration-policy-more-than-enforcement-issue">UK immigration policy: more than an enforcement issue </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nikandre-kopcke/maz%C3%AD-mas-%E2%80%9Cwith-us%E2%80%9D">Mazí Mas, “with us”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marissa-begonia/hope-of-migrant">Hope of a migrant</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nath-gbikpi/deconstructing-detention-in-britain">Deconstructing detention in Britain</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"> England </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 uk England europe voices from exile institutions & government Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change 50.50 newsletter Kamena Dorling Thu, 20 Oct 2016 02:45:33 +0000 Kamena Dorling 73132 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Resurgent Sikh fundamentalism in the UK: time to act? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sukhwant-dhaliwal/resurgent-sikh-fundamentalism-in-uk-time-to-act <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Growing confidence among resurgent Sikh fundamentalist networks in the UK was evident in recent protests against inter-faith marriage. A desire to control Sikh women’s relationship choices is a key focal point for their mobilisation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Image 2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Image 2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Masked men disrupt an inter-faith marriage at Leamington and Warwick gurdwara, UK. Photo: Independent. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p> <p>On Sunday 11th September 2016, as world attention focused on the 15th anniversary of Islamist attacks on the Twin Towers, local press attention momentarily shifted to the arrest of <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-37332307">55 members of Sikh Youth UK </a>at the Leamington and Warwick <em>gurdwara</em> (place of worship for Sikhs). The group claimed that this was a <a href="http://sikhpa.com/sikh-youth-uk-statement-on-leamington-gurdwara-protest/">‘peaceful protest’</a> against the scheduled Anand Karaj (Sikh wedding ceremony) between a Sikh bride and non-Sikh groom. They also claimed that they are not opposed to interfaith marriage per se – stating that Sikh and non-Sikh couples can have a civil marriage and also receive a <em>gurdwara</em> blessing – but that the <a href="http://www.gurunanakdarbar.net/sikhrehatmaryada.pdf">Rehat Maryada</a>, a code of conduct developed in the 1930s, reserves the Anand Karaj for Sikhs exclusively. This prohibition was re-iterated in an August 2015 <a href="http://sikhcounciluk.org/anand-karaj-resolution-clarification-flowchart-declaration/">agreement</a> reached by 300 Sikh organisations. </p> <p>There are problems with these claims. The protest was clearly intended to intimidate. Protestors turned up with heads and faces covered and some were carrying kirpans. Although they claimed that kirpans are ceremonial daggers and that these had been misrepresented by the media as ‘blades’ and ‘weapons’, religious references were used to obfuscate the blindingly obvious. It’s true that kirpans are usually only carried by a small minority of baptised Sikhs but there is also a history in the UK of kirpans, and Sikh martial arts weapons, being used during violent in-fighting within <em>gurdwaras</em> and especially by Sikh fundamentalist factions. Moreover, this particular incident followed other aggressive interventions at <em>gurdwaras</em> in <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/wedding-between-sikh-bride-and-non-sikh-groom-stopped-by-thugs-at-london-temple-10450476.html">Southall</a>, <a href="http://www.itv.com/news/central/2015-10-15/inter-faith-couple-forced-to-wed-in-secret-describe-heartbreak-caused-by-protests-against-their-union/">Birmingham</a>, <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-21721519">Coventry</a> and <a href="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/vadodara/Hardliners-stop-interfaith-marriage-in-gurdwara-spark-off-debate-on-multi-culturism-in-UK/articleshow/14716384.cms">Swindon</a>. </p> <p>As with these other episodes, the protestors filmed the incident and circulated the film footage in a move to publicly shame families already pushing against deeply conservative proscriptions. The <a href="https://www.facebook.com/gurcharan.singh.9237244/posts/10208332570324649">film footage</a> shows protestors referring to interfaith marriage (not just the Anand Karaj) as ‘messed up’, stating that ‘Leamington is finished when we’ve got elders saying it’s alright to marry white people, black people’. Jagraj Singh has been one of the main spokespeople defending the protests. One need look no further than the youtube videos of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/user/basicsofsikhi">Basics of Sikhi</a> to see him opposing interfaith relationships. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VojEymbI51k">In one such clip</a>, he states ‘relationships or dating are not part of Sikhi, marriage is part of Sikhi’. Relationships outside the conjugal union are presented as uncontrolled lust and marriage is clearly seen as something that only takes place between two Sikhs. </p> <p>The <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikh_Rehat_Maryada">Rehat</a> is highly gendered and presents a problem for minority Sikhs who do not subscribe to the Khalsa version of the religion. The section on marriage states ‘a Sikh’s daughter must be married to a Sikh’ and tells Sikh women to treat their (Sikh) husbands with ‘deferential solicitude’. Fortunately, more liberal Sikhs have spoken out about the hypocrisy of protestors who selectively focus on one section of a man made code of conduct that has itself been amended three times while turning a blind eye to serious issues like familial sexual abuse. <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/if-young-sikhs-opposing-interfaith-marriage-are-just-asserting-their-religious-identity-here-are-the-a7296631.html">Herpreet Kaur Grewal</a> noted that the focus is always on Sikh girls marrying out while there is relative silence and inaction on caste discrimination and female foeticide. Throughout the 1980s and the 1990s, the prohibition on mixed relationships manifested itself in regular reprisals between Sikh and Muslim gangs for targeting ‘their’ women. The question is, why has this resurfaced now? Why has a rule invented in the 1930s gained renewed significance in the last few years? The Leamington incident has given rise to some intense theological debates but one needs to focus, instead, on the political context of these events to comprehend their dynamics. </p> <p><strong>Resurgent Sikh fundamentalist forces in the UK</strong> </p> <p>In the past decade, but particularly since the 2012 <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Ipledgeorangeofficial">I Pledge Orange</a> campaign for a stay of execution of <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-17532832">Balwant Singh Rajoana</a>&nbsp; (one of four Sikh fundamentalist activists responsible for the suicide bomb that in 1995 killed the Chief Minister of Punjab and 17 other people) there has been an exponential rise in the numbers and confidence of Sikh fundamentalist forces in the UK. This growing momentum is particularly visible at the annual commemoration in London of <a href="http://www.caravanmagazine.in/reportage/shattered-dome">Operation Bluestar</a>, the name given to the Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi’s assault on the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar in June 1984. </p> <p>Importantly, a number of Sikh fundamentalist activists had fled to the US, Canada and Europe in anticipation of Indira Gandhi’s crackdown on Sikh militancy. Two organisations behind the annual June 1984 commemoration events – Dal Khalsa and Sikh Federation UK – are the main Sikh fundamentalist organisations in England. The <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dal_Khalsa_(International)">Dal Khalsa</a> is a right wing political party that emerged as a cover for <a href="http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/india/a-community-led-by-dunces">Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale</a>’s electoral ambitions so that he could present himself as an orthodox protector of the religion. The group have been implicated in the murder of members of minority sects and its primary objective is to establish a Sikh theocratic state otherwise known as Khalistan. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Image 1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Image 1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sikhs rally in Trafalgar Square, 2011, to mark the attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984. Photo: BBC</span></span></span></p> <p>&nbsp;The Sikh Federation UK are a large Sikh political party (conventions numbering 10,000 delegates) but it’s leadership are <a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/news/mayor/kens-adviser-is-linked-to-terror-group-6640438.html">almost entirely former</a> members of the organisation International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF). ISYF was established by Bhindranwale’s nephew Jasbir Singh Rode and others living in Walsall in order to mobilise international support for secession from India. ISYF was banned in Britain in 2001 under anti-terror laws because its members had been <a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/news/mayor/kens-adviser-is-linked-to-terror-group-6640438.html">responsible for</a> assassinations, bombings and kidnappings. Along with the Babbar Khalsa International, they were implicated in the 1985 bombing of the Air India flight 182 from London to Montreal which killed 329 people and also the attempted bombing of the Air India flight 301. But key members of the ISYF founded the Sikh Federation UK. The ISYF and the Sikh Federation UK have the same objectives but through their seemingly ‘reasonable’ and ‘civilised’ lobbying tactics, Sikh Federation have successfully garnered support among key politicians leading to their success in lifting the UK’s ban on ISYF. </p> <p>The annual commemoration in London of Operation Bluestar has become a space where many of the nodes in the constellation of Sikh fundamentalist networks in the UK become highly visible. Sikh organisations that otherwise pass as moderate welfare providers or civil rights groups reveal their ideological leanings at these events. Moreover, the organisers are actively involved in reconstructing collective memory as the terror instilled by Bhindranwale and his men is overlooked or forgotten and Sikh fundamentalist claims are sanitised. Every major political party now sends an MP to address the rally in Trafalgar Square. These demonstrations have grown from a hundred or so fairly marginal student groups, to tens of thousands of participants of varied ages from around the country. The demand for Khalistan and the pressure to live by the rules of a very narrow version of Sikhism have been intensely invigorated. Sikh fundamentalism now has many foot soldiers who have become a major thorn in the side of gurdwara committees up and down the country, organising talks at gurdwaras and bussing people in to impose their world view. </p> <p><strong>Policing Sikh mores: women in the firing line </strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Within the last couple of years, Sikh fundamentalists discovered the political mileage of public policy attention to child sexual exploitation. Following a series of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/apr/08/rochdale-grooming-case-10-men-sentenced-to-up-to-25-years-in-jail">headline cases</a> in which networks of predominantly Pakistani men were convicted of sexually exploiting white British girls, Sikh fundamentalists claimed that girls from their communities had also been targeted by Muslim men. In September 2013, the BBC’s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcK1KTPDOt0">Inside Out</a> documentary series publicly applauded the ‘services’ of Mohan Singh of the <a href="http://www.sasorg.co.uk/">Sikh Awareness Society</a> (SAS). Twitter activity after the Inside Out documentary was very telling – while outraged Sikh women said they would never trust Mohan Singh and his men to assist them with any difficulties, Sikh men felt vindicated by a programme that validated their own communal anxieties. </p> <p>In the last three or four years, Mohan Singh has become something of a celebrity and a regular speaker at <em>gurdwaras</em> and Sikh student societies up and down the country, whipping up anxieties about women’s relationships and the activities of young people. At one of his talks at a <em>gurdwara</em> in east London, which I attended with a friend, there was deafening silence as he told a packed audience – men, women, young people and small children - that their daughters and sisters were being raped by Muslim men. A series of pictures of Asian men convicted of sexual offences against children were referred to as a ‘long list of Muslim perpetrators’. These images ran seamlessly into paintings of Moghul warriors beheading and suffocating Sikh leaders during the 1500s in order to make the argument that Muslims represent an historical threat to the ‘Sikh nation’ or ‘Qaum’. Flagging a crisis among Sikhs, Mohan Singh admonished the liberalism of Sikh parents with respect to alcohol consumption and allowing their children to choose their own partners. &nbsp;No mention was made of the fact that violence and abuse is still far more likely to take place within the home, nor were there words of condemnation for familial sexual abuse perpetrated by Sikhs themselves. </p> <p>It is no coincidence that inter-faith marriages have become a growing concern during the same period. Nor that the Birmingham based Sikh Awareness Society has grown in popularity, as has the Wolverhampton based Sikh Federation UK. Young men from the Midlands are bussed into areas around the country to stop inter faith marriages from taking place. Indeed Sikh Youth UK, the group claiming responsibility for the incident on 11th September, is also speaking at <em>gurdwaras</em> and Sikh student societies. Their topic of choice is, unsurprisingly, sexual exploitation and proscriptions on drug and alcohol consumption. Mohan Singh called for Sikhs to establish a national network to ‘protect’ their women and children – Sikh Youth UK are just one of a number of groups that appear to have heeded that call. </p> <p>In 2014, Mohan Sigh’s growing popularity and his tour of the UK’s <em>gurdwaras</em> translated into a new section of a draft Sikh Manifesto- entitled ‘action against perpetrators of grooming and forced conversions’-&nbsp; by the Sikh Federation UK, Sikh Council and Sikh Network. The document was used to lobby MPs in the run up to the 2015 General Election to meet specific ‘Sikh demands’. The document reveals skills among Sikh fundamentalists for working through the spaces of governance and power. The Manifesto was endorsed by all the main political parties, an irony indeed for the Sikh Labour councillors in Leamington Spa who are currently under attack by the same Sikh fundamentalist forces. </p> <p>Both the Dal Khalsa and Sikh Federation UK were quick to defend the Sikh Youth UK’s protest at Leamington and Warwick <em>gurdwara</em>. While the Dal Khalsa picketed the police station where 55 protestors were held, the Sikh Federation were quick to go on the media offensive. They issued a <a href="https://www.facebook.com/UKSINGH/posts/10154558329963092">press release</a> and gained sympathetic press coverage from <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-3784604/All-one-weapons-seized-police-Sikh-temple-believed-ceremonial.html">the tabloids</a>. While claiming to represent ‘the Sikh community’, SFUK defended ‘the justifiable objection’ of Sikhs to interfaith marriage, they applied pressure on the police to apologise for their ‘over reaction’, and demanded a ‘more sensitive’ response to future protests. Moreover, by stating they would raise media coverage of this issue at a government meeting on hate crime they sought to equate opposition to fundamentalist mobilisations and conservative codes of conduct with hate crime! The press release claims that ‘virtually all gurdwaras’ have been implementing an agreement reached in August 2015 but they fail to mention that this agreement was meant to be voluntary but is, in fact, being imposed through force; this so called ‘agreement’ came about after an assault on an inter faith marriage in Southall in August 2015 and after pressure on that <em>gurdwara</em> to heed the most right wing Sikh voices. Surrounded by the rising tide of fundamentalism, Leamington and Warwick gurdwara committee’s defiance on inter-faith marriage must be applauded and supported. It is a much needed breath of fresh air. </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/sukhwant-dhaliwal-chitra-nagarajan-rashmi-varma/feminist-dissent-why-new-journal-on-gender-and-">Feminist Dissent: why a new journal on gender and fundamentalism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/pragna-patel-gita-sahgal/whitewashing-sharia-councils-in-uk">Whitewashing Sharia councils in the UK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/no-exceptions-one-law-for-all">No exceptions: one law for all</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nira-yuvaldavis-sukhwant-dhaliwal/25-years-women-working-against-fundamentalism-in-uk">25 years: women working against fundamentalism in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/gita-sahgal/sharia-law-apostasy-and-secularism">Sharia law, apostasy and secularism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/radha-bhatt/university-challenge-secular-neutrality-or-religious-privilege">University Challenge: secular neutrality or religious privilege? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/feminism-and-soul-of-secularism">Feminism and the soul of secularism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/not-church-not-state-gender-equality-in-crossfire">Not the Church, Not the State? Gender equality in the crossfire</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/double-bind-tied-up-in-knots-on-left">Double Bind: tied up in knots on the left </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/fundamentalism-and-education">Fundamentalism and education</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/pragna-patel/%27shariafication-by-stealth%27-in-uk">&#039;Shariafication by stealth&#039; in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yasmin-rehman/refusing-to-recognise-polygamy-in-west-solution-or-soundbite">Refusing to recognise polygamy in the West: a solution or a soundbite?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/faith-know-thy-place">Faith: know thy place</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"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 UK Civil society Equality 50.50 Frontline voices against Muslim fundamentalism 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Voices for Change bodily autonomy feminism fundamentalisms gender justice women and power women's movements Sukhwant Dhaliwal Tue, 18 Oct 2016 23:33:27 +0000 Sukhwant Dhaliwal 105955 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Humanitarian Corridors: beyond political gesture https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/vicki-squire/humanitarian-corridors-beyond-political-gesture <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Around 300 people have entered Italy from Lebanon via safe and legal routes pioneered by faith groups. This pilot project holds great potential as an innovative approach to the so-called ‘refugee crisis’.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Events such as the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Lampedusa_migrant_shipwreck">horrific shipwreck of 3 October 2013</a> off the coast of Lampedusa are now commonplace in the Mediterranean. With <a href="https://euobserver.com/tickers/135342">over 6,000</a> people reported to have been rescued on 3 October 2016, a new approach is long overdue. This is why a programme of safe and legal passage, already underway in Italy, is so important. In pressing for an effective response to <a href="http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/pais/research/researchcentres/irs/humandignity">deaths at sea</a>, <a href="http://www.santegidio.org/pageID/11676/langID/it/Cosa-sono-i-corridoi-umanitari-per-i-rifugiati.html">Corridoi Umanitari</a> – <a href="http://www.mediterraneanhope.com/corridoi-umanitari-0">humanitarian corridors</a> – appears to provide a new way forward for Europe’s so-called ‘refugee crisis’.</p> <p><strong><em>Corridoi Umanitari</em></strong><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>Humanitarian Corridors is the result of an ecumenical collaboration between Catholics and Protestants. This includes <a href="http://www.santegidio.org/index.php?&amp;idLng=1064">Community of Sant Egidio</a>, the <a href="https://www.oikoumene.org/en/member-churches/europe/italy/fcei">Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy</a><span> (FCEI)</span>, and the Waldensian and Methodist Churches. While many states are moving <a href="https://euobserver.com/tickers/135327">against European efforts to relocate</a> people seeking refuge, the Corridoi Umanitari programme strives to put a more human and humane approach into action. It does so by facilitating the direct movement of people from the Middle East and North Africa to Europe.</p> <p>As a pilot initiative which began earlier this year, this programme is the first of its kind in Europe. It aims to prevent border deaths at sea by providing a safe flight to Italy, and it therefore also aims to combat smuggling and trafficking networks. Specifically, the programme seeks to support people in so called “vulnerable conditions” to enter Italy legally on the Article 25 Schengen <a href="http://www.schengenvisainfo.com/schengen-visa-types/">Limited Territorial Validity (LTV) visa</a> . This means that people are able to make a claim to international protection once they have safely arrived to Europe, rather than making dangerous journeys without visa authorisation in order to claim territorial asylum.</p> <p>The Italian government has agreed to support a total of 1,000 arrivals via this mechanism over two years. Italy appears keen to demonstrate political leadership in this area, and recent indications suggest the programme will be extended further. Indeed, the programme comes at a relatively low price. The Humanitarian Corridoors programme is funded by the Waldensian Church via the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight_per_thousand">eight per thousand tax system</a>, as well as by fundraising efforts. Hence, it does not present any costs to the Italian government.</p> <p>People are chosen to participate in the programme through visits made directly by programme organisers to camps in Lebanon. There, interviews are held with potential beneficiaries to assess whether their situation meets one or more vulnerability criteria. These criteria include: (a) those who have experienced conflict, warfare and persecution; (b) women, particularly pregnant women and single mothers; (c) unaccompanied minors; (d) those who have been identified in a first stage of assessment as <a href="https://www.rsc.ox.ac.uk/files/publications/working-paper-series/wp55-prima-facie-determination-refugee-status-2010.pdf"><em>prima facie</em> refugees</a>; and (e) those who have serious medical needs that cannot be treated where they are.</p> <p>Once programme organisers have identified a list of people who qualify on one or more of these bases, the list is forwarded to the Italian Embassy for approval. To date, around 300 people had entered Italy from Lebanon via this route. It was recently reported at a Mediterranean Hope (FCEI) press conference that another 100 are due to arrive on 20 October. Plans to extend the project to Morocco and Ethiopia and to introduce the initiative to European states beyond Italy are already underway.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><strong>A new way forward?</strong></p> <p>So, can Humanitarian Corridors provide a way forward from the so-called refugee crisis? Two points are worth noting here. First, the initiative is important because it <em>broadens</em> the understanding of who counts as a person in a vulnerable situation. It does not rely on distinctions that have been questioned&nbsp; by <a href="http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/pais/research/researchcentres/irs/crossingthemed/output/evidence_paper.pdf">recent research</a> such as those between political and economic or between forced and voluntary migration.</p> <p>Second, the initiative also <em>deepens</em> protection by providing a <a href="http://www.unhcr.ie/news/irish-story/unhcr-calls-for-safe-and-legal-routes-for-refugees-as-mediterranean-death-r">safe and legal route</a> for those seeking safety in Europe, and by initiating support and integration measures immediately on arrival. This is critical in order that international protection measures are not <a href="https://www.routledge.com/Refugee-Protection-and-the-Role-of-Law-Conflicting-Identities/Kneebone-Stevens-Baldassar/p/book/9780415835657">diluted</a> through the reduction of rights in practice, and in order to mitigate against policies of <a href="https://theconversation.com/eu-leaders-seek-to-share-responsibility-for-migration-in-malta-50542">externalised measures of control</a> that have become integral to European policies over recent years.</p> <p>The importance of this initiative is highlighted by a man I spoke with from Syria, who arrived to Italy with his wife via this programme in June 2016. He described his journey as “incomparable” with that of his brother, whom travelled via the Balkan route to Turkey last year. Moreover, he explained how his brother was surprised that when the couple arrived in Turin they had a house, a flat key, and freedom to come and go. His brother spent four months in a camp like a prison when he first came to Europe. “He was not dealt with as a human being” my new <em>amico</em> (friend) tells me.</p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Picture2_2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Beneficiaries of the scheme attend a press conference in Lampedusa on 3 October 2016 (Author photo)."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Picture2_2.png" alt="Beneficiaries of the scheme attend a press conference in Lampedusa on 3 October 2016 (Author photo)." title="Beneficiaries of the scheme attend a press conference in Lampedusa on 3 October 2016 (Author photo)." width="400" height="534" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Beneficiaries of the scheme attend a press conference in Lampedusa on 3 October 2016 (Author photo).</span></span></span>Beyond political gesture</span></p> <p>Despite the importance of this programme, questions remain as to the limited scope of this project. In particular, an issue emerges here about the challenges of an initiative that does not involve legal duty on the part of the state. While some legal opinion asserts that <a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2014/509986/IPOL_STU(2014)509986_EN.pdf">states should be obliged</a> under international and European law to provide humanitarian visas for people who request them, there does not seem to be indication to suggest that states see any obligation to provide safe and legal routes. As such there is a risk that the programme is reduced to a political gesture on the part of governments that seek to present an image to the wider community that they are ‘doing their bit’.</p> <p>Moreover, there are also problems in the linkage of this initiative to formal procedures of applying for asylum, especially where existing visa frameworks remain unchallenged. While the definition of vulnerability that the programme employs is important in expanding the definition of international protection, it does not fully free itself from existing categorisations of protection along with hierarchies embedded in the provision of refugee status, subsidiary protection and temporary protection. Critically, it does not go so far as to challenge the grossly unequal visa policies that lead to the irregular movements to Europe in the first place. Without this, there is a risk that the initiative could simply provide a soft edge to an essentially brutal system.</p> <p>Finally, there is also an issue here about civil society organisations taking responsibility for the provision of protection needs in place of the state. Professor Paolo Naso from Universita di Roma, Sapienza, who is responsible for the programme, highlighted this at a press conference in Lampedusa on 3 October 2016. He asked: “Is it only by chance that the only real experiment [in safe and legal routes] comes from two small independent churches and not from authorities or big institutions?”</p> <p>As a pilot project, Corridoi Umanitari holds great potential as an innovative approach to the so-called ‘refugee crisis’. It also needs further development in order that it is not reduced to political gesture, and in order that the safe and legal routes it opens up are part of a wider transformation of the conditions under which border deaths so frequently occur.</p> <p>Yet the significance of Humanitarian Corridors is readily evident on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa. Here, 3 October is a head-on confrontation with the realities of increasing border deaths; tragedies which local residents have now faced for many years. Each year commemoration events are organised by the group <a href="http://www.comitatotreottobre.it/">Comitato Tre Ottobre</a>, involving survivors of the 3 October shipwreck, family members of the deceased, NGOs and the local community at large.&nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Picture1_4.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Survivors and officials board boats in preparation for the 3 October memorial at sea (Author provided) "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Picture1_4.png" alt="Survivors and officials board boats in preparation for the 3 October memorial at sea (Author provided) " title="Survivors and officials board boats in preparation for the 3 October memorial at sea (Author provided) " width="400" height="534" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Survivors and officials board boats in preparation for the 3 October memorial at sea (Author provided).</span></span></span>While 3 October is an event that brings the survivors to the fore, it is haunted by those that are not present. This not only includes those who died on the journey, but also those who cannot join the event as their status does not permit legal travel. Let’s not forget the many who are immediately detained on being rescued at sea, as well as those who are deported from European territories such as the most recent targets of such policies: <a href="https://euobserver.com/migration/135349">people returned to Afghanistan</a>.</p> <p>Indeed, it is not only the tragedy of border deaths, but also the criminalisation of migration that needs to stop. Humanitarian Corridoors present one partial, yet nevertheless very important, step in this direction.</p> <p><em>&nbsp;A <a href="//theconversation.com/flights-to-italy-for-refugees-offer-a-humanitarian-way-forward-for-europe-66451">shorter version</a> of this article was published in the Conversation on 5 October 2016.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/qusay-loubani/small-illegal-refugee-paradise">Small, illegal refugee paradise</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/arresting-mass-detention-of-migrants-build-trust-not-walls">Arresting the mass detention of migrants: ‘Build trust, not walls’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jane-freedman-vasiliki-touhouliotis/fleeing-europe"> Fleeing Europe?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/charles-heller-lorenzo-pezzani/mourning-dead-while-violating-living"> Mourning the dead while violating the living</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/gabriel/red-letter-days">Lampedusa: red letter days</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/vicki-squire/hotspot-stories">Hotspot stories from Europe&#039;s border</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/qusay/idomeni-devil-s-game">Idomeni: a devil’s game </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/alexandra-embiricos/back-way-to-europe-gambia-s-forgotten-refugees">The back way to Europe: Gambia’s forgotten refugees </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/jerome-phelps/eu-must-not-leave-greece-to-solve-migration-crisis">The EU must not leave Greece to solve the migration crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nando-sigona-and-jennifer-allsopp/mind-gap-why-are-unaccompanied-children-disappearing-in-thous">Mind the gap: why are unaccompanied children disappearing in their thousands?</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"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </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 EU Democracy and government International politics europe 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick Vicki Squire Mon, 17 Oct 2016 09:28:06 +0000 Vicki Squire 105972 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Repeal the Eighth: putting intersectionality into practice https://www.opendemocracy.net/harriet-burgess/repeal-eighth-putting-intersectionality-into-practice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A long-established conservative media frames the terms of abortion politics in Ireland. The pro-choice activism challenges dominant discourses with the inclusivity and diversity of the movement exemplifying how to put intersectionality into practice. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/14600926_943966689082439_5386067744164356872_n.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/14600926_943966689082439_5386067744164356872_n.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>March for abortion rights. Image: Abortion Rights Campaign/Facebook. </span></span></span></p> <p><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-theory/wp/2015/09/24/why-intersectionality-cant-wait/?utm_term=.95b42d61109d">“The better we understand how identities and power work together from one context to another, the less likely our movements for change are to fracture”.</a> </p> <p>On Saturday the 24th of September, an estimated 20,000 people took to the streets of Dublin to protest against Ireland’s oppressive abortion laws. This represents a near ten-fold increase in attendee numbers since 2012. Who exactly marched for choice that Saturday? Are their views reflective of that of the general Irish body politik? Or are they the <a href="https://twitter.com/betaburns/status/780723276779782144/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5etfw">‘usual suspects’</a>, as some might say -‘liberal students from Dublin universities’, ‘Trotskyites’? </p> <p>‘Hey hey, mister mister, get your laws off my sister!’ ‘Not the Church, not the state, women must decide their fate!’, ‘Get your rosaries off my ovaries!’ </p> <p>The media has painted a picture of pro-choice campaigners as, quoting, a “<a href="http://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/why-my-fellow-repealers-cant-face-the-facts-around-abortion-35039115.html">Shrill Repeal Sisterhood</a>”. Representatives of the Church have also implied that reform is only wanted by a <em>particular</em> section of society. Describing Ireland’s stance on abortion (found in the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution) as ‘<a href="http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/eighth-amendment-precious-and-wonderful-says-archbishop-1.2814077">precious and wonderful’</a>, Catholic Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin set out that the Church ‘would wonder if this is really the big issue that people on the doorsteps of Ireland want to talk about.’ </p> <p>Comments such as the above ignore the lengthy trajectory of reproductive rights activism in Ireland: members of the Church, journalists and politicians continue to shirk away from acknowledging this movement’s ever-growing momentum. <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ie/cases/IESC/1973/2.html">The McGee case</a> marked a key moment for Irish women’s reproductive rights, when in 1973, a challenge was successfully brought against legislation that criminalised the use of contraceptives. Mrs McGee was a mother of four, living on a small income in a mobile home with her husband and four children. Facing a considerable risk of death were she to become pregnant again, she sought to import contraceptives from the UK, which were seized by the Irish immigration authorities. The Supreme Court <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ie/cases/IESC/1973/2.html">held</a> that the legislation violated her right to marital privacy, </p> <p class="blockquote-new">“by frustrating and making criminal any efforts by her to effectuate the decision her husband and herself made responsibly […] on medical advice, to avail themselves of a particular contraceptive method so as to ensure her life and health as well as the integrity, security and well-being of her marriage and family”. </p> <p>The decision generated national debate, and it took six years before contraception was legislated for. Even then, the Health (Family Planning) Act<em> </em>1979 only allowed for contraception on prescription, and only for ‘bona fide’ family planning purposes. The import of this was that only married couples were legally able to access contraception. It was famously described by then Minister for Health Charles Haughey as <em>an Irish solution to an Irish problem: </em>a compromise between dominant Catholic conservatism and emerging liberal ideals. It was <a href="https://www.ifpa.ie/Media-Info/History-of-Sexual-Health-in-Ireland">only in 1994</a> that contraception became freely available in Ireland, 21 years after Mrs McGee successfully brought her claim. </p> <p>Abortion remains illegal in Ireland, save where the continuance of a pregnancy poses “a real and substantial risk” to the life of the woman. Access to abortion under these circumstances was legalised under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act&nbsp;2013, following the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died whilst undergoing a miscarriage at Galway University Hospital. However, in the absence of any <a href="https://www.imo.ie/news-media/news-press-releases/2014/protection-of-life-during/">supporting guidelines</a> accompanying the legislation, it’s unclear how many, if any women can in reality get an abortion in Ireland. A woman would have to undergo a minimum of three medical assessments, from two psychiatrists and one obstetrician, in order to ‘certify’ that she meets the requirements for a lawful abortion in Ireland. Often, politicians frame arguments in terms of morality, rather than acknowledge the healthcare and medical aspects of legislating for abortion: <a href="http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/existing-abortion-laws-are-too-restrictive-says-leo-varadkar-1.2040072"><em>“I consider myself to be pro-life in that I accept that the unborn child is a human life with rights. I cannot therefore accept the view that it is simply a matter of choice</em></a><em>”. </em>Irish political cowardice has resulted in half-baked legislation that is practically unworkable. Dominant discourses continue to cloud real issues in the abortion debate, in 2016 much the same as in 1973. </p> <p>A challenge to such conservatism can be found in the diverse and dialogic narrative of the pro-choice movement. The terms of the abortion debate are shifting from moral arguments of (male) politicians to the personal accounts of all those uniquely affected by Ireland’s abortion laws: Repeal the Eighth makes for an example of what a true intersectional movement looks like. Intersectionality is a theory about how oppression operates in multiple, overlapping ways. Crenshaw’s theorisation of the particular position of black women proved that a single axis framework analysis focusing on race, gender or class in isolation limits inquiries into complex phenomena, by erasing the experiences of those who exist at the intersections of interlocking systems of oppression. Repeal the Eighth as a movement deploys intersectionality, by drawing attention to the diversity of the Irish population that is calling for change. Following reductionist portrayals of pro-choice campaigners as ‘militant feminists’, the twitter hashtag, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/knowyourrepealers?src=hash">#KnowYourRepealers</a> gained traction:&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>" Proud dad. Lost one child and nearly mum during a pregnancy. Doctors should be making healthcare decisions, not solicitors".</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>" 44yr old mam of 2 teen boys, youngest ASD. Divorced. Live in close knit farming community. Self-employed. Floating voter".</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>" 43, mam of 2 boys and Sadhbh who wasn't for this world. Health care professional. No political leanings".</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>" Born in 1978. Adopted in 1981. Met biological mother who couldn't keep me. Still 100% pro #repealthe8th. I trust women". </em></p><p>The current phase of the movement highlights the multiple ways in which Ireland’s abortion laws oppress, across different sections of society. Examples were voiced at the march, one speaker discussing how as a disabled Irish woman she is affected by the Eighth Amendment: </p> <p class="blockquote-new">“When you are physically disabled you have to make very specific choices your entire life. So if I become pregnant, I want to know that the medical support I’ve had for all my life wasn’t for nothing. My body is my body and I don’t want that to change just because I’ve moved from the orthopaedic ward down to the maternity ward.” </p> <p>Representatives from the Asylum Seeker Movement spoke at the march, highlighting how abortion laws disproportionately impact refugee women living in Ireland. Direct Provision is a state-run welfare system to house asylum seekers and their families waiting on asylum application decisions. Asylum seekers receive 19.10 euro a week, and until recently, were barred from working. Travelling to the UK to access abortion becomes a monetary impossibility under such circumstances. The Y case concerned a young migrant woman who had been raped in her home country. She repeatedly requested an abortion in an Irish hospital, expressing suicidal thoughts to doctors. She was ultimately subject to an <a href="http://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/they-said-they-could-not-do-an-abortion-i-said-you-can-leave-me-now-to-die-i-don-t-want-to-live-in-this-world-anymore-1.1901258">order of forced hydration and birth by caesarean section.</a> </p> <p class="blockquote-new">“It was very difficult for me. I cried. I said I am not capable of going through with this. I said I could die because of this... They said to me abortion was not legal here, but people like me are sent to England&nbsp;for abortions . . . I asked to go and they said they would have to arrange the documents and that could take six weeks.” </p> <p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jc_PrjNWEQE">These voices</a> show that Ireland’s stance on abortion is a race and class issue. Women caught between state systems – of asylum-seeker welfare provisions and abortion legislation – experience a unique form of racism and patriarchy. The Y case reportedly occurred after the enactment of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act&nbsp;2013, demonstrating just how shamefully unworkable the current legislation is.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/163454_146_news_hub_145259_677x251.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/163454_146_news_hub_145259_677x251.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="171" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Amnesty International Campaign in support of repealing the Eighth.Image:Amnesty International.</span></span></span></p><p>By opening the door up for a diverse dialogue, cohesion has been created across this movement. An alliance of organisations marched in solidarity on Saturday the 24th of September: Akidwa, Anti-Austerity Alliance, Anti-Racism Network, Doctors for Choice, Asylum Seekers Ireland, HUN Real Issues, Sex-Workers Alliance Ireland, Outhouse Ireland, National Traveller’s Women Forum, Lawyer’s for Choice, Transgender Equality Network Ireland, Rape Crisis Network Ireland, People Before Profit Alliance, DziewuchyDziewuchom. Further protests were held on Tuesday, October 3rd, outside the Polish consulate in Dublin to strike in solidarity with the <a href="https://twitter.com/Dublinheadshot/status/783045821180809216">#CzarnyProtest.</a></p> <p>Feminists theory describes a ‘butterfly effect’ – where a movement brings about positive, unimagined consequences. Repeal the Eighth has the potential to bring about change in Ireland that perhaps the earliest campaigners could not have foreseen. The current phase of campaigning highlights the multiple ways in which repressive abortion laws are felt across the Irish community, making the problems they pose for each of us individually easier to understand. This movement has created an intersectional space where different ideas have converged and new alliances have been forged. <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Discursive-Politics-Gender-Equality-Policy-Making-ebook/dp/B002BU24WY">“Politics is the action of taking risks in a future that is unknowable because it is being codetermined with all the other actors with whom one must necessarily struggle”</a>. Though the future is ‘unknowable’, these new alliances may allow the pro-choice community to more effectively challenge Ireland’s oppressive abortion laws that affect us all. Acknowledging difference has enriched our political action, and strengthened the momentum for change. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/beatrix-campbell/abortion-ireland%27s-reckoning-with-amendment-8">Abortion: Ireland&#039;s reckoning with Amendment 8</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ramya-ramaswami/why-migrant-mothers-die-in-childbirth-in-uk">Why migrant mothers die in childbirth in the UK </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson-marisa-viana/our-bodies-as-battlegrounds">Our bodies as battlegrounds</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/why-relentless-assault-on-abortion-in-united-states">Why the relentless assault on abortion in the United States?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/liz-cooper/liberty-train-because-i-decide">The Liberty Train: &quot;Because I Decide&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ann-rossiter/abortion-in-ireland-small-step-forward">Abortion in Ireland - a small step forward</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alda-facio-cristina-hardaga/handmaid%27s-tale-of-el-salvador">The Handmaid&#039;s Tale of El Salvador </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/agnieszka-mrozik/polands-politics-of-abortion">Poland&#039;s politics of abortion</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ireland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Ireland Civil society 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy bodily autonomy feminism fundamentalisms gender gendered migration violence against women women's health women's human rights Harriet Burgess Mon, 17 Oct 2016 07:45:27 +0000 Harriet Burgess 105987 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Small, illegal refugee paradise https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/qusay-loubani/small-illegal-refugee-paradise <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Hotel <em>“Oniro” </em><em>is</em><em> </em>a better option for a fugitive life away from homelessness and another decent station for some Syrian refugees in Greece.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/a la_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Hotel &quot;Oniro&quot; (Photo: Qusay Loubani)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/a la_0.jpg" alt="" title="Hotel &quot;Oniro&quot; (Photo: Qusay Loubani)" width="240" height="400" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hotel "Oniro" (Photo: Qusay Loubani)</span></span></span>After hundreds of refugees turned their backs on Idomeni, totally disillusioned due to the closed borders and the evacuated wild camp, many of them headed to the Athenian harbour of Piraeus, favouring a place on the dockside, in the unbearable blazing heat of June within the view of the tourist liners to other places. Frankly, many of us had no other place to go to anyway.</p> <p>Since life in a tent near the docks in another wild camp was not to be regarded as a picnic, and since harbours are not built to accommodate fugitives in rising numbers, some Left-wing Greek activists decided to help us look for a solution, and they made a good find: The <em>Oniro</em> hotel. A hotel at a 500 metre distance to the Victoria underground station at the centre of Athens, that has been closed due to tax debts for about four years now.</p> <p>The hotel was “re-opened“ after a five-hour-march starting at the Omonia Square, that was arranged by the Greek activists and naturally accompanied by many refugees. Arriving to our desired destination, both refugees and activists entered the hotel forcibly. Many of us set ourselves up in one of the empty rooms with a big sign of astonishment. We’d had suspicions that the whole action wouldn’t lead to anything at all.</p> <p>The building was somehow abandoned but it had all the necessary simple, but comfortable furniture and each room had its own bath. For every one of us the latter was a dream come true! The long lines at the refugee camps seemed all of a sudden like an almost forgotten nightmare compared to the new situation of total independence by using a bath.</p> <p>About 200 – 250 refugees are staying here now. As in other occupied camps in Athens, the meals for the inhabitants are prepared in the hotel while some of us, supported by Greek and foreign volunteers, take care of getting the supplies. Other volunteers took it upon themselves to bring some smiles and laughs to the faces of the children by gathering them at the hotel lobby and always surprising them with some new games or some new toys.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/_١٣٤٧٤٩.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Hotel reception (Photo: Qusay Loubani)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/_١٣٤٧٤٩.jpg" alt="Hotel reception (Photo: Qusay Loubani)" title="Hotel reception (Photo: Qusay Loubani)" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hotel reception (Photo: Qusay Loubani)</span></span></span></p><p>“It's the dream itself“, described one of the new Oniro residents regarding his life there. He wishes that “every refugee could somehow experience the same luck we had. Maybe the agony would leave their faces and they would be able to forget what has befallen them since they left the borders. They might even forget their roaming around the country or getting stuck like tortured animals into too crowded camps lacking any sign of humanity, by people who were trying to hush the human cause with a small croissant or a rotten chicken meal.”</p> <p>Gradually, tiny numbers of fugitives seeking a solution to their tramping through the streets of Athens are knocking on <em>Oniro's</em> doors, hoping to get some of the luck that other refugees have had. After the hotel committee of managing activists check out their humanitarian conditions and the reliability of their statements, some of them are allowed to stay in a room or a facility at the hotel, which is prepared to cater for their needs.</p> <p>Noticing that only a small number of us can be met with a kind reception at the <em>Oniro</em> for lack of space, each case is being handled in accordance with certain eligibility criteria designed to decide who can find a place to stay and also <em>how</em> this place is divided among the residents. Three single men for example staying in a big room had to make place for two more single men who were admitted recently. Another big family staying in two small rooms had to leave making place for two smaller families there, but moving to a big single room which became free, as a childless couple had to take a smaller room.</p> <p>People also leave the hotel, on the other hand, because they get their desired residence permit through the resettlement program or because they cause problems in the hotel and/or can't integrate themselves into the environment of our very calm Greek neighbours. Such disturbances are immediately avenged by the hotel committee which is trying by all available means to keep the calmness in the place, to ensure the continuation of the place itself and to avoid all kinds of problems that could endanger the existence of this small, illegal refugee paradise.</p> <p>The list of priorities is clear to see for everyone in the reception hall and the tasks to be carried out are equally assigned to the inhabitants, keeping the place always clean and in a tidy state. A meeting gathering residents and volunteers is also held once a week to discuss basic services like kitchen, pharmacy and the depot of basic supplies in addition to other services that could be provided depending on their availability.</p> <p>The time factor at the <em>Oniro </em>is not that deadly. At the centre of Athens, any resident here can walk around sighting many ancient Greek monuments, visiting some museums or spending some nice time in one of the many parks; all are ideally in reach, unlike for other refugees who are staying in camps in the most remote corners of Greece. Although they too are allowed to leave the camps and travel around, they think twice before they try it through the very fact that the extreme distances makes it a hard and expensive thing to do.</p> <p>"The ambition is not to stay here! The comfort in this place is only temporary! Our first and last goal remains to get out of Greece any way we can and to start a realistic new life”, expresses another resident. He is annoyed about the agonizingly slow resettlement program. Showing us an Arabic article on his smart phone about this program he quotes literally that “the EU is very annoyed about the disharmonious performance of the Greek government concerning the resettlement program, specially not keeping the agreed time lines to relocate the asylum seekers. Athens on the other hand makes the EU accountable for these delays by not handling the situation in a serious manner and not achieving the cofactors needed for a swift registration”.</p> <p>Indeed, this matter is going to last a very long time. Those who want to reunite with their relatives that already live somewhere in Europe have the biggest problem of all. They have to wait up to 12-18 months for a family reunion, if the concerned country approves it at all and the majority of the <em>Oniro</em> residents are waiting for such an answer to their reunion applications.</p> <p>Nevertheless, they handle the circumstances they are facing very logically and this logic, including the help of the volunteers of course, has allowed us to arrange a place to stay for a long period of time without any help from any official authorities. At the very least, we are now staying in a place that is worthy of sheltering and protecting us. Us, the rest of humanity politicians still call their own.</p><p><em>Read Qusay Loubani's previous articles tracking his journey through Europe: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/qusay/idomeni-devil-s-game">Idomeni: a devil's game</a> and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/qusay-loubani/from-border-to-harbour-greek-tragedy-goes-on">From the border to the harbour: the Greek tragecy goes on</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/qusay/idomeni-devil-s-game">Idomeni: a devil’s game </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/qusay-loubani/from-border-to-harbour-greek-tragedy-goes-on">From the border to the harbour: the Greek tragedy goes on </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/arresting-mass-detention-of-migrants-build-trust-not-walls">Arresting the mass detention of migrants: ‘Build trust, not walls’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jane-freedman-vasiliki-touhouliotis/fleeing-europe"> Fleeing Europe?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/charles-heller-lorenzo-pezzani/mourning-dead-while-violating-living"> Mourning the dead while violating the living</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vicki-squire/city-plaza-way-forward-for-european-migration-crisis">City Plaza: a way forward for the European ‘migration crisis’?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/gabriel/red-letter-days">Lampedusa: red letter days</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/alexandra-embiricos/back-way-to-europe-gambia-s-forgotten-refugees">The back way to Europe: Gambia’s forgotten refugees </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"> Greece </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Athens </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"> 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 Athens Greece Civil society International politics europe 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick Qusay Loubani Thu, 13 Oct 2016 08:34:06 +0000 Qusay Loubani 105921 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Arresting the mass detention of migrants: ‘Build trust, not walls’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jerome-phelps/arresting-mass-detention-of-migrants-build-trust-not-walls <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The pragmatic development of alternatives to detention with civil society at the fore can help to arrest the slide into the abyss of mass detention of migrants in Europe.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/justine 25_A_CMYK.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Jelloh, a participant in Detention Action&#039;s alternative to detention project (Detention Action) "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/justine 25_A_CMYK.jpg" alt="Jelloh, a participant in Detention Action's alternative to detention project (Detention Action)" title="Jelloh, a participant in Detention Action&#039;s alternative to detention project (Detention Action) " width="460" height="651" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jelloh, a participant in Detention Action's alternative to detention project (Detention Action)</span></span></span>The possible future shape of immigration detention in Europe lies hidden between the lines of the Commission’s proposals for reform of the Common European Asylum System.&nbsp; At first glance, the proposals seem largely to steer clear of detention.&nbsp; Only gradually does it become clear that they would create a universe of increasingly punitive measures, leading inexorably to the detention of anyone foolhardy enough to still think that they can reach safety in Germany or Sweden by land and sea.</p> <p>The <a href="http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-2433_en.htm">Commission’s proposals</a>, which were published in May and July 2016, take the form of a redrafting of the whole of EU asylum law, among other things recasting the Reception Conditions Directive, creating a fourth version of the Dublin Regulation (setting out which Member State is responsible for considering an asylum claim), and converting the directives on asylum procedures and qualification into regulations, which would be directly applicable in law in each state.</p> <p>Detention is rarely mentioned in the proposals.&nbsp; Only the proposed recast Reception Conditions Directive creates a new ground for detention, relating to risk of absconding, which is not on the face of it very different to existing grounds.&nbsp; But not for nothing does the Commission insist that discouraging secondary movement is one of the themes of the reforms.&nbsp; </p> <p>The proposals aim to use the asylum process itself to punish attempts to move on to another country.&nbsp; If you have left Turkey, or another ‘safe country’, you will be sent straight back there, regardless of family ties in an EU state.&nbsp; If that proves impossible, you may be punished with an accelerated asylum process, with less time to obtain evidence and make your case.&nbsp; If the authorities think you plan to travel on to another EU state, they may impose a requirement to live at a designated residence or to report regularly to the authorities.&nbsp; The proposals are clear: if you breach these conditions, and the authorities consider you to be at risk of absconding, you will be detained.</p> <p>There is to be no immediate systematic detention of asylum-seekers, as in the UK’s notorious Detained Fast Track, suspended in 2015 following <a href="http://detentionaction.org.uk/campaigns/end-the-fast-track-to-despair/legal-challenge">Detention Action’s successful legal challenges</a>.&nbsp; But the results may be much the same in countries on the EU’s external borders. &nbsp;The inadequacy of reception conditions and asylum procedures in countries like Greece and Bulgaria create powerful incentives to try to reach better places to claim asylum.&nbsp; Notwithstanding the Commission’s attempt to assert by fiat that the reformed Common European Asylum System will immediately ‘guarantee’ equal treatment everywhere, these inequalities will not change any time soon.&nbsp; Migrants will continue to try to move on.&nbsp; The result is likely to be detention, potentially on a massive scale.</p> <p>Such an expansion of detention would have profound implications, not just for asylum-seekers but for all irregular migrants in Europe.</p> <p>Nothing will change in the fundamentals of EU law, under which asylum-seekers can only be detained ‘under very clearly defined exceptional circumstances’, and detention of any migrant must be proportionate and necessary, limited to where no less coercive alternatives can be used.&nbsp; What will change &nbsp;if the new proposals are passed is that the exception will become the norm: the desire to get somewhere where you can be safe will be the ‘exceptional’ circumstance that will justify detention – in some countries, potentially for almost everyone.</p> <p>These are, of course, just proposals.&nbsp; They will be controversial, and they will not go through unmodified.&nbsp; Not least, the Visegrad countries of eastern central Europe will object to even the limited provisions for the relocation of asylum-seekers within the EU.&nbsp; But they demonstrate the height of the stakes in the immigration detention debate.</p> <p>How, then, to arrest this slide into the abyss of mass detention?&nbsp; </p> <p>The last year, and in particular the EU – Turkey deal, graphically demonstrates the ineffectiveness of appeals to legality, human rights and ‘European values’.&nbsp; Now that European leaders see the survival of the EU itself as being at stake on the shores of Greece and Italy, principled arguments to the Commission against mass returns to Turkey have proved ineffective.&nbsp; (Fortunately, so far, no more ineffective than the <a href="http://www.ekathimerini.com/209459/article/ekathimerini/news/greece-returns-13-syrian-refugees-to-turkey">attempts to actually enforce such mass returns</a>.)&nbsp; The reformed Common European Asylum System, as it stands, will significantly extend the Commission’s power, potentially preventing for example <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-36345990">Greek judges from quibbling</a> whether post-coup Turkey is really such a safe country.&nbsp; If the detention nightmare is to be averted, we need arguments that are not only legally grounded but also politically effective.</p> <p>The most plausible arguments start from alternatives to detention.&nbsp; These are the ‘less coercive measures’, unchallenged at the heart of EU law, which must be considered before detention is used. In theory, they should make it harder for states to justify detention.&nbsp; But the Commission’s reforms reframe them as stepping stones to detention: first, the asylum-seeker is given conditions on their freedom, to report regularly and live in a certain place; then, when they breach those conditions, they can be detained.</p> <p>This misuse of alternatives must be contested.&nbsp; We cannot afford to stop taking about alternatives, as it allows us to use the language of European law and values back at the Commission and Member States.&nbsp; Alternatives need not be set up to fail and provide justifications for detention.&nbsp; The Commission’s proposals highlight the risk that alternatives set up by states can be based on enforcement and mistrust, and route migrants towards detention.&nbsp; </p> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jerome-phelps/is-there-alternative-to-locking-up-migrants-in-uk">As I have argued previously</a>, there is another strand of alternatives to detention.&nbsp; Usually with the active involvement of civil society, these alternatives are based not on enforcement but on engagement with migrants.&nbsp; They start from the common sense premise that immigration and asylum systems that treat migrants with respect are more likely to be respected by migrants.&nbsp; NGOs, communities and faith groups already have strong trust relationships with migrants, and are in a much better position than states to support them to participate actively in migration procedures where they are.</p> <p>These alternatives can also address the crucial fact that liberty from detention is no liberty at all, if you are destitute on the street, without legal advice, without any effective opportunity to stabilise your situation. They can show governments that it is in their interests to provide decent reception conditions, advice and information, which can incentivise migrants to engage fully with their cases.</p> <p>Such alternatives need the active involvement of civil society, in developing, influencing and implementing projects that can get migrants out of detention, reduce the use of detention, and improve conditions of life in the community.&nbsp; <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/jerome-phelps/eu-must-not-leave-greece-to-solve-migration-crisis">I have described</a> how this is already happening even in the most desperate circumstances in Greece, where small NGOs like <a href="http://metadrasi.org/en/home/">METAdrasi</a> are developing innovative models.</p> <p>Detention Action’s new report, <a href="http://detentionaction.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Without-Detention.pdf"><em>Without Detention</em></a>, sets out the potentially crucial role that the UK could play in the development of alternatives, from a very different migration context to Greece.&nbsp; The UK is regionally important here because it has been at the forefront of trying to resolve migration control challenges through detention: the largest detention estate in Europe, the only use of detention without time limit.&nbsp; </p> <p>Crucially, the UK Government is finally acknowledging that this approach has not worked; following the critiques of the <a href="https://detentioninquiry.com/">Parliamentary Inquiry</a> and the <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0ahUKEwit_LCc-8XPAhUFLcAKHakBBwAQFggcMAA&amp;url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.gov.uk%2Fgovernment%2Fuploads%2Fsystem%2Fuploads%2Fattachment_data%2Ffile%2F490782%2F52532_Shaw_Review_Acces">Shaw Review</a>, the Government has <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Lords/2016-01-14/HLWS462/">promised</a> to reform and reduce the detention system; detention centres are closing.</p> <p>Here, alternatives to detention can be a way to reinforce and accelerate this reform process.&nbsp; If the choice is detention or nothing, decision-makers will tend to choose detention; but if a range of alternatives to detention can be developed, addressing different needs and risks, the Home Office can become more confident in resolving immigration cases in the community.&nbsp; And crucially, in closing more detention centres.&nbsp; Detention Action’s Community Support Project is already showing how this approach can work for even the most complex groups, young ex-offender migrants with barriers to removal.</p> <p>These isolated examples need to become part of a movement of alternatives to detention across the region.&nbsp; Despite the strong words in EU law, committing to engagement-based alternatives is a leap for most governments – the sense that other states in the region are taking the same approach can make it easier.&nbsp; There is <a href="http://idcoalition.org/publication/there-are-alternatives-revised-edition/">growing international momentum</a> towards the development of alternatives, but much more is needed in Europe.</p> <p>The launch two weeks ago of Detention Action’s report demonstrated the beginnings of such momentum: NGOs in the most diverse of national contexts are seeking to develop alternatives.&nbsp; In the profoundly challenging political context of Ukraine, <a href="http://r2p.org.ua/en/">Right to Protection</a> are taking advantage of a new law providing for alternatives for the first time to explore how civil society can make these provisions effective in practice.</p> <p>In Cyprus, <a href="http://www.futureworldscenter.org/index.php">Future Worlds Centre</a> are developing a pilot that could shift an immigration control system that has been very focused on detention, as part of their longer-term advocacy to reduce detention.&nbsp; Significantly, their project would involve little that the organisation does not already do: in common with many community organisations, Future Worlds Centre already provide the individualised case management that is at the heart of the most effective alternatives. </p> <p>Cyprus is an excellent example of how this regional momentum could be developed.&nbsp; It is a small country, with limited numbers of migrants, and only one detention centre.&nbsp; It is at the margins of the migration ‘crisis’, and the political stakes are correspondingly lower.&nbsp; As such, it could much more easily shift towards alternatives than its larger and crisis-ridden neighbours.&nbsp; As an EU Member State, it could become a vital showcase for the effectiveness of alternatives.</p> <p>The examples of the UK, Ukraine and Cyprus demonstrate just how different alternatives will need to be, to address specific political and migration contexts across Europe.&nbsp; But there are common themes: in each case, civil society has the knowhow and dynamism to make alternatives work, both in addressing state priorities and meeting the needs of migrants.&nbsp; </p> <p>In each case, alternatives will fundamentally only succeed if they recognise the perspectives and priorities of migrants themselves. &nbsp;Immigration control based on objectifying migrants as passive objects of control may be doomed to a cycle of ever greater coercion and ever greater resistance. &nbsp;Alternatives to detention offer a way to restructure immigration systems based on recognising migrants as active agents who make their own decisions.&nbsp; </p> <p>As Kasonga, of the Freed Voices group of experts by experience, told the Detention Action launch, the walls of detention are ‘a clear advert for distrust’.&nbsp; He had to wait for two years in detention for a single moment of respect and trust, from the detention centre manager, at the moment of his deepest crisis.&nbsp; Instead, that respect should be routine throughout the immigration system.&nbsp; In Kasonga’s words, alternatives need to ‘build trust, not walls.’</p> <p><em>This article is published as part of ‘</em><a href="http://unlocked.org.uk/"><em>Unlocking Detention’</em></a><em> – an annual ‘virtual’ tour of the UK’s detention estate, which aims to shine a spotlight on one of the gravest civil liberties issues in Britain today. To find out more about how to get involved in this year’s tour, visit www.unlocked.org.uk and follow #Unlocked16 on Twitter.</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/jerome-phelps/is-there-alternative-to-locking-up-migrants-in-uk">Is there an alternative to locking up migrants in the UK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/h/animals-or-slaves-memories-of-migrant-detention-centre">Animals or slaves? Memories of a migrant detention centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/qusay-loubani/from-border-to-harbour-greek-tragedy-goes-on">From the border to the harbour: the Greek tragedy goes on </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/charles-heller-lorenzo-pezzani/mourning-dead-while-violating-living"> Mourning the dead while violating the living</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/agnes-woolley/setherfree-spectrum-of-solidarity-for-refugee-women">#SetHerFree: a spectrum of solidarity for refugee women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/saskia-garner/life-after-detention">Life after detention</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/judith-dennis/not-minor-offence-unlawful-detention-of-unaccompanied-children">Not a minor offence: the unlawful detention of unaccompanied children</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/kate-alexander/like-chicken-surrounded-by-dogs">Like a chicken surrounded by dogs</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ali-mcginley/detained-at-uk-border-mould-cat-calls-and-barbed-wire">Detained at the UK border: mould, cat calls and barbed wire </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/francisca-stewart/foreign-national-prisoners-fear-of-being-forgotten">Foreign national prisoners: the fear of being forgotten</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ben-du-preez/no-end-to-horrors-of-detention">No end to the horrors of detention</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/gabriel/red-letter-days">Lampedusa: red letter days</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"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 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 Can Europe make it? EU Democracy and government People Flow 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick Jerome Phelps Wed, 12 Oct 2016 09:45:36 +0000 Jerome Phelps 105909 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The fraught road to justice: Sri Lankan victims of sexual violence https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/fraught-road-to-justice-sri-lankan-victims-of-sexual-violence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As more women testify about their experience of sexual violence in Sri Lanka the path to redress does not become smoother. What stands in the way of a just response to these wrongs?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/women across fence.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/women across fence.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tamil women stand across a barbed wire fence from Sri Lankan soldiers at the Manik Farm's IDP camp in Vavuniya, January 2010. Photo: Chamila Karunarathne / Press Association </span></span></span></p> <p>International and domestic studies, articles and reports in Sri Lanka are steadily illuminating the extent of sexual violence committed against women (and men) in the context of the war and times of ‘peace’. Justice and accountability for these harms, however, remain noticeably absent. Apart from a handful of cases, impunity forms the dominant landscape of Sri Lankan women’s experience with seeking redress for sexual violence.&nbsp;Hope for any relief from this current state of injustice and inaction will depend on the re-establishment of the Rule of Law; yet the numerous <em>loci</em> of impunity within the justice system makes this a particularly challenging task.</p><p><strong>Institutional cultures of custodial rape and torture</strong></p> <p>In 2001, Sivamany Sinnathamby and Wijikala Nanthakumar, were arrested in their Mannar homes by navy officials and members of the Police Special Investigation Unit. They were arrested under the <a href="http://www.sangam.org/FACTBOOK/PTA1979.htm">Prevention of Terrorism Act</a> (PTA) and the Emergency Regulations, and were taken to the office of the Counter-Subversive Unit. The&nbsp;two women were brutally raped and tortured in custody: The torture continued until the women signed confessions in Sinhalese, (falsely) affirming that they were members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who had carried bombs to Mannar. When Sivamany and Wijikala were initially examined by the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) in Mannar, no evidence of rape was reported. This outcome led to a significant community outcry and the women were re-examined by the Colombo JMO; the results of this examination showed strong signs of rape. <a href="http://www.awf.or.jp/pdf/h0019.pdf">One rationale</a> for the initial finding at the office of the Mannar JMO, is that the women, following intimidation, did not actually allow any medical examination to occur. If community pressure did not result in a second examination, the women’s case would lack the essential medical evidence upon which successful prosecution rests. Three police officers and nine navy personnel were later identified as perpetrators.</p> <p>Following the police complaint made by Sivamany and Wijikala, a campaign of intimidation by the perpetrators and their associates spread beyond the victim-witnesses to the women’s community. <a href="http://tamilguardian.com/content/fear-dogs-mannar-rape-trial">The Tamil Guardian notes</a> that the Mannar Citizens’ Committee, vocal supporters of the women’s search for accountability, began receiving daily calls threatening to murder all the members of the committee at the conclusion of the trial. The journalist who first reported the detention and rape of the Mannar women, was detained, interrogated and harassed by army personnel. Members of the armed forces also threatened Wijikala’s mother. </p> <p>Their case finally came to trial after five years; this is not an uncommon delay. Initially heard in the Mannar High Court, the case was later transferred to Sinhala-majority Anuradhapura district in an obvious prioritisation of the accused. During proceedings, the Tamil victim-witnesses experienced further intimidation and humiliation. <a href="https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/military-rape-cases-no-judgement-on-2001-mannar-gang-rape-wan/">In 2008, the hearing was stopped</a> on a stay order of the court, one victim-witness having fled the country, and the other refusing to give evidence.</p> <p>This case in many respects exemplifies women’s lived experience of Sri Lanka’s Rule of Law crisis. This 15 year old case paints an alarming yet accurate picture the search for justice for sexual violence in Sri Lanka: the women who lived through this brutal attack in their early 20s are now approaching 40; their case still has not been met with proper process or a just outcome; and the structural problems that plagued their path to justice remain largely unchanged in today’s Sri Lanka.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/school girls.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/school girls.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Outrage in Sri Lanka over the rape and murder of 18 year old Vidya Sivayoganathan. Photo: Ponniah Manikavasagam / BBC. </span></span></span></p><p><strong>Arrests under the PTA and confessions in custody</strong></p> <p>This practice of using rape and torture to coerce false confessions and admissions was commonplace during the war and endures in this post-war period. This institutional practice is strongly linked to the legislative framework under whose auspices these arrests generally occur – The PTA.</p> <p>The<em> Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) (Amendment) Act No. 10 of 1982</em> (PTA) despite bearing the words ‘temporary’ within the title itself was made permanent in 1982, and still constitutes a significant part of Sri Lanka’s security and legislative framework.&nbsp; As put by <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2013/05/there-are-no-human-rights-sri-lanka/">Amnesty International</a>, the PTA&nbsp;is ‘one of the main legal tools deployed by the government to silence its critics’ and places persons detained under its provisions in a type of ‘sinister limbo’. </p> <p>The PTA continues to be the antithesis of progress towards greater civil rights in Sri Lanka; and its permissive provisions create legal spaces for arbitrary arrests to thrive. One example is that generally, confessions made under ‘inducement, threat or promise’ are inadmissible, however, the PTA reverses the burden of proof:&nbsp; confessions made while in custody are <em>prima facie</em> admissible unless the victim can show that they were made under duress. Furthermore, the PTA confers a broad immunity on officers for actions done in ‘good faith.’&nbsp; While it is hard to understand how rape or torture could ever be considered an act done in ‘good faith,’ this section adds to the largely uncontroverted expectation held by some members of security forces that rape in custody will not be met with legal consequences. This expectation is bolstered by the fact that the PTA, with its historic context of operating amidst secrecy, does not provide for access to lawyers nor does it facilitate access to independent medical assessment upon arrest.&nbsp; These are a just some of the legislative hooks upon which rape and sexual violence in custody are hung. The PTA must be repealed. &nbsp;</p> <p>Once a complaint is made prosecution of these cases require overcoming further obstacles. It is important to note that prosecution of rape cases rests with the Attorney General, whose office is vested with broad powers to withdraw indictments and terminate High Court proceedings. Where state actors are involved, prosecution has been conspicuously reticent. </p> <p>The transfer of criminal proceedings between courts is one reflection of an overwhelmingly politicised Attorney General’s office. This practice exacerbates enduring ethnic barriers to justice: Tamil women whose cases are transferred to Anuradhapura find the travel challenging, they may not understand the language used in court, and often feel like they are in an antagonistic space. </p> <p>There is also no redress if victims and witnesses are intimidated in the way that Sivamany and Wijikala were intimidated. Even though Sri Lanka’s Parliament passed the Witness Protection Bill in February last year, this does not signify a different civil context than that survived by Wijikala, Sivamany and their community.&nbsp; The <a href="https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/ELECTRONIC/100355/120360/F-1337181541/LKA100355%20Eng.pdf">Witness Protection Act</a> is deeply flawed; the fundamental issue is that there is no independent division outside the Police Department responsible for protection of victims and witnesses. Where a victim seeks protection following violence by a state actor, their protection is entrusted to the same department to which their abusers belong. </p> <p>The delays in the judicial system further compound this lack of security, discouraging complainants to pursue justice. Partly due to Sri Lanka’s two-tier system involving protracted non-summary inquires, many cases take between 9 and 12 years to reach a conclusion. Thus although Wijikala and Sivamany survived the initial attack, and years of relentless intimidation, they eventually gave up on the pursuit of justice. </p> <p>Hope for any relief from this current state of injustice and inaction will depend on the re-establishment of the Rule of Law in Sri Lanka; yet the numerous <em>loci</em> of impunity make reform a particularly challenging task. The Sri Lankan state must begin to engage with the voices of Sri Lanka’s women who have been brutalised and left to navigate a fraught system.&nbsp; Remedying these domestic systemic ills is a crucial step to the state repairing its relationship with its women. </p> <p><em>This article stems from Chapter 2 ‘ Crisis of Legal indeterminacy’ that the author co-wrote with Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena in </em><em><a href="http://zubaanbooks.com/shop/the-search-for-justice/">The Search for Justice: The Sri Lanka Papers </a></em><em>&nbsp;(Zubaan: 2016).</em><em> <br /></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/chulani-kodikara/justice-and-accountability-for-war-related-sexual-violence-in-sri-lanka">Justice and accountability for war related sexual violence in Sri Lanka</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/sri-lanka-women-in-conflict">Sri Lanka: women in conflict </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/sexual-violence-access-to-justice-and-human-rights">Sexual violence, access to justice, and human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/charlotte-bunch/remembering-sunila-honouring-women%E2%80%99s-human-rights-defenders">Remembering Sunila, honouring women’s human rights defenders</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/chulani-kodikara/sri-lanka-where-are-women-in-local-government">Sri Lanka: where are the women in local government?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/chulani-kodikara/state-racism-and-sexism-in-postwar-sri-lanka">State racism and sexism in post-war Sri Lanka </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/immunity-and-impunity-in-peace-keeping-protection-gap">Immunity and impunity in peace keeping: the protection gap</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/stopping-sexual-violence-in-conflict-gender-politics-in-foreign-policy">Stopping sexual violence in conflict: gender politics in foreign policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/hopes-and-expectations-ending-sexual-violence-in-conflict">Hopes and expectations: ending sexual violence in conflict</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sanam-naraghi-anderlini/hopes-and-fears-summit-to-end-sexual-violence-in-conflict">Hopes and fears: Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/content/war-and-sexual-violence-issue-of-security">War and sexual violence: an issue of security</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"> Sri Lanka </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 openIndia Sri Lanka 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Editor's Pick bodily autonomy gender justice patriarchy Sexual violence violence against women women and militarism Kirsty Anantharajah Tue, 11 Oct 2016 08:03:27 +0000 Kirsty Anantharajah 105841 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Feminists and feminisms come in many forms: Suspend judgment! https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/srilatha-batliwala-geetanjali-misra-nafisa-ferdous/suspend-judgment-feminisms-and-feminists-com <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The responses of feminist activists to the Suspend Judgement! campaign reveal the hidden hierarchies of power and exclusion we must confront. Part 2. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/srilatha-batliwala-geetanjali-misra-nafisa-ferdous/to-build-feminist-futures-suspend-judgment">Part 1</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/SuspendJudgment2b.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/SuspendJudgment2b.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'>Suspend Judgment! leaflets on display at the AWID Forum. Designed by Sherna Dastur/ CREA.</span></span></span></p> <p>In the days before the internet, smartphones, texting, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, and what have you, the distribution of <em>parchas</em> (Hindi for political leaflets, pronounced <em>pur-chah</em>) was once a popular organizing tradition of street activists and protesters, especially in South Asian countries. Even today, you can see variations of <em>parchas</em> pasted across city walls, although they are more likely to be advertisements rather than political messages. </p> <p>Inspired by these movement traditions of the global south, CREA decided to use this medium as an integral part of the “<em>Suspend Judgment</em>” campaign launched in &nbsp;September at the AWID International Forum in Bahia, Brazil. <em>Suspend Judgment</em> features fourteen feminist <em>parchas </em>exploring difficult questions at the intersection of sexuality, gender and rights. As described in <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/srilatha-batliwala-geetanjali-misra-nafisa-ferdous/to-build-feminist-futures-suspend-judgment">part 1</a> of this two-part article, we see <em>Suspend Judgment</em> as a campaign that both challenges and goes to the heart of the future of feminist organizing and practice.&nbsp; It is an innovative movement-building effort focused on feminists themselves as much as other social actors, provoking all of us to think and act intersectionally, and reflect critically on deeply rooted assumptions about who is deserving of rights, what forms of difference construct stigma and marginalization, and what an inclusive agenda for social transformation might actually look like - <em>if</em> we suspend judgment! </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/SuspendJudgment2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/SuspendJudgment2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="616" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Comments made by AWID participants in reaction to Suspend Judgment! leaflets posted at the AWID Forum. Designed by Sherna Dastur/ CREA.</span></span></span></p> <p>The decision to use <em>parchas</em> was strategic and built on what had once made them a popular option for social movements at mass gatherings like the AWID Forum: they were cheap, imperfectly printed, and easy to produce in massive quantities. This economical aspect made <em>parchas </em>easy to print, distribute, take home, or read and discard. Small collectives, opinionated individuals, well organized political parties - everyone could make <em>parchas. </em>Which is why they were ubiquitous in marches, rallies, campuses – sometimes so much so that people recall using <em>parchas</em> as tissues.</p><p>Our strategy was simple: Starting from the CREA booth where the <em>parchas</em> were available for taking and fanning out through the Forum grounds. CREA invited feminists to read, comment, and like street activists themselves, paste the <em>parchas </em>on walls and columns. The fourteen Suspend Judgment <em>parchas </em>addressed both dominant perceptions and alternative perspectives on a wide spectrum of issues, from sex workers rights, pleasure and consent, intersex rights, abortion stigma, SRHR, anti-trafficking, bodily integrity, disability and sexuality, and more. </p> <p>The responses to the parchas were equally diverse:&nbsp; the conversations and reactions from activists [see box] represented a wide spectrum of feminist positions from movements around the world, some energizing and some revealing. In one exceptional instance, a young intersex activist walked into the booth and expressed surprise and then thanks for our inclusion of intersex issues.&nbsp; For those of us in the booth, being thanked for this was a shocking confrontation with the architecture of power within our own movements. We realized not only that certain conversations and constituencies are minimized or invisible even under our feminist and LGBTQI umbrellas, but that we are facing an even more colossal task: how do we authentically address this kind of othering without flattening our agendas in order to build collective voice and power? It requires self-education, re-education, and <em>un-learning </em>past attitudes and ideas.&nbsp; Most of all, suspending judgment is the first step towards understanding and <em>valuing</em> struggles outside of our own. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/CreaSuspendJudgement08.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/CreaSuspendJudgement08.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="711" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Suspend Judgment! parcha (leaflet) on display at the AWID Forum.Designed by Sherna Dastur. CREA</span></span></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>AWID Forum participants Comments posted on Suspend Judgment leaflets by participants at the AWID Forum:&nbsp; </strong></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>“I’ve sold my mind (my ideas, my creativity) and my hands (my physical abilities) in order to survive. That’s called WORK. I don’t see what’s wrong about selling my body – it is my CHOICE. Do you?"</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>“Can money buy consent?”</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>“South-South Collaborations and collective organizing will realize equality &amp; justice for women all over the world. Amandla!!”</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>“Regardless of sexual orientation/preferences, each human being has the right to be free, safe and love!”</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>“My friend had an abortion &amp; was worried about – [what] her family thought – going to jail – her future hardships [were] more stressful than the abortion itself.”</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>“Sin limites&lt;3” (“No limits” - on the Disability and sexuality parcha)</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>“I JUST WANTED the right to choose my sexual life and life plans - always!!”</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>“Derecho a decider ya!” (The right to choose now!)</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>“I had two abortions when I was younger because: 1. I was careless; 2. My contraception failed and I thought I shouldn’t pay FOR LIFE for those small, stupid mistakes. A huge mistake (an unwanted child) is no way to solve a small one. Later on I had THREE wonderful children, because I wanted to.”</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>“We need to be open to thinking outside of the box and allow ourselves time and space to think beyond [the] current to new realities.”</em></p> <p>Discomfort was a common reaction to several of our <em>parchas</em>, but we soon realized that discomfort is a powerful force for change.&nbsp; It can be generative, reveal gaps in our organizing, and push boundaries - it can make us better feminists. For example, barely anyone commented on our sadomasochism <em>parcha</em>, though it dealt with the fundamentals of consent, trust and diversity.&nbsp; There were also many NGO representatives who stopped by the booth, looked through the leaflets and congratulated us on a brilliant “marketing strategy” without once referring to the content or messaging.&nbsp; But this silence could equally signal disturbance, and therefore hopefully a deeper impact of the messages.&nbsp; Some of these specific reactions around aesthetics rendered the <em>parchas</em> back to their contemporary form on the streets of Delhi – as though they were an attempt at self-advertisement and branding. These encounters were also emblematic of the penetration of a highly corporatized development paradigm that feminist organizations are compelled to confront in both their donors and supposed allies. </p> <p>Language is obviously a key issue with the use of a printed medium like leaflets, and this was a major barrier in a space like the AWID Forum, with participants from every major and minor language group.&nbsp; CREA staff at the booth struggled to translate the <em>parchas</em> to polyphonic visitors, especially Lusophones.&nbsp; Our team did their best to communicate – in English and broken Spanish – what the <em>parchas</em> said, and what the Suspend Judgment campaign was about.&nbsp; But these instances of linguistic awkwardness also helped highlight another power structure when trying to connect across geographies – the hegemony of certain languages - which begets the larger question of creating more inclusive strategies of feminist knowledge production. </p> <p>Then there were phenomenal discussions around the idea of Suspend Judgment itself.&nbsp; One person posted the question, “Can money buy consent?” adjacent to another participant’s comment supportive of sex work as work.&nbsp; All this against the backdrop of the birthdays of <a href="http://youngfeministfund.org">FRIDA</a> (the Young Feminist Fund) and the <a href="http://www.redumbrellafund.org">Red Umbrella Fund</a> (a global fund by and of sex workers to advance sex workers’ rights) - celebrated jointly with a sex worker and ally-led fashion show that transgressed the norms of a generally polite Feminist Forum!</p><p>This, perhaps, is the crucial point: there are many feminisms and feminists come in many forms.&nbsp; The old binaries of power - North versus South, rich versus poor, indigenous knowledge versus academic epistemology– are still present, but many new axes have arisen over the past decade, creating new gatekeepers of who is or is not “truly” feminist, and what is and is not “real” feminism. The diverse commentary that <em>Suspend Judgment</em> generated highlights how inclusion is itself a moving goal post that needs to be constantly surfaced and relocated through discussion, debate, inquiry, and listening to unfamiliar voices – but also through discomfort, dancing, friendship, and grace. </p> <p>This is not a historic moment when we can politely agree to disagree. As activists from the Pacific regularly reminded us throughout the AWID Forum, we have far greater forces arraigned against us: the corporate monopolies that dictate climate change policy, the rising seas themselves; and the lack of recognition across the board of how intimately our feminist movements are actually connected to the struggles for economic justice, environmental justice, and social justice.&nbsp; The struggle to give new form to our many different ways of practicing solidarity and alliances, the struggle for more intersectional thought and action, all need to be a fundamental part of practicing a more powerful new feminism. This means having the courage to smash our comfortable silos and smash our judgments.</p> <p><em>The authors are indebted to CREA colleagues at the AWID Forum and participants for their contributions to this article. We would like to specially thank Rupsa Mallik, Sherna Dastur, Shuchi Tripati, Chaitali Bhatia, Sushma Luthra. <br /></em></p> <p>Read more articles from the AWID Forum written by speakers, participants and<strong> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050">openDemocracy 50.50</a> </strong>writers<strong> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/ch%C3%A9-ramsden">Ché Ramsden</a> </strong>and<strong> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/rahila-gupta">Rahila Gupta</a> - <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016">HERE</a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/imagine-feminist-village">Imagine a feminist village of the future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/awono-okech/stay-woke-sustaining-feminist-organising-in-uncertain-world">Stay Woke: sustaining feminist organising in an uncertain world</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/chloe-safier/young-feminist-movements-power-of-technology">Young feminist movements: the power of technology</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/trans-women-and-feminism-struggle-is-real">Trans women and feminism: the struggle is real</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/classifying-bodies-denying-freedoms">Classifying bodies, denying freedoms</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala-geetanjali-misra-nafisa-ferdous/to-build-feminist-futures-suspend-judgment">To build feminist futures, suspend judgment! </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-souza/women-of-rivers-and-forests-have-feminist-debate">The women of the rivers and forests have feminist debate? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/self-care-in-digital-space">Self-care in a digital space</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/angelika-arutyunova-rochell-jones/feminist-futures-building-collective-power-for-rights-and-jus">Feminist Futures: building collective power for rights and justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/rahila-gupta/taxing-lives-trading-women">Taxing lives, trading women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rebecca-souza/between-tradition-and-feminism-modern-amazonas">Between tradition and feminism: modern Amazonas </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick bodily autonomy feminism gender justice sexual identities women and power young feminists Srilatha Batliwala Geetanjali Misra Nafisa Ferdous Mon, 10 Oct 2016 09:45:27 +0000 Nafisa Ferdous, Geetanjali Misra and Srilatha Batliwala 105845 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Still no woman at the helm of the UN https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/anne-marie-goetz/still-no-woman-at-helm-UN <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>António Guterres's election as the new UN Secretary-General is a stark illustration of how male-dominated decision-making means that female leadership is not just rare, but virtually inconceivable. </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/562240/PA-17424968.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562240/PA-17424968.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'>António Guterres, the new Secretary General. Khalid Mohammed AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>António Guterres, former Prime Minister of Portugal, former High Commissioner of the UN’s agency for supporting refugees, will be the next UN Secretary-General.&nbsp; The decision was, in an unusual show of unity, <a href="http://webtv.un.org/media/watch/sc-president-vitaly-churkin-russian-federation-on-the-selection-process-for-the-position-of-the-next-un-secretary-general-security-council-media-stakeout-5-october-2016/5157255993001">announced</a> at a press stakeout by the Security Council’s 14 male ambassadors and one woman ambassador on October 5th immediately after the sixth round of voting.&nbsp; These polls have been informal, but October 5th was the first occasion on which vetoes were revealed (without indicating their source) through the use of red ballots by the Permanent 5 members.&nbsp; Guterres was the only candidate on the list of 10 to exceed the 9 positive votes required, and the only one to receive no vetoes (though there was one abstention). </p> <p>Guterres’s success should come as no surprise – he has topped all six of these internal polls, held since July this year.&nbsp; But logical procedure is far from the norm in this secretive process, and he had not until a few days ago been expected to avoid a Russian veto.&nbsp; Russia, in its current Cold War throw-back belligerence in international affairs, had been insisting that the winner should for once and for the first time be an Eastern European.&nbsp; The eleventh hour entry (five days before the vote) of Bulgarian Kristalina Georgieva to the race was thought significantly to challenge Guterres, because she fit the bill as an Eastern European and had an impressive record of managerial efficiency as the European Union’s budget chief and prior to that, as European Commissioner on humanitarian issues. &nbsp;She is also a woman. </p> <p>The demand that this Secretary-General be a woman and a feminist has been expressed with growing insistence by <a href="http://wilpf.org/wilpf_statements/wilpf-position-on-the-election-of-the-next-united-nations-secretary-general-4feministunsg/">women’s rights groups</a> around the world and by <a href="http://www.equalitynow.org/campaigns/time-woman">dedicated</a> <a href="http://www.womansg.org/">campaigns</a> and <a href="https://www.change.org/p/member-states-call-for-a-feminist-un-secretary-general">petitions</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>Two central arguments drive this demand. The first is substantive: the UN has failed to use its resources and power to promote gender equality effectively. Women’s rights have been a latecomer and continue to be an afterthought in the UN’s development, peace, and human rights work.&nbsp; In development, growth and poverty reduction strategies fail to address the foundational role women’s unpaid work plays in economies, and fail to finance women’s well-being and livelihoods.&nbsp; In peace, women are still mostly excluded from peace talks and are marginal to post-conflict political settlements; they are noticed mainly when they are victims of violence. In human rights, while normative frameworks establish women’s equal humanity with men, many perpetrators of crimes against women enjoy impunity the world over.&nbsp; And across all of these areas, it has been difficult to establish just how marginal gender equality work is, since the UN’s own systems for tracking its spending on women’s rights and gender equality are not comparable across different agencies. Where we <em>can</em> track spending, results are unimpressive. The UN’s peacebuilding work, for instance, has fallen far short of the <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/peace-and-security/recovery-and-peacebuilding">modest target of 15% spending on gender equality</a> that it set itself 6 years ago (and yet this sector does better than others). </p> <p>The second argument for a woman SG is about the symbolic impact of the role. The fact that there has never been a woman at the helm of the UN – and indeed that until this year’s selection process there have been less than a handful of women even running as candidates – is a stark illustration of how male-dominated decision-making makes female leadership not just rare, but virtually inconceivable. To have a woman as the world’s top diplomat would have sent a dramatic signal of progress and change.&nbsp; And not just any accomplished and talented woman, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/anne-marie-goetz/still-no-country-for-women-double-standards-choosing-next-UN-Secretary-General">but a feminist woman</a>, unafraid to champion gender equality as a core and crucial value and project in international relations.&nbsp; At a time when the UN must urgently rise to the unprecedented political and environmental challenges of the 21st century, it seems antique to be relying on the familiar old (and Western European) cast of characters. While no-one in the campaigns for a woman SG ever pretended that a single woman would have solutions to these problems, a fresh start would have been signaled by selecting a feminist woman to trigger reform. </p> <p>Linked to the symbolic argument were recent revelations about the dramatic deficit in female leadership across the UN.&nbsp; Ban Ki-moon’s frequent assertions of progress in appointing women to high office were refuted by data that showed <a href="http://peaceoperationsreview.org/commentary/the-lost-agenda-gender-parity-in-senior-un-appointments/">84% of his appointments to top posts in 2015 were male</a>. This also revealed that the region often seen as pressing hardest for women’s rights – Western Europe and Anglophone countries – contributed just one women in the 23 top appointments it scored last year.&nbsp; Other research <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourania-s-yancopoulos/is-un-really-moving-toward-gender-equality-or-is-it-trying-to-cover-up-lack-of">published on openDemocracy</a> revealed that the rate of increase of top appointments of women has stalled over Ban Ki-moon’s tenure, and this parallels a pattern found at the middle management level where the pipeline of women to senior positions has narrowed to a trickle. It is naïve to think that greater numbers of women staff – even gender parity – would <em>necessarily</em> produce feminist outcomes or working methods in historically gender-biased institutions.&nbsp; But it is next to impossible for feminist processes and actions to emerge from historically patriarchal and unrepentantly male-dominated institutions. </p> <p>Fully aware of the ‘She4SG’ campaigns, the male candidates this year proclaimed their feminist credentials, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/redressing-uns-gender-gap-how-do-sg-contenders-compare">often very convincingly</a>.&nbsp; For the <a href="http://www.womansg.org/">Campaign to Elect a Women SG</a> this was not enough, and on October 5th it issued a terse statement describing the selection, once again, of a man, as ‘a disaster for equal rights and gender equality’.&nbsp; It went on to say that the decision ‘represents the usual backroom deals that still prevail&nbsp;at the UN. There were seven outstanding female candidates and in the end it appears they were never seriously considered’.&nbsp; </p> <p>Indeed, failure by the Security Council to demonstrate serious consideration of the women candidates can be seen in the fact that they were routinely relegated to the bottom of the list in the straw polls.&nbsp; This cannot be said to reflect geographic origin.&nbsp; Helen Clark, with equivalent credentials to Guterres and, like him, not an Eastern European, was consistently pushed below 5th place.&nbsp; Eastern European women candidates from countries close to Russia, like Natalia Gherman from Moldova, were never seriously considered, whereas some male candidates with, arguably, as faint a trace in terms of global public recognition, such as Miroslav Lajcak (Slovakia) and Vuk Jeremic (Serbia), came second and third in the final tally. </p> <p>When the Security Council faced the press late in the morning of October 5th the decision was presented as based on merit.&nbsp; US ambassador Samantha Power <a href="http://usun.state.gov/remarks/7464">said</a>:&nbsp; So in the end, there was just a candidate whose experience, vision, and versatility across a range of areas proved compelling.’ Disappointingly, neither she, nor Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin, mentioned the global pressure to select a woman for the job.&nbsp; Power went on to reference current serious security challenges and to say: ‘If we have these transnational threats and we don’t have somebody at the helm of the United Nations that can mobilize coalitions, that can make the tools of this institution – creaky though they are, flawed though they are – work better for people, that’s going to be more pain and more suffering and more dysfunction than we can afford.’&nbsp; Guterres, by implication, is <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/international/21708215-former-prime-minister-portugal-preferred-any-eastern-european-woman">‘a safe pair of hands’</a> at the helm of the UN. </p> <p>It is not news that gender bias interferes with how ‘experience, vision and versatility’ is assessed, but gender bias may have had less to do with the Security Council’s decision than the nature of the agreements reached with the P5 on the distribution of major roles in the UN.&nbsp; Unsurprisingly, speculation is flaring regarding the deals that must have been struck to generate Russian support for Guterres and US acquiescence to that arrangement.&nbsp; It is said that Russia hopes to gain leadership of the Department of Political Affairs, the UN’s core source of political analysis, home of the UN’s envoys and mediators, the leader on post conflict elections and peace talks.&nbsp; In short, it is the political engine of the UN.&nbsp; The US has held its top position for some time, but Jeffrey Feltman, a career US diplomat, is scheduled to step down in March next year. <a href="https://ideas.repec.org/a/taf/femeco/v22y2016i1p211-236.html">Feminist UN observers</a> have not been fans of DPA because of its failure to exploit its role in shaping the ‘good offices’ work of the UN to seriously promote women’s role in conflict resolution or to promote gender quotas in post conflict elections.&nbsp; But under leadership that could share Russia’s lack of enthusiasm for human rights and gender equality, DPA might surrender the slow progress it has made in these areas.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>The outcome of the negotiations will emerge over the initial few months of 2017.&nbsp; They, as much as the choice of leader, will determine whether the UN can ‘work better for people’, to repeat what Power said.&nbsp; We know little about these decisions, but one thing is pretty certain: bringing the UN up to speed on gender equality was not a priority. </p> <p>Unless the General Assembly moves to adopt the popular request to limit the SG’s term to 7 years, it might take until 2026 before another opportunity arises to appoint a woman SG.&nbsp; As UN reporter <a href="http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/author/Peter%20Nadin.aspx">Peter Nadin</a> notes: “next time around the call for a female secretary-general will be deafening.”&nbsp; Feminist activists are bitterly disappointed about the lack of serious discussion given to the issue of gender bias at the UN during this process.&nbsp; A number of organizations have developed a feminist agenda for the new SG’s first 100 days in office, <a href="http://action.equalitynow.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=23658&amp;utm_source=email&amp;utm_medium=takeAction_btn&amp;utm_campaign=UNSG_FeministAgenda">posted</a> on Equality Now’s website.&nbsp; Organizations can sign on via this <a href="http://action.equalitynow.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=23658&amp;utm_source=email&amp;utm_medium=takeAction_btn&amp;utm_campaign=UNSG_FeministAgenda">link</a>. </p> <p>Guterres faces a vast number of challenges – most urgent of which is resolving the Syrian crisis.&nbsp; His selection, given his background as head of UNHCR, includes acknowledgement of the extent to which today’s refugee crisis portends future upheavals that can be expected to flow from conflicts and environmental crises.&nbsp; These upheavals will require dramatic re-thinking of the very basis for multilateralism and the role of national sovereignty in the context of shared crises and massive human rights abuses.&nbsp; Women’s transnational movements have always stressed the need for global, not just national, solutions to such crises – indeed, the 1915 Hague International Congress of Women issued one of the first calls for institutionalized global governance.&nbsp; The world is currently re-nationalizing, as shown by Brexit and the closing of borders to refugees and immigrants.&nbsp; It is shifting towards right wing and personalized ‘strong-man’ decision-making, as indicated by the rejection of the Colombian peace deal and the demagoguery illustrated by Trump’s campaign in the US.&nbsp; These processes are sharply gendered, encouraging belligerent and even violent expressions of masculinity and invoking idealized visions of nation and family based on restrictions on women’s rights.&nbsp; Falling back on familiar old boys’ networks seems desperately inadequate to address this problem.&nbsp; </p> <p>The campaigns to elect a feminist woman SG have at the very least succeeded in making feminist reform at the UN an urgent matter. An early confidence-building measure by Guterres that would signal a fresh step forward would be to adopt the feminist agenda for the first 100 days.&nbsp; The agenda combines desperately needed internal reforms to address profound sexism within the UN, with actions to unblock the UN’s political and operational work on women’s rights. It also requires early and sustained collaboration between the new SG and women’s organizations around the world to set priorities and develop a timeline for the fifth World Conference on Women. It is a massive and a tough job and it is his now.</p> <p><em>Read more articles addressing the selection of the new UN Secretary-General on openDemocracy's platform <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/gender-and-un">Gender and the UN</a></strong></em></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/redressing-uns-gender-gap-how-do-sg-contenders-compare">Redressing the UN&#039;s gender gap: how do the SG contenders compare? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/time-to-vote-pick-feminist-woman-to-lead-un">Choose a woman to lead the UN!</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/still-no-country-for-women-double-standards-choosing-next-UN-Secretary-General">Still no country for women? Double standards in choosing the next UN Secretary-General </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lyric-thompson/is-feminist-united-nations-possible-in-our-lifetime">Is a feminist United Nations possible in our lifetime?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/kavita-n-ramdas/building-bridge-to-future-towards-feminist-un">Building a bridge to the future: towards a feminist UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/madam-secretary-general">Madam Secretary-General?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ourania-s-yancopoulos/lone-raised-hand-who-will-become-next-un-secretary-general">A lone raised hand: who will become the next UN Secretary-General ?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ourania-s-yancopoulos/world-s-top-diplomat-administrator-figurehead-or-leader">The next UN Secretary-General: administrator, figurehead, or leader?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourania-s-yancopoulos/is-un-really-moving-toward-gender-equality-or-is-it-trying-to-cover-up-lack-of">Is the UN really moving toward gender equality? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/un-gender-generation-and-counter-terrorism-in-women-peace-and-security-debate">UN resolution 2242: gender, generation, and counter terrorism </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sophie-giscard-destaing/gender-and-terrorism-un-calls-for-women-s-engagement-in-countering-viol">UN calls for women’s engagement in countering violent extremism: but at what cost? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lyric-thompson/girls-speaking-truth-to-power-at-un-global-2030-agenda">Girls speaking truth to power at the UN: the global 2030 Agenda </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Gender and the UN 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy feminism gender gender justice women and power women's human rights Anne Marie Goetz Thu, 06 Oct 2016 18:45:33 +0000 Anne Marie Goetz 105814 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Redressing the UN's gender gap: how do the SG contenders compare? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/redressing-uns-gender-gap-how-do-sg-contenders-compare <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Following an informal vote held at the UN in New York today, the UN Security Council will vote by acclamation tomorrow to choose Portugal’s António Guterres as the next UN Secretary-General.&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><i>This article was first published 12 September.</i></p><p>As the race for UN Secretary-General nears its next stage, it is looking less likely that the UN will elect its first female head. These developments are shedding new light on the most recent list of male-dominated, top contenders and calling into question what they have done to promote gender parity.</p><p>Calls for a woman to lead the organization have been widely spurred on by the UN’s inability to make good on its own commitments. Despite <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/fplegbasis.htm">over 20 years</a> of commitments to gender parity, inside the UN, women represent just 15% of country Ambassadors and only 22% of senior positions. In the UN’s most senior positions (called Assistant-Secretaries-General and Under-Secretaries-General) women were outnumbered <i>37 to 129</i> <a href="https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N15/420/84/pdf/N1542084.pdf?OpenElement">in 2015</a>.</p> <p>“We want a woman Secretary-General,” Jean Krasno, Chairwoman of the <a href="http://www.womansg.org">Campaign to Elect a Woman UN Secretary-General</a>, told openDemocracy, “not someone who promises to do better, when none of the male SGs have ever achieved gender parity in the UN system.” In fact, if the current trend continues, the UN will favor men for <a href="http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/studio/multimedia/20160504/index.html"><i>the next 112 years</i></a>-- unless something significant is done about it. </p> <p>But men continue to dominate in the informal polls, and following the results of the fourth round of straw polls held at the UN’s headquarters in New York September 9, it appears more and more unlikely that a woman will be elected. “It’s a slap in the face to women,” UN Expert and Former Chief Advisor on Peace and Security at UN Women, Dr. Anne-Marie Goetz, said. “Almost all the women are at the bottom of the pack – a graphic illustration of gender bias.” </p> <p>Despite “<a href="http://www.sabc.co.za/news/a/9c5359004e0ec93eaa04bf49e1a112b8/UN-continues-to-apply-pressure-for-a-female-Secretary-General-20163008">five superbly qualified women</a>” among the candidates, of the poll’s top five contenders, only one was a woman. “It surprised me,” Colombian Ambassador to the UN María Emma Mejía Vélez <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/10/world/americas/united-nations-gender-equality.html?rref=collection%2Fbyline%2Fsomini-sengupta&amp;action=click&amp;contentCollection=undefined&amp;region=stream&amp;module=stream_unit&amp;version=latest&amp;contentPlacement=1&amp;pgtype=collection&amp;_r=0">told the NYT</a> after the third poll in late August. “That the members of the Security Council didn’t find any of the six worthy of being first or second.” </p> <p>As hopes for the UN’s first female leader become more unlikely, skepticism grows over whether another male Secretary-General can and will live up to commitments for gender parity if selected. “I don't buy the feminist man argument,” Shazia Rafi, UN Expert and former Secretary-General, Parliamentarians for Global Action 1996-2013, wrote in an email, “They have had their chance for 70 years, they have not created a more equal or peaceful world, they have not kept their commitments on gender equality made over twenty years ago at the Beijing Conference 1995; I was there, I helped write the words.&nbsp;There is no reason to believe the men will do so now.”</p> <p>Regardless of who this next SG will be, it is evident that in an election where gender parity has been <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/anne-marie-goetz/still-no-country-for-women-double-standards-choosing-next-UN-Secretary-General">paramount</a>, what the next SG has achieved in regards to women’s rights and empowerment matters. And while all candidates have publically committed to achieve gender parity if selected, no comprehensive analysis has been done of what these candidates have accomplished towards the advancement of women in past leadership positions.</p> <p>For this piece openDemocracy talked exclusively with the top five candidates (<b>See Footnote</b>), asking them to describe in their own words their biggest achievements in gender mainstreaming to date.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>We received overwhelming and lengthy responses that cover not just what candidates did to promote women, but also the types of gender policies they promoted, as well as the initiatives’ impacts and results. There is no space to provide the full treatment that would give justice to the level of detail with which we were provided. Therefore, we focus only on the staffing achievements of the candidates.&nbsp; However as many of the candidates pointed out in our discussions- increasing numbers of women across staff – while important – is not the only – or even the best measure of feminist commitment. It is perhaps however the most immediately visible.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><h3><b>António Guterres: Former Head of the UN’s Refugee Agency and Former Prime Minister of Portugal</b></h3> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Guterres.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Guterres.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'>Former Prime Minister António Guterres is “the man to beat” in the current race for Next SG. Credit: Kena Betancur / AFP Photo</span></span></span></p><p><i>I am totally committed to parity. If elected I will present a road map for gender parity at all levels with benchmarks and time frames.</i></p> <p>~ Guterres to UN Member States, June 7, New York</p> <p>Portugal’s António Guterres holds a <a href="http://www.politico.eu/article/portuguese-antonio-guterres-continues-to-lead-vote-for-un-chief/">striking<b> </b>lead</a>, winning all four straw poll votes. Barring some completely unforeseen development – and a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/evelyn-leopold/will-portugals-guterres-b_b_11768604.html">Russian veto</a> – Guterres could be the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Guterres has taken measureable actions to address gender imbalances in staffing - specifically, as the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005 to 2015. “What I have tried to do while at UNHCR was to have the organization move from a male-dominated culture to a truly gender motivated staff,” he wrote in an email.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Setting gender parity as a <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/4abb8cde9.pdf">key objective</a> of his staff management policies<b> </b>in 2007, the UN’s Refugee Agency has since become a gender-equitable organization. According to Guterres, parity has been achieved in all areas dependent on direct decision of the High Commissioner, including within its Senior Management Committee - the high management body of the UNHCR, composed of 20 staff.&nbsp; According to UNHCR resources, progress has been made at all levels:</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/TABLE1_UNHCR_ STAFFPROGRESS.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/TABLE1_UNHCR_ STAFFPROGRESS.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="180" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Source: UNHCR</span></span></span></p><p>Under Guterres’s leadership, the UNHCR became <a href="https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N14/515/99/pdf/N1451599.pdf?OpenElement">one of only seven</a> UN entities that reached parity in promotions to senior staff, ranking fourth among 32 UN entities in the number of women appointed to senior level positions. Guterres said, “I believe these excellent results in the most senior levels show that my decision to have parity as the guiding management principle paid off.”</p> <p>When it comes to staffing, Guterres’s only regret is that there appeared to be a reversal in the rate of women’s representation at the lower levels, “As I was strongly focused on improving women’s representation at senior levels, I did not become fully aware of this negative trend initially.” Upon realizing the trend, Guterres quickly worked to change the recruitment policy.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>“It was a difficult task that caused quite a bit of internal resistance,” he said, “but finally we approved a new mechanism.” Now, having stepped down as High Commissioner, he hopes the organization sees through the new policy and ensures the reversal of the negative trend.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>When it comes to the broader UN system, Guterres is not afraid to call out the current gender imbalance of the UN’s most senior staff. In his <a href="http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/watch/ant%C3%B3nio-guterres-portugal-informal-dialogue-for-the-position-of-the-next-un-secretary-general/4843896055001">interview</a> with Member States on April 12, he said, gender balance was a “necessary shift” in the UN’s working style, “despite moving backwards in recent times.” “I am totally committed to parity,” Guterres assured repeatedly. From his time as UNHCR it seems he has the tools and experience to make good on this commitment.</p><h3><b>Miroslav Lajčák: current Foreign Minister of Slovakia</b></h3><p><b><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Lajcak.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Lajcak.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="361" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Slovakia’s Foreign Minister, Miroslav Lajćäk says, “If we want to promote more women, we need to promote them…particularly in areas where women can do better jobs than men.” Credit: Permanent Mission of Slovakia to the United Nations</span></span></span></b></p><p><i>Men</i><i> are better at fighting wars, and women are better at achieving peace…Women simply have stronger empathy and know the special needs of vulnerable communities… We need to use the special capacities and qualities of women… We must stand and fight for equality now. We must fight against all discrimination especially based on gender.</i></p> <p>~ Lajčák to UN Member States, June 7, New York<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Despite poor performances in the first and second straw polls, Miroslav Lajčák has bounced up from the bottom of the pack in the third poll, to hold his second place finish in the fourth.&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Lajčák, when he became Slovakia’s Foreign Minister in 2009, women made up zero percent of the ministry’s most senior positions (Directors-General). “Today,” he says, “women represent 44 percent.”</p> <p>To help bring about this change, Lajčák implemented gender as a “priority criterion” when considering new applicants for Foreign Service. “Within my competencies I have focused on eliminating discrepancies and inequalities at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” he wrote in an email. “We are taking efforts to set up standards of gender equality at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where the representation of women at various levels and positions is constantly increasing.”</p> <p>According to Lajčák, 55 percent&nbsp;of the Foreign Ministry’s staff at headquarters, and 47 percent of the ministry’s workers abroad, are women. “In fact,” Lajčák remarked, “there are several women in top-diplomatic positions abroad, promoting Slovakia’s multilateral or bilateral priorities… – be it in Vienna, Ankara, or Cyprus.”</p> <p>While Lajčák has appeared to prioritize hiring and appointing women during his time as Foreign Minister, people may doubt his ability to effectively implement a feminist agenda at the helm of an organization as big and as complicated as the UN Secretariat. In his speeches, Lajčák has again and again <a href="http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2016-07-20/how-the-european-union-and-the-united-nations-should-lead-after-brexit">expressed disgust</a> at the UN’s sexual exploitation and abuse scandals and has vowed to stop it. However, when asked if he considers himself a feminist, Lajčák wrote in an email, “I am not a big fan of labels, but I have noticed the remarks of President Obama in this regard last August and I have a strong sympathy for what he outlined in his <a href="http://www.glamour.com/story/glamour-exclusive-president-barack-obama-says-this-is-what-a-feminist-looks-like">essay for Glamour</a>. Let me add that I also have two daughters.”<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><h3><b>Vuk Jeremić: 67th&nbsp;President of the UN General Assembly and Foreign Minister of Serbia</b></h3> <p><i><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Jeremic.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Jeremic.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="690" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Serbian candidate, Vuk Jeremic, doesn’t understand the UN’s failure to reach 50/50 gender parity. Credit: Permanent Mission of Serbia to the United Nations</span></span></span></i></p><p><i>In my platform, I underscore that 50/50 gender parity in senior positions at the UN is not only necessary, but eminently achievable. Frankly, it’s pretty hard to explain adequately the failure of past efforts: it quite simply reflects a failure to prioritize the equal representation of women – and that’s unacceptable. I will make this reform a priority, leading by example in my own appointment[s].</i></p> <p>~ Jeremić to Ourania Yancopoulos via email, September 5<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>In front of the UN General Assembly on April 14, Jeremić delivered a bold, public pledge to achieve gender parity in senior UN appointments <a href="http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/watch/vuk-jeremi%C4%87-serbia-informal-dialogue-for-the-position-of-the-next-un-secretary-general/4845971329001">from day one</a>. “From day one,” he writes in his <a href="https://www.vuk4sg.com/files/platform-vuk-jeremic-en.pdf">vision statement</a><b> </b>for next SG dated April 12, “the Secretary-General will appoint qualified women to 50 percent of UN Under-Secretary-General or equivalent positions.”</p> <p>To critical observers of the UN this appears to be an <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourania-s-yancopoulos/is-un-really-moving-toward-gender-equality-or-is-it-trying-to-cover-up-lack-of">impossible commitment</a> – over the UN’s 71 years, eight different Secretary-Generals have been unable to deliver even <i>half </i>of Jeremić’s promise. Jeremić, however, is confident in his ability to deliver and his apparent successes in Serbia’s Foreign Ministry perhaps indicate why.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Before elected 67<span style="font-size: 10.8333px; line-height: 16.25px;">th</span>&nbsp;President of the UN General Assembly, where he contributed to essential “first steps” in negotiating the terms of the <a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5">2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development</a> related to women’s rights and women’s empowerment, Jeremić served as Serbia’s Foreign Minister.</p> <p>Jeremić explained his government’s attitudes about women at that time. “I don’t think any of my predecessors as Foreign Minister undertook internal policy measures advancing women’s rights and women’s empowerment,” Jeremić said via email, “and I’m certain none embraced feminist values.”<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>When Jeremić became Foreign Minister in May 2007 he was intent on implementing a different approach. “I inherited a hiring and promotion system that was silent on the question of gender parity,” He said, “There just wasn’t any awareness about it.”</p> <p>This was reflected in the results of the first call for applications from Serbian university graduates to enter the diplomatic service: only 30% of hires were women. “That may have been a good result for some, but I was deeply unsatisfied,” Jeremić said, “The people in charge of the process were using outdated methods—and it showed.”</p> <p>Jeremić set about designing a new process. According to Jeremić, by the end of his term as Foreign Minister 47% of all young diplomats and 49% of all mid-career diplomats hired were women.</p> <p>Jeremić also worked to promote gender parity in ambassadorial postings. According to Jeremić, just 10% of the ambassadors he inherited were women. By his last day in office, in July 2012, Serbia’s foreign ministry had <i>tripled</i> the number of female ambassadors. “In just 5 years, women were three times more likely to be appointed to represent their country abroad at the highest level than before I joined the Serbian Government,” Jeremić told openDemocracy.</p> <p>Jeremić said that rather than simply <i>being</i> a woman, the next Secretary-General must have feminist values in order to challenge the organization’s pervasive gender bias. “These are values that I share,” He said. “Who advanced women’s issues more: Kim Campbell, the first woman Prime Minister in Canadian history, or Justin Trudeau, who has taken historic strides to advance women’s rights and achieve gender parity in Canada?”</p> <h3><b>Irina Bokova, Current Director-General of UNESCO</b></h3><p><b><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Bokova.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Bokova.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Head of UNESCO, Irina Bokova from Bulgaria, is the only woman to make the list of top five contenders for Next UN SG. Credit: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images</span></span></span></b></p><p><i>As a candidate for the position of Secretary-General of the United Nations, I hope to send a powerful message to all girls and women that it is possible to pursue the highest position in international civil service whether one is a woman or a man…As a woman candidate, though, I feel greater responsibility and honor as a dedicated defender of women's rights…</i></p> <p>~ Bokova to Ourania Yancopoulos via email, September 5</p> <p>Of the five women still in the race for next SG, Irina Bokova is the only woman to appear among the top five contenders in every straw poll vote.</p> <p>On <a href="http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/watch/irina-bokova-bulgaria-informal-dialogue-for-the-position-of-the-next-un-secretary-general/4842691541001">April 12</a>, Bokova told UN Member States that “for a long time” she thought having quotas or encouraging women to be engaged in important public positions was unnecessary. “I thought it would come up naturally; that we would achieve gender parity,” she said. “Now I see it doesn’t happen. We need to go about it in a focused manner.”</p> <p>On November 15, 2009 - following a thirty-year career in Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry fighting for gender equity and representing her country in three of the world’s four international conferences on women - Bokova became the first female <a href="http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/about-us/who-we-are/director-general/my-priorities/leading-the-change/">Director-General</a> of UNESCO. There, Bokova claims she has been able to demonstrate her personal commitment to gender equality.</p> <p>When Bokova took office in November 2009, UNESCO had already designated gender equality as one of its two global priorities for 2008-2013 and developed its first Gender Equality Action Plan. But Bokova wasn’t satisfied. “From the beginning, I was intent on pushing this priority further,” she said.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Under Bokova’s leadership UNESCO<b><i> </i></b>developed a <a href="http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002272/227222e.pdf">Gender Balance Action Plan</a>, which identified targets to be achieved and mechanisms to implement for gender equitable recruitment, retention, and promotion of its personnel.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Since January 2010, <a href="add the link to the gender breakdown of higher levels of staff under the UNESCO table">significant progress</a> has been made in the representation of women:</p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/genderbalance.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/genderbalance.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Source: Key data on UNESCO staff and posts June 2016, Bureau of Human Resources management.</span></span></span></span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Overall the proportion of women staff in UNESCO is among the highest in the UN system. According to Bokova, at the end of August 2016, UNESCO achieved 46 percent representation of women at all managerial levels, compared to 13 percent in January 2012.</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>When it comes to the appointment of the next SG, Bokova believes that calls for the first woman go beyond symbolism and political correctness. For Bokova, only a feminist woman SG can ensure that the UN delivers on its core values including human rights, development and peace. “We need a Secretary-General who fully understands women's rights as human rights,” she said.</p><h3>Danilo Türk: Former President of Slovenia and Assistant-Secretary-General of the UN’s Department of Political Affairs</h3><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Turk_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Turk_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="244" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“My belief is that ideal teams are close to 50/50 [gender parity],” said Slovenia’s third President, Danilo Turk to UN Member States on April 13. Credit: UN Dispatch</span></span></span></p><p><i>Women can and will play a strongly positive role in all fields…The UN staff serves all the people of the world. The composition of the UN Secretariat must therefore reflect the world. Importantly, steadily greater gender balance must be a leading and sustained priority.</i></p> <p>~ Türk, Vision Statement, February 9</p> <p>Despite strong performances in the first two straw polls, Danilo Türk dropped to seventh place in the third round of straw polls August 21. He moved back up to fifth place after the fourth round, September 9.<b>&nbsp;</b></p> <p>Türk served in the UN for over a decade – as Slovenia’s first ambassador from 1992 to 2000, then as Kofi Annan’s Assistant-Secretary-General for the Department of Political Affairs from 2000 to 2005.</p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">After securing Slovenia the Presidency of the Security Council in October 1997, Türk helped prepare his team with the Foreign Ministry. In those preparations he demanded that there be equal numbers of men and women. “I thought it was important in the Security Council in particular to have two perspectives both the male and female perspective,” he said over the phone.</span></p> <p>At a time when only <a href="http://www.womeninglobalgovernance.net/un-permanent-representative.html">eleven female</a> ambassadors existed in the entire UN system - out of a total of 188 - Türk secured gender balance within his team. “Right from the start we had a group of talented female and male diplomats. The team was small, eight people, including me - four men and four women.” Türk said, “The women were critical in defining our positions on certain issues and in certain undertakings. And all of them made great careers.”</p> <p>From that team, Slovenia got its first female ambassador<i> </i>to the UN and its current State Secretary<i>, </i><a href="http://www.mzz.gov.si/en/about_the_ministry/leadership/state_secretaries/sanja_stiglic/">Sanja Štiglic</a>; as well as its current Ambassadors to Greece, the Council of Europe, and Deputy Chief to its <a href="http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/175976">OSCE Special Monitoring Mission</a> in Ukraine.</p> <p>In the current race for Secretary-General Türk says feminist values are “essential,” “Empowerment of women means also empowerment of the UN.”<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><h3><b>Women in leadership – still hope for first woman SG?</b></h3> <p>Whether the UN will see its first female, feminist leader is yet to be seen. With only one woman in the poll’s most recent top five contenders, it seems unlikely. However, despite Guterres’s strong lead, the other contenders continue to shift in the standings below him and rumors circulate around a possible new late-entry candidate. <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/melikkaylan/2016/09/11/struggle-for-the-next-un-general-secretary-gets-feverish/#7f4914035c20">The candidacy</a> of current European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, the Bulgarian Kristalina Georgieva,<b> </b><a href="http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-un-election-georgieva-idUKKCN11H0FE">is rumored</a> to have been discussed on the sidelines of the G20 summit early September.</p> <p>For some, the gender records of the top male candidates may be consolation. Former UN diplomat <a href="http://peaceoperationsreview.org/commentary/the-lost-agenda-gender-parity-in-senior-un-appointments/">Karin Landgren</a> wrote in an email, “The deep commitment needed to reach gender parity at the highest levels of the UN can only come from a feminist SG, - male or female.” For others, it will not be enough. “I think that for the men to claim they are feminists just to gain the position of SG is such hypocrisy,” Jean Krasno said, “And takes everyone's eye off the ball.”&nbsp;</p> <p>The current women candidates have already been at the head of major UN agencies and served as Foreign Ministers; one has even been the head of her government. “Their mettle has already been tested,” said Shazia.</p> <p>Upon being appointed Foreign Relations Minister of Argentina, Susana Malcorra was described by the current Secretary-General as “<a href="http://www.un.org/press/en/2015/sgsm17355.doc.htm">a strong voice for gender equality</a>.” She is a veteran of the UN system, serving as the current Secretary-General’s Chef de Cabinet and member of the UN’s Senior Management Group. Prior to this role she served as Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, and before that, as Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme.</p> <p><a href="http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/operations/leadership/administrator/biography/">Helen Clark</a> was the first woman in New Zealand to serve as Deputy Prime Minister; first woman appointed to the Privy Council; first woman to be elected as head of a major party; and the first woman elected Prime Minister. As Prime Minister she led a government dedicated to advancing gender equality. At the time, New&nbsp;Zealand’s Governor General, Cabinet Secretary, Attorney General, and Speaker were all also women. Now, she serves as the UN Development Program’s first female Administrator and has appointed more women to senior positions than any of her predecessors.</p> <p>Additionally, Costa Rica’s <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ourania-s-yancopoulos/lone-raised-hand-who-will-become-next-un-secretary-general">Christiana Figueres</a> served as the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and directed the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement - dubbed by <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/13/paris-climate-deal-cop-diplomacy-developing-united-nations"><i>The</i> <i>Guardian</i></a>, “the world’s greatest diplomatic success.” And Moldova’s Natalia Gherman, serving as both Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, told the <a href="http://www.womansg.org/blog">WomanSG campaign</a> in April that it was because of her new recruitment initiatives that the last incoming class of young, Foreign Ministry professionals was 60% female. &nbsp;</p> <p>Despite their qualifications, these four <a href="http://www.womansg.org/official-candidates">outstanding women</a> have been shut out of the race’s top contenders. UN Expert Richard Gowan said via email, “The activists who have campaigned for a woman to lead the UN will need to keep up a broader campaign for gender equality in the organization, whoever ultimately gets the top job.&nbsp;Otherwise we'll be back to diplomacy as normal, with a distinctly male tinge, before you know it.”</p> <p>Representativeness is the foundation on which the advancement of women’s empowerment and women’s rights is built. In an email, current UNSG frontrunner Guterres wrote, “[T]he most effective way to begin to change perceptions about women is to have them in positions where they are normally not seen, playing all sort of roles that they don’t play often enough, in spite of their qualifications and valuable contributions.”</p> <p>Never in the 70-plus year history of the UN has a woman been SG. And at the moment, it looks like that is not going to change.</p><p><b><i>Follow the conversation on Twitter via</i>: #UNSGCandidates #NextSG&nbsp;#She4SG.</b></p> <p><i><b>FOOTNOTE:</b>&nbsp;There has been considerable movement in the list of candidates and there’s still no telling who will make the final cut. The lack of clear rules about the SG selection process adds to the incredible difficulty of clearly predicting what will come next, and who exactly the “top five contenders” are. However, according to UN insiders – and barring any late entries or sudden surprises – the next SG is “most likely” to come from the top five contenders as defined in the following way:</i></p> <p><i>In this round of non-binding preferential votes, candidates have more “discourage” votes than in previous selection cycles. And these are the votes that matter most. Even if just one of Guterres’s two “discourage” votes comes from a P5 member, his Secretary-Generalship could be blocked, and Russia has not been quiet about their desire to see an Eastern European at the UN’s helm. We choose to rank the top five candidates by a combination of the number of “encourage” and “discourage” votes they received in the following way:</i></p> <ol><li><i>António Guterres, Portugal: Encourage (12) – Discourage (2) – No Opinion (1)</i></li><li><i>Miroslav Lajčák, Slovakia: Encourage (10) – Discourage (4) – No Opinion (1)</i></li><li><i>Vuk Jeremić, Serbia: Encourage (9) – Discourage (4) – No Opinion (2)</i></li><li><i>Irina Bokova, Bulgaria: Encourage (7) – Discourage (5) – No Opinion (3)</i></li><li><i>Danilo Türk, Slovenia: Encourage (7) – Discourage (6) – No Opinion (2)</i></li></ol><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/lyric-thompson/is-feminist-united-nations-possible-in-our-lifetime">Is a feminist United Nations possible in our lifetime?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/madam-secretary-general">Madam Secretary-General?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ourania-s-yancopoulos/lone-raised-hand-who-will-become-next-un-secretary-general">A lone raised hand: who will become the next UN Secretary-General ?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/still-no-country-for-women-double-standards-choosing-next-UN-Secretary-General">Still no country for women? Double standards in choosing the next UN Secretary-General </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/time-to-vote-pick-feminist-woman-to-lead-un">Choose a woman to lead the UN!</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ourania-s-yancopoulos/choosing-next-secretary-general-real-change-ahead">Choosing the next UN Secretary-General: real change ahead? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ourania-s-yancopoulos/world-s-top-diplomat-administrator-figurehead-or-leader">The next UN Secretary-General: administrator, figurehead, or leader?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourania-s-yancopoulos/is-un-really-moving-toward-gender-equality-or-is-it-trying-to-cover-up-lack-of">Is the UN really moving toward gender equality? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women%27s-rights-have-no-country">Women&#039;s rights have no country</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/kavita-n-ramdas/building-bridge-to-future-towards-feminist-un">Building a bridge to the future: towards a feminist UN</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 westminster 50.50 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Gender and the UN 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 newsletter feminism gender gender justice women and power Ourania S. Yancopoulos Wed, 05 Oct 2016 19:45:33 +0000 Ourania S. Yancopoulos 105292 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What has Hindu law ever done for women? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/what-has-hindu-law-ever-done-for-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>India’s long overdue Uniform Civil Code, a set of common personal laws for all citizens, guaranteed by its constitution, is under renewed debate. It should not be based on Hindu law.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>As we in India enter the debate on the enactment of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC), seventy years after it was guaranteed by the constitution, there is a view that the codified Hindu law should form its base. Despite the compromises and loopholes in Hindu law which militate against gender equality, the misconception that Hindus have forsaken their personal laws and have embraced a secular, egalitarian, and gender-just code, which must now be extended to minority communities to liberate ‘their’ women persists. There is also a parallel view that the best elements from all personal laws must be incorporated into this ideal code. Tested against this formulation, how will the Hindu Law, which is applicable to the mainstream majority, fare? There is a long history of the way in which Hindu law, occasionally reinforced by colonial law, has been applied by the Indian court system against the best interests of women. &nbsp;We also need to take the social context into account in which other vital indicators of gender justice interact with Hindu law.</p> <p>As per the recently released census data, India has 12 million married children under the age of ten, more than the population of Rwanda. The most unexpected part of the report is that <a href="http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/84-percent-of-12-million-married-children-under-10-are-Hindus/2016/06/01/article3461403.ece">84 per cent of these were Hindus, while 11 per cent were Muslims</a>. Whilst these figures are roughly in proportion to the size of each community, with Hindus at nearly 80 per cent and Muslims at 14 per cent of the population, the figures are surprising because &nbsp;the minimum age of marriage for a Hindu girl is 18 as per the Child Marriage Prohibition Act, 2006, as well as the Hindu Marriage Act, while the principle applicable under Muslim law is ‘age of reason’ which is deemed to be achieved upon puberty. Yet the figures for child marriage do not reflect a social transformation taking place due to the codification of Hindu law. Though child marriage is prohibited it is not void.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Childmarriage.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Childmarriage.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Newly wed Mamta Bai, 12, and her husband Bablu, 14, at a temple in Rajgarh. Credit: PA Images / Prakash Hatvalne</span></span></span></p><p>Some groups have been campaigning for a total ban on child marriage and for declaring all child marriages void. From the point of view of social justice, what will be the impact on young Hindu girls who are married upon reaching puberty and are deserted even before they become majors? When a destitute girl with a child in arms approaches our courts, would it be in the interest of justice to declare, since the marriage is void, that she is not entitled to her basic and fundamental right of maintenance? While this is a legal concern, there is also a social aspect to it. The belief that a girl should be married before reaching puberty is still dominant among various rural Hindu communities. The concept of a virgin bride prevails and the fear of sexual assault which will taint the girl and render her impure and unfit for marriage still persists and the parents are afraid to take the risk of keeping an unmarried girl at home. The fear of the girl eloping with a boy of her choice and bringing dishonour to the family also haunts parents due to which parents prefer to marry off their daughters young. This exposes the young vulnerable girl to sexual and domestic abuse in her marital home. It also results in early pregnancy which is one of the main causes of maternal mortality in our country. Yet the fear of sexual purity and sexual defilement overrides concerns for the girl’s health and security while marrying off an underage daughter. </p> <p>The reformed Hindu law has not been able to bring about a change in this deeply ingrained notion. It is not a question of criminalising child marriage and declaring it void; adequate facilities for education, both formal and informal, skills training, a secure environment for a young girl to grow up until she reaches the age of 18, along with a change in the parental mind-set regarding the notion of the virgin bride are some of the measures which are needed. A Hindu father still believes that marrying his daughter is a pious obligation which he must perform to attain salvation. Apart from encouraging child marriage, this concept also gives a boost to the dowry system, despite our laws criminalising dowry and dowry-related violence. The pressure to marry off their daughter, at any cost, drives parents to meet the dowry demands of the groom’s family rather than bear the stigma of having an unmarried daughter. Despite the legislative reforms to curb dowry deaths and suicides, the figures are constantly rising.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/The_Constitution_of_India_(Original_Calligraphed_and_Illuminated_Version).djvu_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/The_Constitution_of_India_(Original_Calligraphed_and_Illuminated_Version).djvu_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="454" height="599" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>In an informal study of dowry deaths which reached the Supreme Court and the Bombay High Court, conducted by <a href="http://www.majlislaw.com/">Majlis</a>, Mumbai, over 95 per cent of these cases of dowry death were among Hindus. While the system of dowry has spread to lower castes and minority communities, its roots in Hindu cultural tradition cannot be overlooked. Ironically, Muslim law started with the more progressive notion of <em>mehr</em>, an amount which must be stipulated in the marriage contract as a future security to the bride. Unfortunately, the community has accepted the anti-women Hindu custom of dowry, while <em>mehr</em> amounts have been reduced to a mere token. </p> <p>The age-old dictum still prevails that a girl who enters a bridal home in a wedding procession must leave the home only in a funeral procession. So despite acute domestic violence girls are sent back to their marital homes even at the risk of them being killed or driven to suicide. Despite amendments to the Hindu laws which rendered the Hindu marriage contractual, the sacramental aspect still dominates the social psyche and parents prefer to send the daughter back to her matrimonial home rather than risk having a divorcee on their hands. In contrast, a Muslim marriage is always regarded as a civil contract. While the Christian marriage started on the premise of a permanent and indissoluble sacrament, gradually due to education and exposure, perceptions about sacramental marriage have changed. While among the urban, middle and upper classes Hindus, divorce is gradually gaining acceptance and there is greater likelihood of women opting for divorce when faced with domestic violence, in rural areas where conservative views of sacramental marriage still dominate women are less likely to opt for divorce even when faced with cruelty, desertion or their husband’s adultery. </p> <p>The concept of permanency of marriage and husband as the Lord and Master, still dominates not only our public life, but also litigation in family courts where women are constantly advised to return to save their marriage even at great risk to themselves, as the judges themselves endorse this view. Women believe that even if their husbands are abusive, violent or alcoholic they prefer to remain married, since the marriage symbols which are worn by married women, like the black beads round the neck and sindoor (red powder) on their forehead, are perceived as marks of respect, status and protection against advances from other men. Despite the enactment of PWDVA (The&nbsp;Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act&nbsp;2005) , the only advice given to most women either by the police or social workers situated in police stations, is to reconcile in order to save her marriage and return to her matrimonial home. This appears to be the most viable solution as the <a href="http://nmew.gov.in/WriteReadData/l892s/797259736RAHAT%20Consultation%20Report%20-%20Majlis.pdf">state has not attempted to evolve alternate support structures</a> to help women to make the transition from a housewife to an independent and self-supporting person. </p> <p>When there is a resumption of violence, the women are in a state of acute depression. A recent <a href="http://www.wired.co.uk/article/suicide-women-india">international study</a> which covered 187 nations revealed another disturbing fact that suicide is the leading cause of death among married women, aged from 15-49 in India, replacing death due to maternal disorders. &nbsp;An overwhelming number of these are likely to be urban Hindu housewives. While all religions are patriarchal and believe in maintaining a strict control over a woman’s sexuality, the hold of Brahminical patriarchy reaches a high pitch when we examine the phenomenon referred to as honour killings where a girl is brutally killed by her own parents or at their instance, for transgressing the caste boundaries, and marrying a man/boy from the lower castes. Earlier this phenomenon was believed to be prevalent only in North India, but now several Southern states have also started reporting these occurrences at regular frequency. The young couple is also killed for contracting <em>sagotra </em>(same lineage ie inbreeding) and <em>sapinda </em>(cousin) marriages within certain North Indian communities. </p> <p>Against this overarching evidence of anti-women social practices, can we assume, unproblematically, that the codified Hindu law has been instrumental in bringing social transformation and changed gender relationships and provided the necessary foundation upon which a strong edifice of a uniform and gender just family code for India can be built? This is the challenging question that confronts us today.</p> <p><em>This article is adapted from the 2016 Durgabai Deshmukh Memorial Lecture delivered by Flavia Agnes.&nbsp; Durgabai Deshmukh</em><em> was an&nbsp;Indian&nbsp;freedom fighter, lawyer, social worker, politician and activist for women’s emancipation.</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/amrit-wilson/india-gender-violence-is-at-heart-of-hindu-rights-agenda">Narendra Modi, gender violence, and the Hindu Right&#039;s agenda</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amrit-wilson/gender-violence-narendra-modi-and-indian-elections">Gender violence, Narendra Modi and the Indian elections </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta-kavita-krishnan/women-demand-freedom-not-surveillance">Women demand freedom, not surveillance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/breaking-free-womens-movement-India-universities">Breaking Free: a women&#039;s movement in Indian universities </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nida-kirmani/mobilising-for-muslim-women%E2%80%99s-rights-in-india">Mobilising for Muslim women’s rights in India</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zoya-hasan/gender-and-perils-of-identity-politics-in-india">Gender and the perils of identity politics in India</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/prita-jha/why-backlash-against-dowry-laws-in-india">Why the backlash against dowry laws in India?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rita-banerji/deadly-politics-of-wealth-femicide-in-india">A deadly politics of wealth: femicide in India</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 openIndia India Women, culture and law 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick feminism fundamentalisms gender gender justice patriarchy Flavia Agnes Wed, 05 Oct 2016 08:27:33 +0000 Flavia Agnes 105500 at https://www.opendemocracy.net To build feminist futures, suspend judgment! https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/srilatha-batliwala-geetanjali-misra-nafisa-ferdous/to-build-feminist-futures-suspend-judgment <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As feminist thinkers and activists, we must tackle not only the systemic discrimination embedded in the world outside, but the often unconscious or invisible biases that we ourselves have internalized. Part 1. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/srilatha-batliwala-geetanjali-misra-nafisa-ferdous/suspend-judgment-feminisms-and-feminists-com">Part 2</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>&nbsp;<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/IMG_7486.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/IMG_7486.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 booth from which CREA's Suspend Judgment was launched at the 13th Annual AWID Forum in Bahia, Brazil. September 8 - 11, 2016</span></span></span></strong></p><p>The recently concluded <a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/">13th AWID International Forum</a>, on the theme “Feminist Futures: Building Collective Power for Rights and Justice”, was framed around the sweeping idea that realizing “feminist futures” is only possible if we build our collective power to advance rights and justice.&nbsp; The great challenge for building such power, however, is that we ourselves, as feminist thinkers and activists, must tackle not only the systemic discrimination embedded in the world outside, but the often unconscious or invisible biases that we ourselves have internalized.</p><p>The twin concepts of rights and justice have embedded within them a rarely recognized and deeply normalized <em>practice</em> – viz., the practice of <em>judgment</em>.&nbsp; We are constantly <em>judging</em> each other as people, as social groups, as identities – whether on the basis of gender, race, class, caste, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, location, nationality, religion, the work we do (“unclean” and “immoral” occupations such as those that stigmatize Dalits or sex workers). We are taught from our earliest years, and usually with good intentions, to make judgments – about what is normal, abnormal, right, wrong, good, bad, clean and unclean.&nbsp; But these judgments are often reflections of social norms and values that feminists and social justice advocates have not only rejected, but transgressed in our own lives.</p><p>Why then do we not recognize the ways in which we still continue to judge others, and justify those judgments?&nbsp; How can we find common ground and build our collective power for rights and justice if we continue to be divided by our own internalized biases?&nbsp; As Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said in a recent powerful <a href="http://qz.com/766267/nobody-is-ever-just-a-refugee-chimamanda-ngozi-adichies-powerful-speech-on-the-global-migrant-crisis/">speech</a>, “Nobody is ever just a single thing. And yet, in the public discourse today, we often speak of people as a single a thing.”&nbsp; She goes on to say, “So I would like to suggest … that this is a time for a new narrative, a narrative in which we truly see those about whom we speak.” Or whom we judge.</p><p>This is why CREA chose to launch our <a href="http://www.creaworld.org/events/suspend-judgment-creas-campaign-launch-awid-2016">SUSPEND JUDGMENT<strong> </strong>campaign</a> at the AWID Forum, where thousands of feminist social justice activists from every corner of the world were gathered.</p><p>The Idea for the campaign arose from a practice encouraged at CREA’s Sexuality, Gender and Rights Institutes (SGRIs), an internationally lauded programme whose participants are exposed to entirely new concepts, perspectives and discourses that radically shift their perceptions and practice, often in deeply disturbing ways.&nbsp; When participants arrive, CREA faculty ask them to be <em>in a heightened state of suspending judgment</em>, in order to gain the most out of the course.&nbsp; The more participants allow themselves to question their long-held ideas, beliefs and biases, the more they are able to learn.&nbsp; They are not only able to better understand the human rights of others, but can more effectively <em>influence</em> others - especially those in social movements that are often antithetical to these ideas (such as accepting the fluidity of gender identities and sexual behavior).&nbsp; By leaving their preconceived notions and assumptions at the door, participants are able to recognize that many of the biases and beliefs they have internalized – whether around gender identities, sex work, our bodies, or even pornography - arise from social norms and practices that are in turn embedded in patriarchal, racial, classist or hetero-normative ideologies that uphold deeply unjust power structures.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/CreaSuspendJudgement06.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/CreaSuspendJudgement06.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="711" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Suspend Judgment leaflets on display at the AWID Forum. Designed by Sherna Dastur. CREA. </span></span></span></p> <p>The most formal space where the practice of judgment is integral is of course the law – which tends to reflect dominant social norms and values, especially with regard to gender.&nbsp; But the legal domain is also where we have pushed boundaries, and gained rights for people who were not only marginalized and excluded in their societies, but considered unworthy of rights. The constitution of India, for example, gave equal rights to women and Dalits in 1950, a time when even Western countries like Switzerland denied women the vote, and untouchability continued to be practiced in countries like Japan (Burakumin) and Rwanda (Hutu, Twa).&nbsp; Nepal’s new constitution awarded equal rights to third gender peoples when countries like the United States continue to criminalize them in many states, and the Delhi High Court struck down the legality of British-made laws criminalizing homosexuality. </p><p>Women’s and LGBTQI movements around the world, but especially in the South, have been quite successful in using the law to gain rights and justice for women by challenging the biases or gaps within existing legal frameworks.&nbsp; But despite these advances, the judgments in cases involving sexuality and gender tend to flout these progressive changes due to the internalized biases of power holders in the judicial system.&nbsp; In judicial contexts of Iran, Brunei, Nigeria and other countries, homosexuality can legally be punishable by death (though follow-through of these judgments often vary).</p><p>CREA’s mission is to change the way people think so that we can change the way they act.&nbsp; This takes time - it is an iterative process.&nbsp; It is unfortunate that few NGOs, donors, or governments are investing in these kinds of processes – everyone seems to be focused on superficial change that leaves exclusionary constructs largely intact. We accept that judgment is sometimes necessary – those who violate the rights of others, who commit violence, who oppress others simply because of who they are, how they live, what they believe - must certainly be held to account.&nbsp; But we believe that these violations themselves could be more effectively contained by helping people move from judgment to understanding.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/grouppic.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/grouppic.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="612" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>CREA at the AWID Forum, Bahia, Brazil. September 2016</span></span></span></p><p>Our campaign - Suspend Judgment - is one step in this direction. &nbsp;We launched the campaign from our installation at the AWID Forum, where we exhibited posters and distributed leaflets that disturbed and interrogated people’s unquestioned beliefs and biases, and pushed them to understand the systems of meaning embedded in their attitudes.&nbsp; The leaflets were simple – some had mainly images and little text.&nbsp; They were designed to get people to rethink their positions on different issues and identities. For example, our leaflet on abortion had five images of women, each giving her reason for having an abortion, but the sixth and final woman simply asks “Why do I have to give a reason?”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/CreaSuspendJudgement03.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/CreaSuspendJudgement03.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="711" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Suspend Judgment leaflets on display at the AWID Forum. Designed by Sherna Dastur. CREA. </span></span></span></p><p>Shifting discourse does not happen overnight, but it must begin with those who believe in feminist social transformation. As movement activists, we have to challenge ourselves to constantly suspend judgment and remain critical even within feminist organizing. How can we dismantle and decolonize our own beliefs and attitudes in order to stop perpetuating conflicts, assumptions and norms rooted in patriarchy, narrow nationalism or the essentialization of bodies? How can we deepen our solidarities and our collective work as feminists so that unexamined or yet-to-be-examined opportunities to work together can arise?</p><p>We believe that suspending judgment is feminist practice.&nbsp; We launched the “Suspend Judgment” campaign at the AWID Forum to challenge global feminists to think and act differently. &nbsp;In par two of this article, we will share the exciting and thought-provoking reactions, comments and insights that emerged at the Forum in response to the campaign’s messages.&nbsp; We hope that in the months to come, more women’s rights and social justice activists and advocates, and anyone committed to a more just world, will support CREA’s <a href="http://www.creaworld.org/events/suspend-judgment-creas-campaign-launch-awid-2016">Suspend Judgment campaign</a>. </p> <p><em>The authors would like to acknowledge the immense contribution of many members of the CREA team and our Institute participants to the conceptualization of the Suspend Judgment Campaign and to the ideas in this two-part article</em></p><p>Part two of this article will be published on openDemocracy the week of October 10th.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Read more articles from the AWID Forum written by speakers, participants and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050">openDemocracy 50.50</a> writers <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/ch%C3%A9-ramsden">Ché Ramsden</a> and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/rahila-gupta">Rahila Gupta</a> - <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016">HERE</a></strong><em><strong> </strong><br /></em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/classifying-bodies-denying-freedoms">Classifying bodies, denying freedoms</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/imagine-feminist-village">Imagine a feminist village of the future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-souza/women-of-rivers-and-forests-have-feminist-debate">The women of the rivers and forests have feminist debate? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/awono-okech/stay-woke-sustaining-feminist-organising-in-uncertain-world">Stay Woke: sustaining feminist organising in an uncertain world</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/angelika-arutyunova-rochell-jones/feminist-futures-building-collective-power-for-rights-and-jus">Feminist Futures: building collective power for rights and justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/chloe-safier/young-feminist-movements-power-of-technology">Young feminist movements: the power of technology</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rebecca-souza/between-tradition-and-feminism-modern-amazonas">Between tradition and feminism: modern Amazonas </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/trans-women-and-feminism-struggle-is-real">Trans women and feminism: the struggle is real</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/semanur-karaman-ana-cernov/our-movements-and-collective-struggles-thrive-despite-backlash">Our movements and collective struggles thrive despite backlash</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/self-care-in-digital-space">Self-care in a digital space</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rahila-gupta/taxing-lives-trading-women">Taxing lives, trading women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/glass-ceilings-and-cinderella-slippers-why-centre-cannot-hold">Glass ceilings and Cinderella slippers: why the centre cannot hold</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ch-ramsden/artivism-art-as-activism-activism-as-art">Artivism: art as activism, activism as art</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/feminist-inclusivity-and-moving-onto-agenda">Feminist inclusivity and moving onto the agenda</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/from-local-to-global-and-back-again">On freeing Kenya&#039;s pastoralist communities from discrimination</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala/beyond-individual-stories-women-have-moved-mountains">Beyond individual stories: women have moved mountains </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 openIndia 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter feminism gender gender justice women and power women's movements women's work Nafisa Ferdous Geetanjali Misra Srilatha Batliwala Mon, 03 Oct 2016 08:27:43 +0000 Srilatha Batliwala, Geetanjali Misra and Nafisa Ferdous 105697 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The arts and humanities: tackling the challenges of mass displacement https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/agnes-woolley/arts-and-humanities-tackling-challenges-of-mass-displacement <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>When we let people die rather than provide safety, we face not a ‘refugee crisis’ but a crisis of values. The arts help define those values which shape the kinds of societies we want to live in.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>As historians are at pains to point out, the current ‘refugee crisis’ is not without precedent. Though we should be wary of too simplistic historical parallels, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/sep/10/five-history-lessons-in-how-to-deal-with-a-refugee-crisis">‘lessons from history’</a> provide an important longer view on contemporary displacement. But we can also look to the history of art and literature for a politics of recognition of the refugee and asylum seeking figures that populate our smartphone and television screens. Stories of exile, migration and forced displacement are abundant in Western literature and art. As ever, Shakespeare provides an ideal starting point: <em>Twelfth Night </em>begins with a shipwreck on the coast of Ilyria (present day Adriatic coast) and with Viola’s words, ‘What country, friends, is this?’ as she comes ashore; <em>Richard II</em> begins with a scene of banishment as Thomas Mowbray and Henry Bolingbroke are sent into exile on the king’s orders; and <em>King Lear</em>’s ‘unaccommodated man’ has formed the basis for many theorisations of the refugee as a figure of <a href="http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=2003">‘bare life’</a> who exists outside the terms of citizenship and social belonging. In fact, when writing <em>King Lear</em>, Shakespeare was lodging with a Huguenot family in London’s Barbican, so these are not just aesthetic, but also social and political connections.</p> <p>We can, of course, reach even further back to the classical world. Aeschylus’ <em>The Suppliants</em>, written c. 470 BC, is remarkably relevant to today in its narrative of a group of African women who fled forced marriages in Africa to seek asylum and protection in Europe. This was <a href="http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2015/07/07/greek-tragedy-aeschylus-migrants-debt/">staged</a> in Sicily in 2015. Euripides’ <em>The Trojan Women</em> (415 BC) set in the aftermath of the Trojan war, has also resonated with many struggling to come to terms with displacement as a result of war and conflict. One project, <a href="http://www.syriatrojanwomen.org/index.html"><em>Queens of Syria</em></a>, which is both a theatre production and documentary, has been especially effective.&nbsp;</p> <p>Canonical works of visual art like J. M. Turner’s <em>Slave Ship</em>, which dramatically portrays forced migration in the form of slavery, reminds us of the temporal and spatial connections between the legacies of colonial history and its current forms. Turner’s young patron, John Ruskin, in his write up of the painting, confined to a footnote the fact that the boat in the painting is a slave ship, <em>Zong</em>, and that slaves are being thrown overboard for insurance purposes. So in his framing of the picture, Ruskin leaves out those very connections that the painting aims to evoke.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Picture1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Slavers throwing overboard the Dead and Dying - Typhoon coming on (“The Slave Ship”) by J. M. W. Turner 1840 (Wikimedia Commons)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Picture1.png" alt="Slavers throwing overboard the Dead and Dying - Typhoon coming on (“The Slave Ship”) by J. M. W. Turner 1840 (Wikimedia Commons)" title="Slavers throwing overboard the Dead and Dying - Typhoon coming on (“The Slave Ship”) by J. M. W. Turner 1840 (Wikimedia Commons)" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Slavers throwing overboard the Dead and Dying - Typhoon coming on (“The Slave Ship”) by J. M. W. Turner 1840 (Wikimedia Commons)</span></span></span></p><p>These kinds of omissions happen, too, with current visual imagery of migration and refugees. Images of refugees in camps and on European borders are ubiquitous and often deeply shocking. While they have worked to galvanise certain populations into acts of solidarity – in Britain, for example, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/17/thousands-march-in-refugees-welcome-rally-in-london">protests</a> and <a href="http://care4calais.org/">responsive organisations</a> dedicated to supporting those in Calais – there’s a longer, more complicated story not always graspable through these fleeting images. It’s a story not just about the experiences of those who have been forcibly displaced but about the kinds of societies receiving them.</p> <p>In a situation where we’re letting people die rather than providing safe passage, we are facing not so much a ‘refugee crisis’, as a crisis of values. How are our values being recalibrated by our daily confrontation with the spectacle of, and sometimes interaction with, people perishing on European shores? The arts have a vital role to play in shaping how we respond to our current age of mass migration. Cultural and creative responses need to sit alongside the work of advocacy groups, political organisations and governments. Not only can the arts offer a counter narrative able to reaffirm the political and social subjectivity of border crossers, they also explore what’s happening outside the journalistic frame; and help shape, critique and deepen our engagement with forced displacement.</p> <p>Telling stories creatively, through literature or film, was one of the principle ways that Britain’s earlier migrant communities went about reflecting, interrogating and celebrating their stories of migration: its benefits as well as its antagonisms. The same can’t be said for refugees. In order to have a legitimate voice with which to speak up, one must first have a legitimate legal status. As long as refugees are <a href="http://detentionaction.org.uk/frequently-asked-questions">languishing in detention centres</a> or makeshift camps outside and inside Europe, often lacking the means of self-expression and public engagement, the conversation will continue to be one-sided. This is one of the reasons we struggle to steer the direction of the conversation away from security fears and threats to resources, and towards the value of being a country that welcomes refugees and migrants of all kinds.</p> <p>Of course, refugees and migrants are adept at finding ways to voice their experiences on their own terms, often to great effect. For example, the organization <a href="http://detentionaction.org.uk/freed-voices">‘Freed Voices’</a> is a group of ‘experts by experience’ who raise awareness about immigration detention in the UK by telling their stories.&nbsp; But the combination of bad journalism and bad law-making means that refugees are often trapped by the polarising opposition between derogatory media depictions on the one hand, and a requirement to testify to authentic experience on the other; to conform to a kind of idealized notion of what it means to be a refugee. The arts can help us think through this binary and provide a more nuanced picture. Take the poetry collective, <a href="http://www.platforma.org.uk/bards-without-borders/"><em>Bards without Borders</em></a>, a group of poets from refugee and migrant backgrounds dedicated to exploring the connection between Shakespeare and migration. Globalising Shakespeare in this way casts new light on a figure often seen as relating exclusively to British culture and identity.</p> <p>What art and literature can do more generally – actively, even – is to draw out the intersecting temporalities and territories that constitute our contemporary moment and seek lines of connection between the varying means we have to understand and shape our responses to displacement and migration. The arts allow us a way into social and political questions and the moral and ethical assumptions that underpin them: questions about humanitarianism as political practice and human<em>ism</em> as a set of values.</p> <p>This is what we aim to achieve with our network ‘Responding to Crisis: Forced migration and The Humanities in the Twenty-first Century’. Through a series of international workshops and events, we will create ‘contact zones’ where artists, activists and academics come together and formulate interventionist models of critical and creative work in response to the unfolding ‘crisis’ in contemporary forced migration. Our idea is to develop new modes of collaborative response which draw on the creative energies of cross-sector working. We aim to impact positively on refugees’ lives by deploying the arts and humanities to transform public attitudes and inform policies.</p> <p>On this strand on openDemocracy, you will find contributions from our network participants – activists, academics, practitioners – on topics arising from our collaborative events over the next year.</p> <p>See <a href="http://www.respondingtocrisis.wordpress.com">www.respondingtocrisis.wordpress.com</a> for more up to date details of the project.</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/georgia-cole/refugee-or-economic-migrant-join-dots-theresa-may">Refugee or economic migrant? Join the dots Theresa May</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"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div 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 EU Civil society Conflict Culture Equality Forced Migration and the Humanities 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick gendered migration 50.50 newsletter Mariangela Palladino Agnes Woolley Mon, 03 Oct 2016 08:27:03 +0000 Agnes Woolley and Mariangela Palladino 105708 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A life of hope lived in defiance of violence: Rebecca Masika Katsuva https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/fiona-lloyd-davies/rebecca-masika-katsuva-life-of-hope-lived-in-defiance-of-violence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“They think when they’re raped that their lives are shattered. But we’d like them to know that it’s not the end of the world" - Rebecca Masika Katsuva. (1966 - 2016)</p><p><em><em>&nbsp;</em></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Rebecca Masika 1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Rebecca Masika 1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rebecca Masika Katsuva. Photo: Fiona Lloyd-Davies</span></span></span></p><p>Masika was a tiny woman, barely five feet tall, but she was a giant of a person. She was often in a hurry, and at the moment I am recollecting, she was irritated. I was holding her up. “Fiona,” she says, “I don’t have time to sit and talk to you. If I don’t go out to the fields and get cassava, we’ll all starve.”&nbsp; “No problem,” I say, “I’ll come too.”</p> <p>It was 2011, and I’d come to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to film her. I’d been slowly gathering footage over the past four years to make a feature-length documentary called<em> Seeds of Hope</em>. On each visit I filmed different aspects of Masika’s life and work, hoping to capture her remarkable story. It’s a tale of survival and hope lived in defiance of the nearly unbearable physical and psychological violence Masika experienced in her lifetime. </p> <p>We are in South Kivu, a region of eastern Congo with the unrealised promise due to the abundance of natural riches and still trying to lose the long shadow cast by Joseph Conrad’s novella, <em>Heart of Darkness</em>. Along with North Kivu, its infamous reputation only spread through years of war and violence, especially violent acts committed against women. A former UN special representative&nbsp; on sexual violence in conflict, Margot Wallström, gave eastern Congo its toxic title as “rape capital of the world.”</p> <p>Here a civil war has waged, targeting women and their bodies, for more than 20 years. At the height of the war, it was estimated that 48 women were being raped every hour in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Such violence was deliberate: rape is surely one of the most effective weapons of war. The act fractures communities and tears families apart. Rape targets the very heart of society - the mother, the wife, the sister, the daughter. One woman knew this better than most. Masika was raped five separate times, all but once, by gangs of armed men. </p><p>Even in the driest season, eastern Congo is lush. Fields of golden maize, swaying in the breeze, grow shoulder high in weeks, their tassels seeming almost to touch the sky. Ferocious electric storms light up velvet nights, flashing pink and blue and quenching the thirsty land with plump raindrops. Nature is abundant but so, too, is violence. A true figure may never be established, but nearly six million people have died since the civil war began in 1996, according to estimates, while hundreds of thousands of people - women, children, men and even babies - have been raped. </p> <p>Masika takes me off the main road and down a narrow, ochre-coloured earth path, under the sun’s glare. The path is barely wide enough for one person, but an elderly couple still squeeze past us. The man holds a multicoloured umbrella over his wife to shield her from the heat. Masika has no such protector. Her own husband, Bosco, the love of her life, was butchered in front of her in 1998, at the height of the conflict. Uniformed men broke into their home, killed Bosco, and raped Masika and her two teenaged daughters. That event has shaped the rest of her life. Ostracized by her in-laws and thrown out of the family home, she left carrying just what she could fit into one plastic bag. Along with her two impregnated daughters, Masika was forced to find a new path. </p> <p>Masika told me much later that it was the kindness of women that helped nurse her back to physical health and saved her sanity in the months immediately following the tragedy that ended her old life. Kindness also compelled her to follow their example. Her life since has been engaged with rescuing survivors of sexual violence, including children either orphaned or rejected because of rape. It hasn’t been an easy job: the violence seemed relentless, never-ending and was often acutely dangerous. Soldiers raped Masika four more times to punish her for speaking out against them and their violent treatment of women. </p> <p>She stops by a field of crops and picks some small chili peppers. Eating them raw, she tells me, “I never know when I may get my next meal.” She’s smiling as she says this, because hunger is not the worst hardship to bear. There are crops on all sides. It is harvest time and the bright colours worn by women workers stand out in patches against the green and yellow of cassava and corn. Some women are weeding. Others, with babies on their backs, are breaking off the maize and putting it in baskets. They chat to each other, sharing gossip and wisdom. Occasionally, you hear laughing. Pointing right, Masika shows me a section of uncultivated land recently given to her by an American donor. “In a few weeks,” she says, “we’ll prepare it for planting.”&nbsp; </p> <p>“This is my personal field,” says Masika, pointing to another patch of ground. “This one with cassava trees growing up the side of a hill. It’s the one I use to feed everyone at the centre.” The warm greetings she gets from women working her field are telling. She is well-known here. Her work is valued by people who have needed her help in the past or may call on it in the future. </p> <p>Masika was not an easy subject to film. All too often, I simply couldn’t find her. These disappearances usually meant she’d received word of an attack on a village. There were probably women there who’d been raped, babies orphaned or even raped too. On many occasions, she’d walk days to a mountain village, find a woman survivor and carry her, on her back, to the centre or directly to hospital. </p> <p>Her stories of rescue were astonishing. For example, she’d heard of a new attack in Ufamandu, a remote village in the upper plains that had been attacked before by the Interahamwe, the same militia from Rwanda who were responsible for the 1994 genocide. She and some companions entered the village to find dwellings still smouldering and dead bodies lying where they’d been felled. She thought she heard crying and started to hunt through the wreckage. Her companions said she was hearing the ghosts of the recently dead, crying out in confusion. But Masika was adamant: “I can hear a baby crying,” she said. She kept looking and eventually found a tiny boy, still trying to suckle the breast of his dead mother.</p> <p>She’s showing me a pile of cassava roots, stacked and ready for her to take home, when her mobile rings. Everyone here is dependent on mobile phones, virtually the only modern invention that still works and keeps the country functioning - but only just. Masika is ashen-faced: it’s bad news. A baby who recently arrived at the compound is now very ill. We must return at once.&nbsp; </p> <p>We find eight-month-old Espoire limp, almost lifeless. Masika bathes him in cold water to reduce his temperature. One of the girls has a bag ready-packed. This happens all the time, I am told. “I found Espoire in a village after an attack,” Masika says as we make our way to the hospital. “The village headman said that militiamen told mothers to throw their babies down and beat them to death. When Espoire’s mother refused, they shot her dead.” Masika found the baby with a broken arm and brought him here three months ago. “There are times,” she says, “when I feel truly devastated. But then, when I find a baby without a mother in the middle of a pile of corpses, I can save that child. Who knows what the future will bring? I am devoted to these babies.” She sighs. “I must help them survive,” she adds. “They stabilise me.” </p> <p>Filming Masika in the hospital, as she washed, dressed, fed or nursed young children, was profoundly touching. Many people called her “Mama Masika” because she has provided so many with the love, patience and nurturing that they’d either never experienced or thought they’d lost forever. She was able to give them something more valuable than medical therapy: constant, present love in an environment where fear, violence and insecurity prevail. She seems almost to collect the very young. At one point, in 2015, she had 84 children living at her centre. She dismissed the pleas of one non-governmental organization working with her to stop taking them in. When asked how she was going to provide for them all on so little funding, she retorted, “I can’t leave them on the side of the road to die!” </p> <p>It’s rare in this life to meet a real hero, someone who risks all for the sake of others, but Masika was one of those people. A survivor of multiple assaults, she dedicated herself to helping thousands of others to survive their horrors. </p> <p>When I first met Masika in 2009, I knew immediately that she was a remarkable person, someone who would leave an indelible mark on the world. She left her mark on me, too. I think of her every day, and remember her warmth, her smile and her immense capacity to love. Being close to her a few weeks at a time over a period of five years, I felt I was in the presence of immeasurable courage and resilience. She was, and continues to be, inspirational, and when my own life throws up challenges that seem insurmountable, I think of her. Masika reminds me that whatever happens, one tiny person can make a huge difference and bring new hope into another’s ruined life.</p> <p>Masika was a sister to me, and I was so honoured that she called me “sister” too. Having suffered so much in her life, death came for my sister quickly and suddenly. Masika went to hospital early one morning and died of a heart attack at 4:00 that afternoon. The heart that had given so much to so many finally gave out. Rebecca Masika Katsuva will not be forgotten, but she leaves a void that’s impossible to fill.<em> </em></p> <p><a class="lightbox-processed" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" href="https://cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/When%20We%20Are%20Bold%20%281%29.png"></a> </p><p><strong><em>This essay is one of 28 stories by notable women about remarkable women peacemakers brought together in a collection to celebrate the 10th&nbsp;anniversary of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. <a href="http://whenwearebold.com/">When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our Upsidedown World Right!</a><a href="http://whenwearebold.com/"> </a>Editor, Rachel Vincent, September 27, Mapalé. <a href="http://www.editorialmapale.com/" target="_blank">http://www.editorialmapale.com/</a>&nbsp;</em></strong></p><p><strong><em>Read more articles in the openDemocracy 50.50 <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative-10th-anniversary">series </a>celebrating the 10th anniversary of the </em><a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/"><em>Nobel Women's Initiative</em></a></strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rachel-m-vincent/nobel-women-s-initiative-at-10-when-we-are-bold">Nobel Women’s Initiative at 10: When We Are Bold</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/valerie-m-hudson/toward-feminist-foreign-policy">Gloria Steinem: toward a feminist foreign policy </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marilyn-waring/helen-caldicott-and-first-nuke-free-country">Whose work was the inspiration for the first nuke-free country?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jessica-horn/our-africa-mapping-african-womens-critical-resistance">Our Africa: mapping African women&#039;s critical resistance </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leymah-gbowee/leymah-gbowee-five-words-for-men-of-libya">Leymah Gbowee: five words for the men of Libya</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/julienne-lusenge-jennifer-allsopp/we-want-peace-we%E2%80%99re-tired-of-war">&quot;We want peace. We’re tired of war&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amina-mama/where-we-must-stand-african-women-in-age-of-war">Where we must stand: African women in an age of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jessica-horn/lessons-of-hummingbird">Lessons of the hummingbird</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/isabel-hilton/we-are-visible">We are visible</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/fatou-gu%C3%A8ye/senegal-land-belongs-to-those-who-work-it">Senegal: the land belongs to those who work it </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"> Democratic Republic of the Congo </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 Democratic Republic of the Congo Nobel Women's Initiative 10th anniversary Continuum of Violence Nobel Women's Initiative 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter bodily autonomy gender justice Sexual violence violence against women women's work Fiona Lloyd-Davies Fri, 30 Sep 2016 09:45:33 +0000 Fiona Lloyd-Davies 105644 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Hungarian 'women's health': stigma and coercion https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/orsolya-bajusz/feminine-health-stigma-and-coercion-hungarian-study <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Political and media institutions in Hungary are promoting a coercive culture of intervention in female bodies under the banner of self-care.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Medical protocols are supposed to be scientific—evidence-based, objective. And yet those regulating the interaction between a healthcare provider and a reproductive-age woman are vastly different in each European country. Our first assumption would be that the richer countries that spend most on healthcare also have the most medical monitoring, but the reverse is closer to the truth when it comes to reproductive healthcare. For example, a <a href="http://www.orpha.net/actor/Orphanews/2010/doc/Special-Report-Prenatal-Screening-Policies.pdf">recent EU report</a> noted an inverse correlation between the number of prenatal exams and a country’s GDP, though it offers no explanation for the phenomena.</p><p> It is not only birth and pregnancy that are regulated differently across Europe, but also access to contraception and abortion. Birth-control pills are available over the counter in Spain, Portugal, Greece, The Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, the UK, Slovenia, Serbia and Romania (where not only doctors, but also social workers are able to dispense them), among other countries. The morning-after pill can likewise be bought over the counter in most EU countries, except Croatia and Hungary.&nbsp;</p> <p>It is the latter—my native country—that is also implementing some of the EU’s strictest and most complicated policies around abortion and access to contraception: reflecting the impetus of a neoconservative backlash against permissive gender roles alongside neoliberal ideas of gendered consumption. Broadly curbing the agency of its citizens, Hungary’s strict medical protocols extend to a tight control on the discourse around reproductive rights. For example, the <a href="http://net.jogtar.hu/jr/gen/hjegy_doc.cgi?docid=99200079.TV">‘promotion of abortion’ is illegal</a>, meaning that rights campaigners are effectively gagged. If a pro-choice NGO or an activist group wants to avoid ‘promoting’ abortion, they must use phrases such as ‘abortion is always a very tough decision’, or state that they ‘do not encourage abortion’. In employing such rhetoric, they are also coerced into reinforcing the stigma around abortion.</p> <p>Although elective pregnancy termination is legal in Hungary, it is not easily accessed. A whole legal-medical institutional framework ensures that it is complicated and/or traumatic in each instance. Regardless of how difficult the decision to abort is for the individual, the procedure itself is made unnecessarily onerous, violating and punitive (echoing the common stigmatisation of child-free or non-heteronormative woman as ‘selfish’). If a woman follows the Hungarian abortion legislation instead of buying abortion pills online or visiting a foreign clinic/pharmacy, she must take part in two compulsory ‘counselling’ sessions at the ‘Family Welfare Office’. Only the surgical method is allowed, and only in state-run facilities. But first, the pregnancy must be confirmed by a doctor, usually <a href="http://prochoice.org/nomedicalreasonforrequiringultrasound/">via transvaginal ultrasound</a>, as was similarly proposed in the legislation which sparked the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/23/us/governor-of-virginia-calls-for-changes-in-abortion-bill.html?_r=0">2012 Virginia ultrasound bill debate</a>. (In Virginia, women would have had to <a href="http://prochoice.org/no-medical-reason-for-requiring-ultrasound/">view the fetal tissue before termination</a> as part of a mock informed consent policy, or ‘A Woman’s Right to Know’). That bill sparked huge public outcry in the US, with some even calling it state-mandated rape (as non-consensual penetration is rape). Despite being a blatant example of institutional violence, the Hungarian legislation—put into effect during the socialist era—is generally uncontested.<br /> <br /> Today’s Hungarian medical profession is arguably as conservative and authoritarian as the rest of the country’s current ruling elite (perhaps even more so than under socialism). Concerns about women’s dignity or autonomy are rarely aired or represented. As in other European countries, the fundamentalist Christian right (mainly funded by US conservative donors) are opening so-called ‘crisis pregnancy centres’ in Budapest. These clinics rope women in through advertising free pregnancy tests and psychological counselling, but should a client be pregnant, the anti-abortion propaganda immediately kicks in. It follows roughly the same script as similar projects in other countries: manipulative questioning about personal circumstances, threats about the pseudo-medical condition ‘post-abortion syndrome’, or even (falsely) linking abortion to breast cancer and child abuse.</p> <p>Another important conservative US actor in Hungary is the widely-criticised <a href="http://ww5.komen.org/">Komen Foundation</a>. (Hungary’s US state ambassador between 2001 and 2003 was none other than Nancy Brinker, the founder of Komen and a major USA Republican Party donor.) Among other causes, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/oct/03/pinkification-breast-cancer-awareness-commodified">Komen invests in funding the ‘Pink Ribbon’</a> movement and the Mályvavirág Foundation (which is also funded by big pharma such as GlaxoSmith Kline). The latter organisation invests mainly in raising ‘awareness’ about cervical cancer screening, though like Komen’s, its advice does not always accurately reflect current thinking. <br /> <br /> Across most mainstream media, cancer screening has been promoted as an undisputed good practice, but times are starting to change. As a <a href="http://www.bmj.com/content/350/bmj.h2175">2015 study in the British Medical Journal</a> noted of a general policy shift in Germany, “policy on screening people for cancer poses a dilemma: should we aim for higher participation rates or for better informed citizens?&nbsp; Historically, screening policies opted for increasing participation and accordingly took measures that made people overestimate the benefits and underestimate the harms.”</p> <p>Likewise, the international media has recently brought greater public attention to debates around the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2014/jan/03/patients-truth-health-screening-harm-good">possible drawbacks</a> of screening, especially <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/28/breast-cancer-mammograms-early-detection-research">breast cancer screening</a>. <strong>&nbsp;<br /> </strong><br /> Yet these complexities have not stopped groups like Komen from nudging Hungarian women toward screening through bake-sales or pink Facebook memes (with messages such as ‘It’s for your own good’ or ‘it only takes a few minutes’). The visual marketing of both Mályvavirág and the Pink Ribbon movement is strikingly similar to Komen’s: pink in all gradients, with motifs of flowers, baking and hobby-crafts associated with traditional, domesticated femininity. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Screenshot from the Mályvavirág (Strawberry Mousse) Blog Facebook page.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Screenshot from the Mályvavirág (Strawberry Mousse) Blog Facebook page.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="372" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot from the Mályvavirág (Strawberry Mousse) Blog Facebook page. </span></span></span><br /> Hungarian popular media discourse is too authoritarian and too intertwined with big pharma to give space to the complexity of screening issues. There is a marked discrepancy between popular media narratives and both scientific discourse and strategic debates. Screening is instead presented not as a decision about risk management, but within a moralistic framework as the ‘responsible’ thing to do. It remains taboo to acknowledge the risks involved and the inadequacy of the technology (and all of this for a cancer which is comparatively uncommon in Hungary, accounting for around one per cent of all cancer deaths.) One could reasonably argue, <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/why-im-saying-no-to-a-smear-7577967.html">as have some medical professionals themselves</a>, that non-participation in these programmes is a rational choice, and yet it is near universally accepted that this screening is indeed a good, mature, responsible thing to do. It is a non-choice, because not engaging with such technologies would violate accepted meanings and the social norms imbued in them.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Irrespective of the doubtless life-saving potential of screening tests, its uncritical, passive-aggressive promotion in Hungary further establishes the normativity of the medicalisation of the healthy female body. Women who do not wish to participate are denigrated as ‘uneducated’ or ‘childish’. Alongside, other kinds of dubious and downright dangerous services and products (among them, vaginal rejuvenation and aesthetic laser) are marketed to the public, framed as a question of <em>morality</em> and <em>good taste</em>—as if engaging with the right kind of healthcare consumption, affirms one’s membership of a higher social strata.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Advert for Aphrodite &#039;Intimate Lazer&#039; vaginal rejuvenation treatment, Credit - Aphrodite Facebook (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Advert for Aphrodite &#039;Intimate Laser&#039; vaginal rejuvenation treatment. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Advert for Aphrodite &#039;Intimate Lazer&#039; vaginal rejuvenation treatment, Credit - Aphrodite Facebook (1).jpg" alt="" title="Advert for Aphrodite &#039;Intimate Laser&#039; vaginal rejuvenation treatment. " width="460" height="159" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>As highlighted in these examples, the medicalisation of the healthy female body has become ubiquitous, rendering the routine violation of reproductive rights almost invisible in wider public discourse. This means that women have to be prepared to accept intrusion. They must not only think of their bodies as needing constant surveillance and intervention (arising from misogynist notions of biological inferiority), but their feminine selves must also be cultivated through care—namely enhanced investment in self-improvement.</p> <p>In contemporary Hungary, the female subject in the media and popular culture is often presented as the 'igényes nő': a loosely adapted Hungarian version of the ‘responsible woman’. She is a managerial, self-governing, ‘sophisticated’ and neoliberal subject clad in increasingly globalised visual and formal codes. This subject position has clear social and class connotations. But just as different countries have different class structures, the term ‘neoliberal’ should be used with caution when applied to Hungary. The governing right-wing Fidesz party might adapt policies which are part of an economic toolkit deemed neoliberal, but broadly speaking, the Hungarian market is still very much dependent on and subordinated to the state. It is no wonder then that the women visible in the media who fit the ’igényes nő’ criteria are often connected to men embedded in the state apparatus, instead of strictly following the neoliberal individualist model of social self-advancement through individual means.The other feminine ideal in media discourse is the ‘női principium’: an essentialist model&nbsp;popularized by neoconservatives who, denying the socially-constructed nature of gender, project traits like ‘nurturing’ or ‘caring’ as inherently feminine. Within both prototypes, women are expected to conceal their own reproductive labour.</p><p>The demands on an igényes nő are a supposedly independent but neurotic regimen for body and mind that privileges constant self-regulation and an endless consumption of services and products. She is often more than a mere consumer, with self-management turning into self-branding and then brand-building. One example of the marketing directed at this type of woman is Hungary’s ‘<a href="https://www.facebook.com/eperhab/">Strawberry Mousse’</a> blog run by MSD Pharma. The company’s flagship products include a hormonal contraceptive device, and Gardasil, the common vaccination against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). In the tone of a bubbly girlfriend, the blog devotes its airtime to HPV and the benefits of hormonal contraception alongside fashion, colourful recipes and neurotic lifestyle tips (of course involving more consumption).</p> <p>The női princípium by contrast manifests mainly through political communication, rather than advertising, projecting women as inherently nurturing and submissive. Reproductive labour is therefore not labour, but the ‘natural order of things.’ This ideology has undeniable demographic implications: instead of implementing labour market policies which privilege the inclusion of women in the workforce (such as remote or part-time work), female bodies are instrumentalized to reproduce the labour force.</p><p>Beyond the governing Fidesz, political communication on this theme still operates within the nation-state rhetorical framework: it is the duty of women to protect national integrity and ‘the borders’ of the country. Indeed, when the Parliament debated the proposal to discuss the ratification of the Istanbul convention, Duro Dora, one of the token women in the far-right party, Jobbik (who has a sticker on her laptop bearing the text ‘the nation lives in its wombs’) claimed in her speech that the Convention was inadequate in preventing domestic violence as most domestic violence is committed against the unborn in the form of abortion. Biopolitics is full of irrationalities and paradoxes globally, and Hungary is no exception.</p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Far-right politician Duro Dora with laptop sticker &#039;the nation lives in its womb&#039;. Credit - Magyar Narancs (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Far-right politician Duro Dora with laptop sticker &#039;the nation lives in its womb&#039;. Credit - Magyar Narancs (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="285" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Far-right politician Duro Dora with the sticker 'the nation lives in its wombs'. Credit: Magyar Narancs. </span></span></span></p><p>What I describe here is not how Hungarian women live <em>per se</em>. Different political and social actors of course establish their own media discourses concerning what a woman should do and who she should be. Yet both the above subject positions have the same effect: they erase the potential for women to name reproductive labour as reproductive labour, and both enable technological interventions and state surveillance to be interpreted as ‘self-care’.&nbsp;</p> <p>Just as media does not exist in a bubble and visual representations both depend on and produce social inclusions and exclusions, technology also embodies and perpetuates social norms—media, bodies, selves are always in a complex entanglement. Both strategies of control and strategies of resistance must therefore work with this new notion of the self as fundamentally mediated.</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/magda-pochec/poland-total-ban-on-abortion">Poland: a total ban on abortion? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson-marisa-viana/our-bodies-as-battlegrounds">Our bodies as battlegrounds</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/it-takes-broken-bones-authoritarianism-and-violence-against-women-in-hungary">&quot;It takes broken bones&quot;: authoritarianism and violence against women in Hungary </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 ourNHS 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter bodily autonomy feminism gender justice women's health women's movements Orsolya Bajusz Thu, 29 Sep 2016 08:01:51 +0000 Orsolya Bajusz 105622 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Listening to Refugee Tales on the Pilgrim’s Way https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/agnes-woolley/listening-to-refugee-tales-on-pilgrim-s-way <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The act of listening and the power of voice constitute the ‘act in the dark’ which can unite us and re-shape the punitive and hostile immigration landscape in Britain.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/RWP-28.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Refugee Tales walk (Photo: Refugee Tales)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/RWP-28.png" alt="Refugee Tales walk (Photo: Refugee Tales)" title="Refugee Tales walk (Photo: Refugee Tales)" width="460" height="197" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Refugee Tales walk (Photo: Refugee Tales)</span></span></span>This time last year, I joined the <a href="http://refugeetales.org/">Refugee Tales</a> collective of activists, volunteers, refugees and ex-detainees as they started a week-long pilgrimage along the North Downs Way from Dover to Crawley in solidarity with refugees. Walking with others always seems to invite storytelling, and as we traversed the Kent countryside in easy conversation, it seemed as though the borders that often divide people and places were temporarily lifted. </p> <p>The week-long walk, with its evenings of storytelling and performance, is currently underway again, this time tracing a route from Canterbury to Westminster. This year, under the cloud of a referendum fought largely on the issue of immigration and <em><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/16/nigel-farage-defends-ukip-breaking-point-poster-queue-of-migrants">that</a></em> UKIP poster which seemed to put our shared values into question, it is more important than ever.</p> <p>This year the event began with a ‘day of thought performance and action’ on the issue of indefinite immigration detention. Working to end detention is a central plank of the Refugee Tales project and arises from the tireless work of the <a href="http://www.gdwg.org.uk/">Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group</a>, and Anna Pincus, a co-founder of the project. The good news is, as Jerome Phelps noted in his introduction to the issues at the beginning of the day, that this is a fight that’s making progress. As well as the successful legal challenge to end the <a href="http://detentionaction.org.uk/campaigns/end-the-fast-track-to-despair/legal-challenge">Detained Fast Track</a> system, led by his organisation <a href="http://detentionaction.org.uk/">Detention Action</a>, two Immigration Removal Centres have been closed in the past year, and controversial plans for the expansion of <a href="https://closecampsfield.wordpress.com/category/all/news/campsfield-news/">Campsfield</a> have been dropped. It remains the case, however, that the UK is the only country in Europe (still, just) that has no time limit on immigration detention. This means that unlike the prison system, detainees are not given a release date. Most IRCs are run by private security companies, whose <a href="https://www.rsc.ox.ac.uk/files/publications/working-paper-series/wp27-evolution-immigration-detention-uk-2005.pdf">profit driven management</a> means that detainees face daily infringements on their health and wellbeing. Over the course of the day, we heard from a number of ex-detainees whose accounts of daily life inside these highly secretive institutions painted a picture of a dehumanised, and dehumanising, system.&nbsp;</p> <p>Opening the day, poet, academic and co-organiser of Refugee Tales, David Herd, described the walk as a ‘peripatetic forum’; an image which suggests the mobility and translatability of ideas framing an alternative way of treating those going though the UK’s tortuous asylum system. The conversations of the day he said – which included readings, performances, testimony and thought-provoking interventions – will act as a catalyst for those undertaking the week-long pilgrimage. For Herd, one of the main aims of Refugee Tales is to change the language with which we choose to address human movement in our culture. The underpinning ethos of the project is the idea that the acts of listening and of telling are able to change the terms of the conversation.</p> <p>The terms of the conversation as they currently stand about the place of refugees and asylum seekers in UK society is bleak. In May this year, the new Immigration Act came into law and, in new Prime Minister <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/theresa-may-and-love-police">Theresa May’s words</a>, it is designed to create a <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/10/immigration-bill-theresa-may-hostile-environment">‘hostile environment’</a> for migrants in Britain. Among the most punitive of <a href="http://rightsinfo.org/immigration-act-2016-plain-english/">its measures</a> is the removal of the governmental obligation to accommodate asylum seekers who are on immigration bail. Not only this, but the bill makes it illegal for them to access private rental accommodation; a change which is likely to dramatically push up rates of destitution, already a serious concern among this group. Just now, in the wake of the referendum, it feels like May’s ‘hostile environment’ is finding its fullest expression. The fears and anxieties of a divided country are bubbling to the surface and have been played out most fully in the conversations around immigration that have shaped the campaign.</p> <p>In light of this, thoughts turned throughout the day to the question of what stories we should be listening to - and what stories we can tell - to counter growing anti-immigration rhetoric. Why, the poet and critic Ben Okri asked, do we not have a positive counter image to the poisonous campaign poster put out by UKIP?</p> <p>Storytelling and listening might, it was suggested, be one mode of resistance to the opportunistic anti-immigration sloganeering we have heard so much of in recent months. Crucially, it is the stories of those who have experience of the asylum system, and immigration detention in particular, which sheds light on aspects of the British immigration process that much of the public knows nothing about. We heard from a number of ex-detainees on the day, and all spoke of how the experience of detention changes people. In the words of David, a man who has spent time in nearly all of the UK’s detention centres, ‘the experience never leaves you’; it is a condition that haunts people and shapes their lives even after release.</p> <p>Listening to people tell stories about these experiences, it becomes apparent that it’s not only the uncertainty of detention that has long-lasting damaging effects, but also the petty institutional and individual cruelties, and bureaucratic mechanisms prevalent in detention centres that wear away at people’s capacities for self-belief and resistance: the rationing of toilet paper and soap, the lack of adequate access to healthcare and, in one story, a man left on the floor after fainting in the queue for food. It’s this kind of detail that we don’t often hear. Getting a sense of how a seemingly abstract system works in granular detail, it becomes all too clear how the daily injustices of detention affect individuals.&nbsp;</p> <p>Telling one’s story is also an act of agency in a system which, as philosopher Angie Hobbs pointed out, works to deprive refugees of the ability to be autonomous agents of their lives. In indefinite detention, detainees are denied the capacity to shape their futures; to even imagine a possible life on the outside. In a chilling anecdote, the psychiatrist, Cornelius Katona recounted the sentiments of one detainee he spoke to who said that the difference between detention and prison is that in prison you count the days down, but in detention you count the days up because there is no end in sight.</p> <p>For author Ali Smith in particular, as Patron of Refugee Tales, the act of listening and the power of voice constitutes the ‘act in the dark’ which can unite us. For Smith, ‘Language is an instrument of transformation’. Refugee Tales started with the act of listening. Co-organiser Anna Pincus and others at the Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group sought to find ways of disseminating the stories of detainees about their experience in detention. The GDWG began to work with other local groups and writers, to get the stories of detainees into the public consciousness. From there, the project has gained momentum and this year a book – <a href="http://commapress.co.uk/books/refugee-tales"><em>Refugee Tales</em></a> – has been published which features stories from, among others, Ali Smith, Abdulrazak Gurnah and Inua Ellams, who worked in collaboration with those who have experienced the asylum system.</p> <p>Chaucer’s <em>Canterbury Tales </em>is both inspiration and model for this project, and walking and poetry have deep connections. But the communal nature of Refugee Tales differs from the archetypal image of the lone, literary walker. From Jean-Jacques Rousseau to ‘psychogeographic’ walkers like Iain Sinclair, the Romantic image of the literary walker is one of individual contemplation. Refugee Tales by contrast, explores how walking can be about solidarity rather than solitude. It’s through walking and talking that the project seeks to re-shape the landscape of immigration in Britain. In Herd’s words, the aim of the walk is to re-fashion the environment from one of hostility to one of welcome.</p> <p><em>To make English sweete.</em></p><p><em>That’s why Chaucer told his tales.</em></p> <p><em>How badly we need English</em></p> <p><em>To be made sweet again</em></p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; From ‘Prologue’, by David Herd</p><p><em>This article was first published on openDemocracy 50.50 in July 2016</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/agnes-woolley/setherfree-spectrum-of-solidarity-for-refugee-women">#SetHerFree: a spectrum of solidarity for refugee women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/agnes-woolley/whos-afraid-of-global-poor">Who&#039;s afraid of the &#039;global poor&#039;?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vicki-squire/city-plaza-way-forward-for-european-migration-crisis">City Plaza: a way forward for the European ‘migration crisis’?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/fast-track-is-dead">The Fast Track is dead </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/kate-alexander/like-chicken-surrounded-by-dogs">Like a chicken surrounded by dogs</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marissa-begonia/hope-of-migrant">Hope of a migrant</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/is-there-alternative-to-locking-up-migrants-in-uk">Is there an alternative to locking up migrants in the UK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/beatrice-botomani/refugee-women-in-uk-pushing-stone-into-sea-0">Refugee women in the UK: Pushing a stone into the sea</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/seeking-liberation-seeking-comfort-women-migrants-in-uk">Seeking liberation, seeking comfort: women migrants in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lisa-matthews/on-edge-of-nation-sitting-on-border">On the edge of a nation, sitting on the border</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/theresa-may-and-love-police">Theresa May and the love police </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/agnes-woolley/life-on-margins-i-am-nasrine">Life on the Margins: I Am Nasrine</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"> UK </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 UK 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change 50.50 newsletter Agnes Woolley Wed, 28 Sep 2016 09:27:33 +0000 Agnes Woolley 103971 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Nobel Women’s Initiative at 10: When We Are Bold https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rachel-m-vincent/nobel-women-s-initiative-at-10-when-we-are-bold <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“It is time to stand up, sisters, and do some of the most unthinkable things. We have the power to turn our upsidedown world right.” – Leymah Gbowee</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Liz-Rachel-Julienne-Leymah DRC 2014.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Liz-Rachel-Julienne-Leymah DRC 2014.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rachel Vincent, Liz Bernstein, Leymah Gbowee and Julienne Lusenge meet with sexual violence survivors in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 2014. Photo: Peter Müller </span></span></span>When I was 10, I was an avid reader and particularly loved reading biographies. I vividly recall reading short, child-versions of biographies about Florence Nightingale — the nurse who pioneered the use of hygiene in field care and saved countless lives on the front lines during the Crimean War — and biographies of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, two African Americans who had bravely made their way from the South to the North to escape slavery. Harriet Tubman traveled mostly at night, and used moss — which grows on the side of the tree that gets the least amount of light, the north side — to guide her to freedom. To this day, while walking in the woods, I find myself checking on which side of the tree the moss is growing. </p> <p>It is perhaps not surprising then that as I grew older, I sought out books written by and about women. In my turbulent teens and 20s, it was the lives and experiences of women I had never met — writers like Harper Lee, Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou, Nawal El-Saadawi, Gloria Naylor, Julia Alvarez and Arundhati Roy — who helped me to feel less alone in this world. Their collective wisdom pointed me towards a new kind of North, an interior freedom; they showed me that there are many ways in this world to be a woman, and that fear was normal, but so was boldly refusing to accept things as they are.&nbsp; </p> <p>In 1983, when I was 18, my mother gave me a copy of Carol Gilligan’s book, <em>In A Different Voice</em>. This book posited the theory, ground breaking at the time, that women and men have different approaches to morality. Gilligan’s work has since been knocked off its pedestal, but the core idea that women and men have different “voices” and ways of being in this world has always stuck with me, and in ways big and small, has shaped my life. </p> <p>Fast-forward more than 30 years. I now find myself working with six extraordinary women Nobel Peace laureates at the <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women’s Initiative</a>. The initiative’s leader, Liz Bernstein, shares not only a passion for feminism and peace work with me, but also a deep love for the writing of women and women’s stories. During human rights delegations to countries like South Sudan, Honduras, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liz and I fill time on planes or buses discussing books we love, especially ones that celebrate the stories of women who have rejected militarism, violence and hatred (in its many forms) and have bravely forged ahead unapologetically as peacemakers. </p> <p>After many years of amplifying the voices of women’s rights activists around the globe for the Nobel Women’s Initiative, I decided to curate a book celebrating 100 years of remarkable peacemakers.&nbsp; The book is called &nbsp;<a href="http://whenwearebold.com/">When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our Upsidedown World Right !</a> Published by Mapalé,<strong> </strong>27 September 2016.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/When We Are Bold.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/When We Are Bold.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="457" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our Upsidedown World Right ! Editor, Rachel Vincent. Published by Mapalé. </span></span></span></p> <p>We all stand on some pretty broad shoulders in the peace movement, and I wanted to honour those who led the way—and who have influenced and shaped other women. The result is a unique collection of 28 short profiles of women who work boldly for change, by the women writers, thinkers and doers they inspire.&nbsp; Some of the women in the book you may recognize, including seven women Nobel peace laureates.&nbsp; Other women in the book are not famous, but should be.&nbsp; The women come from all over the globe, including France, Liberia, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa, Israel, Jordan, Russia, Mexico, Honduras, Canada and the United States. </p> <p>We are reprinting three essays from the book here on <em>openDemocracy 50.50</em>.&nbsp; In her <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/valerie-m-hudson/toward-feminist-foreign-policy">essay</a>, scholar and writer Valerie M. Hudson explores how feminist icon Gloria Steinem, now in her 80’s, is still working for a shift in foreign policy based on the feminist goal of peace. In her <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/marilyn-waring/helen-caldicott-and-first-nuke-free-country">essay</a>, feminist economist and former New Zealand politician Marilyn Waring takes us back to the early 1980s, when Dr. Helen Caldicott paid a well-timed visit to New Zealand and helped move public opinion closer to the decision to make New Zealand the first nuke-free country.&nbsp; In her <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/fiona-lloyd-davies/rebecca-masika-katsuva-life-of-hope-lived-in-defiance-of-violence">essay</a>, filmmaker Fiona Lloyd-Davies honours Congolese activist Rebecca Masika Katsuva.&nbsp; Masika, herself a survivor of sexual violence, helped dozens of other survivors in her short life, and also become “Mama Masika” to so many of their children.&nbsp; </p> <p>The women profiled in these essays, are “extraordinary”. &nbsp;But at the root of that word is “ordinary”. Both the women writing and the women who inspire them are just like women you know. They are your mother, your sisters, your aunts; women in every community across this planet doing the hard, sometimes dangerous, and often lonely, work of challenging the status quo and responding to violence and injustice in its many forms. </p> <p>I hope you see glimpses of yourself in some of the women you read about in these essays. Perhaps some of them will even inspire you to follow the metaphoric moss on the north side of the trees towards boldness.&nbsp; </p> <p><a href="http://whenwearebold.com/">When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our Upsidedown World Right !</a> Published by Mapalé,<strong> </strong>27 September 2016</p><p><strong><em>Read more articles in the 50.50 <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative-10th-anniversary">series </a>celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Nobel Women's Initiative</em></strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marilyn-waring/helen-caldicott-and-first-nuke-free-country">Whose work was the inspiration for the first nuke-free country?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/valerie-m-hudson/toward-feminist-foreign-policy">Gloria Steinem: toward a feminist foreign policy </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/fiona-lloyd-davies/rebecca-masika-katsuva-life-of-hope-lived-in-defiance-of-violence"> A life of hope lived in defiance of violence: Rebecca Masika Katsuva</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/isabel-hilton/peacework-lessons-we-have-failed-to-learn">Peacework: lessons we have failed to learn</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/liz-khan-sue-finch/peacework-women-in-action-across-europe">Peacework: women in action across Europe </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/content/meaning-of-peace-in-21st-century">The meaning of peace in the 21st century</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/there-are-more-of-us-who-want-peace-than-want-killing-to-continue">There are more of us who want peace than want the killing to continue</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mairead-maguire/common-vision-abolition-of-militarism">A common vision: The abolition of militarism </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leymah-gbowee/leymah-gbowee-five-words-for-men-of-libya">Leymah Gbowee: five words for the men of Libya</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jody-williams/jody-williams-true-path-to-nuclear-non-proliferation">Jody Williams: The true path to nuclear non-proliferation </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 Nobel Women's Initiative 10th anniversary Women's Power to Stop War 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Nobel Women's Initiative 50.50 Women's Movement Building women's movements women and power women and militarism 50.50 newsletter Rachel Vincent Tue, 27 Sep 2016 10:27:34 +0000 Rachel Vincent 105602 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Gloria Steinem: toward a feminist foreign policy https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/valerie-m-hudson/toward-feminist-foreign-policy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Feminism, when you look at it as Gloria Steinem does, as the recognition of the full humanity and full equality of both men and women, <em>is </em>peace work</p> </div> </div> </div> <table cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" align="left"> <tr> <td valign="top" align="left"> </td> </tr> </table> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Gloria Steinem.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Gloria Steinem.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gloria Steinem leads Women Cross DMZ, an international group of women peace activists crossing the border between North and South Korea in 2015. Photo: Niana Liu</span></span></span></p><p>Gloria Steinem’s name has become synonymous with feminism, but it’s also true to say her life has been devoted to the cause of peace. In her 81st year, Steinem joined a group of 30 women peacemakers who marched (or attempted to march) across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, to highlight the political-military stalemate there. Two Nobel laureates, Mairead Maguire and Leymah Gbowee, also marched. This was no orchestrated photo op. Steinem explained that they’d arrived not knowing if they’d actually be allowed to cross or not, and that it was “remarkable” that they were given permission to do so by the two opposed governments. “North and South Korean women can’t walk across the DMZ legally,” she said. “We from other countries can. So I feel we are walking on their behalf.”</p> <p>To dare to envision peace is a profoundly subversive act, and always has been. While Steinem has contributed toward the building of a more peaceful world in many ways, such as the DMZ walk, one of her foremost contributions has been to envision, articulate, and help realize a world where the global war against women has an end.</p> <p>Ending the war against women is not some add-on or tangent to the cause of peace between races, peoples, and nations—it is the precondition for such peace. There cannot be peace between nations until there is peace between the two halves of humanity, the mothers and fathers of all living and all yet to live. This understanding is the great gift Steinem has given to three generations of humankind now—a gift we will pass on to our own daughters and sons.</p> <p>Steinem sees a connection between what we have chosen to normalize in male-female relations, and what we see at the level of state and society. “The family is the basic cell of the government,” she explains, “it is where we are trained to believe that we are human beings or that we are chattel, it is where we are trained to see the sex and race divisions and become callous to injustice even if it is done to ourselves, to accept as biological a full system of authoritarian government.”</p> <p>Truly, then, we should not be surprised that societies rooted in male dominance over females are not peaceful or democratic; as Steinem notes, “We’re never going to have democratic countries or peaceful countries until we have democratic or peaceful families.” Why? Because you must teach men to dominate in order to maintain a male-dominated system. And that is a very ugly education, indeed, where the first to be dominated are those within men’s own families who are different from them: women. Domestic violence is the seedbed of all other violence based on difference. “This is the first form of violence, domination, power we see as children,” explains Steinem. “It normalizes every other form.”</p> <p>This education in domination not only harms women—it harms men as well. Steinem says that when she talks to groups of men they often bring up how masculine roles have limited them, and how they missed having real, present loving fathers, as their dads were always trying to fit an ideal of masculinity, which did not include that. Because men have been taught that they have to “prove” their masculinity in a way women do not, and because masculinity has been constructed upon notions of domination and control, men’s lives can easily become inhumane. It’s a life that brings no lasting happiness. In a way, then, feminism is humanism, for it seeks to liberate both men and women from destructively contorted sex roles.</p> <p>Steinem maintains that women will tend to be much better peacemakers until the masculine role is humanized. Women are integral to peacebuilding, for they have not been sidelined by the need to prove their sex role through conflict and aggression. Steinem points out that people thought achieving peace in Ireland and in Liberia would be impossible, but in both countries women from both sides started working together and did the impossible—achieved peace. </p> <p>If peace cannot be built without women then one of the most important steps that could be taken to ensure a more peaceful world would be empowering women globally:</p> <p><em>The worldwide reduction of violence against females should be a core goal of our foreign policy. It should be, given its outcome, its demonstrable outcome in every major country in the world ... Instead, what happens is the “it would be nice” principle—“It would be nice if women were more equal in Afghanistan, but it’s not important.” And many of our officials have said specifically that women’s rights have nothing to do with nationalism, peace conferences, peace processes, all kinds of things. We could, for instance, actually put some teeth into UNSCR 1325 ... We have the principle, but it is on paper only, it is not enacted. </em></p> <p>In an interview I did with Steinem in 2013, she opened my eyes to just how vastly different our foreign policy would be if we took the cause of women seriously. She recounted an incident that happened just after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. She attended a briefing of women’s organizations in a State Department auditorium toward the end of President Jimmy Carter’s tenure. Although the subject was an upcoming&nbsp; U.N. women’s conference and Afghanistan wasn’t mentioned, the Soviets had rolled into Kabul that very day. Newspapers were full of articles about the mujahideen—the Islamist guerrilla fighters in Afghanistan—and their declaration of war against their own Soviet-supported government. Their leaders gave three reasons for why they wanted to drive the Soviets out: girls were permitted to go to school; girls and women could no longer be married off without their consent; and women were being invited to political meetings.</p> <p>During the discussion that followed the meeting, Steinem stood up and posed an obvious question to her State Department hosts: Given what the mujahideen themselves had said that day, wasn’t the United States supporting the wrong side? Steinem remembers the question falling into that particular hush reserved for the ridiculous. She doesn’t remember the exact answer, but the State Department made it clear the United States opposed anything the Soviets supported—the government spokesman made no mention that the United States was arming violent, antidemocratic, misogynist religious extremists.</p> <p>It was clear that matters of war and peace were about realpolitik and oil pipelines—and not about honoring the human rights of the more peaceful female half of the human race. And so it happened that the mujahideen waged their brutal war with weapons supplied by the United States and, of course, Saudi Arabia—the birthplace of the doctrinaire interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism. Together, they gave birth to the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other affiliated terror networks that now reach far beyond the borders of Afghanistan. Steinem says she has never stopped regretting that she didn’t chain herself to the seats of that State Department auditorium in public protest.</p> <p>Feminism, then, when you look at it as Steinem does, as the recognition of the full humanity and full equality of both men and women, <em>is </em>peace work. When U.S. President Barack Obama presented Steinem with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 for her work advancing women’s rights and civil rights, she made the connection between the two explicit by saying the medal meant so much because it was, in a way, for waging peace. She explained that the gender division, in which there is a subject and an object, a masculine and feminine, a dominant and passive, is what normalizes other violence that has to do with race and class and ethnicity and sexuality. Men’s idea that they must defeat each other in order to be masculine, she explained, “is the root of the false idea that we are ranked as human beings rather than linked.” </p> <p>Steinem argues there is a better vision—an embrace of difference without hierarchy. When we encounter that first difference between male and female, a profound choice is placed before us: we can rank those who are different, or we can link them. Steinem urges us to choose the latter: “Difference is the source of learning ... Difference is a gift, so that we understand and don’t fear ... We live in a world of ‘either/or.’ We’re trying to make a world of ‘and.’ So it is about shared humanity in perfect balance with difference.”</p> <p>Steinem once described herself as a “hope-aholic,” which seems like a very good way to describe peacemakers. It is a life filled with incorrigible aspiration for a better world, and the tenacity to work for its realization. Part of this hope is that one day the vision you see will seem obvious to everyone: “I think that being a feminist means that you see the world whole instead of half. It shouldn’t need a name, and one day it won’t.” </p> <p>And as for Steinem herself? “I hope to live to 100. There is so much to do.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/When We Are Bold (1).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/When We Are Bold (1).png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="239" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><em><span>This essay is one of 28 stories by notable women about remarkable women peacemakers brought together in a collection to celebrate the 10th&nbsp;anniversary of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. </span><a href="http://whenwearebold.com/">When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our Upsidedown World Right!</a><a href="http://whenwearebold.com/"> </a><span>Editor, Rachel Vincent, September 27, Mapalé.</span></em></p><p><span><em><a href="http://www.editorialmapale.com/" target="_blank">http://www.editorialmapale.com/</a>&nbsp;</em></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em>Read more articles in the 50.50 <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative-10th-anniversary">series </a>celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Nobel Women's Initiative</em><br /></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/madeleine-rees/this-is-what-feminist-foreign-policy-looks-like">This is what a feminist foreign policy looks like</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jacqui-true/why-we-need-feminist-foreign-policy-to-stop-war">Why we need a feminist foreign policy to stop war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/christina-asquith/hillary-doctrine-untangling-sex-and-american-foreign-policy">The Hillary Doctrine: untangling sex and American foreign policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/valerie-hudson/foundation-of-human-security-in-every-society">The foundation of human security in every society</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/distance-travelled-beijing-hillary-and-women%27s-rights">The distance travelled: Beijing, Hillary, and women&#039;s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/leymah-gbowee/child-soldiers-child-wives-wounded-for-life">Child soldiers, child wives: wounded for life</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/still-our-man-in-havana-foreign-policy-reportings-elitism-problem">Still &#039;Our Man in Havana&#039;: foreign policy reporting&#039;s elitism problem</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mairead-maguire/building-culture-of-love-replacing-culture-of-violence-and-death">Building a culture of love: replacing a culture of violence and death</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leymah-gbowee/leymah-gbowee-five-words-for-men-of-libya">Leymah Gbowee: five words for the men of Libya</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/military-intervention-in-yemen-international-system-in-crisis">Military intervention in Yemen: the international system in crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ray-acheson-rebecca-johnson/un-are-development-and-peace-empty-words">The UN: are development and peace empty words? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ray-acheson-rebecca-johnson/un-are-development-and-peace-empty-words">The UN: are development and peace empty words? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/what-sex-means-for-world-peace">What sex means for world peace</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"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Conflict Nobel Women's Initiative 10th anniversary 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter feminism women and militarism women and power women's movements Valerie Hudson Tue, 27 Sep 2016 10:27:33 +0000 Valerie Hudson 105597 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Whose work was the inspiration for the first nuke-free country? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/marilyn-waring/helen-caldicott-and-first-nuke-free-country <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>New Zealand was the first country in the world to pass national nuclear-free legislation. Marilyn Waring reflects on how Dr. Helen Caldicott’s influence culminated in the passage of the cornerstone of New Zealand’s foreign policy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Helen Caldicott.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Helen Caldicott.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="359" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Helen Caldicott. Credit: Helen Caldicott</span></span></span></p><p>If you were growing up in New Zealand and Australia post World War II, there’s a chance you knew about the United States using the Marshall Islands as a nuclear testing site from 1947 until 1962. In an agreement signed with the United Nations, the U.S. government held the Marshall Islands as a “trust territory” and detonated nuclear devices in this pristine area of the Pacific Ocean—leading, in some instances, to huge levels of radiation fall-out, health effects, and the permanent displacement of many island people. In all, the U.S. government conducted 105 underwater and atmospheric tests. You would have also known that the British conducted seven atmospheric tests between 1956 and 1963 on traditional Aboriginal land, in Maralinga, Australia. </p> <p>It may be that you read Neville Shute’s 1957 novel <em>On the Beach, </em>in which people in Melbourne, Australia wait for deadly radiation to spread from a Northern Hemisphere nuclear war. This book made a memorable impact on Helen when she read it as a teenager. When I was a teenager, some years later, I read Bertrand Russell’s 1959 classic, <em>Common Sense and Nuclear Warfare. </em></p> <p>Both Helen and I saw Peter Watkin’s <em>The War Game</em>, a BBC documentary drama about nuclear war and the consequences in an English city. In New Zealand the film was restricted for children unless accompanied by an adult, so I had to get my father to take me. <em>The War Game</em> won the Oscar for the best documentary in 1965.</p> <p>France began its series of over 175 nuclear tests at Mururoa, in the South Pacific, in 1966. At least 140 of these tests were above ground. In 1973, the New Zealand and Australian governments took France to the World Court for continued atmospheric testing, and forced the last tests underground. The testing finally came to an end in 1976.</p> <p>In New Zealand the U.S. Navy made regular visits between 1976 and 1983 with nuclear-powered and, most likely, nuclear-armed, ships. These visits produced spectacular protest fleets in the Auckland and Wellington harbours, when hundreds of New Zealanders—in yachts of all sizes, in motor boats and canoes, even on surf boards—surrounded the vessels and tried to bring them to a complete stop. By 1978, a campaign began in New Zealand to declare borough and city council areas nuclear-free and, by the early 1980s, this symbolic movement had quickly gained momentum, covering more than two-thirds of the New Zealand population.</p> <p>Helen Caldicott and I had not met up to this point, but these were shared parts of our history and consciousness when Helen visited New Zealand in 1983.</p><p>Helen Caldicott graduated with a medical degree from University of Adelaide Medical School in 1961. She moved to the United States, becoming an Instructor in paediatrics at Harvard Medical School and was on the staff of the Children’s Hospital Medical Centre in Boston, Massachusetts. In the late 1970s, Helen became the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility. This group was founded when Helen was finishing medical school, quickly making its mark by documenting the presence of Strontium-90, a highly radioactive waste product of atmospheric nuclear testing, in children’s teeth. The landmark finding eventually led to the Limited Nuclear Test Ban treaty, which ended atmospheric nuclear testing. </p> <p>But it was the Three Mile Island accident that changed Helen’s life. An equipment failure resulted in a loss of cooling water to the core of a reactor at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania, causing a partial meltdown. Operator failure meant that 700,000 gallons of radioactive cooling water ended up in the basement of the reactor building. It was the most serious nuclear accident to that date in the U.S. Helen published <em>Nuclear Madness</em> the same year. In it she wrote: “As a physician, I contend that nuclear technology threatens life on our planet with extinction. If present trends continue, the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink will soon be contaminated with enough radioactive pollutants to pose a potential health hazard far greater than any plague humanity has ever experienced.” In 1980, Helen resigned from her paid work positions to work full time on the prevention of nuclear war. </p> <p>In 1982, Canadian director Terre Nash filmed a lecture given by Helen Caldicott to a New York state student audience. Nash’s consequent National Film Board of Canada documentary<em> If You Love this Planet </em>was released during the term of U.S. President Ronald Reagan, at the height of Cold War nuclear tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. The U.S. Department of Justice moved quickly to designate the film “foreign propaganda,” bringing a great deal of attention to the film. It went on to win the 1982 Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject. That same year, Helen addressed about 750,000 people in Central Park, New York in the biggest anti-nuke rally in the United States to that date.</p> <p>In 1983, I was serving as a member of the New Zealand parliament, having been elected eight years earlier at the age of 23. Our parliament established a Disarmament and Arms Control Select Committee to conduct hearings on the possibility of making New Zealand a nuclear-free zone. During this critically important time, Helen was invited to New Zealand on a lecture tour. The documentary <em>If You Love This Planet </em>was shown at her speaking engagements.</p> <p>I did not get to meet her, nor hear any of her lectures in person, as I was working in parliament every night. But I did follow the media coverage. </p> <p>Helen told the magazine the<em> Listener</em> about having observed five-star generals in U.S. congressional and senate committees complaining that the Russian missiles were bigger than the American ones. “The Russian missiles are very big (and) inaccurate and clumsy. America has very small, very accurate missiles, which are better at killing people and destroying targets,” she explained. A frequent message in her talks to New Zealand audiences was the redundant overkill capacity of both superpowers. Caldicott noted to her audiences that “[T]he U.S. has 30,000 bombs and Russia 20,000.” </p> <p>I had sat in a New Zealand parliamentary committee hearing some months earlier, when a government colleague, brandishing a centrefold of a Russian submarine, excitedly called for us to “Look at how big it is.” I had thought that no one would believe me if I had repeated such an inane banality—when an adult male was more impressed by the size of the submarine than its capacity to destroy life on this planet. </p> <p>Helen’s public addresses were grounded in the potential impact of nuclear weapons. “Imagine a 20-megaton bomb targeted on Auckland,” she told audiences in New Zealand. “The explosion, five times the collective energy of all the bombs dropped in the Second World War, digs a hole three-quarters of a mile wide by 800 feet deep and turns people, buildings and dirt into radioactive dust. Everyone up to six miles will be vaporised, and up to 20 miles they will be dead or lethally injured. People will be instantly blinded looking at the blast within 40 miles. Many will be asphyxiated in the fire storm.” </p> <p>Helen did not hold back, explaining that nuclear war means “blindness, burning, starvation, disease, lacerations, haemorrhaging, millions of corpses and an epidemic of disease.” Helen’s dramatic and blunt style reduced many in her audiences to tears. She always ended her talks with a call to action—especially to parents—as she strongly believes that nuclear disarmament is “the ultimate medical and parenting issue of our time.”</p> <p>To those who would claim New Zealand was not a target she had a short reply: “Trident submarines in ports are targeted. They are a first strike target. It is much easier to destroy subs when they are in dock than it is when they are submerged in the ocean.” </p> <p>In 2015, I asked Helen how she managed to deliver such bad news and yet keep her audiences with her. “Being a doctor helps because you have to learn to negotiate with a patient and with language they can understand,” she explained. “You have to convert the medical diagnosis and treatment to lay language. I also have to keep them awake sometimes by letting them laugh because it relieves their tension and because the stuff I say is pretty awful.” Helen told me that she practices “global preventative medicine.” </p> <p>Helen’s tour through New Zealand in 1983 had a huge, and lasting, impact. At one stop, Helen addressed over 2,000 people at a public event in Auckland. The librarian with whom I corresponded looking for old newspaper reports of Helen’s visit, wrote to me: “Her chillingly detailed description of the effects of a nuclear device detonated over the hall in which we were sitting remains rooted in my psyche to this day! …The other message I most recall is the dichotomy she evoked between the destructive drive of ‘old men’ rulers, the instigators of war, versus the procreative energy of mothers most impelled to oppose them—which, however reductive, retains the compelling logic of a truism!” </p> <p>Helen’s approach was transformative in New Zealand. Helen’s speaking events packed auditoriums, and overflows of audiences had to be accommodated using loud speaker systems. People responded strongly to this woman, whose life work involved caring for children, speaking about medical effects of fallout, and speaking without the use of the clichéd military and defence ideological rhetoric that treated people as if they were simpletons who couldn’t understand. Her speeches inspired people to act. After Helen spoke, the volume of mail delivered to my parliamentary office increased—particularly from women. </p> <p>On May 24, 1983, 20,000 women wearing white flowers and armbands and holding banners with peace signs marched quietly up a main street in Auckland to hold a huge rally and call for New Zealand to be nuke-free. It was one of the largest women’s demonstrations in New Zealand’s history. In her book, <em>Peace, Power and Politics – How New Zealand Became Nuclear Free</em>, Maire Leadbetter writes: “I am one of many activists who think of Helen Caldicott’s visit as the point when the peace movement began to grow exponentially… Helen had a magical ability to motivate previously passive citizens to become activists.” </p> <p>Shortly after Helen’s visit to New Zealand, in 1984, I advised that I intended to vote for the opposition-sponsored nuclear-free New Zealand legislation. This prompted conservative Prime Minister Rob Muldoon to call a snap election. Muldoon told media that my “feminist anti-nuclear stance” threatened his ability to govern. </p> <p>The new Labour Government of 1984 passed the <a href="New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act ">New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act</a> in 1987, the world’s first national nuclear-free legislation. Dr. Helen Caldicott’s influence had culminated in the passage of the cornerstone of New Zealand’s foreign policy.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/When We Are Bold (1).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/When We Are Bold (1).png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="239" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><em><span>This essay is one of 28 stories by notable women about remarkable women peacemakers brought together in a collection to celebrate the 10th&nbsp;anniversary of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. </span><a href="http://whenwearebold.com/">When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our Upsidedown World Right!</a><a href="http://whenwearebold.com/"> </a><span>Editor, Rachel Vincent, September 27, Mapalé.</span></em></p><p><span><em><a href="http://www.editorialmapale.com/" target="_blank">http://www.editorialmapale.com/</a>&nbsp;</em></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em>Read more articles in the 50.50 <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative-10th-anniversary">series </a>celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Nobel Women's Initiative</em><br /></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/rebecca-johnson/alternative-history-of-peacemaking-century-of-disarmament-efforts">An alternative history of peacemaking: a century of disarmament efforts </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mairead-maguire/common-vision-abolition-of-militarism">A common vision: The abolition of militarism </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/violence-is-not-inevitable-it-is-choice">Violence is not inevitable: It is a choice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/nuclear-survivors%27-testimony-from-hell-to-hope">Nuclear survivors&#039; testimony: from hell to hope </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/will-nagasaki-be-last-use-of-nuclear-weapons">Will Nagasaki be the last use of nuclear weapons?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/new-generation-taking-over-reins-of-nuclear-abolition">A new generation: taking over the reins of nuclear abolition</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson-jaine-rose/guerilla-woolfare-against-madness-of-mutually-assured-destruction">Guerilla woolfare: against the madness of mutually assured destruction</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/from-hiroshima-to-trident-listening-to-hibakusha">From Hiroshima to Trident: listening to the Hibakusha </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/no-more-little-boy-and-fat-man">No more &#039;Little Boy&#039; and &#039;Fat Man&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/isabel-hilton/peacework-lessons-we-have-failed-to-learn">Peacework: lessons we have failed to learn</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"> New Zealand </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 New Zealand Civil society Conflict Nobel Women's Initiative 10th anniversary 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Towards Nuclear Non-proliferation 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter women and militarism women and power women's movements women's work Marilyn Waring Tue, 27 Sep 2016 10:27:30 +0000 Marilyn Waring 105595 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Theresa May and the love police https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/theresa-may-and-love-police <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In Theresa May’s “One Nation” we are all border guards. Her vision of the Big Society will make us all shrink.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>I heard the news of Ahmed’s* death over email. 24 years old, he had been deported from the UK, his home of eight years, in the days before. I had received an email from him in which he warned me that he “could be dead” accompanied by a scanned copy of his Home Office deportation order, a suicide note of sorts. A colleague responded to my concern with the devastating news: “sadly I believe him to be dead. He had been completely let down and ground down by this country”. The final words Ahmed said to my colleague were haunting, "I have been released forever".</p> <p>The news of Ahmed’s likely suicide followed an email that I’d received earlier in the week from another colleague which documented the suicide attempt of another young migrant. It has left him hospitalized for the second time in weeks. Meanwhile, Bilal* a successful engineer who grew up for most of his life in Britain tells me that as he awaits the outcome of his asylum appeal that could see him deported to a country he barely knows he has started to cut himself with a knife.</p> <p>Self-harm, anxiety and depression are <a href="https://www.pre-school.org.uk/news/2016/05/refugee-children-are-vulnerable-poor-mental-health-study-claims">well documented</a> among migrant refugee populations as a result of past and present traumas, yet I hadn’t anticipated this kind of occurrence in my University research ethics application when I began my PhD. Quite simply, you don’t expect your research participants to die, and especially not if they are youth or children. Responding to the ‘reflexivity’ we as researchers are encouraged to display, I sat down on the floor of my home and I wept. I wept for Ahmed’s life and for the family who – having been multiply displaced in Afghanistan’s <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2016/06/30/asia/afghanistan-violence/">ongoing</a> war – would not even know to mourn for their son.</p> <p>Our country has failed Ahmed and many like him. And in one of the most worrying developments of all, there is increasingly little we can do about it. In recent years in a Europe-wide trend known as the ‘<a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2016/536490/IPOL_STU(2016)536490_EN.pdf">criminalization of solidarity</a>’, we as <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nando-sigona/uk-migration-policy-we-need-to-talk-about-citizens">ordinary citizens</a> have lost our right to care about and help other people like him. In a seismic shift that has barely made the morning papers, we have lost our <a href="http://detentionaction.org.uk/campaigns/defend-the-right-to-love">right to love</a> certain categories of migrants.</p> <p>Home Secretary Theresa May who this week announced her <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/30/theresa-may-launches-tory-leadership-bid-with-pledge-to-unite-country">leadership bid</a> for the direction of the Tory Party and our country has been at the helm of this moral devolution. And in the coming months and years, her election could usher in the so-called “<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/daniel-trilling/inside-theresa-mays-hostile-environment">hostile environment</a>” <em>writ large</em>.</p> <p>openDemocracy 50.50’s migration platform, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-people-on-move">People on the Move</a>, has documented in detail the violent legacy of Theresa May, the longest serving Home Secretary in recent British history and self-styled creator of the deterrence regime. I invite you to read it: unprecedented <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/anonymous-interviewee-and-jennifer-allsopp/death-at-yarl’s-wood-women-in-mourning-women-in-fear">deaths</a> in – and the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jerome-phelps/crisis-of-harm-in-immigration-detention">expansion of</a> – immigration detention without time limit, widespread <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/amanda-gray/poverty-human-rights-abuse-in-uk">destitution</a> among new refugees, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/anna-dixie/double-standards-dispersal-and-pregnant-asylum-seekers-in-britain">dispersal of pregnant women</a> away from their partners, the deportation of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lisa-matthews/young-afghans-in-uk-deportations-in-dead-of-night-to-war-zone">former care leavers</a> to war zones, <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/anti-deportation-campaigns-‘what-kind-of-country-do-you-want-this-to-be’">dawn raids</a>, migrant children traumatized by <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/sarah-campbell/uk-immigration-control-children-in-extreme-distress">enforced separation</a> from their parents, racism sparked by <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/welcome-to-britain-go-home-or-face-arrest">“Go Home” vans</a>, the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/sarah-campbell/yarl’s-wood-legal-black-hole">harassment</a> of refugee survivors of sexual violence…</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/hhh_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Drawing by Sylvie, 8 years old, whose father is in immigration detention. Source: BID"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/hhh_0.png" alt="Drawing by Sylvie, 8 years old, whose father is in immigration detention. Source: BID" title="Drawing by Sylvie, 8 years old, whose father is in immigration detention. Source: BID" width="393" height="453" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Letter by Sylvie, 8 years old written while her father was in immigration detention. Source: BID</span></span></span>Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre, marred by scandal, stands as a legacy of May's enduring obstinacy and devastatingly cool composure in the face of human suffering.</p> <p>Moments of empathy pierce this landscape on the part of bureaucrats who have been implementing May’s new regime. At an asylum tribunal in 2015 a Home Office representative expresses grief to me over the suffering of a child who was paralyzed when a lorry ran him over on the M40. He’d just escaped from the truck in which he had been smuggled when it hit him. “They’ll build an underpass for badgers but not asylum seekers”, he tells me. “Poor guy”.</p> <p>Having argued passionately for the deportation of a refused asylum seeking teenager fearing FGM, another Home Office official whispers to me, “God, I’m glad it’s not my daughter”.</p> <p>Bureaucrats outside of the immigration system are also uncomfortable with the shifting tone of the debate ushered in by May and largely uncontested by her political peers. Landlords are <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/forced-evictions-racist-attacks-meet-new-landlord-security-company-g4s">weary</a> of being coerced into racial profiling of would-be tenants, and University Professors <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/mar/02/universities-border-police-academics">lament</a> having to police their foreign students like proxy border guards. For May’s <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/30/theresa-may-sets-out-one-nation-conservative-pitch-for-leadership">One Nation</a> is one with rigidly policed boundaries and borders that cut right into the private lives of its citizens. Rob Lawrie may have been <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/rob-lawrie-former-soldier-who-smuggled-afghan-girl-out-of-calais-refugee-camp-spared-jail-a6813121.html">spared jail</a> earlier this year for his “crime of compassion” in seeking to reunite a Syrian refugee girl with her family in Britain, but the ordeal, he commented, “has ruined my life”. The stress of the trial and consequences on his own family life drove Rob to attempt suicide. It’s a deterrent to the most soft-hearted of us who seek to do the right thing in a system that feels at times to be so deeply wrong.</p> <p>May’s stubborn reign has cost us multiple freedoms and marked an unprecedented attack on civil liberties, most commonly referenced in relation to the so-called ‘<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/12194441/Snoopers-Charter-Parliamentary-vote-on-the-investigatory-powers-bill-live-updates.html">Snooper’s Charter’</a>. But it is <a href="https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/human-rights/what-are-human-rights/human-rights-act/article-8-right-private-and-family-life">Article 8</a> of the much beleaguered ECHR – the right to family and private life – where her most enduring legacy lies and will no doubt grow in the coming years if she can weather this final storm. In her 2011 speech at the Conservative Conference, she launched her attack by declaring that the right had been ‘perverted’ before seeking to bully the courts into reducing its effect through parliamentary pressure and the 2012 Immigration Act. “In the interests of the economy, or controlling migration or public order, those sort of issues, the state has a right to qualify the right to a family life” she asserted. Remember, human rights were then reduced to <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15160326">#catgate</a> for a while: "We all know the stories about the Human Rights Act... about the illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because, and I am not making this up, he had a pet cat."</p> <p>Under other measures the private and family lives of citizens have also been curtailed. Rules introduced under May to restrict immigration mean that half of the women in the UK have lost their right to live in the UK with a foreign spouse because they <a href="https://www.jcwi.org.uk/blog/2016/01/27/over-half-british-women-would-be-blocked-bringing-non-eea-spouse-partner-uk-under">do not earn</a> over the economic threshold of £18,600.</p> <p>Bourdieu famously said that Sociology is a martial art. Researching the lives of migrants and refugees in the UK feels like we are fighting a war with no arms. For Theresa May’s Go Home Office has proven itself to be particularly immune to evidence. The ‘Go Home’ vans have been shown to have fostered <a href="https://mappingimmigrationcontroversy.com/page/3/">more fear</a> and distrust than reassurance among even the most anti-immigrant voters; the ‘hostile environment’ has increased racism, and done all but nothing to <a href="http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/college-social-sciences/social-policy/iris/2014/working-paper-series/IRiS-WP-1-2014.pdf">deter</a> would-be fellow citizens from seeking sanctuary on our shores. Meanwhile, while all other European countries have heeded the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/jerome-phelps/crisis-of-harm-in-immigration-detention">evidence</a> that indefinite detention is ineffective, exorbitantly expensive and causes severe suffering and harm, the UK continues to <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/sun-sandand-indefinite-detention">expand</a> its estate. Yes, often our research falls on doggedly deaf ears. </p> <p>We try to give the little dignity we can to our fellow human beings in documenting their struggles and successes in the hope that evidence may change the state of things or even the way that history remembers this moment of our making. As my colleague writes upon telling me the news of Ahmed, “For me, I tell myself doing this sort of work you know that however hard you try you can't always find a solution and the blame for that lies squarely with our hostile government, but if someone feels a bit less alone and a bit more supported along the way then I feel something has been achieved, however small. Sorry for the sad news.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Theresa May <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/30/theresa-may-launches-tory-leadership-bid-with-pledge-to-unite-country">boasted</a> in the launch of her leadership campaign yesterday that she had flown to Jordan to seek guarantees that radical cleric Abu Qatarda would not face torture. But her well-oiled deportation regime means that there are no such guarantees for young men like Ahmed. The UK will make no record of Ahmed’s suicide because it didn’t happen on British soil; but rather – we believe – once the plane touched down in the war-torn landscape of Afghanistan’s capital. The UK government does nothing to monitor the fate of returnees or deportees, though external evidence reveals that some deportees to Sri Lanka have faced <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/05/29/uk-suspend-deportations-tamils-sri-lanka">torture</a> and that hundreds of those returned to the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq face no choice upon arrival but to <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-migrants-insight-idUSKCN0T50E020151116">re-migrate</a> at great risk.</p> <p>Unlike the dozens of migrants and refused asylum seekers who have taken their lives in detention centres at alarming rates in recent years, Ahmed spent the night on the phone to a volunteer at a local charity who tried to calmly talk him through his fears. We need to hold onto this love that May seeks to police. Otherwise in May’s “One Nation” we will all be border guards; and her vision of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Society">Big Society</a> will make us all shrink.</p><p> <em>*The individuals’ names have been changed to protect anonymity.</em></p><p>This article was first published in July 2016.<em><br /></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/anonymous-interviewee-and-jennifer-allsopp/death-at-yarl%E2%80%99s-wood-women-in-mourning-women-in-fear">Death at Yarl’s Wood: Women in mourning, women in fear</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/beatrice-botomani/refugee-women-in-uk-pushing-stone-into-sea-0">Refugee women in the UK: Pushing a stone into the sea</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/crisis-of-harm-in-immigration-detention">A crisis of harm in immigration detention</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/seeking-liberation-seeking-comfort-women-migrants-in-uk">Seeking liberation, seeking comfort: women migrants in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sarah-campbell/uk-immigration-control-children-in-extreme-distress">UK immigration control: children in extreme distress</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nando-sigona/uk-migration-policy-we-need-to-talk-about-citizens">UK migration policy: we need to talk about citizens</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/georgia-cole/refugee-or-economic-migrant-join-dots-theresa-may">Refugee or economic migrant? 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</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/lonely-death-of-jimmy-mubenga">The lonely death of Jimmy Mubenga</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lisa-matthews/young-afghans-in-uk-deportations-in-dead-of-night-to-war-zone">Young Afghans in the UK: deportations in the dead of night to a war-zone </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"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </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 UK Democracy and government Equality 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change 50.50 newsletter gendered migration Jennifer Allsopp Mon, 26 Sep 2016 11:27:33 +0000 Jennifer Allsopp 103535 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Egyptian women: depression or oppression? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sophie-anmuth/egyptian-women-depression-or-oppression <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Women continuing to push for change in Egypt are bearing the psychological toll of a rigid post-revolution politics and society.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>“When there is no school, my family keeps me at home and it’s like a jail. I have been depressed for a very long time now, but they would not allow me to seek help,” explains Hagar (not her real name), a 23-year old student of literature and philosophy from Cairo university. “My father beats me up because he disagrees with my ideas on everything, society and politics. The only way out I can see is to try and escape marriage and leave the house, even though for the moment I can’t even so much as suggest the idea to my family.” Hagar is one of the many Egyptian women who suffer from depression or other psychological disorders, stemming from a desire to shake off the weight of tradition and expectation from their families and society.</p> <p>Tension within families has mounted over recent years in parallel with Egyptians’ struggles for freedom, as young women seek independence and agency over their own lives and bodies. Comments can be commonly heard to the effect that for religious reasons, a woman is not free to dress or behave in any way she wants—of course, people say, this should also apply to men, yet for social reasons the burden invariably falls more heavily on women.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/A Tahrir Square protest against the Military Trial for civilians, September 2011. Credit - Oxfamnovlb.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/A Tahrir Square protest against the Military Trial for civilians, September 2011. Credit - Oxfamnovlb.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Tahrir Square protest against the Military Trial for civilians, September 2011. Credit: Oxfam Novib. </span></span></span></p><p>“Most girls may leave the family house only when married. Marriage is a compulsory institution, that perpetuates the patriarchal system,” says Sohila Mohamad, who seven months ago founded Femi-Hub, an organisation to help women make transitions to an independent life. However, she notes that contrary to her initial expectations of focusing on job or flat-hunting for young women, they have first had to deal with what makes them want to flee the house: namely, “their fathers, husbands, brothers— cases of domestic violence, emotional, physical, sexual abuse.” There is a sense that controlling female behaviour or venting frustration on women close to them has become a second-best for many Egyptians who feel dispossessed of control over their own lives. At the root of this dispossession are&nbsp; entrenched economic and political factors, but these social and familial dynamics have come to mirror Egypt’s military regime (the only system of rule the country has known for decades), relying on relationships and power structures of force and obedience.</p> <p>Egypt’s high levels of domestic and gender-based violence, including mass sexual assault, are <a href="https://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports/circles-of-hell-domestic-public-and-state-violence-against-women-in-egypt">well documented by human-rights groups</a>, with almost fifty per cent of married women reporting abuse (though the majority of cases go unreported). Mostafa Hussein, an Egyptian psychiatrist, says that this has in turn lead to post-traumatic stress disorder among victims or the uncovering of existing psychological problems, triggering latent anxieties and insecurities. Hussein recalls an extreme case several years ago during his residency at a state hospital, when a poor family from Cairo brought their catatonic 12 year-old daughter to the burns department. The girl had already been taken by her family to see several sheikhs for her condition after she stopped speaking and became completely expressionless. The sheikhs had attempted various traditional healing treatments, culminating in one administering burns to her hand in order to “snap her out” of her state. The wound was so bad it brought them to the hospital, where ICU doctors instructed the family to take their daughter to the psychiatric ward. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Femi-Hub logo and slogan &#039;Living, home, freedom&#039;. Source - Femi-hub Facebook page.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Femi-Hub logo and slogan &#039;Living, home, freedom&#039;. Source - Femi-hub Facebook page.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="169" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span> <br /> “The understanding of mental health problems is not widespread in Egypt,” Hussein says. “People from uneducated backgrounds would rely on religious figures before thinking of psychologists or psychiatrists—but it happens in all walks of life”. As he explains, after three weeks of medication, his adolescent patient started talking again and finally told the staff her story. “Her family wanted her to get married and she was already living in an abusive environment, with probably an incestuous relationship in the family,” he recounts. Monthly check-ups after her release showed gradual improvement, but after the third month, the young women began displaying troubling signs again. “We found out that they had chosen her another husband. She stopped coming to the ward after that.”<br /> <br /> There are no statistics documenting mental health issues in Egypt. Psychiatrists suggest that a perceived increase in mental health problems could be linked to the fallout of the country’s political struggles, as well an increased overall awareness of the issue—albeit still among a limited class of people. And while awareness of mental health is growing, broader knowledge of and access to healthcare has yet to take hold. (Anecdotal reports of mental health problems seem to be reflected in <a href="http://www.madamasr.com/sections/politics/egypt-no-help-suicidal">statistics which indicate that Egypt witnessed 400,000</a> attempted suicides in 2011— quadruple the number recorded the previous year.) <br /> <br /> Yet for fellow psychiatrist, Nabil el Qutt, the issue is bigger than therapy. “It requires social change,” he says. El Qutt recalls one of his recent patients, describing an attractive and intelligent student of politics and economics who he diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and depression. She was suicidal and self-harmed, but after attending his clinic for several months, following individual and group therapy and taking antidepressants, she appeared better. She found a job while studying and started a relationship. However, a year after she stopped coming to see El Qutt, her mother called to say she was self-harming and had again attempted suicide. He called her several times to fix an appointment but she never showed up. “The conflict was between her and her family, her uncle more precisely, who was controlling everything she did. I told her mother to let her live more freely but to no avail,” he recalls. </p> <p>“This young woman had taken part in the 2011 uprising, if she hadn’t, maybe she would have adapted more easily to the society,” El Qutt speculates. “Many think they are depressed, but depression is about internal conflict. They actually live in an oppressive society, with an oppressive government. All the people who supported democratic change and saw their dreams crushed may feel that they suffer from depression, when they are reacting to external circumstances.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Protestors in Cairo denounce President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, July 2013. Credit - AFP PHOTO, GIANLUIGI GUERCIA.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Protestors in Cairo denounce President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, July 2013. Credit - AFP PHOTO, GIANLUIGI GUERCIA.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'>Protestors in Cairo denounce President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Credit: AFP / Gianluigi Guercia. </span></span></span><br />There are many young women who participated or were swept up in the years of political activity that flowed from the toppling of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Ideas circulated freely and crossed the borders of class, religious and political beliefs. Quietly, without necessarily joining a women’s rights movement, many also claimed a greater degree of independence. Some battled for the apparently simple right to go out with their friends—but, even then, the curfew issue was frequently unbreakable. Some want to live alone, which is an often unattainable goal but made easier if a women works or studies in a different city from her family. Many have also refused arranged marriage (or <a href="http://egyptianstreets.com/2014/11/23/arranged-marriages-in-egypt-haven-or-last-resort/">“gawaz salonat”</a>) or insisted on determining their own degree of religiosity. But the country has since 2011 undergone push-back on some fronts, with the new lives that were almost obtained snatched away from Egyptians. Many sense that with its free-falling economy and several years of chaos and political repression, Egyptian society is generally tenser, and more violent. This perception may also stem from the fact that people have now actively asserted themselves and demanded their rights, which many (especially from lower social classes) may not have done in the past. </p> <p>Hagar also credits the 2011 uprising with what she describes as a shift in her beliefs and personality— a “metamorphosis” into who she really is. Aged seventeen at the time of the revolution, she like many others from her generation, recounts how the events reshaped her worldview. She began questioning everything, from the propaganda she would hear on TV to the rules and protocols she was instructed to obey by her family and society. “By nearly jailing me at home they think they are protecting me until I get married,” she explains, “but I don’t see getting married as my goal in life. Very often your parents prevent you from doing something not because they’re first and foremost convinced it is wrong, but because they’re afraid of what the people would say.” <br /> <br /> Hagar can tell her mother about her professional dreams of becoming a journalist, but other subjects are off-limits for her conservative interlocutor: smoking, for example, is taboo, while the prospect of sex before marriage would see Hagar deemed out of her mind. Many young women say they are puzzled at their mothers’ reactions—mothers who at their own age worked three jobs, came home late, or themselves decided not to wear the hijab. Some attribute this shift in perceptions of women’s role to successive waves of conservative religiosity: first inspired from Saudi Arabia for Egyptian families who either fled Sadat or migrated to the Gulf for work, and later by a post-Iraq war wave of opposition to the West. </p> <p>In this environment, Hagar feels compelled to lie in order to live according to her principles. Explaining her decision to remove the veil (which she was obliged to wear from age twelve) two years ago, Hagar says that she at first didn’t tell her parents that she was taking it off outside her home, but grew increasingly unhappy at the sense that she was living a double life. “So I started talking to them about it, trying to convince them with logical arguments. But it didn’t work so I keep hiding it from them. They first accused me of having become a Christian, then an atheist,” she says. “I can’t talk at all to my father, who acts as if he would like to beat me into submission.” Since the day Hagar got into an argument with a father over a pro-regime TV host who she despises, he stopped talking to her. “He expects me to apologise for my opinion. He thinks the internet and the university ruined me.”<br /> <br /> Nonetheless, even Hagar thinks that with time, things might improve. She expects that she will find a job and leave home—that she will face tremendous opposition from her family, who may not talk to her for a while, but that eventually they will concede. She knows of Femi-Hub and has heard other stories of women managing to live independently, despite enduring extreme initial hardships.</p><p>Another patient of Nabil El Qutt is one such reason for hope. The daughter of very conservative parents, the young pharmacist joined a leftist party and stopped veiling. Her parents railed against everything she did, and even took her to a doctor for a virginity test. She sunk into severe depression and began self-harming. Nonetheless, she eventually managed to leave her family home and no longer felt the need for therapy. She even convinced her mother leave her own emotionally-abusive husband.</p> <p>It is in these outcomes that some silver-lining can be found for the present conflicts. “Domestic violence and gender-based oppression may not have increased recently, but it feels like it because we do talk more about it,” Sohila Mohamad says.&nbsp; For her, women no longer feel as ashamed about coming forward about the oppression they face or the psychological toll it takes on them. There is more social awareness, and more solidarity. More women seek help and in turn help others, unwilling to spend their lives in despair.</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/zainab-magdy/egypt-reality-too-dark-in-which-to-glimpse-hope">Egypt: a reality too dark in which to glimpse hope? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/day-you-catch-fish-speaking-out-on-domestic-abuse">The Day You Catch the Fish: speaking out on domestic abuse</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/egypt-space-that-isnt-our-own">Egypt: a space that isn&#039;t our own</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/egyptian-women%27s-rights-no-time-for-dissent">Egyptian women&#039;s rights: no time for dissent</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/egyptian-women-performing-in-margin-revolting-in-centre">Egyptian women: performing in the margin, revolting in the centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/hania-sholkamy/why-women-are-at-heart-of-egypt%E2%80%99s-political-trials-and-tribulations">Why women are at the heart of Egypt’s political trials and tribulations</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/hania-sholkamy/from-tahrir-square-to-my-kitchen">From Tahrir square to my kitchen</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/egyptian-women%27s-rights-no-time-for-dissent">Egyptian women&#039;s rights: no time for dissent</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/chitra-nagarajan-shannon-harvey-adam-ramsay-ezekiel-incorrigible/activists-talk-menta">Activists talk mental health</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/power-of-storytelling">The power of storytelling </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"> Egypt </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 Arab Awakening Egypt 50.50 Gender Politics Religion Women and the Arab Spring 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 newsletter feminism fundamentalisms gender justice Sophie Anmuth Mon, 26 Sep 2016 11:24:31 +0000 Sophie Anmuth 105502 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Refugee women in the UK: Pushing a stone into the sea https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/beatrice-botomani/refugee-women-in-uk-pushing-stone-into-sea-0 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>From personal experience I know that arrival in the UK for asylum seekers does not signal safety, but reform is a ‘chaser game’: refugee women are pressuring the Home Office to improve decision making and end detention, says Beatrice Botomani.<strong> <br /></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In&nbsp;2012, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/katie-nguyen/raped-or-tortured-women-_b_4686015.html">6,071&nbsp;women&nbsp;</a>came to the&nbsp;UK to seek asylum, representing around one third of total applications. Many of these women, like those who came before them, have suffered unimaginable hardship upon arrival in the UK having been stripped of their dignity. Many have been placed in <a href="http://refugeewomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/WRWDetained.pdf">indefinite detention</a>, a context in which, this weekend, a 40 year old woman <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/mar/30/yarls-wood-immigration-centre-detainee-dies">died</a>. </p> <p>My experience as a refugee woman in the UK has taught me many things about injustice, among them, that women need to work together to make change. For as Baroness Helena Kennedy QC said in 2012: “while there is now greater awareness of the problems women face, there remain deep-seated areas of discrimination and there is none greater than in the field of asylum and immigration.”<strong><em> <br /></em></strong></p> <p>Thousands of refugee women, in the asylum system, and inside and outside of detention, struggle in the UK each day, their minds filled up, saturated and overwhelmed with questions that have no answers. They ask themselves, why us, refugee women? Why are we treated as animals?&nbsp; Why are we treated like criminals?&nbsp; Why are we treated as if we have no feelings? Why, why, why refugee women? Why are they –&nbsp; and perhaps, why are you, Reader – indifferent? </p> <p>Our questions correspond to an endless list of hardships. It is estimated that around <a href="http://refugeewomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/WRWDetained.pdf">one third</a> of women who sought asylum from persecution in the UK in 2012 were held in indefinite detention for committing no crime; thousands of asylum seeking women are going hungry as I write; others struggle on around <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/amanda-gray/poverty-human-rights-abuse-in-uk&amp;sa=U&amp;ei=n5s0U9bIKaO00wWV34DwCw&amp;ved=0CAYQFjAA&amp;client=internal-uds-cse&amp;usg=AFQjCNGaHsGNkr36xXoLdPQP1iqaW35c2g">£5 a day</a>. From personal experience I know that arrival in the UK for asylum seekers does not signal safety. We stand amazed and astonished at how our lives have become other people’s property. <a href="http://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=341">G4S</a>; <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/sep/14/detainees-yarls-wood-sexual-abuse">Serco</a>; <a href="https://contact-ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/aboutus/organisation/immigrationremovalcentres/">Reliance</a>: private corporations fight to control our bodies.&nbsp; Detention, <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nancy-bonongwe/seeking-asylum-ending-destitution">destitution</a>, <a href="http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/human-rights/asylum-and-borders/asylum-support-and-right-work">bars on employment</a>: instead of getting answers, the list of questions becomes more complicated as refugee women move through the asylum system in the UK. </p> <p>While other sectors are looking forward to new developments and to better their lives, unafraid to close their public offices to go outside and strike for more money and against poor conditions, refugee women face constraints mobilising. Yet refugee women are fighting to confront these questions with answers that we have ourselves devised. </p> <p><strong>Why Refugee Women</strong> </p> <p><a href="http://www.whyrefugeewomen.org.uk/">Why Refugee Women</a> is organisation that was founded in the UK in 2010 to answer crucial questions that have long fallen upon deaf ears. The organisation represents the voices of and supports dignity and respect for refugee women in the Yorkshire and Humberside region in the North of the UK. Our work is regional, but our message is universal.</p><p> Why Refugee Women is not a new idea. It builds on the valuable work of other organisations which are passionate about refugees and asylum seeking women, many of whom have spoken out on <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/people-on-move">openDemocracy 50.50</a>. This work includes Asylum Aid's <a href="http://www.asylumaid.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Charter.pdf">'The Charter of Rights of Women Seeking Asylum'</a> and&nbsp; various campaign work and good practice recommendations from organisations like <a href="http://refugeewomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/WRWDetained.pdf">Women for Refugee Women</a>, the <a href="http://www.csel.org.uk/">Centre for Emotions and Law</a>, Women Asylum Seekers Together (<a href="http://www.wast.org.uk/">WAST</a>), <a href="http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/policy_research/policy_work/influencing_women_project">Refugee Council</a>, <a href="http://www.nrcentre.org.uk/">Northern Refugee Centre</a>, <a href="http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk/">Rape Crisis</a> and <a href="http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/coping-with-destitution-survival-and-livelihood-strategies-of-refused-asylum-se-121667">OXFAM</a>. All of this work argues that refugee women should be treated with fairness, dignity and respect.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>Why Refugee Women was formed largely in response to regional developments that shaped the lot of refugee women. In 2010, Migration Yorkshire published a key policy document entitled the ‘<a href="http://www.migrationyorkshire.org.uk/?page=refugeeintegrationstrats">Regional integration strategy for refugees and asylum seekers’</a>. The strategy notes that “certain groups of refugees and asylum seekers experience further disadvantage, for example due to their gender…and therefore require specific actions to ensure equality.” Though it is officially recognised as a problem, many of us felt that there was not enough mention of women's issues and needs throughout the paper; we felt not enough was being done to ensure women experience the extra care needed by public authorities.</p> <p>Since 2010, Why Refugee Women has made great progress at the grassroots level. We’re training women to speak out on the radio, have created a Charter, a website and run countless outreach session to make local organisations aware of the situation of women refugees. But the more we strategise to mount the fight, the more new and worse issues emerge. The uphill task of maintaining pressure on the Home Office quality of decision making remains our staple; as does the fight against detention. We know this is a chaser game. It will take strong hearts and a formidable force, united, to push the rock into the sea. You can see this in our work on decision making and detention.</p> <p><strong>Decision making</strong> </p> <p>In 2012, on 30th November, Why Refugee Women launched a report in which many of our members participated entitled “<a href="http://www.refugeewomen.com/images/refused.pdf">Refused: The Experiences of denied asylum seekers in the UK”</a>, published by Women for Refugee Women. By launching it in our home area in Yorkshire and Humberside we sought to bring more awareness to the region. After all, this is our community. The issues raised in the report included poor decision making for gender based claims, poor quality legal services and advice provision; high levels of destitution and poverty; detention, deportation and poor health issues, especially in relation to mental health. </p> <p>Poor decision making is the root cause to all the sufferings asylum seekers go through. There are many factors that contribute to the quality of decision making starting from the day an asylum seeker walks into the Home Office premises to seek asylum.&nbsp; We outlined the detail in a<a href="http://ramanujam1.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/home-affairs/130416%20Asylum%20written%20evidence.pdf"> report</a> submitted to a Parliamentary Committee as evidence of weaknesses in the asylum process in UK (p.681). </p> <p>Our campaigning on decision making aims to empower women first by giving them the information they need, educating them about their rights and about the whole asylum process, its expectations and outcomes at every stage.&nbsp; We began this process last year when we conducted region-wide <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/">CEDAW</a> (Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women) workshops that aimed at unveiling one tool that is not widely known to grassroots women, but which is very powerful. The workshops aimed at informing women refugees and asylum seekers of their rights as human beings; empowering and inspiring them to take their stand against all forms of discrimination; and strengthening their confidence in fighting for their rights. This awareness brought out some strength in women, knowing that there are some international laws, conventions and treaties that protect them as well as children and other vulnerable groups.&nbsp; The workshops attracted heated discussions of the contrary treatment that asylum seeking women and refugees receive in this country.&nbsp;<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>Yet we cannot improve decision making without undermining the <a href="http://www.trust.org/item/?map=female-asylum-seekers-struggle-against-uk-culture-of-disbelief">culture of disbelief</a>. We will continue to challenge the Home Office’s assumption that asylum seekers are liars. Not many women in our world have the chance to escape the torturous and murderous cultural practices to which they may be subject: FGM; forced child marriage; forced sterilisation. As a result, many women die young. It’s a tragedy to see that those who managed to escape are seen as liars because they cannot evidence their claims, and neither can they prove their persecution. Me and my sisters, we find ourselves asking, why can’t you believe us?&nbsp; If these things happened to a British woman, what would they say?&nbsp; </p> <p><strong>Legal representation</strong> </p> <p>Legal representation is essential for holding decision makers accountable. For the truth is that while asylum seeking women take solicitors as Gods, it is shocking to see that some of them are not keen to assist us.&nbsp; Many never take us seriously. Worse still, they accept to represent us, only to dump our cases months or even years later if they fear any less than a 50% chance of a positive outcome.&nbsp; Will they win, they ask. Can they gamble on us? </p> <p>Most solicitors never communicate with their clients, they expect a client to take a proactive role calling them or walking on foot to their offices.&nbsp; You can never get through to their numbers and you cannot go to see them without an appointment.&nbsp; How do they expect a destitute woman to phone or board a bus to go to their offices when she never handles any cash?&nbsp; Because of poor quality legal representation, a number of women we know have missed their appeal time limit, court dates and some never knew that their cases were refused until they were detained. Our legal representatives need to change their attitudes. They need to ask, like us, why refugee women? </p> <p>To address this issue we are training volunteer researchers who have the knowledge and skills necessary to help asylum seekers secure adequate legal provision and legal aid. </p> <p><strong>Detention <br /></strong></p> <p>Now I have this platform I will use it. For Reader you also need to know that things are getting worse for refugee women in detention every single day. This is why Why Refugee Women joined the national campaign on ending the detention of asylum seeking women: <a href="http://refugeewomen.com/campaign/">#SetHerFree</a>.&nbsp; A recent research report by our London-based sister organisation Women for Refugee Women revealed the hidden plight of women asylum seekers detained in Britain, as <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/refugee-women-in-uk-fighting-back-from-behind-bars">documented</a> by Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanm on this site.&nbsp; It exposed that female rape and torture victims are being locked up indefinitely: beautiful, energetic women end up suffering from depression and being intimidated by male guards. Almost 2,000 women were detained in 2012 and the figures are escalating day by day.&nbsp; </p> <p>It is a double torture to suffer rape, persecution and being subjected to account, re-tell and re-tell these experiences in agony to someone who has no sympathy for you.&nbsp; From the word go, we are paid back with disbelief and marginalisation; and thereafter we’re taken to detention where we are kept indefinitely. We are arguing that these women are not criminals, why can’t they be kept in communities? Detention is costly for the government and extremely distressing for women. What is more, we know our communities love us. This is why our cities are <a href="http://www.cityofsanctuary.co.uk/">cities of sanctuary</a>. </p> <p>At the launch of this report on 29th January, 2014, Baroness Helena Kennedy spoke out again that the findings of this report are “a source of profound shame to Britain.” </p> <p><strong>Moving forward</strong> </p> <p>Our campaigns will be run within the next three years and progress will be reviewed and evaluated annually to see if the rate of positive decision making is improving or not; and whether, quite simply, there are no more women in immigration detention.&nbsp; We’re committed to staying strong, and to taking a ‘multi-angle’ approach in our research and our work, addressing multiple issues affecting asylum-seeking women, including the patriarchal approach that is the foundation of law. </p> <p>We’re not going anywhere; we will maintain pressure on the UKBA and other agencies to put the experiences and needs of asylum-seeking women at centre stage in their discussions, procedures and practices in order to improve decision making. Of late, yes, there has been transition upon transition, changes upon changes, movement upon movement, as if asylum seekers are just a parcel that can be thrown wherever one wants to be. Our feelings are never considered. But until this changes, the questions will remain, and we will keep on pushing the rock into the sea: Why? Why? Why Refugee Women?</p><p><span><em>This article was first published in March 2014 in the series&nbsp;</em></span><em><span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/people-on-move">People on&nbsp;</a></span><span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/people-on-move">the Move</a>, oD 50.50's migration, gender and social justice dialogue, edited by Jennifer&nbsp;</span><span>Allsopp.</span></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/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/refugee-women-in-uk-fighting-back-from-behind-bars">Refugee women in the UK: fighting back from behind bars</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/natasha-tsangarides/pregnant-detained-and-subjected-to-force-in-uk">Pregnant, detained, and subjected to force in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/is-there-alternative-to-locking-up-migrants-in-uk">Is there an alternative to locking up migrants in the UK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anna-dixie/double-standards-dispersal-and-pregnant-asylum-seekers-in-britain">Double standards: dispersal and pregnant asylum seekers in Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amanda-gray/poverty-human-rights-abuse-in-uk">Poverty: a human rights abuse in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nancy-bonongwe/seeking-asylum-ending-destitution">Seeking asylum, ending destitution</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk-and-jennifer-allsopp/due-diligence-for-womens-human-rights-transgressing-conventio">Due diligence for women&#039;s human rights: transgressing conventional lines </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/warsan-shire/conversations-about-home-at-deportation-centre">Conversations about home (at a deportation centre)</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nikandre-kopcke/anti-immigrant-sentiment-time-to-talk-about-gender">Anti-immigrant sentiment: time to talk about gender?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marissa-begonia/hope-of-migrant">Hope of a migrant</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/kate-nustedt/what-happened-to-me-here-thats-what-broke-my-spirit">&#039;What happened to me here. . . that&#039;s what broke my spirit&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/kate-blagojevic/justice-in-uk-back-to-1930s">Justice in the UK: back to the 1930s? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/eiri-ohtani/isa-muazu-hunger-striker-and-us-monster">Isa Muazu, the hunger striker and us, the monster</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"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Bradford </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> 50.50 50.50 Bradford UK Equality Refugee Week Refugee Week - highlights 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change 50.50 newsletter gender justice gendered migration violence against women women and power women's human rights Beatrice Botomani Fri, 23 Sep 2016 17:27:33 +0000 Beatrice Botomani 80862 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Joyce Girl and the mad wives of modernism https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sian-norris/joyce-girl-and-mad-wives-of-modernism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Annabel Abbs' debut novel explores the life of Lucia Joyce - daughter of James - whose desire for an independent life is denied, much like those of Zelda Fitzgerald and Vivienne Eliot.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><span>Having spent the last three years working on a novel about the women living on the 1920s Parisian Left Bank, it’s fair to say I’ve become a bit of an expert on the intricacies of these fascinating women’s lives. So it was with a great deal of interest that I picked up Annabel Abbs’ debut, </span><em>The Joyce Girl</em><span>. &nbsp;Through my own research, I was fairly familiar with the details of her heroine Lucia Joyce’s life. I knew, for example, that she was taught ballet by Zelda Fitzgerald’s teacher; and that she was in love with her father’s literary heir Samuel Beckett.</span></p><p class="Body"><span>&nbsp;</span><span>And, of course, I knew that she went </span><em>mad</em><span>.</span></p> <p class="Body">In her novel, Abbs breathes life into Lucia - telling her story in a breathless, energetic voice. Her writing is full of the rich, sensual atmosphere of 1920s Paris, and she provides a new insight into the world of the Joyce family. Most importantly, Abbs explores the overlapping oppressions that drove Lucia, and so many women like her, into “madness”.&nbsp;<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="Body"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/The Joyce Girl high res.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/The Joyce Girl high res.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="717" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></span></p> <p class="Body">The novel opens in 1934, with Lucia receiving psychiatric treatment in Dr. Jung’s office. Having remained silent during so many appointments, she has now decided to speak:<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Three times a week I come by boat and sit with him. And still I haven’t spoken. But today something inside me stirs and my silence feels oppressive.</p> <p class="Body">Silence is a theme which occurs throughout the novel - and is a common aspect of Jung’s and Freud’s psychoanalysis of women during that time. Freud and Jung noted that many of the hysterical young women they treated suffered ‘aphonia’: an inability to speak following a trauma. It’s unclear in Abbs’ narrative whether Lucia is suffering aphonia. I prefer to think that she has until this point been using muteness as a weapon. Throughout her life Lucia has been effectively silenced. Now that men demand her voice, she can exert power by refusing to give it.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">After this first meeting with Jung, Abbs transports us to the late 1920s and Lucia’s early life: a young woman launching her career as a modern dancer. Living in Paris with her father, mother and brother, Lucia bursts from the page. She’s a woman possessed with vitality and ambition. Abbs describes Lucia as always in motion - she never stops twirling and stretching and jumping. She’s an irresistible character; a young woman on the brink of a bright future:<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; I tossed the newspaper onto the sofa and began spinning around the parlour, turning in wide, emphatic circles. The applause was still ringing in my ears, the euphoria still tripping through my veins. I raised my arms and spun -</p> <p class="Body">However, as the novel progresses, it becomes increasingly clear the pressures borne on Lucia by her family and by 1920s Paris society are silencing her. Her ambition to be a dancer is constantly thwarted by her family. Her mother thinks dancers are whores, and her father jealously guards Lucia as his muse:<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; He didn’t want me to dance for anyone else. That’s why he wanted me to dance at home and not on the stage. He wanted me all to himself.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">The people of Paris say of Lucia: ‘everyone knows she is her father’s muse.’ But Lucia doesn’t want to be a muse. Lucia wants to be the artist; to be a creative woman in her own right.</p> <p class="Body">As her ambitions become more and more curtailed by her family’s demands, Abbs shows Lucia’s mental state begin to deteriorate through her flowering love for Samuel Beckett. At first, the reader sees their love and attraction as mutual - he clearly desires her as much as she desires him:<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; every night after he left the flat, it was as though a light had gone out. I fumbled in the gloam for several minutes, adjusting to the space without him.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">However, as the novel progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that Lucia’s idea of Beckett and her relationship to him exists chiefly in her own imagination as a fantasy of escape. When it is revealed as just that - a fantasy - her mental state starts to unravel:<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; And suddenly I saw everything I’d hoped for and dreamed of splitting into a thousand little pieces.</p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; I saw my wedding bouquet exploding above my head, and pale pink rosebuds falling listlessly to the ground […] I saw Mrs Beckett dissolving like an apparition. Vanishing limb by limb.</p> <p class="Body">The visceral sense of her disappearance is key. Already, Lucia’s sense of self has been shaken by her father’s insistence of treating her as his muse. In her father’s eyes, she is a character to be put in his book, not a fully-formed woman with her own ambitions, wants and desires. With her dancing self almost obliterated by her family’s force, she tried to re-construct herself as ‘Mrs Beckett’. When his lack of love for her destroys that new vision of self, she is crushed.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">Lucia’s story is one of a woman whose ambitions, desires, needs and wants have been repeatedly ignored, suppressed and silenced by the men in her life. It’s the story of a woman being used as a character in other people’s narratives (‘He watched me all the time’ she says of her father: ‘Wait until the book comes out. You’ll find me there on every page.’) while being denied her own story. Towards the end of the novel, she says she wants to be:<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Not someone’s muse. Just me, myself.</p> <p class="Body">In this way, her biography is not dissimilar to those two other women of modernism whose names are also always attached to the more celebrated men they were related to: Zelda Fitzgerald and Vivienne Eliot.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">In her absorbing and remarkable book, <em>Heroines</em>, the writer Kate Zambreno examines Zelda’s and Scott’s marriage and dares us to ask many of the same questions Abbs does in her own novel. How would it feel to be seen as nothing more than material for your husband’s characters (or, in Lucia’s case, her father’s)? How would it feel to have your own talent and ambition squashed and silenced in favour of your husband’s? Wouldn’t you get tired of being nothing more than a character?<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="Body"><span>Wouldn’t you be angry when your worth as a character ran out, and your husband’s response is to lock you away</span>?</p><p class="Body"><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="Body">Like Lucia, Zelda was an intensely ambitious woman. However, in common with so many women of the period, she was denied the opportunity to channel that ambition and creativity. Zelda is often portrayed by history as flitting between painting and writing and dancing – unable to settle to any one thing. Never mind that her novel is a sensitively written, modernist work. Never mind that her paintings were exhibited. Never mind that she was a skilled dancer and invited to perform as a soloist - with permission refused by Scott.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="Body"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Heroines.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Heroines.jpg" alt="" title="" width="333" height="499" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></span></p><p class="Body"><span>Zambreno explores how Scott exploited Zelda’s ambitions and put her writing in his own. This involved scouring her letters and journals for phrases and sentences that would then turn up in his own novels. At first Zelda semi-agreed to this, writing in a mock-serious review of </span><em>The Beautiful and the Damned</em><span>:</span></p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; It seems to me that on one page I recognised a portion an old diary of mine which mysteriously disappeared shortly after my marriage, and also scraps of letters which, though considerably edited, sound to me vaguely familiar. In fact, Mr Fitzgerald - I believe that is how he spells his name - seems to believe plagiarism begins at home.</p> <p class="Body">One can understand how being a muse might feel flattering… for a while. Just as Lucia delights in her father’s attention… for a while. But how galling it must quickly become to see your own writing ignored and dismissed, while at the same time as your husband is hailed as a modernist master. How frustrating it must be, as Sally Cline describes in her excellent biography of Zelda, to see your own short stories and articles published under your husband’s name. And, ultimately, how maddening it would be to see yourself used as a character in your husband’s books while at the same time that husband wants to put you in an asylum.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">Both Zelda and Lucia raged against being silenced; against being turned into characters and denied their humanity as women. They shouted and screamed and demanded attention - throwing furniture and threatening chaos because for too long they’d been treated as ciphers and models and concepts. Their humanity, their creativity and their ambition was refused. Is it any wonder they were angry? Is it any wonder they raged against a society and the men which denied them their freedom? As Zambreno argues:<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Where is it supposed to go? All of this fury? A woman’s anger: it must be contained, repressed, diffused.</p> <p class="Body">In Zelda and Lucia, we see how women’s anger is seen as so dangerous, so transgressive, that when it is expressed it’s called madness and the women are locked up.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">It’s likely that Zelda and Lucia met - they were both taught ballet by Madame Egorova and indeed Abbs suggests a meeting in her novel. What’s less likely is that they met Vivienne Eliot - another silenced wife of modernism whose husband <em>put her in his work and then put her away</em>.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">Through her marriage, writes Zambreno:</p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Viv’s early inner spirit [was] squelched and doomed into sickness and submission.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">Like Zelda and Scott, there is evidence to suggest that Vivienne and T S Eliot enjoyed some collaboration on his poems, with Vivienne acting as editor and secretary on <em>The Wasteland</em>. What’s not in doubt is that Eliot used Vivienne as a character in his work, the woman whose ‘nerves are very bad tonight.’<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">But Vivienne was more than a character - more than raw material for her husband to use as he saw fit. Like Zelda and Lucia, she was a creative person in her own right. Her stories were published in <em>The Criterion</em>, and she kept journals before and after her marriage. Any journals she kept during her marriage are missing. Despite Vivienne leaving her papers to the Bodleian library, it’s very difficult to access her work. Eliot was determined to ensure that her voice was quashed: warning his estate executor to ‘suppress everything’.&nbsp;<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">In one heartbreaking section of <em>Heroines</em>, Zambreno describes a late conversation between Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, where she shouted to him:<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ‘Because I want to live some place that I can be my own self.’</p> <p class="Body">In her cry, we hear the voices of Lucia Joyce, Vivienne Eliot, and all the silenced women whose creativity, passion and ambition was squelched by the men in their lives. It’s this frustration and anger that Abbs captures so well in her novel. Lucia’s mental state unravels as freedom and ambition is slowly taken away from her. Like Zelda, like Viv, Lucia was driven “mad” by a patriarchal oppression that destroyed her desires and dreams.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">Through Abbs’ novel, we finally get to hear Lucia’s anger, as well as her joy and ambitions. In her story lies the forgotten narratives of so many more nameless women born in the wrong time, living with the wrong men.</p> <p class="Body">It’s good to know that through novels like <em>The Joyce Girl</em>, Zambreno’s <em>Heroines </em>and the continued publication of Zelda Fitzgerald’s work, today these women’s stories are being heard more than ever before.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">Those women who were once so silenced, are finally getting their say.</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/fierce-attachments-feminist-memoir-and-female-relationships">Fierce Attachments: feminist memoir and female relationships</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sian-norris/friendship-and-violence-genius-of-elena-ferrante">Friendship and violence: the genius of Elena Ferrante</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter Sian Norris Thu, 22 Sep 2016 08:43:06 +0000 Sian Norris 105388 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Glass ceilings and Cinderella slippers: why the centre cannot hold https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch-ramsden/glass-ceilings-and-cinderella-slippers-why-centre-cannot-hold <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The AWID Forum in Brazil this year provided a model for rejecting the journey from the margin to the mainstream. Instead it explored a feminist future based on the ‘politics of friendship’.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/blackcaucus.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/blackcaucus.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="285" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Black Feminisms Forum make their statement to AWID's International Forum.</span></span></span></span></p><p class="p1"><strong>This article is part of 50.50's</strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016"><strong> in-depth coverage</strong></a><strong> of&nbsp;the&nbsp;2016 AWID Forum held on&nbsp;8th -11th September 2016 in Bahia, Brazil.</strong></p><p><span>This year, the year the United States of America may elect its first female president, we will hear more about </span><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hillary-clinton-glass-ceiling_us_579827fee4b0d3568f85272e">glass ceilings</a><span> than perhaps any other time. But at the 13</span><span>th</span><span>&nbsp;AWID International Forum, with so much emphasis on shared movements and the ‘politics of friendship’, our focus was not on the barriers a woman breaks in her ascent to the ‘top’ of society, but on how we feminists reorganise society together.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>It is no wonder that the viable candidate to become the first female President of the United States is white. Or that the first Black President was a man. When the United States has had its first woman President, the glass ceiling will have shattered; but how long will it take for a Black woman to be elected to that office? And if the dual barriers will have been broken, then why will Black women be left sweeping shards from the floor – be they shards of metaphorical ceiling or the very real destruction which results from poverty or <a href="https://www.facebook.com/SolidarityUS/photos/a.363759107324.139339.79910052324/10153177462082325/?type=3&amp;theater">war</a>? It is what Kimberlé Crenshaw might <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch-ramsden/showing-up-how-intersectionality-ensures-our-struggles-are-success">call</a> an ‘intersectional failure’.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Within the field of management studies, Karen Ashcraft refers not to glass ceilings but to <a href="http://amr.aom.org/content/early/2012/07/31/amr.10.0219.short?rss=1camr.10.0219v1">glass slippers</a>. This is the ‘fit’ of certain identities to certain occupations, which influence and are influenced by social norms (for example, ‘Mr. President’). The person who fits the glass slipper may look a particular way but may also have less visible attributes like cultural capital. In this vein, we might think less about individuals breaking through the glass ceiling, and more about us collectively smashing the glass slipper which encourages conformity to normative ideas and ideals.</p> <h3><strong>The margins and the centre</strong></h3> <p>Sometimes we talk about ‘marginalised’ identities, or people who are disadvantaged by normative power structures. By implication, there is a ‘centre’, a location of power, which those on the outskirts desire to reach. The trajectory follows ‘margin’ to ‘centre’, disadvantage to advantage; this suggests that there is something inherently wrong with being outside of the norm.</p> <p><span>Linguistic trends betray this line of thinking. In the United Kingdom, the Green Party was </span><a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/feminists-mock-green-party-young-womens-invite-to-non-men-a6987061.html">mocked</a><span> when its Young Greens Women’s group used the catch-all ‘non-men’ for women and non-binary people. The term defined women and non-binary people in relation to men and linguistically centred men in the process. The resulting mockery stemmed from sincere outrage that women and non-binary people could be thus erased, for the sake of fitting simply into </span><a href="http://mentalfloss.com/uk/technology/35957/why-is-twitter-limited-to-140-characters">140 characters</a><span>. So much for autonomous spaces.</span></p> <p>Yet I have seen little outrage about the term ‘non-white’ being used to describe Black people. A quick search of headlines from the past year shows seven Guardian, four Independent and three Telegraph stories billed about ‘non-white’ issues, from fashion to literature. Thousands use the descriptor ‘non-white’ in the body of the article. (Of course, thousands also refer to people of colour, Black, or black and minority ethnic people.) At a glance, the stories are mostly positive and about diversity, yet through use of the term ‘non-white’ they unabashedly define ‘white’ as default.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>This construction of default tells us where power is focused. Where systems of power are challenged, the ‘default’ narrative is disrupted. As Nidhi Goyal reminded us in the ‘Imagine a feminist village’ plenary at the AWID Forum, “we do not want to be mainstream or marginalised, but one intersecting and moving together.”</p> <p>Like AWID panellist <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/awono-okech/stay-woke-sustaining-feminist-organising-in-uncertain-world">Awino Okech</a>, I am inspired by the demonstrations of South African students in 2015 as they demanded recognition. Their continued <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch-ramsden/south-africa-white-fear-back-anger-and-student-protests">insistence</a> that their universities are decolonised – renewing a decades-old tradition of South African student activism – highlights systemic racism within higher education, from funding to the curriculum to the language of instruction.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>At the University of Stellenbosch’s Convocation in January 2016, alumnus Lovelyn Nwadeyi’s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqaZVH7cUJo">address</a>, which switched seamlessly between English and “baie mooi” (very beautiful) Afrikaans, spoke to the role of language in oppression. She spoke to what it would mean for white South Africans to listen. The youngest alumnus to address the historically white university’s convocation, and the first black woman, Nwadeyi was making a bid to be elected to convocation, an influential statutory body. The 2,000 alumni present instead elected an <a href="http://city-press.news24.com/News/no-rainbow-nation-for-stellenbosch-20160130">all-white</a> executive committee.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>When demanding <em>#FeesMustFall </em>alongside <em>#EndOutsourcing</em>, South African students ask us to reframe our expectations about who belongs in the university community (as student and/or staff and/or parent) and whether, in reality, they can afford to belong. Rainbow Nationalism is the stuff of fairy tales if university policies, in practice, make belonging easy only for those Black students whom the glass slipper appears to fit. Nwadeyi <a href="http://city-press.news24.com/News/no-rainbow-nation-for-stellenbosch-20160130">commented</a>, after her too-powerful address and lost vote, “I knew it was either going to be the speech or the votes…I feel that if I had gone with a rainbow nation narrative, the votes would have probably been in my favour.”<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <h3><strong>Rupture and transformation</strong></h3> <p>Instead of ascribing to patriarchal narratives and redressing the power imbalance on its terms, the AWID forum imagined something different altogether, and, as far as possible, modelled our feminist world. AWID had made a marked effort that this forum would be more inclusive than any before. The opening plenary, for example, ended with a statement from the Black Feminisms Forum – which had met in the days preceding AWID’s International Forum – reminding AWID to remain intersectional over the coming days, and to recognise that “from Ferguson to Palestine to Brazil,” all Black lives matter.</p> <p><a href="http://collectiveliberation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Lorde_The_Masters_Tools.pdf">Following</a> Audre Lorde, the forum certainly did not ‘assume any discussion of feminist theory without examining our many differences, and without significant input from poor women, Black and Third World women, and lesbians.’ Plenary panels not only included but were co-organised by Black and Indigenous women, disabled women, and lesbian, bi and trans people. Two hundred sessions were organised by grassroots groups from around the world.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>In the closing plenary of the AWID Forum, Tonya Haynes (founder of <a href="https://redforgender.wordpress.com/">CODE RED for gender justice!</a>) reflected on the moments throughout the forum when speakers and listeners had been forced to pause as they waited for sign language translation. “Working across differences requires this pause, this wait, this stillness.” Haynes defined the pauses as “productive” – “the source of rupture and transformation” which are crucial to challenge, inform and ensure the movement progresses together.</p> <p>As soon as the closing plenary had ended, a group of disability rights activists took to the main stage to insist that AWID must include women with disabilities on the board and planning committees. It was an appropriate demand which fitted with the forum’s intersectional themes and the overarching commitment that Rahila Gupta has already <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rahila-gupta/feminist-inclusivity-and-moving-onto-agenda">captured</a> for 50.50. That AWID members are pushing for more is a mark of the forum’s success, not its failing.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/glassslipper.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/glassslipper.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="455" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration from AWID International Forum by artists @seeheardraw</span></span></span></p><p><span>Structuring a feminist society requires us not only to reframe but to rewrite now-dominant narratives. It means feminists must challenge each other within the ‘politics of friendship’, understand our complexities and dare to imagine an entirely different – perhaps glassless – world. In the words of AWID’s incoming Co-Executive Director, Hakima Abbas, as she addressed the final plenary: “We have been called the wretched and the indignados, and we have been told there is a centre and a margin. And I feel like here, in Bahia, we have said, ‘where?’”</span></p><p><span><em>All images are by&nbsp;Ché Ramsden.</em></span></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/rahila-gupta/feminist-inclusivity-and-moving-onto-agenda">Feminist inclusivity and moving onto the agenda</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/majandra-rodriguez-acha/women-s-equality-will-not-come-after-environmental-revolution">Women’s equality will not come after the environmental revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/showing-up-how-intersectionality-ensures-our-struggles-are-success">&#039;Showing up&#039;: Intersectionality 101</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala/beyond-individual-stories-women-have-moved-mountains">Beyond individual stories: women have moved mountains </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/melina-loubicanmassimo/awaiting-justice-%E2%80%93-indigenous-resistance-to-tar-sand-development-in-cana">Awaiting justice: Indigenous resistance in the tar sands of Canada</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 50.50 newsletter Ché Ramsden Tue, 20 Sep 2016 08:58:42 +0000 Ché Ramsden 105476 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The dishonourable killing of a Pakistani social media celebrity https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nighat-dad/dishonourable-killing-of-pakistani-social-media-celebrity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Qandeel Baloch’s murder fuelled the debate over women’s sexuality, their lives, and their deaths. Her ‘honour’ killing could bring about changes in Pakistan’s legal structure.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/image(9)_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/image(9)_0.png" 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'>Qandeel Baloch. Credit: Qandeel Baloch, promotional image. </span></span></span></p><p><span>Fauzia Azeem, who was better known as Qandeel Baloch, was killed on July 15, 2016. This was the first time that a social media celebrity - or celebrity of any kind - became the victim of an ‘honour’ killing in Pakistan.</span></p> <p>Barely two months have passed since her brother <a href="http://tribune.com.pk/story/1142996/qandeel-baloch-shot-dead-multan/">drugged and then strangled</a> her as she slept. Why he did this has a sinister answer: her brother could no longer handle criticism from people around him. His sister was popular for her sexually charged videos and pictures. She was owning her sexuality and using it to her advantage. Pakistan cannot handle strong-headed women, and here was one who went a step further and took her body back too.&nbsp; </p> <p>&nbsp;Qandeel Baloch is Pakistan’s first iconic social media celebrity - I say ‘is’ because her death has done little to dampen her fire. It is a fire that may engulf the tradition of honour killing itself. After her death, we discovered the level of threat she had faced: her Facebook page showed the barrage of insults and abuse that were hurled at her. In response to a <a href="https://twitter.com/QandeelQuebee/status/752854913663791104">tweet in which she celebrates Malala</a>&nbsp; just days before her death, she is told. “If you get shot on head and die, we will celebrate #QandeelDay too. I promise!” <a href="https://twitter.com/UmerSheikh01/status/752884524040716293">writes one twitter user</a>. </p> <p>“Don’t compare yourself with normal or intellectual women...” <a href="https://twitter.com/AkhtarSb92/status/752861212317216768">writes another</a>. </p> <p>&nbsp;“I’m your biggest fan do you like me I’m a good guy and I like bad bitches” <a href="https://twitter.com/shamiii7/status/752856491326074880">writes one more</a>. </p> <p>From sexual solicitation to outright threats and abuses. Every single thing she’s posted on social media is full of this, some of it in Urdu. We received the same treatment after we began tweeting about the hurt and the heartbreak caused by the senseless violence that had resulted in her death. Here are a couple of examples of the abuse I received on social media:</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/tweetNighat.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/tweetNighat.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="817" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>The barrage of abuse I got, and continue to get, from digital quarters left me rattled and worried. I felt like shutting myself out from social media. How Qandeel managed to wade through all the hate is beyond the people who are now rallying to her cause. She came from humble beginnings. While she may have begun by posting videos and selfies just to get attention, of late her words were finding their story. She was a feminist and proud. She was all about women taking control. And Pakistani feminists like myself couldn’t get enough of her. However, the general public couldn’t understand <a href="http://www.dawn.com/news/1271460">why she couldn’t just shut up and be content</a> to be a sex object? Qandeel had gone from someone who was posting saucy selfies seemingly just for entertainment to someone who said “this is me, I’m taking control of my sexuality. I have a life, I have dreams and I’ll do what I want.” When she began talking about her rights as a woman, <a href="http://images.dawn.com/news/1175827">she was deemed to have gone too far</a>. &nbsp;Her murder shook the country, but many simply shrugged and said she had it coming. Others who condemned the death were quick to point out that they weren’t defending her actions, just her death.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/PA-28269753.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/PA-28269753.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Waseem Azeem, brother of Qandeel Baloch, July 17 2016. Credit: PA Images / Asim Tanveer</span></span></span></p><p>However, to say that Pakistan has a unique problem with honour killing would be inaccurate. Women are being killed &nbsp;<a href="http://time.com/4415554/honor-killing-qandeel-baloch/">all over the world</a> because of patriarchy. The labelling is different but <a href="http://dailytimes.com.pk/blog/31-Jul-16/qandeel-balochs-honour-killing-its-about-control-not-islam">Qandeel was not killed for Islam</a>, or property, or any reason apart from the ego of her brother. The same ego was not hurt when she was providing for the family - just when the clerics got involved. That seemed to be the turning point. A month or so before her death, Qandeel <a href="http://en.dailypakistan.com.pk/lifestyle/real-story-of-mufti-qavis-breaks-fast-with-qandeel-balcoh/">posted selfies and a video with a well known cleric Mufti Qavi</a>. Pictures of Qandeel wearing his religious cap went viral instantly. When the mufti insisted he had only met Qandeel at her insistence she hit back by saying he was in love with her. The cleric was ridiculed on a national level subsequent to the controversy. The events led to his suspension from the Ruet-e-Hilal committee and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. &nbsp;It was only after this controversy that Qandeel began to fear for her life. It is not yet known whether he did play a role in her death, but <a href="http://tribune.com.pk/story/1144272/mufti-abdul-qavi-investigated-qandeel-balochs-murder/">he is being investigated in her murder inquiry.</a> </p> <p><strong>The question is: what is Pakistan going to do about this? </strong>Qandeel’s death has triggered a debate over further provisions against honour killings in the country.<strong></strong></p> <p>The Criminal Law Amendment Act 2005 tried to address honour crimes in Pakistan. It introduced a clause that addressed “offences in the name or on the pretext of honour”. <a href="http://nation.com.pk/national/02-Aug-2016/right-minds-for-changing-mindset-about-honour">While the move was lauded, the issue of honour killings did not die down because of it</a>. The amendment has been criticised for being too vague, and has been easily manipulated in favour of the murderers and not the victims. The law holds that someone who murders in the name of honour will be sentenced to a term not less than ten years or life imprisonment or death. However, a loophole within the law allows heirs of a victim to forgive murderers sometimes in exchange for blood money and other times because they will not punish the son for the daughters, sisters and mothers lost.&nbsp; In Qandeel’s case, the state made itself party to the case so that her family would not be able to forgive the son for the murder although her father did accuse his son of murder in the First Information Report (FIR) that was submitted to the police. A popular argument for forgiving such killers is that a person has already lost one daughter, why should they lose another by condemning their son.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/PA-28092899.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/PA-28092899.jpg" alt="" title="" width="410" height="512" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'> Qandeel Baloch at a press conference in Lahore, Pakistan, June 28, 2016. Credit: PA Images / M Jameel </span></span></span></p><p>In Pakistan, men acting out against women get sympathy when they argue that they were protecting their honour. Their friends and families do not abandon them, and in some cases they are revered as heroes of their own stories.&nbsp; Honour killings continue to be seen as normal practice in Pakistan. So much so that in many cases when a woman is murdered the motives aren’t even questioned before the label is added. Upon further inquiry we find that the dispute may have been related to a number of different things from property to a second marriage, but we are quick to say that the women were killed for honour instead. A kind of absurd legitimacy is associated with honour crimes. People in such instances may say that women did not deserve to die, but there’s also an underlying tone that they may have deserved to.&nbsp; What makes matters worse is that it’s easier to get out of a murder charge with honour killings because of the current flawed legal system. You can make laws, but you cannot force policemen to intervene and implement them and you cannot force people to use them. </p> <p>The culture of attacking women must change, the culture of storing a man’s ego and honour within a woman’s body must change, and we must stop expecting women to transform or live their lives according to the fragile male egos that surround them. Interestingly, the Council of Islamic Ideology (which has previously decreed child marriages to be within the ambit of Islam) has declared that <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/in-pakistan-gruesome-honor-killings-bring-a-new-backlash/2016/07/04/0cfa3e24-41ae-11e6-a76d-3550dba926ac_story.html">honour killings are un-Islamic</a>. Perhaps change is finally coming. Now, a new Anti-Honour Killings Bill is sitting in the Pakistani Senate looking to improve on the 2005 amendment by revoking the right of the victims’ family to forgive the murderer. </p> <p>Pakistan continues to be poorly served by laws that exist, and implementation that doesn’t. So while we are all hopeful for a law that addresses honour killings, and wish with all our hearts that it will provoke change - unless the mindset surrounding honour killings is changed, nothing will.</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/pragna-patel/use-and-abuse-of-honour-based-violence-in-uk">The use and abuse of honour based violence in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/in-memory-of-sabeen-mahmud-%E2%80%9Ci-stand-up-for-what-i-believe-in-but-i-can%E2%80%99t-fight-">Sabeen Mahmud: “I stand up for what I believe in, but I can’t fight guns”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/naila-kabeer/grief-and-rage-in-india-making-violence-against-women-history">Grief and rage in India: making violence against women history? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Continuum of Violence feminism bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter fundamentalisms patriarchy violence against women young feminists Nighat Dad Thu, 15 Sep 2016 08:44:01 +0000 Nighat Dad 105363 at https://www.opendemocracy.net On freeing Kenya's pastoralist communities from discrimination https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch-ramsden/from-local-to-global-and-back-again <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An interview with Justine N. Leisiano on her work defending girls’, women’s and disabled people’s rights in the semi-nomadic pastoralist Samburu community.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Woman.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Woman.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="375" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Justine N. Leisiano, human rights defender and Director of RACEP.</span></span></span></span></p><p class="p1"><strong>This article is part of 50.50's</strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016"><strong> in-depth coverage</strong></a><strong> of&nbsp;the&nbsp;2016 AWID Forum&nbsp;being held on&nbsp;8th -11th September in Bahia, Brazil.</strong></p><p><span>Justine N. Leisiano was one of the first people I met at the 13</span><span>th</span><span>&nbsp;AWID International Forum, as we navigated our way to the opening plenary together. Then and over the following days we talked about her vision (the forum theme is ‘feminist futures’, after all), her work and her experiences over the past days at the forum. Her very personal experience encapsulates so much of AWID in that it is intensely local but highlights many overarching concerns of the global feminist movement.</span></p> <p>Justine, who is from Samburu County in northern Kenya, is at AWID as part of the <a href="http://www.fimi-iiwf.org/">FIMI</a> International Indigenous Women’s Forum delegation. FIMI networks Indigenous women leaders in Asia, Africa and the Americas; at the AWID Forum, alongside Indigenous women from other parts of the world, Justine took part in the FIMI-organised panel ‘Dialogue of knowledges: Indigenous women human rights defenders, working against discrimination and for the prevention of violence’. Together they shared their knowledge and experiences as human rights defenders in their communities.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>There are so many positive things about the Samburu community, explained Justine, including how they have preserved their religion and culture. I asked what specific aspects of Samburu culture were the most important to her: “there is much more of a community than you might find [elsewhere]. At the end of the day you do not each go alone to your separate houses, you gather together, maybe around the fire, and you discuss what has happened in that day. If someone has a problem, they will bring it to the whole community and the community will solve it together.”</p> <p>This is something Justine reiterated the following times we met. “[Samburu people] still carry most of their culture and tradition,” of which, she measures, “80% is good, 20% is harmful.” Of the good, “people are united, and there is the spirit of the religion which means there is no destruction of nature, we respect nature” including the animals which are integral to their livelihood, though much of this, she notes, is being threatened by climate change. In addition, “the language is still there, the way of dressing is very beautiful –” she gestured to her necklace, “– we somehow look like the Egyptians!” Justine suggested that because Samburu people have migrated over time, they may well have been in Egypt and influenced Egyptian styles. “Some of the religious practices are similar.” Indeed, Samburu history extends even further back than Ancient Egypt: “we are the birth of all humanity, everything comes from Samburu-Maasai.”</p> <p>What about the role of women in her community? “That is the harmful part.” The Samburu community is highly patriarchal, reinforced over generations; gender inequality and stereotyping are entrenched norms, influencing the socialisation of young people and their attitudes. Justine cites violence against women including female genital mutilation (FGM), early marriages and forced marriages, and points to her data which shows 50% of girls leaving school due to ‘poverty, forced marriages and [becoming orphaned].’ Meanwhile men who perpetrate violence have near impunity.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Justine is also deeply concerned about violence against people with disabilities, especially children and women. As a trained teacher with an additional diploma in teaching children with special educational needs (SEN), Justine has witnessed the conditions in which children with disabilities grow up, hidden away and, in an area where 73% of the population live below the poverty line, often lacking basics such as clothing. Infanticide is common, and Justine believes that the key to preventing this lies with women: “it is the men who kill the children, so if we can empower the mothers then they will be able to put a stop to it.”</p> <h3><strong>Community Empowerment Programme</strong><span>&nbsp;</span></h3> <p>Like me, this is Justine’s first AWID forum, though it is not her first international conference, having attended the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2015. This took place in what sounds like a packed two years in which Justine undertook a diploma in Women’s Leadership through FIMI and, with a small grant of KSh 300,000 (£2,235), set up her own organisation called Ramat Community Empowerment Programme (RACEP), provided skills training for women and mediation for schools to include girls and children with disabilities, and continued to work as a teacher – in fact, a headteacher – in a school for children with SEN.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>At the end of our first conversation, Justine gave me her business card. She described how the logo summarised the work of RACEP: pointing to the bottom left, “there is the girl child – she is wearing traditional clothes – she is not in school;” on the right, “there is the disabled child, with the mother; and all of this,” she circles the background, “is in the context of the homestead, the community.”<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/IMG_20160911_021736.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/IMG_20160911_021736.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="342" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>RACEP logo.</span></span></span></span></p><p>Justine characterises her strategy, in the hard-copy information and funding proposals she has brought to AWID, as ‘an ecological approach to the prevention of violence against women and girls.’ The ecological approach recognises that people exist within a social and structural environment and its pressures, including patriarchy. So RACEP will work in 18 public schools with 720 boys and girls as they enter adolescence to unpick their assumptions about dominant masculinity. RACEP will work closely with school leaders and train teachers from all 18 schools to run ‘gender clubs’ and a transformed social studies curriculum (the first step being a ‘gender training manual’), supported by officials from the Ministries of Education and Gender and trained young adult facilitators. Church leaders, journalists and professionals with responsibility for child protection will also be targeted.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>At the same time, Justine has plans to build an Empowerment Centre which would provide education, training and employment opportunities for local women. She envisions ‘a Kenya where pastoralist communities live free from any form of discrimination against them’ and within them, looking also to ‘the eradication of negative traditions that affects the girl child and women.’</p> <h3><strong>What next?</strong></h3> <p>As we finished our final interview and I started packing away, Justine suddenly looked at me sharply and checked, “have you noted all the challenges?” She is relentlessly positive when she talks about her work but also methodical and structured in her thinking, so the change of tone caught me off guard despite it not being out of character for her to want to check that everything is captured fairly. I hesitated, “I’ve noted the funding and resourcing” – aside from the grant which provided training and resources for a small community project to enable mothers to earn an income, RACEP has as yet received no funding. When it does, Justine will be able to reduce the time she spends at her school and pass some of those responsibilities on.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Justine considered this and nodded, “If we also had more materials that we could share with women, for example information on gender-based violence.” She looked in the direction of the AWID conference rooms, “these things exist here” and she hopes to share in the wealth of knowledge and tools produced by other women here.</p> <p>As someone who does so much, and therefore takes on a personal burden for the many aspects of the work she does, I wonder what Justine does to avoid burnout. It is an issue, alongside self-care, that has been raised every day in talks, workshops and plenaries. Justine admits that some days she worries about her school and their ability to continue; while the government ensures that children are provided with an education<em> </em>(indeed, Justine has submitted a proposal to the government to expand the school)<em> </em>it does not ensure that they are fed or that the buildings are kept up.</p> <p>“Some days I think, ‘this food is going to sustain them tomorrow, [but] what of the day after?’” When new children enrol in school (“most of the children…are still naked”) she quickly rallies support from her friends to find clothes for them. She also takes on an emotional burden to support mothers who are themselves exhausted and struggling to keep up.</p> <p>Justine visibly relaxes when she explains, “in the evening I go to my inner self and make myself very strong.” She gives herself space to think and make considered decisions about how she will get through the following day and the needs it will bring. No longer feeling overwhelmed, “I make plans then and I talk to people for food, medicine, clothing.”<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Patriarchy, violence against women, disability rights, climate change: “these things are all related” and AWID offers a chance to connect and explore similarities, tactics and tools. For Justine, the collaborative space that AWID Forum opens up is the best part of it all. “AWID has been so important for me. You have got time here to interact with so many people – to tell, listen – it has been very educative, I am learning a lot from people telling…their experiences.” It evokes for me the ‘politics of friendship’ offered in the first plenary session. “It is encouragement,” says Justine, to hear about how women have overcome similar challenges elsewhere. “We have a very bright future.”</p><p class="p1"><em>All images by&nbsp;Ché Ramsden</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p class="p1"><em>Ché Ramsden&nbsp;will be reporting daily for 50.50 from the AWID Forum.&nbsp;</em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter gender justice Ché Ramsden Sun, 11 Sep 2016 09:48:50 +0000 Ché Ramsden 105256 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Imagine a feminist village of the future https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rahila-gupta/imagine-feminist-village <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On the last day of the AWID International Forum in Brazil, more than two thousand women came together to help imagine a feminist future, and to look at the hard realities of getting there.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/paintingRahila.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/paintingRahila.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Left to right: Dilar Dirik, Jac Sm Kee, Nidhi Goyal, NIDA Mushtaq, Shilo shiv Suleman, Coumba Toure, Lolita Chavez , Claudia Corredor</span></span></span></span></p><p class="p1"><strong>This article is part of 50.50's</strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016"><strong> in-depth coverage</strong></a><strong> of&nbsp;the&nbsp;2016 AWID Forum&nbsp;being held on&nbsp;8th -11th September in Bahia, Brazil.</strong></p><p><span>The final morning plenary transcended all expectations. In contrast with the flashing lights and lively music which greeted our arrival on the first two mornings, this event was shrouded in darkness. Intentionally. Because the darkness was going to be lit up with the poetic re-imaginings of eight intergenerational women who took the Yoruba proverb ‘It takes a village…’ to imagine what a feminist village of the future would look like. The direction of travel imagined would involve being released from fear into hope and revolution. Shilo Shiv Suleman, one of the members of Fearless Collective, a global network of young activists and artists, &nbsp;and co-coordinator of the session with Nida Mushtaq, began with a poem about fear and how it had consumed her:</span></p> <p>Fear told my father to love me with his fist</p> <p>I learnt to protect myself</p> <p>Fear told my mother that she had to keep her wounds to herself </p> <p>I learnt to protect myself<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>But one day, looking up into the clouds, she said to her friend that there was a boat in the sky. Her friend did not ask, ‘what boat?’, she simply said ‘let’s use it to get away.’ It was with that suspension of disbelief that the gathering was invited to cross the threshold into that feminist village.</p> <p>Nida Mushtaq took up the thread and imagined a village where there are no drones in the sky, where rooms have no doors, where there are no mirrors and where we are reflected in human faces. Nidhi Goyal, a blind woman, modified rooms with no doors to a house with revolving doors, although she added that she was speaking metaphorically because they are not wheelchair friendly. Dilar Dirik, from the Kurdish Women’s Movement, was constantly interrupted by applause as she talked about the woman’s revolution taking place in <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/revolution-in-rojava">Rojava</a>, where there are actual villages practising a radical form of democracy.&nbsp; She felt it "is important to implement our utopias in the here and now. We must never postpone the future."</p> <p>They imagined villages of peace, justice and security, with mountains, forests and water, places of pleasure and joyful expressions of sexuality. It was Nidhi Goyal who made a riotous appeal for women’s sexual pleasure to be freed from the triple ‘C’s:&nbsp; control, controversy and contestation, but not the ‘C’ for condom. Coumba Toure&nbsp;imagined a village where there would be a genuine sharing of natural resources. "In this village we only share water, we don’t sell it’ where even lying down and looking at the stars would count as work." In this time of flood, we have created a new geography’ said the Fearless Collective. And then, only in the way that women can hold two parallel worlds in their head, the rest of the conference was made up of a series of discussions of the hard realities that lie between us and these dreams.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Iwillnothidefearless.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Iwillnothidefearless.jpg" alt="" title="" width="415" height="737" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'> 'I am Fearless' - Fearless digital contributor.</span></span></span></p><p>At a time of climate crises, we cannot avert our faces from the storm raging on the horizon especially given its disproportionate impact on women. Although the disasters both happening now and waiting to happen implicate us all, the women taking the lead on this issue appear to be indigenous women, rural women and island women mainly from the Global South. As Noelene Nabulivou, of Diverse Voices and Action for Equality (DIVA) from Fiji reminded us some of their islands will disappear in the next 30-50 years. "This is a feminist priority right here and right now not some kind of millennial end of the world scenario," she warned, "But we are not truly thinking about getting together on this and how to shift this."</p> <p>Huge damage to the environment under the guise of development continues as a result of the work of extractive industries which remove gas, oil, minerals and metal from the ground. Even the World Bank was recently moved to produce a report on mining in Congo which looked at the link specifically between mining and sexual violence. First the burden of labour shifted from men to women. Agricultural communities lost their fields, which had been worked by the men; ‘what has changed now is that the fields no longer produce anything and our husbands are no longer working’ <a href="http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/262411467998211567/pdf/95971-WP-P133615-PUBLIC-Qualitative-Mining-Report-10-4-Box-391432B.pdf">said a woman mineral transporter</a>. These jobs were replaced by transporting minerals, ‘women’s work’.</p> <p>Militarisation of the extraction process in many countries has led to huge conflicts between communities, civil war even. In Congo, it was the other way around – war led to the collapse of agriculture and mining provided a quick turnaround with cash in hand. Rape is commonplace. "There is lots of hunger here. But if you have been raped on your farm, you will never return, and the farm will just die." &nbsp;Much of the work that is left in the mines for women is prostitution. Interviewees for the report alleged that "you will see women climbing up towards the mines with their mattresses, and while you may think they are soldiers’ wives they are really prostitutes."</p> <p>Climate change is a huge challenge but so is funding for women’s organisations. It is one of the contradictions that women have had to deal with – especially when the content of your work threatens the established order, how do you raise funds without compromising the work? It is not feasible to do sustained political work over a long period of time without paid workers and without funds. In a session on a little known UN Fund, called the Global Acceleration Instrument for Women, Peace and Security programmes, which has been set up in February 2016, Lopa Banerjee of UN Women, explained the dire state of funding for women’s organisations. Of all the money that was given to peace and security work, only 2% went towards gender equality outcomes and of that sum, only 2% was actually given to women’s organisations. This sorry state of affairs is reflected across all sectors. Most of the international funding goes to donor countries and only 8% to developing countries. There is a fear of perceived risk, financial mismanagement, weak capacity which is time consuming and takes extra resources to build and worries about how to identify the right women’s organisation in the South.</p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/ConferenceRahila.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/ConferenceRahila.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="208" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Discussing the Global Acceleration Instrument for Women, Peace & Security. From left to right: Katrin Wilde , Dr Barbara King, Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, Akinyi Walender, Lopa Banerjee</span></span></span></span></p><p><span>Besides, funding brings headaches. Recipients are facing huge volumes of paperwork compared to 20-30 years ago. Outputs have to be monitored and quantified in ways that often don’t make sense, for example, when you have to assess the success you have had in helping a woman leave a violent relationship, if on that occasion she hasn’t actually left. Measuring impact is the holy grail for funders but a slowly tightening noose around the neck for organisations. Among donor agencies, there is a preference to fund larger organisations in order to meet their targets because they want to deliver impact quickly. A lot of smaller organisations doing radical work get left out as a result. Donors are often not interested in infrastructure but particular outcomes. There needs to be a change of emphasis from technical to political in assessments of whether organisations are achieving transformation. &nbsp;</span></p> <p>AWID has been focussing on resources, understanding where the money is coming from, where it is going, which issues are being supported and which aren’t? In a <a href="http://www.awid.org/get-involved/call-participation-awid-webinar-data-resources-and-womens-rights">pre-forum webinar</a>, AWID members explained the importance of data in resource mobilisation, and collective strategizing. Taking the data to funders has resulted in bringing in more money into the movement. They have developed various toolkits: to promote data collection which can be used by organisations to hold funders accountable at the local level; an impact mapper which allows for the easy collection of unanalysed stories which provide qualitative evidence of transformative change; and holding funders accountable through developing the FundHer scorecard to assess how well they’re doing on funding women’s organisations.</p> <p>The AWID conference has operated on both levels: giving women space to imagine the unimaginable while providing the tools to convert that into reality; keeping our heads in the clouds while making sure we don’t stub our toes on the footpath.</p><p class="p1"><em>All images by Rahila Gupta.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p class="p1"><em>Rahila Gupta will be reporting daily for 50.50 from the AWID Forum.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/angelika-arutyunova-rochell-jones/feminist-futures-building-collective-power-for-rights-and-jus">Feminist Futures: building collective power for rights and justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/feminist-inclusivity-and-moving-onto-agenda">Feminist inclusivity and moving onto the agenda</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/classifying-bodies-denying-freedoms">Classifying bodies, denying freedoms</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/self-care-in-digital-space">Self-care in a digital space</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/node/19505"></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 AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy women and power gender justice gender feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Rahila Gupta Sun, 11 Sep 2016 08:19:04 +0000 Rahila Gupta 105253 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Artivism: art as activism, activism as art https://www.opendemocracy.net/ch-ramsden/artivism-art-as-activism-activism-as-art <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Art can be a powerful tool for activists. It can grapple with the world and bring about change. This piece explores some of the artivism on display at AWID 2016.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/AWIDEqualaccessexhibition.jpg" alt="" width="500" /></span></p><p><em>AWID Equal Access exhibition.</em></p><p class="p1"><strong>This article is part of 50.50's</strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016"><strong> in-depth coverage</strong></a><strong> of&nbsp;the&nbsp;2016 AWID Forum&nbsp;being held on&nbsp;8th -11th September in Bahia, Brazil.</strong></p><p><span>There is a bridge in Cape Town, at a busy junction outside the city centre, under which homeless people shelter and cars pass throughout the day and night. For many years the long stabilising wall, which lifted the bottom of the bridge from the ground, boasted a colourful mural. I most clearly remember the months when it denounced then president Thabo Mbeki’s </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV/AIDS_denialism_in_South_Africa">harmful</a><span> stance on HIV and AIDS: </span><em>I’m sick of President Mbeki saying HIV doesn’t cause AIDS!</em><span> My memory has eroded much of the detail, but the line – and the lesson – remains clear.</span></p> <p>During the second day of the 13<span>th</span>&nbsp;AWID International Forum, in an ‘Artivism’ session led by the <a href="http://www.youthcoalition.org/">Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights</a>, I discovered that murals and graffiti are some of the most commonly used forms of artivism – activism through art – around the world. Murals are more time consuming and resource intensive than most graffiti, but similarly occupy publicly visible space which can be reimagined as a canvas, a setting in which to discuss and display social issues.</p> <p>The Mbeki mural is a good example of effective artivism. Its location made it impossible not to see, if you were passing, so It forced engagement with a memorable political message. The tagline identifies the issue at hand – Mbeki’s comment that HIV does not cause AIDS – and, by specifically mentioning HIV and AIDS, also helped to combat the surrounding denialism and misinformation Mbeki had tapped into. It may also be that the artist is HIV+ (<em>I’m sick</em>) which further helps eliminate stigma and personalises the message. The outrage expressed is educational (<em>I’m sick of [it] </em>because, of course, HIV causes AIDS) while offering an indirect threat to Mbeki (<em>I’m sick of [you]…</em>). The political message operates effectively on many levels.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h3><strong>Artivism to inspire</strong></h3> <p><em>‘The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is – it’s to imagine what is possible.’ – bell hooks</em></p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/fearless.jpg" alt=" #fearlesslyfrida posters displayed at the #AWIDForum from the @fearlesscollective team." width="500" /></p><p><em>&nbsp;"I wear my body without shame" - Fearless Collective in partnership with HOLAAfrica, July 2016, Johannesburg, South Africa.</em></p><p><span>At a South African food sovereignty project, young people cook and eat together. They use their communal time to talk about capitalism and consumption, and further collaborate on ventures such as poetry and open mic nights. Through collective, artistic acts, they explore their relationship with society and educate one another.</span></p> <p>One of the project staff attended the Youth Coalition’s session. She explained that she was there because she was inspired by the young people she works with. Other attendees shared experiences of artivism in their contexts: storytelling within campaigns, eye-catching puppetry to encourage men to care for their children, songs to educate children about FGM and early marriage, spoken word and other literature over local radio stations, struggle songs to undermine the government.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Around the AWID forum, artistic projects convert hotel lobbies into galleries. Forum attendees pause before or between sessions and interact with the exhibitions. The <em>Equal Airtime </em>project is displayed at the main arena, organised by the Sisonke Sex Worker Movement and the African Centre for Migration &amp; Society (University of the Witwatersrand). The project explores the lived experiences of migrant sex workers in the Limpopo province of South Africa; it was created following a collaborative three-day workshop involving visual, narrative and theatrical exercises.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/equalairtime.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/equalairtime.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="667" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>From the Equal Airtime exhibition.</span></span></span></p><p>Originally produced for the <em>16 days of non Violence Against Women </em>campaign in 2014, the multimodal images call attention to hate crimes and violence committed against sex workers, as well as important aspects of their lives – including their identity within the community. The pictures, collage and text highlight gender, sexuality and health among others: <em>‘We gay. We sell sex. Get over it.’</em> is repeated twice, each sentence framed with felt-tip pen with three exclamation marks added at the end. <em>‘I NOW KNOW HOW TO USE A CONDOM’</em> is pasted diagonally over an outline of a <em>‘SEXY GIRL’ </em>whose eye peeks out behind a tilted hat, drawn over a pink background and sparkling stars and hearts.</p> <h3><strong>Artivism is transformative</strong></h3> <p><em>‘Art is good for our communities and artistic collaboration is a bonding experience. We make art together, not just because of the changes it can bring to the world around us, but because of the way it changes us internally.’ – Tatiana Makovin, organiser with Creative Resistance</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Brilliant &amp; Resilient exhibition.jpg" alt="From the Brilliant and Resilient exhibition." width="500" /></em></p> <p><em>From the Brilliant and Resilient exhibition.</em></p><p>The <em>Brilliant &amp; Resilient </em>exhibition, organised by Mobility International USA (MIUSA), is on display outside the main arena where plenaries take place. It features a collection of 30 portraits of women with different disabilities, all of whom are alumni of MIUSA’s Women’s Institute of Leadership and Disability. The striking portraits, dominant on an otherwise imposingly large white wall, are complemented by personal stories which highlight the issues that significantly impact the women’s lives, including access to education, health services and violence prevention.</p> <p><em>Proudly African &amp; Transgender</em> is similar artist-subject collaboration displayed on pillars in one of the lobbies. Artist Gabrielle Le Roux drew portraits of ten transgender activists to be displayed alongside their stories; the collaboration emphasises how the activists want to be seen and heard. On each portrait, like halos, the activists have written how they see themselves around Le Roux’s drawing of them.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Artivism here operates to centre people who are marginalised, ignored or erased by society. The art is literally taking up space – the fact of the exhibition itself is resistance. Through collaboration with the subjects, in both exhibitions the artists transform the way the observer sees. There is also an implication that the artwork, and the act of collaboration, can also transform the way the subjects see themselves.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/trans.jpg" alt="&#039;Madam Jholerina Brina Timbo, Namibia&#039;, from Proudly African &amp; Transgender exhibition" width="500" /></p> <p><em>'Madam Jholerina Brina Timbo, Namibia', from Proudly African &amp; Transgender exhibition.</em></p><p>Victor Mukasa, Ugandan LGBTI human rights defender, explains, ‘I felt lost for a long time. I thought there was no other like me. I thought I was abnormal, strange and this made me powerless.’ Thanks to <em>Proudly African &amp; Transgender</em>, future generations ‘will not feel lost. They will look at my portrait and they will gain power, hope, peace of mind and pride. They will know that another transgender existed before and it is ok to be gender non-conforming.’</p> <p>Art – both from the experience of the creator and the observer – incites an emotional response. It can synthesise unwieldy and confusing emotions, but it can also touch a nerve to provoke feelings which are difficult to rationalise. Both elements can be useful for activists as they navigate their movements and seek to change society. Artivism is not simply a communication device or a campaign tool, but a way of understanding where we are located in the world and expressing the depth of our feeling about it.</p> <p>In the Youth Coalition’s workshop, two young women performed a poem. It was written by 19-year-old Meeni Levi for <a href="http://www.youthcoalition.org/publication/international-day-against-homophobia-transphobia-and-biphobia/">The Watchdog</a> newsletter to commemorate IDAHOT 2016. The performers recited alternate stanzas to the audience from opposite ends of the room, describing the colours of the rainbow as they moved forwards in the trajectory of an arc. Their voices merged in the final stanza to reflect moments of defiance. At the end, they repeated the poem’s title in unison: “Society, watch me survive you.”</p><p class="p1"><em>All photos by&nbsp;Ché Ramsden&nbsp;and Rahila Gupta.</em></p><p class="p1"><em>Ché Ramsden</em><em>&nbsp;will be reporting daily for 50.50 from the AWID Forum.&nbsp;</em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter feminism young feminists Ché Ramsden Sat, 10 Sep 2016 10:57:57 +0000 Ché Ramsden 105247 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Feminist inclusivity and moving onto the agenda https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rahila-gupta/feminist-inclusivity-and-moving-onto-agenda <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>While feminist activists fight for inclusion in social agendas, how far have women’s movements themselves met the challenge of inclusivity? <em>From AWID International Forum in Bahia, Brazil.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="p1"><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/blackwomendrummers.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/blackwomendrummers.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Black women drummers open the 2nd plenary of the 2016 AWID Forum in Bahia, Brazil.</span></span></span></strong></p><p class="p1"><strong>This article is part of 50.50's</strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016"><strong> in-depth coverage</strong></a><strong> of&nbsp;the&nbsp;2016 AWID Forum&nbsp;being held on&nbsp;8th -11th September in Bahia, Brazil.</strong></p><p><span>The chair of the opening plenary, Sonia Correa, welcomed the AWID 2016 conference referring to Brazil’s tradition of hospitality but expanded its meaning to embrace an openness to difference, to be open to work we disagree with, to be unconditional in our hospitality. It was a sentiment that echoed around the conference. Noelene Nabulivou, of Diverse Voices and Action for Equality (DIVA) from Fiji liked the idea of hospitality because “we work in places that are ugly, disciplining, and cause pain to our bodies.” The promise of the plenary on the second day to discuss the elephants in the room, “untold stories of how and why different movements did not work well together” did not really materialise; these differences were touched upon rather than chewed over. Even in the session run by women with disabilities, their neglect by the mainstream feminist movement was delicately raised.</span></p> <p>As always we are more comfortable talking about the enforced erasures of our realities by people, attitudes and institutions outside the movement: religious fundamentalists; racist and sexist police; the corporate state; sexism; transphobia and homophobia. We have also struggled within wider progressive social movements to have our feminist agenda placed on the table. Southall Black Sisters (SBS) and other black women’s organisations have tried for years to get anti-racist movements to take on issues such as domestic violence within black communities with limited success. Current feminist debates around whether Jeremy Corbyn and his loyalists have a blind spot on gender are also a case in point. The session on ‘Building Gender-just Social Movements’ focussed on precisely this question. Jessica Horn presented <a href="http://socialmovements.bridge.ids.ac.uk/sites/socialmovements.bridge.ids.ac.uk/files/05.%20Executive%20Summary.pdf">the findings</a> from the BRIDGE programme which looked at the extent to which social movements, an effective engine for transformation in societies across the world, had integrated women’s rights and a gendered programme. </p> <p>‘In order for any action or intervention around rights, democracy and equality to be successful, it must include and value gender equality as part of its analysis and methodology for &nbsp;change… Historically, most progressive social movements have not embraced a commitment to consider gender inequality or challenged patriarchy from the outset. Frequently, gender analysis and action begins in mixed movements when women activists start to question why they are being left out of movement visions or not acknowledged in movement leadership.’ </p> <p>The reasons listed for the resistance of these social movements to women’s issues are ones with which we are familiar: it is not deemed a priority; there are deeply rooted ideas about women’s ‘back up roles’ as caregivers and teamakers; competition for resources (which is why some progressive movements might include a gender element in their work); silencing on the basis of culture and tradition on issues like abortion; or the view that there are women’s groups dealing with gender issues already. In the case of SBS, the view of the black anti-racist movement was that opening up on violence against women would attract greater hostility to the community.</p> <p>But what about the clamour from various interest groups like disabled women, indigenous women, sex workers and transwomen for feminism to open up to them? The BRIDGE report also had the feminist movement within its sights, urging it to expand inclusion, ‘Women’s movements are not static; they emerge, grow and change in response to internal and external factors. Challenging inequalities and the exercise of discriminatory power within women’s movements needs to be ongoing, as movements self-critique and work towards increasingly inclusive politics of transformation.’ Presumably it is these groups that were being referenced when participants talked about elephants in the room. However, we were left with no clear sense as to whether they were dying yet. Khouloud Mahdhaoui, organiser of the a&nbsp;three-day festival of feminist art, sculpture, film screenings and workshops called ‘Chouf’ in Tunisia touched upon the importance of including transwomen when she said that her intention was to create, “a free space, a space for women...who identify politically, socially, ideologically and not just biologically, and for all women to make an identity for herself.”</p> <p>Malawi Human Rights Group for Women and Girls with Disabilities (MHRWD) will be talking about how their claim to sexual and reproductive rights are contested by society and of the awareness rising work they have done in this regard. ‘Meanwhile, they struggle with the perception that women with disabilities are not sexual beings and should not engage in <a href="http://www.mamacash.org/content/uploads/2015/11/Story-of-Change_MHRWD.pdf">relationships</a>.’ Because the issue of sexuality of disabled women is heavily contested, MHRWD is fostering its connection with CEDEP (an advocacy group for LGB people) and providing information about sexual diversity and the activities and services of CEDEP in its workshops with women and girls with disabilities. MHRWD’s increased participation in networks has also inspired the founding of the African Sexuality, Disability and Rights Coalition. As MHRWD improved capacity and had more confident and experience staff, they were better able to engage in cross-movement actions.</p> <p>In the session, ‘Using Multiple Identities to Build Alliances’, where women leaders with disabilities from Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea shared their experiences in cross movement collaboration, they talked mostly about how they used their various identities to fit into different legal and policy frameworks. Pratima Gurung from Nepal and from an indigenous background posed the dilemma that she and her organisation, Indigenous Persons with Disabilities Global Network, have been discussing since 2008 as to whether they are most likely to succeed in their demands by framing them as a human rights issue, a disability issue, a gender issue or an indigenous people’s issue. It was with the help of the Disability Rights Fund that they were able to emphasise the intersectionality of their issues within each framework.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Run by women with disabilities. L to r- Mahbuba Akhter, Nasima Akhter, Pratima Gurung, Yeni Damayanti, Ipul Powaseu.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Run by women with disabilities. L to r- Mahbuba Akhter, Nasima Akhter, Pratima Gurung, Yeni Damayanti, Ipul Powaseu.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="204" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Left to right: Mahbuba Akhter, Nasima Akhter, Pratima Gurung, Yeni Damayanti, Ipul Powaseu.</span></span></span></p><p>Similarly Yeni Damayanti describes how her DPO (Disabled People’s Organisation) has collaborated with the UN Rapporteur on torture to get justice for people with ‘psychosexual disorders’ in Indonesia who face violence by their families and communities like their hands being shackled or chained or placed in wooden blocks. They worked with mainstream election NGOs, who took this campaign on, to ensure that suffrage was also extended to this group. Although there is universal suffrage from the age of 17, in practice the national election committee did not register those with a psychosexual disorder which controversially includes a range of conditions from voyeurism to ‘gender dysphoria’. &nbsp;As a result of their work, Yeni reported that they now have voting booths in hospitals. Much of it was about traditional ways of lobbying other organisations or policy-making institutions to bring about change, like lobbying their Minister of Social Affairs to extend the only recipients of social security in Indonesia - seriously disabled people – to include returning migrants who have been disabled through torture or cruel treatment from employers abroad.</p> <p>It appears that the UN has proved to be a reliable partner to these leaders in their work on disability although Ipul Powaseu from Papua New Guinea bemoaned the fact that their voices had been heard at the UN but not at the ground level. She was the only activist to explicitly refer to the place of disabled women in the feminist movement when she said, “We are here but not here. We are seen but not heard. We need to hold hands with AWID and walk side by side.” Myrna Cunningham Kain, AWID Board President, who was present at the session said, “We have provided the space, perhaps not enough space yet, but now you must occupy it.”</p> <p>There was also a sense from activists that inclusivity was good for the soul. Noelene from DIVA spent a lot of time thinking about how we resolve conflict, how we negotiate power within our movements and how we change over time and place, “I move with a lot of different kinds of bodies, they include feminists, indigenous people, climate justice, workers and activists, sex workers, women with disabilities, trade and economic justice practitioners. Feminist politics is what keeps me safe.” <a href="http://agi.ac.za/person/awino-okech">Awina Okech</a> put it this way, “Our work is soul destroying, a lot of blood, sweat and tears. We need to learn to be gentle with each other. Feminism is seen as a destination, that we have to all arrive there, so we come down hard on those who haven’t broken away from the patriarchal chains that are holding us back and are struggling to get there.”</p><p class="p1"><em>All images by Rahila Gupta.</em></p> <p class="p1"><em>Rahila Gupta will be reporting daily for 50.50 from the AWID Forum.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/glass-ceilings-and-cinderella-slippers-why-centre-cannot-hold">Glass ceilings and Cinderella slippers: why the centre cannot hold</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/imagine-feminist-village">Imagine a feminist village of the future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ch-ramsden/artivism-art-as-activism-activism-as-art">Artivism: art as activism, activism as art</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/angelika-arutyunova-rochell-jones/feminist-futures-building-collective-power-for-rights-and-jus">Feminist Futures: building collective power for rights and justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala-geetanjali-misra-nafisa-ferdous/to-build-feminist-futures-suspend-judgment">To build feminist futures, suspend judgment! </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 50.50 newsletter Rahila Gupta Sat, 10 Sep 2016 09:53:33 +0000 Rahila Gupta 105246 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Taxing lives, trading women https://www.opendemocracy.net/rahila-gupta/taxing-lives-trading-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Tax havens and international trade deals are feminist issues. At this year’s AWID conference in Brazil, activists from across the globe are discussing strategies for engaging with these systems.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><strong>This article is part of 50.50's</strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016"><strong>&nbsp;in-depth coverage</strong></a><strong>&nbsp;of&nbsp;the&nbsp;2016 AWID Forum&nbsp;being held on&nbsp;8th -11th September in Bahia, Brazil.</strong></em></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/AWID opening plenary .jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/AWID opening plenary .jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Opening plenary of the 2016 AWID Forum, Bahia, Brazil. </span></span></span></p><p><span>We are in a transitionary moment, trapped inside a crumbling neo-liberal system, deep inequalities and uneven austerity without a route map out of this chaos.&nbsp; That feminists need to engage with these systemic issues is a recurrent theme at this year’s AWID conference.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>Not all the speakers at the AWID Forum this year share the analysis that neoliberalism is unravelling. They point to the obscene levels of wealth concentration in the hands of a small minority (one statistic quoted is that 62 people own the same amount of wealth as half the world’s population) and that the recovery from the 2008 financial crisis has led to the enrichment of the 1% at the expense of the 99%. At one session, ‘Trading Away Feminist Futures’, Celita Eccher of </span><a href="http://www.dawnnet.org/feminist-resources/">DAWN</a><span> argued that this moment of concentration of capital is the worst in history, and that the chameleon-like nature of the system has made it more difficult to defeat than we had realised. She despairs that our political message does not reach those in thrall to consumerism. &nbsp;The view was echoed by Kate Lappin of </span><a href="http://apwld.org/">Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development</a><span> (APFWLD), who sees this as a</span><strong> </strong><span>particular moment where the strength of capital is defining the role of nation states and the global political order, leading to inequality, climate change and loss of democracy.</span></p> <p>On the other hand, Anita Nayar of <a href="http://www.daghammarskjold.se/regions-refocus/">Regions Refocus</a> pointed out that, since the crisis, the neoliberal economic model is being challenged like never before. She believes that feminists and other political activists should take credit for at least pushing governments into accepting the reality of the financial and climate crisis. However, feminists in general have been slow to grasp the nettle and engage with economics. The very complexity and lack of transparency of financial markets and banking systems makes it very difficult to engage. </p> <h3><strong>Havens of inequality</strong></h3> <p>DAWN has tried to demystify some of these connections. A report on<em> </em><a href="https://www.dawnnet.org/feminist-resources/sites/default/files/articles/20160818_iff_grondona-bidegain-rodriguez.pdf"><em>Curbing Illicit Financial Flows and dismantling secrecy jurisdictions to advance women’s human rights</em></a> explains how tax policies have a different impact on women and men because of their unequal positions in the workforce, as consumers, producers, as asset owners, and as carers within and outside households. The report looks at the less explored international dimensions of gender and taxation, in particular, the way in which trafficking profits are laundered: “Among the international crimes generating IFFs (Illicit Financial Flows) is that of human trafficking, which impacts heavily on women. The proceeds of such exploitation appear to be laundered using the same structures, mechanisms, jurisdictions and enablers as those of tax evasion and avoidance.”<em></em></p> <p>Kate Lappin of APWLD estimates that offshore banking and tax havens are hoarding $33trillion. This scale of evasion leaves governments short of money and therefore unable to fulfil their obligations to gender equality: “When the State does not mobilize sufficient resources, and has budget shortfalls therefore providing insufficient and low quality services (i.e. education, health, sanitation, public transport, social infrastructure, care services), gender inequalities are perpetuated or even <a href="https://www.dawnnet.org/feminist-resources/sites/default/files/articles/20160818_iff_grondona-bidegain-rodriguez.pdf">exacerbated</a>.” &nbsp;<br />&nbsp;<br />There is a view that the appropriate response to market-imposed inequalities is to spread the culture of entrepreneurship to women, particularly in Africa, which can be summarised as ‘everything will be okay if we all become entrepreneurs’. <a href="http://agi.ac.za/person/awino-okech">Awino Okech</a> warns us not to be co-opted into this argument. This is simply an attempt to head off challenge; women are the next imagined market. This capital-driven economic argument is not really addressing structural injustice and inequality, which is shaping lack of women’s access to public, economic, legal, and political spaces whilst financial resources for feminist organisations are shrinking. Global capital makes us “run around like in a hamster wheel”.</p> <h3>Gender and trade ‘agreements’</h3> <p>Trade agreements also feature at the conference.&nbsp; The session ‘Trading Lives, Trading Women’ focussed on the downside of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). We in Europe have been alerted to the downsides of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) through effective campaigning, which has highlighted the way in which transnational companies can hold governments to account in court if they stand in the way of privatisation, especially in the NHS. If TTIP goes through as it stands, corporations would be able to sue governments if their policies inhibited the <a href="http://www.bristolwomensvoice.org.uk/let-talk-about-ttip/">corporation’s growth</a>. The argument about the impact on women of such trade deals has not been widely made by feminists here. However women from the Pacific Rim countries such as the Philippines see the TPPA, also carried out in secret, as very much a feminist issue. It has been dubbed The Profit over People Agreement by GABRIELA, the Philippines women’s organisation.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/AWIDtradesessionnonames.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/AWIDtradesessionnonames.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="214" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'Trading Feminist Futures'. Moderator: Noelene Nabulivou. Speakers: Lice Cokanasiga, Kate Lappin, Celita Eccher, Anita Nayar. </span></span></span></p><p>The Trans-Pacific partnership between USA and a dozen countries is a ‘free’ trade agreement&nbsp;that will affect 40 percent of the global economy and comes at a price: such agreements tend to export jobs and depress wages. The <a href="http://now.org/resource/issue-advisory-free-trade-and-feminism-how-the-tpp-will-hurt-women/">NAFTA agreement</a> led to a loss of nearly a quarter of a million jobs, the impact falling mostly on low-income workers, two thirds of whom, in the USA, are women. For US women this means no health insurance and other benefits; it also has a disproportionate impact on ‘women of colour’. &nbsp;</p> <p>Kate Lappin argues that to describe these arrangements as trade agreements is misleading when they are a disguised attempt to force government to legislate in favour of corporations and in the interests of capital. Under NAFTA, 25 countries have been sued for tax policies alone. Many more countries have been sued in total for their environmental regulations, access to water regulations and a host of other issues. The secrecy ensures that there are no reliable figures but campaigners estimate that at least 62 countries have been sued.&nbsp;They have even been sued for charging heads of corporations who have already been convicted of corruption by a supra-body – an arbitration system that is separate from the country’s courts. Time and again, speakers gave examples of how investor rights are trumping human rights, which is why feminist movements should be part of opposing corporatocracy. </p> <p>Free Trade agreements have been mis-sold as development. Obama’s keenness to have the TPPA in his bag was to make sure that China didn’t encroach on his patch because the TPPA “allows America – and not countries like China – to write the rules of the road in the 21st century”. </p> <p>At the opening plenary here in Brazil, Miriam Miranda of <a href="http://www.ofraneh.org/">OFRANEH</a> from Honduras asks passionately, “Why do we keep insisting on a development model which destroys nature, destroys our social fabric, destroys entire communities and denies our identities, and appropriates the common goods of nature which belong to each of us. It’s an unsustainable model, it’s collective suicide.” There is a growing need to further extend the feminist analytical tool of intersectionality beyond the more familiar race, class, gender paradigm to the intersections between women’s lives and unfair trade, finance, corporate power, aid and development practices. The AWID Forum recognises this, but there is still much work to be done.&nbsp;</p><p><em>All images by Rahila Gupta.</em></p><p class="p1"><em>Rahila Gupta will be reporting daily for 50.50 from the AWID Forum.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/pick-n-mix-unprecedented-diversity-of-women-activists-meet">&#039;Feminist Futures&#039;: activists from across the globe gather in Brazil</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/chiara-capraro-francesca-rhodes/why-panama-papers-are-feminist-issue">Why the Panama Papers are a feminist issue</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/liz-nelson/gender-and-tax-justice">Gender and tax justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maggie-murphy/g20-and-corruption-why-gender-matters">G20 and corruption: why gender matters </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Women and the Economy 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 feminism 50.50 newsletter gender justice gendered poverty Rahila Gupta Fri, 09 Sep 2016 15:34:30 +0000 Rahila Gupta 105237 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Self-care in a digital space https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch-ramsden/self-care-in-digital-space <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For feminist activists, burnout is the norm. How can we best preserve collective wellbeing while practicing security in the digital world?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="p1"><strong>This article is part of 50.50's</strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016"><strong> in-depth coverage</strong></a><strong> of&nbsp;the&nbsp;2016 AWID Forum&nbsp;being held on&nbsp;8th -11th September in Bahia, Brazil.</strong></p><p><span>“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single issue lives!” AWID’s 13</span><span>th</span><span>&nbsp;International Forum began with Audre Lorde’s call to an intersectional movement. The euphoric atmosphere, not encouraged so much as reflected by an hour’s worth of live music so early in the morning, was balanced by a panel discussion of the realities faced by today’s feminist movement. From climate change to violence against women’s and trans people’s bodies, to religious extremism and conservative attacks on democracy: women’s spaces are shrinking and under threat.</span></p> <p><span>In a difficult global context with specific and urgent local challenges, it is unsurprising that feminist activists are ‘burning out’. Sonia Correa, Co-Chair of Sexuality Policy Watch and Research Associate at ABIA, concluded the opening plenary of by asking the panellists how they “go beyond burnout,” and I was particularly struck by the responses which referenced friendship and collective support.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/imagine.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/imagine.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="247" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Feminist Internet eXchange Hub, 13th AWID International Forum.</span></span></span></p><p>Yara Sallam from the <a href="http://eipr.org/en">Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights</a> reminded us that “self-care is not an individual act, it is a collective act” and said that, for her, “supportive family and friends” have been hugely important in retaining her strength. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/author/awino-okech">Awino Okech</a> agreed, pointing to her friendships (“I cannot overemphasise [their] importance”) and the fun and relaxation they bring as being “the spaces I go to to recharge.”<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>This sentiment – which Correa invited us to ponder as “the politics of friendship” – stuck with me as I spent the day discussing and workshopping digital security for women human rights defenders. The digital sphere is one which enables and supports friendships, but it is also used by governments, corporations and bullies to watch, intimidate and abuse human rights defenders.</p> <h3><strong>Digital security</strong></h3> <p>The session ‘Digital Security as feminist practice’ explored tools and strategies for protecting women human rights defenders from digital threats. Maryam Al-Khawaja (<a href="http://www.gc4hr.org/">Gulf Centre for Human Rights</a>) described some of these threats: online harassment, defamation campaigns, spyware attacks, surveillance, destruction of your data, disruption of your work. It is intimate and nasty, “paying a personal price for work you do as an activist.”<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>“A lot of times, we don’t care about our own security,” explained Maryam, before reminding us that when we compromise our digital security, we are putting all of our contacts at risk, too. This also applies to international NGOs and funders who are not familiar with the tools and strategies employed at a local level – all of which will vary by country – and do not think to ask questions and make appropriate choices around encryption; data storage and backup; and which software, platforms, and anti-spyware to use.</p> <p>In terms of dealing with harassment and defamation, Maryam described how, to begin with, she made a decision to ignore online abuse. However, she now documents it so that she can build trends and report it. I asked how this affected her wellbeing, to read and be exposed to personal attacks. “I’m really bad at that,” she said, describing how she can brush off threats to herself, before admitting that it does affect her emotionally when she receives abuse directed at her family.</p> <p>Daysi Flores Hernandez (<a href="http://www.justassociates.org/en/">JASS</a>) described a similar position: while “you are not supposed to get used to threats, you do have a tolerance for them;” however, “human rights defenders become alarmed when attacks are framed for their families.” This resonated with her own personal experience; “the first time they said they knew I had a partner and where she worked, it scared the hell out of me” – she and her partner left Honduras for two months.</p> <p>The final session I attended was an impromptu workshop titled ‘Holistic Security’ where those who were interested, after the Digital Security session, could explore some of the ideas and issues in the round. Fifteen of us joined. Facilitator Ali Ravi&nbsp;immediately got us in touch with our emotions by asking us, quite simply, how we were feeling in that moment. He then asked us how we felt in response to the discussion we had just had around digital security.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/holistic.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/holistic.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tactical Technology Collective (2016), Holistic Security: A Strategy Manual for Human Rights Defenders.</span></span></span></p><p>Because we were talking about feelings and not ideas, the emotions evoked by the session extended beyond it, and were strongly linked to past experiences. The first person to speak up explained a feeling of helplessness when she had been unable to protect colleagues whose devices had been seized and whose work was unencrypted. Others also spoke about colleagues, friends and their organisations. The feelings we expressed ranged from worry, panic, fear, anger and vulnerability, to a single positive expression which was described as empowerment through knowledge (“the more I know, the less paranoid I am”).<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Ali explained that our overall response was fairly typical, and people often feel overwhelmed or paranoid when they are in digital security training. Our associations with ‘security’ are mainly negative (our group associated it with words like ‘locks’, ‘guards’, ‘alarms’ and ‘trauma’ – as well as a single positive, ‘safe space’) and while Ali insisted that there is nothing <em>wrong</em> with any of our emotions, he pointed out that anxiety and irrationality could be paralysing and therefore made us less effective activists, at least for the time we are experiencing anxiety or recovering from it. He suggested that it was necessary to “reframe ‘security’ so that our behavioural response is different.” When we start framing security as an opportunity rather than a liability – “something I can build on, not have to worry about” – we can start dealing with it constructively, and expand our ability to stay secure.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <h3><strong>Holistic wellbeing</strong><span>&nbsp;</span></h3> <p>Previously, when they trained people on digital security, Ali and his colleagues tried to ‘surprise’ them into behaviour change by illustrating how insecure their commonly-used applications, like Facebook or e-mail, are. They were frustrated that people were not taking digital security seriously. As Peter Steudtner&nbsp;explained, “the sound of a lion’s roar evokes fear, yet not Facebook” – even when you know that the lion is mostly imaginary and, in any case, far removed from your context and location (unlike Facebook!). But what the facilitators discovered was not necessarily that people were not taking their digital security seriously, but that they had other security needs which outweighed concerns about online privacy and potential threats.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>If you are a gay person living in Uganda, for example, isolation and fear may be combatted through the creation of a caring, nurturing online social network. It may be your lifeline; to be told that this online group is compromising your digital security in turn negatively impacts your emotional security. For many activists who are forced to live or work away from their family and friends, social media provides contact with their loved ones. Remembering Yara Sallam’s and Awino Okech’s assertions in the morning plenary about the friendships which sustain and ‘recharge’ them, this could reinforce the tension between digital and emotional securities.</p> <p>Ali, Peter and their colleague Dan Ó Cluanaigh drew a Venn diagram with three overlapping circles: digital security, physical security and emotional security. Others could be added, for example legal security, which would map the protection of the individual and/or organisation by legislation. It is in the small area where the three or more circles intersect that a ‘safer’, more secure place exists, where our needs for digital, physical and emotional security are all met as far as possible.</p> <p>We were asked to raise our hand if we had been trained on digital security (the majority had), followed by physical security (again the majority) and finally emotional security (only 3 of 15 of us raised our hands). To illustrate how nonsensical this was, Ali relayed a cake-baking analogy inherited from his grandmother: ‘we do not bake our separate ingredients next to each other in different ovens.’</p> <p>It evokes Audre Lorde’s intersectional struggle: when it comes to the digital, physical and emotional securities, single-issue security is ineffective, because we engage across all three spheres at once. To extend Ali’s metaphor, security planning which does not encompass all spheres is half-baked.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The session was led by men with a background in digital security – unsurprisingly, given the male-dominated tech industry and the overlapping ‘security' emphasis which also carries patriarchal connotations. Yet it is particularly women who need a holistic approach in order to sustain our activism. Women so frequently undertake emotional labour, providing care, scaffolding and security for others, yet no one returns the favour for us.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Holistic security seems an important step in many respects. Firstly, it acknowledges different aspects of our humanity at once. Second, it recognises that there will be tensions between these different parts of our lives and that our priorities might shift, particularly if our family, friends and colleagues are involved. Finally, it allows for more effective planning, which takes time but will ensure greater protection for women activists overall, not least because self-care and wellbeing are integrated into the approach.</p><p><span>All images by&nbsp;</span><em>Ché Ramsden</em></p><p class="p1"><em>Ché Ramsden will be reporting daily for 50.50 from the AWID Forum.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/chloe-safier/young-feminist-movements-power-of-technology">Young feminist movements: the power of technology</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/security-is-not-just-cctv-valuing-ourselves-is-security">Security is not just CCTV: valuing ourselves is security</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala-geetanjali-misra-nafisa-ferdous/to-build-feminist-futures-suspend-judgment">To build feminist futures, suspend judgment! </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women, Peace & Security 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 50.50 newsletter everyday feminism violence against women women's health women's movements young feminists Ché Ramsden Fri, 09 Sep 2016 11:34:44 +0000 Ché Ramsden 105229 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'Feminist Futures': activists from across the globe gather in Brazil https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rahila-gupta/pick-n-mix-unprecedented-diversity-of-women-activists-meet <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The AWID International Forum in Bahia has started. We meet some of the 2,000 women brought together under the 'Feminist Futures' banner, including a lesson from Tanzania in how to employ a holistic approach.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/WP_20160907_14_39_17_Pro.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/WP_20160907_14_39_17_Pro.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women arriving at the AWID conference, Bahia, Brazil.</span></span></span></span></p><p><strong>This article is part of 50.50's<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016"> in-depth coverage</a> of&nbsp;<span>the</span><span>&nbsp;2016 AWID Forum&nbsp;being held on&nbsp;</span><span>8th -11th September in Bahia, Brazil.</span></strong></p><p><span>Conferences, those melting pots of ideas, where participants with broadly similar goals but working in very different contexts, come together to share their experiences and strategies, are a huge opportunity to refresh one’s thinking and give renewed energy to activists struggling with apparently intractable issues back home. &nbsp;With so many sessions to choose from at AWID and so many women to meet (nearly 2000), you feel like a child in a sweetshop.</span></p> <p>I got started straight away – first up, in the minibus from the airport, were three women from Armenia, two of whom run the Women’s Support Centre (WSC) for women escaping violence. It was their first time at AWID and they were hugely excited. Their organisation was set up only five years ago but has already served 650 women and children. It offers all the usual services of counselling and advocacy to women, including the running of two refuges, the provision of training in business and entrepreneurship skills but it also works at community level to raise awareness of the issues and at government level to lobby for a new law on <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anna-nikoghosyan/armenia-invisible-women">domestic violence</a>. Sixty per cent of their funding comes from private donations from the Armenian diaspora in the US (and none from their government) which means that they do not have to rely on grantmaking bodies. According to Mary Matosian, Director of WSC, these bodies are no longer funding shelters and direct services but focussing on training which she feels is bad news for the women’s sector. She argues that it is service provision that gives ‘us real data about real people which influences policy the most. Advocacy has to be evidence based.’</p> <p>The particular brand of patriarchy that makes life difficult for them was a legacy of the Soviet Union with its gender discrimination and cultural violence. Interestingly, attitudes to violence against women seem to be directly impacted by Armenia’s international relations. Since Armenia’s accession to the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurasian_Economic_Union">Eurasian Economic Union</a> in 2014, an EU equivalent for the ex-states of the Soviet Union, ‘we have observed conservative trends spilling over into Armenia’, says Matosian, ‘ while religion had not been much of a problem before, these conservative elements have used religion to attack women’s rights using all the usual labels such as homebreakers and are also very active in attacking LGBT rights.’&nbsp; At the same time, the recent opening up of dialogue with the European Union has helped the situation. A gender equality law was passed last year. The EU is also pressurising the government to speed up the introduction of the Domestic Violence law and will be funding the setting up of crisis centres for children, for homeless people and for trafficked women. Matosian hopes that they will be next in line.</p> <p>Pressure from the conservative lobby led the government to drop the word ‘gender’ from the law because gender has become synonymous with ‘deviant’ LGBT groups and replace it with inequality between men and women, explains Ani Jilozian, a research data specialist with WSC. While feminists in Armenia fight for the reinstatement of the word ‘gender’, UK feminists fight a losing battle to retain terms like Violence against Women because ‘gender’ opens the door to violence suffered by both sexes and neutralises feminist arguments around male violence to women which is hugely disproportionate to men’s experience of violence.&nbsp; In this conservative context, feminists have to walk a tightrope between supporting LGBT groups at the same time as putting some distance between them in order not to damage their chances. Matosian worries that the current trend among grant making bodies of supporting LGBT organisations has diverted funds from the women’s sector which still faces serious issues. She hopes to raise it at AWID.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Ganesh.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Ganesh.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="467" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Maya Ganesh</span></span></span>When we arrive at the venue, a whole day session on imagining a feminist internet is in progress. If the Armenian women were dealing with violence in the offline world, the <a href="https://tacticaltech.org/">Tactical Technology Collective</a> who were running the feminist internet session were talking about how their Gender and Tech Institute (GTI) works towards creating a safe online world for women activists - defending the essential freedoms of those who are defending the essential freedoms of others. I talk to Maya Ganesh, Director of Applied research who introduces me to the idea of a liquid data society in which we live, where there are no infrastructural silos, so that whether we are booking a hotel room or posting photos of our pets, our online presence is so seamless that ‘there is no separate space where politics or activism or your life is lived.’ The individual is exposed, visible, transparent. Is it possible to turn that on its head and expose the abuse of power by corporations and governments which accounts for the second strand of their work - exposing the invisible, using tech tools from remote sensing and satellite to instagram to look back at power.</p> <p>When the tension between visibility and anonymity becomes insurmountable many women activists withdraw from social media. In a study conducted by GTI in South Africa, they found that women active in a land and housing rights movement had created separate online spaces and would not even participate in the whatsapp group of large NGOs because they had become male dominated. The women were being sexually harassed by their male colleagues. GTI provides tech support to activists like them so that they can feel safe online. It provides a platform for activists from different parts of the world to share skills, understand how to encrypt their communications, what strategies work in dealing with trolls, collecting evidence of the abuse they have faced on twitter, analysing whether it has helped to publicise the abuse or made things worse, whether it is better to withdraw or to retaliate and if they retaliate, they need to understand that there is a price to be paid and without support mechanisms in place, it can hit them hard. </p> <p>While recognising that women get harassed and trolled in a way that men don’t is simply our society being reflected back at us through the internet, Maya believes that educating people in how to behave online is important. GTI is trying to articulate a set of norms guiding online behaviour which is supposedly the province of the tech companies except it seems they can regularly make a hash of it. She points to their delight in taking credit for starting revolutions (mobilisation of the <a href="https://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20110202-social-media-tool-protest">Green revolution in Iran</a> took place on Facebook) yet when it comes to guarding freedom of speech, &nbsp;Instagram &nbsp;will ban an artist from posting <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11837758/Instagram-Woman-trolled-after-posting-photo-of-her-menstrual-cup.html">pictures about periods</a> because it contravenes their community standards but posts that are patently abusive of women are allowed to stand because it’s a freedom of speech issue. ‘It’s bullshit’, &nbsp;says Maya. So they are back at AWID to get women activists to engage with the internet and to make ‘smart, safe and creative use’ of technology.</p> <p>In counterpoint to Tactical Tech which arguably works on a single issue on a global scale, Catherine Jerome from Tanzania works on a large number of issues through <a href="http://africanbiodiversity.org/envirocare/">Envirocare</a>, whose main areas are environmental conservation, governance, human rights and gender. Catherine explains how her work, primarily with poor farmers on how to conserve the environment, revealed human rights abuses. She also talks about the importance of alleviating poverty in ensuring the success of other strands of their work.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Envirocare.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Envirocare.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="421" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Catherine Jerome</span></span></span></p><p>One of Envirocare’s early campaigns in 2000 was against the use of the pesticide, DDT. Although it had been banned by the government, the women who were using it in the cultivation of coffee were not aware of the dangers and were facing higher levels of cancer. In the process of encouraging organic alternatives, they discovered that the cutting down of trees for firewood and the burning of forests to clear land for agriculture was creating drought. They reduced demand for firewood by introducing the women to a new kind of stove which utilises less wood. They lobbied the government to introduce byelaws to prevent the clearing of forests. When the forest grew back, Catherine says her organisation was given a special mention in the rain songs that the women sang about the role of Envirocare in getting rid of the drought. Through that work they also noticed that some of the women were not putting as much effort into their lands because they faced violence from their husbands and the ever-present danger of <em>talakh</em> (the Muslim divorce) without any financial settlement.&nbsp; So Envirocare trained paralegals to support the women. It’s very difficult to find a lawyer in rural areas because they earn a better living in the cities. &nbsp;&nbsp;And so it went, issue after issue, uncovered like a series of Chinese boxes. </p> <p>It is Catherine’s first time at AWID. She is hoping to learn what others are doing on human right issues and to share her knowledge with others. She is sure that new ideas will ‘pop into her head’ in the presence of so many wise and experienced women.</p><p><em>All images by Rahila Gupta.</em></p><p class="p1"><em>Rahila Gupta will be reporting daily for 50.50 from the AWID Forum.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/angelika-arutyunova-rochell-jones/feminist-futures-building-collective-power-for-rights-and-jus">Feminist Futures: building collective power for rights and justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/chloe-safier/young-feminist-movements-power-of-technology">Young feminist movements: the power of technology</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rebecca-souza/between-tradition-and-feminism-modern-amazonas">Between tradition and feminism: modern Amazonas </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 AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy women and power gender feminism women's work Rahila Gupta Thu, 08 Sep 2016 10:01:36 +0000 Rahila Gupta 105188 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Women’s equality will not come after the environmental revolution https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/majandra-rodriguez-acha/women-s-equality-will-not-come-after-environmental-revolution <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Climate and environmental impacts are ravaging our planet, and women and marginalized groups are among those most affected.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><em><strong>“We must resist in the different ways that we can and we must do it together, (as) our struggle is vast and intertwined.”</strong></em></span></p><p><span><em><strong></strong></em></span><em>- Jill Mangaliman, Got Green</em></p> <p class="Normal1">We live in a world where global climate change is occurring at a <a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/climate-change-faster-than-predicted/">much faster rate than previously predicted</a>. No longer a threat in the distant future, its impacts are <a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-point-of-no-return-climate-change-nightmares-are-already-here-20150805">already causing devastation to people and ecosystems around the world</a>, leading to <a href="http://daraint.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/CVM2ndEd-FrontMatter.pdf">400,000 annual deaths</a>, and an unpredictably changed future for us all. </p> <p class="Normal1">We also live in a world where <a href="http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/violence/9789241564625/en/">one in three women will experience physical and/or sexual violence</a>, mostly by an intimate partner; where <a href="https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/glotip/GLOTIP_2014_full_report.pdf">70% of trafficking victims are women or girls</a>; where <a href="http://www.uis.unesco.org/literacy/Pages/data-release-map-2013.aspx">two-thirds of people who are illiterate are women</a>; and where despite being 50% of the global population, around <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/leadership-and-political-participation/facts-and-figures">one in five parliamentarians are women</a>.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Normal1">In such a world, what do we deem more important: the dangerously high levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, or overcoming systemic social inequality? The rights of future generations to a safe planet, or the rights of women to live free of violence and oppression? Both - or perhaps neither? </p> <p class="Normal1"><strong>As Audre Lorde stated, we do not live single-issue lives. </strong></p> <p class="Normal1">These questions are what some -many- of us call a <em>false dichotomy</em>. Pitting environmental concerns against social demands creates a binary where one can be tackled, whilst the other ignored - where we believe <a href="http://nacla.org/blog/2015/09/03/what%27s-behind-bolivian-government%27s-attack-ngos">we must choose between one and the other</a>. </p> <p class="Normal1">But why are we reaching our planetary limits in the first place? Where does environmental degradation often take place, and whom does it impact the most? who is responsible for these negative effects? And what are the most effective and lasting “solutions” to these crises?</p> <p class="Normal1">I have found the clearest answers to these questions in the stories and lived experiences of those who already <em>live</em> the climate and environmental crisis – those who know well, and have to survive in the midst of, the fossil fuel and extractive industries that generate the vast majority of carbon emissions and environmental degradation today. </p> <p class="Normal1">In the context of global inequalities emerging from the current neoliberal macroeconomic policies, it is not a coincidence that many of those standing up to these industries and denouncing corporate power, defending their livelihoods, the rights of&nbsp; communities and families, caring for themselves and others in the face of nutrition, health and social impacts, and experiencing disproportionate vulnerability and violence in these contexts, are <em>women</em>. </p> <p class="Normal1"><strong>This is what climate change and environmental degradation looks like.</strong></p> <p class="Normal1">Melina Laboucan-Massimo lives in Little Buffalo in the Peace River region in northern Canada. She is Lubicon Cree, and her homelands are in the midst of the Alberta tar sands. As she recently shared at the <a href="https://fsm2016.org/en/">World Social Forum</a>, Alberta is a place where the fossil fuel industry converts pristine delta water into lakes of toxic waste <a href="http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2011/08/17/ten-years-after-911-%e2%80%93-canadas-true-cost-of-oil/">so vast that they can be seen from outer space</a>; tears down the Boreal forest –a crucial carbon sink- at rates that surpass deforestation in the Amazon; spills <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/melina-loubicanmassimo/awaiting-justice-%E2%80%93-indigenous-resistance-to-tar-sand-development-in-cana">thousands of barrels of oil that it doesn’t adequately remediate</a>; and generates cancer clusters, forcing people to breathe in hydrogen sulphide among other toxins. As she narrates, the situation in her homelands is an expression of the “sacrifice zone” mentality. And it is in this same context of rapacious extractivism that there are over <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/08/03/488491160/canada-releases-details-on-inquiry-into-murdered-missing-indigenous-women">1200 missing and murdered indigenous women, and over 4,000 cases still not properly documented</a>. </p> <p class="Normal1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/tarsands.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/tarsands.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="292" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Fort McMurray in the Alberta tar sands, Canada. Credit: Kris Krug</span></span></span></p><p class="Normal1"><span>In a sacrifice zone, a particular people and place are expendable “for the sake” of life and profit elsewhere. That is, the lives of some are worth more than the lives of others. In this context, is it a coincidence that indigenous women are disappearing as indigenous lands are being decimated?</span></p> <p class="Normal1">Can racial, ethnic and gender-based inequality be separated from what drives environmental devastation in the Alberta tar sands? Or to put it differently – could one exist without the other? </p> <p class="Normal1"><strong>Can we understand the environmental crisis without talking about violence? </strong></p> <p class="Normal1">In Peru, we have the <a href="http://radiorsd.pe/noticias/niunamenos-peru-es-el-tercer-pais-sudamericano-con-la-tasa-mas-alta-de-feminicidio">third highest rate of femicide in South America, the second highest rate of rape reported</a>, and a shocking <a href="https://dhsprogram.com/pubs/pdf/FR299/FR299.pdf">seven in ten women</a> have been victims of sexual, physical, verbal or psychological violence. We are currently living a powerful historic moment of social change, as <a href="http://theconversation.com/anger-at-violence-against-women-in-peru-spills-over-into-protest-63087">after two high-profile cases of women who were almost killed by their male partners, and whose aggressors were given light, suspended sentences</a>, close to half a million people took to the streets on the 13th&nbsp;of August in the capital city of Lima, and thousands more around the country, to say “Ni Una Menos!” (Not One Less). </p> <p class="Normal1">Within this uphill battle against deep-rooted violence and sexism, another form of violence also characterizes our context: we are the <a href="https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/perus-deadly-environment/">fourth most dangerous country in which to be an environmental defender</a>. </p> <p class="Normal1">Those who take on the struggle of defending our forests, waterways and territories face repression, threats and ultimately death at the hands of those hired by extractivist industries. And women environmental defenders, at the intersection of these forms of violence, face particular forms of repression. </p> <p class="Normal1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Cacres.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Cacres.png" 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'>Women demand justice for Berta Cáceres, indigenous leader assassinated in her own home for leading opposition to a dam project in Honduras. Credit: Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos.</span></span></span></p><p class="Normal1"><span>In Peru and in the broader Latin American context, this includes violence from their own communities and families, in retaliation for stepping outside of their ascribed roles. As Patricia Ardon of JASS Meso America shared in an </span><a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/climate-and-environmental-justice">online exchange facilitated by AWID and WEDO earlier this year</a><span>, it can also take the shape of discrediting and spreading rumors about women environmental defenders, who according to mainstream media outlets “should be in their homes”.</span></p> <p class="Normal1">Can we address environment concerns without also addressing the violence against those who call for its protection - including violence against women? </p> <p class="Normal1">Can we de-link women’s struggles for safety and freedom from struggles for our water, lands and forests?</p> <p class="Normal1"><strong>Change starts from the home.</strong></p> <p class="Normal1"><a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/sites/default/files/CEJ%20Discussion%202016%20%28Final%29.pdf">Other stories shared during the online exchange</a> spoke of the gendered division of labor, due to which women are traditionally in charge of care and domestic work. Climate variability and pollution are critical obstacles to the safe realization of this work. Particularly in rural areas, following a natural disaster, resources such as water and fodder become scarce or unreliable, and the family’s health is affected - both of which increase women’s workload. </p> <p class="Normal1">Is it possible to effectively adapt to climate change without considering the work that women are already doing to care for their communities, and the knowledge that they have?</p> <p class="Normal1">Longer journeys to collect water and fodder can also mean <a href="http://news.trust.org/item/20160601144036-1v6l6/">increased safety risks</a> for women, in addition to the risks entailed by the natural disasters themselves. As Adi Vasulevu of FemLINKPACIFIC in Fiji shared, the recent Tropical Cyclone Winston led to 44 deaths, of which the majority were women - and <a href="https://www.sheltercluster.org/sites/default/files/docs/ll-care_tcwinston_rapidgenderanalysis.pdf">cases of rape have been reported at evacuation centers, and trauma and illness is high</a>. </p> <p class="Normal1">Is it possible to paint a complete picture of climate impacts, without mentioning the increased sexual abuse and risks women are facing? </p> <p class="Normal1">In urban areas, women also face particular impacts. As Araceli from Domésticas Unidas shared at the World Social Forum, women hired to clean houses are exposed to toxic, petrol-based cleaning products. She has seen most of her fellow domestic workers fall sick, and a disproportionate number of them die from cancer. In the face of this, she took it upon herself to find out about and make her own safe and sustainable cleaning liquids, and shares the recipes freely with the women around her. </p> <p class="Normal1">Can climate and environmental “solutions” be adequate to everyone’s needs without taking into account women’s particular experiences and knowledge? </p> <p class="Normal1"><strong>Telling the complete story: climate and inequality are two sides of the same coin. </strong></p> <p class="Normal1">These are just a few among countless stories that speak to what climate change and environmental degradation means on the ground. They show us what climate and environmental impacts look like, beyond parts per million and carbon budgets. They are testament to how the fossil fuel industry operates and to the rapacious nature of the current industrial system. </p> <p class="Normal1">They bring economic, social, cultural and political elements to the climate narrative, making connections to social inequality, gender roles, and policies of economic globalization and prevalence of corporate power&nbsp; over environmental regulation. </p> <p class="Normal1">Perhaps most importantly, they also show us how people are challenging and&nbsp; responding to the crisis, offering new narratives of human rights and adopting valuable propositions seeking to achieve broader political, social, economic and cultural transformations for us all. Upholding the false binary between climate and social inequality means upholding the social conditions that marginalize these voices and perspectives, denying us their deep insights, answers and powerful ability to inspire and transform. </p> <p class="Normal1">As Naomi Klein states, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9Bd1gA3UK0">“saying climate is “more important” is how we lose.”</a> Asking people to choose between poverty and pollution weakens and divides our movements. </p> <p class="Normal1">But not only that – it ignores the lived realities of millions around the world for whom environment <em>cannot</em> be separated from inequality, lest their story be told incomplete.</p><p class="Normal1"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/anotherworld_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/anotherworld_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="242" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“Another world is possible, and women are building it”. International Women’s Day in Barcelona. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.</span></span></span></span></p><p class="Normal1"><span>Women, feminists, social justice and environmental justice advocates around the world are making these connections, and engaging in work that centers the intersections between environmental and social struggles. From </span><a href="http://www.lubiconsolar.ca/">indigenous celebration of renewable energy</a><span> in Alberta, to feminists in Bolivia connecting </span><a href="http://www.mujerescreando.org/">fights for our body’s freedom to the liberation of our territories from extractivism</a><span>, to </span><a href="http://www.ituc-csi.org/what-s-just-transition?lang=en">labor unions advocating for a just transition from the climate crisis</a><span>, there are countless examples of cross-movement dialogue, solidarity and action to draw from.</span></p> <p><strong><em>Majandra Rodriguez Acha will be speaking at&nbsp; the International AWID Forum which opens this week 8-11 in Bahia, Brazil <a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/"><strong>Feminist Futures: Building Collective Power for Rights and Justice</strong></a>, <em>openDemocracy 50.50 will be </em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016"><strong><em>reporting daily </em></strong></a><em>from the Forum.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></em></strong><strong><em><span>Information about all of FRIDA's sessions at the AWID Forum are <a href="http://youngfeministfund.org/2016/08/building-feminist-futures-frida-the-13th-awid-forum-brazil/">here</a>.</span></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="/rebecca-souza/between-tradition-and-feminism-modern-amazonas">Between tradition and feminism: modern Amazonas </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-souza/women-of-rivers-and-forests-have-feminist-debate">The women of the rivers and forests have feminist debate? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofu-tawamba-kate-kroeger-tatiana-cordero/berta-s-struggle-is-our-global-struggle">Berta’s struggle is our global struggle…</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ana-abelenda/behind-murder-of-berta-c-ceres-corporate-response">Behind the murder of Berta Cáceres: corporate complicity </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/melina-loubicanmassimo/awaiting-justice-%E2%80%93-indigenous-resistance-to-tar-sand-development-in-cana">Awaiting justice: Indigenous resistance in the tar sands of Canada</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/cop21-overarching-narratives-real-lives">COP21: overarching narratives, real lives</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 50.50 newsletter feminism gender justice gendered poverty women and power women's human rights women's movements Majandra Rodriguez Acha Wed, 07 Sep 2016 17:03:06 +0000 Majandra Rodriguez Acha 105116 at https://www.opendemocracy.net