50.50 https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/5971/all cached version 20/07/2018 09:51:07 en Can a male-dominated legal industry achieve meaningful reforms for women? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/elizabeth-mangenje/can-male-dominated-legal-industry-achieve-meaningful-reforms-for-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Despite shocking accounts of harassment and discrimination within their profession, women lawyers in Zimbabwe and beyond are fighting for more gender-sensitive laws.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_7.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_7.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="315" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Chief judges of the Supreme Court, Harare 2017. Photo: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The first woman lawyer in Zimbabwe was admitted to the bar in 1928. But it wasn’t until 1980 that the country had its first woman magistrate – and just this year, the <a href="http://www.chronicle.co.zw/updated-gwaunza-appointed-deputy-chief-justice/">first woman Deputy Chief Justice</a> was sworn in.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Currently, <a href="http://nehandaradio.com/2018/02/05/women-dominate-law-schools/">70%</a> of law students in Zimbabwe are women. Their admissions increased by <a href="http://allafrica.com/stories/201709040101.html">35%</a> from 2013 to 2016. Women’s absence from high-level positions is not, therefore, a question of capability. It’s the direct result of underlying discrimination and harassment in the legal profession.</p><p dir="ltr">Seemingly neutral policies entrench discrimination. Associates receive a low and unregulated ‘base salary’ from their law firms, for example. To make a living and grow professionally, they must surpass a monthly revenue target set by their firm; often referred to as ‘eat what you kill’.</p><p dir="ltr">Starting out, young lawyers rarely have their own clients and must rely on (overwhelmingly male) senior partners for work. Making a sexual harassment complaint can negatively impact chances of finding work.</p><p dir="ltr">Women on maternity leave must rely on their base salary, leaving them far behind in pay and in their careers upon returning to work.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Women’s absence from high-level positions is a direct result of underlying discrimination and harassment in the legal profession.</p><p dir="ltr">These problems are not unique to Zimbabwe. In the UK, a <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/a1688488-211a-11e8-a895-1ba1f72c2c11">survey of 1,000 legal professionals</a> in the top 100 law firms found that 42% of women had experienced workplace sexual harassment or discrimination.</p><p dir="ltr">A similar survey of <a href="https://www.hrmonline.co.nz/news/sexual-harassment-bullying-rife-in-the-law-profession-250570.aspx">3,500 female legal professionals in New Zealand</a> showed that one-third had experienced workplace harassment.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/ending-sexual-harassment-at-work.pdf">Recent research</a> by the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission revealed cases of women lawyers locking themselves in toilets while male colleagues joked about rape – and nasty cross-examinations of rape victims. Such incidents were covered-up by non-disclosure agreements.</p><p dir="ltr">In the US, some law firms went as far as <a href="http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/biglaw_mandatory_arbitration_clauses">using mandatory arbitration clauses</a> to prevent victims of sexual harassment from suing in court.</p><p dir="ltr">Widespread harassment of women has contributed to maintaining the gender imbalance in the legal profession worldwide. In 2017, women made up <a href="http://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/diversity-toolkit/diverse-law-firms.page">48% of the lawyers</a> in UK law firms, but only 33% of their partners. In large firms, women constituted 29% of partners.</p><p dir="ltr">A <a href="http://www.lssa.org.za/?q=con,115,LEAD%20statistics%20on%20the%20profession">survey of large corporate law firms in South Africa</a> revealed a similar picture, despite women constituting 55% of law students in the country. A lack of research in Zimbabwe means that the precise gap between male and female partners in this country remains unknown.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Attempted rape and dismissal for refusing to ‘play along’ are among the profession’s best-kept secrets. </p><p dir="ltr">Formal complaints of harassment to regulating bodies are rarely made in Zimbabwe. Denialists point to this ‘lack of evidence’ to dismiss conversations about harassment and discrimination in the profession.</p><p dir="ltr">In Zimbabwe, attempted rape, being trapped in senior partners’ offices, groping by male colleagues, casual sex proposals and dismissals for refusing to ‘play along’ are the legal profession’s best-kept secrets.</p><p>Regulations against sexual harassment are, on their own, not enough. While seemingly-neutral policies – like the ‘eat what you kill’ system – go unreformed, silence remains the only option.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2_4.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2_4.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Scales of Justice, 2012. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikecogh/8035396680/">Flickr/Michael Coghlan.</a> Some rights reserved. CC BY-SA 2.0.</span></span></span>Yet, these challenges have not halted progress on gender-sensitive legal reform, and in <a href="https://scholarship.law.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.co.zw/&amp;httpsredir=1&amp;article=1011&amp;context=facpub">some contexts, they have even inspired it.</a></p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://time.com/time-person-of-the-year-2017-silence-breakers/">#Metoo</a> movements have sparked important discussions which could lead to <a href="https://www.litigationandtrial.com/2018/01/articles/attorney/sexual-harassment-nda/">policy and legal reforms</a> in sectors including the legal industry in the US and other countries.</p><p dir="ltr">Key milestones have been reached in Zimbabwe including reforms to <a href="https://zimlii.org/zw/journal/2017-msulrj-1/%5Bnode%3Afield_jpubdate%3Acustom%3AY/positive-step-towards-ending-child-marriages">end child marriages</a>, improve access to justice for <a href="https://bulawayo24.com/index-id-news-sc-national-byo-105628.html">women in customary unions</a> and <a href="https://www.voazimbabwe.com/a/zimbabwe-women-welcome-court-ruling-96316384/1467360.html">remove barriers for women to be legal guardians of their children.</a></p><p dir="ltr">Women’s rights advocates <a href="https://mg.co.za/article/2018-05-23-social-justice-organisations-are-not-squeaky-clean-and-we-must-do-better">individually</a> and <a href="http://www.actionaid.org/south-africa/2018/05/press-statement-ngo-feminist-caucus-statement-sexual-harassment">collectively</a> fought for these reforms. Since 1992, the <a href="http://zwla.co.zw/">Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association</a> has been instrumental in assisting women to access justice in family and inheritance law.</p><p dir="ltr">The number of women who own their law firm in Zimbabwe is small but growing, and senior women lawyers are increasingly supporting their younger counterparts.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.zlhr.org.zw/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/LM-Special-Edition-IWD-DP.pdf">Women Law Connect</a>, founded in 2015, is a Facebook platform for women lawyers in Zimbabwe to share opportunities and experiences, find mentors and mentees, <a href="https://www.herald.co.zw/female-lawyers-celebrate-womens-day/">celebrate successes</a> and expose abuse in the workplace.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“The assumption is that women lawyers set the example of fighting against discrimination and harassment.”</p><p dir="ltr">Lawyers are often seen as brave, assertive, warrior-like, ‘gladiators in suits’. The assumption is that women lawyers set the example of fighting against discrimination and harassment.</p><p dir="ltr">The idea of women ‘gladiators in suits’ being oppressed on their own ‘turf’ does not inspire confidence in their ability to influence societal change.</p><p dir="ltr">But history shows us that women have fought for equality in the legal profession, and also for gender-sensitive legal reform, with significant success. The legal profession does not have to be perfect before such reforms and access to justice for women can be achieved.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Zimbabwe </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 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 Zimbabwe Equality Women and the Economy women and power gender women's work Elizabeth Mangenje Thu, 19 Jul 2018 11:49:24 +0000 Elizabeth Mangenje 118932 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How ‘conscientious objectors’ threaten women’s newly-won abortion rights in Latin America https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/diana-cariboni/conscientious-objectors-threaten-abortion-rights-latin-america <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>From Uruguay to Chile, medical staff are refusing to provide abortion services even after their legalisation. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/diana-cariboni/c-mo-los-objetores-de-conciencia-amenazan-los-derechos-sobre-el-abo">Español</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image6.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image6.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A protester at a march for legal abortion in Argentina, 2017. Photo: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Women’s rights to legal abortion have increased in Latin America – but so have campaigns and policies for medical staff to be able to ‘conscientiously object’ and refuse to participate in these procedures.</p><p dir="ltr">“We didn’t see it coming,” said feminist activist Lilián Abracinskas in Uruguay, a secular country where abortion, same-sex marriage and the marijuana market were each legalised in the last decade.</p><p dir="ltr">Abracinskas told 50.50 that many people assumed conscientious objection provisions “would have no impact” on services in the country. “We really never discussed it, and then it became a problem,” she said.</p><p dir="ltr">“Conscientious objection is a serious barrier” to women’s access to services in Chile, where a <a href="http://www.minsal.cl/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/LEY_21030.pdf">2017 law</a> relaxed some restrictions on abortion, added sociologist and sexual and reproductive rights advocate Claudia Dides.</p><p dir="ltr">“There is a strong group of anti-abortion doctors; midwives can’t practice abortions by themselves, so this is an obstacle,” she said.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“We really never discussed it, and then it became a problem.”</p><p dir="ltr">The use of ‘conscientious objection’ arguments is common in both Uruguay and Chile. Available estimates suggest that at least one out of three gynecologists in these countries are objectors, and even more in some areas.</p><p dir="ltr">In several cities and clinics, 50.50 has learned, there are no doctors who do not object, forcing women to travel and some to struggle to access their recently-won rights&nbsp;<span>– hitting the poorest women hardest.&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr">In Argentina, meanwhile, women’s rights advocates fear new efforts to widen the scope of ‘conscientious objection’ if the country passes historic abortion rights reforms, expected this August.</p><p dir="ltr">Ana Cristina González, a Colombian physician and member of the NGO Global Doctors for Choice told 50.50 that the spread of conscientious objection to abortion services is “an attack on gender equality.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image3_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image3_2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>40 Days for Life campaign, 2014. Photo: Flickr/Catholic Diocese of Saginaw. CC BY-ND 2.0. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Conscientious objection emerged as a significant concept in the twentieth century, as one’s right to refuse to serve in the military. Now, it’s increasingly being used to claim exemptions to laws that go against individuals’ beliefs.</p><p dir="ltr">According to a <a href="https://iwhc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/IWHC_CO_Report-Web_single_pg.pdf">study</a> from the International Women’s Health Coalition, there are at least 70 countries or other jurisdictions that recognise conscientious objection in the context of providing abortion care.</p><p dir="ltr">Across Latin America, where several countries are relaxing long-restricted abortion laws, conscientious objection is an increasingly discussed topic in <a href="http://www.senado.gob.mx/sgsp/gaceta/63/3/2018-03-22-1/assets/documentos/Dic_Art.10-Bis_Objecion_Conciencia.pdf">parliaments</a>, <a href="http://derecho.uc.cl/es/noticias/19713-seminario-acompanamiento-y-objecion-de-conciencia%E2%80%A6">colleges</a>, <a href="http://www.filosofia.uchile.cl/u/ImageServlet?idDocumento=133153&amp;indice=0&amp;nocch=20170605093512.0">seminars</a> and <a href="http://www.despenalizaciondelaborto.org.co/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Memorias_Seminario_Objecion_de_Conciencia.pdf">workshops</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Candlelight vigils have been being organised to defend conscientious objectors and protest against abortion clinics including in <a href="http://www.coalicionporlavidacolombia.co/40-dias-por-la-vida-colombia.html">Colombia</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/40diasporlavidamexico/">Mexico</a>, as part of the global anti-choice movement <a href="https://40daysforlife.com/">40 Days for Life</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Internationally, conscientious objection arguments are also becoming more common in countries where abortion has been legal for generations.</p><p dir="ltr">In Italy, where abortion has been legal for 40 years, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claudia-torrisi/abortion-italy-conscientious-objection">as many as 70%</a> of doctors are conscientious objectors (and even more in some regions).</p><p>A bill currently in the UK House of Lords <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/2017-2019/0014/18014.pdf">would allow medical staff to refuse to participate in abortion as well as in pre- and post-abortion care</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_5.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_5.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Abortion rights campaign stickers in, Uruguay 2012. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/ericosmatos/7254756420/">Flickr/Érico Matos</a>. CC BY-SA 2.0. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In Uruguay, a <a href="http://www.mysu.org.uy/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Ley-de-Interrupci%C3%B3n-Voluntaria-del-Embarazo-18.987-promulgada-por-el-Poder-Ejecutivo-2012..pdf">2012</a> law legalised abortion on request within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. But doctors may object to providing these services.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2013, Uruguay’s courts <a href="http://www.mysu.org.uy/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/FALLO-TCA.pdf">ruled</a> that doctors should not be barred from influencing patients’ decisions (though they refused to extend objection rights to staff participating in other pre- and post-abortion care).</p><p dir="ltr">Today, <a href="https://salud.ladiaria.com.uy/articulo/2018/5/a-cinco-anos-de-la-aplicacion-de-la-ley-de-interrupcion-voluntaria-del-embarazo/">local media reports often say that 30%</a> of gynaecologists in the country are conscientious objectors, but the source of this figure is unclear. There are no official registries of objectors.</p><p dir="ltr">In<a href="https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B0Ez0uwDTjslb1FwMjlUS0g5aUpTcW9MWVNUbzZZMkFNTHhR"> response to a public information request </a>earlier this year, the NGO that Abracinskas leads, Women and Health in Uruguay (MYSU), obtained an incomplete list of objection rates at 47 public and private medical institutions.</p><p dir="ltr">According to this document, seen by 50.50, eight institutions reported such rates of 80-100%. Another 14 disclosed those of 50-67%.</p><p dir="ltr">Ana Visconti at the health ministry, who estimates that the nationwide rate for objectors is actually 40%, told 50.50 that providing information on specific cities without abortion services could infringe on doctors’ privacy rights.</p><p dir="ltr">“What matters is that every woman seeking an abortion gets it, even if they have to be transferred to a different city. We make sure of that,” she said.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“What matters is that every woman seeking an abortion gets it.”</p><p dir="ltr">Though women may still struggle to access legal abortions in Uruguay amid conscientious objection combined with other complexities in the law.</p><p dir="ltr">Before receiving abortion pills, a woman must also undergo five days of ‘reflection’ and three separate medical consultations (including one with a three-member gynaecologist, psychologist and social worker team).</p><p dir="ltr">In small towns with high rates of conscientious objectors, or without the required professionals for these required consultations, women may need to travel up to three times to go through the necessary steps.</p><p dir="ltr">Francisco Coppola, associate professor of gynaecology at the University of the Republic’s School of Medicine, told 50.50 that some conscientious objectors will refer patients to other doctors who do not object.</p><p dir="ltr">“They are not hindering the law and we protect them,” he said. But, Coppola added, there are others who “misuse” objection provisions and “instead of informing and helping [a patient], they just tell her: ‘what you do is killing.’”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image5_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image5_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>March for legal, safe and free abortion in Argentina, 2017. Photo:<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/emergentecomunicacion/37151075870/in/album-72157687382285753/">Flickr/Fotografías Emergentes.</a> CC BY-NC 2.0. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>In Argentina, abortion is currently restricted to cases such as rape or if the woman’s life or health is at risk – though a historic bill to change this and widen abortion rights is currently before Congress.</p><p>Soledad Deza, a lawyer and member of Catholics for Choice previously represented Belén, a young woman who presented at an emergency room in 2014 with serious vaginal bleeding due to a miscarriage.</p><p>Accused of having had an illegal abortion, charged with aggravated murder and sentenced to eight years in prison, Belén was exonerated and released in 2017 after more than two years behind bars.</p><p>Deza has been a prominent campaigner for the bill to legalise abortion in Argentina which passed the House of Representatives in June and is now pending approval in the Senate, expected to vote on it in August.</p><p>She said conscientious objection also came up in this bill’s debates and that it was included in its text as a “key bargaining chip” for conservatives. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">A “key bargaining chip” for conservatives.</p><p dir="ltr">Already, conscientious objection is recognised in Argentina in sterilisation, contraception and (currently severely-restricted) abortion procedures.</p><p dir="ltr">Due to widespread use of such objections, only two of five public hospitals in Tucumán province can guarantee provision of the few abortions presently permitted by law, according to a public information request Deza submitted.</p><p dir="ltr">Though <a href="http://www.clacaidigital.info:8080/xmlui/bitstream/handle/123456789/1106/CDD%20Formaci%C3%B3n%2011%20-%20Monitorio%20social%20Tucum%C3%A1n.pdf?sequence=2&amp;isAllowed=y">no objectors were reported at private clinics</a> in the province – even if the same doctors may work at both public and private facilities. “That’s a double standard” against poor women, said Deza.</p><p dir="ltr">Catholics for Choice <a href="http://catolicas.org.ar/informe-acceso-interrupciones-legales-embarazos/">found the same thing</a> in Jujuy, Salta, and Entre Ríos provinces and in Buenos Aires: significant numbers of conscientious objectors reported at public hospitals, but none at private clinics.</p><p dir="ltr">Currently, there are <a href="http://www.msal.gob.ar/images/stories/bes/graficos/0000000875cnt-protocolo_ile_octubre%202016.pdf">limits</a> on what doctors can refuse to do. They cannot, for example, refuse to provide information on abortion and objectors are also required to perform abortions when other non-objector staff are not available. </p><p dir="ltr">Such limits, Deza’s concerned, could soon be challenged.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image4.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image4.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Outside the constitutional court awaiting the Abortion Bill ruling, Chile 2017. Photo: PA Images/Luis Vargas via ZUMA Wire. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In neighbouring Chile, a <a href="http://www.minsal.cl/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/LEY_21030.pdf">2017 law</a> relaxed restrictions on abortions in cases of rape, where a woman’s life is at risk, or the fetus is not viable. Previously abortion had been banned in all circumstances, since 1989.</p><p dir="ltr">Chile’s law also recognises conscientious objection rights of gynaecologists and other health staff. The constitutional court <a href="https://www.tribunalconstitucional.cl/descargar_sentencia.php?id=3515">further ruled</a> that these rights should apply to private health facilities on an institutional level.</p><p dir="ltr">According to <a href="http://www.minsal.cl/funcionarios-objetores-de-conciencia-por-servicio-de-salud/">figures published</a> in June, an average of 47% of public health gynaecologists in 33 Chilean cities are conscientious objectors. In 16 cities, these rates go beyond 50%. In seven, they range from 70% to 100%.</p><p dir="ltr">Other figures don’t add up – and suggest that clandestine abortions are still happening, despite legal reforms.</p><p dir="ltr">According to official statistics, only <a href="http://www.minsal.cl/ive-reporte-mensual-actualizado-al-18-de-junio-de-2018/">309 legal abortions </a>were performed in Chile since the law was approved, whereas <a href="https://scielo.conicyt.cl/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&amp;pid=S0717-75262016000600014">previous estimates</a> of clandestine abortions ranged from 19,000 to 160,000 a year.</p><p dir="ltr">The gap is also large in Uruguay with <a href="http://www.msp.gub.uy/sites/default/files/presentaci%C3%B3n%20IVE%202013%202017.pdf">9,830 legal abortions in 2017</a> and previous <a href="https://www.academia.edu/1558987/Condena_tolerancia_y_negaci%C3%B3n._Situaci%C3%B3n_del_aborto_en_Uruguay">estimates</a> of 16,000 to 33,000 clandestine procedures a year.</p><p dir="ltr">Visconti at Uruguay’s health ministry said these estimates were never correct. But Abracinskas, at the NGO MYSU, said current statistics fail to capture the full picture too as they only reflect abortions performed by medical staff.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2016, a 21-year old woman <a href="https://www.elobservador.com.uy/justicia-investiga-muerte-joven-21-anos-aborto-clandestino-n871429">died</a> in Uruguay after an illicit abortion at 19 weeks. In 2015, a woman was sent to prison for <a href="https://www.elpais.com.uy/informacion/maldonado-mujeres-prision-aborto-ilegal.html">having an illegal abortion</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">For women’s rights advocates the threat is clear: conscientious objection, popularised by pacifists as a moral argument against going to war, is putting at risk women’s access to much-needed services.</p><p dir="ltr">Here, Deza says, the potential result “is not a state losing a soldier – it’s a woman losing her right to access safe, legal healthcare.”</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Argentina </div> <div class="field-item even"> Uruguay </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Chile </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 class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Chile Uruguay Argentina Civil society Equality International politics Tracking the backlash women's human rights women's health bodily autonomy Diana Cariboni Wed, 18 Jul 2018 08:53:51 +0000 Diana Cariboni 118876 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Video: Trump's anti-immigrant policies aren’t all that different from our own https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nandini-archer/video-trump-anti-immigrant-policies-arent-that-different-from-our-own <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The state-sanctioned backlash against migrant rights is transatlantic. At a protest against Trump in London, we asked people about the parallels between US and UK policies.</p> </div> </div> </div> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fopendemocracy5050%2Fvideos%2F1972910316074431%2F&amp;show_text=0&amp;width=476" width="460" height="460" style="border: none; overflow: hidden;" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" allowfullscreen="true"></iframe> <p>On Friday 13 July, 250,000 people with vibrant banners and costumes marched through central London to send a message to Donald Trump: that the US President, currently on an official visit to the UK, is not welcome here.</p><p dir="ltr">Among other targets, many marched against racism, xenophobia, and the anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies that have marked Trump’s presidency. We asked some about the parallels with anti-immigrant politics in UK.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The worst thing is that every time you look to America smugly and think, shaking your head, that’s just terrible, the same stuff is going on here,” said one of the demonstrators.</p> <p dir="ltr">Trump’s 2016 election campaign included the promise to build a wall along the border with Mexico. His 2017 ‘Muslim ban,’ barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US, led to the immediate detention of<a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1536504218766549#_i3"> 700 travellers and the withdrawal of 60,000 visas</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Recently, it surfaced that more than <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/20/us/politics/trump-immigration-children-executive-order.html">2,300 parents and children</a> have been separated from each other by US authorities at the US-Mexico border. Heartbreaking images of families torn apart and migrant children detained have been seen around the world.</p><p dir="ltr">These measures have sparked global outrage. But the UK government’s own track-record for brutal anti-immigrant policies is not so different – and it predates Trump’s presidency.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"The UK government’s own track-record for brutal anti-immigrant policies is not so different – and it predates Trump’s presidency."</p><p dir="ltr">In 2010, then Home Secretary (and current Prime Minister) Theresa May said the goal was “to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants.”</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/26/theresa-may-go-home-vans-operation-vaken-ukip">Home Office vans</a> have driven around neighbourhoods carrying the intimidating message: 'Go home or face arrest’. The 2014 Immigration Act required the NHS, charities, banks and landlords to<a href="https://www.globaljustice.org.uk/sites/default/files/files/resources/hostile_environment_briefing_feb_2018.pdf"> carry-out ID checks</a>, turning ordinary people into proxy border patrol.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/image2_1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/image2_1.png" alt="Protesters outside Yarl’s Wood detention centre, Bedfordshire 2015." title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protesters outside Yarl’s Wood detention centre, Bedfordshire 2015. Photo: Flickr/iDJ Photography. Some rights reserved. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.</span></span></span>Like the<a href="http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/491/"> US</a>, the<a href="https://fullfact.org/immigration/uk-refugees/"> UK denies around half</a> of all asylum applications. The UK is also the only country in the EU that detains migrants indefinitely. Earlier this year, prison inspectors found that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/13/home-office-keeping-torture-victims-in-detention-inspectors-report">torture survivors</a> are among those being held in a privately-run detention centre near Heathrow.</p> <p dir="ltr">Around<a href="http://www.thebromleytrust.org.uk/files/wrw_iamhuman.pdf"> 70% of women</a> in the Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre have experienced sexual violence in their home country, while<a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/yarls-wood-banner-alleging-sexual-impropriety-by-guards-hung-from-inside-centre-a6929071.html"> countless cases have emerged of sexual abuse</a> within the detention centre at the hands of private security guards.</p><p dir="ltr">“The UK government also separates parents from their children for the purpose of immigration control by sending the parent into immigration detention,” said Celia Clarke, director of the charity <a href="https://metro.co.uk/2018/06/21/children-separated-parents-uk-just-like-trumps-america-7649416/?ito=cbshare">Bail for Immigration Detainees</a>, which advises parents in around 170 such cases a year.</p><p dir="ltr">This state-sanctioned backlash against migrant rights is transatlantic. </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/why-women-march-sees-trump-uk-visit-as-glorious-opportunity">Why the Women’s March sees Trump’s UK visit as ‘a glorious opportunity’</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> 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 Can Europe make it? Equality International politics Video gendered migration young feminists Adam Bychawski Rocío Ros Rebollo Nandini Archer Sun, 15 Jul 2018 11:55:17 +0000 Nandini Archer, Rocío Ros Rebollo and Adam Bychawski 118868 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why the Women’s March sees Trump’s UK visit as ‘a glorious opportunity’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sian-norris/why-women-march-sees-trump-uk-visit-as-glorious-opportunity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Thousands plan to march in London on Friday and also raise awareness of impacts of government policies on vulnerable women in the UK.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 11.20.56.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 11.20.56.png" alt="The Women’s March in London in 2017. Photo: Sian Norris." 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 Women’s March in London in 2017. Photo: Sian Norris.</span></span></span>Thousands of women are expected to march in London this Friday 13 July to protest an official visit by US President <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/donald-trump-uk-visit-melania-queen-theresa-may-nato-windsor-castle-scotland-a8426831.html">Donald Trump</a> who has overseen numerous attacks on women’s rights in America and internationally. </p><p dir="ltr">His visit follows several delays and calls for its cancellation from political figures including <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/05/donald-trump-attack-courts-travel-ban-london">Sadiq Khan</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jun/22/uk-should-cancel-donald-trump-visit-says-jeremy-corbyn">Jeremy Corbyn</a>. His UK itinerary includes meeting with the Queen and visiting his golf course in Scotland (he’s <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jul/06/donald-trump-to-avoid-london-during-uk-visit">conspicuously not visiting London itself</a>, apart from a brief overnight stay).</p><p dir="ltr">Trump’s trip is also ‘a glorious opportunity,’ according to Emma, one of the organisers of this week’s Women’s March London, “for thousands of people to come together in solidarity, across all areas of social struggle.”</p><p dir="ltr">Following the president’s arrival in the UK this Thursday, the Women’s March promises to ‘<a href="https://www.womensmarchlondon.com/bring-the-noise/">bring the noise</a>’ with pots and pans and demands across a range of social justice issues. It isn’t aimed “directly against Trump,” says Emma.</p><p dir="ltr">“The forces of exploitation and domination on race, class, gender… that he represents are international,” she said. “But he obviously has been pursuing policies that are discriminatory across the board.”</p><p dir="ltr">33-year-old Kayleigh Reed is travelling from Bristol to attend the protest. She is marching “to give my voice and support to other women.”</p><p dir="ltr">Having attended the 2017 Women’s March in London, she hopes that it could be “an essential antidote for the outrageous and dangerous sexism experienced in life, and normalised in politics and the 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/563303/Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 11.21.27.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 11.21.27.png" alt="The Women’s March in London in 2017. Photo: Sian Norris." title="" width="460" height="341" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Women’s March in London in 2017. Photo: Sian Norris.</span></span></span>On 21 January 2017, after Trump’s inauguration as president, millions of people joined Women’s March protests internationally against him and the perceived impact of his politics to women’s, migrants’ and minorities’ rights.</p><p dir="ltr">The march in Washington DC was meant to “<a href="https://www.npr.org/2016/12/21/506299560/womens-march-on-washington-aims-to-be-more-than-protest-but-will-it?t=1530885832341">send a bold message</a> to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights,” according to its organisers.</p><p dir="ltr">Two days later, Trump signed a ‘<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/23/trump-abortion-gag-rule-international-ngo-funding">global gag rule</a>’ order denying US aid to international NGOs if they provide abortion services or information. Healthcare workers are already saying that this order has had a ‘<a href="http://time.com/5115887/donald-trump-global-gag-rule-women/">disastrous effect</a>,’ with clinics closing down and unsafe abortions predicted to rise.</p><p dir="ltr">More recently, reproductive rights advocates in the US have warned that the landmark Roe vs Wade case which legalised abortion could be <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2018/07/02/trump-makes-clear-roe-v-wade-is-on-the-chopping-block/?noredirect=on&amp;utm_term=.730a1be77450">overturned</a> by Trump’s next supreme court appointment, expected later this year.</p><p dir="ltr">LGBTQ rights have also come under attack since Trump’s inauguration, with a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/mar/23/donald-trump-transgender-military-ban-white-house-memo">ban on trans people in the military</a>, and the <a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/19/trump-lgbt-rights-discrimination-353774">rolling back of regulations </a>designed to protect LGBTQ workers.</p><p dir="ltr">Mara Clarke, from the <a href="https://www.asn.org.uk/">Abortion Support Network</a>, will be speaking at the march which she sees as a chance for rights campaigners to show “strength in numbers” and “be surrounded by people who feel the same way we do.”</p><p dir="ltr">“The longer I do this work, supporting women in need of abortions to access reproductive health care, the more I find sustenance from being in crowds of righteous people who are hungry for, and are working towards, change.”</p><p dir="ltr">Like Emma, for Clarke the point of the march goes beyond protesting Trump’s visit to raise the wider issue of “women’s and pregnant people’s reproductive rights in America, Poland, Malta, San Marino, Northern Ireland” and everywhere else where abortion is denied or under threat. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_4.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_4.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Poland women's nationwide strike - abortion law proposal. Krakow, 2016. Photo: PA Images/Artur Widak/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Alongside Clarke, other speakers at the march include representatives of refugee rights organisations and Muslim women’s rights groups, and campaigners against female genital mutilation and all forms of violence against women and girls.</p><p dir="ltr">The diverse line-up reflects the march’s commitment to intersectional justice, which “is at the heart of everything we do,” Emma says. “We want to create a non-hierarchical, collective space where anyone can step up and be heard.”</p><p dir="ltr">This approach contrasts sharply with Trump’s policies that target the most vulnerable and marginalised in society.</p><p dir="ltr">Recently, Trump’s policies towards migrant families crossing into the US – which include parents being separated from their children who are then kept in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jun/17/separation-border-children-cages-south-texas-warehouse-holding-facility">cages</a> – made international news.</p><p dir="ltr">Amid such polarising and exclusionary politics, Samantha Hudson from the organisation <a href="http://www.refugeewomen.co.uk/">Women for Refugee Women</a> says this week’s march is a chance to “build hope, strength and momentum, to enable all women to live safely.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Together we’ll create a mass display of love and human warmth as a powerful protest against dehumanising practices,” she said. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2_1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2_1.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protesters outside Yarl’s Wood detention centre, Bedfordshire 2015. Photo:<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/idarrenj/20442455031/in/photolist-x9qVFe-x8TMyi-x9pBSk-wRf16j-x89iFh-wRfz9b-wRi9Uo-wbRWPf-wbZVGi-wRhk8o-x8UUpa-wRhiGf-x891vq-wRhmo7-wRqc1p-x9qLCV-x88n2N-wRnfGi-x9puAg-x6xDCS-wRnp1H-x8UAHt-x8TkuV-x8SBbX-x9rssK-wbSoEJ-wRfnWo-x9rm5K-x9rvPK-wRnEkR-wbQWmd-wbRp7h-x9so3k-x8SHet-wbT2L7-wRgaNb-wbSf9W-wRoy3Z-wRnRp4-wc3seX-wc2Ztc-wbTHgQ-wRfwdU-UjD5im-ERg2wS-wRhSdh-x89wU1-wRfR8Y-x88NLy-x6xaJW"> Flickr/iDJ Photography.</a> Some rights reserved. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. </span></span></span>Marchers are also hoping to raise awareness of the impacts of government policies on vulnerable women in the UK.</p><p dir="ltr">Women for Refugee Women have long campaigned to close the <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-43204473">notorious Yarl’s Wood</a> detention centre, where women asylum seekers and migrants are held while appealing a failed asylum claim, or awaiting deportation.</p><p dir="ltr">“It’s now time,” says Hudson, “to listen to and believe women who are at the sharp end of struggles for justice.” She said: “Refugee women are ready to have their voices heard, and stand up for all women’s rights.”</p><p dir="ltr">One of those women is Sandra, a 36-year-old refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who is marching on Friday.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">She decided that she “must be there because I am a woman.” She told me: “Trump doesn’t respect women at all. But if all women stand together and defend their rights, we will be stronger.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/moana-genevey/how-womens-march-defied-trump-populism">How the Women’s March defied Trump’s populism </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 UK Civil society Equality women's movements women's human rights women and power sexual identities gendered migration feminism young feminists Sian Norris Wed, 11 Jul 2018 08:44:03 +0000 Sian Norris 118791 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Will robots take care of grandma? Maybe, if she's rich https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/moriah-mcarthur/will-robots-take-care-of-grandma-maybe-if-shes-rich <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Some are heralding new technologies as the key to managing the so-called ‘silver tsunami.’ But there are significant privacy, labour and equality concerns.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2(1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="342" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A robot at the 2018 Elderly Care fair in Germany. Photo: Julian Stratenschulte/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Across suburban America, cheerful advertisements and roadside billboards market idyllic retirement communities and state-of-the-art facilities where grandma can live out her last days in comfort and peace. In Japan, adorable <a href="http://www.parorobots.com/">robotic seals</a> are sold as companions for lonely seniors. A recent <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ln9dGdIxTCE">Amazon ad</a> shows grandma overcome with emotion, video-chatting with distant relatives.</p><p dir="ltr">With the world’s <a href="http://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/ageing/">population ageing at an unprecedented rate</a>, the message seems clear: the elders are coming, and so are opportunities to profit from them. Though, of course, the realities of ageing and elder care are more complex than such upbeat images would suggest. Many families simply cannot afford the assistance their loved ones need to age with dignity.</p><p dir="ltr">At home, the burden of unpaid care work falls <a href="https://www.caregiver.org/women-and-caregiving-facts-and-figures">disproportionately on women</a>&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;who are also overrepresented in paid care jobs, which tend to be low-wage and part-time with <a href="https://phinational.org/survey-home-care-worker-turnover-topped-60-percent-in-2014/">high turnover rates</a>. Without sufficient support, elders may struggle even more with physical and cognitive decline and reduced autonomy. </p><p dir="ltr">How to manage the so-called ‘silver tsunami’ is thus a huge contemporary social and economic conundrum. For some, the answer lies in the application of new technologies&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;from artificial intelligence to <a href="https://www.citylab.com/solutions/2016/12/to-help-residents-with-dementia-one-japanese-city-has-a-high-tech-fix/511343/">GPS trackers</a>. But rosy visions of how new technologies will end isolation in old age, ease burdens on caregivers, and improve quality of life, must be treated with appropriate caution.</p><p dir="ltr">There are significant privacy, labour and equality concerns with this approach that can’t be blindly accepted as the price of modernity.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="329" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A stuffed robot seal on the table at a care home for dementia patients. Photo: David Hecker/DPA/PA Images.</span></span></span><a href="https://iwpr.org/get-involved/events/will-robots-take-care-grandma-technology-elder-care-improving-quality-jobs-elder-care-workforce/">“Will the robots take care of grandma?”</a> was the subject of a recent Washington DC discussion at the AFL-CIO trade union headquarters where speakers discussed how assistive technologies (think smart devices) rather than automation (robots) could improve care for both elders and care workers.</p><p dir="ltr">But, they noted, care workers’ salaries, hours and benefits must also advance in order for the benefits of new technologies to be fully realised.</p><p dir="ltr">This is a crucial point. Care work is often considered ‘low-skilled’ with these jobs paying less and providing fewer hours and benefits than <a href="https://academic.oup.com/ppar/article-abstract/27/3/88/4085586">other low-wage employment</a>&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;and it’s far from a foregone conclusion that technological advances will mean <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/dec/08/could-automation-make-life-worse-for-women">better wages and working conditions</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">New innovations could make difficult and undervalued care work jobs easier and more desirable&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;for those who can access them. New tools could ease physical demands on care workers (who may frequently have to lift clients) and greater tech literacy requirements could make these jobs more prestigious.</p><p dir="ltr">Increased automation has been linked to <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_FOJ_Executive_Summary_GenderGap.pdf">job losses</a> in other sectors like clerical work that are also dominated by women. But it seems unlikely to make home health aides or nursing assistants obsolete in the fast-growing US elder care industry, set to expand further as baby boomers retire.</p><p dir="ltr">More vulnerable workers, in terms of their education and skills, may not be able to keep up with new innovations, however. Increasing emphasis on care workers’ tech competency cannot be allowed to undercut the value of so-called ‘soft skills’ (such as compassion, patience, or communication). </p><p class="mag-quote-center">It’s far from a foregone conclusion that technological advances will mean better wages and working conditions in this field.</p><p dir="ltr">There are other reasons for concern too. New technologies may require or allow care workers’ movements to be easily recorded or tracked, for instance. This could improve efficiency and safety at work, but what about privacy rights?</p><p dir="ltr">Across the US, undocumented immigrants are among those working in the care industry. What if routine tasks, such as reporting client updates remotely, require workers’ fingerprints as logins? Could such innovations produce new potentially <a href="https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/12/protecting-immigrants-high-tech-surveillance-2017-review">mineable datasets</a> for immigration enforcement?</p><p dir="ltr">There are further risks of widening inequalities among elders, and quality of life in old age, depending on different abilities to afford or access new innovations.</p><p dir="ltr">We’ve seen this before. Unequal access to technology has widened gaps between students at <a href="http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/02/28/how-teachers-are-using-technology-at-home-and-in-their-classrooms/">schools</a>, for example. Digital divides between <a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/03/22/digital-divide-persists-even-as-lower-income-americans-make-gains-in-tech-adoption/">high and low income</a>, <a href="https://www.ntia.doc.gov/blog/2016/state-urbanrural-digital-divide">rural and urban communities</a> are already significant and are now widely recognised as significant barriers to equal education and work opportunities. </p><p id="docs-internal-guid-93d8061c-70db-6f53-bd57-34c72de1ed23" dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">There are further risks of widening inequalities among elders, and quality of life in old age.</span></p><p dir="ltr">A core promise of technology evangelists is that new tools can support elders to have greater independence and longer or happier lives. But we must proceed with caution whenever new technologies are brought into intimate spaces.</p><p dir="ltr">Sure, voice control and hands-free devices can make some daily activities easier. But elders have been targets of <a href="https://cybersecurity.wa.gov/seniors-a-growing-target-for-hackers-44ccb66e47e4">scams and hackers</a>. New technologies may collect huge amounts of detailed, personal data which can enable attacks. Devices have also captured and shared information with others <a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-amazon-echo-alexa-20180524-story.html">by mistake</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">All cultures have traditions that honour and revere their elders and caring for them is our moral imperative. Robots can’t solve innately social problems. We must invest in the women and immigrants already doing this work&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;and ensure the privacy and protection of vulnerable populations.</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 Transformation women's work Moriah McArthur Mon, 09 Jul 2018 07:02:11 +0000 Moriah McArthur 118679 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How Pamplona is fighting sexual violence during the running of the bulls – and beyond https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/roc-o-ros-rebollo/how-pamplona-is-fighting-sexual-violence-during-running-of-bulls <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The San Fermín festival has become known for reports of sexual violence. But local officials say it’s a good thing that more women are disclosing attacks. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/roc-o-ros-rebollo/pamplona-lucha-contra-la-violencia-sexual-en-sanfermines" target="_self">Español</a></em></strong>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/Sanferminak_txupinazoa_0001.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/Sanferminak_txupinazoa_0001.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A woman holds the traditional red scarf during the chupinazo in Pamplona. Photo:<a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sanferminak_txupinazoa_0001.jpg">Viajar24h.com.</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0</a> </span></span></span>The San Fermín festival – and the city of Pamplona, Spain – is known internationally for the running of the bulls and the festival’s ‘no-rules’ party atmosphere. In recent years, its hedonistic reputation has darkened amid rising reports of sexual abuse.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2013, <a href="https://elpais.com/elpais/2013/07/12/mujeres/1373620306_137362.html">pictures</a> surfaced and were shared around the world of women surrounded by men touching their breasts at the festival’s opening <a href="http://www.sanferminofficial.com/en/moments/el-chupinazo">chupinazo</a> party. Since 2015, the local government has received dozens of reports of harassment at the annual event.</p><p dir="ltr">Though local officials say that the growing number of such reports is a good thing – and a sign of a ‘paradigm shift’ that has made society less tolerant of sexual violence and has enabled more women to come forward and disclose attacks.</p><p dir="ltr">“Before almost nobody dared to report [incidents],” said Tere Sáez, a key figure in Pamplona’s feminist movement and a parlamentary in the Navarra region. “It was something hidden,” she said, while now “there is no tolerance of sexual violence.”</p><p dir="ltr">Laura Berro, Pamplona’s city councillor for equality, also attributes rising numbers of sexual violence incident reports to years of awareness-raising work and institutional collaboration with feminist groups that has produced a societal “paradigm shift.”</p><p dir="ltr">“This social change is what makes easier for a woman to report,” said Berro, who also stresses that such violence “is not a San Fermín thing.” The difference in Pamplona, she says, is “we are exposing it. And that is what makes our city safer.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">‘Exposing sexual violence is what makes our city safer.’</p><p dir="ltr">The San Fermin festival is attended by <a href="http://sanferminofficiel.com/es/noticias/balance-sanfermines-2017">1.5 million people</a> each July – including hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists.</p><p dir="ltr">Last year, there were <a href="http://www.sanferminofficial.com/en/news/mas-de-1-45-millones-de-personas-participaron-en-los-425-actos-programados-en-unos-sanfermines-2017-donde-las-denuncias-han-descendido-en-un-15">two reports</a> at the festival of what the Spanish penal code calls “sexual aggression” such as rape or other sexual activity without consent and including violence – fewer than in 2015 (four reports) and 2016 (five).</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile there have been significant increases in reports of ‘minor incidents’ of harassment or abuse including touching without consent. There were 39 such reports registered by the city during the festival last year, and 43 in 2016 (versus 25 in 2015).</p><p dir="ltr">San Fermin is not the only global mega-festival to be marred by recent reports of sexual violence. This year’s three-day, 50,000-people Bråvalla music festival in Sweden <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/03/swedens-bravalla-music-festival-cancelled-next-year-after-sex-attacks">was canceled</a> after four rapes and 23 sexual assaults were reported in 2017.</p><p dir="ltr">Though the number of reports does not necessarily equal the number of incidents. There may be more reports of violence in places where people are more aware of their rights, for instance, as a EU Agency for Fundamental Rights <a href="http://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2014/violence-against-women-eu-wide-survey-main-results-report">report</a> explains.</p><p dir="ltr">Rather than being a particularly dangerous place for women, Sáez says that Pamplona may be “much more active” than other cities in exposing and confronting abuse.</p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="https://elpais.com/diario/2008/07/13/espana/1215900018_850215.html">2008</a> murder of Nagore Laffage – a 20 year old woman who was raped and killed by a fellow student during San Fermin “was a turning point,” she told me. “The whole population joined to reflect on this subject, propose measures, and respond.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“The whole population joined to reflect on this subject, propose measures, and respond.”</p><p dir="ltr">Since 2014, local and regional government officials began to work together more closely with feminist groups, producing Spain’s first <a href="http://www.navarra.es/NR/rdonlyres/C4809194-6312-455C-AA07-07F9394B3522/173658/PartesegundaProtocolo1.pdf">protocol of action against gender violence</a>, now used at all mass events in Navarra and as an example for other cities.</p><p dir="ltr">This protocol details how different authorities must act when women report attacks, from security forces to medical and legal professionals, with the aim to provide complete and coordinated assistance to those who come forward.</p><p dir="ltr">Pamplona now has year-round efforts to tackle gender violence along with a special team including members of feminist groups focused on San Fermin specifically.</p><p dir="ltr">Since 2015, Pamplona has reinforced the festival’s security measures, installed 200 surveillance cameras, and distributed guides on how to support victims of violence.</p><p dir="ltr">The city also installed a stand in its main square, where women can report sexual attacks during the festival including abuse, harassment and other incidents like insults.</p><p dir="ltr">Ahead of this year’s events, earlier this week the city launched a <a href="http://www.pamplona.es/verpagina.asp?idpag=NT8001267&amp;Idioma=1">free mobile app</a> that enables women to live-report attacks to the police.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/41695526512_52917a02d0_o.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/41695526512_52917a02d0_o.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women demonstrate in Madrid against the initial sentence of “La Manada” case, April 2018. Photo:<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/pulk_mria/41695526512">María Navarro Sorolla/Flickr.</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">CC-BY-NC-2.0</a></span></span></span>Women must be supported to report attacks as this is the necessary first step to bringing alleged assailants to justice, says Berro.</p><p dir="ltr">Referencing the infamous ‘La Manada’ case in which a then 18-year old girl was attacked by a group of men at the 2016 festival, Berro said: “If she had decided not to report it, the security forces wouldn’t have known what happened.”</p><p dir="ltr">Though securing justice in such cases may be another matter.</p><p dir="ltr">This April, five men in the La Manada case received an initial sentence of <a href="https://elpais.com/elpais/2018/04/26/inenglish/1524730809_875632.html">nine years in prison for sexual abuse</a> – though they have been released from detention as this preliminary judgement is reviewed by the courts.</p><p dir="ltr">Feminists across Spain have protested their release along with the jury’s verdict, which cleared the men of rape charges amid what the jury said was insufficient evidence of violence or intimidation (despite the the girl having been outnumbered five to one).</p><p dir="ltr">For Sáez, there are problems within the Spanish penal code, which she says insufficiently addresses sexual violence and leaves too much to judges’ interpretation. “We also have to give gender equality training to all the judges,” she told me.</p><p dir="ltr">Last week, some Spanish feminists called on women on social media <a href="https://www.elespanol.com/reportajes/20180622/ninguna-deberia-san-fermin-polemica-campana-feminista/316968862_0.html">not to attend this year’s San Fermín festival</a> or <a href="http://www.europapress.es/epsocial/igualdad/noticia-difunden-redes-propuesta-vestir-camiseta-negra-chupinazo-sanfermines-repulsa-manada-20180702141711.html">to wear a black shirt</a> in protest over the La Manada case.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">But <a href="https://politica.elpais.com/politica/2018/07/03/actualidad/1530629951_861108.html">feminists in Pamplona</a> believe the opposite is needed. “Now more than ever we must occupy the streets,” Berro, the Pamplona city councillor, said. “It has cost a lot to get this public space and we can’t renounce it.”</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 violence against women Sexual violence gender justice Rocío Ros Rebollo Fri, 06 Jul 2018 12:19:39 +0000 Rocío Ros Rebollo 118738 at https://www.opendemocracy.net When will a woman lead Zimbabwe? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sally-nyakanyanga/when-will-a-woman-reign-over-zimbabwe <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Despite repeated pledges to promote gender parity in politics, women are dramatically underrepresented among candidates for July's elections.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image3_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image3_0.png" alt="lead lead " title="" width="460" height="326" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>People cheer during a demonstration demanding the resignation of former president Robert Mugabe in November 2017, Harare. Photo: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images.</span></span></span>Ten years ago, Jennifer Chirenda decided to run against her husband in local council elections in the rural district of Murewa, fewer than 150 km from Zimbabwe’s capital city Harare. </p><p dir="ltr">“l stood against my husband in the council election after realising that women were carrying a heavy load in our community. As such, they needed someone like me,” Chirenda told me, energetically.</p><p dir="ltr">Now 70 years old, she said her husband immediately divorced her for challenging him in the elections – a bold move for Chirenda, who lacked formal qualifications or resources but held firmly to her convictions and won the vote. </p><p dir="ltr">For the last decade, she’s represented and fought to support her community, challenging the still widely-ingrained belief that only men can lead. Today, she is one of several women politicians who didn't make it through parties’ primaries and won’t be standing in this month's elections (30 July). </p><p dir="ltr">“The biggest barrier” to gender parity in the country, Chirenda said at a recent <a href="http://wlsazim.co.zw/">Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) Zimbabwe </a>event, “are people at the top who continue to impose their candidates” and “undermine women’s efforts to take up leadership positions.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_3.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_3.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jennifer Chirenda at the WLSA Zimbabwe event in Harare. Photo: Sally Nyakanyanga.</span></span></span>Movements for gender equality internationally gained new visibility in the mid-1990s when close to 200 countries adopted the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/pdf/BDPfA%20E.pdf">Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action</a>, including Zimbabwe. It commits governments to the goal of gender-balanced government bodies, including through new targets and measures to increase women’s participation also in political parties.</p><p dir="ltr">Almost 25 years later, equality remains an uphill struggle around the world. According to Zimbabwe’s electoral commission, <a href="http://www.zec.gov.zw/downloads/file/700-provincial-statistics-by-constituency-as-at-08-05-2">more registered voters are women</a>. This is not the case for elected representatives, however.</p><p dir="ltr">Currently there are <a href="http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN01250/SN01250.pdf">88 women in Zimbabwe’s parliament</a> and 182 men. Women hold a higher share (33%) of seats here than in many other countries, but this is thanks to a provision in Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution which reserves 60 seats for women – and this quota is temporary, expiring in 2023. In local governments, there are only <a href="http://www.zimstat.co.zw/sites/default/files/img/Women_and_Men_Report_2016%5B1%5D_0.pdf">281 women councillors</a> compared to 1,512 men.</p><p dir="ltr">This month’s elections may produce an even more gender-imbalanced parliament. There are <a href="https://www.thestandard.co.zw/2018/05/14/women-left-cold-party-polls/">only 19 women</a> out of 210 candidates of the ruling party Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF). Women are also dramatically underrepresented among opposition candidates.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"This month’s elections may produce an even more gender-imbalanced parliament."</p><p dir="ltr">Four women have filed papers as presidential candidates, but it’s still a pipe dream that after this election a woman will lead Zimbabwe.</p><p dir="ltr">The ousting of the long-serving former president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, through military intervention in November 2017, rekindled the hopes of many for more equal opportunities and gender parity. Many of the people who marched on 18 November to the state house to oust Mugabe were women.</p><p dir="ltr">Such hopes were quickly dashed by the new administration which has done little to promote parity and appointed only four women to serve in its cabinet. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A young woman addresses the president at a meeting last month. Photo: Sally Nyakanyanga</span></span></span>Section 124 of <a href="http://extwprlegs1.fao.org/docs/pdf/zim127325.pdf">Zimbabwe’s constitution</a> says that 60 reserved seats for women will last “for the life of the first two parliaments.” But section 17, which does not expire, commits the state more broadly to promoting “full gender balance in Zimbabwean society” including in institutions and agencies “at every level.”</p><p dir="ltr">“However, women are still lagging behind,” said Dorcas Makaza-Kanyimo, acting national director for WLSA Zimbabwe. “This is despite women organisations coming up with an election women’s manifesto early this year to ensure political parties adhere to the gender parity agenda.”</p><p dir="ltr">The women’s election manifesto was a brainchild of the Zimbabwe Women Parliamentary Caucus (ZWPC) and women’s organisations across the country. It called for all parties to have 50/50 gender parity in their election candidates, but the small numbers of women running suggest it hasn’t had much impact.</p><p dir="ltr">Sabhina Mangwende, an outgoing Zanu-PF parliamentarian, emphasised the need for women in parliament to “support each other and continue to promote the empowerment of women.” They should also, she added, “dialogue and educate women from the grassroots on human rights and gender equality.”</p><p dir="ltr">Susan Matsunga, the opposition candidate for Mufakose (a high-density area in Harare) said that there is also a “lack of empowerment programs” for women who are entering politics and that this has “a negative impact on women’s representation in decision-making.” Such capacity-building support, she added, is needed across the country on an ongoing basis, not only during election time.</p><p dir="ltr">“Gender parity should begin right from political parties and women leaders on the other side taking the lead to educate and empower their fellow women in their constituencies on the need to demand and claim gender parity in all decision making in the country,” said Makaza-Kanyimo at WLSA Zimbabwe.</p><p dir="ltr">As the election nears, some women (and men) from both ruling and opposition parties, who were not selected as party candidates, will be contesting seats <a href="https://www.theindependent.co.zw/2018/07/01/independent-candidates-expose-fissures-in-parties/">as independents</a>. Chirenda, in Murewa, is not running. Her aspirations to see more women in politics continue, though the road looks long.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 women and power gender justice gender Sally Nyakanyanga Wed, 04 Jul 2018 06:45:01 +0000 Sally Nyakanyanga 118677 at https://www.opendemocracy.net To end violence against women we must tackle patriarchy – and poverty https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/violence-against-women-patriarchy-poverty <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Violence against women is perpetrated in order to sustain patriarchal power relations. Projects to prevent violence, through economic empowerment, must remember this.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="270" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Two young women from the Zindagii Shoista project. Photo: Aziz Sattori.</span></span></span>I first met Farzona a couple of years ago, when she joined a <a href="http://www.whatworks.co.za/">violence prevention project</a> that I have been working on. In her mid-30s at the time, she suffered from severe headaches and anxiety after years of domestic abuse and malnutrition.</p><p dir="ltr">Now, Farzona says she has a full <em>dastarkhan’</em>(table of bread) and never struggles to feed her family. She has her own small bakery business and says that her relationship with her husband is now much better as they are both focused on trying to earn money.</p><p dir="ltr">Farzona is one of many of women whose family life has radically improved thanks to a new international aid-funded programme called <em>Zindagii Shoista</em> (Tajik for ‘living with dignity’) which takes a holistic approach to preventing domestic violence by addressing family relationships and ways to earn money, involving both men and women of different generations.</p><p dir="ltr">Zindagii Shoista was informed by <a href="http://www.whatworks.co.za/documents/publications/75-living-with-dignity-25nov/file">research</a> which revealed the extent of violence and discrimination experienced by many young, married Tajik women at the hands of their husbands and in-laws, often in the context of rural poverty.</p><p dir="ltr">This project was funded by UK aid, but led by civil society groups – the global peace-building organisation <a href="http://www.international-alert.org/">International Alert</a>, and the human rights NGO <a href="https://www.cesvi.eu/">CESVI</a>, alongside their partners in Tajikistan <a href="http://www.international-alert.org/partner/farodis">FARODIS</a> and Women of the Orient.</p><p dir="ltr">The 18-month programme <a href="http://www.whatworks.co.za/resources/film-and-audio/item/421-evidence-based-intervention-to-prevent-violence-against-women-and-girls-in-rural-tajikistan-parvina-gulyamova">showed</a> that when families work together to address gender imbalances at home, and find new ways to make money, it can have a genuine, positive, long-term impact on household earnings, food security, and violence against women.</p><p dir="ltr">Microfinance initiatives, cash transfer programmes and poverty reduction initiatives to end violence against women are not new, and they are not effective in all situations. But family-based projects like this one in Tajikistan achieve surprisingly positive results within relatively short periods of time. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">Through the course of the project, the percentage of women reporting intimate partner violence halved and food insecurity for women reduced by two-thirds.</span></p><p dir="ltr">Through the course of the programme, the percentage of women reporting intimate partner violence halved. Food insecurity for women reduced by two-thirds, and the proportion of women earning money increased fourfold. Meanwhile, reports of depression in women nearly halved and depression in men more than halved.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">This complex family-based programme tackled two critical factors that lead to violence against women and girls: patriarchal social norms and practices, and poverty.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Zindagii Shoista beneficiaries at the spring craft market in Dushanbe. Photo: Rachel Jewkes.</span></span></span>Zindagii Shoistawe’s success was thanks to its careful design, strong foundation of research evidence, and coherent theory of how change happens. It was rooted in gender and power theories, adapted for the Tajik situation, which is one of several contexts in which older women join men in oppressing young women.</p><p dir="ltr">Most projects to prevent violence against women through their economic empowerment have not worked with men to change their violent behaviour.</p><p>Instead, they have focused on strengthening women’s sense of self, providing values clarification and sisterly support. The availability of money as a result of these projects has also reduced conflict in the home – and being able to pay for things has elevated women’s status in the family.</p><p dir="ltr">But, while ‘sisters doing it for themselves’ is an appealing idea, it does not address the fundamental reality that violence against women is perpetrated in order to sustain patriarchal power relations.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">While ‘sisters doing it for themselves’ is an appealing idea, it does not address the fundamental reality that violence against women is perpetrated in order to sustain patriarchal power relations.</p><p dir="ltr">Women’s economic empowerment projects may alter power dynamics family by family, by changing the position of women in the home. But we know little or nothing of the long-term, societal impact of these interventions.</p><p dir="ltr">In a recent South African <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29485746">study</a>, cash transfers (direct payments of money) to teenage girls were shown to delay dating and thus their exposure to potential intimate partner violence.</p><p dir="ltr">But dating is rarely delayed for very long, and it’s hard to know whether the ‘protective effect’ of such projects will be sustained. Projects like this don’t even try to change ideas about gender equality. If this happens, it’s an often untracked side-effect.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">What happens when the cash transfers programme ends? When the microloans company folds or moves to other villages? What happens to the daughters and sons of women in these economic empowerment projects, and whether they experience domestic violence?</p><p dir="ltr">Violence against women is pervasive, but it can end. Projects like Zindagii Shoista, that involve both men and women, are more likely to have the greatest long-term benefit. In Rwanda, the <a href="http://www.whatworks.co.za/about/global-programme/global-programme-projects/item/54-indashyikirwa-agents-of-change-for-gbv-prevention">Indashyikirwa</a> project works with couples to reduce violence in this historically-traumatised population, and has also had impressive, positive results.</p><p dir="ltr">For lasting change, it is best to work with both men and women to prevent violence. We know this from research and experience. But whether this knowledge can be put into practice depends on whether we can garner real political commitment – and whether national governments, and international donors, will come to the table with the substantial investment that is required. </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 violence against women patriarchy gender women's work Rachel Jewkes Wed, 27 Jun 2018 12:02:29 +0000 Rachel Jewkes 118193 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Finding ‘Yo Real’: fighting machismo in Mexico City https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/b-reng-re-sim/finding-yo-real-fighting-machismo-mexico-city <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Machismo is widespread in Mexico. One organisation takes aim at ‘negative masculinities’ with weekly group classes. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/b-reng-re-sim/luchar-contra-el-machismo-en-ciudad-de-m-xico">Español</a></strong></em><em><strong></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p style="text-align: left;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 07.28.19.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Participants in a group class in Mexico City."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 07.28.19.png" alt="Participants in a group class in Mexico City." title="Participants in a group class in Mexico City." width="460" height="262" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Participants in a group class in Mexico City. Photo: Berengere Sim. </span></span></span>In a quiet street tucked away in Roma Sur, in central Mexico City, are the offices of the organisation <a href="gendes.org.mx/index.php/en/">GENDES</a> – short for gender and development. Founded in 2009, for almost a decade it has promoted gender equality in Mexico by fighting machismo and negative masculinities.</p><p dir="ltr">The organisation has done this through research and advocacy but also by creating space for reflection and intervention. Among other things, they run group classes for men. </p><p dir="ltr">Last year, I attended and observed one of these classes, called “Hombres Trabajando(se)”, which roughly translates to “Men working on themselves”, to produce <a href="https://vimeo.com/275967647">a short film</a> about the project for openDemocracy 50.50.</p><p>“I promise to listen and accept the opinions of my partner” and “I promise to create a healthy environment for myself and for others” are two of the 12 promises to maintain healthy relationships that the men repeat each class.</p><h2>Video: Finding ‘Yo Real’</h2><p><iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/275967647?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0" width="460" height="360" frameborder="0"></iframe>The men sit in a circle with two facilitators – Guillermo Mendoza Rivera and Rubén Guzmán López – guiding them through a series of reflection exercises designed to help them connect to their “true self” or “Yo Real”.</p><p dir="ltr">One man says he is 37 and that this is his second class. “My acts of violence were against my mother-in-law and my son. With my son, it was physical violence, and also verbal, with my mother-in-law it was verbal,” he says. </p><p dir="ltr">The men take turns introducing themselves and sharing what kind of violence – physical, sexual, emotional, financial, or verbal – they may have perpetrated that week and whether or not they practiced a “<i>retiro</i>” – an hour long “time-out” to anticipate and avoid violence.</p><p dir="ltr">The second half of the two-hour class focuses on a specific act of violence that one of the men has committed. Members of the class, led by Rubén, help the man unpack the situation and how it became violent. </p><p dir="ltr">Afterwards, Rubén tells me that this part of the class is like breaking down a violent act into “movie scenes.” By pressing pause at various points, the men consider how they could have acted differently.</p><p dir="ltr">During the class I attended, a man said he had recently hit his daughter after she ignored his instructions. It had been a tense evening: they had been waiting for a call from her mother, with whom they hadn’t talked in months. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The men reflected and discussed how problematic social norms allow them to assume roles as punishing fathers when their children ‘disobey’ them. </p><p dir="ltr">Vicente Mendoza, 26, comes to GENDES every week. A friend told him about this place. He says he’s here to take responsibility for violent behaviour against his mother and his partner.</p><p dir="ltr">He told me: “We all exercise violence in one way or another. Identifying it, recognising it, and working on it, well, I think it makes us better people and brings about a better society. It is important that, as men, we work on this, especially in Mexican society where machismo is entrenched from the cradle.”</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">“We all exercise violence in one way or another... in Mexican society, machismo is entrenched from the cradle.”</p><p>Mauro Vargas Uría, one of the founders of GENDES, told me it’s unjust that women face barriers in Mexico because of a certain masculine frame of mind – machismo. He said the goal is to eradicate this and all “violent behaviours and actions against women.”</p><p dir="ltr">I asked Mendoza to define machismo. He called it “a veil that blinds us... that gives [men] super powers, which do not actually exist and that – on the contrary of being super powers – are negative and they have a strong impact.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Far from being constructive,” he said, this can “ruin the lives of other people.” He told me: “That is what machismo does, it puts you in a position of power or authority... it doesn’t matter what happens in the lives of other people, you don’t care, and it has an impact on the other person.”</p><p dir="ltr">Mendoza said being a man in Mexico means privilege but also responsibilities “not to cry, not to express your feelings, and to be the provider,” he said. “These responsibilities that lead you to limit yourself in the exercise of being and make you hard and cold to another person.”</p><p dir="ltr">Rubén has been a facilitator at GENDES since the group’s first classes. He says that fighting machismo “is a process that lasts your whole life” and that men must be “constantly analysing our acts of violence.”</p><p dir="ltr">“The culture that we have is very strong,” he told me, of what they’re up against. “Violence is everywhere, in the media, in religion, in schools, at work, basically everywhere, it is very naturalised.”</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/b-reng-re-sim/mexico-city-abortion-right-to-choose">Mexico City is an island in a sea of anti-abortion states – and the right to choose is threatened here too</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"> Mexico </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"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Mexico Civil society Culture Equality violence against women gender 50.50 newsletter Bérengère Sim Tue, 26 Jun 2018 06:23:08 +0000 Bérengère Sim 115520 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why the world needs a Vagina Museum to combat shame and stigma about women’s sexuality https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/roc-o-ros-rebollo/vagina-museum-to-combat-shame-and-stigma <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Talking about vaginas and vulvas remains taboo – and this can have serious consequences for our health. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/roc-o-ros-rebollo/por-qu-necesitamos-un-museo-de-la-vagina-para-combatir-el-estigma-y-la-verg-enza-e" target="_self">Español.</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/florence exhib.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/florence exhib.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Florence Schechter (a la derecha) en su exposición “¿Es tu vagina normal?”. Fotografía: Magda Wrzeszcz.</span></span></span>Two years ago, the London-based biologist and science communicator Florence Schechter made <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hadJhnDRj4&amp;t=8s">a video</a> about the most "weird animal penises in the world” for her playful and informative <a href="https://www.youtube.com/user/floschechter">YouTube channel</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The obvious next step was to do the same thing for vaginas, but Schechter found comparatively little information about the female sexual organs. Iceland has a penis museum – the <a href="http://phallus.is">Icelandic Phallological Museum</a> – but no such museum exists, anywhere in the world, for vaginas.</p><p dir="ltr">There was only one way to address this lack of vagina representation for Schechter: make her own museum. That is how she came to direct a team of professionals to create the world’s first bricks and mortar <a href="https://vaginamuseum.co.uk">Vagina Museum</a>, with four main galleries: history, culture, society and science.</p><p dir="ltr">Still in its launch phase, the project is currently travelling around the UK to festivals and events with a pop up exhibition. The next phase is to establish an interim museum in London, and finally open a permanent museum in 2032.</p><p dir="ltr">Recently, the project’s exhibition “Is Your Vagina Normal?” featured in a Vagina Day event organised by the <a href="https://feministlibrary.co.uk">London Feminist Library</a>, in early June.</p><p dir="ltr">Schechter describes the future museum as a series of exhibitions covering topics from what we need to know about our sexual health to the significance of female pleasure and reproduction to human beings.</p><p dir="ltr">“What people will learn is all about de-stigmatisation, health awareness and just having fun, because, why not? Vaginas are fun,” Schechter told me, at the event.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/florence apaisado.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/florence apaisado.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Florence Schechter, la creadora del Museo de la Vagina. Fotografía: Magda Wrzeszcz.</span></span></span>She also emphasised that the museum, while focused on vaginas and vulvas, would not be an exclusive “women’s museum.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Trans men are very important,” Schechter told me. “People who have vaginas but don’t identify as women have a particularly tough time, for example, getting cervical smear, but they are just as risk as anyone else with a vagina.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“People who have vaginas but don’t identify as women have a particularly tough time.”</p><p dir="ltr">The Great Wall of Vaginas – a sculpture made from the plaster casts of 400 women's vulvas, by English artist Jamie McCartney – or an exhibit on Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s dystopian vision of the future, The Handmaid’s Tale, are examples of what visitors might find in the museum’s four galleries.</p><p dir="ltr">In its history and society rooms, visitors will learn how humankind has seen (and sees) women’s sexuality, and how devastating can it be for women to feel that society judges them if they talk about their bodies or sexual experiences.</p><p dir="ltr">Exhibitions in these galleries will reflect how the world is still uncomfortable even speaking of vaginas.</p><p dir="ltr">“Very recently, a Turkish politician said the word vagina in parliament and she was reprimanded by the Prime Minister. These are the people who are legislating; they can’t even say the word vagina,” Schechter exclaimed.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://eveappeal.org.uk/news-awareness/straight-talking-things-gynae/">A 2016 survey</a> from the charity Eve Appeal in the UK found that 65% of women said they “have a problem using the words vagina or vulva.” This discomfort can have serious consequences for women.</p><p dir="ltr">“A woman told us about how her friend was too embarrassed to go get her cervical smear for years, and when she finally went, they found she had a late state of cancer. It was too late to do anything.” Schechter said.</p><p dir="ltr">This is not an isolated case. According to <a href="https://www.jostrust.org.uk/node/1073042">a recent survey</a> by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, a third of women in the UK delay getting a smear test because of embarrassment. Cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer in women aged 35 and under and smear tests can prevent 75% of these cases. “Women are literally dying of embarrassment,” Schechter warned.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Women are literally dying of embarrassment.”</p><p dir="ltr">The museum’s science gallery will present accurate and detailed explanations of the vulva’s anatomy – the kind we never get in our sex ed lessons at school.</p><p dir="ltr">“In school we barely get sex education and when we do it’s always about STIs [sexually-transmitted infections] and this sort of thing,” Schechter said. “There is so much we don’t know because it’s such a stigmatised subject, it is so taboo.”</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://eveappeal.org.uk/news-awareness/straight-talking-things-gynae/">The Eve Appeal survey</a> also revealed that half of women aged 26-35 were unable to label the vagina accurately, reflecting this lack of education.</p><p dir="ltr">Throughout history, vaginas and vulvas have been subjects of social taboos – and significant curiosity. Art and religion exhibitions in the museum’s culture gallery will show that vulvas were present in prehistorical cave paintings, before penises, as well as in holy images of different faiths.</p><p dir="ltr">“One of the things that religion is always concerned about is children and reproduction, so they have talked about vaginas more than you would expect. South America, for example, has an image of the Virgin Mary that looks like a vulva, where her head is the clitoris,” Schechter explained.</p><p dir="ltr">Other groups are also fighting the lack of information about women’s anatomy, sexuality, and sexual health.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/jowork.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/jowork.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="342" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jo Corrall durante su taller “Esto Es Una Vagina”. Fotografía: Magda Wrzeszcz.</span></span></span>Jo Corrall was also at the Feminist Library in London on ‘Vagina Day.’ Her ‘This Is A Vagina’ project, began as an Instagram feed to spread creative vulva drawings and art pieces because “<a href="https://www.thisisavagina.com">we’re fed up of seeing cock and balls scribbled everywhere</a>.”</p><p dir="ltr">Now, Corral told me, she organises workshops in which women share their experiences and have conversations about “periods, vulvas shapes or how people feel embarrassed about what their labia look like.”</p><p dir="ltr">The Vagina Day event included a panel discussion about women’s sexual health and a vulva cupcake-making workshop, amongst other activities.</p><p dir="ltr">The day was organised to share information and raise funds for the library, which <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/beulah-maud-devaney/feminist-library-closure">was on the verge of eviction two years ago</a> and continues to fight for its sustainability.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/DSC_1996.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/DSC_1996.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Taller de fanzines en el Día de la Vagina en Londres. Fotografía: Magda Wrzeszcz.</span></span></span>When asked why they chose to host the event, Gail Chester from the library said: “We realised that health is something women are always interested in.” Not surprisingly, the library has 600 books on women's health.</p><p dir="ltr">Spaces like the Feminist Library, or the Vagina Museum, support women’s rights, history and knowledge. Thanks to these projects, and others that are yet to come, soon no one will struggle to find information about the most amazing vaginas in the world.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 women's health young feminists Rocío Ros Rebollo Tue, 19 Jun 2018 14:11:17 +0000 Rocío Ros Rebollo 118485 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fighting patriarchy in Kazakhstan: problems and perspectives https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/botagoz-seydakhmetova/fighting-patriarchy-in-kazakhstan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Kazakhstan’s feminist activists thought it would take 10-15 years for gender inequality issues to be resolved. That was 25 years ago. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/botagoz-seidahmetova/feminism-v-kazakhstane" target="_self">RU</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/1024px-Кентау._Торговки_хлебом_2007.10.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/1024px-Кентау._Торговки_хлебом_2007.10.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women in Kentau. Photo CC BY-SA 3.0: Yuriy75 / Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Feminism and gender studies are still a subject for academic research for Kazakhstan’s first generation of feminist activists. The younger generation of activists are defending the rights of the LGBT community, and public officials are simply ignoring feminism and gender equality altogether.</p><p dir="ltr">Kazakhstan is 57th in the world in terms of female members of Parliament. The country’s Senate has only four women members out of 47, and in the lower house of Parliament there are a mere 29 women members out of 107. Admittedly, if we take another set of statistics, the country does have the <a href="https://informburo.kz/novosti/po-chislu-zhenshchin-v-politike-sredi-stran-eaes-kazahstan-ustupaet-tolko-belarusi-.html">second largest number of women</a> occupying senior governmental posts in the Eurasian Customs Union (after Belarus). </p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, the top jobs in all kinds of commercial structures are overwhelmingly occupied by men. Only <a href="https://forbes.kz/stats/jenskoe_otstuplenie_1/">11.6% of chief executives of Kazakhstan’s 2,291 mining and quarrying companies are women</a>; just 12.6% of its 867 electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning enterprises are run by women and they head only 12.9% of 9,218 agricultural, timber felling and fish processing firms.</p><p dir="ltr">Family relationships, even in urban centres, remain organised around the “breadwinner” role. Unemployment levels are higher among women (5.5%) than men (4.4%). The <a href="https://www.zakon.kz/4868253-zhenshchiny-v-kazahstane-luchshe.html">highest unemployment levels</a> are to be found among young people aged 25-34 – and here too there are more women (7.7%) than men (6.1%). And it is the same across the country. Both in the north and south of Kazakhstan, there is still a strong feeling that the responsibility for feeding the family lies on the man, and that women readily accept this situation.</p><p dir="ltr">It was only in 2009 that President Nursultan Nazarbayev <a href="https://online.zakon.kz/Document/?doc_id=30525680">signed</a> two gender-orientated laws that feminists had been promoting for many years. Feminist Svetlana Shakirova admits that this development was a complete surprise to activists in Kazakhstan women’s movement, and that the laws were evidently passed to satisfy western countries’ demands on the eve of Kazakhstan’s presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).</p><p dir="ltr">In an article published in March this year, lawyer Gulmira Akmoldina <a href="https://www.zakon.kz/4907400-gendernoe-ravenstvo.html">writes</a> that “over the 25 years since Kazakhstan became independent, progress has been made in gender equality, but it is still incomplete and it will require great efforts to complete the process, especially given the patriarchal tendencies of our country.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“In 2017, Kazakhstan was number 52 out of 144 countries in terms of gender equality levels”</p><p dir="ltr">Akmoldina cites World Economic Forum tables, according to which, “in 2017, Kazakhstan was number 52 out of 144 countries in terms of gender equality levels” – a high rating for the country. She considers that the two laws passed by Nazarbayev still don’t allow Kazakh law enforcement agencies to help women at risk of domestic violence. One reason, she believes, is that the women themselves “don’t want to air their dirty linen in public”.</p><p dir="ltr">Of course, a more traditional and patriarchal way of life survives in the countryside, small towns and the south of the country – the majority of the Kazakh population lives in Kazakhstan’s southern regions and rural areas. As sociologist Mayra Kabakova <a href="http://e-history.kz/ru/contents/view/440">writes</a>: “a socio-psychological analysis of ethnic Kazakh value systems has revealed that family, children, health and prosperity remain the central values of today’s ethnic Kazakhs.” In general, it is the women living in big cities such as Almaty and the capital Astana who talk about gender equality, domestic violence and inequality at work. Everywhere else, feminist activists have no support from either the authorities or women themselves, who prefer a way of life in which their roles are defined as homemakers, daughters, wives, mothers and grandmothers.</p><h2>What do people know about feminism in Kazakhstan?</h2><p dir="ltr">People in power don’t always have a strong grasp on feminism. A lot of bureaucrats can quote Wikipedia, but that’s not the most reliable source of information. At the same time, it’s impossible to find any official quotes on the subject from Kazakh politicians and bureaucrats. They evidently try to avoid making public statements or asking straight questions.</p><p dir="ltr">Zhanar Sekerbayeva, an activist in the Feminita feminist initiative, believes that the concept of feminism in Kazakhstan is associated with hatred, spite and resentment: “People don’t seem to recognise the term, even if they do accept that women’s rights are infringed, LGBTIQ people are discriminated against, women face sexual harassment at work and domestic violence at home, and so on.”</p><p dir="ltr">The attitudes of Kazakhs, both male and female, to stories of sexual harassment at work are also hard to pin down. It is supposedly the woman’s own fault: she led the man on and awakened his natural desires.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/04-2-1c823339_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/04-2-1c823339_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="329" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Zhanar Sekerbayeva. Source: kok.team</span></span></span>Thus, human rights campaigner Valentina Almatinskaya writes in her report, “Sexual Harassment of Women at Work”, that this issue is ignored in Kazakhstan. This research work, made available to me, includes both the personal stories of women as told by them and the famous <a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/kazakhstan-woman-wont-back-down-rare-sexual-harassment-case/28560472.html">“Belousova Case”</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">This case concerned Anna Belousova, a 35-year-old woman living in a village in the Kostanay region of Kazakhstan, who was subjected to sexual harassment by her boss. She reported it to the local police, but they took no action. In 2012, with the help of the Kostanay office of the UNHCR, Belousova contacted the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Three years later, the committee ruled in her favour and demanded that the Kazakhstan government award her “financial compensation for the moral and material damage incurred as a result of the infringement of her rights”. The government, however, refused to give her any compensation. “This case shows that even with defence mechanisms and international obligations in place, it’s still impossible to exercise your rights,” says Almatinskaya, whose work makes it clear that the government has done nothing to raise awareness of the fact that sexual harassment is a crime.</p><p dir="ltr">Another case, which went <a href="http://today.kz/news/zhizn/2018-02-02/759231-roliki-s-tseluyuschimisya-devushkami-nabirayut-populyarnost-v-seti/">viral on social media</a> in February 2018, is a video of two young women kissing in public. The clip sparked a literal witch hunt against the women by the local guardians of morality, the “uyatmen”, as they are known (in Kazakh, “uyat” means “shame”). The public is divided into two camps: those who support the moralists and are prepared to shame not only these young women, but everyone who rejects the strict code of behaviour imposed on them by their patriarchal upbringing; and those who feel that, in the first place, no one has the right to show a video in public without the permission of its participants and, in the second place, well, there’s a need to discuss the country’s real problems.</p><p dir="ltr">This row is still only gaining momentum, which is evidence that, in Kazakhstan, a new public set of views is forming, however slowly.</p><h2>Islam and feminism</h2><p dir="ltr">The first NGOs run for and by women emerged in Kazakhstan in the mid-1990s. By 1997, their number had risen from six to 30, and by 2000 there were around 200. Centres for gender studies and feminist leagues appeared at the same time.</p><p dir="ltr">These women’s NGOs are funded by international foundations and European embassies in the country, and the main issue they engage on is gender-based discrimination, both open and hidden. Svetlana Shakirova, from Almaty’s Gender Research Centre, has <a href="https://goo.gl/1BoKSX">noted</a> in one of her articles that “gender research developed in Kazakhstan… for the purpose of providing the government with data for annual UN and other international organisations’ reports.”</p><p dir="ltr">Today, the situation has changed to some extent. We have seen the emergence of a new wave of feminists with a western education who are aware of all the latest trends in social development. Such people can be found among the activists in the <a href="http://feminita.kz/">Feminita</a> feminist initiative, who are involved in defending the rights of Kazakhstan’s LGBT community.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/xOuZo_NOPp8_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/xOuZo_NOPp8_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Round table “Harassment is a crime”. Organizers: Inga Imanbay, Gulzada Serzhan. Source: Feminita / Vkontakte.</span></span></span>According to Karlygash Toktybayeva, a German language specialist who works at the Almaty Gender Research Centre, people in the west often have very superficial notions about Asia and Kazakhstan. During a recent discussion entitled “Feminism and Gender Research in Kazakhstan: 2018”, Toktybayeva talked about how westerners “were completely fazed by finding educated, laid back women in fashionable clothes, rather than the downtrodden, shawl-wearing ones they were expecting. On a trip to the States, our group was met by a facilitator who explained that our programme would be very busy and advised us to pray just twice, rather than five times a day.”</p><p dir="ltr">At the same time, though, there is a second new trend in Kazakhstan alongside feminism – <a href="https://ia-centr.ru/experts/timur-isakhanov/polzuchaya-islamizatsiya-v-kazakhstane-uskoryaetsya-na-glazakh/,%20https:/camonitor.kz/27572-ugrozhaet-li-islamizaciya-kazahstana-svetskomu-harakteru-gosudarstva.html">Islamisation</a>. In government and state institutions there are, for example, people who consider themselves Muslims because they observe all the necessary rituals: they fast during Ramadan, they pray five times a day. In government structures, of course, staff follow a European dress code. But outside, in the street, there are more and more young women and men whose clothing distinguishes from their non-religious peers – the women wear long clothes and headscarves, the men beards and skull-caps. The <a href="https://camonitor.kz/27827-kazahstan-religioznoe-protiv-nacionalnogo.html">fashion</a> for wearing hijab arrived in Kazakhstan with the first Turkish high schools, as well as repatriates.</p><p dir="ltr">Is there any crossover between these two new trends? The concept of <a href="http://vostalk.net/islamskij-feminizm/,%20https:/islam-today.ru/blogi/ildar-muhamedzanov/musulmanskij-feminizm-i-ego-sut/">“Islamic Feminism”</a> is, in fact, firmly established in academic discourse in such countries as Egypt, Algeria, Turkey and Pakistan. And some Islamic feminists believe that Islam has been hijacked by men, steeped in a patriarchal mindset.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">In Kazakhstan, you will not find either any Muslim feminists or any high profile example of Islamic feminism</p><p dir="ltr">In Kazakhstan, however, you will not find either any Muslim feminists or any high profile example of Islamic feminism. This may be because Islamisation is just a recent trend, and also because Kazakhstanis still don’t know enough about Islam.</p><p dir="ltr">On the other hand, both the first Kazakh feminists and the current generation of activists embrace western values, which is why the concept of Islamic feminism hasn’t taken root in Kazakhstan. But this doesn’t mean that there are no practising Muslims among young women with progressive views actively involved in promoting civil rights. Those there are, however, have usually studied at universities in China, Malaysia or Turkey. And they may also be engaged in combating issues such as domestic and sexual violence.</p><h2>Violence in the home</h2><p dir="ltr">According to <a href="https://www.zakon.kz/4892833-do-400-zhenshchin-ezhegodno-pogibaet-v.html">World Health Organisation statistics</a>, around 400 women die annually in Kazakhstan as a result of domestic violence, and one in three women around the world have been subjected to physical or sexual violence.</p><p dir="ltr">Child psychologist Margarita Uskembayeva, Chair of the Institute of Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities of Kazakhstan and director of ARASHA, a refuge for victims of domestic violence, is not only actively engaged in research into gender equality but puts her precepts into practice. And one of her projects is helping to rehabilitate women who have experienced domestic abuse.</p><p dir="ltr">This help comes in a number forms: psychological intervention, financial support and special victim crisis centres. The public foundation she heads raises a variety of national issues, from violence against children in the family to police violence towards victims of domestic abuse. In one interview, Uskembayev <a href="https://www.zakon.kz/4873695-v-almaty-otkryli-prijut-dlja-zhertv.html">remarked</a> that “all the women say that their abusers just buy off the police, doctors and other people”, adding that “everything is for sale here, including male solidarity.”</p><p dir="ltr">Uskembayeva’s crisis centre is not, of course, the only one in Kazakhstan: there are 28 similar centres for victims of domestic violence around the country, supported by public and international organisations. In June 2016, for example, the Prosecutor General launched a project called <a href="http://www.exclusive.kz/expertiza/obshhestvo/13928/,%20https:/the-steppe.com/news/razvitie/2017-12-11/kazahstan-bez-nasiliya-v-seme-intervyu-predstavitelya-genprokuratury-o-novom-proekte">“Kazakhstan without Violence in the Home”</a>, to be carried out by his Office in conjunction with the Presidential National Commission for Women and Demographic Policies; the Ministry of Internal Affairs; UN Women, the global champion of gender equality and an EU programme in Kazakhstan. The very serious social consequences of domestic violence – families destroyed, health broken, women dying – were highlighted at an specialist meeting of the Prosecutor General’s Office in 2016.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/maxresdefault_8_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/maxresdefault_8_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dina Smailova (on the right). Source: YouTube.</span></span></span>Meanwhile, as regards punitive measures against people inflicting this violence, in July 2017 the president signed a law turning domestic violence into a mere administrative, rather than a criminal offence, attracting a maximum of 15 days under arrest. Dina Smailova, who heads the Nemolchi.kz (“Speak Out.kz”) movement, explains the change by the fact that “it’s a rare woman who is prepared to send her husband to prison, even if has crippled her” – and the new law at least gives her “two weeks of peace”.</p><p dir="ltr">But how can administrative measures change the general domestic violence situation if you don’t also change the patriarchal mentality that has governed family life for centuries? It is crucial to promote intolerance towards domestic violence, and by both men and women. Our only hope in this situation is the new generation of Kazakh feminists, who stress the need to resolve concrete issues in the country’s regions – issues such as domestic violence, the kidnapping of young brides, early marriage and all the other fallout from patriarchal tradition in Kazakhstan.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/elena-kostyuchenko/what-i-didnt-write-about-zhanaozen">What I didn’t write about Zhanaozen</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/maurizio-totaro/fire-and-oil-in-western-kazakhstan">Fire and oil in western Kazakhstan&#039;s “spiritual renovation”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/owen-hatherley/in-kazakhstan-architectural-heritage">In Kazakhstan, architectural heritage is a path into a forgotten future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/dina-baidildayeva/internet-censorship-in-kazakhstan">Internet censorship in Kazakhstan: more pervasive than you may think</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/inga-imanbai-andrey-grishin/whats-behind-chinas-anti-kazakh-campaign%20">What’s behind China’s anti-Kazakh campaign? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia 50.50 oD Russia Botagoz Seydakhmetova Kazakhstan Tue, 19 Jun 2018 05:10:09 +0000 Botagoz Seydakhmetova 118433 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How El Salvador’s evangelicals have joined the backlash against women’s reproductive rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/el-salvador-evangelicals-reproductive-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">The changing religious landscape in this historically Catholic country has not been good news for women, who live under one of the world’s harshest anti-abortion laws. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/anna-catherine-brigida/c-mo-los-evang-licos-se-unieron-la-reacci-n-contra-los-dere">Español</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Protestant megachurch in El Salvador, 2018. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/bbcworldservice/4421993273/">Flickr/BBC World Service.</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0.</a> Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In El Salvador, just being suspected of having an abortion can put a woman behind bars. In February 2008, Teodora del Carmen Vásquez was sentenced to 30 years in prison for aggravated homicide after she had a stillbirth.</p><p dir="ltr">“It was the worst thing that I could have lived,” Vásquez, 34, told 50.50 over the phone from her house, about 30 minutes outside San Salvador. “For me, those were difficult moments, more than anything because they separated me from my son and from the people who love me – my parents and siblings.”</p><p dir="ltr">Vásquez was released from prison in February 2018, after a decade behind bars, when her sentence was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/feb/15/teodora-del-carmen-vasquezs-alvadoran-woman-jailed-after-suffering-stillbirth-walks-free">commuted by the supreme court</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">She has not been absolved of the crime, however, and the government has not apologised for her long detention. Nor can she get back the time she lost with her son, now 14 years old.</p><p dir="ltr">More than <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-43395436">100 women</a> have been convicted of abortion-related crimes in El Salvador since abortion was <a href="http://www.jurisprudencia.gob.sv/VisorMLX/Documento/Documento.aspx?Data=EKEiw4vjFMwlyC4ltHzfBVzZLXcpBY3TeaYca/cn6oUWaOKBPDIIe0wdydg2l7TSPFg+tcEWfU0JJJpxzZNpDMgJ3I6efY1XQHR6xqsuAXXAfcgLBc9KWvEoKSH/rdxEyktc37rf84ZJwdi6puKYOPxsJkiLbP5hJEBH5fgxsaryokPRDzuFRhYDoht2Joa06Q==">illegal under all circumstances</a>, in 1997.</p><p dir="ltr">Religious groups lobbied for the ban more than 20 years ago. They continue to protest any loosening of the restrictions that have been proposed in the country’s legislative assembly, the latest of which <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/04/el-salvador-failure-to-decriminalize-abortion-is-a-terrible-blow-to-human-rights/">failed to pass in April 2018.</a></p><p dir="ltr">El Salvador is historically a Catholic country, but in the past few decades, Protestant, including pentecostal and evangelical Christian communities have grown here and in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Between 36 to 41% of the population in these countries now identifies as Protestant, <a href="http://www.pewforum.org/2014/11/13/religion-in-latin-america/">according to the Pew Research Center</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">This changing religious landscape has not been good news for women like Vásquez. Evangelical and pentecostal Christians in El Salvador often support right-wing policies and promote conservative ideas about sexuality, LGBT rights, and reproductive health.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“This changing religious landscape has not been good news for women like Vásquez.”</p><p dir="ltr">As NGOs fighting for reproductive rights have fought to change the abortion ban over the past 20 years, evangelicals have been among their staunchest opponents. Throughout Latin America, Protestants are even more rigid in their opposition to abortion than Catholics, according to a <a href="http://assets.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2014/11/Religion-in-Latin-America-11-12-PM-full-PDF.pdf">study</a> by Pew Research Center.</p><p dir="ltr">“You’re talking about a very conservative group of people, so abortion is wrong 90 plus per cent of the time and homosexuality is always wrong. It’s very conservative in regards to reproductive and social values like those,” said Timothy Wadkins, professor of religious studies and theology at Canisius University in the US.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_2.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Solidarity protest for Beatriz 2013. Mexico City. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/amnistiamexico/8882541830/in/album-72157633792308135/">Flickr/Amnistía México.</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0.</a> Some Rights Reserved. </span></span></span>Evangelical churches have had a presence in El Salvador since at least the 19th century, according to Wadkins, but they didn’t significantly expand until the late 1970s.</p><p dir="ltr">At that time, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua were all facing intense internal strife with leftist guerrilla insurgencies rising up against conservative land-owning elites. El Salvador was the last of the three to enter into a full-blown civil war, in 1980.</p><p dir="ltr">The 12-year conflict fractured the historic control over&nbsp;land and resources by a small group of elites, many of whom were allies of the Catholic church. Amid this change, the teachings of evangelical Christians, which focus on the individual, and were not associated with the traditional social order, became more appealing to some citizens.</p><p dir="ltr">“Most of them just started to think of the Catholic church as irrelevant because it represented something old and antiquated and these are new… &nbsp;‘masterless individuals’ who think for themselves and make choices for themselves,” said Wadkins.</p><p dir="ltr">During this period, he continued, “what you have is a massive decline in Catholic allegiance and that is where the evangelicals came in and did a masterful job of working with these unchurched Catholics.”.</p><p dir="ltr">At the time, a small part of the Catholic church was moving towards liberation theology, a movement that emphasised the church's responsibility to fight for social justice. But US politicians favoured evangelical Christianity in the context of the Cold War.</p><p dir="ltr">Michael Cangemi, professor at Binghamton University, in New York, says that evangelism was “appealing in a political sense to both political dictators in Central America, but also to policymakers in the US” as it was the politically-conservative “antithesis” of liberation theology” and “ardently anti-communist.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Today, evangelicals in El Salvador continue to protest any changes to the country’s abortion ban.</p><p dir="ltr">The US had their hands deep in <a href="https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/first/l/leogrande-own.html">Central America in the 1980s</a>, but Wadkins says that evangelical ‘conversion campaigns’ were led mainly by churches already in the country, rather than foreign missionaries.</p><p dir="ltr">Today, El Salvador’s evangelicals continue to protest any changes to the country’s extreme anti-abortion laws.</p><p dir="ltr">The right-wing ARENA party <a href="http://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/457306/infografia-asi-quedara-la-asamblea-legislativa-2018-2021-segun-tendencias-del-tse/">won the most seats</a> in March 2018 parliamentary elections. Shortly after, pro-choice activists began to push to legalise abortion in certain cases, aiming to achieve this before the newly-elected officials took office.</p><p dir="ltr">But the backlash was fierce. In April, a consortium of religious organisations, both Catholic and evangelical, organised a “<a href="http://www.elsalvador.com/noticias/nacional/468639/multitudinaria-marcha-contra-el-aborto/">March for Life</a>” through the capital San Salvador to protest the proposed loosening of the country’s abortion laws.</p><p dir="ltr">The official organiser of the march was the Movimiento de Transformación Nacional, a religious coalition led by evangelical pastor Numa Rodezno. “What they are thinking of doing is a crime. It’s something murderous,” said Rodezno of the proposed legal, according to Salvadoran media outlet <a href="https://www.laprensagrafica.com/elsalvador/Marchan-en-contra-de-propuestas-para-despenalizar-aborto-20180407-0056.html">La Prensa Gráfica</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">On 26 April, El Salvador’s congress closed for the 2015-2018 period without approving proposed legal amendments that would have relaxed the country’s ban on abortion in cases of rape, a foetus that is not viable, or risks to the woman’s health or life.</p><p dir="ltr">“Some people are incredibly conservative and religious, and they don’t think about the kids that are growing up and the women who are in prison,” Vásquez told me. “[I hope that] they open their minds."</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 Tracking the backlash women's human rights women's health fundamentalisms bodily autonomy Anna-Catherine Brigida Mon, 18 Jun 2018 07:01:49 +0000 Anna-Catherine Brigida 118293 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Italy’s new government is bad news for women and minorities https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/Italy-new-government-womens-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There will be hard times ahead in Italy, unless you are a&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 13px;">heterosexual,</span><span style="font-size: 13px;">&nbsp;cisgendered, white man. The new families minister opposes abortion, immigration and LGBTI rights.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/Lorenzo Fontana.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/Lorenzo Fontana.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Italy's new family minister Lorenzo Fontana, 1 June 2018. Photo: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images.</span></span></span>There will be hard times ahead, unless you are a&nbsp;<span>heterosexual,</span><span>&nbsp;</span><span>cisgendered, white man. The new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, </span><a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-44346084">told</a><span> undocumented immigrants: “Get ready to pack your bags.” The man now in charge of the families ministry, Lorenzo Fontana, is known for his opposition to sexual and reproductive rights.</span></p><p dir="ltr">Italy’s new government was sworn in on 1 June, after three months of seemingly interminable negotiations between the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the right-wing Lega (‘League’) party. The new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, is an academic with no previous political experience.</p><p dir="ltr">Fontana, the families minister, has been a prominent member of the Lega party for 20 years. An ultra-Catholic politician from Verona (in northeastern Italy), he represents the serious threats posed by his party, and this new government, to the rights of women and minorities across the country. </p><p dir="ltr">His political CV includes experience building relationships between the Lega and foreign far-right parties, including the Front National in France (an achievement he celebrates in his <a href="https://www.lorenzofontana.org/lorenzo-fontana/">biography</a> on his website).</p><p dir="ltr">In <a href="https://profam.org/world-congress-of-families-leadership-memo-moldova-to-host-wcf-xii-carlson-at-wheatley-roundtable-40-days-for-life-kenya-verona-festival-for-life/">February</a>, he spoke alongside an ultra-conservative deputy in the Russian Duma at an international anti-abortion meeting in Verona, organised by the Italian association Pro Vita, a partner of the transnational World Congress of Families network of anti-sexual and reproductive rights groups. </p><p dir="ltr">Toni Brandi, leader of ProVita, was one of numerous international anti-choice activists who travelled to Ireland last month “<a href="https://www.notizieprovita.it/aborto-cat/provita-in-tour-in-irlanda-brandi-votate-no/">to support pro-life friends</a>” ahead of the country’s historic referendum on abortion rights. Brandi also has well-documented <a href="https://www.corriere.it/extra-per-voi/2017/07/06/tutti-legami-pro-vita-forza-nuova-0f71ba70-6254-11e7-84bc-daac3beed6c1.shtml">links</a> to the neo-fascist movement Forza Nuova.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center"> “The most right-wing minister of the new government.”</span> </p><p dir="ltr">Anti-abortion activists <a href="https://twitter.com/ProVita_Tweet/status/1002456976750759936?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&amp;ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lettera43.it%2Fit%2Farticoli%2Fpolitica%2F2018%2F06%2F01%2Florenzo-fontana-ministro-aborto-gay-famiglia%2F220710%2F">celebrated</a> Fontana’s nomination to the families ministry. The Italian website Il Post <a href="https://www.ilpost.it/2018/06/01/lorenzo-fontana/">described</a> him as “the most right-wing minister of the new government,” citing his well-documented links with local far-right and Catholic fundamentalist movements in Verona.</p><p dir="ltr">One of Fontana’s primary targets is abortion, which has been legalised in Italy for 40 years, though <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claudia-torrisi/abortion-italy-conscientious-objection">widespread ‘conscientious objection’</a> by medical staff continues to limit women’s access to these legal services.</p><p dir="ltr">Last month, he joined the <a href="http://www.marciaperlavita.it/">March for Life</a> in Rome, an annual rally of Catholics and anti-abortion groups. One of the claims of this year’s edition was that “abortion is the <a href="http://www.ansa.it/english/news/general_news/2018/05/14/abortion-top-cause-of-femicide-posters_a0d6a3c2-096b-4212-931a-5ed254d24f27.html">top cause</a> of femicide in the world.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-06-06 at 16.36.03.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="March for Life, Rome, 2012. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-06-06 at 16.36.03.png" alt="March for Life, Rome, 2012." title="March for Life, Rome, 2012. " 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 Life, Rome, 2012. Photo: Saint Joseph/Flickr. (<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">CC BY-NC-ND 2.0</a>). Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>As minister, Fontana <a href="https://www.corriere.it/politica/18_giugno_02/lorenzo-fontana-famiglie-gay-non-esistono-ora-piu-bambini-meno-aborti-abc3cae2-65d4-11e8-b063-cd4146153181.shtml">said</a>, he wants to “intervene to strengthen counselling” services to “dissuade women from having abortions. I am Catholic, I do not hide it. And that's why I believe, and I also say, that the family is the natural one, where a child must have a mother and a father."</p><p dir="ltr">Alongside his struggle against women’s reproductive rights, Fontana has presented racist claims of an immigrant “invasion,” and possible “ethnic replacement” as Italian women have fewer children. </p><p dir="ltr">In a <a href="https://www.amazon.it/culla-vuota-della-civilt%C3%A0-Allorigine/dp/889864745X">book</a> he published in February 2018, he said the Italian population “risks extinction” amid declining birth rates and a “choice to fill the demographic gap with migration flows.”</p><p dir="ltr">Fontana also opposes same-sex marriage (which is <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claudia-torrisi/same-sex-marriage-political-football-italy-elections">still not legal</a> in Italy; there is only a law on “civil unions”) and trans rights as attacks on the “natural family” that could “<a href="http://www.lorenzofontana.org/2016/10/11/fontana-al-convegno-di-provita-famiglia-naturale-sotto-attacco-vogliono-dominarci-e-cancellare-il-nostro-popolo/">wipe out our community and our traditions</a>.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Today the resistance is against who would like an upside down world, one which would like to deny the existence of mums and dads, of little girls and boys … We have to educate children on the model of the natural family,” Fontana’s said, explaining that he does not like “other strange formulas.”</p><p dir="ltr">After his nomination to the government, the minister told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that he is not “against gay people,” and has “a lot of homosexual friends,” as he “lived for many years in Brussels, where [gay people] are also in the institutions.”</p><p dir="ltr">In that same interview, Fontana said that LGBTI families “don’t exist” -- triggering outrage from rights activists who started a popular social media campaign posting pictures of same-sax couples and families with the hashtag #NoiEsistiamo (“We exist”).</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“The “personal ideas” of these ultra-conservative men can have real-world consequences for women.”</p><p dir="ltr">Salvini said that Fontana’s statements were the minister’s “personal ideas.” But, he added: “Personally, I think that… our country must continue to have principles like the one for which the mum is called mum and the dad is called dad. And a child can be adopted if there is a mum and a dad.”</p><p dir="ltr">The “personal ideas” of these ultra-conservative men can have real-world consequences for women. </p><p dir="ltr">Fontana is also a “man of power” within his party, as blogger Yàdad De Guerre has noted. He’s previously been a member of European Parliament; deputy mayor of Verona; vice president of the Italian chamber of deputies.</p><p dir="ltr">Worryingly, the new families minister is the expression of a party whose policies and ideas are racist and careless of the rights of women and minorities — and he has decades of political and institutional experience.</p><p dir="ltr">We underestimated the threat posed by such men and the movements that support them. Now, there are likely very tough times ahead. Women’s, LGBTI, and immigrant rights activists are all on high alert.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Italy </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Can Europe make it? Italy Democracy and government Equality International politics Women and the far right women's human rights women's health women and power patriarchy gender fundamentalisms bodily autonomy Claudia Torrisi Thu, 14 Jun 2018 07:01:16 +0000 Claudia Torrisi 118225 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How did Northern Ireland lawmakers carve out an anti-abortion ‘ghetto’ within the UK? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/stephanie-williamson/northern-ireland-anti-abortion-ghetto-uk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Northern Ireland remains a blind spot for equality for women and members of the&nbsp;<span style="color: #222222; font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8px;">LGBTIQ</span>&nbsp;community. Will Ireland’s abortion&nbsp;referendum change this?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/20180607_100500.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/20180607_100500.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Amnesty International campaigners outside the Supreme Court. Photo: Lara Whyte.</span></span></span>More than two weeks have passed since Ireland’s historic abortion referendum was won by a groundswell of grassroots feminist activism. A large majority (66.4%) voted to repeal the country’s eighth constitutional amendment, opening the door to proposed legislation to allow abortions up to 12 weeks.</p><p dir="ltr">Huge numbers of repeal campaigners and voters were young women – <a href="https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DeS6EMDX4AAH6Lv.jpg:large">with a staggering 94% increase in the turnout of women aged 18-24</a>, compared to the 2016 general election. The result reflected a frank rejection of decades of misogyny and the suffocating grip of church and state on women’s rights.</p><p dir="ltr">Though my heart burst with solidarity with my southern sisters, as a Northern Irish woman, whose rights are ignored by both my own (non-existent) devolved government and Westminster, I was left feeling dejected and a little numb.</p><p dir="ltr">New abortion legislation is expected in Ireland before the end of the year. Apart from Malta (where there is a total ban on abortion) Northern Ireland will have <a href="http://worldabortionlaws.com/map/">the strictest abortion laws in Europe</a>. Though these restrictions don’t stop abortions, they just force women to travel for healthcare.</p><p dir="ltr">Last week, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-44395150">the UK Supreme Court dismissed an appeal on Northern Ireland’s abortion law</a> on a technicality, ruling that the <a href="http://www.nihrc.org/">Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission</a> did not have the required standing to bring the case as it was not claiming to have been a victim of the law itself.</p><p dir="ltr">The court’s judgement did acknowledge, however, that Northern Ireland is in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights, by denying women abortions in cases of fatal fetal abnormality and sexual crimes.</p><blockquote data-lang="en" class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">.<a href="https://twitter.com/MrsEtoB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MrsEtoB</a> reacts to the Supreme Court's finding that existing abortion laws in NI are incompatible with human rights law in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and sexual crime. Read more on this story here: <a href="https://t.co/DxtqyuKA5B">https://t.co/DxtqyuKA5B</a> <a href="https://t.co/9Ja04rOU7E">pic.twitter.com/9Ja04rOU7E</a></p>— BBC News NI (@BBCNewsNI) <a href="https://twitter.com/BBCNewsNI/status/1004692495391952896?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 7, 2018</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <p dir="ltr">“This is hugely significant and makes it clear there is nowhere left for the government to hide on this issue,” Amnesty International’s Grainne Taggart told openDemocracy 50.50 outside the court. “This must be the final nail in the coffin for Northern Ireland’s abortion ban.”</p><p dir="ltr">Last year, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-44382514">919 women from Northern Ireland travelled to England and Wales for terminations in 2017.</a> This was a 25% increase on 2016 numbers, and could be related to high profile cases of women being <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/31/northern-ireland-woman-was-reported-to-police-by-gp-over-abortion-pills">reported to Northern Ireland police</a> for using abortion pills in the past few years.</p><p dir="ltr">Northern Ireland remains a blind spot for equality in the UK and was often left out of the conversation leading up to the Irish abortion referendum – a stark reminder of a historical lack of solidarity from our so-called-feminist allies that Northern Irish grassroots organisations such as <a href="http://www.alliance4choice.com/">Alliance for Choice</a> have long endured.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“This must be the final nail in the coffin for Northern Ireland’s abortion ban.”</p><p dir="ltr">While <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23TheNorthIsNext&amp;src=tyah">#TheNorthisNext</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/nowforni">#NowForNI</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23TrustAllWomen&amp;src=tyah">#TrustAllWomen</a> began trending, <a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/mps-demand-theresa-may-allows-abortion-referendum-northern-ireland/">there were calls for</a> a similar referendum on abortion in Northern Ireland – though this is entirely unnecessary.</p><p> Our laws can be reformed using normal legislative measures; in the prolonged absence of a functioning government in Northern Ireland, they should be passed at Westminster. There’s no need to pass the buck any longer.</p><p dir="ltr">Continued anti-choice and anti-LGBTIQ sentiment across prominent political parties in Northern Ireland is not, and has never been, representative of what the people want; it is instead one of the more regressive symptoms of our post-conflict politics – sadly still overwhelmingly concerned by sectarian divides and the past.</p> <p>Since January 2017, those divides have toppled the power sharing agreement between the DUP and the main republican party, Sinn Fein, leaving the country with no running government.</p><p dir="ltr">On Saturday 2 June, thousands of people rallied in Belfast city centre for marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples amidst a sea of colourful, witty placards.</p><p dir="ltr">Northern Ireland is also the only part of the UK where same-sex marriage is not legal, and where the clients of sex workers are criminalised – a measure that has been <a href="https://www.mamamia.com.au/sex-workers-decriminalisation-is-crucial/">loudly criticised by sex workers themselves</a> for putting them at greater risk by making their working conditions more dangerous.</p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Vict/24-25/100/contents">1861 Offences Against the Person Act</a> criminalised abortion in the UK. Women in England, Wales and Scotland were exempted from this law by the 1967 Abortion Act exempted women, which does not apply to Northern Ireland.</p><p dir="ltr">An emergency House of Commons debate was held on Tuesday 5 June about proposals to change this. Stella Creasy, a London MP, opened the debate with an impassioned call for the dignity of Northern Irish women to finally be respected.</p><p dir="ltr">“I make no apology putting the safety and dignity of women first as part of equality between the sexes,” Creasy said.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“I make no apology putting the safety and dignity of women first as part of equality between the sexes.”</p><p dir="ltr">These proposed legislative changes are very significant, especially in the current absence of functioning devolution – which is the most common excuse for inaction. “It seems as though the rights of women in Northern Ireland were traded as part of the devolution settlement,” said Maria Miller MP said, during last week’s debate.</p><p>Heidi Allen was one of two MPs who spoke of their own experiences of abortion in the House of Commons – a first for the British parliament. </p><p>She spoke about her “incredibly hard decision” to have an termination – only to followed by abusive, anti-choice rhetoric from Sammy Wilson, a DUP MP who made erroneous claims of fetuses being “discarded and thrown in the bin” across the UK.</p><blockquote data-lang="en" class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">On <a href="https://twitter.com/StephenNolan?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@StephenNolan</a> today -<br /><br />DUP MP Sammy Wilson accused of insensitivity as he refers to aborted fetuses being "discarded and put in a bin" <a href="https://t.co/ECytbC55bi">pic.twitter.com/ECytbC55bi</a></p>— The Nolan Show, BBC (@BBCNolan) <a href="https://twitter.com/BBCNolan/status/1004271806554017792?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 6, 2018</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <p dir="ltr">Another DUP MP, Ian Paisley, added that terminations were being used as ‘contraception’ in the rest of the UK, and that MPs were acting in haste by trying to do repeal with the Victorian-era laws that still apply in Northern Ireland.</p><p dir="ltr">Several of the DUP’s statements seemed to have been lifted directly from leaflets and posters by the anti-choice campaigns including <a href="https://bothlivesmatter.org/">Both Lives Matter</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">After the debate, for example, the DUP’s Jim Wells, a <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-44388279">former Health Minister in Northern Ireland’s devolved assembly,</a> compared abortion to the Holocaust.</p><p dir="ltr">This comparison has also been made by US anti-abortion campaigners, including The Radiance Foundation – among the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/north-american-anti-abortion-facebook-ireland-referendum">many foreign advertisers who targeted Irish voters on Facebook</a> in the run up to the referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">A majority of the Supreme Court found that the current law’s prohibition on abortion in Northern Ireland, even in cases of fatal fetal abnormality and sexual crimes, is incompatible with Article 8 (right to private and family life) of the European human rights convention, though it ultimately dismissed the case.</p><p dir="ltr">The result has been seized upon by both sides as a victory – yet more evidence of how polarised this debate has become.</p><p dir="ltr">Theresa May, the UK’s prime minister, is facing increasing pressure to address women’s restricted access to reproductive rights in Northern Ireland, once and for all – putting her controversial coalition with the DUP at risk in the process.</p><p dir="ltr">While increasing numbers of Conservative MPs rally behind Northern Irish women, in the seemingly never-ending battle for agency over their own bodies, the UK’s anti-rights ‘ghetto’ has become impossible to ignore.</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 Tracking the backlash women's human rights women's health bodily autonomy young feminists Stephanie Williamson Mon, 11 Jun 2018 11:51:10 +0000 Stephanie Williamson 118318 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The crisis in trans healthcare in the UK killed my daughter Synestra https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/trans-healthcare-crisis-synestra-de-courcy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new book, Transition Denied, exposes 'system failures' to protect vulnerable trans teenagers in Britain. This excerpt is from its prelude, by Synestra de Courcy’s mother.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/000.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/000.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Synestra de Courcy (right). Photo: Amanda de Courcy/Transition Denied. </span></span></span>Who was Synestra? If you live in North Herts [in England], and if you read the LGBT press, you might have come across her story a couple of years ago. At least, you may have read the bare bones of that story. </p><p dir="ltr">Synestra was a young trans woman who grew up in and around Stevenage, was educated in Letchworth and, in the last years of her life, went to London to make her fortune, before dying from an accidental drugs overdose at the unspeakably early age of 23.</p><p dir="ltr">So much promise, so much heartbreak. At school, she challenged rigid views of gender and sexuality head on, coming out first as gay, then agender. Rather than reject her, as some schools would, they celebrated her difference and in her final year, she was elected head ‘boy’. Online, she built a solid following with her personal vlog and a series of expert broadcasts on make-up.</p><p dir="ltr">Though that was only the beginning of her journey. By the age of 20 she identified very clearly as transgender and was desperately seeking help from the NHS with her transition. That help was not forthcoming. Instead, as many trans people before her, she got the runaround: she’d not followed the right pathway, ticked the right boxes. Vital letters went missing. Professional assessments were ignored.</p><p dir="ltr">So she did what she needed. She started to pay for the treatments and surgeries she so desperately sought through sex work. That, in turn, took her down the road to drugs: first as recreational habit; later, as dangerous addiction. Bad decisions? Yes.</p><p dir="ltr">But to Syn, there was an inevitable logic to her lifestyle. Besides, it wasn’t as though she wasn’t enjoying herself. Her story, as so many trans stories, was complicated. To suggest she played no part in her own downfall would be to erase one half of her. She was brilliant. She was lovely. She was also flawed.</p><p dir="ltr">None of which excuses the system failures that left her quite unsupported at key moments in her too short life. In 2015, just as her life seemed to be turning a corner, she went to one more party, diced with drugs one last time, and died.</p><p dir="ltr">She is missed by many. Her family. Her friends. Her partner. By the trans community, many of whom saw her as likely to play a strong and influential role in future.</p><p dir="ltr">For them, as well as for those who would have liked to know her better, this, warts and all, is Syn’s story. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">“System failures left her quite unsupported at key moments in her too short life.”</p><p dir="ltr">Who was Synestra? She was my daughter, my first-born child, and, like all mothers, I cherished her. The utter horror of learning of her death takes my breath away and stops me in my tracks whenever I recollect it. She is never far from my thoughts.</p><p dir="ltr">To lose one’s child is the most unbearable pain one can suffer; it is not the order of things. It will never happen to me, we think. But sometimes it does...</p><p dir="ltr">Her name Synestra means ‘at one with the stars’. She chose it herself. This beautiful name seems now as if it were some sort of mysterious premonition.</p><p dir="ltr">Synestra made a profound impression on so many people. She was quiet, intelligent, and spoke with an eloquence that belied the stunning impact one felt when first setting eyes upon her. She was a dichotomy.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_1.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Synestra de Courcy. Photo: Amanda de Courcy/Transition Denied. </span></span></span>Synestra did live her short life to the full, as she wanted to live it. She learned, and had the power to learn, like no other person I have ever met. Her father, brother and I found ourselves, like many people who knew her, in total awe, and she was way beyond us in terms of knowledge; in just about any subject one cares to mention.</p><p dir="ltr">We certainly had our ‘ups and downs’. Coping with such an extraordinarily bright child brings its own issues. But Syn lacked wisdom and experience, the worldly-wise things that as we age, we simply ‘know’. Being a very bright child gave Syn empowerment over others, and she became almost megalomaniac in her outlook; impossible to influence and certainly impossible to control.</p><p dir="ltr">As parents, we could see the devastating effect that drugs were having upon her during 2014, but we were helpless. We quickly realised that Syn of course, was an adult in the eyes of the law, and we had no influence in reporting her issues to the doctors, and had no real idea of where to seek help. Had we done so, would she have taken heed?</p><p dir="ltr">The simple answer is ‘no’. Synestra had to find her own path through her difficulties, and this she was finally doing. She was strong, wilful, and once she decided to put this episode behind her, as the clinics and the specialists noted with amazement, she ‘recovered’ with astonishing speed. Or did she...?</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Synestra touched a lot of people, helped a lot of lives, and the world is a lesser place without her in it.”</p><p dir="ltr">The tragedy was that she was ‘almost there’. She had come through the worst of her dark drug addiction and was following a programme to wellness. We all started to relax. And that is where it all fell apart.</p><p dir="ltr">I will never be able to forgive myself for not being there for her that last weekend, but in my heart, I know that the tragedy that unfolded was the accident that had been waiting to happen. No one could foresee the events that unravelled that fateful night, but that accident took away one of the brightest stars – someone who seemed destined for great things. Now we will never know what could have been.</p><p dir="ltr">Synestra touched a lot of people, helped a lot of lives, and the world is a lesser place without her in it.</p><p dir="ltr">I take this opportunity to mention a charity that I started following her death. Synestra’s Community Interest Company (Synestra’s CIC). The purpose of the CIC is to help schools, colleges, and universities become more aware of the transgender community.</p><p dir="ltr">Life is hard for us all at times, but being ‘different’ and not conforming with society’s view of Boys &amp; Girls, has a damning impact on those that are unsure, or simply fall in between society’s ‘norm’. So let’s make all toilets just ‘toilets’ for example, let’s allow kids to wear skirts or trousers, short or long hair and remove this need to conform with an idealistic view of pink or blue children.</p><p dir="ltr">The most difficult ‘nut to crack’ is the parents themselves. Teachers are getting it, but parents, no, they’re not. All parents are proud of their children, but when we talk about non-conformity relating to gender, one can see the bristling effect immediately.</p><p dir="ltr">Being transgender is not a disease, not something one catches, it’s not a fashion, a fad, or any other such nonsense. People are all ‘people’ no matter what gender, colour or creed. As a society we manage reasonably well with most prejudices, and my aim is try to help eradicate this one.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>* <a href="https://www.jkp.com/uk/transition-denied-2.html">Transition Denied: Confronting the Crisis in Trans Healthcare</a> by Jane Fae, with a foreward from Amanda de Courcy, was published on 21 May 2018 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.</em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 women's health sexual identities gender justice gender Amanda de Courcy Wed, 06 Jun 2018 11:39:47 +0000 Amanda de Courcy 118227 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Women’s rights in Russia's North Caucasus: between “national traditions” and “ordinary” murders https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/svetlana-anokhina/womens-rights-in-the-north-caucasus <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How the Russian state authorities supports “national traditions” that infringe on the rights of women in the Caucasus. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/svetlana-anohina/prava-zhenzhin-na-kavkaze" target="_self"><em><strong>RU</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/RIAN_01277904.LR_.ru_-1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/RIAN_01277904.LR_.ru_-1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women in Grozny, 2012. Photo: Ramil Sitdikov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Every time the issue of women’s rights rears its head in Russia’s North Caucasus, defenders of tradition – religious and lay figures alike – solemnly declare that nowhere do women enjoy the kind of protections and respect they receive as they do here. But their slogans in no way coincide with reality, in which monstrous crimes are committed with the tacit consent of society. </p><p dir="ltr">Moreover, young people are becoming ever more conservative in their attitudes to women’s rights. And these attitudes are being endorsed by the state authorities – not only at the level of the North Caucasus republics, but at the state level as well. </p><h2 dir="ltr">“Ordinary” murders</h2><p dir="ltr">In February 2018, the European Court of Human Rights <a href="https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng#%7B%22itemid%22:[%22001-180849%22]%7D">awarded €20,000 in compensation to Khava Bopkhoyeva</a> from the village of Galashki in Ingushetia. Her daughter Zaira was 19 when she was taken to hospital and diagnosed as having been poisoned by “unknown substances”. The girl fell into a coma as a result of impaired oxygen flow to the brain. </p><p dir="ltr">A couple of months previously, Zaira had been bride-kidnapped on her way home from college. Though bride-kidnapping is banned – at least on paper – in Chechnya, it is still practised in Ingushetia and North Ossetia. The kidnapper’s mother was unhappy with her son’s choice (“But she’s divorced!”) and Zaira was returned home on the following day. Still, she ended up being married to the man who’d kidnapped her. Zaira didn’t see her husband again, however: he promptly left town, leaving Zaira with his mother and sister. The short period Zaira spent with her new family was punctuated by several trips to hospital: a previously healthy young woman, she experienced poisoning symptoms and suffered from epilepsy-like seizures. Two months later, an ambulance finally removed Zaira from her mother-in-law’s house.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-small'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/3_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="212" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Zaira Bopkhoyeva. Source: Bopkhoyev Family / Pravovoye sodeistvie - Astreya. </span></span></span>There’s a lot of unpleasant details in Zaira Bopkhoyeva’s case. Khava Bopkhoyeva, Zaira’s mother, was prevented from initiating criminal proceedings on eight occasions. Zaira herself, meanwhile, remained utterly powerless throughout: kept in her husband’s house as a prisoner, she wasn’t allowed to contact her mother and had her phone confiscated. But perhaps the most appalling detail of all is the role played by Zaira’s relatives on her late father’s side. </p><p dir="ltr">Having learnt of her abduction, seven men – individuals on whose help and support the girl could ostensibly rely – lured her out of her home and took her to a forest. </p><p dir="ltr">Subjecting Zaira to an hours-long beating, they interrogated her as to whether she and her kidnapper had been physically intimate, and eventually came to a decision: Zaira would return to the man who’d kidnapped her and become his wife. They would play no further part in her fate. Zaira is now 27. She still hasn’t come out of her coma, and no one’s been punished for what was done to her – a perfect illustration, but far from the only one, of the “respect” and “protections” accorded to women in the North Caucasus.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/_opt.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="210" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Maryam Magomedova. Source: The New Times / Magomedov Family. </span></span></span>Divorced and living with her mother in Moscow, Maryam Magomedova was lured back to her home village of Nechaevka in Dagestan on the pretext of attending her cousin’s wedding. Kusum Magomedova <a href="https://www.srji.org/news/2014/10/kizilyurtovskiy-rayonnyy-sud-dagestana-vynes-obvinitelnyy-prigovor-po-delu-ob-ubiystve-chesti-/">found her daughter’s body in a freshly dug grave</a> in the village cemetery. Maryam was killed by relatives on her father’s side. As in Zaira’s case, everyone around knew what was going on, but Maryam would have vanished without a trace had it not been for her mother’s tenacity. Violating an unspoken social contract that required her, at the very least, to remain silent, Kusum brought the matter to court.</p><p dir="ltr">Doing so, however, is often only half the battle. Lawyers representing defendants in trials on so-called <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maria-klimova-yulia-sugueva/honour-killings-in-russia-s-north-caucasus">“honour killings”</a> have begun deploying a remarkable new rhetorical strategy. The fact that their client is sitting in the dock instead of accepting congratulations merely points, they claim, to the inadequacy of the law. Consider, for example, a <a href="https://memohrc.org/ru/news/chechnya-preniya-i-prigovor-na-sude-po-ubiystvu-chesti">speech made by lawyer Ilyas Timishev</a> at the trial of Sultan Daurbekov, who confessed to murdering his daughter in 2015. Timishev wasted no time in denying the guilt of his client. Summoning the full force of his eloquence, Timishev explained that such murders are actually “a good custom”, and one “designed to protect the woman’s honour and dignity”. It’s all done for the victim’s benefit, you see: “He didn’t kill her,” said Timishev. “We ought to put it like this: he removed her from life so she wouldn’t bring shame on herself, on her father and on all her close relatives. That would be more accurate.” </p><p dir="ltr">There’s little novelty in Timishev’s arguments; the only novelty is that they’re being made by a lawyer during a criminal trial. But the general idea has long been entrenched in the public consciousness: “Woman! If you’re killed, you’ll have only yourself to blame, unmindful as you’ve been of the fact that every aspect of your existence is determined by your relatives – first by your father, your brothers, your uncles, and subsequently by your husband or even your son. You are their chattel.” And what rights are accorded to items of chattel? None: not over their own lives, nor their own bodies. </p><p dir="ltr">A few years ago, a court in Dagestan <a href="https://newtimes.ru/articles/detail/88126/">examined</a> a murder case in which the victim was a 14-year-old girl. After a days-long search, some relatives found the girl’s corpse near her home. The deceased’s father, who played an active role in the search, went to the police that same day and confessed that he’d killed the girl in a fit of anger on discovering that she was “sleeping around”. Some time later, however, new evidence emerged, and the picture completely changed. This morally upstanding father, it turned out, had raped his child over a period of two years. And when the girl finally resisted and threatened to expose his misdeeds, he grew fearful that she’d go through with her threat –&nbsp;and strangled her to death. </p><p dir="ltr">Intra-familial sexual violence is a taboo topic. And perhaps Timishev would fail to see a direct link between the existence of a “good custom that protects a woman’s honour” and incest. But once the “right to take life” and the “right to inflict violence”, physical and psychological alike, are effectively enshrined in law, the “right over a woman’s body” is very quick to materialise as well. </p><h2 dir="ltr">“National traditions”</h2><p dir="ltr">Honour killings are not a ubiquitous phenomenon, of course. But they do exist, and they’re justified on the basis of tradition, which renders any discussion around women’s rights absurd. Furthermore, there has been a recent tendency to make allowances for “national traditions” even in court, especially when it comes to post-divorce custody decisions. We’ve witnessed many cases of Ingush and Chechen women being forcibly separated from their children. So many, in fact, that one is tempted simply to focus on those where everything ended happily. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/N4XFgFixoBiLfC7rD.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="160" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style=""/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Elita Magomadova. Source: Instagram. </span></span></span>Having reviewed Elita Magomadova’s appeal, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in April 2018 that her right to family life had been violated and awarded her €15,000 in compensation for moral damages. This marks the first time that a case concerning familial relations in Chechnya has been resolved in such a senior court.</p><p dir="ltr">Elita’s son was returned to her only in 2016, three years after the boy was kidnapped and relocated from Moscow to Chechnya by her ex-husband. </p><p dir="ltr">Elita did her best to put up a fight. But the Russian court ruled again and again that the child would remain with his father. Even after the latter was killed in a road accident, his relatives still refused to give the child back to her mother. Though Elita managed to win the case following numerous legal proceedings, the court bailiffs spread their arms in a gesture of helplessness: we cannot find the child! Desperate now, Elita appealed to the ECHR, which sent an inquiry to Russia. As was to be expected, however, our country failed to recognise that any rights violation had taken place. The court’s decision not to return the kidnapped child to her mother and leave him in the care of his father’s family was explained with reference to “the national idiosyncrasies of child-rearing in Chechen families”.</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">“He didn’t kill her, we ought to put it like this: he removed her from life so she wouldn’t bring shame on herself”</p><p dir="ltr">People wishing to join the battle against “immorality”, whatever the meaning of that word, are a dime a dozen. But sometimes the participants in this battle go beyond the usual teenager users of Youtube and social media groups and include state officials. For instance, in 2016, Gadzhimet Safaraliev, the then head of the State Duma Committee for Nationality Affairs, <a href="https://regnum.ru/news/2117837.html">recommended</a> that one participant should never reveal that she was, in fact, from there. Why? Because Albina Ildarova had posed for swimsuit photos, as per the contest’s requirements. </p><p dir="ltr">“Patriarchal paradigms manifest themselves more strongly in the Caucasus than elsewhere in Russia,” Irina Kosterina, sociologist and coordinator of the Henrich Böll Foundation’s Gender Democracy initiative, explains. </p><p dir="ltr">“In certain republics, gender relations are strongly influenced by local traditions and customs that regulate social distance, interaction rituals and sometimes also people’s behaviour and appearance. Local researchers and journalists may enjoy writing about the ‘special role of women in society in the North Caucasus’, but they certainly don’t enjoy writing about the problematic side of things: washing your dirty linen in public, they believe, is a definite no-no. Men in the North Caucasus are particularly averse to the topic, regarding the slightest reference to women’s rights infringements as a potshot aimed in their collective direction and serving to undermine their reputations.” </p><h2 dir="ltr">A new generation chooses</h2><p dir="ltr">Two years ago, a group of researchers from the Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy <a href="https://etokavkaz.ru/obshchestvo/izmerit-musulmanina">conducted</a> a study of the values held by Dagestani Muslims. Troubled though Dagestan might be, 60% of respondents felt “secure”, while 85% declared themselves to be “happy” or “relatively happy”. The questionnaire also featured questions about family and relationships with children. Older people, as it turned out, were generally in favour of the idea of working women, with 90% asserting that women could work as long as they had someone to leave the children with. The equivalent percentage among the younger generation was far lower – a mere 64% – and dropped to 59% among adherents of “non-traditional Islam” (so-called Salafis). But the latter group also proved more tolerant to the idea of women taking the initiative in the search for a husband, with 33% in favour (as compared to a mere nine percent among “secularised Muslims”). </p><p dir="ltr">Respondents were also presented with a hypothetical scenario featuring a ne’er-do-well son, a straight-A daughter and a paterfamilias who can afford to educate only one of his two children. 59% of all respondents suggested that he should accord this privilege to the daughter, but only 49% of younger respondents agreed. 40% said that the daughter should be given her own say in the matter, while 19% maintained that she be married off. </p><p><iframe allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/1sTDA9Y1Lwk" height="259" width="460"></iframe><em>In this 2016 talk show broadcast in Dagestan, young men and women voice their concerns about "women's behaviour".</em></p><p dir="ltr">That young people hold conservative attitudes towards women’s rights was also evidenced during <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sTDA9Y1Lwk&amp;t=109s">a Dagestani talk show on the subject</a> at the time. The talk show’s interactive audience was made up of law school students, and only two of them answered in the affirmative to the question of whether “women in Dagestan have problems”. As it turned out, one of the two had misunderstood the question, while the second proved more unwavering and dug in his heels: “Yes, they do! Many girls don’t dress properly!”</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">On the talkshow, not a single girl answered that she’d stand up for her herself and assert her right to have her own plans and forge her own way in life</p><p dir="ltr">The discussion eventually segued into a family-versus-career debate. The girls among the student audience were asked the following question: what would you do if your other half refused to allow you to continue your studies or go into work after graduating from law school? Not a single girl answered that she’d stand up for her herself and assert her right to have her own plans and forge her own way in life. They were then asked if the very wording of the question didn’t trouble and disconcert them. Did they really believe that anyone, no matter how beloved, had the right to give them – grown adults now – consent to do anything, or to withhold that consent? Cue an awkward silence in the studio – a silence interrupted by a sonorous, girlish voice: “Yes!” “Why?” “He’s responsible for me!”</p><p dir="ltr">But “responsibility”, as men in the North Caucasus understand it, isn’t about ensuring that women feel happy and protected. It’s about ensuring that they don’t step out of line. Which entails keeping them under control. A control that can be all-encompassing. A colleague of mine – a woman who’d been working in Chechnya for a couple of months – once made an obscure quip: if a young Chechen hasn’t checked his iPhone for an hour, his sister must be married! No one got what she meant. “Well,” she explained, “if his sister’s married, it’s up to the husband to make sure she’s kept in check. But if she isn’t, any ‘upstanding’ Chechen brother will monitor her every move through her phone’s GPS.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">“A different purpose”</h2><p dir="ltr">Discussions around gender inequality tend to focus on the male-female wage gap, on “glass ceilings”, on the fact that a woman stands less chance of getting a job than a man with the same level of qualifications, and on the list of occupations from which women are legislatively barred. But in the Caucasus, this list is much broader than elsewhere, and people become acquainted with it long before they actively consider potential employment avenues. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” a five-year-old girl is asked. She answers – and confronts the reality of her world for the first time.</p><p dir="ltr">Zarina Beksalova, a teacher from Ingushetia whom I contacted for comment on this matter, didn’t confine herself to a two-sentence response. She sent me an extensive letter, and a very bitter and acerbic one. If we weren’t acquainted, I would never have believed that this young woman, who wears a hijab, could have written something of this kind. I’ll end by quoting two excerpts from Zarina’s letter, followed by her title. She insisted that I don’t omit the latter.</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">In my conversations with my students, I often tell them about the diversity of professions in the world: there are people who pick up penguins in the Arctic, marine biologists, archaeologists, animators, freelance correspondents, sailors in the navy, etc. The girls listen with great enthusiasm, ask interesting questions, express their concerns. Then someone pipes up: ‘I won’t be allowed to train as an archaeologist. I’m a girl and I have to choose a girly profession.’ She’s followed by a second girl, a third, a fourth, a tenth, all of them breaking out into bitter lamentations. </p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">Girls are barred from many occupations because they serve a ‘different purpose’. Furthermore, ‘men are smarter and stronger / women must wholly submit to the will of their families / girls haven’t the right to study abroad / women’s opinions aren’t taken into account’. A woman can be forcibly married off at any time and to whatever husband her patrilineal relatives deem appropriate. Divorce proceedings, too, can only be initiated with the permission of her family’s menfolk. In our society, a divorcee loses even the little power she wielded as an ‘innocent’ girl or as a married woman.</p><p class="blockquote-new">The absurdity of it all is encapsulated by the fact that widow, divorcee and woman of easy virtue are all rendered by a single Ingush word – zhiiro. I don’t think I really need to expand upon how hard it is to be divorced or widowed in a patriarchal society where everyone can construe the meaning of ‘zhiiro-hood’ however they please. But the time has come for us women to decide what role we are to map out for ourselves in any of the world's communities, and how (if at all) this choice is influenced by this or that status. </p><p class="blockquote-new">Zarina Beksalova, zhiiro.</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="/od-russia/irina-kosterina/love-north-caucasus-style">Love, North Caucasus style</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ekaterina-neroznikova/convert-and-love-russia-s-muslim-wives">Convert and love: Russia’s Muslim wives</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maria-klimova-yulia-sugueva/honour-killings-in-russia-s-north-caucasus">“Honour killings” in Russia’s North Caucasus</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/editors-of-opendemocracy-russia/stories-you-weren%E2%80%99t-meant-to-hear-women-tradition-and-powe">Stories you weren’t meant to hear: women, tradition and power in Russia’s North Caucasus </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia 50.50 oD Russia Svetlana Anokhina Human rights Caucasus Tue, 05 Jun 2018 04:08:12 +0000 Svetlana Anokhina 118220 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Backlash podcast episode 3: why we need feminist investigative journalism https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lara-whyte-claire-provost/backlash-podcast-episode-3-feminist-investigative-journalism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>At the 2018 International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, 50.50 organised a panel on feminist investigative journalism with Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi, Crina Boros, and Claudia Torrisi.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 13.01.41.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="50.50 at the 2018 International Journalism Festival."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 13.01.41.png" alt="50.50 at the 2018 International Journalism Festival." title="50.50 at the 2018 International Journalism Festival." width="460" height="262" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>50.50 at the 2018 International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy.</span></span></span><b>Lara Whyte (LW):</b> Hello and welcome to the third episode of The Backlash, a podcast series by <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050">50.50</a>, the gender and sexuality section of openDemocracy. I’m Lara Whyte and thank you for listening. </p><p dir="ltr">This month’s podcast is a little bit different, because we were at the International Journalism Festival in the beautiful Italian city of Perugia and we hosted a panel on <a href="https://www.journalismfestival.com/programme/2018/why-we-need-feminist-investigative-journalism">why we need feminist investigative journalism</a>. So we thought for this episode, we could give you a flavour of the conversation that we had there.</p> <iframe width="100%" height="120" src="https://www.mixcloud.com/widget/iframe/?hide_cover=1&feed=%2F5050od%2Fthe-backlash-episode-3-why-we-need-feminist-investigative-journalism%2F" frameborder="0" ></iframe> <p>On the panel, we have 50.50 writer <b>Claudia Torrisi</b>; we also have <b>Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi</b>, who is the co-editor of openDemocracy’s UK investigative section Shine a Light; and <b>Crina Boros</b>, an independent data-driven investigative reporter.</p><p dir="ltr">Here’s the editor of 50.50, <b>Claire Provost</b>, starting us off by explaining what we mean when we say feminist investigative journalism.</p><p dir="ltr"><b>Claire Provost (CP)</b>: So I became particularly attracted to and interested in investigative reporting because of its promises, its very core promises, to uncover and expose abuses of power, to reveal critical new information in the public interest.</p><p dir="ltr">So where are the investigative journalists challenging patriarchy, challenging structural violence against women, challenging intersecting forms of power and oppression? Now, of course, there are some incredible journalists who are doing this work, but they often do this thanklessly and with too few resources. And this is just not enough.</p><p dir="ltr">The goal of our ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/tracking-backlash">Tracking the Backlash</a>’ series is to demystify how international networks of ultraconservative and fundamentalist organisations are increasingly working together internationally to undermine [sexual and reproductive] rights in law, in policy, in media and other battlegrounds.</p><p dir="ltr">So we see feminist investigative journalism as serious investigative reporting about women and LGBTI rights, but not only that. </p><p dir="ltr">We want to produce important investigative stories in collaboration with other and with younger women and trans writers to also build their capacity, and thus our collective capacity, to investigate these issues. So it’s not just about what we write, but also how we write and how we work.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"It's not just about what we write, but also how we write and how we work."</p><p dir="ltr"><b>LW</b>: And so, Claire, why do you think this hasn’t been happening so far?</p><p dir="ltr"><b>CP</b>: This is something you and I have talked about a lot. And I think there are a couple of reasons, and one of them is about the structure of newsrooms and the structure of media organisations that are – you know, this is no surprise – are often very male-dominated, particularly when you look at who holds power in these spaces: who the seniors editors are, who the commissioners are, when you look at job titles and responsibilities and the freedom that individuals have within newsrooms to pursue things that interest them.</p><p dir="ltr">In the US, there was one really striking study from the Women’s Media Center, which is a non-profit that tracks issues like these, that looked at when reproductive rights, for example, are covered in the media – when they are covered – it’s more often by men. And they produced <a href="http://www.womensmediacenter.com/about/press/press-releases/men-dominate-news-coverage-of-womens-reproductive-issues-finds-womens-media">a study in 2016</a> that looked at 12 major outlets in the US and found, for example, that at The New York Times men authored nearly twice as many reproductive rights stories as women did. And that men are were also quoted more often in these stories.</p><p dir="ltr">And if the exclusion of women’s voices in debates around our rights is part of the problem, then why do we accept this?</p><p dir="ltr">Because who speaks and who frames issues in public debates, it really does matter. And in addition to this, our very male-dominated newsrooms are often filled with a really ultra-competitive atmosphere that kicks questions like this to the curb in the race for my byline, my story, my moment, my recognition, my career, my promotion… always about the individual. </p><p dir="ltr">And this doesn’t encourage collaboration or mentorship or solidarity between reporters. And it can also reproduce and really fail to challenge extremely disempowering and damaging power dynamics.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"Who speaks and who frames issues in public debates, it really does matter."</p><p dir="ltr">This isn’t to say that all women are feminists, they aren't; and it’s not to say that doing this work is easy, it really isn’t. </p><p dir="ltr">As an editor, it can be easier, it can be faster, to work with a highly-educated (in a traditional sense), highly-experienced (in a traditional sense), native English-speaking man, based in the same time zone as you, who doesn’t ask these difficult questions, who doesn’t ask their editor: “Am I really the right person to write this story? Maybe should you give it to someone else.”</p><p dir="ltr">But that doesn’t mean that the status quo is right, or that we should continue to abide by it or to support that status quo. </p><p dir="ltr">Meaningful collaborations, working in solidarity with other women, supporting new writers, challenging corporate power, challenging fascisms, fundamentalisms, investigating structural violence this is also really difficult and delicate work, which I think is another reason why mainstream organisations, in particular, might not choose to focus their time on these areas.</p><p dir="ltr">We spend a lot of time with our writers. We spend a lot of time getting to know them, working with them, developing relationships, editing their pieces really carefully, explaining our edits, engaging in a back and forth that most news desks and editors wouldn’t dream of. It would seem really inefficient. </p><p dir="ltr">But our goals are different; our goals are also very explicitly about challenging the exclusion of women’s voices, of trans women, of women of colour, politically-radical women, working-class women, challenging the exclusion of their voices from media and public debates – this is really core to what we want to do, but of course it requires significant care, time and resources.</p><p dir="ltr"><b>LW</b>: Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi is an investigative reporter and the editor of Shine a Light which is openDemocracy’s UK investigative section. So, Rebecca, I wanted you to talk us through how Shine a Light covers state and structural violence against women.</p><p dir="ltr"><b>ROO</b>: Our sources tend to be based in communities and actually living through an injustice rather than people with access to money and power who might blow the whistle on something. We cover structural violence against women where it’s related to the British government’s austerity program. That program began in 2008 in response to the financial crisis and it’s continued since then.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_0_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>London women’s protest against austerity cuts. Photo: Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi.</span></span></span>By austerity I mean cutting the role of the state in society <span class="st">– </span>so that's less spending on public services like social security, which we call welfare benefits in the UK; that’s less money for local authorities; that’s cuts to legal aid for people who aren’t rich; and that’s a freeze on salaries of public sectors workers.</p><p dir="ltr">It's also lowering taxes, saving money by cutting spending, and all of this hurts women most – that’s really well documented. There is a ton of statistics I won’t go through now. But, just broadly, the reason women are more affected by austerity programmes is because they are more likely to use public services; they are more likely to be in low-pay jobs in the public sector; and they are more likely to do unpaid care work when the government is no longer providing a particular social service.</p><p dir="ltr">And all of these policy choices are very deliberate. Impacts assessments were produced and sent to civil servants and they still went ahead. And some of these policies seem to be a deliberate attempt to create an old-fashioned nuclear family where women are forced into financially-dependent relationships in order to survive.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"Some of these policies seem to be an attempt to create an old-fashioned nuclear family where women are forced into financially-dependent relationships in order to survive."</p><p dir="ltr">So, as you can imagine, there is a huge swathe of material to investigate. You've got public services that have been built over decades, usually by feminist activists, over time, that have become state services, and they are being rolled back through this policy.</p><p dir="ltr"> And one area that I have tended to focus on is the lives of black and brown women and working-class women because we have data to show that they lose even more than the poorest white women, so they are really hit by some of these policies, and they are also dealing with existing structural disadvantages.</p><p dir="ltr">How does this play out in my work? In the long history of the battle for women’s rights and civil rights, and I include trans women in that struggle, personal testimony, and women talking and being listened to, has been crucial in forcing a public awakening that precipitates activism, protests, legal and policy change. </p><p dir="ltr">But in the world of investigative journalism, it’s very masculine, so there are certain stories that are deemed worthier than others, and the voices of women just aren’t seen as a priority. In my reporting, I deliberately listen in a particular way, especially when I’m with women of colour, groups often invisible to wider society, in policy, in politics, in feminism – there are so many stories to investigate: the violence is pervasive and it’s hidden in plain sight.</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">"There are so many stories to investigate: the violence is pervasive and it’s hidden in plain sight."</p><p dir="ltr">One story I worked on was in collaboration with journalists in Scotland and Northern Ireland to tell the story of refugee women, and women with uncertain immigration status, trying to leave violent relationships… and there is this huge gap and there is this group of women who are not being helped.</p><p dir="ltr">So I wrote about a smart young woman named Nabila who came to the UK from Pakistán and married a British man. Her migration status was a bit iffy; she didn’t have complete rights because she was in the UK on a spousal visa. </p><p dir="ltr">He was physically abusive, his family bullied her, and one day she just decided that she’d had enough. So she went to the British police and instead of supporting her, and treating her as a victim of crime, they interrogated her. When she went to a domestic violence refuge, they asked “What’s your immigration status?” before asking, or even saying, I believe you.</p><p dir="ltr">There is a gap in the law, basically. And it means that some migrant and refugee women in the UK who are there on a spousal visa can’t access certain public services. Nabila managed to somehow get out of this situation, leave her abusive husband, but she had nowhere to go, so what happens next?</p><p dir="ltr">As part of my research, as well as interviewing women, one thing that I tried to do was to get data from the government. </p><p dir="ltr">I sent Freedom of Information requests to the Home Office (they manage immigration). They said they don’t keep the data on domestic violence victims. I also sent requests to 34 local authorities across England and Wales, part of a network who are already monitoring migrants with precarious immigration status. Not one single council had kept any data on these women.</p><p dir="ltr">One of the problems that I had, as someone who is trying to track what happens to women who aren’t white or who have uncertain migration status, is that sometimes the data isn’t collected. In another quick example, I worked with a university researcher on this. She was writing a story for me about the cuts to services for South Asian women and other women of colour in her area, and she found statistics on gender, statistics on race, but never statistics on both, and it made her feel invisible and frustrated.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"She found statistics on gender, statistics on race, but never statistics on both, and it made her feel invisible and frustrated."</p><p dir="ltr"><b>LW</b>: Thank you Rebecca. To move on to Crina – Crina is a freelance data-driven investigative reporter based in London, but from Romania. I wanted you to start by telling us how you started looking into gender-related stories as a data journalist.</p><p dir="ltr"><b>CB</b>: Freelancers must find the underreported stories for a living. And I report on drivers of injustice, so I chase dodgy people, questionable business interests and harmful policies. To get a comprehensive understanding, I usually start with data analysis. When reporting on vulnerable groups, it is impossible not to find examples where women suffer the brunt of inequality.</p><p dir="ltr">I reported on compensation policies implemented by the British Ministry of Defense (MOD) for victims in war-torn Afghanistan. A table I obtained via Freedom of Information laid out the sums the ministry paid out for each type of injury: partial blindness, $1,000; loss of a foot, $2,500; loss of both legs, between $2,500-7,000, etcetera. </p><p dir="ltr">I found that women victims were compensated by default and design significantly less than men for the same type of injury. For example, if a man was accidentally killed by the British armed forces, his family would be compensated with anything between $8,000-12,000. Yet, if a woman was killed, her family would be paid between $5,000-8,000. </p><p dir="ltr">And so on for pretty much every single type of injury, apart from one: facially disfigured women were compensated with more money than facially disfigured men because it affected their prospects of a good marriage, if any. Asked why they made this stark discrimination between sexes, the defence ministry of Britain said they were applying local customary laws.</p><p dir="ltr">Case 2: I conducted two international polls on women’s rights in a small team of two. One examined endemic sexual harassment and violence on public transport in the world’s megacities. We interviewed over 6,600 women. Parisian women interviewees felt that no one will help them if they were attacked in a metro station or on a train at night. Women felt safer to travel in gender-segregated coaches or carriages in Latin America, while in India they reported being targeted even more for using women’s only transport vehicles. </p><p dir="ltr">The most shocking aspect of this research, to me, was to find out that women around the globe choose their lives and livelihoods not around their aspirations, dreams or ambitions, but, say, on how long they will have to walk on a street with no public lighting <span class="st">– </span>a seemingly banal aspect of everyday Western life.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/24572955038_2f3af6a60b_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/24572955038_2f3af6a60b_o.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women using gender-segregated public transport in Jakarta. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/unwomen/24572955038">UN Women/Ryan Brown/Flickr.</a> CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Case 3: A look at outward migrations patterns in Romania’s most underprivileged areas shows that children left at home suffer when mothers are the first in a couple to migrate for seasonal work. Due to language similarities, Romanian women prefer to migrate to Italy, Spain and Portugal. Their departure, forced by economic circumstances, had led to children going through emotional trauma, burnout phases, spikes in child sexual abuse (especially in girls) and divorces. The migrating mothers are abused too. </p><p dir="ltr">Their physical and mental health, self-esteem and civil rights suffer as they toil abroad, often in abject conditions. Strawberry farmers are discouraged from bringing their husbands, but they are strongly encouraged to bring other women from their village... these women have become the main breadwinners of their family. Underprivileged Romanian villages are experiencing a poverty-induced matriarchal revival.</p><p dir="ltr">Data-driven investigations: they have the power of showing if a wrongdoing is systematic, whether it is scientifically-correlated with another aspect of life or politics. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"Data-driven investigations: they have the power of showing if a wrongdoing is systematic."</p><p dir="ltr">When you go about your reporting using a data-driven approach, there is a certain integrity in your findings. Sometimes you must write your stories around extreme cases; sometimes the average is the biggest anomaly you will ever find. Evidence-based reporting, rather than anecdotal, shelters both journalists and their sources, to some degree, from retaliation. </p><p dir="ltr">It’s sometimes better to protect vulnerable sources when you have a database, that’s an inanimate object: you can’t kill it. Most of the times, with data, you don’t assume, you know.</p><p dir="ltr"><b>LW</b>: Claudia Torrisi is an independent reporter who writes a regular column for us. Claudia, a lot of your work for us focuses on violence against women. Why?</p><p dir="ltr"><b>CT</b>: I think that violence against women is one of the best examples of why Italy needs real feminist journalism. In Italy, the mainstream media talks a lot about stories of femicides, women killed or abused by their partners, raped by strangers. Newspapers and TV programmes are full of these kinds of stories. The problem is that telling stories about women is not the same thing as telling women’s rights stories, and too often the caution and the care that should be applied to reporting on such a critical issue is absent.</p><p dir="ltr">Italian media too often use a sort of romantic frame to talk about these stories. The murder is often presented as a crime of passion. You can read words like sick love, jealousy <span class="st">–</span> it is really unbelievable how widespread this narrative is. If you do a quick search on Google, with the words in Italian “killed for jealousy” (<i>uccisa per gelosia</i>), you will see an incredible number of results.</p><p dir="ltr">An example: last month in Sicily, a 20-year-old girl was stabbed to death by her boyfriend and there were plenty of articles and headlines saying that he killed her for jealousy. But if you dig a little into this story, you find that the relationship between that girl and her boyfriend was far from being perfect and healthy. She had been beaten up by her partner several times, but she had never filed a complaint with the police.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"Telling stories about women is not the same thing as telling women's rights stories."</p><p dir="ltr">So I think that is why this narrative, full of stereotypes and this romantic frame, is dangerous <span class="st">– </span>because describing the violence as linked to individual responsibilities leaves out from the story the roots of the violence, which are patriarchy, unequal power relations between women and men, discrimination.</p><p dir="ltr">There are a lot of issues related to femicides and violence that need to be investigated. For example, a lot of victims had filed complaints to the police before being killed. So the question is: why are Italian laws and authorities failing to protect women from violence? Or why do women’s centres and refuges have so many difficulties in carrying out their activities? Why are many of them about to close? Or, another example, why is Italy unable to set school education programs to prevent violence?</p><p dir="ltr">Something is changing now, thanks to groups of female journalists and researchers who are trying to reconstruct the way we talk about violence against women in Italy. There are initiatives, education courses, protests when there is bad coverage, but still, this narrative is predominant, so we definitely need better reporting on violence against women.</p><p dir="ltr"><b>LW</b>: You give us one of our biggest hits on 50.50 when you looked into the Weinstein scandal and how the Italian media were reporting it. Do you want to tell me about that, and what was different about how it was being reported in Italy, compared to other countries?</p><p dir="ltr"><b>CT</b>: One of Weinstein’s accusers was the Italian actress and director Asia Argento who told The New Yorker she was sexually assaulted by Weinstein in 1997. That’s the reason why the Italian media gave significant space to the scandal, but instead of focusing on Weinstein, they scrutinised the victims. We can definitely say that, in Italy, the Weinstein scandal quickly became Asia Argento's scandal.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/PA-13570269.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/PA-13570269.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Asia Argento in Cannes, 2012. Photo: Hahn-Marechal-Nebinger/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Media reports focused on her behaviour, describing her as an opportunist, even a prostitute, questioning why she had waited so long to come forward, and some reports said that what she was claiming wasn’t violence as she was not beaten, she did not scream, she did not escape, she did not fit the stereotype of a sexual violence victim. What is worse is that such voices, here, are seen as common sense: “She could have done something to avoid that situation.”</p><p dir="ltr">The debate here got stuck in show business and was treated by the media as gossip. It seems that industries all over the world had their own moments of reckoning inspired by the Weinstein scandal, while we did not have any.</p><p dir="ltr">Here the discussion around sexual harassment at work remains a sort of taboo. This is, of course, a cultural problem and it shows how much sexual abusers and harassers can feel safe in this country, but this also has to do with the Italian media industry which is a world in which the power is all in male hands. So the real problem is that narratives are shaped by men who are in power and we know that harassment is about power.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"The real problem is that narratives are shaped by men who are in power and we know that harassment is about power."</p><p dir="ltr">Our National Institute of Statistics estimated that 8.2 million Italian women between 14-65 years old have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime. 1.4 million women have experienced physical harassment or sexual blackmail in their workplace. What's more: 80% of these women said that they told no one at work about the incident; almost no one had reported the incident to the police.</p><p dir="ltr">So we need feminist investigative journalists to uncover this system of harassment and abuse in every working field, including the media, and to tell these underreported stories to create safer spaces for women to share their experiences.</p><p dir="ltr"><b>LW:</b>&nbsp;That’s it for us. Join us again next month. You can tweet us at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/5050od" target="_blank">@5050od</a>&nbsp;or&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/Backlash_Track" target="_blank">@Backlash_Track</a>. Feel free to give us a bell, let us know what you think, give us some ideas, feedback also welcome. You can email us, or you can&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/opendemocracy5050/" target="_blank">find us on Facebook</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">50.50 is an independent feminist media platform. You can support our work by <a href="http://bit.ly/2pNDYDE">donating on our website</a>. Help us track the backlash against women’s rights.</p><p><b><i>This episode of The Backlash is an edited version of 50.50's panel at the <a href="https://www.journalismfestival.com/programme/2018/why-we-need-feminist-investigative-journalism">2018 International Journalism Festival </a>in Perugia, Italy, chaired by Lara Whyte. Audio editing and music production by Simone Lai. Produced by Lara Whyte and Claire Provost; assistant producing by Rocio Ros.&nbsp;</i></b></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/tracking-the-backlash">Tracking the backlash: why we&#039;re investigating the &#039;anti-rights&#039; opposition</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lara-whyte/backlash-podcast-episode-1-women-and-far-right">The Backlash podcast episode 1: women and the far right </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lara-whyte-claire-provost/backlash-podcast-episode-2-you-cant-eat-condom">The Backlash podcast episode 2: &quot;you can&#039;t eat a condom&quot;</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-mp3-file"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <div class="filefield-file"><img class="filefield-icon field-icon-audio-mpeg" alt="audio/mpeg icon" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/sites/all/modules/filefield/icons/audio-x-generic.png" /><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/The%20Backlash%203.mp3" type="audio/mpeg; length=23520161">The Backlash 3.mp3</a></div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Equality Ideas Podcast Women's rights and the media Tracking the backlash 50.50 newsletter feminism gender patriarchy violence against women women and power women's human rights women's work young feminists Claire Provost Lara Whyte Mon, 04 Jun 2018 12:20:20 +0000 Lara Whyte and Claire Provost 117380 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Feminist journalists must document structural violence against women – with investigations from below https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/feminist-anti-racist-investigations-from-below <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Any feminist anti-racist reporting project must work to dismantle received ideas of how and whose stories should be told, and who gets to tell them.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2_0.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>London women’s protest against austerity cuts. Photo: Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi.</span></span></span>In the long history of women’s battle for civil and human rights – and I include trans woman in this struggle – personal testimony, women talking and being listened to, has been crucial to forcing the public awakening that precipitates activism, protest, legal and policy change.</p><p dir="ltr">There are elements of this tradition of listening, documenting injustices, and keeping a record of the casual damage of structural violence, that chime with investigative journalism. This is what the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/obituaries/overlooked-ida-b-wells.html">pioneering reporter Ida B. Wells</a> did in nineteenth century America, when she carefully documented the lynching of black men, her truth challenging established narratives.</p><p dir="ltr">But the world of investigative journalism today is essentially masculine. Certain stories are seen as worthier of investigation, certain storytellers deemed more credible and authoritative. The voices of women are rarely prioritised. Any feminist anti-racist reporting project must work to dismantle received ideas of how and whose stories should be told, and who gets to tell them.</p><p dir="ltr">In my own reporting I deliberately listen to people in a particular way, putting in the extra work to find and hear the voices of those who are often invisible to wider society – in policy, in politics, and in feminism. There are too many under-investigated stories; the violence done is pervasive, hidden in plain sight.</p><p dir="ltr">How austerity – state-sanctioned structural violence against women, under the guise of ‘saving money’ – has played out in Britain is just one example.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_0.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>London women’s protest against austerity cuts. Photo: Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi.</span></span></span>Reducing the role of the state, cutting budgets for local authorities, legal aid, and public services including social security (we call them welfare benefits in the UK), freezing public sector salaries – these policies hurt women the most. That’s well-documented.</p><p dir="ltr">Women are more likely to use public services, more likely to be employed in low-paid jobs in the public sector, and more likely to do the unpaid care work when the government no longer provides a particular social service. It follows, if you cut the public sector, you hurt women. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">“In the UK, these policies choices were deliberate. Austerity was enacted despite knowledge that it would impoverish women.”</p><p dir="ltr">In the UK, these policies choices were deliberate. Austerity was enacted despite knowledge that it would <a href="https://lacuna.org.uk/justice/fighting-on-all-fronts-poorest-women-hit-by-legal-aid-cuts-in-family-courts/">impoverish women.</a> <a href="https://wbg.org.uk/analysis/assessments/">Impact assessments</a> were produced <a href="https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/the-impact-of-austerity-on-women">showing this</a>. One <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/oct/22/yvette-cooper-fawcett-society-cuts">feminist NGO even took the government to court</a> to challenge the first austerity budget. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/dec/06/fawcett-society-loses-court-challenge-budget">They lost.</a>&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Some of these policies seemed to be a deliberate attempt to revert to an old-fashioned idea of a nuclear family – forcing women into financially-dependent relationships in order to survive. Even though working class and some middle class women have always had to take paid work (on top of unpaid care work carried out in the home).</p><p dir="ltr">Public services that were built up over decades enabled women to live more financially independent lives – they weren’t perfect, but we could build on them. These were rolled back under austerity policies.</p><p dir="ltr">I’ve focused on the impact of austerity on the lives of migrant women, working class women, and black and brown women. Referred to in the stats as BAME, we have <a href="https://wbg.org.uk/news/new-research-shows-poverty-ethnicity-gender-magnify-impact-austerity-bme-women/">data</a> showing that they lose more than even the poorest white women under austerity, which only adds to existing structural disadvantages.</p><p dir="ltr">When I’ve documented these stories, it’s been from the bottom up. As an independent journalist, mostly working for small organisations, I have had the flexibility to choose how I frame and investigate stories.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image3.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image3.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yarl's Wood Protest 2015, Bedford, United Kingdom, Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/idarrenj/20249549299/">Flickr/iDJ Photography.</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.</a> Some Rights Reserved.</span></span></span>This means that my sources tend to be based in communities and living through injustices, rather than people with access to money and power who might blow the whistle on something. Following the money is important, but so too is following the policy. Who is hurt and why?</p><p dir="ltr">I’m not the only one who works in this way. Back in 2016, <a href="https://theferret.scot/asylum-domestic-violence/">I worked in collaboration</a> with journalists at the Scottish investigative journalism platform <a href="https://theferret.scot/">the Ferret</a>, to tell the story of refugee women and women with uncertain migration status trying to leave violent relationships.</p><p>While working on that story, I was reminded of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBtb1oamB4k">a comment</a> made by the woman who set up the UK's first formal domestic violence refuge, in an abandoned terrace house in west London. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBtb1oamB4k">She said:</a> “Nobody seemed to be doing anything constructive to help. They just seemed to be sending these women back to the men who beat them, and some back to be killed.”</p><p>She described “a terrible relentless uncaring…” and that was – is – exactly what’s happening to refugee and migrant women across the UK today. People who are supposed to help are turning them away.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Nobody seemed to be doing anything constructive to help. They just seemed to be sending these women back to the men who beat them, and some back to be killed.”</p><p dir="ltr">I <a href="https://lacuna.org.uk/migration/terrible-relentless-uncaring/">wrote </a>about a bright young woman named Nabeelah who had come to the UK from Pakistan and married a British man. He was physically abusive; his family bullied her. One day she said: enough.</p><p dir="ltr">She went to the British police and they interrogated her. When she went to a domestic violence refugee, they asked: what’s your immigration status? They couldn’t help because her migration status meant they wouldn’t receive government money to fund her place in their shelter.</p><p dir="ltr">This is another effect of austerity and a government that is very hostile to migrants. There’s a gap in British law, which means that some migrant and refugee women in the UK on spousal visas can’t access some public services.</p><p dir="ltr">I’ve <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/end-of-domestic-violence-support-for-black-and-brow">written about this issue before</a>, and <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/documents/joint-committees/human-rights/BILLS-10-12-142-Submission-from-Southall-Black-Sisters-on-reform-of-legal-aid.pdf">black feminists have fought this for decades.</a> It predates austerity, which has made it worse. Legal aid for most immigration cases and for challenges to benefit decisions is now much more limited, and fewer services are available.</p><p dir="ltr">Nabeela managed to leave her abusive husband, but she had nowhere to go. Eventually she was put in touch with a brilliant lawyer, a woman of colour working all hours to keep her practice going because the government cut legal aid for most immigration cases as part of its austerity programme.</p><p dir="ltr">Much of the work this lawyer does for these women is unpaid. With her help, Nabeelah secured a place at a special refuge for women of South Asian origin.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/public-leaders-network/2016/mar/16/budget-cuts-domestic-violence-services-bme">Funding for these refuges has been cut dramatically</a> by government under austerity policies. They are reducing contracts for specialist domestic violence <a href="https://lacuna.org.uk/protest/sisters-uncut-protest/">grassroots organisations</a> that support <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/we-need-lgbt-specific-domestic-violence-charities-more-than-ever-but-the-only-one-in-the-uk-is-set-a6860691.html">LGBTQ services</a>, services for <a href="https://www.dropbox.com/s/c3n2gjs4g2g37s2/IMKAAN%20-%20STATE%20OF%20THE%20SECTOR%20%5BFINAL%5D.pdf?dl=0">black women, services for muslim women, services for LatinX women</a> and instead they offer generic contracts to large organisations who do many different things.</p><p dir="ltr">As part of my research – as well interviewing several women – I tried to get data from government on the number of domestic violence victims refused help because they were in the country on spousal visas.</p><p dir="ltr">I sent freedom of information requests to the Home Office. Their response? They don’t keep this data. I sent requests to 34 local authorities across England and Wales, all of whom were part of a network of councils monitoring precarious migrants in their districts. Not a single one kept data on these women. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">That’s another challenge in investigating issues affecting mostly black and poor women: there are huge data gaps.</p><p dir="ltr">Most of the councils I contacted said that they follow existing protocols for dealing with survivors of domestic violence. But, as with the Home Office’s latest Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy, these provide no specific guidance in cases of women without children who are unable to access public funds because of their migration status.</p><p dir="ltr">That’s another challenge in investigating issues affecting mostly black and poor women: there are huge data gaps.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://lacuna.org.uk/equality/layers-of-inequality-2/">I also worked with a university researcher </a>who was <a href="http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/72176/">investigating the effect of cuts to south Asian women and other women of colour</a> where she lived. She found statistics on gender, statistics on race, but rarely, when it came to public services, on both together. This frustrated her, and made her feel invisible.</p><p dir="ltr">This gap is part of a wider problem where official, accepted narratives ignore and render invisible the lived experiences of non-white people, especially those who identify as women.</p><p dir="ltr">It is such gaps and invisibility that Ida B Wells challenged when she investigated and reported on lynchings in America, more than a hundred years ago. This is what feminist, anti-racist media must do today.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>* This article is adapted from a talk given by Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi at the 2018 International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, where 50.50 organised a panel on <a href="https://www.journalismfestival.com/programme/2018/why-we-need-feminist-investigative-journalism">why we need feminist investigative journalism</a>.</em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Women's rights and the media women and power violence against women gendered poverty gendered migration gender feminism Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi Thu, 31 May 2018 07:00:55 +0000 Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi 118134 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'A historic victory for women's rights': how the world responded to Ireland's abortion referendum https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost-rocio-ros-rebollo/world-reaction-ireland-historic-vote-abortion-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Media from the UK to Argentina react to the results of Friday’s vote, laying the path to legislation for safe abortion services for Irish women.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-36705049.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Voters celebrate the referendum result in Dublin, on 26 May 2018."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-36705049.jpg" alt="Voters celebrate the referendum result in Dublin, on 26 May 2018." title="Voters celebrate the referendum result in Dublin, on 26 May 2018." width="460" height="294" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Voters celebrate the referendum result in Dublin, on 26 May 2018. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Ireland made history on Friday when it voted overwhelmingly to repeal a controversial constitutional amendment which has prevented legislation on safe abortion. The pro-choice position took a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2018/may/26/irish-abortion-referendum-result-count-begins-live">landslide 66%</a> of the vote.</p><p dir="ltr">The decision was described as a ‘<a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/05/ireland-abortion-referendum-exit-polls-suggest-repeal-landslide-180526051443946.html">monumental day for women</a>,’ while anti-abortion groups <a href="https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/no-side-reaction-the-fight-to-protect-the-lives-and-rights-of-the-unborn-will-continue-845236.html">warned that their fight is not over</a> and attention turned quickly to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/may/26/now-give-us-the-right-to-abortion-in-northern-ireland">Northern Ireland</a>, where Victorian-era anti-choice laws still apply.</p><p dir="ltr">Ireland is now “a changed place for women,” said <a href="https://www.rte.ie/news/2018/0526/966160-martina-fitzgerald-referendum/">one commentator for the Irish state RTE broadcaster</a>. “The people of Ireland didn’t just shout, they roared."</p><p dir="ltr">Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar <a href="https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/abortion-referendum/a-quiet-revolution-a-youthquake-a-genderquake-emphatic-yes-vote-reflects-a-changed-ireland-36948471.html">told reporters on Saturday</a>&nbsp;that&nbsp;the result was “the culmination of a quiet revolution that has been taking place in Ireland over the last couple of decades.”</p><p dir="ltr">The landslide vote and its implications reverberated throughout the world’s press, which had closely followed the referendum campaigns that had been marred by concerns about foreign influence online and on the ground.</p><p dir="ltr">Last week, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/six-ways-Ireland-abortion-vote-hacked-foreign-influence">openDemocracy 50.50 revealed</a> that Irish anti-abortion groups were accepting foreign donations online, against the law, and that Facebook ads could still be bought from abroad, despite the social media platform's ban on foreign advertising targeting Irish voters ahead of the referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">British and Irish parliamentarians <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/facebook-foreign-ad-ban-Irish-referendum-abortion">called for major changes</a> to unregulated social media campaigning following openDemocracy’s reporting, “to protect the integrity of referendums and elections around the world.”</p><p dir="ltr">But despite the use of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/isobel-thompson/irish-anti-abortion-campaigners-brexit-trump-data-companies">controversial data-mining and targeting tactics and technologies from Brexit and the Trump presidential campaigns</a>, anti-abortion activists failed to win Friday’s vote.</p><p dir="ltr">“The outcome was a historic victory for women’s rights,” said <a href="https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/the-latest-irish-abortion-vote-puts-spotlight-on-n-ireland/ar-AAxP9in">the Associated Press news agency</a>, whose report was picked up by numerous media outlets internationally, several of which linked the referendum result to changes in Ireland’s religious landscape.</p><p dir="ltr">“The abortion vote has provided further evidence that the country is turning away from the Catholic Church, which historically enjoyed a firm grip upon Irish society,” said <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/05/ireland-abortion-referendum-exit-polls-suggest-repeal-landslide-180526051443946.html">Al Jazeera’s report</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">“The result looks set to be another hammer blow to the Roman Catholic Church’s authority in Ireland,” said <a href="http://www.scmp.com/news/world/europe/article/2147950/ireland-votes-overwhelmingly-repeal-abortion-ban-prime-minister">the AFP agency</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/26/world/europe/ireland-abortion-yes.html">The New York Times</a> described it as a “rebuke to [the] Catholic Church.” <a href="http://m.cnn.com/en/article/h_51f669e2452c3a6347a2ff746773a0c5">CNN</a> said it “completed a circle of sweeping social reforms… that fly in the face of the [church’s] traditional teachings.”</p><p dir="ltr">In India, the father of Savita Halappanavar, who died in Ireland after being refused an abortion in 2012, <a href="https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/abortion-referendum-ireland-on-brink-of-history-as-no-campaign-concedes-defeat/story-1tnNDKHoNKFnqAoq5O4VCP.html">told the Hindustan Times</a> that he had “no words to express his gratitude” for those who voted to change the country's laws.</p><p dir="ltr">In Italy, politician <a href="http://www.metronews.it/18/05/26/irlanda-boldrini-legalizzazione-aborto-risultato-storico.html">Laura Boldrini said</a> the vote was historic “for all those who fight and believe in the affirmation of rights.” Last week also marked 40 years of legal abortion in Italy, though doctors’ <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claudia-torrisi/abortion-italy-conscientious-objection">widespread ‘conscientious objection’</a>&nbsp;continues to limit women's access to these services.</p><p dir="ltr">In Spain,&nbsp;<a href="https://elpais.com/internacional/2018/05/26/actualidad/1527328272_231784.htm">El País</a>&nbsp;linked the Irish referendum result to an “unstoppable” feminist movement and said a new generation was “taking the reins of the last bastion of Catholic conservatism.” Meanwhile, the conservative <a href="http://www.abc.es/sociedad/abci-si-aborto-gana-irlanda-664-por-ciento-votos-201805261921_noticia.html">newspaper ABC</a> said it “demonstrates the hunger of society for a radical change.”</p><p dir="ltr">In Latin America, the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.clarin.com/mundo/irlanda-voto-masivamente-despenalizacion-aborto_0_SkXIRzP1m.html">Clarín</a>&nbsp;newspaper in Argentina&nbsp;said the vote challenged “the powerful influence of the Catholic Church on the Irish daily life and law.”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.huffpostbrasil.com/2018/05/26/o-sim-para-a-legalizacao-do-aborto-vence-em-referendo-na-irlanda-aponta-boca-de-urna_a_23443812/">Huffpost Brasil</a> said it was “a milestone" for a country that "was one of the most conservative in Europe.”&nbsp;<a href="http://www.elmostrador.cl/noticias/mundo/2018/05/26/durisima-derrota-de-la-iglesia-en-el-pais-mas-catolico-del-mundo-gana-la-liberalizacion-del-aborto-en-irlanda/">El Mostrador</a>, from Chile, described it as a “severe conservative defeat in Ireland… the most Catholic country in the world.”</p><p dir="ltr">In the UK, the Guardian and SkyNews ran liveblogs as the votes were counted on Saturday.</p><p dir="ltr">“The reverberations of what is first and foremost an Irish victory for women’s reproductive rights will be felt across the world,” <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/may/26/the-observer-view-on-the-irish-referendum-result">said the Observer</a>, offering “hope to the 1.25 billion women globally who have no access to safe abortion.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The result, it said, shows that "over the years it is possible to change people’s minds, to build a coalition, to use arguments framed in compassion and pragmatism to bring along those who lean towards social conservatism."</p><p dir="ltr">Over the weekend, there were tears on both sides of the Irish referendum campaigns.</p><p dir="ltr">Anti-abortion activists called the result a “<a href="https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/no-side-reaction-the-fight-to-protect-the-lives-and-rights-of-the-unborn-will-continue-845236.html">mark of shame</a>.” One campaigner with the European Life Network warned: “We are starting again now and we will make this vote a wake-up call… to renew our efforts consistently.”</p><p dir="ltr">In the months before the vote, hints of an anti-choice backup strategy became clear in meetings and some media reports which looked at Irish doctors’ and nurses’ <a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/abortion-inmo-calls-for-conscientious-objection-safeguards-1.3481966">rights to object</a> to providing care that goes against their ‘conscience.’</p><p dir="ltr">Last week, the US anti-abortion group <a href="https://c-fam.org/friday_fax/analysis-irish-referendum-means-international-pro-life-cause/">C-Fam said</a> the Irish referendum would “have a powerful effect globally” including because of its “symbolic value.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Ireland was a bastion of Catholicism, arguably the world’s strongest force in opposition to abortion,” it said. “A vote for abortion would signal a new stage in Ireland’s progression to a more secularist and even anti-Catholic society.”</p><p dir="ltr">On the day of the referendum, 25 May, <a href="https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2018-05/ireland-abortion-referendum-archbishop-eamon-martin.html">the Vatican News website</a> reported that the Irish Church was urging voters “to reject abortion” and was “seeking to spread their message of the sacredness of all human life.”</p><p dir="ltr">Irish archbishop Eamon Martin said the vote would be a “watershed and historic moment,” and that anti-abortion “people of all faiths and none” had united in a broad coalition to oppose the repeal motion.</p><p dir="ltr">Pope Francis is set to visit Ireland in August for the <a href="https://www.worldmeeting2018.ie/en/">World Meeting of Families</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Ireland has had one of the most restrictive abortion regimes in the world, with its eighth constitutional amendment, now repealed, enshrining equal ‘rights to life’ for women and unborn children.</p><p dir="ltr">Terminating a pregnancy in Ireland has been punishable with up to 14 years in prison, though Irish law has allowed women to travel abroad for abortions – at their own, significant cost.</p><p dir="ltr">Now, <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-europe-44264684/irish-abortion-referendum-legislation-will-go-as-quickly-as-possible">legislation to change this</a> is expected to go through Irish parliament, to legalise abortion <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/26/abortion-ban-repealed-ireland-what-happens-next">up to 12 weeks</a>, and after that only in specific circumstances.</p><p dir="ltr">In Europe, most countries allow abortion on request up to 12 weeks. In the UK, two doctors must agree before a woman can access an abortion, up to 24 weeks; after that only if her life is at risk or there is a severe fetal abnormality.</p><p dir="ltr">Abortion is severely restricted in Poland and Cyprus. Malta has a total ban. Internationally, there are also blanket prohibitions on abortion in states including El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua.</p><p dir="ltr">Chile <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-chile-abortion/chile-court-ruling-ends-abortion-ban-new-law-allows-in-limited-cases-idUSKCN1B1234">removed</a> its complete ban on abortion last year, allowing terminations in limited cases including when the woman’s life is at risk. Since the 1970s, abortion was illegal in the South American country without exception. </p><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"> Equality </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 Ireland Equality International politics women's movements women's human rights women's health bodily autonomy Rocío Ros Rebollo Claire Provost Mon, 28 May 2018 09:54:57 +0000 Claire Provost and Rocío Ros Rebollo 118089 at https://www.opendemocracy.net MPs criticise Facebook’s “not fit for purpose” foreign ad ban as Ireland votes on abortion https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/facebook-foreign-ad-ban-Irish-referendum-abortion <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>British and Irish parliamentarians call for major changes to unregulated social media campaigning following openDemocracy revelations – but too late for Friday’s historic vote.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/Facebook stock image PA-24636674.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/Facebook stock image PA-24636674.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="295" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Facebook’s logo. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>MPs and data rights advocates have raised serious concerns about the effectiveness of Facebook’s ban on foreign advertising ahead of Ireland’s abortion referendum, after an <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/six-ways-Ireland-abortion-vote-hacked-foreign-influence">openDemocracy investigation</a> found that campaigners outside Ireland could still pay for social media ads targeting Irish accounts with anti-abortion messages.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/08/facebook-to-block-foreign-spending-on-irish-abortion-vote-ads-referendum">Facebook announced</a> a ban on ads relating to Friday’s vote that do not originate from advertisers inside Ireland. The move followed <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/26/world/europe/ireland-us-abortion-referendum.html">growing fears</a> over foreign influence in the referendum and revelations about numerous online ads posted by groups in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/north-american-anti-abortion-facebook-ireland-referendum">international and unknown locations</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">But openDemocracy was still able to <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/six-ways-Ireland-abortion-vote-hacked-foreign-influence">buys ads targeting Irish accounts</a> with referendum-related propaganda from UK after the ban came in. From London, we set up a fake page called ‘Save Irish Babies’, and were soon prompted by Facebook to ‘boost’ our posts. We successfully paid to target Irish accounts in Dublin, Sligo and Wicklow. No VPN or sophisticated IP-masking software were used and we used a non-Irish address and bank card.</p><p dir="ltr">“This investigation demonstrates that the changes that Facebook has made regarding political and issues based adverts on its platform are not fit for purpose,” said Damian Collins MP, chair of the Westminster committee that is currently holding an inquiry into fake news.</p><p dir="ltr">“Buzzwords like AI and machine learning are all well and good, but it is clear that foreign individuals and organisations are still easily able to post adverts, demonstrating that a lot more needs to be done to protect the integrity of referendums and elections around the world,” Collins told openDemocracy.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“This investigation demonstrates that the changes that Facebook has made are not fit for purpose.”</p><p dir="ltr">James Lawless, a member of Irish Parliament, said openDemocracy’s investigation raised "massive concern” about whether Facebook’s ban on foreign ads had actually prevented campaigners outside Ireland from influencing the vote. The referendum result is expected to be very close.</p><p dir="ltr">“The moves by Facebook (to block ads) came so late in the day that even if the platforms had a genuine intent to tackle the problem the processes were not in place,” Lawless said. “As your investigation has highlighted it was by no means robust, it might not even have worked. That is a massive concern.”</p><p dir="ltr">Lawless has brought forward <a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/new-bill-proposes-action-against-fake-social-media-accounts-1.3316254">a bill</a> in the Irish parliament calling for greater transparency in online advertising and social media.</p><p dir="ltr">Such legislation is needed, he said, “to prevent the underhanded tactics we have seen on occasion during the campaigns in recent weeks, the Brexit referendum campaign in the UK, the presidential elections in the US and other less known elections across the globe.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Our laws related to electioneering must be updated to reflect the new spaces in which people campaign,” he added.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Our laws related to electioneering must be updated to reflect the new spaces in which people campaign.”</p><p dir="ltr">Gavin Sheridan, of the Irish transparency campaign Right to Know, echoed this call for government regulation of online political campaigning.</p><p dir="ltr">"We can no longer allow companies to set the terms and self-regulate how ads are seen in the context of elections and referenda,” he told openDemocracy. </p><p dir="ltr">“It is not up to Facebook, Google or any other company to choose what information to release or not release about what is going on. We need new, modern legislation to address how campaigns are run in the modern era. Self-regulation will simply not work.”</p><p dir="ltr">Social media played a significant role in the Irish referendum campaigns, with anti-abortion and pro-choice ads also appearing on YouTube, Instagram, Twittter and other channels. <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1twQxgARiZWLXzO69UXadFdHPiVAlfKpTRsHXYSCUEU4/edit?ts=5a9dce77#gid=0">Transparent Referendum Initiative</a> researchers captured some <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1twQxgARiZWLXzO69UXadFdHPiVAlfKpTRsHXYSCUEU4/edit?ts=5a9dce77#gid=0">1145 Facebook ads</a>, including from groups in foreign and unknown locations.</p><p dir="ltr">Google also announced its own <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/09/google-bans-irish-abortion-referendum-adverts">ban, on all ads related to the referendum</a>. But <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/24/irish-anti-abortion-campaigners-dodge-google-ad-ban">reports suggest</a> that anti-abortion campaigners have been able to sidestep this measure and continue to target Irish voters online by buying space on other platforms including news sites such as the Washington Post and the Guardian. </p><p dir="ltr">Guardian News and Media <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/24/irish-anti-abortion-campaigners-dodge-google-ad-ban">said</a> it was “continuing to investigate with our ad tech providers” how this was happening and a spokesperson for the women’s site Bustle.com said it was “reviewing preventative options.”</p><p dir="ltr">A spokesperson for Facebook Ireland <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/six-ways-Ireland-abortion-vote-hacked-foreign-influence">told openDemocracy</a>: “Since introducing the policy, we have rejected and removed many ads which were in violation of our foreign ads policy. We use both machine learning and human review to identify ads that should no longer be running.”</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/six-ways-Ireland-abortion-vote-hacked-foreign-influence">Six ways Ireland’s abortion referendum could be hacked this week</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/north-american-anti-abortion-facebook-ireland-referendum">Foreign and &#039;alt-right&#039; activists target Irish voters on Facebook ahead of abortion referendum</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"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 uk Ireland Democracy and government Equality International politics Internet Women's rights and the media Tracking the backlash women's human rights women's health bodily autonomy Peter Geoghegan Fri, 25 May 2018 11:45:35 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 118057 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Six ways Ireland’s abortion referendum could be hacked this week https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/six-ways-Ireland-abortion-vote-hacked-foreign-influence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Anti-abortion money, Facebook ads and boots-on-the-ground volunteers have piled in from across the world to try and swing Friday’s historic vote. Will they succeed?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 17.45.01.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="An anti-abortion activist confronts pro-choice campaigners in Dublin, 15 May 2018."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 17.45.01.png" alt="An anti-abortion activist confronts pro-choice campaigners in Dublin, 15 May 2018." title="An anti-abortion activist confronts pro-choice campaigners in Dublin, 15 May 2018." width="460" height="331" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>An anti-abortion activist confronts pro-choice campaigners in Dublin, 15 May 2018. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Terminating a pregnancy in Ireland is currently punishable with <a href="https://www.amnesty.org.uk/abortion-ireland-facts-crime">up to 14 years in prison</a>. Polls suggest that while pro-choice campaigns appear to be ahead, <a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/irish-times-poll-repeal-has-large-but-reduced-lead-1.3497830">one in six voters</a> are not sure how they’ll vote in Friday’s historic abortion referendum, which means the result is too close to call.</p><p dir="ltr">In a small country, a little money could buy a lot of impact on the result. Irish anti-abortion activists, and their international allies, have been preparing for this moment for years. Just four groups raised almost €6 million (roughly €1.20 per Irish resident) from 2014-2016, before the referendum was even called, according to a new openDemocracy analysis of their accounts. </p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile loopholes in Irish law – plus unregulated advertising on Facebook and other online spaces – make foreign influence in the referendum impossible to prevent. We’ve been investigating some of the groups seeking to influence the vote. Here are some of the most worrying things we’ve found:</p><hr /><h2><span>1) It’s very easy to donate to anti-abortion groups without being an Irish citizen or resident (which is against the law)</span></h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 13.22.06.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Screenshot from the anti-abortion Love Both’s online donations page."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 13.22.06.png" alt="Screenshot from the anti-abortion Love Both’s online donations page." title="Screenshot from the anti-abortion Love Both’s online donations page." width="460" height="322" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot from the anti-abortion Love Both’s online donations page.</span></span></span>Money has been “<a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/abortion-referendum-money-pouring-in-from-small-donors-both-sides-claim-1.3457117">pouring in from small donors</a>” ahead of the referendum. Irish law <a href="http://www.sipo.ie/en/About-Us/News/Press-Releases/2017-Press-Releases/Press-release-Standards-Commission-comments-on-funding-rules-under-Electoral-Act.html">prohibits political donations</a> from non-Irish citizens and residents. Ireland’s Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) says: “The purpose of these prohibitions is to protect against interference by foreign individuals or entities in Ireland's domestic political processes, including elections and referendums. Prohibited donations must be refused or returned.”</p><p>Both sides in the referendum debate say they're making sure that <a href="http://www.thejournal.ie/fundraising-referendum-3952252-Apr2018/">donations aren’t coming from abroad</a> – but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. openDemocracy made small (€2-3) donations to four Irish anti-abortion campaigns online, all from outside Ireland, using non-Irish addresses and credit cards. <a href="http://www.thelifeinstitute.net/donate/">The Life Institute</a> and <a href="https://abortionnever.ie/">Abortion Never</a> webpages note restrictions on foreign donations in fine print but others (the <a href="https://prolifecampaign.ie/main/donate-3/">Pro-Life Campaign</a> and <a href="https://loveboth.ie/donate/">Love Both</a>) don’t, and asked that we opt-in (or not) to share our mailing addresses.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 13.27.17.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Screenshot from the anti-abortion Love Both’s online donations page."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 13.27.17.png" alt="Screenshot from the anti-abortion Love Both’s online donations page." title="Screenshot from the anti-abortion Love Both’s online donations page." width="460" height="90" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot from the anti-abortion Love Both’s online donations page.</span></span></span>An automated email from The Life Institute said our donation would support a poster campaign in Irish cities and towns from Dublin to Donegal, and asked non-Irish donors to “please let us know and we will refund your donation immediately.” None of the other anti-abortion groups included this option for non-Irish donors in their thank you emails or donations receipts.</p><p dir="ltr">We tried to make similar, small donations to four pro-choice campaigns (Abortion Rights Campaign, Together for Yes, and Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment) online but they all specifically asked us to confirm that we were “either a citizen of the Irish Republic, or a permanent resident in Ireland.” Amnesty International Ireland’s referendum campaign wouldn’t accept a donation online at all without an Irish address.</p><p dir="ltr">We contacted each of the anti-abortion campaigns that we managed to donate to online to ask them about this, how they verify the eligibility of online donations, and how much money in foreign donations they have returned, if any. None of them responded.</p><p>We also donated to the Protect the 8th campaign but received an email from them saying that it would be refunded. On Tuesday, the campaign told 50.50 that it “is fully compliant with the law. Donors are required to give their address and there is a disclaimer on the page; ‘Only donations which satisfy the requirements of the electoral acts will be used for political purposes.' A donation of €5 was received yesterday from London, this has been refunded.”</p><hr /><h2><span>2) It’s very easy to flout Facebook’s ban on foreign ads targeted at Irish voters</span></h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 17.50.58.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Screenshot of ‘fake’ Facebook page set up by openDemocracy 50.50 to test the ban on referendum-related ads"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 17.50.58.png" alt="Screenshot of ‘fake’ Facebook page set up by openDemocracy 50.50 to test the ban on referendum-related ads" title="Screenshot of ‘fake’ Facebook page set up by openDemocracy 50.50 to test the ban on referendum-related ads" width="460" height="180" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screenshot of ‘fake’ Facebook page set up by openDemocracy 50.50 to test the ban on referendum-related ads ahead of Friday’s vote.</span></span></span>Two weeks ago, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/08/facebook-to-block-foreign-spending-on-irish-abortion-vote-ads-referendum">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/09/google-bans-irish-abortion-referendum-adverts">Google</a> announced bans on referendum-related social media ads targeting Irish voters. But posting a Facebook ad from outside of Ireland is still remarkably easy, as we discovered. After a short review process, openDemocracy managed to post two Facebook ads, targeting Irish accounts with referendum-related propaganda from UK, after the ban came in.</p><p dir="ltr">We created a fake page called ‘Save Irish Babies’, and were prompted by Facebook to boost our posts to attract likes. After the page was reviewed by Facebook, we successfully paid to target Irish accounts in Dublin, Sligo and Wicklow for 24 hours for £4 per post. The page was set up in London, along with a fake user account with a profile picture of a dog, but we set its location manually to Dublin. No VPN or sophisticated IP-masking software was used and we used a non-Irish address and bank card.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Posting a Facebook ad from outside of Ireland is remarkably easy, as we discovered.”</p><p dir="ltr">This is part of a wider and continuing pattern. <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1twQxgARiZWLXzO69UXadFdHPiVAlfKpTRsHXYSCUEU4/edit?ts=5a9dce77#gid=0">1145 Facebook adverts have been</a> captured by researchers with the <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1twQxgARiZWLXzO69UXadFdHPiVAlfKpTRsHXYSCUEU4/edit?ts=5a9dce77#gid=0">Transparent Referendum Initiative</a> (TRI). An analysis of <a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/900-paid-for-ads-relating-to-eighth-amendment-captured-1.3500743">nearly 900 ads</a> found that not even half (43%) of their 224 advertisers were known to Ireland’s SIPO body, which monitors political donations and election spending. </p><p dir="ltr">When approached by <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050">openDemocracy 50.50</a>, a spokesperson from Facebook Ireland said: “Since introducing the policy, we have rejected and removed many ads which were in violation of our foreign ads policy. We use both machine learning and human review to identify ads that should no longer be running. We’ve also set up a dedicated email channel for Irish campaign groups on both sides of the campaign and the Transparent Referendum Initiative to notify us about ads that may be in violation of our policies.”</p><p dir="ltr">Over the last week, TRI’s Liz Carolan said there’s been “an exponential increase” in the numbers of ads. “There’s a lot of groups that seem to pop up, fill people with information and then vanish,” she said. “Some of that content is gone and it leaves no trace. And it's very difficult to discern what kind of impact this kind of activity can have on voter behaviour.”</p><p dir="ltr">She called on Facebook to urgently release more information on who is spending money on referendum-related ads: “We don’t want to be in a situation like we are seeing in Westminster, where you have parliamentary hearings taking place two years after a vote. That’s too late.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“We don’t want to be in a situation like we are seeing in Westminster, where you have parliamentary hearings taking place two years after a vote. That’s too late.” </p><h2><hr /></h2><h2>3) Activists linked to far-right and ‘hate groups’ have also featured in referendum campaigning</h2><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 17.53.44.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Irish National Party leaders Justin Barrett and James Reynolds at the 2018 March for Life in Ireland. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 17.53.44.png" alt="Irish National Party leaders Justin Barrett and James Reynolds at the 2018 March for Life in Ireland. " title="Irish National Party leaders Justin Barrett and James Reynolds at the 2018 March for Life in Ireland. " width="460" height="256" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Irish National Party leaders Justin Barrett and James Reynolds at the 2018 March for Life in Ireland. Photo: Flickr/National Party. CC BY 2.0. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Abortion Never is an “<a href="https://abortionnever.ie/">Irish nationalist anti-abortion campaign</a>" launched this year by the far-right National Party, which was founded in 2016 by <a href="http://www.thejournal.ie/justin-barrett-national-party-3089289-Nov2016/">Justin Barrett</a>, a veteran anti-abortion campaigner and former member of the group Youth Defense. It has put up “BABIES WILL DIE” posters across Ireland and printed “Don’t kill the nation in the womb” <a href="https://www.facebook.com/AnPairtiNaisiunta/posts/481995092254466">leaflets</a>.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">It is also one of the campaigns that accepted a small online donation from our reporters, in contravention of Irish rules. We contacted the National Party about this and asked how much Abortion Never has received (and returned) in foreign donations. They have not responded.</p><p>One of the Facebook ads targeting Irish voters ahead of the referendum is from a group called ‘Flipside Ireland’ (whose location and ownership are unclear). The <a href="https://www.facebook.com/FlipsideIreland/videos/869835233215643/?hc_ref=ARQYeMrFCnOjZcK3BlV_gPJyhbQPMgd6mz8nMAtVqU6Bjwmz7XuL7eQTUlcbNRXwDBY">video ad</a> follows UK-based Caolan Robertson as he attempts to undermine pro-choice activists in Dublin. Robertson previously made a YouTube video on “white supremacy &amp; the KKK” and contributed to Rebel Media, a Canadian far-right online platform. He <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&amp;v=n9lw7qwfX6g">currently works</a> with former English Defence League (EDL) leader and anti-Muslim campaigner Tommy Robinson.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Robertson previously made a “white supremacy &amp; the KKK” YouTube video, contributed to Canadian far-right platform Rebel Media, and currently works with anti-Muslim campaigner Tommy Robinson.</p><p dir="ltr">Toni Brandi, leader of the Italian anti-abortion group ProVita that has been <a href="https://www.corriere.it/extra-per-voi/2017/07/06/tutti-legami-pro-vita-forza-nuova-0f71ba70-6254-11e7-84bc-daac3beed6c1.shtml">linked</a> to the neo-fascist movement Forza Nuova, also travelled to Ireland this month “<a href="https://www.notizieprovita.it/aborto-cat/provita-in-tour-in-irlanda-brandi-votate-no/">to support-pro-life friends</a>.” In Italy, ProVita recently <a href="https://www.msn.com/it-it/notizie/politica/anche-a-genova-il-manifesto-anti-aborto-polemica-cgil-forza-nuova/ar-AAxm9Pe">put up a giant billboard</a> in Genoa, with the image of a fetus and the words: "You were like this at 11 weeks: and now you're here because your mother has not aborted you."</p><p dir="ltr">In March, 17 US anti-abortion leaders <a href="https://marchforlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Pro-Life-Coalition-Letter-to-Prime-Minister-Varadkar.docx-1.pdf">sent a letter</a> to the Irish Prime Minister urging him to protect the “jewel for the pro-life movement.” Its signatories included the president of the Family Research Council, a “<a href="https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/family-research-council">hate group</a>” whose “specialty is defaming gays and lesbians” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center civil rights organisation that monitors extremist movements.</p><p>A separate <a href="https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/friends-of-ireland-beg-emerald-isle-not-to-legalize-abortion">public statement</a> from US “Friends of Ireland” said it would be an “existential tragedy” if the country’s restrictive abortion regime were reformed; its signatories included the alt-right, anti-LGBT “<a href="https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/anti-lgbt">hate group</a>” Mass Resistance and a former US ambassador to the Holy See.</p><hr /><h2><span>4) Unregulated, ‘in-kind’ donations have flown into Ireland from across the world</span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 18.01.42.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Campaigners from US group ‘Let Them Live’ place their own materials over official referendum campaign posters."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 18.01.42.png" alt="Campaigners from US group ‘Let Them Live’ place their own materials over official referendum campaign posters." title="Campaigners from US group ‘Let Them Live’ place their own materials over official referendum campaign posters." width="460" height="273" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Campaigners from US group ‘Let Them Live’ place their own materials over official referendum campaign posters. Photo: Emily Faulkner/Let Them Live.</span></span></span>International anti-choice celebrities have also travelled to Ireland to join what Steve Aden at Americans United for Life called “<a href="http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2018/05/15/pro-life-irish-americans-rally-to-save-irelands-8th-amendment/">the ground game for the pro-life forces</a>.” Foreign activists campaigning in Ireland recently include <a href="https://www.irishcentral.com/news/politics/american-prolife-reland-abortion">Claire Culwell</a> from Texas, who was contacted by Irish groups via a Christian speakers’ agency, and Chris Slattery, who runs a New York City pregnancy “crisis centre” that was <a href="https://www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-new-york-city/newsroom/nyc-issues-first-fine-for-anti-abortion-crisis-pregnancy-center">recently fined</a> for misleading women about their healthcare options. </p><p dir="ltr">Slattery told 50.50 that he was in Ireland this month but said he wasn’t speaking to the press. But in Dublin, we spoke to other US activists with a small group called Let Them Live – one of several that raised thousands of dollars via <a href="https://www.thesun.ie/news/2429570/us-groups-setting-up-gofundme-pages-to-raise-cash-to-keep-ireland-abortion-free/">GoFundMe</a> online appeals for trips to Ireland. When contacted by Irish journalists about their visit, <a href="https://www.buzz.ie/news/us-pro-life-group-fundraised-8000-send-people-ireland-283015">SIPO said</a> the law is “silent” on donations and spending that “take place outside Ireland” and it has “no role” regarding foreign campaigners’ visits.</p><p dir="ltr">“We did fundraise some money, saying that it was a mission trip. I went on a mission trip to Peru one time and fundraised for it as a mission trip and this is the exact same thing. We are just here to save Irish babies and their mothers,” Emily Faulkner, co-founder of Let Them Live told 50.50. </p><p dir="ltr">She stressed that she was in Ireland independently and that she was not working directly with any Irish groups. “Ireland is special, because the constitution says the unborn are equal to the mother,” Faulkner&nbsp;said. “I wish we had this in the United States as well. My fiancé and lots of people I know have family that came from Ireland and without these pro-life protections in place, generations could be missing.” </p><p>Faulkner also sent 50.50 pictures of her group placing their posters on alongside official Yes campaign billboards paid for by Irish political party Sinn Féin. “I think there’s a lot of people who are undecided as to how they are going to vote,” she said. “It’s important to be reaching those people.”</p><hr /><h2>5) Anti-abortion groups are well-resourced and have been preparing for this moment for years&nbsp;</h2><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 18.00.53.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Anti-abortion protesters at a rally in Dublin, 12 May 2018"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 18.00.53.png" alt="Anti-abortion protesters at a rally in Dublin, 12 May 2018" title="Anti-abortion protesters at a rally in Dublin, 12 May 2018" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Anti-abortion protesters at a rally in Dublin, 12 May 2018. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In November 2017, <a href="http://www.breitbart.com/abortion/2017/11/03/irish-pro-life-activists-go-door-to-door-to-save-the-8th/">The Life Institute said</a>&nbsp;its campaigners had already been “canvassing door-to-door” for 22 months for referendum votes. In February, <a href="http://www.lifenews.com/2018/02/13/massive-campaign-of-1000-pro-life-volunteers-will-work-to-stop-ireland-from-legalizing-abortion/">LifeNews.com</a> said the anti-abortion Save the 8th coalition was training a “massive campaign of 1,000 pro-life volunteers” to knock on 700,000 doors by referendum day. “Preparation has been ongoing for over a year.”</p><p dir="ltr">Just four groups (Family &amp; Life, The Iona Institute, the Pro Life Campaign and Human Life International Ireland) raised more than €6 million between them from 2014-2016, according to an openDemocracy analysis of their financial returns.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2016, the combined assets of these four groups, plus the Life Institute, totaled more than €1 million – more than half of which was recorded as cash in bank accounts. 2016 was the year that a <a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/un-says-ireland-s-abortion-ban-cruel-inhuman-or-degrading-1.2678246">United Nations committee found</a> that Ireland’s restrictive abortion regime constituted cruel and degrading treatment, and a <a href="https://www.citizensassembly.ie/en/The-Eighth-Amendment-of-the-Constitution/">Citizens Assembly was constituted</a> to consider a referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">Ireland’s Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) ordered pro-choice Amnesty International Ireland in November 2017 to <a href="https://www.rte.ie/news/2018/0212/940173-amnesty-sipo/">return €137,000</a> that it had received from Open Society Foundation (OSF) in 2015 on the basis that it was a foreign political donation intended to influence government policy. </p><p dir="ltr">Amnesty brought <a href="https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/amnesty-challenges-order-to-return-137000-for-eighth-amendment-referendum-campaign-36594866.html">a high court challenge</a> against this order in February, and told 50.50 that this funding was not provided or used for its referendum campaign. Online, Amnesty's campaign currently appears to be the only one, on either side of the debate, that restricts donations to those with Irish addresses.</p><hr /><h2><span>6) There is a growing, organised global backlash against sexual and reproductive rights</span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 17.59.48.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A protester holds an abolish abortion sign at a rally attended by young people in Washington DC, 22 January 2014."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 17.59.48.png" alt="A protester holds an abolish abortion sign at a rally attended by young people in Washington DC, 22 January 2014." title="A protester holds an abolish abortion sign at a rally attended by young people in Washington DC, 22 January 2014." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A protester holds an abolish abortion sign at a rally attended by young people in Washington DC, 2014. Photo: Aleteia/Jeffrey Bruno/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The Ireland referendum campaign is just one example of how the backlash against sexual and reproductive rights is <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/tracking-backlash">increasingly organised and internationally-connected</a>. "Today there's really no such thing as a solely local or national struggle on these issues,” Isabel Marler at the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) told 50.50.</p><p dir="ltr">Marler described “a large, well-resourced, and highly-coordinated global lobby” that is working to undermine the rights of women and other oppressed groups and “sharing strategies and personnel across borders, taking foreign money, and often from the US."</p><p>There have long been reports that the American anti-abortion lobby is <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/01/why-american-pro-life-dollars-are-pouring-into-ireland/266981/">funneling money into Ireland</a>, but US groups aren’t required to disclose outgoing grants to international groups in their own accounts, and there are many dead ends and black holes if you try to follow the money.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">"Today there's really no such thing as a solely local or national struggle on these issues."&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, several US anti-abortion groups also have offices, affiliates, or branches in Ireland – including Virginia-based <a href="https://www.hli.org/">Human Life International</a><a href="https://www.focusonthefamily.com/">.</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/sflireland">Students for Life Ireland</a> appears affiliated with the US group that has the same name. Then there is the <a href="https://www.stopabortion.ie/">Irish Center for Bio-Ethical Reform</a>, a <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/anti-abortion-protests-dublin-airport-cork-no-permission-pro-choice-plan-graphic-icbr-ireland-a7810786.html">small but highly-visible</a> group that has held protests <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/26/world/europe/ireland-us-abortion-referendum.html">attended largely by Americans</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">The US Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR) was founded in the 1990s. The Irish centre was <a href="http://company/Irish-Centre-For-Bio-Ethical-Reform-Company-Limited-By-Guarantee-585696">registered in 2016</a>. “We try to be as multinational as the abortion industry, and they make no apologies for sending in their international affiliates to pontificate to the Irish people,” Irish CBR activist Jean Engela <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/26/world/europe/ireland-us-abortion-referendum.html">told the New York Times</a>, which said the group receives foreign funding but claims to be exempt from government oversight as an “an educational body.”</p><p dir="ltr">Andrew Stephenson from the UK CBR told 50.50 that they’ve “been involved in Ireland quite some time before the referendum and will be there for the coming years,” but stressed that CBR centres are not “political groups” but rather “about education which is essential for changing hearts and minds on moral issues.” </p><p>There are also affilliates of this group in Poland and Sweden. US and Canadian CBR activists travelled to Ireland recently too. Canadian <a href="https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/six-facts-you-need-to-know-about-irelands-upcoming-abortion-vote">Jonathon Van Maren said</a> that up until the vote “pro-life activists will be on the phones, knocking on doors, and on the streets talking to passersby every day and every evening.”</p><hr /><h2><span>What this means for democracy, everywhere</span></h2><p dir="ltr">For the last 18 months, openDemocracy has been <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/dup-dark-money">investigating the dark money that funded the Brexit campaign</a>, and some of the groups that are seeking to influence political processes in Britain and across the world. Our findings have <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/mary-fitzgerald/brexit-dark-money-expose-triggers-mps-question-on-foreign-interference">triggered questions in the UK parliament</a>, global media pickup and a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/opendemocracy-has-forced-change-in-law-on-dark-money-but-we-still-need-to-do-more">change in the law on political donations</a>. We haven’t been doing this because we <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/mary-fitzgerald/if-brexit-was-hacked-shouldnt-we-know-exactly-who-paid">have a pro or anti-Brexit agenda</a>, but because we believe it’s vital that citizens everywhere know who is shaping what they see and hear, and who has access to key information about their lives.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The regulation of democratic processes cannot be outsourced to tech companies like Facebook</p><p dir="ltr">Without this fundamental baseline of transparency, power is not accountable and elections and referenda – particularly tightly-fought contests – can be bought,or “managed”. The regulation of democratic processes cannot be outsourced to tech companies like Facebook. On Friday, Irish voters will consider a highly-charged issue of immense significance. It should be the Irish people who get to decide the referendum’s result.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/tracking-the-backlash">Tracking the backlash: why we&#039;re investigating the &#039;anti-rights&#039; opposition</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/north-american-anti-abortion-facebook-ireland-referendum">Foreign and &#039;alt-right&#039; activists target Irish voters on Facebook ahead of abortion referendum</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 class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Can Europe make it? uk Ireland Civil society Democracy and government Equality International politics Internet Tracking the backlash women's human rights women's health women and power gender bodily autonomy Mary Fitzgerald Claire Provost Lara Whyte Wed, 23 May 2018 10:49:03 +0000 Lara Whyte, Claire Provost and Mary Fitzgerald 117998 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘Nice Irish girls don’t have sex’ is the old idea at the heart of historic abortion rights battle https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/shaunagh-connaire/nice-irish-girls-dont-have-sex-abortion-referendum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Even if abortion is legalised in Ireland, this mindset must be challenged if women are to fully access their reproductive rights.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/33407074541_bc5a7acfa8_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/33407074541_bc5a7acfa8_o.jpg" alt="" title="" width="420" height="314" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pro-choice activists at London’s Saint Patrick's Day parade, March 2017. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nothingpersonal/33407074541/">Dmitry Dzhus/Flickr.</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0</a> Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Nice Irish girls don’t have sex. This is what I gathered growing up as a young woman in Ireland, at school in my local convent in Longford and at university in Dublin. If you had sex, you’d better be in a long-term relationship. Even then, you’d struggle to go on the pill because that would involve admitting to a stranger you were having sex outside marriage.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s safe to say that the fear of becoming pregnant was always there – that, and developing an STI that would leave you infertile for life. Why? Because sex was bad. That’s what you were taught during sex-ed class at school. If you were ‘at it’ and fell pregnant, you only had yourself to blame. As for having an abortion, well, that was the greatest sin of all.</p><p dir="ltr">I never had an abortion but in my early twenties a very dear friend said that she needed one. We discussed her options in a clandestine meeting, down a dark lane in a Dublin suburb. At six weeks pregnant, she decided on a termination. She booked flights to the UK, took a couple of days off of work and we didn’t speak about it again for 12 years.</p><p dir="ltr">Looking back, that was the moment when I became unreservedly and unapologetically pro-choice. I might not have realised which amendment to the Irish constitution forced my friend on a plane that day, but I knew something was very wrong with how our country was treating this ‘nice girl,’ my friend, who made a very difficult choice.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“That was the moment when I became unreservedly and unapologetically pro-choice.”</p><p dir="ltr">She hadn’t been raped; she hadn’t learned that the foetus wouldn’t survive outside the womb. She wasn’t ready to be a mother. As proprietor of her body, and governor of her life, that decision was rightfully hers. But she was left alone, ostracised, and feeling that she had become one of Ireland’s shameful exports.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/23562262628_e2f41d5320_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/23562262628_e2f41d5320_o.jpg" alt="" title="" width="420" height="280" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Activists use chalk on pavement to show the number of Irish women who have travelled to England for safe and legal abortions since 1983. London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign protest, September 2017. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/127991958@N06/23562262628/in/photolist-YY9aJL-Sw16PQ-cvANk7-du9455-BU7KMo-du7QzC-72t28d-NGYxB-21fVJoK-dgLbzk-df96Vy-du5A8e-dufEp4-de8cWm-du939q-2BvhKo-SKdd9d-df92qa-9YRtUK-du93qm-du5jbH-pqd4dd-du2n9D-74yJvd-du9t2C-GQKHT2-du94Nh-YVZbTu-ay4Kug-du7QTC-du7XEN-9YV8Hy-du2mLT-9YRuyD-du3uQi-74ziWQ-du93Rh-du2idX-du7QYo-du7XTs-NGwe9-74vn2g-XXCuPW-9YUnKs-du3uYg-du7Td5-du92Hq-du3qAi-du2n3a-9YUqU1/">Steve Eason/Flickr.</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0</a> Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Ireland will go to the polls on 25 May to vote on whether it should repeal the 8th amendment, which prohibits a woman from having an abortion in Ireland unless her life is in direct danger. A woman who terminates a pregnancy <a href="https://www.citizensassembly.ie/en/Meetings/-Art-40-3-3-and-the-law-on-abortion-a-history-Eoin-Carolan.pdf">faces 14 years in jail</a>, even in cases of rape or when the foetus isn’t viable.</p><p dir="ltr">These are <a href="https://www.amnesty.org.uk/abortion-ireland-facts-crime">some of the most draconian abortion laws in the world.</a> Repealing the 8th amendment is a subject that I speak about regularly to Irish family members and friends. Not many people that I’m close to would dare say that abortion shouldn’t be allowed in ‘extreme’ cases but some are hesitant when it comes to ‘regular’ abortions.</p><p dir="ltr">Why is this? I’m afraid it’s that dirty word again: sex.</p><p dir="ltr">Ireland has an uncomfortable relationship with sex – in particular women having sex outside of marriage. International readers might be forgiven for thinking that we’re a progressive little country; <a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/ireland-becomes-first-country-to-approve-same-sex-marriage-by-popular-vote-1.2223646">we were the first country to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote</a>, after all. But we still have a long way to go.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“I’m afraid it’s that dirty word again: sex. Ireland has an uncomfortable relationship with sex.”</p><p dir="ltr">I distinctly recall the double standards between men and women at university. Many young guys would happily engage in casual sex yet they’d be fiercely opposed to bringing home the same women to their Irish mothers. It would be much more palatable to take home a ‘nice girl’, wife-material that you could proudly take to mass on a Sunday.</p><p dir="ltr">Sexual promiscuity amongst Irish women, meanwhile, was shunned. Dare I say it, these ‘fallen women’ were even subject to slut-shaming from some of the more obnoxious young men at university. This was our normal.</p><p dir="ltr">The upcoming referendum is also about the way in which Ireland views women, sex and reproduction. Historically, Ireland has an appalling track record in these areas. Here we are again, in the 21st century, debating how we legislate over Irish women’s bodies.</p><p dir="ltr">And even if the 8th amendment is repealed, this ‘nice Irish girls don’t have sex’ mindset must be tackled if women are to fully access their reproductive rights. There are examples, including from Italy, where abortion has been legalised for years but can still be difficult to access because of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claudia-torrisi/abortion-italy-conscientious-objection">widespread ‘conscientious objection’</a> by medical staff.</p><p dir="ltr">My covert whisperings, in that dark alley in Dublin many years ago, taught me that sex, pregnancy and abortion should not be our shameful secrets. We are not as conservative as we once were; many of us are certainly not as religious. If the women of Ireland are to be treated as equal humans, the 8th amendment must be unequivocally repealed.</p><p dir="ltr">I will not be voting in the upcoming referendum as I lost my voting privileges when I became resident in the UK. I will however be examining, scrutinising and watching our little country from afar, as it makes the greatest decision in my living memory.</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 Irish abortion referendum Tracking the backlash women's human rights women's health gender feminism bodily autonomy Shaunagh Connaire Tue, 22 May 2018 08:48:08 +0000 Shaunagh Connaire 117764 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Who benefits from sensationalised media coverage of abortion? Hint: not women, whose lives are at stake https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nandini-archer/sensationalised-media-coverage-of-abortion <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Media outlets too often cover abortion-related news in inaccurate and derogatory ways. Activists and progressive journalists must work together to change this.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-29418490.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Women protest for legal and safe abortion in Brazil, 2016."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-29418490.jpg" alt="Women protest for legal and safe abortion in Brazil, 2016." title="Women protest for legal and safe abortion in Brazil, 2016." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women protest for legal and safe abortion in Brazil, 2016. Photo: Fotoarena/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The portrayal of abortion in the media can sway public perception in a major way, and can even influence policy agendas. When this media focus is honest and accurate, it has the potential to arouse global outrage at violations of women’s rights.</p><p dir="ltr">We saw this amid media coverage of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/audio/2018/mar/08/irelands-shame-the-death-of-savita-halappanavar-the-story-podcast">Savita Halappanavar</a>’s death in 2012, after she was refused an abortion in Ireland despite life-threatening pregnancy complications. Public outrage over this case helped to mobilise people in their demands for a referendum on Ireland’s restrictive abortion law, which is now set for next month. </p><p dir="ltr">More recently, <a href="http://www.safeabortionwomensright.org/brazil-the-progress-of-the-anti-abortion-amendment-has-been-delayed-but-its-not-over/">Brazil's congress was set to vote</a> on a constitutional amendment including a clause which could effectively ban abortion in all cases; currenty it is legal only in cases of rape, fetal anomaly, or to save a woman’s life. The media played a vital role in documenting the social movement against the proposed motion; the vote has been repeatedly postponed. </p><p>Journalists can be co-workers in the fight for abortion rights. Yet, a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28844876">recent series of interviews</a> with more than 30 journalists in the US found that they face stigmatisation and political opposition when seeking to report positively on abortion. This can mean that even progressive journalists inadvertently pick-up and repeat anti-abortion myths, language and imagery. </p><p>Working with the <a href="http://www.safeabortionwomensright.org/">International Campaign on Women’s Right to Safe Abortion</a>, I encounter common media mistakes daily.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">'Progressive journalists inadvertently pick-up and repeat anti-abortion myths, language and imagery.'</p><p dir="ltr">Many journalists, for example, feel that they must present the anti-abortion argument alongside the pro-choice case, in the name of balance. </p><p dir="ltr">When the <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/07/20/chile-landmark-senate-vote-ease-abortion-rules">Chilean Congress voted to ease</a> its abortion ban last year, reporters interviewed both pro-choice and anti-abortion groups in attempts to show neutrality. But the pro-choice viewpoint is inherently balanced; it respects each woman’s right to decide what’s best for her. Denying women human rights is not neutrality.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-35661064.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Protest in Brussels against the tightening of the abortion law in Poland, March 2018."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-35661064.jpg" alt="Protest in Brussels against the tightening of the abortion law in Poland, March 2018." title="Protest in Brussels against the tightening of the abortion law in Poland, March 2018." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protest in Brussels against the tightening of the abortion law in Poland, March 2018. Photo: Wiktor Dabkowski/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Reporters often dramatise cases to make stories newsworthy, sometimes unintentionally repeating misconceptions around abortion. </p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13691058.2014.937463">A 2010 analysis of seven British and five Scottish national newspapers</a> found that abortion was repeatedly presented as physically and emotionally risky. This is false: <a href="http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs388/en/">World Health Organisation research</a> shows that abortion is one of the safest surgical procedures when performed by trained persons. This also applies to the self-administration of medical abortion pills.</p><p dir="ltr">Rather than exaggerating the harms of safe abortion methods, the media should focus on the scandal of states refusing to make abortion safe, forcing pregnant women to turn to life-threatening options. Powerful journalism has explored, for example, the <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-price-of-senegals-strict-anti-abortion-laws">highly restrictive Senegalese abortion law</a> and the imprisonment of women who have had unsafe abortions.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">'The media should focus on the scandal of states refusing to make abortion safe, forcing pregnant women to turn to life-threatening options.'</p><p dir="ltr">Abortion does not cause mental health problems. But being denied an abortion and forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term can damage anyone’s mental state. <a href="http://www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-4560.1992.tb00902.x/abstract">A study of more than 200 children in Prague</a> in the 1960s found that being unwanted in early pregnancy was also associated with psychological problems in children.</p><p dir="ltr">Well-meaning journalists often use misguided language. Terms like pregnant woman and fetus should be used rather than mother and baby. </p><p dir="ltr">Media from Armenia, China and India frequently speak about ‘aborting girls’ in regard to sex-selective abortion. Sex-selection is an outcome of discriminatory cultural norms; coverage should thus focus on sex discrimination, not abortion.</p><p dir="ltr">Another common problem in progressive and positive abortion-related articles is the use of inaccurate images, usually inserted by an editor. Many media reports celebrated <a href="http://www.safeabortionwomensright.org/sierra-leonean-president-koroma-still-wont-sign-safe-abortion-act-into-law-and-calls-for-referendum/">Sierra Leone’s parliament voting</a> to remove its 150-year-old colonial abortion law. However, articles were supplemented by ill-informed imagery, such as heavily pregnant bellies, or fetuses detached from bodies. </p><p dir="ltr">A graphic focus on late-term abortion can generate a wrongful perception that is in turn used to spearhead calls to restrict women’s access to these services. <a href="http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/57259/bu00-0587.pdf?sequence=1">Most abortions take place in the first trimester. </a></p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">'Progressive media coverage should use imagery that emphasises abortion as ordinary healthcare, or highlights the pro-choice movement.'</p><p dir="ltr">Progressive media coverage should use imagery that emphasises abortion as ordinary healthcare (such as images of medical professionals or abortion pills), or highlights the pro-choice movement. The <a href="https://www.elobservador.com.uy/mujer-la-que-fallo-no-le-permitia-abortar-iniciara-juicio-contra-la-jueza-pura-book-n1038937">Women's March in the US</a>, and the Black Monday protest in <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/23-moving-photos-of-women-demanding-reproductive-rights-in-poland_us_57f51b7be4b032545262bf3f">Poland,</a> produced empowering images of activists fighting for changes to abortion legislation, in favour of women’s rights.</p><p dir="ltr">Finally, journalists frequently seek personal experiences of those who have had an abortion to powerfully illustrate what’s at stake. However, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global/2016/jun/04/abortion-personal-experiences-legality-hadley-freeman">abortion rights are also a collective issue</a>; the case for these rights cannot rest on an individual story. Media coverage should reflect the complexities of abortion experiences, including among adolescents, trans people and married women with children.</p><p dir="ltr">Ill-informed media stories can eclipse the truth about abortion in public and political arenas. It is essential that journalists stick to facts and normalise the experience; <a href="https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/factsheet/fb_iaw.pdf">one in four women globally</a> will have an abortion in her lifetime.</p><p dir="ltr">Importantly, I do encounter thought-provoking media on a daily basis which demonstrates the vivacity of the pro-choice movement and its strength in tackling the backlash against women’s rights. This will gradually influence discourse around the need to decriminalise abortion, and reduce the need for unsafe abortions.</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Ideas Women's rights and the media Tracking the backlash women's movements women's human rights women's health feminism bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Nandini Archer Mon, 21 May 2018 08:56:36 +0000 Nandini Archer 117038 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Trade unions must stand, unequivocally, against anti-LGBTI discrimination at work https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sandra-vermuyten/trade-unions-lgbti-rights-at-work <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Unions have a key role to play in combating oppression and prejudice at work. This includes the ongoing fight for LGBTI equality.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/3742185525_01269342a9_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/3742185525_01269342a9_o.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>London Pride Parade, 2009. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/leith/3742185525/">Ian Rovertson/Flickr.</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0</a></span></span></span>To live happily, let's live in the closet? For millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people around the world, this is not just an issue of privacy, but it’s the only way to live full stop, or to escape prison.</p><p dir="ltr">Successful LGBTI rights campaigns have won victories, pushing governments to legislate against discrimination. In 2017, almost 1 billion people around the world lived in <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/where-is-same-sex-marriage-legal-world-2017-11#25-australian-lawmakers-in-december-enacted-the-will-of-the-majority-of-citizens-who-overwhelmingly-voted-in-favor-of-same-sex-marriage-during-a-postal-survey-held-weeks-earlier-">one of the 25 countries</a> that allow same-sex marriage. In 2000, this did not exist anywhere in the world. Still, same-sex relationships are considered a crime <a href="https://ilga.org/ilga-state-sponsored-homophobia-report-2017">in more than 70 countries</a>, sometimes punishable by death.</p><p dir="ltr">At work, LGBTI people continue, to varying degrees, to face mockery and violence, and to see their careers limited by their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Discrimination starts right from the job search.</p><p dir="ltr">In Europe, where legal frameworks are more favourable than in other parts of the world, <a href="http://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2013/eu-lgbt-survey-european-union-lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transgender-survey-results">one in eight LGBTI respondents to a 2013 survey said they have suffered discrimination at work because of their identity</a>, and the percentage goes up to 30% for transgender people.</p><p dir="ltr">According to the <a href="http://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2013/eu-lgbt-survey-european-union-lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transgender-survey-results">European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights</a>, a third of LGBTI people consider that disclosing their sexual orientation at work can negatively impact their careers, including their salaries. For lesbians, negative impacts may be all the more violent as homophobia is compounded by sexism.</p><p dir="ltr">Hiding an element of one's identity from one's colleagues can have terrible consequences for individuals, with many studies showing that the <a href="https://www.cairn.info/revue-cahiers-de-l-action-2013-3-page-27.htm#no5">suicide rate is higher</a> among the LGBTI population. </p><p dir="ltr">Professionally, one may also be less efficient and engaged in a team when focused on avoiding questions and personal allusions, with the fear of being ‘discovered,’ as shown by a recent <a href="https://hbr.org/2016/05/most-employees-feel-authentic-at-work-but-it-can-take-a-while">Harvard Business Review</a> study.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/18586289163_cf3f8115f4_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/18586289163_cf3f8115f4_o.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Norwegian Nurses Organization marching during the Oslo Pride Parade, 2015. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/rodtnytt/18586289163/">GGAADD/Flickr.</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0</a>.</span></span></span>All over the world, prejudices remain stubborn. Workplaces, whether private or public, are not yet sufficiently sensitised on this subject. Even companies that have developed ‘diversity’ policies may not explicitly focus on sexual orientation. </p><p dir="ltr">There are still too few LGBTI trade union leaders, internal groups of LGBTI employees, or companies, public or private, directly involved in pride marches.</p><p dir="ltr">Public service workers have a particularly important role to play in this context. It is up to them to offer public services that are based on equality and respect for diversity, encouraging social and economic justice.</p><p dir="ltr">On 17 May, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, we must remember that trade unions have a key role to play in combating prejudices and ignorance in workplaces and in society in general.</p><p dir="ltr">LGBTI individuals suffer discrimination in the workplace, workers face exploitation, and migrants and indigenous people face increasingly liberated racist speech. Two global trade union federations, <a href="http://www.world-psi.org/en">Public Services International</a> (PSI) and <a href="https://www.ei-ie.org/en">Education International</a> have been <a href="http://www.world-psi.org/en/trade-unionists-together-lgbt-rights">at the forefront of these battle since 1999</a>, to end discrimination, harassment and violence in the workplace.</p><p dir="ltr">It is only through solidarity that trade union representatives and employees in private and public sectors alike can confront such oppression. Trade unions have a duty to help create more inclusive workplaces, including through collective bargaining.</p><p dir="ltr">Unions must take a stand, unequivocally, against attacks that challenge LGBTI rights, acquired after hard battles. And they must fight the stereotypes that remain in their own ranks. Defending the rights of LGBTI people means defending universal values of equality and dignity for all.</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 sexual identities Sandra Vermuyten Thu, 17 May 2018 06:00:53 +0000 Sandra Vermuyten 117869 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Migrant workers fighting for freedom under Lebanon’s Kefala system https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/roshan-de-stone-david-l-suber/migrant-workers-fighting-for-freedom-under-leba <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In Lebanon, a women-only group of migrant domestic workers have come together to fight for rights in the workplace.&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/562712/IMG_7236 copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/IMG_7236 copy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="328" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Performances by migrant domestic workers during a celebration of women's day in Beirut. Picture by authors. Used with permission. </span></span></span>As one dance ended and the audience burst into applause, loud Ivorian beats began to blare from the speaker in preparation for the next performance. The room, full of beautifully dressed women in saris, pagnes, jeans and shiny&nbsp;sequinnedtops, jostled for space in the packed theatre. &nbsp;</p><p class="western">Before the last dance, Rose took the stage, switching fluently between English and French. “I want everyone to know that we are human beings. That we have skills and dreams other than just working in people’s houses.”&nbsp;</p><p class="western">It might not seem a lot to ask for, but in Lebanon where these women work, their most basic human rights are systematically violated. Just two years ago, domestic workers would face detention and deportation if they were found to have a&nbsp;<span><a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/6/26/lebanons-migrant-domestic-workers-vulnerable-to-abuse.html">relationship</a></span>. “They even want to control who we love and when we love”, Rose told us.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">There are an estimated&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/06/workers-slaves-150601133232753.html">250,000</a>&nbsp;</span>migrant domestic workers in Lebanon, making up nearly 10% of the country’s female population.<br /><br /><span><a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/03/10/lebanon-recognize-domestic-workers-union">Excluded</a>&nbsp;</span>from the national labour law, migrant domestic workers are forced to work under the infamous&nbsp;<a href="http://www.kafa.org.lb/studiespublicationpdf/prpdf47.pdf"><span><em>Kafala&nbsp;</em></span><span>system</span></a>, a system of sponsorship that binds an employee to their employer in a&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/feb/26/time-to-end-kafala">slave-like</a>&nbsp;</span>relationship. Under&nbsp;<em>Kafala</em>, the right of an employee to enter, work and reside in Lebanon is utterly dependent on their employer.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">A complex recruitment process has played a major role in institutionalising abuse over migrant workers. Agencies in Lebanon work with partners and middle-men in emigration countries, often sponsoring human trafficking where countries have banned legal emigration to Lebanon. Over&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.kafa.org.lb/studiespublicationpdf/prpdf47.pdf">65%</a>&nbsp;</span>of migrant domestic workers feel that they had been lied to about the nature of the work and tricked into conditions that human rights groups define as&nbsp;<span><a href="http://ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---arabstates/---ro-beirut/documents/genericdocument/wcms_247033.pdf">servitude or slavery</a></span>.<br /><br />Systematic abuse of domestic migrant workers is endemic. An estimated&nbsp;<span><a href="http://ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---arabstates/---ro-beirut/documents/genericdocument/wcms_247033.pdf">50%</a>&nbsp;</span>of employees work over 85 hours a week. Reports account that&nbsp;<span><a href="https://newint.org/features/2017/11/01/kafala-lebanon">20%</a>&nbsp;</span>of domestic workers are locked in their employees’ house, while&nbsp;<span><a href="https://newint.org/features/2017/11/01/kafala-lebanon">40%</a>&nbsp;</span>have their wages withheld despite this being against Lebanese law.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">As&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/lebanon-racism-problem-171019075823036.html">institutionalised racism</a>&nbsp;</span>in Lebanon continues largely unchecked, detention, deportation and death are often the only options of escape from abusive employers. The&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.irinnews.org/feature/2017/05/15/slave-labour-death-rate-doubles-migrant-domestic-workers-lebanon">death toll</a>&nbsp;</span>in Lebanon is estimated at two migrant workers per week as a result of suicide, murder and botched escape attempts. And it is not unusual to hear of employers avoiding justice as cases get dismissed for insufficient evidence.</p><p class="western">Nonetheless, harrowing reports of suffering are widely&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.kafa.org.lb/studiespublicationpdf/prpdf30.pdf">documented</a></span>,on websites like “<span><a href="http://ethiopiansuicides.blogspot.co.uk/">Ethiopian Suicides</a></span>” which was&nbsp;monitoring deaths until 2015.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">In 2016 a group of female domestic workers came together to form the Alliance of Migrant Domestic Workers. Amongst the members of the Alliance, the freedom to choose one’s own narrative is paramount. “When people are always telling you what to do, it is so important that in our own struggle, our voices are heard.”&nbsp;</p><p class="western">The women who make up this group are formidable. Some of them having been activists for over 20 years in the hardest conditions as Lebanese authorities do not&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/03/10/lebanon-recognize-domestic-workers-union">recognise the right</a>&nbsp;</span>of migrant workers to unionise. Their strength is not only evident through their activism, but also in their ability to create a safe space for domestic migrants workers to come together and share their experiences. The Alliance meets on Sundays, with members using their only day off to support others.</p><p class="western">“But we must be careful”, added Jenna, as she tucked her hair behind her ear. “We cannot be aggressive. We cannot confront authorities directly or else we will always be the ones to lose.” Her words are laced with the memory of her colleagues,&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/12/13/lebanon-deports-domestic-worker-rights-organizer">Sujana Rana</a>&nbsp;</span>and&nbsp;<span><a href="http://www.idwfed.org/en/updates/lebanon-lebanon-deports-a-domestic-worker-and-holds-another">Roja “Rosie” Maya Limbu</a></span>, who were detained and deported in 2016 for their activism. “Their activism was too aggressive. And even though Sujana was well known and had worked with so many different NGO’s, in the end none of them could help her when she got detained.”&nbsp;</p><p class="western">“But we have each other”, Rose added, gesturing proudly at the other members of the Alliance. Focusing on grassroots community outreach activities, the Alliance builds trust and solidarity amongst domestic migrant workers throughout Lebanon.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">“We do activities that involve everyone using drama, music and dance” said Maria, a worker from Ivory Coast. Partnered with a local theatre in Beirut, the Alliance is preparing a drama show to put on stage. “We don’t all speak the same language but we share the same experiences and theatre is a way of sharing our stories.” Pointing at her heart she continued, “Even if we don’t speak the same language, we understand each other here.”&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">A ‘good employer’ is someone who does not physically or sexually abuse their maid</p><p class="western">Learning how to work with ‘madame’ is another key thing that the group does. Helping new workers to know their rights, face the struggles of domestic labour and deal with their employers. “For example,” Maria told us, “perhaps a maid has not been paid for 6 months, we would try and help her ask her madame for the money she is owed without causing confrontation.”&nbsp;</p><p class="western">Withholding salary seems to be an ordinary practice amongst employers, a practice also recommended by recruitment agencies when advising employers on how to treat their workers. In the many conversations we held with domestic workers, it appeared that a ‘good employer’ is someone who does not physically or sexually abuse their maid.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">Niaman, who has worked for 4 years with the same family in Tripoli, repeated how lucky she was to be working for a ‘good employer’ who after two years had trusted her enough to allow&nbsp;her to buy a phone and have three hours off work every other week. She was also allowed to grow her hair a little longer, after being forced to cut it when she first arrived because it would use too much water to wash it.</p><p class="western">During an undercover interview at a recruitment agency in Tripoli, we enquired about the process to hire a maid. When we asked whether she was entitled to any holidays we were met with laughter: “No, no day off. And if she is sick then you can send her back here and we will get you another one.” We were also told not to give her a telephone “it will just distract her” and to lock her in the house until we trusted her.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">When asked about steps made by countries producing foreign domestic workers to support their citizens working in Lebanon, the members of the Alliance sighed. “When they ban travel, it means that people just come illegally and then it is even more dangerous for the domestic worker because no one knows where she is and she has no papers”, said Lilly, a worker from the Philippines; a country which has one of the most organised&nbsp;<span><a href="http://beirutpe.dfa.gov.ph/newsroom/embassy-news/266-filipinos-in-lebanon-flock-to-the-embassy-to-get-id">support systems</a>&nbsp;</span>for foreign domestic workers in Lebanon. &nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">“We must change things for the younger women coming in”</p><p class="western">Dolores, who has worked in Lebanon for 25 years and has two small children in Lebanon agreed. “The recruiters usually target the most uneducated girls from villages who believe whatever they are told. One girl who came with no papers from Nepal tried to escape by jumping out the window because she thought the mountains of Lebanon were the mountains of her village in Nepal”.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">Despite the ever-uphill battle, these women, many of whom have worked for more than 20 years under Lebanon’s abusive kafala system, are determined to bring their campaign onwards. “We know our limits, but we will not stop. It may be too late for us, but we must change things for the younger women coming in.”</p><p class="western">Where it is currently too dangerous for domestic migrant workers to speak out, the international community must intervene, pushing Lebanon to&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/03/10/lebanon-recognize-domestic-workers-union">ratify</a>&nbsp;</span>ILO’s Convention No. 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. But aware of the timings and illusions of politics, the women of the Alliance are wasting no time, keen to take the struggle in their own hands.&nbsp;</p><p class="western">Before leaving the&nbsp;theatre, Serena, a dancer in the performance spoke to us: “the realization that support is available through shared experience can be so much more powerful and long lasting than any sit-in or demonstration. This is no simple political game. Our lives are on the frontline”.</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="/beyondslavery/safepassages/cameron-thibos-roula-hamati/quiet-resistance-of-domestic-workers-in-lebanon">The quiet resistance of domestic workers in Lebanon</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/madawi-al-saud/race-exploitation-gulf-migrant-domestic-workers-uae-bahrain-qatar">Race and exploitation in the Gulf</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/miranda-hall/for-madams-only-facebook-groups-and-politics-of-migrant-domestic">“For Madams Only”: Facebook groups and the politics of migrant domestic work in Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/kimaya-de-silva/how-women-migrant-workers-defy-social-control-with-everyday-resistance">How women migrant workers defy ‘social control’ with everyday resistance</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/dws/rose-mahi/difference-self-organising-makes-creative-resistance-of-domestic-workers">The difference self-organising makes: the creative resistance of domestic workers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/dws/marie-jos-l-tayah/claiming-rights-under-kafala-system">Claiming rights under the kafala system</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/bina-fernandez/precarious-migrant-motherhood-in-lebanon">Precarious migrant motherhood in Lebanon </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"> Lebanon </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia 50.50 North-Africa West-Asia Lebanon Equality rights racism migrant rights domestic work David L. Suber Roshan De Stone Thu, 17 May 2018 06:00:00 +0000 Roshan De Stone and David L. Suber 117815 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Intersex rights activists challenge the roots of gender oppression – and we must support them https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sophia-seawell-happy-mwende-kinyili/intersex-rights-activists-challenge-roots-of-gender-oppression <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">2017 brought promising developments for intersex rights. But with much work still to be done, feminist allies must do better at sharing resources and opportunities.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-28523201.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Activists have campaigned for years in Germany for intersex rights. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-28523201.jpg" alt="Activists have campaigned for years in Germany for intersex rights. " title="Activists have campaigned for years in Germany for intersex rights. " width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Activists have campaigned for years in Germany for intersex rights. Photo: Jan Woitas/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In 2017, Portugal became the third country to ban the human rights abuse of intersex genital mutilation (IGM), joining Malta and Chile. Germany became the first European country to allow a third gender option on birth certificates that is neither male nor female. In Canada, a baby received a health card with ‘U’ as its sex marker. Organisations including <a href="https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/07/25/i-want-be-nature-made-me/medically-unnecessary-surgeries-intersex-children-us">Human Rights Watch</a> and the <a href="https://www.ilga-europe.org/resources/news/latest-news/european-parliament-recognises-specific-discrimination">European Parliament</a> finally spoke out against genital surgery on intersex infants.</p><p dir="ltr">These are promising developments for intersex rights. But they are still the exception rather than the rule, and there is still much work to be done. Around the world, intersex people are denied information and the right to make choices about their own bodies. Too many face stigma and discrimination for being marked as ‘different.’</p><p dir="ltr">Of course, nobody is more qualified to determine how to advance intersex rights than intersex people themselves, who have first-hand experience of the prejudices and barriers they face. However, recent <a href="https://www.astraeafoundation.org/stories/global-surveys-trans-intersex-groups-reveal-critical-funding-gap/">research by the US-based Astraea Foundation</a> shows that almost half of all intersex rights groups globally receive no external funding. Only one in five have full-time paid staff, and these too often struggle with limited resources.</p><p dir="ltr">Human rights activists aren’t motivated by money – but financial resources are necessary to develop their capacity, expand their reach, and ultimately increase their impact. Unsurprisingly, the Astraea Foundation’s research found that groups without the means to put their knowledge and experience into practice are also particularly prone to burnout.</p><p dir="ltr">Feminist organisations and funders cannot let intersex activists do all the work with such little support. As allies, let’s step up and do better at sharing resources, knowledge and opportunities. It’s time that we recognise how integral intersex rights are to creating a world in which our bodies don’t determine our value. Stepping up for intersex rights is long overdue.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Stepping up for intersex rights is long overdue.”</p><p dir="ltr">Our ‘sex’ typically refers to the physical characteristics that we are born with, while our ‘gender’ is more about how – on the basis of those characteristics – societies expect us to behave and express ourselves.The assumption that our bodies determine our social roles is what the philosopher Judith Butler calls ‘gender determinism.’ ‘Boys will be boys,’ Butler suggests, is more an order than an observation (you will play with boys’ toys, you will wear boys’ clothes).</p><p dir="ltr">Being categorised as male or female is for most babies their first – and one of their most determining and formative – experiences. A doctor looks at their body, and based on their external genitalia, declares the baby a boy or a girl. These are the only two options considered valid, and this sex binary is the foundation of the more widely-discussed gender binary.</p><p dir="ltr">But sex is actually more complex than what first meets the eye, and comprises a number of characteristics. Most of these are not visible – like internal reproductive organs and chromosomes.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.intersexequality.com/how-common-is-intersex-in-humans/">Estimates suggest</a> that almost two out of every 100 people in the world have a genetic, hormonal or anatomical sex variation from the set of characteristics typically used to divide us into ‘male’ and ‘female.’ This means that intersex individuals are about as common as redheads. But being intersex is far less visible (literally, but also in our language and narratives) and, unlike people with red hair, they are too often not considered ‘normal.’</p><p dir="ltr">Given that intersex conditions are not as rare as we might think, the practice of assigning all babies to one category or the other is less about what’s really ‘natural’ or some kind of scientific truth, and more a means of forcing the sex binary into existence – and intersex, out.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Intersex conditions are not as rare as we might think.”</p><p dir="ltr">The discrimination, marginalisation and erasure of intersex individuals is a feminist and human rights issue. There must be no doubts about this.</p><p dir="ltr">It is common for doctors trained in Western medicine to perform irreversible, unnecessary and painful ‘corrective’ IGM surgeries on babies whose genitalia do not conform to binary norms.</p><p dir="ltr">The decision of which sex to assign the baby to is usually made based on which results surgery could more easily achieve, as well as aesthetics – so sometimes a clitoris deemed ‘too large’ will be removed, with no regard for the individual’s later sexual pleasure.</p><p dir="ltr">This baby will likely grow up receiving no information about their condition or surgical history. This is a gross violation of the right to self-determination and bodily integrity, and yet it is considered a standard medical practice in countries around the world.</p><p dir="ltr">That intersex people make up a relatively small segment of the world’s population does not mean that feminists can get a free pass to continue leaving intersex rights at the margins of our organising and funding.</p><p dir="ltr">In fact, this is perhaps all the more reason to ensure that our movements are inclusive of intersex realities. Our struggles are also interlinked; challenging the sex binary, as intersex rights activists are doing, is part of a feminist project that will benefit us all.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Challenging the sex binary is part of a feminist project that will benefit us all.”</p><p dir="ltr">We need increased awareness of intersex realities and rights, to reduce the stigma that intersex people around the world face from doctors, friends, families and societies at large (notably the idea that there is something ‘wrong’ or unhealthy about their bodies).</p><p dir="ltr">IGM surgeries must end. We have to stop trying to force intersex people out of existence. Instead, we must support the right of intersex people to exist in and move through the world, with access to the resources they need, and the chance to make decisions about their own bodies.</p><p dir="ltr">Civil society has to recognise, include and fund intersex rights activists. Feminist movements and funders need to relinquish the idea that feminism is only about women’s rights. Space must be made for intersex people whose struggle is intertwined with that of other marginalised individuals. </p><p dir="ltr">Feminist funders are in a unique position to direct resources to the intersex community that is largely invisible in the human rights discourse. We can also influence other funders to get involved. We have the ability – and therefore, responsibility – to help put intersex rights activism on the map, alongside other feminist causes, right where it belongs.</p><p dir="ltr">At the start of 2018, the feminist fund Mama Cash <a href="https://www.mamacash.org/en/mama-cash-supports-intersex-rights-activism">officially included</a> intersex rights activism in our mission. We have supported such work for years, but we made this change because we want to help bring the movement for intersex rights the visibility (and ultimately the resources) that it needs and deserves. We hope that you will join us. Let’s put the “I” in feminism – and feminist funding.</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Equality Ideas sexual identities gender feminism 50.50 newsletter Happy Mwende Kinyili Sophia Seawell Wed, 16 May 2018 06:01:26 +0000 Sophia Seawell and Happy Mwende Kinyili 117150 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The right’s ‘gender ideology’ menace rolls to Africa https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/cole-parke/gender-ideology-menace-rolls-to-africa <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Spanish group CitizenGO brings anti-trans “Free Speech Bus” to Kenya, where the World Congress of Families is hosting a regional summit.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protest in New York City against CitizenGO’s so-called #FreeSpeechBus, 2017. Photo: Erik McGregor/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span><a href="https://www.facebook.com/CitizenGOAfrica/photos/a.181414072423395.1073741829.166395887258547/234845577080244/?type=3&amp;theater">CitizenGO Africa</a> recently announced that Nairobi, Kenya would be the first city on the continent to host the so-called #FreeSpeechBus. The bus, infamous for its explicitly anti-transgender messages, will likely roll through Nairobi in conjunction with the World Congress of Families’ regional gathering scheduled to take place on 15 May 2018.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.politicalresearch.org/2017/08/24/profile-on-the-right-citizengo/">CitizenGO</a> was launched in 2013 as the online petition platform of HazteOir, a right-wing organisation based in Madrid, Spain with Catholic roots. The initiative <a href="https://www.actuall.com/democracia/citizengo-supera-los-9-millones-miembros-ya-la-principal-plataforma-mundial-provida-profamilia/">claims</a> to have almost 9 million members, and works to advance an anti-LGBTQ, anti-abortion agenda in Europe, the US, and increasingly throughout the Global South. In addition to CitizenGO-initiated petitions, a wide range of right-wing organisations use the platform to promote their own causes, including the World Congress of Families and Americans United for Life.</p><p>Since its founding in 2013, <a href="https://www.politicalresearch.org/2017/08/24/profile-on-the-right-citizengo/">CitizenGO</a> has gained its greatest notoriety for its anti-trans “Free Speech Bus,” which <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lara-whyte/the-rise-of-citizengo">toured the US</a> in 2017 emblazoned with the slogan: “It’s Biology: Boys are boys… and always will be. Girls are girls… and always will be. You can’t change sex. Respect all.” </p><p>The American version of the bus was preceded by a similarly-styled bus in Madrid, which carried the message: “Boys have penises, girls have vaginas. Don’t let them fool you. If you’re born a man, you’re a man. If you’re a woman, you will continue to be so.” The bus has also made appearances in France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Chile, and Colombia.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="292" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Though it’s often portrayed as an isolated element of the Christian right’s standard fare anti-LGBTQ agenda, the #FreeSpeechBus is actually part of a much larger, multi-faceted movement against what the right has dubbed “gender ideology.”</p><p dir="ltr">As Gillian Kane <a href="http://feature.politicalresearch.org/right-wing-europes-war-on-gender-ideology-">outlines</a> in The Public Eye magazine, “gender ideology is a right-wing invention that intentionally misrepresents feminist, queer, and gender theory in order to justify discrimination against women and LGBTQ people.” </p><p dir="ltr">The term was <a href="http://feature.politicalresearch.org/the-peoples-pope-">fabricated</a> by the Vatican in the mid-1990s to paint gender as a newly-invented concept that is dangerous and destabilising to children, families, and society at large, as well as antithetical to science and reason.</p><p dir="ltr">In <a href="http://www.hazteoir.org/noticia/92303-i-international-conference-gender-sex-and-education-madrid-against-lgbti-doctrine">February 2018</a>, HazteOir and CitizenGO hosted the first International Conference on Gender, Sex and Education, featuring a slate of anti-LGBTQ “experts,” including several representatives from American right-wing groups. </p><p dir="ltr">Glenn Stanton from <a href="https://www.politicalresearch.org/profiles-on-the-right-focus-on-the-family-2/">Focus on the Family</a> argued that “gender theory” is a lie and the idea of a gender spectrum is false. Rubén Navarro, head of the Geneva office of <a href="https://www.politicalresearch.org/2017/04/07/profile-on-the-right-alliance-defending-freedom/">Alliance Defending Freedom</a>, warned of the encroachment of “gender ideology” into international laws and policies. Miriam Ben-Shalom, an American <a href="https://www.politicalresearch.org/2016/08/11/the-christian-rights-love-affair-with-anti-trans-feminists/">anti-trans lesbian activist</a> linked transgender activists to pedophilia. Ultimately, the event aimed to advance the idea that “gender ideology” is a conspiracy – the latest plot designed by radical homosexual activists to destroy families, contradict biology, erase Biblical gender roles, and persecute Christians.</p><p dir="ltr">The irony is that both sides argue that gender is a socially-constructed concept. For progressive feminists, LGBTQ activists, and gender theorists, <a href="https://www.routledge.com/Gender-Trouble-Feminism-and-the-Subversion-of-Identity/Butler/p/book/9780415389556">constructs of gender</a> that strictly prescribe roles for men and women are perceived to have been wrongly imposed on individuals who may possess myriad identities and expressions of gender, apart from one’s sex or sexual characteristics. Sources of these impositions include various patriarchal institutions that are understood to have <a href="https://www.akpress.org/calibanandthewitch.html">disrupted naturally occurring gender variance and equanimity</a> through systems of violence and domination.</p><p dir="ltr">For the right, “gender theory” is perceived as a contemporary concept aimed at erasing unique and definitive feminine and masculine characteristics that are exclusively tied to one’s biological sex (and limited to male and female). This framework fails to take into account the existence of <a href="https://interactadvocates.org/">intersex people</a>, and denies the <a href="https://www.teenvogue.com/story/gender-variance-around-the-world">gender variance</a> that is most often observed in transgender and genderqueer people, but also manifests in a multitude of diverse expressions of gender among cisgender people as well. Ignoring all of this, the right suggests that the acknowledgement of these realities is an <a href="https://qz.com/807743/conservatives-have-created-a-fake-ideology-to-combat-the-global-movement-for-lgbti-rights/">LGBTQ conspiracy</a> designed to destroy families and sexualise children.</p><p dir="ltr">They call it “gender ideology,” and they’re effectively using it to instigate a sort of moral panic that ultimately distracts societies from real structural issues, such as poverty, disease, government corruption, and growing inequalities. The effectiveness of this strategy was especially evident in voters’ surprising rejection of Colombia’s landmark peace agreement in 2016. </p><p dir="ltr">On 2 October 2016, Colombians were summoned to vote in a referendum aimed at terminating the long-standing conflict between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The war had spanned more than 50 years, resulting in the deaths of more than 220,000 Colombians and displacing nearly 7 million people. But despite strong public support for peace, 50.2% voted to oppose the referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">Anthropologist Winifred Tate <a href="http://nacla.org/news/2016/10/04/dark-day-colombia-0">reported</a> that those who opposed the peace agreement circulated pamphlets declaring, “Colombia is in danger! Of falling under the control of a communist dictatorship and the imminent passage of a gender ideology.” Many attribute the “no” campaign's success to their effective mobilisation of homophobia and fear of expanded LGBTQ rights by linking their cause to a national debate over new, more progressive gender and sexuality education materials for high schools produced by the Ministry of Education.</p><p dir="ltr">To the right, the “gender ideology” menace is rapidly expanding its reach globally, and the CitizenGO bus has become something of a big orange mascot for the movement. But it doesn’t roll without resistance.</p><p dir="ltr">In Madrid, a judge banned the bus from traveling through the city on the grounds that it was discriminatory and could provoke hate crimes. In the US, counter protestors greeted the bus’s arrival on every stop of its attempted tour. In Bogota, the LGBTQ activists splashed multicolored paint on the vehicle.</p><p dir="ltr">Kanyali Mwikya, a program advisor at the Kenya Human Rights Commission, responded to the bus's pending visit to Nairobi by <a href="https://www.facebook.com/CitizenGOAfrica/photos/a.181414072423395.1073741829.166395887258547/234845577080244/?type=3&amp;theater">warning CitizenGO</a>: “Human rights defenders shall not sit quietly as you bring this hate speech bus to Nairobi. Like in every part of the world where this bus of hate has visited, get ready for counter action against [your] campaign of disinformation and evil!”</p><p dir="ltr">Whether the bus is ultimately stymied or not, though, the right’s anti-“gender ideology” strategy is already taking hold and will likely continue to develop as one of the key sources of right-wing resistance to gender, sexual, and reproductive rights globally.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>This article was first published on Political Research Associates’ website. <a href="https://www.politicalresearch.org/2018/05/04/the-rights-gender-ideology-menace-rolls-to-africa/">Read the original here</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/claire-provost-lara-whyte/tracking-the-backlash">Tracking the backlash: why we&#039;re investigating the &#039;anti-rights&#039; opposition</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Kenya </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 class="field-item odd"> Ideas </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 Kenya Culture Equality Ideas International politics Tracking the backlash sexual identities gender fundamentalisms bodily autonomy Cole Parke Tue, 15 May 2018 07:01:03 +0000 Cole Parke 117833 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The state-sanctioned erasure of queer stories in Africa must end now https://www.opendemocracy.net/tiffany-kagure-mugo/state-sanctioned-erasure-queer-stories-africa <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Movies depicting LGBTIQ experiences have been banned in Kenya and South Africa – adding fuel to the dangerous narrative that ‘homosexuality is unAfrican and harmful.’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/10933416533_e768ed2e61_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/10933416533_e768ed2e61_o.jpg" alt="" title="" width="420" height="278" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gay Pride March 2013, Johannesburg South Africa. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/103706303@N04/10933416533/">Niko Knigge/Flickr. </a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0.</a> Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Another day, another immoral beast vanquished. Dr Ezekiel Mutua, chief executive officer of the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB),<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-films/kenya-bans-lesbian-love-story-film-rafiki-set-to-open-at-cannes-idUSKBN1HY13R"> recently banned Rafiki</a>, a movie about two young women who fall in love in Kenya.</p><p dir="ltr">Rafiki, which means "friends" in Kiswahili, is directed by Wanuri Kahui and based on the 2007 Caine Prize winning story ‘<a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6285252.stm">Jambula Tree</a>.’ It’s the first Kenyan movie to premiere at the Cannes film festival in France – but it was banned in Kenya on the grounds of<a href="https://www.nation.co.ke/lifestyle/showbiz/Mutua-bans-Kenyan-film-about-lesbians/1950810-4532924-aj6d2k/index.html"> being ‘immoral</a>’.</p><p dir="ltr">This isn't the first time that Mutua's decisions have come out against the queer community. He also banned the first Kenyan LGBTIQ music video, Same Love Remix, ‘<a href="http://holaafrica.org/same-love-remix-first-kenyan-lgbti-video-banned-for-being-immoral/">on moral grounds</a>’, and a queer woman’s dating event, claiming that it was a<a href="http://holaafrica.org/kenya-film-classification-board-bans-an-all-female-event-labelling-it-a-lesbian-orgy/"> ’lesbian orgy’</a> and saying on social media that lesbians <a href="https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/lifestyle/2017-11-13-gay-lions-touch-a-roar-nerve-with-kenyan-official/">need therapy</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Mutua banned Rafiki because "<a href="https://www.nation.co.ke/lifestyle/showbiz/Mutua-bans-Kenyan-film-about-lesbians/1950810-4532924-aj6d2k/index.html">the film’s homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya is contrary to the law</a>," whilst also claiming that the film’s producers misled the film board by submitting an altered script.</p><p dir="ltr">In a tweet, the KFCB stated that "<a href="https://www.iol.co.za/news/africa/kenya-bans-lesbian-love-story-film-rafiki-set-to-debut-at-cannes-14676629">anyone found in its possession will be in breach of law</a>," in reference to a colonial-era Kenyan law under which gay sex is punishable by 14 years in jail.</p><p dir="ltr">Mutua’s decision to ban Rafiki comes amid statements from Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta that issues of LGBTIQ rights are "<a href="https://www.iol.co.za/news/africa/kenya-bans-lesbian-love-story-film-rafiki-set-to-debut-at-cannes-14676629">of no importance to Kenyans</a>."</p><p dir="ltr">It also comes as LGBTIQ organisations, led by National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) are in Kenya’s high court<a href="http://holaafrica.org/understanding-gay-rights-case-kenya-repeal162/"> contesting penal code provisions that criminalise homosexual activity as unconstitutional. </a></p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Sexuality is an extremely contentious issue in Kenya. This is what makes Rafiki so important.”</p><p dir="ltr">Sexuality is an extremely contentious issue in Kenya. This is what makes Rafiki so important.</p><p dir="ltr">Kahui, the film’s director, laments that “<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-films/kenya-bans-lesbian-love-story-film-rafiki-set-to-open-at-cannes-idUSKBN1HY13R">no adult Kenyans will be able to see this film</a>.” She says that the KFCB’s decision to ban Rafiki &nbsp;“violates our right of expression and this means that they will intimidate other filmmakers who might want to talk about different issues from coming up.”</p><p dir="ltr">Her disappointment raises a good question: at what point does the moral crusade by lawmakers and ‘upholders of culture’ have the right to hold narratives hostage? This is not the only example of queer visibility being buried in the name of culture and propriety.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, a film called Inxeba (“The Wound”), which chronicles a homosexual relationship at an initiation school, was banned from cinemas in South Africa by that country's film board.</p><p dir="ltr">In Nigeria, the publisher<a href="https://www.cassavarepublic.biz/"> Cassava Republic</a> had books taken off store shelves due to their support and publishing of queer literature, with their latest offering being<a href="https://brittlepaper.com/2018/03/review-cassava-republics-called-woman-queer-nigerian-women-speak-cisi-eze/"> She Called Me Woman: Nigerian Queer Women Speak</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Such suppression of LGBTIQ experiences adds to the dangerous narrative that ‘homosexuality is unAfrican’, which is used by too many in religious, societal and governmental spaces to deny LGBTIQ people their rights, leaving them vulnerable to violence and discrimination. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/41535890932_db397abc23_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/41535890932_db397abc23_o.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="277" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>London demonstration in solidarity with Uganda's LGBTI community, April 2018. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/alisdare/41535890932/">Alisdare Hickson/Flickr. </a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0.</a> Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The state-sanctioned erasure of queer stories allows discriminatory movements in countries such as Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa to deny that LGBTIQ people exist, or to insist that they are ‘the other,’ different and unwelcome.</p><p dir="ltr">Within the LGBTIQ community, the feeling of being side-lined runs deep. “The banning of Rafiki was devastating,” said Pepper, a queer woman and curator of the blog<a href="https://torevolutionarytypelove.com/about/"> Kenyan Baby Dyke</a>, who explained that media representation matters, and can be affirming.</p><p dir="ltr">“Watching the trailer and seeing my own story mirrored back was momentous,” Pepper told me. “That the opportunity to watch the film, to celebrate our own story was taken away from us, is crushing… I feel robbed. It's sad that in our own country, we can't live or celebrate our truth.”</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://kalacompany.com/">Kawira Mwirichia</a>, a visual artist whose<a href="https://torevolutionarytypelove.com/about/"> work often relates to queer experiences</a>, added the KFCB’s decision to ban Rafiki left her feeling “erased” as well as frustrated, and “very angry.”</p><p dir="ltr">It was also patronising, she told me, as if “all material we create and are exposed to as a country needs to be child-friendly. Like we aren’t adults too."</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.instagram.com/mrembosafizine/">Wacera Njagi,</a> editor of MremboSafi Zine, and an advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights, said that Rafiki’s director Kahui was “makes things that are way ahead of her time.” </p><p dir="ltr">She said that the film’s banning also brought it greater public exposure in Kenya, and internationally, leading to even more debate.</p><p dir="ltr">And this is true. The banning of the movie has brought it sharply into the public eye, as was the case with Inxeba. Not only are the films more visible, but the bans have also caused people to think about ideas of visibility, queerness and who gets to control national, or regional, narratives. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">“The censoring of the queer thread in the grander tapestry of curated African culture allows for the continued denial of LGBTIQ rights because queer people seemingly do not exist.” </p><p dir="ltr">The censoring of the queer thread in the grander tapestry of curated African culture allows for the continued denial of LGBTIQ rights because queer people seemingly do not exist.</p><p dir="ltr">This silencing is harmful to the unofficial archive project currently underway within the African continent, which aims to write the lives of LGBTIQ persons into the continental narrative.</p><p dir="ltr">These efforts include anthologies such as <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/She-Called-Me-Woman-Nigerias/dp/1911115596">She Called Me Woman: Nigeria’s Queer Women Speak</a> and Queer Africa I and II, <a href="http://gq.co.za/2018/03/gq-exclusive-nakhane-toure/">Nakhane Toure</a>’s album <a href="https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/lifestyle/2018-03-17-you-will-not-die-nakhanes-new-album-is-spine-tingling/">You Will Not Die</a>, theatrical pieces such as <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/tiffany-kagure-mugo/domestic-violence-lesbian-relationships">Beneath The Same Silence</a>, which looks at abuse in a queer woman's relationship, and the work done by <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DramaQueensGh/videos/567250450292847/">Drama Queens</a>, a theatre group based in Ghana.</p><p dir="ltr">It also embeds harmful and potentially violent ideas about the existence (or lack thereof) of queer people in Africa, and about those who are visible 'not belonging' and thus not deserving equal treatment. </p><p dir="ltr">This allows for continued discrimination and violence against LGBTIQ bodies at the institutional level and also within private social spaces.</p><p dir="ltr">Art and culture can change perceptions and lives, bringing about new ideas that bring about acceptance. They can help to foster understanding and to humanise what was previously seen as not human.</p><p dir="ltr">Queer culture is rising in many realms, including music, art and literature. The ability for these creations to be consumed and engaged with, free from state censorship, is as important as any landmark court battle, or street protest, for the lives of LGBTIQ people across the continent.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Kenya </div> <div class="field-item even"> South Africa </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 class="field-item odd"> Ideas </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 South Africa Kenya Culture Equality Ideas International politics Women's rights and the media sexual identities Tiffany Kagure Mugo Mon, 14 May 2018 07:00:32 +0000 Tiffany Kagure Mugo 117798 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Can Ireland escape the influence of dark online advertising on its abortion referendum? https://www.opendemocracy.net/mary-fitzgerald/can-ireland-escape-influence-of-dark-online-advertising-on-its-abortion-referendum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Google and Facebook will&nbsp;ban all foreign adverts targeting the vote, but we should be wary of patting Silicon Valley too hard on the back.&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/549093/repeal the 8th.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/repeal the 8th.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="373" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Mural in Dublin calling for a repeal of the 8th Amendment. Credit: Niall Carson/PA Images, all rights reserved.</em></p><p>The mood music sounds a bit better this time – at least for now. Both Google and Facebook have this week&nbsp;vowed to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/09/google-bans-irish-abortion-referendum-adverts?CMP=twt_gu">ban ads from “foreign actors”</a>&nbsp;trying to influence Ireland’s upcoming abortion referendum, after journalists and campaigners exposed how foreign and alt-right groups are funnelling unregulated cash into the campaign, and exploiting loopholes to&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/north-american-anti-abortion-facebook-ireland-referendum">target Irish citizens via social media</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Ireland currently has some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws,&nbsp;denying women and girls access to terminations even in cases of rape or incest. Over the years there have been horrifying cases including the slow, painful death of a woman refused a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-20321741">termination in hospital</a>&nbsp;even though she was miscarrying. But Ireland’s pro-life lobby has successfully vanquished almost all attempts at reform.</p> <p>The referendum on 25 May would change this: if the “repeal” motion passes, the government will be able to legislate on this issue, and proposes&nbsp;permitting abortion up to 12 weeks, or in cases where there is a risk to the life of the woman, a medical emergency or a fatal foetal abnormality. This would bring Ireland in line with some of Europe’s least permissive countries.</p> <p>The polls show the pro-choice vote slightly ahead, but it is&nbsp;<a href="https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/abortion-referendum/poll-young-urban-women-giving-yes-side-referendum-edge-but-it-is-a-narrow-lead-36877996.html">nail-bitingly close</a>, and the referendum has become a cause celebre for lobby groups across the world.&nbsp;There has long been speculation that&nbsp;<a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/10/28/foreign-influence-shapes-irelands-abortion-debate.html">Irish pro-life groups have been generously funded by US sources</a>: the American anti-abortion lobby has deep pockets and a long history of resourcing fights against women’s reproductive rights across the world. (See this undercover report from<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost/global-anti-abortion-lgbt-rights">&nbsp;inside the global “pro-family” movement</a>&nbsp;released by 50.50, openDemocracy’s gender, sexuality and social justice section, last year.)</p> <p>What’s new, however, is that a number of the anti-abortion groups operating in Ireland are now deploying&nbsp;the same&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/isobel-thompson/irish-anti-abortion-campaigners-brexit-trump-data-companies">technologies, companies, and even individuals</a>&nbsp;involved in the controversial data mining and targeting used in the Trump and Brexit campaigns.&nbsp;This includes working with senior pro-Leave figures, a consultant linked to Cambridge Analytica – and a company that built Trump’s America First app and previously worked for the US National Rifle Association.</p> <p>For the last 18 months, openDemocracy has been&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/dup-dark-money">investigating the dark money that funded the Brexit campaign</a>, and the groups that are now seeking to influence political processes in Britain and across the world. We aren’t doing this because we&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/mary-fitzgerald/if-brexit-was-hacked-shouldnt-we-know-exactly-who-paid">have a pro or anti-Brexit agenda</a>, or any other political goals or allegiances, but because we believe it’s vital that citizens everywhere know who is shaping what they see and hear, and who has access to key information about their lives. Without this fundamental baseline of transparency, power is not accountable and elections and referenda – particularly tightly-fought contests – can be bought, or “managed”.</p> <p>Speaking in reaction to our findings so far in Ireland, global data protection expert Paul-Olivier Dehaye told openDemocracy 50.50 that “voters have no idea of the precision of the targeting that goes into this.”&nbsp;Although Irish law bans foreign donations to political campaigns, until now overseas campaigners have been able to spend potentially unlimited sums buying online adverts targeting Irish voters.</p> <p>In light of this, the moves announced by Google and Facebook this week to ban all foreign adverts aimed at Ireland’s referendum are a step in the right direction. But we should be wary of patting Silicon Valley too hard on the back. The regulation of the democratic process should not be outsourced to tech companies, whose primary concern is boosting share prices and avoiding negative headlines. Legislators need to act – fast.</p> <p>As in Britain, Irish election law is barely two decades old, but it comes from an era before social media and data-driven campaigning. While parties need to account for every poster printed and leaflet delivered, there is no such stricture on digital advertising. It also remains to be seen whether Google and Facebook’s new measures are at all workable – not least how they will be monitored and enforced. As the Brexit experience has shown, many such groups are&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-evidence-that-leave-groups-co-ordinated-to-get-round-re">practiced at channelling money and resources through third parties</a>&nbsp;in order to circumvent disclosure laws and other restrictions.</p> <p>Ireland, says&nbsp;Gavin Sheridan of the Irish transparency campaign group Right to Know, badly needs a “broad ranging electoral law reform to bring us up to date with how campaigns are run in the 21st century.” There is political momentum gathering steam for this. But it won’t come quickly enough for this vital decision. In this close-fought battle over a woman’s right to decide what happens to her own body, there are only two weeks left. openDemocracy is working around the clock to bring more information to light. We will be breaking more stories about how information is being targeted and manipulated – and who’s paying for it. Our findings so far have raised a&nbsp;string of vital questions for modern democracies everywhere. There’s more to come – watch this space.</p> <p><em><span>This article first appeared in the New Statesman </span><a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/feminism/2018/05/can-ireland-escape-influence-dark-online-advertising-its-abortion">here</a><span><span>.&nbsp;</span></span></em><em>Find out more about openDemocracy 50.50’s investigative series,&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/tracking-the-backlash">Tracking the Backlash, here</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/claire-provost-lara-whyte/north-american-anti-abortion-facebook-ireland-referendum">Foreign and &#039;alt-right&#039; activists target Irish voters on Facebook ahead of abortion referendum</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/isobel-thompson/irish-anti-abortion-campaigners-brexit-trump-data-companies">How Irish anti-abortion activists are drawing on Brexit and Trump campaigns to influence referendum</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/tracking-the-backlash">Tracking the backlash: why we&#039;re investigating the &#039;anti-rights&#039; opposition</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/David-Burnside-Putin-Russia-DUP-Brexit-Donaldson-Vincent-Tchenguiz">Is there a link between Cambridge Analytica and the DUP’s secret Brexit donors?</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 uk Irish abortion referendum Mary Fitzgerald Fri, 11 May 2018 05:00:00 +0000 Mary Fitzgerald 117808 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: the US ‘Christian fundamentalists’ behind new Netflix film on millennial sex lives https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/revealed-christian-group-netflix-spring-break-sex <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new film about youth ‘hookup culture’ follows students at ‘Spring Break’ beach parties in Florida. Does it have a hidden agenda?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/IMG_5530.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/IMG_5530.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Liberated's London film premiere. Photo: Claire Provost.</span></span></span><a href="http://netflix.com/title/80222248">Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution</a>, a new film on Netflix, sells itself as an up-close look at millennial ‘hookup culture.’ It follows students at ‘Spring Break’ beach parties in Florida and shows how ‘sex doesn’t mean anything,’ in the words of one man who’s filmed casually slapping butts and kissing strangers.</p><p dir="ltr">The Vice-style feature includes stunning aerial views of the coast, electronic music, and disturbing footage of apparent sexual assault. What the film and Netflix don’t tell you is that it was made by a US Christian advocacy group called <a href="https://exoduscry.com">Exodus Cry</a>, which is linked to a 'trendy, youthful' movement that is "fiercely opposed to reproductive and LGBTQ rights.”</p><p dir="ltr">On <a href="https://exoduscry.com/about/">its website</a>, Exodus Cry says that it was “birthed out of prayer” in Missouri, where it has been closely linked to the <a href="https://www.ihopkc.org">International House of Prayer, Kansas City (IHOPKC)</a>, a growing charismatic Christian movement whose founder, <a href="http://www.rightwingwatch.org/post/mike-bickle-warns-that-homosexuality-opens-the-door-to-the-demonic-realm/">Mike Bickle, has said</a> that homosexuality “opens the door to the demonic realm.”</p><p>Liberated was directed by Exodus Cry’s president Benjamin Nolot, who gave a talk at IHOPKC about “<a href="http://www.ihopkc.org.edgesuite.net/notes/2013_12/77-83Beji%20nolot-pt1-Contending%20for%20Purity%20in%20a%20Pornified%20World.pdf">purity in a pornified world</a>,” in which he referenced “<a href="https://exoduscry.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Purity-in-a-Pornified-World-Part-2.pdf">the lust of Satan</a>” and warned: “We are in a dark hour of sexual turbulence across the planet, but God has promised He will have a Bride without spot or blemish.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“We are in a dark hour of sexual turbulence across the planet.”</p><p dir="ltr">Nolot defined “sexual immorality” as “all sexual activity outside of the marriage covenant between one man and one woman” and said that ‘toxic sexuality’ was to blame for abortion, teen pregnancy, and the “implosion of the nuclear family” along with rape and sex trafficking.</p><p dir="ltr">Nolot has also spoken at recent events organised by the Catholic anti-LGBT “<a href="https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/anti-lgbt">hate group</a>” C-Fam and the <a href="https://twitter.com/BenjaminNolot/status/966921139128696833">Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM)</a>, whose cofounder wrote <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Moral-Revolution-Naked-Sexual-Purity/dp/0800797299">a book on “sexual purity”</a> and called homosexuality “<a href="https://twitter.com/kvministries/status/552164309313552384?lang=en">the ultimate identity crisis.</a>”</p><p dir="ltr">Exodus Cry has used previous film productions to lobby UK and other parliamentarians for legislation against sex work. Its goals include <a href="https://exoduscry.com/about/">‘shifting culture’ and ‘changing laws’</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">But Liberated’s links to these groups, their missions and positions on sexuality, are not disclosed on Netflix. They’re not made clear within the film itself, nor have they been clear to all attendees of film screenings, many of which have been organised on university campuses.</p><p dir="ltr">"They didn't tell us anything about their links to any religious organisation,” said Helen Kennedy, head of media at the University of Brighton, which hosted a screening in May. “I had no indication that the individuals had any kind of extreme anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQI rights, anti-comprehensive sexuality education views.”</p><p dir="ltr">Her university, she said, received an email simply pitching Liberated as a documentary on Netflix. “We get a lot of those kinds of contacts around screening films,” she said, adding that the production company “just talked about the content of the film and its relationship to things like the #MeToo campaign and the rise of sexual violence on campus.”</p><p dir="ltr">“The lack of transparency in this whole operation is deeply concerning,” said Cole Parke at the <a href="http://www.politicalresearch.org/">Political Research Associates (PRA)</a> thinktank in Massachusetts, who accused these groups of an approach that “excludes and denies the humanity of LGBTQ people.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Glossing over a Christian fundamentalist agenda with popular media formats and then painting it as an innocuous attempt at constructive cultural critique and discourse is both disingenuous and dangerous,” Parke warned.</p><p dir="ltr">“Media makers who seek to maintain a degree of integrity in their work have an obligation to be transparent about who they are and what's motivating them."</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“The lack of transparency in this whole operation is deeply concerning.”</p><p dir="ltr">“It’s very concerning to see this film making its way to a mainstream audience via Netflix,” said Isabel Marler at the <a href="https://www.awid.org/">Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)</a>&nbsp;organisation, which has been tracking the <a href="https://www.awid.org/publications/rights-risk-observatory-universality-rights-trends-report-2017">global backlash</a> against sexual and reproductive rights.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://tender.org.uk">Tender</a>, a UK charity which participated in a panel screening after the film’s London premiere, said that it was not aware of these groups’ views and that it would not participate in future events with Liberated’s creators.</p><p dir="ltr">50.50, openDemocracy’s gender and sexuality section, also contacted Netflix to ask about its release of Liberated, and why the film’s links to Exodus Cry are not disclosed on the streaming platform. The company has not responded.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/group-boat-crowd-guy-vehicle-dude-767352-pxhere.com_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/group-boat-crowd-guy-vehicle-dude-767352-pxhere.com_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="351" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Spring Break beach party, 2017. Photo: <a href="https://pxhere.com/en/photo/767352">Pxhere/Creative Commons.</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/">CC0.</a></span></span></span>Christian media outlets have also noticed that Liberated isn’t ‘overtly’ religious. “Nolot and Exodus Cry have a strong biblical worldview,” said <a href="https://www.christianpost.com/news/netflix-debut-christian-group-film-sexual-exploitation-millennial-hookup-culture-215283/">the Christian Post</a>, “but they don't preach in the film.” </p><p>The <a href="http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/entertainment/2018/january/netflix-teams-up-with-christian-group-to-tackle-toxic-sexual-norms-among-millenials">Christian Broadcasting Network</a> agreed; Liberated lacks “overtly Christian themes,” but it “does approach the topic from a biblical worldview.”</p><p dir="ltr">A central premise of the film is that pop culture and ‘porn culture’ attitudes towards sex are root causes of sexual violence. It includes clips from music videos, commentary from academics and a former NFL football player, and footage from a police press conference about<a href="http://www.newsherald.com/news/20161021/spring-break-rapists-get-10-years-in-prison"> a 2015 gang rape</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">It includes numerous interviews with students including one man who says: “Girls are nothing but panty-droppers. You give them a couple of percocets, a Vicodin, and a beer, and the panties drop.” Throughout, Nolot asks partygoers questions like: Are you going to shag tonight? What does love mean to you?</p><p dir="ltr">Liberated has received <a href="https://twitter.com/magiclantern_/status/986710252186947587">rave reviews</a> from some <a href="https://hilltopmonitor.jewell.edu/liberated-exposes-the-truth-of-sexual-freedom/">young feminist viewers</a> amid claims that it wishes to open up a conversation about <a href="https://www.refinery29.uk/2018/04/195686/netflix-liberated-documentary">“men’s claims on women’s bodies.”</a></p><p dir="ltr">But it's also been criticised for depicting “<a href="http://www.theoccidentalweekly.com/culture/2018/04/09/sex-sun-scandal-liberated-film-explores-darker-side-spring-break/2892740">casual sex as inherently empowering</a>,” reinforcing “false stereotypes” about race and sexual violence, and omitting any mention of non-heterosexual experiences or “<a href="http://www.freethunk.net/articles/freethinking-movie-reviews/liberated-the-whats-so-new-sexual-revolution-movie-review-4459">its religious bias</a>.”</p><p dir="ltr">Young adults are the <a href="https://exoduscry.com/blog/general/qa-liberated-director-benjamin-nolot/">target audience</a> of Liberated, which was recently on tour in the UK, including at screenings at universities from Manchester to Brighton. Previously, the film toured in America. It’s expected to go to Australia next.</p><p dir="ltr">“I can’t think of anything that has been more destructive in our world than the misuse of sexuality,” said Nolot, in a panel discussion after the film’s London premiere, at a Leicester Square cinema. “Part of our goal, as well, is to reclaim the value of sex,” he explained.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Part of our goal is to reclaim the value of sex.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Sex means something, and if it doesn’t, then why is adultery a thing? And if it doesn’t, then why is rape a thing?” Nolot said. “Treating [sex] with the reverence or respect it deserves is a way to move past the rape culture that we are currently living in.”</p><p dir="ltr">Nolot dismissed questions from 50.50 about his views on LGBT rights, saying: “I don’t really see the point in that question.” </p><p dir="ltr">He said: “I feel like this is, like, a loaded question for you. That’s why I won’t answer it. I’ve answered this question dozens of time… Of course we love, interact with and befriend people of all different sexual orientations.”</p><p dir="ltr">Nolot also minimised his connections to IHOPKC, saying: “We partner with lots of different organisations, both faith-based and non-faith based.” While he was once on IHOPKC’s staff, he said, “there’s no official connection” between it and Exodus Cry.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/IMG_5535.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/IMG_5535.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Liberated's London film premiere. Photo: Claire Provost.</span></span></span>Exodus Cry focuses on “abolishing sex slavery through Christ-centered prevention, intervention and holistic restoration of trafficking victims,” according to its <a href="https://exoduscry.com/about/financials/">financial disclosures</a>, which reported more than $1.2 million in 2016 revenues, mostly from gifts and grants.</p><p dir="ltr">Liberated is the group’s second major production, after its 2011 film <a href="http://nefariousdocumentary.com/">Nefarious: Merchant of Souls</a> about sex slavery which featured religion more explicitly, and was used to lobby UK and other parliamentarians for laws against sex work.</p><p dir="ltr">Nefarious was shown across Scotland in 2012, for example, as part of a campaign to “<a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/laila-mickelwait-6b70b618">raise awareness and mobilise prayer and action</a>” in support of a bill that would have criminalised the purchase of sex in Scotland, brought by parliamentarian Rhoda Grant.</p><p dir="ltr">Such legislation is controversial and contested among feminist and women’s rights groups.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/qa-policy-to-protect-the-human-rights-of-sex-workers/">Amnesty International</a> is among the international organisations that oppose criminalisation for increasing risks to sex workers’ health and rights.</p><p dir="ltr">A section of Exodus Cry’s website<a href="https://exoduscry.com/getinvolved/prayer/">, on how to ‘join the movement</a>,’ says that the group “would not exist if it weren’t for prayer” and advertises prayer meetings at IHOPKC.</p><p dir="ltr">Founded in 1999, IHOPKC is based in Kansas City and the nearby suburb of Grandview, where Exodus Cry has its office. It is known for its 24/7 prayer room, use of fasting, belief in prophecy, and popularity with millennials.</p><p dir="ltr">IHOPKC missionaries also featured in the 2013 film <a href="http://www.godlovesuganda.com">God Loves Uganda</a> (also on Netflix) about American involvement in extreme anti-LGBT activism in the east African country, where homosexuality is illegal, and there were campaigns to institute the death penalty.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.politicalresearch.org/profiles-on-the-right-international-house-of-prayer-ihop/">According to PRA</a>, the Massachusetts thinktank, IHOPKC has put “a trendy, youthful gloss on a movement that is fiercely opposed to reproductive and LGBTQ rights.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“A trendy, youthful gloss on a movement that is fiercely opposed to reproductive and LGBTQ rights.”</p><p dir="ltr">In Missouri, <a href="https://www.ihopkc.org/about/">IHOPKC’s local partners</a> include The Women’s Life Center, “helping women who refuse abortion and choose life.”</p><p dir="ltr">“We uphold the New Testament view of the sanctity of sex in the context of marriage between one man and one woman," IHOPKC&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ihopkc.org/press-center/faq/god-loves-uganda-documentary-ihopkc/">says</a>&nbsp;on its website. "We seek to lead lives of sexual purity, which includes calling actions of sexual union outside of the marriage covenant sin.”</p><p dir="ltr">IHOPKC did not respond to questions about its relationship with Exodus Cry. A spokesperson for Exodus Cry’s film studio, <a href="http://magiclanternpictures.org/">Magic Lantern Pictures</a>, said Nolot was “formerly a member of [IHOPKC] staff, but has not been for some time.”</p><p>“Exodus Cry is a completely separate and autonomous organisation,” she said, but at IHOPKC it conducts “a 2-hour prayer meeting for the ending of human trafficking every Monday night, if the prayer room is available.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/Ihop_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/Ihop_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="300" height="225" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>International House of Prayer, Kansas City. Photo: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ihop.jpg">Jonathan Baldwin/Wikimedia Commons.</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/deed.en">CC-BY-2.5.</a></span></span></span>Nolot’s known involvement in IHOPKC stretches back more than a decade. IHOPKC’s communications and financial filings, meanwhile, suggest that the organisations remain close.</p><p dir="ltr">Nolot and his wife Lauren both worked at IHOPKC when they got married, according to a <a href="http://www.wrightsvillebeachmagazine.com/article.asp?aid=158&amp;iid=30">2007 magazine article</a> that listed Stuart Greaves Gown (a <a href="https://www.ihopkc.org/about/leadership/">senior IHOPKC leader</a>) and Lou Engle, a prominent US evangelical leader, as their wedding officiants.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2010, Engle travelled to Uganda and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/03/world/africa/03uganda.html">spoke at a prayer rally</a> praising the “courage” and “righteousness” of politicians pushing the country’s anti-homosexuality bill.</p><p dir="ltr">While Liberated was filmed, over five years, Nolot continued giving talks and leading prayers at IHOPKC. After speaking about “purity in a pornified culture” in 2013, he returned to talk about “strangers in Babylon” and being “Christlike in a sociopathic culture.” &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In <a href="https://www.ihopkc.org/resources/asset/2015_08_16_1030_FCF_MSG/auto/true/">a 2015 talk</a>, he describing Exodus Cry as “blessed to be part of the community here,” he said its work “would not be possible apart from the larger support system that allows us to do what we do, and that’s you guys.”</p><p dir="ltr">Nolot was still listed as a <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/ihopkc.org-prod-site/wp-content/uploads/sites/108/2018/01/25212637/24-Hours-Schedule-12-17-17.pdf">“prayer leader”</a> on IHOPKC schedules in 2017. Meanwhile, on <a href="https://www.ihopkc.org/about/">IHOPKC</a>’s website, Exodus Cry is listed on as one of its “24/7 works of justice.” It is also listed as an IHOPKC’s <a href="https://www.ihopkc.org/ministries/">ministry</a>, along with a group called Israel Mandate.</p><p dir="ltr">Exodus Cry is further named as a ‘<a href="http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/742/742938029/742938029_201506_990.pdf">related tax-exempt organisation</a>’ on IHOPKC financial filings. <a href="https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/exempt-organizations-annual-reporting-requirements-form-990-schedule-r-meaning-of-related-organization">These organisations</a> “stand in a parent/subsidiary relationship, brother/sister relationship, sponsoring organisation… or supporting/supported organisation relationship.”</p><p dir="ltr">The two groups are also connected through Lenny LaGuardia, who is listed as a director of both <a href="http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/742/742938029/742938029_201506_990.pdf">IHOPKC</a> and <a href="https://exoduscry.com/downloads/financials/2016_public_copy_of_990.pdf">Exodus Cry</a>.</p><p>Nolot has also posted messages on Twitter against <a href="https://twitter.com/BenjaminNolot/status/760519399287562240">abortion</a> (“‘Planned Parenthood’ are codewords for ‘Planned Assassination’”) and <a href="https://twitter.com/benjaminnolot/status/337254472793337857">LGBT equality</a> (“I oppose homosexual marriage on the premise that it is an unspeakable offense to God.”)</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image5.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image5.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="272" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>He’s given talks at the <a href="https://twitter.com/BenjaminNolot/status/966921139128696833">Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM)</a>, an evangelical movement in California whose cofounder, Kris Vallotton, wrote a <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Moral-Revolution-Naked-Sexual-Purity/dp/0800797299">book about ‘sexual purity’</a> and called homosexuality “<a href="https://twitter.com/kvministries/status/552164309313552384?lang=en">the ultimate identity crisis.</a>”</p><p dir="ltr">Recently, BSSM has <a href="https://www.redding.com/story/news/local/2018/05/03/weekend-local-residents-protest-against-church-lgbtq-conversion-therapy/568848002/">opposed local bills</a> to make it illegal for mental health providers to try to ‘change’ a person’s sexual orientation. The <a href="http://bssm.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/BSSM-Handbook-2016_2017-Revivalist-Lifestyle.pdf">school’s handbook</a> says students should not have "even a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity."</p><p dir="ltr">“We are fighting for the soul of a generation,” said Nolot at a September 2017 United Nations <a href="https://c-fam.org/event/slave-try-minors-digital-age/">event</a> organised by the Catholic organisation C-Fam, which has been described as an anti-LGBT "<a href="https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2018/02/15/blast-past-anti-lgbt-hate-group-resurrects-dead-bigotry-map-latest-fundraising-attempt">hate group</a>" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).</p><p dir="ltr">Next month, <a href="http://www.justconference.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Workshop_Descriptions.pdf">Nolot is scheduled to speak</a> about “the Christian’s role” in transforming “our hyper-sexualised society” at Bethel University, where <a href="https://www.bethel.edu/undergrad/student-life/community/student-handbook.pdf">students are told</a> to live “a biblical lifestyle” free of “sexual immorality, impurity… evil desires,” and “homosexual behaviour.”</p><p dir="ltr">Mary McAlister from a group called Liberty Counsel is <a href="http://www.justconference.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Workshop_Descriptions.pdf">set to speak at the same event</a> about ‘restoring’ a “Judeo-Christian based worldview” to laws that have been “transformed by sexual rights activists.”</p><p>Liberty Counsel is also described as an anti-LGBT <a href="https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/liberty-counsel">“hate group”</a> by the SPLC.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“We are fighting for the soul of a generation.”</p><p dir="ltr">“The fundamental concern for these organisations isn't healthy sexuality,” said Parke, at the PRA thinktank, it’s “control... adherence and obedience to a Christian fundamentalist worldview, which limits sexuality to the confines of married heterosexual unions.”</p><p dir="ltr">This approach “excludes and denies the humanity of LGBTQ people (and countless others),” Parke warned, while also silencing “discourse about healthy, consensual sex.”</p><p dir="ltr">At Liberated’s London premiere, two of the young people in the film participated in a panel discussion along with Nolot and the film’s producer.</p><p dir="ltr">In the film, Shay is seen laughing with his friends about blood on his mattress and not remembering the number, or names of, the women he’s had sex with. On the panel, he spoke at length about how the media caused his ‘selfish’ sexual behaviour.</p><p dir="ltr">Now 24 years old, Shay told 50.50 that he felt “huge amounts of rage” as to how he was portrayed when he first watched Liberated. He said: “I’m here to talk about the journey towards the spirit I have had with this group.”</p><p dir="ltr">Representatives from <a href="http://tender.org.uk">Tender</a>, a UK sexal violence and domestic abuse prevention organisation, were also on the panel.</p><p dir="ltr">Susie McDonald, chief executive of Tender, told 50.50 that her organisation was unaware of the organisers’ views prior to participating in the event and that it “will not be participating in future events with the creators of Liberated.”</p><p dir="ltr">McDonald said that Tender advocates for “informative, accessible relationships education which champions gender equality and is inclusive of those within the LGBTQ+ community, all faiths and ethnicities, and those with disabilities.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Anything that excuses perpetrators, blames victims, or portrays sex in a binary of purity and impurity (with or without religious connotations), does not represent Tender or our work," she explained.</p><p dir="ltr">At the University of Brighton, Kennedy insisted that the filmmakers were “not given a platform to talk about anything” and that she was “on really heightened alert to manage the Q and A” after speaking with Tender.</p><p dir="ltr">No anti-sexual and reproductive rights “messages or issues were mentioned in the conversation,” she added. "My view is we exposed the makers and characters to a serious debate on the politics of representation and sexuality.”</p><p dir="ltr">Of the film, she said: “It’s weird, isn't it... On one level, it’s a piece of media that is critiquing the media for being responsible for all the ills in the world.” It also features a “male narrative, predominantly,” with a “very narrow representation of female sexuality.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">'Painting casual sex as inherently disempowering and framing sex as the most sacred act in the world.'</span></p><p dir="ltr">At Occidental College in California, where Liberated was screened in April, the student paper also <a href="http://www.theoccidentalweekly.com/culture/2018/04/09/sex-sun-scandal-liberated-film-explores-darker-side-spring-break/2892740">noted that the film</a> focuses exclusively on “heterosexual cisgendered college students.”</p><p dir="ltr">One student criticised its “painting of casual sex as inherently disempowering and the framing of sex as the most sacred act in the world” and “men on the panel explaining to women what kind of sex was OK and what kind wasn’t.”</p><p dir="ltr">On Netflix, one reviewer said the film “reinforces false stereotypes” as it follows “predominantly white college students” until it turns to focus on sexual violence. “Instantly there were mainly black and brown faces," they said. "It wasn’t even subtle.”</p><p dir="ltr">“I’ve been hearing the same messages in this documentary since being a Christian teen in the 1990s,” wrote Jeff Swenson on the <a href="http://www.freethunk.net/articles/freethinking-movie-reviews/liberated-the-whats-so-new-sexual-revolution-movie-review-4459">blog Freethunk</a>. It “feels like propaganda,” he said, calling it “a Christian documentary disguising itself with no mention of its religious bias.”</p><p dir="ltr">At AWID, Marler said that Liberated is “part of a bigger trend we’re seeing,” with opponents of sexual and reproductive rights “toning down their rhetoric and steering away from religious framing” to reach wider audiences.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s a “shrewd” but alarming strategy, she added, as “the solution offered by the groups behind this film is ‘purity culture’ and abstinence.” Marler said: “It’s very concerning to see this film making its way to a mainstream audience via Netflix.”</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 Listen Women's rights and the media Tracking the backlash women's health Sexual violence gender fundamentalisms feminism bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter young feminists Lara Whyte Claire Provost Thu, 10 May 2018 12:29:07 +0000 Claire Provost and Lara Whyte 117735 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The spirit of 1968 is inextinguishable – even 50 years later https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/hilary-wainwright/spirit-of-1968-inextinguishable-50-years-later <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This rebellious era shaped radical activists –&nbsp;and aggressive capitalists. What can we learn from 1968, for democratic change today?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/5867950984_7789d43cf5_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/5867950984_7789d43cf5_o.jpg" alt="A group of people raising their hands in Barcelona." title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Indignados protest, 2011. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/acampadabcnfoto/5867950984/in/photolist-9WwMoG-9TP233-9KdNxp-emwRda-9Wbyj2-9KgCNy-9RCjbV-aDK4QB-9U631A-aDNX1f-9WtVXp-aweGHq-emM14f-emwWEt-awbYTv-9KdRHv-awEyx1-emM2gQ-aDK42z-abALDf-9WwM7U-awese1-9N68Yr-aDK3zT-aw8P4j-9V3UiF-9YoKq4-9Pjvb3-emwTCF-aDK3Mr-awBTiv-aDNWgA-a4bj4s-a8ngMw-9WLGsu-aweufu-9PgyVF-emwS24-emwQR4-aDNTkj-aaqBgw-awbMzr-a8jkWF-emM1sh-aHqFJg-awQZNw-aweAUj-awbS3e-emLZdj-a8ngdb">Fotomovimiento/Flickr. </a><a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0.</a> Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Capitalist adventurer Richard Branson and cultural and political rebel Tariq Ali were both shaped by the experiences of 1968 – and, significantly, the years that preceded and followed it. These rebellious years shaped a generation but produced ways of thinking that, in retrospect, have turned out to be complex and ambivalent.</p><p dir="ltr">Out of this period came women’s liberation movements; politicised, grassroots workers’ organisations; the convergence of ‘single issue’ campaigns to address systemic issues such as military power, imperialism and the nature of the state. But this era also paved the way for capitalism’s renewal – with a new, flexible, decentralised, unregulated spirit.</p><p dir="ltr">Generational changes may produce a circulation of elites – the young coming to the rescue of the exhausted old. But, once in a while, something different happens, and competing cultures and strategies for sometimes wide-reaching change can emerge.</p><p dir="ltr">This happens when institutions themselves are exhausted, or recognised as dysfunctional for the majority; when their credibility is lost with a whole generation who then draw on cultural innovations of their time to fashion alternatives to these institutions – or even to entire political and economic systems.</p><p dir="ltr">By the late 1960s, post-war paradigms began to crack. In workplaces across Europe, employers faced uncontainable pressures amid state policies of full employment and the enhanced bargaining power of an increasingly organised and confident workforce, restless with the deal of total obedience in exchange for reliable work and wages.</p><p dir="ltr">This began to affect profits and lead employers to build political pressure for ‘wage restraint’ and laws to curb organised labour’s power. At the same time, expanding higher education led to growing demands for more services and power for students and teachers. These clashed directly with government imperatives to curb public spending.</p><p dir="ltr">The women’s liberation movement upset fundamental social relations, established cultural and material orders, including one of their pillars: the idealised ‘nuclear family,’ dominated by the male breadwinner and serviced by the dependent woman, bringing up children in the isolation of her home.</p><p dir="ltr">This movement did not come from nowhere or from some essential moral female force. Feminist historian Sheila Rowbotham, for example, is clear that many of its ideas grew out of “the left movements and culture of the time,” including the “heady utopianism” of ‘68, which she describes as a “<a href="https://btlbooks.com/book/new-world-coming">springboard for women’s liberation</a>.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The distinctive, palpable, embodied and inextinguishable energy of ‘68 infused many movements with a sense of possibility and shared determination and confidence.</p><p dir="ltr">The distinctive, palpable, embodied and inextinguishable energy of ‘68 in fact infused many movements with a sense of possibility and shared determination and confidence to “demand the impossible” and see “beneath the pavement, the beach” – slogans that appeared first in graffiti on the walls of Paris, and on posters afterwards.</p><p dir="ltr">This was also the period in which movements for anti-colonial liberation and against authoritarian governments spread like wildfire around the world, shaking the legitimacy of old and not-so-old imperial and dictatorial orders.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/10532617773_4bdaa21fb5_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/10532617773_4bdaa21fb5_o.jpg" alt="Demonstration in SAIGON" title="" width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>1964 protest in Saigon. Photo:<a href="https://ccsearch.creativecommons.org/image/detail/4W1AfOmMuQa5XUoanjW5Lw=="> manhhai/Creative Commons.</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0.</a></span></span></span>Rebellions from below challenged both capitalism and Soviet bureaucracy – and these revolts combined with crises in the institutions of domination to produce competing visions and strategies for ‘modernisation: ‘Democracy-driven change’ versus ‘market-led politics.’</p><p dir="ltr">Some directly rejected the paternalism of the welfare state and state-defined socialism. They advocated and initiated participatory alternatives, including autonomous education projects, squats, communes and cooperative housing initiatives, women-centred health care, community-controlled nurseries and independent media.</p><p dir="ltr">Many of these alternatives were more practical than theoretical, with an unfinished, experimental character. Rather than systematic and ‘complete,’ they were scattered seeds of what had the potential to become a democracy-driven process of change.</p><p dir="ltr">‘68 also prompted, in reaction, an alternative strategy, led by political parties and governments, advocating &nbsp;an explicitly ‘market-led’ modernisation. In the UK, Margaret Thatcher and her entourage of free-market think-tanks had already begun their rise to power in the Conservative Party by the mid-1970s. &nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The rebellions of ’68 aimed to transform and even eliminate power inequalities altogether.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">By the 1980s, marketisation and privatisation as the only way to ‘modernise’ public institutions – presented as ‘old’ and internally unreformable – became the dominant orthodoxy. In Thatcher’s hands, this included the release of ‘the entrepreneurial spirit’.</p><p dir="ltr">This approach came on the back of the defeat, marginalisation and at times straightforward repression of alternative democracy-driven processes of change which proposed renewing institutions to maximise public value rather than profit.</p><p dir="ltr">Where market-led change meant privatisation, democracy-driven change meant popular participation in public administration. Participatory democracy was the demand around which many rallied, including Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) activists in the US.</p><p dir="ltr">The direct participation of frontline workers and service users was essential to these ideas and experiments to reorganise institutions and workplaces on the basis of social need and democratic control.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/8120128229_9616343837_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/8120128229_9616343837_o.jpg" alt="Several University of Michigan students sitting-in" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>SDS protest at the University of Michigan, November 1968. Photo:<a href="https://ccsearch.creativecommons.org/image/detail/XbyJLmi762gYOS5kIaFhNA=="> Wystan.</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0</a></span></span></span>Importantly, the rebellions of ’68 and the following decade were about more than protesting the established order and or even building counter-power. The goal was to transform and even eliminate power inequalities altogether.</p><p dir="ltr">In doing so, these rebellions overturned fundamental assumptions of social democratic and liberal public policy and the idea that codified, technical and ‘neutral’ knowledge can be centralised and exercised through ‘experts’ and more-or-less benevolent states that can know people’s needs and administer services in standardised, hierarchical ways.</p><p dir="ltr">At universities, students also questioned their experiences of increasingly standardised higher education. Some attempted to overthrow the disciplines of their schools (refusing to take exams, for example), challenging what kinds of knowledge were considered valid.</p><p dir="ltr">“Their minds are policed by discipline, patrolled by examinations. Their hearts frozen by authority. Their university mimes society, mimes the factory,” the Italian activist-journalist Angelo Quattrochi wrote in May 1968, observing the student protests in Paris that month.</p><p dir="ltr">These students had been taught to expect that higher education would increase opportunities for all to live fuller lives. But the reality was otherwise, particularly for women.</p><p dir="ltr">“The shock of motherhood in weary isolation would dash many hopes,” Rowbotham observed, “while the apparent sexual freedom enjoyed by women who belonged to the in-between strata of the educated middle class would turn out to be complicated by under-tows of double moral standards, fear and contempt.”</p><p dir="ltr">Women’s shared experiences of subordination inspired further challenges to the dominant mentalities of the time – of individuals as atomised and separated from each other, and the collective as above the individual, solid and thing-like, as if social relations between individuals were of no significance.</p><p dir="ltr">They challenged both bureaucratic collectivism and the hyped-up individualism of the consumer boom, with a ‘relational’ view of society that assumed relatively enduring but transformable relations between individuals.</p><p dir="ltr">Civil rights movements in the US, followed by Black Power movements, contributed to a new political language which defied cultural subordination and the presumed universality of a white male paradigm.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/9517849150_005f8968d5_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/9517849150_005f8968d5_o.jpg" alt="Civil Rights March on Washington" title="" width="460" height="332" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Civil Rights March on Washington. Photo:<a href="https://ccsearch.creativecommons.org/image/detail/b-rEq3ZJIiGhgWO5wmuJ1Q=="> Archives Foundation.</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0</a></span></span></span>In general, the ‘new’ left influenced by social movements moved away from the Cold War’s market-state binaries, in which the central strategic goal was to ‘seize’ or ‘win’ power, towards direct and immediate work to create feasible alternatives.</p><p dir="ltr">Such thinking took diverse forms in different places according to specific historical contexts, and influenced rich and varied practices throughout the 1970s. Across Europe, radical campaigns on housing, education, health, the needs of women and people with disabilities inspired confidence and showed that alternatives were indeed possible.</p><p dir="ltr">Close and innovative alliances between social movements and workers were crucial to this process. At the University of Oxford, we were going on our bikes and scooters, in our jumble-sale gaiety, to give out leaflets to car factory workers as they trudged to work in the dark at 6am, facing pressures to increase productivity with no increase in wages.</p><p dir="ltr">More sustained and materially significant collaborations between manual workers and students emerged in the 1970s. Indeed, a frequent – though not general – feature of this period’s radical, grassroots trade unionism was the involvement of committed academics that helped to research employers’ strategies and facilitate workers’ alternatives.</p><p dir="ltr">Specific movements, notably the women’s movement and the more radical parts of the environmental movement, made organising with workers a priority. Oxford students supported the organisation of college cleaners, following the example of feminists who in the early 1970s assisted in organising night-shift cleaners in City of London offices.</p><p dir="ltr">Radical environmentalists worked closely with engineers and designers for the company Lucas Aerospace, on an inspiring trade union-led campaign to shift military production to socially-useful energy preservation and energy-friendly transport projects.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">At the University of Oxford, we were going on our bikes and scooters, in our jumble-sale gaiety, to give out leaflets to car factory workers as they trudged to work in the dark at 6am.</p><p dir="ltr">Given the importance of relationships with working-class struggles to ‘68 movements, the impact of the class war waged by neoliberal governments was devastating. The individualism of the market increasingly took over, aided by a ‘postmodern’ perspective which tended to focus only on the cultural dimension of the social movements.</p><p dir="ltr">This led some to see, for example, the treatment of women as sex objects as a problem of culture alone – and therefore one that could be challenged without also resisting economic exploitation and the social organisation of reproduction through the nuclear family.</p><p dir="ltr">A more materialist approach would explore how these economic forms of oppression underpinned and enabled contempt for women as human beings, without denying the importance of cultural representation – and its material consequences.</p><p dir="ltr">Postmodernism became much more influential with the rise of neoliberalism in the late 1970s. It proved attractive to a '68 generation loyal to the culture of these movements but disillusioned with the frustrating efforts to bring about social change. It exercised its most significant influence where social movements suffered the severest defeats.</p><p dir="ltr">While postmodernism echoed and theorised concerns with language in creating our social and cultural lives, rather than simply reflecting a reality ‘out there,’ it lacked what was central to social movements as political actors: a purposeful, collective effort to transforming social structures, and collaborations with working-class organisations.</p><p dir="ltr">Such collective efforts and collaborations were needed to develop counter-hegemonic challenges to the free-market politics that was becoming increasingly influential.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The influence of this time, its radical thinking and practical experiments, bubbles to the surface whenever these institutions hit crises point again.</p><p dir="ltr">A decisive factor in the appropriation of the spirit of ’68 by the right was the blunt – and sometimes plainly hostile – responses of mainstream left parties (and, in some cases, even trade unions) to the radical movements of this period.</p><p dir="ltr">In France and Italy, it was especially notable in the response of Communist and social democrat parties. In the UK, it was exemplified by sustained hostility of Labour party leaders towards the radical left and the 1984-85 miners’ strike, reinforced by sometimes fierce repression by parties of the right, and vicious attacks from mainstream media.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/3012926927_5d6604cb57_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/3012926927_5d6604cb57_o.jpg" alt="Four miners in a strike" title="" width="460" height="330" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Miners' Strike rally, 1984. Photo:<a href="https://ccsearch.creativecommons.org/image/detail/9qEGXxRQMRnPx6ASQT8Fhg=="> Nick/Creative Commons.</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0</a></span></span></span>The cultural breaks of ‘68 rarely found institutional expression, let alone the ability to drive institutional change. Exceptions prove the rule: Tony Benn’s support for workers’ control, or at least effective participation in public industries, in the UK, and the experience of Ken Livingstone’s Greater London Council (sometimes described as ‘68ers in office’).</p><p dir="ltr">Such exceptions were marginalised or directly repressed. It is somewhat surprising, therefore, that like mountain streams, the influence of this time, its radical thinking and practical experiments, bubbles to the surface whenever institutions hit crises point again.</p><p dir="ltr">Think, for example, of the late 1990s ‘alter-globalisation movement,’ challenging the corporate and neoliberal-led world order. Their forms of organisation, anti-authoritarian culture, and anti-corporate, pro-participatory democracy attitudes echoed those of ‘68.</p><p dir="ltr">We saw this again in the more recent revolts of the Indignados of Spain, and in the extraordinary surge of support for Jeremy Corbyn, leader of today’s UK Labour party.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/15024926027_6415908133_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/15024926027_6415908133_o.jpg" alt="Jeremy Corbyn" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jeremy Corbyn. Photo:<a href="https://ccsearch.creativecommons.org/image/detail/X1V1Dy4xK3fICgFGO9aF9w=="> Garry Knight/Creative Commons</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0</a></span></span></span>Bertie Russell, an activist-academic involved in radical urban politics, born in 1985, told me that he’s unsure about a direct legacy of ‘68, but that “it remains an incredibly important reference point, not just for me but also for a lot of people I associate with.”</p><p dir="ltr">He describes ‘68 as representing an important shift in focus in terms of where struggle, and the possibility for progressive politics, is located. No longer, he explained, did it seem to be “defined by, on the one hand, the workplace, and, on the other hand, by the state.”</p><p dir="ltr">In the UK, there’s been a significant break from the dominant, somewhat closed culture of the Labour party’s recent past, and an opening up to a more participatory culture. This is evident the wide-ranging talks at<a href="http://theworldtransformed.org/"> The World Transformed</a> festivals, organised in parallel with the party’s annual conference, with delegates moving freely between the two.</p><p dir="ltr">These festivals are supported by Momentum, an autonomous movement organised to consolidate and extend support for Corbyn’s leadership and a transformation of the party.</p><p dir="ltr">“Suddenly, '68 becomes relevant again; how do we think about new forms of community, where we organise society differently? Or new ways of thinking about economy... other than focusing on the trade union as the place where anti-capitalist struggle has to happen; or the state will be the thing that delivers change for you,” said Russell.</p><p dir="ltr">The disappearance and reappearance of mountain streams is the subject of many scientific, geological studies. We must also study, then, how the cultures of ’68 have been kept alive and has even renewed themselves. What makes this bubbling up of participatory, direct action politics, with a sense of feasible utopia, possible?</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">How have the cultures of ‘68 been kept alive? What makes this bubbling up of participatory, direct action politics, with a sense of feasible utopia, possible?</p><p dir="ltr">1968 was not wholly unique; there have been other moments in the past that defined generations and produced tectonic shifts in our world. The left’s defeat at the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 would be one example, with the subsequent consolidation of Communist parties across most of western Europe. 1945 would be another example.</p><p dir="ltr">In the UK, the defeat of Nazi Germany produced a determination to defeat the enemies of pre-war peacetime – unemployment and poverty. This led to the election of Labour’s modest Clem Attlee over heroic war leader Winston Churchill, and to the laying of the foundations of full (male) employment and levels of education and healthcare that shaped the self-confidence and optimism of the generation born as the war ended.</p><p dir="ltr">After '68, it was unusual for a party of left social movements to emerge. Though, in all moments of radicalisation, people also keep alive their beliefs in ways that go beyond formal institutions: through the strength of their convictions; passing on ideas in their families; personal friendship networks; and more or less organised groups of allies. </p><p dir="ltr">A group of Communist or ex-Communist party members, for example, met in 1956 to try to understand what was going on in the world, and particularly in the Communist world. They continued gathering annually, calling themselves the ‘Anjou Club’ after the restaurant in which they first met, inviting speakers from younger generations to keep up to date.</p><p dir="ltr">Relationships and informal networks were of great importance in keeping alive the spirit of the late 1960s and early 1970s movements, amid the lack of significant political parties that were open to them, and the dramatic weakening of working-class organisations as neoliberal policies were deployed to destroy all material evidence of collectivism.</p><p dir="ltr">Notably, the spirit of ‘68 valued and facilitated informal and personal processes of building shared memory and political consciousness. Initiatives across social groups and locations were consciously-created to communicate, debate, and clarify ideas; support cultural nourishment; and enable mutual solidarity.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The spirit of ‘68 valued and facilitated informal and personal processes of building shared memory and political consciousness.</p><p dir="ltr">In the UK in the 1970s, most towns had a local left bookshop; study, research and reading groups sprouted up everywhere, in universities and independently; radical theatre groups toured pubs and clubs; alternative publications emerged; links were drawn between workers’ organisations, women’s, tenants’ and community groups.</p><p dir="ltr">Sometimes, local institutions brought different initiatives together in ways that strengthened all and did not undermine the autonomy of any. In many places, a disparate left converged periodically to pool strengths in the face of cuts, factory closures, and ideas of ‘acceptable levels of unemployment’ and ‘necessary’ rollbacks of state spending.</p><p dir="ltr">This distinctive break from centralised political models is key to how the spirit, initiative and capacity of ‘68 movements has been kept alive, under the conventional political radar.</p><p dir="ltr">The value that these movements placed on practical knowledge – not against theoretical knowledge, but with its own distinct validity – tended to legitimise autonomous initiatives. Importantly, their break from the authority of ‘expert’ knowledge was not in favour of individual conscience but rather of collaborative autonomy.</p><p dir="ltr">The favoured model was thus decentralised but coordinated, enabling ideas to spread and be reproduced without a centralised structure. It was this that would revive itself, and break through that radar, when there was an opportunity for collective effort to make a difference.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/2075875023_a8342d727f_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/2075875023_a8342d727f_o.jpg" alt="Silent demostration in Duke University" title="" width="460" height="318" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Silent Vigil at Duke University, 1968. Photo:<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/dukeyearlook/2075875023/"> Duke University Archives/Flickr. </a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.</a> Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Decentralised initiative combined with networked coordination could also describe the social relations enabled by new digital technologies. The counterculture of ’68, in fact, played an interesting role in preparing the way for the cyberculture of the 21st century.</p><p dir="ltr">The idea that the internet and new technologies can be tools to fulfil dreams of harmonious living (of people with each other, and with the environment)<a href="http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/F/bo3773600.html"> has roots in the Californian counterculture of the late 1960s</a> and the ‘back to the land’ commune movement.</p><p dir="ltr">This ‘new communalism’ featured a holistic vision of personal and social development, and a commitment to sharing and spreading information and innovation – epitomised and propagated by the<a href="http://www.wholeearth.com/history-whole-earth-catalog.php"> Whole Earth Catalog</a> published by the supreme countercultural networker and entrepreneur, Stewart Brand.</p><p dir="ltr">Although some new technologies, and their creators, came out of work on Cold War defence research, the internet’s development was made possible by the miniaturisation of computers that enabled individual users to have their own machines too.</p><p dir="ltr">Tim Berners-Lee, who created the World Wide Web with his colleagues at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (known by its French acronym, CERN), was explicit about the web’s importance as an open resource for a changing society.</p><p dir="ltr">Computer scientists, new communalists, individual users and radical geeks came together to produce diffuse, grassroots collaborations. But more recently, we’ve seen the increasing monopolisation of the digital world by corporate giants such as Facebook and Google.</p><p dir="ltr">The digital revolution, therefore, exhibits a similar ambivalence as all the streams flowing from ‘68: driven by a culture that favoured both collaboration and autonomy, which could be a tool either for renewing the private market or for spreading the cooperative economy.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The myth is busted, the individual freedom of neoliberalism is done – we have to re-stitch this story of us as collectives and us as communities.</p><p dir="ltr">Ten years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in the US (precipitating the financial crisis, subsequent recession, and a new wave of pro-privatisation and austerity policies), the whole doctrine of ‘the market knows best’ is being more widely questioned.</p><p dir="ltr">These questions are not just about corporate greed, irresponsible lending, or outsourcing, but also the model of the downsized state, of allowing only corporations to plan, of abandoning the boundary between the civil service and the private sector.</p><p dir="ltr">“We are at a turning point,” says Russell. From the spirit of 1968, he contends, “the bit that got taken was individual freedom, and that got stitched into the narrative of neoliberal management, but the demand was for a collective freedom.”</p><p dir="ltr">Now, he continues, “the myth is busted, the individual freedom of neoliberalism is done – we have to re-stitch this story of us as collectives and us as communities. The idea is to self-define a collective freedom. It’s taken a long time to recover.” &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">He’s right that, in the UK, Thatcher turned the desire for individual freedom into its emaciated, atomistic form to justify the unregulated market. But now, here is a new generation which is taking this desire back.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/6377401513_3cf64bc635_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/6377401513_3cf64bc635_o.jpg" alt="Demonstrator with a poster of Occupy Wall Street" title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Occupy Wall Street. Photo:<a href="https://ccsearch.creativecommons.org/image/detail/rMEovXgOYwH8XtFx-yATFA=="> Michael Whitney/Creative Commons. </a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0</a></span></span></span>50 years since the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley, an iconic direct action of '68, they are acting on the belief of one of its activists, the late Mario Savo, who stressed individual responsibility in the context of a social movement for freedom.</p><p dir="ltr">“When the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart… you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon all the apparatus and you’ve got to make it stop,” Savo said. “And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”</p><p dir="ltr">This, after all, is what young people were doing when they travelled to Seattle in 1998 to close down the World Trade Organisation talks; when they occupied in 2011 a park by Wall Street in New York City, and a church courtyard near the City of London; when they organised alternative communities of resistance in Spain and Greece.</p><p dir="ltr">More recently, this is what they did when they left their homes, and jobs – if they had them – to volunteer for Corbyn in the UK, or Bernie Sanders in America, and build new movements that have already disrupted political machines in these countries.</p><p dir="ltr">The energies of these movements may have only a tangential connection to ‘68. But it could be a source of strength to those involved to know that there are precedents, lessons, and allies from these earlier struggles, who grasp the potential of this new generation.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>* This is an edited version of an essay first published in the Transnational Institute’s <a href="http://longreads.tni.org/state-of-power-2018/lessons-1968/">State of Power 2018 </a>report.</em></p><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 Democracy and government 1968 Hilary Wainwright Sat, 05 May 2018 08:30:00 +0000 Hilary Wainwright 117552 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How Irish anti-abortion activists are drawing on Brexit and Trump campaigns to influence referendum https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/isobel-thompson/irish-anti-abortion-campaigners-brexit-trump-data-companies <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Backlash against Irish abortion rights enlists some of the same technologies, companies, and individuals involved in controversial Trump and Brexit campaigns.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/openDemocracy_Anti-Abortion_Story_Graphic_3.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="How Irish anti-abortion activists are drawing on Brexit and Trump campaigns to influence the upcoming referendum."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/openDemocracy_Anti-Abortion_Story_Graphic_3.jpeg" alt="How Irish anti-abortion activists are drawing on Brexit and Trump campaigns to influence the upcoming referendum. " title="How Irish anti-abortion activists are drawing on Brexit and Trump campaigns to influence the upcoming referendum." width="460" height="356" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>How Irish anti-abortion activists are drawing on Brexit and Trump campaigns to influence the upcoming referendum. Graphic: Carys Boughton. </span></span></span>In 2012, billboards appeared around the Republic of Ireland depicting the image of a despairing woman, or a ruptured foetus, and the tagline: “Abortion tears her life apart.” Organisers from Dublin-based groups Youth Defence and the Life Institute claimed that the billboards were seen by more than 2.1 million people – almost half of Ireland’s population.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The Chicago-based director of the <a href="https://prolifeaction.org/">Pro-Life Action League</a> stoked speculation as to who paid for the adverts when he told<a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/10/28/foreign-influence-shapes-irelands-abortion-debate.html"> an Irish newspaper</a> that US donors had given “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to Irish anti-abortion groups, including Youth Defence. “They need the money for publicity,” he said. “Abortion is about conversion.”</p><p dir="ltr">On May 25, Ireland will hold an historic referendum on abortion. The country’s laws are currently among the world’s most restrictive, denying women and girls access to terminations even in cases of rape or incest. The upcoming vote is attracting worldwide attention.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Ireland1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Keep Ireland Abortion Free banner, posted on Facebook by the New York based EMC-Frontline Pregnancy Centers."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Ireland1.jpg" alt="Keep Ireland Abortion Free banner, posted on Facebook by the New York based EMC-Frontline Pregnancy Centers." title="Keep Ireland Abortion Free banner, posted on Facebook by the New York based EMC-Frontline Pregnancy Centers." width="460" height="254" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Keep Ireland Abortion Free banner, posted on Facebook by the New York based EMC-Frontline Pregnancy Center. Photo: Chris Slattery/EMC-Frontline Pregnancy Centres.</span></span></span>Transatlantic links between anti-choice groups remain strong and US activists are framing Ireland’s referendum as a major symbolic fight. Social media is emerging as a key battleground, with foreign and Irish anti-abortion and ‘alt-right’ activists <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/north-american-anti-abortion-facebook-ireland-referendum">targeting voters with Facebook ads</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Irish anti-choice groups have also enlisted some of the same American and British companies and individuals that used controversial data-mining and targeting techniques to campaign for Donald Trump and Brexit – including senior Vote Leave figures and a company that built Trump’s America First app and previously worked for the US National Rifle Association.</p><p dir="ltr">Data analytics tools used by such firms amount to “manipulation rather than persuasion,” global data protection expert Paul-Olivier Dehaye told openDemocracy 50.50. “Voters have no idea of the precision of the targeting that goes into this. The tools themselves are opaque.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"Voters have no idea of the precision of the targeting that goes into this. The tools themselves are opaque."</p><p dir="ltr">Dehaye added that there are “many reasons” to suspect that the groups deploying such tools are breaking both data protection and campaigning financing laws. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Irish senator Alice Mary Higgins called for an immediate freeze on unregulated online political ads ahead of the referendum. “Facebook continue to accept new payments for new unregulated political ads targeted at the people of Ireland. Such sales should be immediately stopped,” she said in a statement citing transparency and accountability concerns.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.50.13.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Detail: the Save the 8th campaign."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.50.13.png" alt="Detail: the Save the 8th campaign." title="Detail: the Save the 8th campaign." width="460" height="313" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Detail: the Save the 8th campaign. Graphic: Carys Boughton.</span></span></span><a href="http://www.youthdefence.ie/campaigns/save-lives-save-the-8th/">Save the 8th</a> is one of the most prominent anti-abortion campaigns in Ireland’s referendum debate. Its name refers to an Irish constitutional amendment that enshrines the right to life of “the unborn.” This amendment must be repealed before Ireland can legislate for abortion.</p><p dir="ltr">The campaign is an officially-registered third party in the referendum. Records show that its online domain name is <a href="https://www.whois.com/whois/save8.ie">owned by the Life Institute</a>, which (along with Youth Defence) was behind the grisly 2012 ad campaign. Youth Defence also has <a href="http://www.thejournal.ie/justin-barrett-national-party-3089289-Nov2016/">links</a> to Ireland’s far-right National Party.</p><p dir="ltr">Save the 8th has also enlisted Kanto, a London-based political consultancy company, <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/anti-abortion-group-hires-kanto-agency-that-pushed-brexit-hfnklf3kk">to canvass supporters</a>, build an online presence, and use data analytics tools in a digital campaign to keep abortion illegal in Ireland. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">It’s unclear what Save the 8th is paying Kanto for its services, or what specifically the company is doing for it. According to director Thomas Borwick’s <a href="https://twitter.com/tborwick?lang=en">Twitter bio</a>, Kanto runs campaigns that “out-organise, out-plan, out-leaflet, out-twitter, out-work and out-vote all of its opponents.”&nbsp;</p><p>Son of a former Conservative MP for Kensington, 30-year old Borwick was also centrally involved in data analytics and social media campaigning for Brexit – including as Chief Technology Officer for the Vote Leave campaign.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.25.13.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Boris Johnson on tour on the Vote Leave campaign bus, 2016. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.25.13.png" alt="Boris Johnson on tour on the Vote Leave campaign bus, 2016. " title="Boris Johnson on tour on the Vote Leave campaign bus, 2016. " width="460" height="313" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Boris Johnson on tour on the Vote Leave campaign bus, 2016. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Borwick is also connected to the founder of Vote Leave, former Conservative and UK Independence Party (UKIP) MP Douglas Carswell, through the company Disruptive Analytica of which both men are directors.</p><p dir="ltr">Disruptive Analytica uses <a href="https://uk.linkedin.com/in/douglas-carswell-05333460">“data to micro-target those that clients need to reach”</a>. Borwick, his <a href="https://www.disruptiveanalytica.com/people">online bio</a> boasts, “really understands data,” and is an “an expert in giving online communication campaigns the empirical approach they need to succeed.”</p><p dir="ltr">Borwick is also <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy">a former consultant at Cambridge Analytica</a> – the company financed by Trump-supporting billionaire Robert Mercer, and<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/mar/22/steve-bannon-on-cambridge-analytica-facebook-data-is-for-sale-all-over-the-world"> “put together” by Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon</a>, who once served as Cambridge Analytica’s vice president.</p><p dir="ltr">Cambridge Analytica has made international headlines amid allegations from whistleblower and former contractor Christopher Wylie that the company illicitly <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analytica-facebook-influence-us-election">harvested 50 million Facebook</a> profiles used to target voters in the 2016 US elections.</p><p dir="ltr">In an interview with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/24/brexit-whistleblower-shahmir-sanni-interview-vote-leave-cambridge-analytica">the Observer newspaper</a>, Vote Leave volunteer Shahmir Sanni claimed that the Brexit campaign also manipulated electoral spending rules in its use of data analytics. He claimed that evidence of this was destroyed.&nbsp;</p><p>Borwick is also <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/08656284/officers">director of a company called Voter Consultancy</a>: one of more than 30 organisations that the UK Information Commissioner's Office is currently<a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/agency-hired-by-abortion-group-grilled-over-brexit-3shfxt7gr"> investigating as part of a probe</a> into the use of data analytics during Brexit campaigns. The company hit headlines last year when it emerged that the firm was behind Facebook ads targeting <a href="https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/devon-mp-says-campaign-intimidation-806027">anti-Brexit Tory MPs</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Ireland3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A campaign truck from Save the 8th, posted on their busy Facebook page."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Ireland3.jpg" alt="A campaign truck from Save the 8th, posted on their busy Facebook page." title="A campaign truck from Save the 8th, posted on their busy Facebook page." width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A campaign truck from Save the 8th, posted on their busy Facebook page. Photo: Save the 8th/Facebook.</span></span></span>There are currently no restrictions under Irish law to prevent foreign or undeclared interests from injecting themselves into the referendum debate on social media. Transparency campaigners have called for urgent reform to “outdated” rules.</p><p dir="ltr">According to a <a href="http://tref.ie/database/">database</a> published by the<a href="http://tref.ie/"> Transparent Referendum Initiative (TRI)</a>, Irish and international groups have taken out hundreds of Facebook ads targeting voters ahead of the referendum. Twelve of these were placed by the Save the 8th campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">Others were placed by <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/north-american-anti-abortion-facebook-ireland-referendum">American and Canadian groups</a>, including the US Radiance Foundation; it previously <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/feminista-jones/anti-abortion-extremists-exploiting-black-lives-matter">appropriated Black Lives Matter language to shame African-American</a> women.</p><p dir="ltr">Another advertiser is Rachel’s Vineyard, a Christian ‘abortion aftercare’ charity set to headline London’s ‘<a href="http://www.marchforlife.co.uk/this-years-speakers/">March for Life</a>’ on 5 May.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“There is nothing to stop foreign actors spending any amount of money on social media to influence how Irish people vote in the upcoming referendum,” warned Craig Dwyer at TRI.</p><p dir="ltr">There is some evidence of similar online activism on other social media platforms –&nbsp;though the scale of this activity is unclear. “We’ve been sent screenshots of ads that people are also being targeted with on Instagram and YouTube,” Dwyer told openDemocracy 50.50.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"There is nothing to stop foreign actors spending any amount of money on social media to influence how Irish people vote in the upcoming referendum."</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://prolifecampaign.ie/main/">Ireland’s Pro Life Campaign</a> also hired a digital company, uCampaign, which previously worked with the Trump and Vote Leave campaigns. Past clients include an Australian anti-marriage equality organisation and the US National Rifle Association (NRA).</p><p dir="ltr">Founded by conservative Catholic blogger Thomas Peters, uCampaign creates apps that <a href="https://help.anedot.com/integrations/ucampaign">it says</a> “cultivate online communities oriented to action, inciting massive engagement and making it easier for leaders to lead.”</p><p dir="ltr">Dehaye, the data protection specialist, explained that the work of different data analytics companies can be used in tandem to target people with online political advertising.</p><p dir="ltr">“uCampaign provides the technical tool that helps collect more data about the electorate. This data is then aligned with voter lists and existing modelling, by outfits such as Kanto. This is then used to target online ads,” he told openDemocracy 50.50.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.44.36.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Detail: the LoveBoth Project and uCampaign."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.44.36.png" alt="Detail: the LoveBoth Project and uCampaign." title="Detail: the LoveBoth Project and uCampaign." width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Detail: the LoveBoth Project and uCampaign. Graphic: Carys Boughton. </span></span></span>As part of its work for Vote Leave, uCampaign built an app which encouraged users to “Go all in for Vote Leave” and send a blanket message to their entire contacts books explaining why they planned to vote for Brexit.</p><p dir="ltr">In <a href="https://medium.com/@uCampaignapp/how-trump-and-brexit-used-a-new-digital-organizing-tool-to-win-their-surprise-victories-ceca7c720b3">a 2016 post on Medium</a>, Peters explained how the company created “a self-contained network for activists… to connect, mingle and take action.” He added: “Brexit gave us a taste of victory. Little did we know it was only the appetizer for what was to come later.”</p><p dir="ltr">uCampaign built Trump’s <a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ucampaignapp.americafirst">America First app</a>, which rewarded users with virtual badges stamped with Trumpian catch-phrases like “Apprentice,” “MAGA” and “TrumpTrain.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"Brexit gave us a taste of victory. Little did we know it was only the appetizer for what was to come later."</p><p dir="ltr">At the time, some <a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/donald-trumps-phone-app-brexit-2016-11?r=US&amp;IR=T">tech bloggers</a> were underwhelmed by the America First app’s interface. But aesthetic pleasure wasn’t the purpose. It was, in Peters’ words, “pinpointed targeted matching” – harnessing users’ contact lists and cross-referencing them with other data.</p><p dir="ltr">uCampaign have now created a similar app for the Pro Life Campaign called the LoveBoth Project. It awards users points for taking different actions. Checking your voter registration through a link on the app unlocks 55 points; adding a LoveBoth twibbon to social media profiles is worth 125; signing up to go canvassing gets you 300 points. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">TRI’s dataset shows that the LoveBoth Project has also bought at least 22 Facebook ads targeting Irish users ahead of the referendum.</p><p>The Pro Life Campaign has further <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/anti-abortion-group-hires-firm-behind-trump-s-online-campaign-m69w37x3p">bought up website domains</a> with pro-choice names (Repealeight.ie, repeal8.ie and repeal8th.ie), redirecting visitors to anti-abortion sites.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Ireland5.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="One of the few Facebook adverts by LoveBoth that was not an emotive video testimonial. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Ireland5.jpg" alt="One of the few Facebook adverts by LoveBoth that was not an emotive video testimonial." title="One of the few Facebook adverts by LoveBoth that was not an emotive video testimonial. " width="460" height="240" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>One of the few Facebook adverts by LoveBoth that was not an emotive video testimonial. Image: LoveBoth/Facebook.</span></span></span>The possibility of Twitter bots being deployed in the Irish referendum debate has also been raised, including by Irish journalist Philip Boucher Hayes. In October 2017, <a href="https://twitter.com/boucherhayes/status/921090978131431424">he said </a>that his new followers on the social media platform had grown rapidly from roughly 100 to 1,500 per week.</p><p dir="ltr">Like “pro-Brexit fake Russian sponsored accounts,” most had not tweeted before and had 8 digits following their names. Hayes asked: “Why is someone creating fake Irish accounts on an industrial scale? Why is Twitter unable or unwilling to deal with it?”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Irish transparency campaigner Gavin Sheridan told openDemocracy 50.50 that despite recent <a href="https://blog.twitter.com/developer/en_us/topics/tips/2018/automation-and-the-use-of-multiple-accounts.html">policy changes</a> at Twitter, which limit the ability of users to perform coordinated actions across multiple accounts, the role of bots in the referendum campaign is still a concern.</p><p dir="ltr">“These changes are welcome and make it more difficult for groups of people [on Twitter] acting in concert,” Sheridan said. He sees more activity, especially from the anti-abortion side on Facebook. “I expect to see more in the coming weeks,” he added.</p><p dir="ltr">But, he said: "Twitter bots are still a concern, given the number of new accounts found to be following prominent Irish Yes campaigners in recent months. We don't yet know just how effective Twitter's policy changes will be, or if users have found new workarounds to the changes." </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Ireland6.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="One of the anti-abortion Facebook adverts in the TRI dataset, by a group called ‘Our Future’."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Ireland6.jpg" alt="One of the anti-abortion Facebook adverts in the TRI dataset, by a group called ‘Our Future’." title="One of the anti-abortion Facebook adverts in the TRI dataset, by a group called ‘Our Future’." width="460" height="240" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>One of the anti-abortion Facebook adverts in the TRI dataset, by a group called ‘Our Future’, who don’t reveal where they are based. Image: Our Future/Facebook</span></span></span>The business of political campaigning is changing internationally as voters are increasingly identifiable online and targeted with new digital tools.</p><p dir="ltr">Unfurling stories about online micro-targeting and data-mining are reverberating across Ireland amid the referendum campaigns. It’s clear that much of this debate will be fought online, with <a href="https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2018/03/29/will-anti-abortion-groups-follow-cambridge-analytica-s-blueprint-ireland-s-abortion-referendum/219769">growing concern </a>over the ability of powerful groups to influence public opinion, and votes, through unregulated digital campaigns and social media advertising.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Irish electoral law needs to “reflect modern campaigning,” and financial spending, as well as donations, must be better regulated, said Dwyer at TRI. Current legislation, “is outdated, fails to address modern society and advances in technology,” he warned. “We need reform.”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>* Additional reporting by Peter Geoghegan,&nbsp;Lara Whyte and Claire Provost. </em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/north-american-anti-abortion-facebook-ireland-referendum">Foreign and &#039;alt-right&#039; activists target Irish voters on Facebook ahead of abortion referendum</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ani-hao/feminist-bots-vs-right-wing-trolls-brazil-gender-justice-new-frontiers">Feminist bots vs right-wing trolls: Brazil’s gender justice movements cross new frontiers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/tracking-the-backlash">Tracking the backlash: why we&#039;re investigating the &#039;anti-rights&#039; opposition</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 uk Civil society Democracy and government Equality International politics Internet Women's rights and the media Tracking the backlash women's human rights bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Isobel Thompson Wed, 02 May 2018 10:21:30 +0000 Isobel Thompson 117503 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Young, trans Nigerians: ‘people need to see that we exist’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sian-norris/young-nigerian-trans-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">It may become harder for church and state to deny that trans Nigerians exist, thanks to activists like Miss saHHara.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Miss_saHHara_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Miss saHHara."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Miss_saHHara_1.jpg" alt="Miss saHHara." title="Miss saHHara." width="460" height="328" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Miss saHHara. Photo: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nigerian_Beauty_Queen_Miss_saHHara_Socialising.jpg">Miss saHHara/Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>“When I was a teenager, I had to decide. I either left Nigeria. Or I killed myself.” That is how Miss saHHara, a young trans woman, describes the choice she faced, growing up amid transphobic discrimination, and violence.</p><p dir="ltr">Today, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/sahhara/">Miss saHHara</a> lives in London. She’s a successful model, pageant queen, and performer. She’s also an outspoken and brave advocate, determined to change perceptions of trans people – in Nigeria and beyond. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Miss saHHara speaks openly about the challenges she's faced, and the toll they have taken on her mental health. “There was no way I could live in this society,” she remembers feeling. “I tried to kill myself twice.”</p><p dir="ltr">We spoke over the phone on a Sunday afternoon. “I couldn’t talk to anyone; I couldn’t talk to my parents about my gender identity,” she reflected. “I was confused and crying all the time.”</p><p dir="ltr">Sick of hearing “there are no trans people in Nigeria,” she explains, Miss saHHara decided to publicly come out as trans in 2011. “I couldn’t keep quiet anymore, because people need to see that we exist and we are human beings like any other,” she told me.</p><p dir="ltr">After winning the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lr4D3dmfFR0">Super Sirenya Worldwide Pageant</a> in the Philippines in 2014, Miss saHHara launched the advocacy project <a href="http://transvalid.org/">TransValid</a> – an online platform to educate people on trans issues.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">“I couldn’t keep quiet anymore, because people need to see that we exist and we are human beings like any other.”</span></p><p dir="ltr">Growing up, Miss saHHara says that members of her family and community would pressure her to play football or the drums ‘with the boys,’ but that she was happiest ‘with the girls,’ teaching them about makeup and how to walk like a beauty queen.</p><p dir="ltr">“You should see me try and walk in a macho way,” she laughed. “It’s impossible!” </p><p dir="ltr">Miss saHHara said her grandmother was “very supportive… We would cook together and I know that if she could see me today she would not reject me as a trans woman. She would say I was a beautiful woman.”</p><p dir="ltr">But the religious community that Miss saHHara grew up in refused to accept her as a woman, she said. In Nigeria, she told me, “God comes first. I would go to church and be preached at and prayed over because they wanted to change my gender identity.”</p><p dir="ltr">“As a teenager, I was completely disorientated,” she explained. “I just didn’t feel right. The gender dysphoria – now I know what it was called, but then I had no idea. I thought I was possessed with evil spirits just like in the Bible and what they said to me in my church.”</p><p dir="ltr">With few chances to express her true self, the teenage Miss saHHara wore high-heeled boots and cut her trousers so that they looked like a skirt. Her family, friends and community would make disapproving comments. “Walking down the street, people called me names,” she said.</p><p dir="ltr">It wasn’t long before name-calling turned into physical violence. “I have scars on my body,” she said. But asking the police for help in a transphobic society is impossible; when Miss saHHara once reported an unrelated crime, it was she who was detained.</p><p dir="ltr">She describes being put in prison as the worst experience of her life. “They looked at me, they saw the way I acted and the way I presented myself. And they locked me up in the hottest part of the prison with all the men.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“They looked at me, they saw the way I acted and the way I presented myself. And they locked me up in the hottest part of the prison with all the men.”</p><p dir="ltr">In 2014, the Nigerian government passed a <a href="https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/10/20/tell-me-where-i-can-be-safe/impact-nigerias-same-sex-marriage-prohibition-act">Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act</a>. Homosexuality was already illegal in the country; this law further criminalised public displays of same-sex activity. </p><p dir="ltr">The law also targets anyone who aides the operation of gay clubs, societies, organisations or events. Human rights activists say it has led to an <a href="https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/10/20/tell-me-where-i-can-be-safe/impact-nigerias-same-sex-marriage-prohibition-act">increase in homophobic and transphobic </a>violence and hate speech.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/20140301-IMG_2325_(12885985534).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Protest for LGBT rights in Nigeria, in South Africa."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/20140301-IMG_2325_(12885985534).jpg" alt="Protest for LGBT rights in Nigeria, in South Africa." title="Protest for LGBT rights in Nigeria, in South Africa." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A protest in South Africa, for LGBT rights in Nigeria. Photo: <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:20140301-IMG_2325_(12885985534).jpg">Samantha Marx/Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en">CC BY 2.0</a>. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Vera, who lives in Nigeria, has been brutally impacted by the upsurge in attacks in this environment.</p><p dir="ltr">She told me over WhatsApp how, at age 15, she was raped by men who said: “We are doing this to you, so you feel what women feel; by the time you feel the pain you will be a man.” After the assault, she added, she “couldn’t get help because of transphobia.”</p><p dir="ltr">Following the introduction of the 2014 law, Vera was attacked again. Despite evidently being the victim of a violent crime, she was held in jail for two days. The police taunted her by calling her gay. “But I told them I wasn’t gay – I am a straight woman in the wrong body,” she said.</p><p dir="ltr">Vera worries that if she is to live freely as a trans woman, she may have to follow in Miss saHHara's footsteps and leave Nigeria. But she told me that she remains hopeful for a “future where Nigeria will embrace diversity and try to understand human sexuality.”</p><p dir="ltr">She organises, forms networks and offers support to other LGBT people through WhatsApp and Facebook groups. “The first time I met other trans people I felt so happy because I was not alone in my struggle. With them, I can express myself,” she told me.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“The first time I met other trans people I felt so happy because I was not alone in my struggle. With them, I can express myself.”</p><p dir="ltr">Miss saHHara said that she doesn’t know anyone who is openly, publicly trans in Nigeria. “Although I would like to go back to my country, I know it is dangerous for me. People have threatened to kill me,” she said.</p><p dir="ltr">“I wasn’t prepared for how people would react to my story,” she told me, about the backlash that she has faced. “I probably would have lived a quieter and more successful life if I hadn’t come out.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Miss_saHHara_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Miss saHHara."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Miss_saHHara_2.jpg" alt="Miss saHHara." title="Miss saHHara." width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Miss saHHara. Photo: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Miss_saHHara_Super_Sireyna_Worlwide_Conation.jpg">Miss saHHara/Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Miss saHHara says lies have been published about her in the media, and that the Nigerian culture minister even suggested that she should be banned from representing her country in pageants. But this has not dissuaded her: “It made me more determined to represent Nigeria!”</p><p dir="ltr">Miss saHHara wants “to say that we are here and to say that we exist. That you can be whoever you want to be if you put your heart in and fight for it.”</p><p dir="ltr">It’s for women like Vera, then, that Miss saHHara came out publicly. When I ask Vera if she knew of Miss saHHara, she tells me that her activism is inspiring.</p><p dir="ltr">It may be increasingly difficult for the church and state to deny the existence of trans people in Nigeria.</p><p dir="ltr">“The more you see people out there, in the LGBT community, living their lives freely and openly and being who they are, it helps you to understand that we are just human beings like everyone else,” Miss saHHara said.</p><p dir="ltr">In Nigeria, Vera shares Miss saHHara’s hopes. “I hope the future will be better for me,” she told me over WhatsApp. “I pray to be the first trans woman living freely in Nigeria. I believe we are the ones to fight for ourselves.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alex-moore/trans-northern-ireland-bigotry-schools">I&#039;m a trans teenager in Northern Ireland, where bigotry is taught at school</a> </div> </div> </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"> Nigeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> London </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 class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 London Nigeria Culture Equality International politics Tracking the backlash women's human rights violence against women gender 50.50 newsletter Sian Norris Mon, 30 Apr 2018 07:13:37 +0000 Sian Norris 117358 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Girls at Dhabas: challenging issues of safety, or ‘respectability’ in urban Pakistan? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/natasha-ansari/girls-at-dhabas-safety-respectability-urban-pakistan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“You need to understand,” I told the reporter. “These are baby steps, but important steps, for fuller participation in the public sphere.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/22219605_726265627583021_8334998036852881790_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Girls at Dhabas."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/22219605_726265627583021_8334998036852881790_o.jpg" alt="Girls at Dhabas." title="Girls at Dhabas." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Girls at Dhabas. Photo: Facebook/Girls at Dhabas.</span></span></span>We are sitting at a <em>dhaba</em> – a roadside tea-shop in Pakistan often frequented by lower-to-middle income men. At our table: four women and camera crew. The reporter from ‘one of the most globally viewed’ [read: western], mainstream British outlets looks me in the eye: “So, how safe do you feel at the moment? We were just surrounded by a group of little boys [because of the cameras], do you think the situation can ever turn on you?"</p><p dir="ltr">I stare back blankly at her. I feel exhausted. I know the answer she wants – the answer her viewership perhaps wants to consume – but the response in my head is not going to satisfy the insinuations and assumptions neatly packed in the syntax of her question. I have already told her, in response to a previous question, that at most we get stares and have never had an overtly threatening encounter so far.</p><p dir="ltr">“I don’t have an answer to that,” I say. Before she can turn the mic to someone else, I add: “you need to understand: us intentionally sitting outside is not radical. These are baby steps, but important steps, for fuller participation in the public sphere.”</p><p dir="ltr">Safety is not the issue usually on my mind. No one is really bold enough to confront someone randomly, violently, in such a crowded, busy part of town. The threat I face, that can actually result in any (self-inflicted) damage, is from my parents, relatives and their social circles. And the construction of that threat is a loss of respectability. Not safety.</p><p dir="ltr">In another question, the reporter asks me: “So what is it about the tradition or culture that results in the exclusion of women in public?”</p><p dir="ltr">Me: “I am unsure to what extent it is the result of our own tradition/culture – but I often wonder to what extent the class dynamic that results in upper/middle-class women being shuttled from one private space to another is inherited from our colonial experience, when white women of the British Raj were shuttled from one private space to another, to “protect” them from the local, ”native” man?”</p><p dir="ltr">I don’t know if I managed to get across the weight of the nuances at hand, in those few seconds. I doubt these words even made it to the final edit of the interview. But I did lose sleep over her questions.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/20597342_699201093622808_1813790850136186777_n.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Girls at Dhabas. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/20597342_699201093622808_1813790850136186777_n.jpg" alt="Girls at Dhabas." title="Girls at Dhabas. " width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Girls at Dhabas. Photo: Facebook/Girls at Dhabas.</span></span></span>I am part of a feminist collective called Girls at Dhabas, which has been actively raising conversations about women’s access to and participation in public spaces in Pakistan’s cities. These are complex issues, and we rely on personal narratives, storytelling, and social media to learn and create connections through shared experiences. </p><p dir="ltr">The project found widespread and rapid resonance in 2015; the hashtag #GirlsatDhabas went viral, and hundreds of women shared their photos and personal stories online. The conversation covered a range of issues related to public space (including cycling and street cricket). A collective of women emerged which has been actively involved in steering the initiative and organising demonstrations, protests and dialogues on the ground.</p><p dir="ltr">Gender and inclusive public space is one of few feminist concerns that (at some point) affects every woman. But, in extremely polarised, stratified cities, public space is contentious, and the inclusion of one marginalised group can easily mean the exclusion of another. Cultivating sensitivity, self-awareness and sisterhood is central to our politics.</p><p dir="ltr">We know that our reach and language limits our efforts and our audience. We are aware (sometimes even hyper-aware) of how our conversations currently come from a certain level of privilege, and happen in privileged spaces. We cannot even claim that these spaces are as 'inclusive' as they are sometimes thought to be. </p><p dir="ltr">Two years in, Girls at Dhabas still represents a starting point of sorts, but also a source of sustenance, representation and belonging for many of us involved.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>A version of this article originally appeared in 2016, as a personal narrative on the Girls at Dhabas' <a href="https://www.facebook.com/girlsatdhabas/" target="_blank">Facebook page</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sian-norris/dispatch-from-feminist-future">This is how the global feminist revolution began</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nana-darkoa-sekyiamah/black-panther-magical-everyday-feminist-superheroes">Black Panther’s powerful women are magical – just like our everyday feminist superheroes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/diana-carolina-rivadossi/illustration-imagining-feminist-future-together">Illustration: imagining a feminist future together</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"> Pakistan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Pakistan Civil society Culture Equality International politics Feminist futures, feminist realities 50.50 newsletter feminism gender women and power women's movements young feminists Natasha Ansari Fri, 27 Apr 2018 09:45:59 +0000 Natasha Ansari 116734 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Foreign and 'alt-right' activists target Irish voters on Facebook ahead of abortion referendum https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/north-american-anti-abortion-facebook-ireland-referendum <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>New data shows how social media has become a battleground in a transatlantic backlash against abortion rights for Irish women.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/21316402272_906a66aa95_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Lila Rose, president of American anti-abortion campaign group Live Action."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/21316402272_906a66aa95_k.jpg" alt="Lila Rose, president of American anti-abortion campaign group Live Action." title="Lila Rose, president of American anti-abortion campaign group Live Action." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Lila Rose, president of American anti-abortion campaign group Live Action. Photo: Flickr/American Life League. (CC BY-NC 2.0). Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Foreign and 'alt-right' activists are among those that have targeted Irish voters on Facebook ahead of next month's historic referendum on abortion rights.</p> <p>Under Irish law, foreign citizens and groups are not allowed to make donations to Irish campaign groups. But these rules don't apply to advertising on social media platforms, prompting campaigners to call for an urgent change in the law.</p> <p dir="ltr">openDemocracy 50.50 analysed <a href="http://www.tref.ie">newly-released data compiled by the Transparent Referendum Initiative</a> (TRI) which show that 145 groups and individuals have bought more than 350 Facebook ads about the referendum.</p> <p dir="ltr">Most of the advertisers appear to be based in Ireland but there are also foreign organisations on the list. Several of the Irish advertisers, including both anti-abortion and pro-choice groups, also have significant international connections. </p> <p dir="ltr">One of the many video adverts features a rising star in far-right media who has previously made YouTube videos entitled “the alt-right isn’t dead” or “white supremacy &amp; the KKK.”</p> <p><a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/overseas-influence-in-abortion-referendum-will-be-hard-to-stop-1.3406610">A spokesperson for the Irish anti-abortion Save the 8th campaign</a> said in February that overseas influence in the referendum, set for 25 May, is “very hard to stop… it’s reasonably unregulated.” </p><p dir="ltr">Liz Carolan from TRI told openDemocracy that Ireland’s rules on campaign donations are “outdated” and “did not anticipate and therefore do not cover direct online campaign appeals to voters from overseas."</p> <p dir="ltr">"These rules must change, urgently," she argued. “The only people making decisions and influencing voters should be those who have to live under the laws and regimes that might result from votes."</p> <p dir="ltr">Foreign organisations on the list of advertisers appear to be primarily from the United States and Canada. One of the American groups is called Expectant Mother Care (EMC) FrontLine Pregnancy Centers.</p> <p dir="ltr">On <a href="https://emcfrontline.org/">their website</a>, this group says that they “rescue moms and babies” in New York City, which they describe as “the abortion capital.” In January, the group <a href="https://www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-new-york-city/newsroom/nyc-issues-first-fine-for-anti-abortion-crisis-pregnancy-center">was fined $1,500 by the city amid criticisms</a> that its centres mislead women about healthcare options.&nbsp;</p><p> <iframe style="border: none; overflow: hidden;" src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fexpectantmothercare%2Fposts%2F1600592956662153&amp;width=500" scrolling="no" allowtransparency="true" allow="encrypted-media" frameborder="0" width="450" height="594"></iframe></p> <p dir="ltr">There is also Virginia-based Radiance Foundation on the list. It produces highly-shareable anti-abortion multimedia content; 50.50 has previously documented its <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/feminista-jones/anti-abortion-extremists-exploiting-black-lives-matter">appropriation of Black Lives Matter language to vilify African-American women</a> who choose to terminate pregnancies.</p> <p dir="ltr">Live Action, an American anti-abortion group led by activist Lila Rose, and perhaps best known for its undercover videos at Planned Parenthood clinics, also appears in the dataset. Rose was one of several speakers at <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost/global-anti-abortion-lgbt-rights">last year’s World Congress of Families summit</a> of anti-reproductive and sexual rights groups in Budapest, Hungary.</p> <p>There is also the <a href="https://www.choice42.com/">Canadian anti-abortion group CHOICE42</a>; <a href="https://www.lifesitenews.com/contact">LifeSiteNews</a>, “the #1 pro-life news website” with offices in Ontario and Virginia; and the French <a href="https://www.fondationlejeune.org/">Fondation Jerome Lejeune</a> (which also has <a href="https://lejeunefoundation.org/contacts-2/">a Virginia office</a>), which funds Down Syndrome research and <a href="https://lejeunefoundation.org/down-syndrome-pro-life-cause/">advocates against abortion</a>.</p> <p>Many of the Irish advertisers have international links and allies too.</p> <p dir="ltr">One advert's <a href="https://facebook.com/673822969483538">video</a> – viewed more than a million times – is from a group called ‘Flipside Ireland.’ The sarcastic, Vice-style film follows young YouTuber Caolan Robertson as he attempts to undermine pro-choice activists in Dublin.</p> <p dir="ltr"><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/2YPTZcf8ucs" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" frameborder="0" width="450" height="315"></iframe></p> <p dir="ltr">In common with several other ads in the dataset, it is unclear where exactly ‘Flipside Ireland’ is based, or who is behind the page. But UK-based Robertson is an increasingly well-known face on far-right media, with <a href="https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFpvg5yg5fMda91yiI1owSQ/videos">YouTube videos</a> on how “the alt-right isn’t dead” or “white supremacy &amp; the KKK.”</p> <p dir="ltr">He is also a former contributor to Rebel Media, a Canadian far-right online platform to which former English Defence League (EDL) leader Tommy Robinson, and Lauren Southern, another far-right YouTube star and one of several <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/women-and-far-right">young women leaders in the alt-right</a> movement, have also contributed.</p> <p dir="ltr">Other groups in the data include the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children in Northern Ireland – which appears to be the Northern Irish section of a group which calls itself the “<a href="https://www.spuc.org.uk/our-work">largest pro-life grassroots organisation in the UK</a>.”</p> <p dir="ltr">openDemocracy’s analysis of the data comes as Facebook launches a new feature on Wednesday 25 April in response to criticism that it has enabled powerful groups to unduly influence public opinion and elections.</p> <p dir="ltr">The tool, set for a global launch this summer, <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-facebook-privacy-ireland/facebook-to-trial-ads-tool-in-ireland-ahead-of-abortion-referendum-idUKKBN1HO2PO">is being activated early in Ireland</a> ahead of the abortion referendum. It allows users to see all ads that advertisers are running; it is supposed to make it harder for advertisers to target individuals without their knowledge.</p> <p dir="ltr">The new ‘view ads’ feature is “a small step,” according to Carolan at the TRI initiative, but it “falls short of the permanent, searchable open database of all ads that is needed.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Gavin Sheridan of the Irish campaign group Right to Know added that Facebook's new feature "will address some issues, but it is voluntary and amounts to self-regulation."</p> <p dir="ltr">He said: "It's also only Facebook – other platforms exist and new ones will appear in the future. What we need is broad ranging electoral law reform to bring us up to date with how campaigns are run in the 21st century."</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-34320044.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Icons of social media apps, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and WhatsApp."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-34320044.jpg" alt="Icons of social media apps, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and WhatsApp." title="Icons of social media apps, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and WhatsApp." width="460" height="310" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Icons of social media apps, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and WhatsApp. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Ireland has one of the world’s most restrictive laws on abortion, which is only allowed if medical practitioners deem that it is necessary to save the woman’s life. Public support for this regime will be tested at the 25 May referendum.</p> <p dir="ltr">Internationally, women’s rights groups say that <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/ani-hao/feminist-bots-vs-right-wing-trolls-brazil-gender-justice-new-frontiers">social media and digital tools including ‘bots’</a> are increasingly being used in fights over abortion rights.</p> <p dir="ltr">50.50, openDemocracy’s gender and sexuality section, has been following these trends globally in its special series <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/tracking-backlash">tracking the backlash against sexual and reproductive rights</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">The TRI dataset, last updated on Monday 23 April, contains data on Facebook ads collected by <a href="http://www.whotargets.me">the WhoTargetsMe plugin</a> and marked as “IE” for Ireland, using a list of filter terms to identify ads related to the referendum.</p> <p dir="ltr">Advertisers listed in the dataset include news and media organisations, satirical websites, and politicians as well as groups in which have taken strong positions on the vote for and against abortion rights for Irish women.</p> <p dir="ltr">One of Ireland’s biggest anti-abortion groups, Youth Defence, does not appear as a named advertiser in the dataset but Save the 8th, which shares its central Dublin address, does.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are also advertisers with names like Mutts for Life and Artists for Keeping the 8th Amendment, and individuals such as a man named David Walsh.</p> <p dir="ltr">His advert (which is no longer online) said: “TOP of the morning to you, fellow Irish people! It's time to talk about the evil of abortion, and how you guys should think long and hard about your upcoming referendum.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><i>* Additional reporting by Peter Geoghegan.</i></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/tracking-the-backlash">Tracking the backlash: why we&#039;re investigating the &#039;anti-rights&#039; opposition</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Northern Ireland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 uk Northern Ireland Civil society Democracy and government International politics Internet Irish abortion referendum Women's rights and the media Tracking the backlash women's human rights women's health 50.50 newsletter Lara Whyte Claire Provost Wed, 25 Apr 2018 18:13:25 +0000 Claire Provost and Lara Whyte 117477 at https://www.opendemocracy.net