50.50 https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/5971/0 cached version 23/05/2018 16:58:55 en 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 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="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></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="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></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="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></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="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></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="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></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="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></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="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></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="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></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 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 Feminist bots vs right-wing trolls: Brazil’s gender justice movements cross new frontiers https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ani-hao/feminist-bots-vs-right-wing-trolls-brazil-gender-justice-new-frontiers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Abortion has long been criminalised in Brazil. It is an issue that many have all but given up on – except for feminist movements.</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-29416378.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Abortion rights protest in Sao Paulo, December 2016."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-29416378.jpg" alt="Abortion rights protest in Sao Paulo, December 2016." title="Abortion rights protest in Sao Paulo, December 2016." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Abortion rights protest in Sao Paulo, December 2016. Photo: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The battle over the criminalisation of abortion is revealing of the overall political scenario in Brazil. Criminalising and controlling issues of gender and sexuality is the moral foundation of a growing right-wing ideology that is driving the country’s political development. Now, with a political system weakened by corruption and collusion, the battle for abortion is playing out on the internet through individuals, movements, and even web robots (also known as ‘bots’). </p><p dir="ltr">In Brazil today, political institutions have been weakened to their most <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/23/opinion/brazil-lula-democracy-corruption.html">vulnerable</a> since the military dictatorship ended 30 years ago. Women make up less than 10% of elected representatives, placing Brazil amongst the worst in the world for gender equality in politics. </p><p dir="ltr">The country’s first and only female president, Dilma Rousseff, was deposed by a 2016 political coup which showed the system’s pervasive and severe <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/jul/05/in-brazil-women-are-fighting-against-the-sexist-impeachment-of-dilma-rousseff">sexism</a>. Her predecessor, and the frontrunner for October 2018’s presidential elections, Luiz (Lula) Inácio Da Silva, is currently on trial for corruption. Almost 46% of the population believe that this is an unfair trial by the media and judiciary. </p><p dir="ltr">At the same time, targeted gender-based violence is rising. Marielle Franco, a black, lesbian city councilwoman from a <em>favela </em>in Rio de Janeiro, was assassinated on 14 March. Her murder has caused <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/juliana-de-moraes-pinheiro/tribute-marielle-franco-who-rattled-system">outrage in Brazil and beyond</a>. Her openly feminist, black and favela-centered politics were a source of hope for marginalised groups in Rio de Janeiro, currently governed by a conservative city government and an evangelical mayor. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-35632496.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Mural of Marielle Franco."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-35632496.jpg" alt="Mural of Marielle Franco." title="Mural of Marielle Franco." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mural of Marielle Franco. Photo: Aloisio Mauricio/Fotoarena/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Lack of access to information plays a big role in the weakness of democracy in Brazil. Eleven families <a href="http://www.fndc.org.br/noticias/midia-brasileira-e-controlada-por-apenas-11-familias-924625/">control</a> mainstream channels of communication. Civil society organisations point to insufficient information on human rights and basic political mechanisms, especially for the most marginalised groups and <a href="https://jornalggn.com.br/noticia/brasil-tem-pior-cenario-de-pluralidade-da-midia-em-12-paises">communities</a>. The majority of people receive their information from television, which is dominated by O Globo, widely seen as biased, particularly in its coverage of Rousseff’s trial and impeachment. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Lack of access to information plays a big role in the weakness of democracy in Brazil.</p><p dir="ltr">The internet has become a main battleground for information and civic dialogue on politics. Brazil is the largest user of social media in the world after the United States. Lengthy, passionate, even violent discussions about politics on Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp are not uncommon. In this little understood but widely-used new frontier, citizens are staking political claims amid a general perception of the uselessness of formal political participation. </p><p dir="ltr">Online hate speech and gender-based violence are on the rise. ‘Trolling’ – systematically attacking individuals or ideas on the internet – has <a href="https://brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2017/11/18/actualidad/1511039404_742600.html">increased</a>. A 2016 <a href="https://oglobo.globo.com/sociedade/brasil-cultiva-discurso-de-odio-nas-redes-sociais-mostra-pesquisa-19841017">study</a> showed that <a href="https://oglobo.globo.com/sociedade/brasil-cultiva-discurso-de-odio-nas-redes-sociais-mostra-pesquisa-19841017">84% of comments</a> on social media platforms that addressed politics, women, race and LGBTQ people were negative. Of nearly 50,000 comments related to gender inequality, 88% showed intolerance.</p><p dir="ltr">Movimento Brasil Livre (MBL – Movement for a Free Brazil) is one of the most prominent right-wing movements to have emerged. It has organised enormous protests, events, and campaigns for Rousseff’s impeachment, ahead of and during her trial, as well as for a “corruption-free” Brazil. </p><p dir="ltr">MBL has made feminism an enemy of their public, labelling it ‘hate speech’ and publishing posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkO3Fj04qZ4">attacking</a> feminist analyses, such as those on gender wage gaps, as ‘myths.’ </p><p dir="ltr">A number of fake profiles and bots have been set up to spread hateful messages. This has led to consistent condemnations and removals of feminist Facebook pages, Instagram handles, and profiles. </p><p dir="ltr">This backlash is not restricted to Brazilian public figures; when Judith Butler, a well-known and well-regarded scholar on sexuality issues, and author of the term ‘queer,’ arrived in Brazil last year to speak at a conference, she was <a href="https://feministacademiccollective.com/2017/11/17/judith-butler-gender-ideology-and-the-rise-of-conservatism-in-brazil/">harassed</a> and almost physically attacked by right-wing Brazilians. </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-33623630.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Judith Butler and supporters in Sao Paulo."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-33623630.jpg" alt="Judith Butler and supporters in Sao Paulo." title="Judith Butler and supporters in Sao Paulo." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Judith Butler and supporters in Sao Paulo, where conservative groups staged protests against her talk in 2017. Photo: Paulo Lopes/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>As in other parts of the <a href="https://www.awid.org/publications/rights-risk-observatory-universality-rights-trends-report-2017">world</a>, for at least the last decade, an increasingly successful right-wing tactic in Brazilian politics has been to mobilise people around patriarchal, heteronormative ideas of the family, and to refer to gender as ‘gender ideology’. This is a longer-term, more insidious strategy than simply waging war directly on feminist movements. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">An increasingly successful right-wing tactic in Brazilian politics has been to mobilise people around patriarchal, heteronormative ideas of the family, and to refer to gender as ‘gender ideology.’</p><p dir="ltr">Arguing that ‘gender ideology’ is false and damaging, politicians have explicitly prohibited the word ‘gender’ to even appear in school curriculums. </p><p dir="ltr">‘Escola Sem Partida’ (School Without Party), a self-described “educational freedom movement,” <a href="https://brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2016/06/22/politica/1466631380_123983.html">works</a> to prevent any mention of gender and sexuality in schools. While homosexual marriage is legal in Brazil, a recently-passed <a href="http://www2.camara.leg.br/camaranoticias/noticias/DIREITOS-HUMANOS/497879-CAMARA-APROVA-ESTATUTO-DA-FAMILIA-FORA-DA-A-PARTIR-DA-UNIAO-DE-HOMEM-E-MULHER.html">Statute of the Family</a> defines the ‘family’ exclusively as the union of a heterosexual man, woman, and their children. </p><p dir="ltr">A united 'Evangelical Front' of fundamentalist politicians strategically attacks liberty of gender and sexual expression. Outside of organised politics, this has also impacted the realm of arts and culture. An exhibit called ‘Queermuseu’ was attacked and shut down in São Paulo in 2017 amid conservative protests and accusations of pedophilia. It was curated by and featured queer artists who openly talked about bodies, pleasure, and sexuality.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, over the past three years, feminist movements have come out of the political sidelines in leftist social movements and gained new force and energy. </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-30471908.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="International Women&#039;s Day protest, 2017."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-30471908.jpg" alt="International Women's Day protest, 2017." title="International Women&#039;s Day protest, 2017." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>International Women's Day protest, 2017. Photo: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The ‘Feminist Spring’ of November-December 2015 accused Eduardo Cunha, then head of Brazil’s lower house of Congress, of authoring and pushing forward a draft law that would criminalise abortion in cases of rape. It would make emergency contraception illegal, and even <a href="http://g1.globo.com/sao-paulo/noticia/2015/10/mulheres-voltam-protestar-contra-projeto-de-lei-de-eduardo-cunha.html">prohibit</a> doctors from informing their patients that abortion is a legal option in Brazil in certain situations. </p><p dir="ltr">Feminist movements mobilised hundreds of thousands of Brazilians to storm the streets in dozens of cities. The draft law was tossed out, and continued feminist-led protests against Cunha throughout 2016 <a href="http://g1.globo.com/pr/parana/noticia/2016/10/juiz-federal-sergio-moro-determina-prisao-de-eduardo-cunha.html">contributed</a> to popular pressure against him, leading to his own trial and expulsion from political office.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Over the past three years, feminist movements have come out of the political sidelines in leftist social movements and gained new force and energy.</p><p dir="ltr">Cunha’s intentions are still alive and well in his political allies, however. They form a majority in Congress and have since authored far worse laws, programs, and constitutional <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/11/brazil-abortion-rights-cunha-rousseff">amendments</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">PEC 181 is a current example. This proposed constitutional amendment was originally drafted to provide additional maternity leave and support for women who give birth prematurely, but it also potentially criminalises abortion in any and all circumstances, with a clause that states: “Life begins at conception.” </p><p dir="ltr">Although feminist movements have worked to spread knowledge about this ‘hidden clause,’ including through popular <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnzjdhB3n3k">mobilisations</a> in more than 20 cities, journal articles and online activism, PEC 181 remains on the table. Known to some as the ‘Trojan horse bill’ for its widespread appeal even to Brazilians who are sympathetic to women’s rights, its hidden clause could undo the little progress that has been made on reproductive rights in Brazil.</p><p dir="ltr">Voting on the amendment has been repeatedly suspended for the past three years, as a result of protests. On 22 March, a special commission in the lower house of Congress voted once again to suspend voting on the amendment, though it has not been definitively shelved despite federal deputies pointing out that the contentious clause directly violates the country’s constitution.</p><p dir="ltr"> National media outlets have barely covered PEC 181, protests to the proposed amendment, and its potential repercussions. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">PEC 181 could undo the little progress that has been made on reproductive rights in Brazil.</p><p dir="ltr">A number of other bills and proposed constitutional amendments threatening women’s sexual and reproductive rights have also been in the works in Congress. The National Front for the Legalisation of Abortion (<a href="https://frentelegalizacaoaborto.wordpress.com/">Frente Nacional Pela Legalização do Aborto</a>) launched a call to action about these attacks in August 2017, which more than 90 feminist groups across Brazil signed and shared in their networks. </p><p dir="ltr">Around the same time, young feminists organised the first edition of Virada Feminista, a 24-hour online event featuring live-streamed discussions by feminists to challenge stigma around abortion and spread facts and information.<a href="http://viradafeministaonline.com.br/"> Virada Feminista has since grown into a significant movement,</a> coordinated by Jéssica Ipolito and Thaís Campolino, highlighting online activism that visibilises different feminist issues, particularly sexual and reproductive rights. </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-33720767.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Protesters against PEC 181, November 2017."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-33720767.jpg" alt="Protesters against PEC 181, November 2017." title="Protesters against PEC 181, November 2017." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protesters against PEC 181, November 2017. Photo: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Perhaps the most creative and innovative response to PEC 181 and other recent threats to women’s reproductive rights is <a href="https://www.beta.org.br/">Beta</a> – a feminist robot on Facebook created by the <a href="https://www.nossas.org/">Nossas</a> national network of citizens’ rights organisations. </p><p dir="ltr">Before Beta was even formally launched, she organically accumulated 10,000 likes through word of mouth and peer recommendations. Beta works through the Facebook inbox function, and informs those who agree to receive her updates of different legislative or policy drafts that can threaten women’s rights. </p><p dir="ltr">“Beta was important when PEC 181 became a political issue on the table, exactly because she is capable of rapidly and practically mobilising women across Brazil: either through chatting with them or alerting them with notifications," said Laura Molinari, advocacy coordinator at Nossas.</p><p dir="ltr">"Women were notified that PEC 181 would be voted upon and that they needed to get into action. Since they didn’t need to leave their Facebook inboxes in order to directly send emails to authorities pressuring them to vote against PEC 181, engagement was very high,” Molinari added. </p><p dir="ltr">Beta will make sure that Brazilians have access to information about how this and other bills that threaten women’s rights progress through Congress. </p><p dir="ltr">Presidential elections are expected in October 2018. The left’s frontrunner da Silva may, or may not, make it past the primaries – depending on whether he can stay out of jail. Even Brazil’s supreme court is affected by political collusion; every member voted for da Silva’s condemnation, though there is a strong <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/brazils-most-popular-leader-has-been-convicted-of-corruption-on-flimsy-evidence/">argument</a> that the evidence presented against him was insufficient. </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-34618452.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Da Silva and Rousseff, January 2018."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-34618452.jpg" alt="Da Silva and Rousseff, January 2018." title="Da Silva and Rousseff, January 2018." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Da Silva and Rousseff, January 2018. Photo: Li Ming/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>2018 may be the year where the internet is more <a href="http://www.internetlab.org.br/en/information-politics/2018-outlook-how-will-our-rights-be-in-the-most-digital-election-in-brazilian-history/">important</a> than ever before for elections in Brazil, just as 2016 was for the United States, not least because this will be the first time in Brazil’s history when sponsored advertisements by presidential candidates on the internet are allowed. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">2018 may be the year where the internet is more important than ever before for elections in Brazil.</p><p dir="ltr">In order to combat the stacked odds against them, feminist movements will have to continue to be creative about the ways in which they communicate and use the internet. </p><p dir="ltr">Digital tools for mobilisation are crucial, but offline tactics and strategies are still necessary and effective, as seen by the latest <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-argentina-abortion/argentina-lawmakers-present-bill-to-legalize-abortion-idUKKCN1GI28H">developments</a> in Argentina that have initiated political dialogue around the legalisation of abortion despite that country’s right-wing and staunchly anti-abortion president. </p><p dir="ltr">Feminist movements and allies will need to actively address gender-based violence and ‘gender ideology’ believers who spread sensationalism, fake news, and hate online, as did supporters of Marielle Franco, who successfully denounced ‘Cetismo Político,’ a right-wing site that spread false stories about Franco after she was murdered. </p><p dir="ltr">Lawyers in Brazil have also organised online, asking those who see hate speech, fake information and calumnious statements about Franco to take screenshots that could be used to press charges against the culprits. </p><p>Clearly, ideological battles no longer play out only at election booths, but also over the internet. This will shape our future – both in the immediate and in the long-term.</p><p><em>* This is a lightly edited version of an article that was first published by the <a href="https://www.awid.org/">Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)</a>. Read the original post <a href="https://www.awid.org/news-and-analysis/feminist-bots-vs-rightwing-trolls-brazils">on their website</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 class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lidija-pisker/women-in-balkans-using-social-media-to-fight-sexism">How women in the Balkans are using social media to fight sexism</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"> Brazil </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 Brazil Civil society Democracy and government Equality International politics Internet Women's rights and the media Tracking the backlash women's movements women's human rights women and power sexual identities patriarchy gender justice gender fundamentalisms feminism bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter young feminists Ani Hao Thu, 19 Apr 2018 11:50:05 +0000 Ani Hao 117307 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Kyrgyzstan’s indispensable women are undervalued https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/elnura-alkanova/kyrgyzstans-indispensable-women-are-undervalued%20 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Kyrgyz women still tend to live and work in traditionally female occupations. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/elnura-alkanova/zhenskaya-professiya" 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/Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 22.44.50_1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 22.44.50_1.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="285" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gulnaz Mamytbekova. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Last Saturday, Gulnaz Mamytbekova, a nurse in the intensive care unit of her town’s children’s hospital was getting ready to move to Moscow. Everywhere Mamytbekova went, her daughter went with her. After 25 years working at the hospital, Mamytbekova wants to emigrate so she can earn enough money to give her children a “better life”.&nbsp; </p><p dir="ltr">Gulnaz lives at her parents’ apartment 60km from Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. She is divorced and is bringing her children up on her own. Her day begins at 4am: “I’ve never once been late for work. Four hours of sleep is enough for an active life,” she says. At a quarter to six, she’s already at the bus stop, waiting to go to work. She hasn’t been able to save enough to buy her own flat: her monthly pay packet, including all the extras comes to 13,400 som (£136). </p><p dir="ltr">Gulnaz recalls the reason she couldn’t receive any higher education. Back in 1993 and already a nurse, Gulnaz wanted to get into a medical institute, but says that the examiners were demanding a 7,000 som bribe. “You could buy a flat for that amount then. We couldn’t give them a bribe like that. And I decided to become an indispensable nurse instead,” she tells me, clearly proud of her decision. </p><p dir="ltr">In Kyrgyzstan, higher education is more or less an essential, although few graduates actually find work in their field of study. People often joke that you only need a degree so that you can show off to your family, and so that they can say that their son or daughter has been to university. Mamytbekova graduated in nursing, with the highest grade, from a secondary level medical college and got a job as a lab technician, although she actually spent her time cleaning the floors in a children’s emergency department.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“When I’ve got home after a heavy shift I haven’t been able to rest for thinking about the child who was brought in during the night in a serious condition” </p><p dir="ltr">With experience, Gulnaz became a qualified nurse and saw children die on several occasions. According to official 2016 statistics, in Kyrgyzstan the death rate of infants up to the age of one was 16.6 per thousand live births, <a href="http://www.who.int/gho/child_health/mortality/neonatal_infant_text/en/">almost twice as high as European countries</a>, although about half of the worldwide average. Gulnaz tells me that the children arrive “close to death”, but parents expect the doctors to work miracles. “What else can we do, when the parents are uneducated?” she asks. “Emergency care, in other words, saving a child’s life, inevitably involves constant stress. I have spent many sleepless nights. When I’ve got home after a heavy shift I haven’t been able to rest for thinking about the child who was brought in during the night in a serious condition.” </p><p dir="ltr">“I remember one case where doctors fought for the life of one newborn baby, massaging its heart for an hour and a half. Usually, resuscitation only goes on for 20 minutes, but the doctor wouldn’t stop. He seemed to feel the child might survive and he wasn’t wrong – it came round. We’ll never know if it was the Lord or the doctors who saved it, or the baby itself just turned out to be strong.”</p><p dir="ltr">Mamytbekova believes that she was born to save and care for children. She has no thoughts about earning a high salary or having a plush life. She is going to Moscow for two years with the aim of saving enough money to buy a flat and giving her children an education, and then she’ll come back home and go on working in the children’s emergency department. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Women’s work in a man’s world &nbsp;&nbsp;</h2><p dir="ltr">There is a popular myth that only men can work in stressful conditions – women are supposedly too emotional. But listening to Mamytbekova’s story, you can certainly imagine the difficulties she has had to face, not to mention her life on low pay. Kyrgyzstan currently publishes no data on gender statistics, what occupations the majority of women work in. But Mamytbekova has hardly seen any male nurses and believes that most lower paid medical posts are occupied by women. </p><p dir="ltr">Asel Ashirbayeva, a senior nursery school teacher in a special children’s home in Bishkek, would agree. Ashirbayeva says that after working in the home for 20 years, she has rarely come across a male nursery teacher: “It might be prejudice on my part, to say men couldn’t do the job, but I’ve never noticed men showing any signs of wanting to work here.”</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/Screen_Shot_2018-04-17_at_15.36.25_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen_Shot_2018-04-17_at_15.36.25_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Asel Ashirbayeva. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Kyrgyzstan’s most recent gender statistics reveal that the Central Asian country has 30.4% fewer women than men in its civil service, although there are now 10% more than 15 years ago. And as well as this slight increase in female civil servants, women’s pay in general has also gone up, although it is still much lower than men’s. In 2002, women earned 35.1% less than men; by 2016 they had gained only 10.4% in relative terms. The average monthly income is 14,912 som (£151), with a minimum living wage of 4,794 (£49) per head of population. </p><p dir="ltr">Not everyone can work with children: according to Ashirbayeva, a nursery teacher has to be not only emotionally well-adjusted, but have nerves of steel (when bathing 18 children daily, for example). The children’s home houses up to 75 youngsters, from newborn babies to four-year olds. Many of them have been removed from their parents by social services, mainly because of dire poverty or alcoholism.</p><p dir="ltr">Statistics tell us that in 2016, 25.4% of families were <a href="http://stat.kg/ru/statistics/uroven-zhizni-naseleniya/">living in poverty</a>, and 31.5% of children aged 0-17 were being brought up in poverty. There were 2311 children living outside a parental home. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“If you are not the breadwinner in the family, you have more than enough for yourself”</p><p dir="ltr">Ashirbayeva lives outside Bishkek and wakes up at 5am to milk her cows before setting out for work. She has no children of her own yet – she is completely absorbed in her work. Almost every infant arriving in the home has developmental delay of approximately one month, she tells me: “A three-month old baby, for example, should be reacting to different coloured toys, and a four-month old should be able to hold a toy in their hand. It’s crucial not to miss these milestones.” It’s harder to work with children removed from their parents, Ashirbayeva says. They have to get used to bottle feeding. One nurse cares for three children in a shift, and it can be a problem to work out a timetable to ensure that each child gets the right amount of food and sleep. </p><p dir="ltr">Ashirbayeva, like her colleagues, doesn’t wear a uniform – her managers feel that this gives the centre a more homely atmosphere. She can’t, however wear earrings, gold rings or other jewellery. She earns £153 a month, which she is happy with: she says that she has enough for all her needs – transport, food and other minimal outlays: “If you are not the breadwinner in the family, you have more than enough for yourself,” she tells me.</p><h2 dir="ltr">A mother to 15 children </h2><p dir="ltr">Three years ago, Dinara Mambetaliyeva joined the staff of a children’s home. A trained teacher, she had spent many years working in the commercial sector, but exchanged her good salary for “a job where I’d be more needed”. Work like this is very badly paid – Mambetaliyeva couldn’t make ends meet on her own, but her own children have a comfortable life thanks to her husband’s salary, so she’s not fussed about her own pay. </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/Screen_Shot_2018-04-17_at_15.37.01_1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/Screen_Shot_2018-04-17_at_15.37.01_1.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="297" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dinara Mambetaliyeva. Photo courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Mambetaliyeva cares for children from one to three years old. “The teachers who come here are devoted to their profession,” she says. “My work isn’t easy, as I have to constantly watch my own behaviour – the children mustn’t feel any jealousy towards one another or feel that someone else gets more smiles.” During our conversation, several children come over to her for hugs; some don’t want to let go of her at all, but she gets round the problem by throwing balls in various directions to distract them.</p><p dir="ltr">Dinara also mustn’t hug one child while another is sitting shyly on the other side of the room. As she says, people consist of a complex of emotions, but they need to be controlled. One child, however, left a particularly strong impression on her: “I cried when a little girl arrived who seemed never to have seen a spoon. She also didn’t know what sleep was. We taught her how to use cutlery to eat, and restored her sleep patterns. She also didn’t speak at all: her parents were obviously drinkers.”</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/tetiana-goncharuk/the-pains-and-perils-of-childbirth-in-ukraine">The pains and perils of childbirth in Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ulugbek-babakulov/farewell-to-kyrgyzstans-island-of-democracy">Farewell to Kyrgyzstan’s “island of democracy”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tamara-grigoreva-ismail-djalilov/new-era-of-crimes-against-humanity-in-eurasia">A new era of crimes against humanity in Eurasia</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 Elnura Alkanova Kyrgyzstan Thu, 19 Apr 2018 04:03:11 +0000 Elnura Alkanova 117357 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How women in the Balkans are using social media to fight sexism https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lidija-pisker/women-in-balkans-using-social-media-to-fight-sexism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Women are primary targets of bias and online harassment in the Balkans. Now, a growing number are using the internet to fight back.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-33539749.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Facebook logos on a computer screen."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-33539749.jpg" alt="Facebook logos on a computer screen." title="Facebook logos on a computer screen." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Facebook logos on a computer screen. Photo: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Bosnian science journalist and blogger Jelena Kalinić often anticipates disagreements when she comments on social media posts. But she did not expect Bosnian writer Goran Samardžić to flip a Facebook discussion about pregnancy in late February into a sexist intrusion into her private life.</p><p dir="ltr">“I can 'milk' some of 'it' into a coffee cup and freeze it for you if you want to get pregnant,“ Samardžić privately wrote to Kalinić following a public chat on her Facebook wall. The two were only acquaintances. Kalinić was shocked by his message and shared a <a href="https://mobile.twitter.com/JelenaSashimi/status/967883613198077952">screenshot</a> of it on Twitter with the comment “this is the bottom of the bottom.” </p><p dir="ltr">On social media, people started reacting and sharing the screenshot. Some commentators criticised her decision to share the private message from Samardžić. She <a href="http://www.index.hr/vijesti/clanak/poznati-bih-pisac-znanstvenoj-novinarki-ponudio-da-ce-joj-dati-malo-svoje-sperme/1031723.aspx">explained</a> that she intended to publicly expose the insult, because she wanted people to know about it. </p><p dir="ltr">Traditional patriarchal rules, gender stereotypes, and a disregard for gender equality demands are pervasive in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia and other countries of the former Yugoslavia. Online, women are primary targets of bias and harassment. But now, a growing number of women across the region are also using the internet to combat sexism. </p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">‘Online, women are primary targets of bias and harassment. But now, a growing number of women across the region are also using the internet to combat sexism.’</p><p dir="ltr">Bosnian journalist and activist Masha Durkalić was among the first social media users to respond to the so-called “coffee cup” case. In a lengthy Facebook <a href="https://www.facebook.com/blower.of.bubbles/posts/10156213394428410">post</a>, she condemned a tacit approval of online sexist harassment. She wrote: “The support system to sexists that exists in our society is frightening.” </p><p dir="ltr">What motivated Durkalić to engage in this debate online? She told me: “It came from my personal frustration with silence and with [the] constant disregard of so many obvious problems in Bosnian society.”</p><p dir="ltr">Durkalić’s post hit a public nerve. Dozens of Bosnian Facebook users shared her post, while several human rights websites such as <a href="http://diskriminacija.ba/kolumne/goran-samard%C5%BEi%C4%87-i-fild%C5%BEan-genetskog-materijala">Diskriminacija.ba</a>, which focuses on issues of discrimination, and <a href="http://www.mreza-mira.net/vijesti/razno/odluciti-da-se-ne-smijes-seksistickoj-sali-je-politicki-cin/">Mreža za izgradnju mira</a>, the online portal of a peace-building network, republished it as an article. </p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, at least two writers cancelled book deals with Samardžić’s publishing company Buybook. Lejla Kalamujić and Dragan Bursać <a href="https://www.slobodnaevropa.org/a/seksualno-uznemiravanje/29080060.html">announced</a> on their Facebook profiles that they “work against sexists, not for them.” </p><p dir="ltr">On 6 March, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1967396166922869&amp;id=100009575143238">Samardžić wrote on Facebook: </a>"I apologise to Jelena Kalinic and the general public for sexism. Aware of what kind of damage I have done, I withdraw from all positions in the Buybook Publishing House."</p><p dir="ltr">"Apart from being the author of the unacceptable content of the message and comments, I am a husband and father of two daughters, and I hope that the beginning of the "MeToo" movement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which I was an unlucky generator of, will contribute to the depatriarchialisation of our society and open discussion of the problems which most women face," he added.</p><p dir="ltr">Durkalić sees education as vital to paving the way to respect for women. For this reason, she and her friends Amila Hrustić and Hatidža Gušić created <a href="https://zenebih.tumblr.com/">zeneBiH</a> (Women of BiH) – an online campaign which took place in March for Women’s History Month, to teach internet users about notable Bosnian women, such as scientists, writers and filmmakers. </p><p dir="ltr">They now want to produce a book about more than 50 Bosnian women, including their biographies and illustrations by Bosnian women artists and designers. They plan to launch a crowdfunding campaign for this project later this year.</p> <p><iframe allow="encrypted-media" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="border: none; overflow: hidden;" height="417" width="450" src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fzenebihknjiga%2Fphotos%2Fa.323274458198655.1073741829.320611468464954%2F323279421531492%2F%3Ftype%3D3&amp;width=450"></iframe> In Croatia, Nataša Vajagić, a coordinator at <a href="http://www.cgiporec.hr/">Centar za građanske inicijative</a> (Centre for Civic Initiatives), also takes an educational approach to tackling sexism. </p><p dir="ltr">Last year, she and a few other volunteers of the website <a href="https://libela.org/">Libela</a> created a Facebook page, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/seksizamhrvatska/">Seksizam naš svagdašnji</a> (Our Daily Sexism), which is now a project of the centre.</p><p dir="ltr">Seksizam naš svagdašnji identifies and denounces Croatian online media sources with explanations of why they are sexist. </p><p dir="ltr">It grew out of last year’s <a href="https://libela.org/sa-stavom/8541-prvi-rezultati-libelinog-istrazivanja-seksizma-na-domacim-news-portalima/">research by Libela</a>, which found that only 18% of news headlines published by the most popular online news portals in Croatia talked about women, while 4.5% of the headlines included explicitly sexist remarks. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">'Only 18% of news headlines published by the most popular online news portals in Croatia talked about women, while 4.5% of the headlines included explicitly sexist remarks.'</p><p dir="ltr">This research showed that media coverage about women is prevalent only in showbiz and lifestyle sections and that women’s physical appearances and stereotypical gender roles as mothers, housewives, models or actresses are over-emphasised. </p><p dir="ltr">In some cases, online media outlets even used hate speech, attacking women on the basis of their gender, in articles that minimised reports of violence against women. </p><p dir="ltr">Last year, when a Croatian model pressed charges against three men who shared online explicit videos of her having sex with them, some portals focused on her behaviour, describing her as having been drunk, rather than the alleged crime of recording and distributing these videos without her consent. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“It became clear to us that people often do not notice sexism because it is so deeply rooted they don’t even recognise it,” Vajagić told me. “They are accustomed to it and do not perceive it as something that contributes to inequality [between] women and men.”</p><p dir="ltr">Some social media users have criticised the project on Facebook for “seeing sexism in everything.” Vajagić counters that the precise purpose of the page is to make people aware that sexism is indeed omnipresent. &nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“It became clear to us that people often do not notice sexism because it is so deeply rooted they don’t even recognise it.”</p><p>A column published on the Libela website, entitled <a href="https://www.libela.org/stup-srama/">Stup srama</a> (Pillar of Shame), spotlights sexist statements by Croatian politicians. One of the most striking cases is of a member of parliament, Ivan Pernar, who <a href="https://net.hr/danas/hrvatska/bizarni-niz-seksistickih-provala-ivana-pernara-uzrok-nasilja-je-to-sto-je-zena-odabrali-zivjeti-s-nasilnikom/">told</a> the media last year that “the cause of the domestic violence is a woman who chooses to live with a man who bullies her.”</p><p dir="ltr">Such prejudice, which is widespread in the Balkans, is what drove Bosnian politics graduate Hana Ćurak to also employ social media in her battle against sexism. Her feminist Facebook page <a href="https://www.facebook.com/todos.brujas/">Sve su to vještice</a> (All of them are Witches) criticises sexism through satirical memes and has more than 40,000 followers. </p><p dir="ltr">Ćurak mocks sexist narratives in the Balkans. For instance, one of her memes says “Don’t make your mom worry,” which displays the patronising tone often used to discredit women’s behaviour or perspectives in the region.</p> <p dir="ltr">She also imagines short, satirical conversations between famous women such as Simone de Beauvoir and Virginia Woolf, mocking sexist patterns of communication through the specific choice of words and use of slang.</p> <p><iframe allow="encrypted-media" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="border: none; overflow: hidden;" height="459" width="450" src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Ftodos.brujas%2Fposts%2F1489764187743694&amp;width=450"></iframe> Other women-led social media accounts, for instance <a href="https://www.facebook.com/krajnjeneuracunljive/">Krajnje Neuračunljive</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/dodjoskaa">@dodjoskaa</a>, also make fun of gender stereotypes. ”No, it’s not PMS [premenstrual stress], it’s you who annoys me,” is one of the former’s popular memes. </p><p dir="ltr">Ćurak is happy to see growing awareness of women's perspectives. It is also positive, she adds, “that there are new voices that use the internet to articulate” these.</p><p dir="ltr">In Serbia, feminist organisation <a href="https://www.womenngo.org.rs/en/">Autonomni ženski centar</a> (Autonomous Women’s Centre) also took to the internet to launch an awareness-raising campaign last year about violence in young people’s relationships. </p><p dir="ltr">“We understood that we have to be present in the online sphere if we want to reach youth,” said project coordinator Sanja Pavlović.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“We understood that we have to be present in the online sphere if we want to reach youth.”</p><p dir="ltr">That is why the group’s <a href="http://mogudanecu.rs/">Mogu da neću – Ljubav nije nasilje</a> campaign (which translates roughly as “I can refuse – love is not Violence”) uses an online application called <a href="http://mogudanecu.rs/odchataj-tutorial">Aj’ Odchataj</a> (Chat Off) where young Serbians can share their experiences of violent behaviour in their relationships. </p><p dir="ltr">More than 240 young people – mostly women – have anonymously contributed their own examples of abusive discussions to the project’s online <a href="http://mogudanecu.rs/odchataj-gallery">gallery</a>.</p><p>“The application is a precious source of authentic conversations among young people in which the most common forms of violence – control, manipulation, isolation, and jealousy are clearly outlined,” Pavlović told me.</p><p dir="ltr">The application transforms real-life dialogues into smartphone chats, with each conversation ending with the campaign slogan “I can refuse.” According to Pavlović, this project can help women recognise patterns of violent behaviour and how to confront them. </p><p>Such confrontation is precisely what this new generation of women in the Balkans is doing. “I can refuse” might as well be the shared slogan of them all.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claudia-williams/young-women-mobilise-against-revenge-porn-online-abuse">Young women mobilise against ‘revenge porn’ and online abuse</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/tiffany-mugo/digital-future-of-sex">Coitus and conversation: the digital realm is taking sex to new levels</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Bosnia and Herzegovina </div> <div class="field-item even"> Croatia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Serbia </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 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 Serbia Croatia Bosnia and Herzegovina Civil society Culture Equality International politics Internet Women's rights and the media Sexual violence gender feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Lidija Pisker Wed, 18 Apr 2018 09:30:29 +0000 Lidija Pisker 117347 at https://www.opendemocracy.net #IBelieveHer protesters face backlash after Belfast rape acquittals https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lara-whyte/ibelieveher-backlash-belfast-rape-acquittals <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A gruelling rape trial ended in the acquittal of rugby players, prompting online outrage, offline protests – and a backlash from lawyers and men’s rights activists.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-35777364.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A protest in Dublin, in support of the woman at the centre of the &#039;Belfast rape case&#039;."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-35777364.jpg" alt="A protest in Dublin, in support of the woman at the centre of the 'Belfast rape case'." title="A protest in Dublin, in support of the woman at the centre of the &#039;Belfast rape case&#039;." width="460" height="325" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A protest in Dublin, in support of the woman at the centre of the 'Belfast rape case'. Photo: Tom Honan/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The long legal drama that became known as the ‘Belfast rape case’ concluded on Wednesday 28 March with the acquittal of four young men. Rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were cleared of rape charges; their friend Blane McIlroy was cleared of exposure, and friend Rory Harrison was cleared of perverting the course of justice and withholding information. Jackson was also cleared of sexual assault.</p><p dir="ltr">The 11-person jury (eight men, three women) <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/29/protests-in-belfast-and-dublin-after-rugby-players-acquittal">deliberated for three hours and 45 minutes</a> before coming to unanimous ‘not-guilty’ verdicts.</p><p dir="ltr">This case and the jury’s decision have come at a time of historic mobilisation for the rights of women in the region – and in the days after the verdicts <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5558019/Protest-rallies-planned-Ireland-IBelieverHer-trends-Twitter.html">thousands of people took part in protests</a> supporting the complainant, and calling for changes in how rape cases are prosecuted, in Belfast, Dublin, Derry and Cork.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=IBelieveHer&amp;src=typd">#IBelieveHer</a> trended on social media worldwide and was met with an extraordinary backlash, with legal threats against those using this hashtag and a counter-movement of men’s rights activists and tweeters under an <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=IBelieveThem&amp;src=typd">#IBelieveThem</a> banner.</p><p dir="ltr">Acquittals on rape charges are <a href="https://www.justice-ni.gov.uk/publications/r-s-bulletin-162017-court-prosecutions-conviction-and-out-court-disposals-statistics-northern">not uncommon</a> in Northern Ireland, where last year only<a href="http://www.thedetail.tv/articles/increase-in-rapes-reported-in-northern-ireland"> 5% of rape cases reported to police</a> lead to charges being brought against the alleged perpetrators. What’s unusual in this case is the high- public profile of the men involved, two of whom are sports stars for Ireland and Ulster rugby teams.</p><blockquote data-lang="en" data-conversation="none" class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">Watching the demonstrations happen today in response to the treatment of the woman in the Belfast rape trial made my heart soar for the first time in weeks. <br />I hope she knows we all stand behind her. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/IStillBelieveHer?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#IStillBelieveHer</a> <a href="https://t.co/54bEAl1bGC">pic.twitter.com/54bEAl1bGC</a></p>— Ellie Beoir (@ellie_beoir) <a href="https://twitter.com/ellie_beoir/status/979469695848939520?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 29, 2018</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <p dir="ltr">The nine-week trial attracted huge public interest and ongoing coverage of it made for grisly reading. Details of bloody underwear and vaginal tears heard in court were reported in real time on Twitter by an army of reporters. Whatsapp messages from the defendants, referring to ‘spit-roasting’ and ‘Belfast sluts,’ further inflamed opinions.</p><p dir="ltr">“The details [of the case] were so traumatic, I think that is why everyone was incensed,” said Siobhan McKenna, who attended one of the demonstrations in Dublin.</p><p dir="ltr">The Irish rugby team is an all-Ireland team supported by both Catholic and Protestant communities within Northern Ireland. Current champions of the Triple Crown rugby honour, they made every Irish heart soar when they beat England to win the Six Nations Championship on St Patrick’s Day last month.</p><p>The Irish Rugby and Football Union (IRFU), and <a href="http://www.thejournal.ie/paddy-jackson-trial-review-3928591-Mar2018/">Ulster Rugby, said</a> that following the outcome of the trial they are conducting a review into the future of both players, Jackson and Olding, who were “<a href="https://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/ireland-rugby-stars-paddy-jackson-and-stuart-olding-to-be-charged-with-rape-35967270.html">relieved of their duties”</a> after the four men were charged in July last year.</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-35739145.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Ireland rugby player Paddy Jackson (centre) speaking outside Belfast Crown Court, 28 March 2018."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-35739145.jpg" alt="Ireland rugby player Paddy Jackson (centre) speaking outside Belfast Crown Court, 28 March 2018." title="Ireland rugby player Paddy Jackson (centre) speaking outside Belfast Crown Court, 28 March 2018." width="460" height="338" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ireland rugby player Paddy Jackson (centre) speaking outside Belfast Crown Court, 28 March 2018. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>But, McKenna told me, “there will be a big fight before they are back in the green jersey.” She said: “It’s just kicking a ball around a field, it’s not like they are curing cancer, so why do they not have to live by the same rules as other men?”<p dir="ltr"><em>“Mná na hÉireann</em> (women of Ireland) are really fucking cross and this is an opportunity to let people know that we will not be second-class citizens any longer – whether that is in a bar in Belfast or a hospital in Dublin,” she added.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">A <a href="https://www.change.org/p/irfu-conduct-a-review-of-jackson-olding-macilroy-and-harrison-s-behaviour">Change.org</a> petition signed by more than 69,000 people – and counting – was started after the verdicts emerged. It calls on the Irish rugby team to “conduct a thorough review” of the players’ behaviour and “make the findings public” before considering them for the team again.</p><p dir="ltr">The petition says that though the players were found not-guilty, “the trial highlighted worrying conduct,” including the Whatsapp messages which were read out in court. It says: “The Irish rugby team act as ambassadors of Ireland. We do not want other countries to think that this behaviour and these attitudes are representative of Irish people.”</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">"This is an opportunity to let people know that we will not be second-class citizens any longer – whether that is in a bar in Belfast or a hospital in Dublin."</p><p dir="ltr">Over the Easter weekend, I was part of a <a href="https://www.gofundme.com/noplaceonarugbyfield">crowdfunding campaign</a> to pay for a full-page advert in the Belfast Telegraph calling for the Ulster and Irish rugby teams to drop the players because of the behaviour they admitted in court. 139 of us raised £2,000 in 36 hours, and placed the ad on Friday 6 April.</p><blockquote data-lang="en" class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">Excellent crowdfunder by <a href="https://twitter.com/LaraWhyte?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@LaraWhyte</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/annacnolan?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@annacnolan</a> led to this being published in today's <a href="https://twitter.com/BelTel?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BelTel</a> <a href="https://t.co/zIw75XlsC4">pic.twitter.com/zIw75XlsC4</a></p>— Padraig Reidy (@mePadraigReidy) <a href="https://twitter.com/mePadraigReidy/status/982164075231698944?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 6, 2018</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <p dir="ltr">After the ad appeared, Jackson released a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-43670607">public statement</a> in which he said that he would “always regret” what happened and apologised “unreservedly” for the Whatsapp messages sent between himself and the other defendants, which were read out in court.</p><p dir="ltr">The messages become a rallying point of the #IBelieveHer protests; are they violent displays of toxic masculinity, or the ‘locker room banter’ of boastful young men, eager to bond with each other?</p><p dir="ltr">Police were unable to retrieve the<a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/the-text-exchanges-revealed-at-the-belfast-rape-trial-1.3444294"> full Whatsapp conversation as several messages</a> were deleted. However, glimpses of the conversations <a href="http://metro.co.uk/2018/01/30/graphic-whatsapp-messages-rape-accused-rugby-players-sent-boasting-sex-7273068/?ito=cbshare">were read out in court</a>:</p><i><p dir="ltr">“There was a bit of spit roasting going on last night fellas.”</p><p>“It was like a merry-go-round at a carnival.”</p><p>“There was a lot of spit.”</p><p>“We are all top shaggers.”</p><p>“Love Belfast sluts.”</p><p>“Boys, did you pass spit roast brassers?”</p><p>“What the f*** was going on. Last night was hilarious.”</p><p>“Why are we such legends.”</p><p>“I know it’s ridiculous.”</p><p>“Mate, no joke. She was in hysterics, wasn’t going to end well.”</p><p>“Really, f*** sake, did you calm her? Where does she live?”</p><p>“Aye, just threw her home then went back to mine.”</p></i><p dir="ltr">Whatsapp messages from the woman, who was 19 years old at the time, were also <a href="https://www.irishmirror.ie/sport/rugby-union/paddy-jackson-jury-acquittal-olding-12270685">read out in court.</a> One message, sent to her friend, <a href="https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/worst-night-ever-raped-full-12271869">said</a>: “I’m not going to the police. I’m not going up against Ulster Rugby. Yea because that’ll work.”</p><p dir="ltr">Under Northern Irish law, the complainant has the <a href="https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/42/contents">lifelong right to anonymity,</a> but the public gallery during the trial was open and <a href="https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/nicola-anderson-public-gallery-packed-as-final-arguments-in-rugby-rape-trial-are-heard-36711240.html">packed every day</a>, and her name was mentioned in court multiple times.</p><p dir="ltr">A member of the public <a href="http://www.irishnews.com/news/northernirelandnews/2018/03/29/news/banning-the-public-from-rape-trials-may-be-required-in-social-media-age-1290297/">posted her name </a>in the comments section of an online news site. It is a <a href="https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/42/contents">criminal offence to name any complainant</a> in rape cases, but that hasn’t stopped the spread of rumours about, and threats against, her.</p><p dir="ltr">After the verdict, Jackson’s<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wl2u2rymtoU"> lawyer mentioned her</a> (not by name) in a speech to reporters. “Consistency has never been a feature of the complainant's evidence, long before she entered the witness box. So these acquittals should come as no surprise to anyone,” said Joe McVeigh, partner at one of Ireland’s leading law firms, KRW Human Rights Law.</p><p dir="ltr">McVeigh declined to comment when contacted by 50.50 this week on either the legal action against those tweeting #IBelieveHeror or his comments outside court.</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">To those men she was just another “Belfast slut”, to me she is the bravest woman in ireland. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/IBelieveHer?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#IBelieveHer</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SueMePaddy?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SueMePaddy</a> <a href="https://t.co/vxYU6XnNI7">pic.twitter.com/vxYU6XnNI7</a></p>&mdash; Rachel Campbell (@campbellrachel0) <a href="https://twitter.com/campbellrachel0/status/980084216854704130?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 31, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <p dir="ltr">A Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) spokesperson told 50.50 that the force is investigating two cases of the complainant being named online. Two people have been interviewed in relation to this, they said, but the claimant’s name remains online, along with a picture which purports to be her.</p><p>Women in Ireland are already on fire at the moment in the run-up to the repeal the eighth campaign,” McKenna told me, referring to the referendum on abortion in the Republic of Ireland, which has <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/lara-whyte/young-women-leading-ireland-campaign-against-abortion">one of the most restrictive laws on this issue in the world</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">“It’s all part of it; it’s gender pay reports in the UK, it’s #MeToo, it’s #TimesUp, it’s #repealthe8th, it’s women all over the world just saying: you know, it’s 2018 now and enough is enough.”</p><p dir="ltr">As #IBelieveHer protests snowballed, Jackson’s lawyers issued a notice of intention to <a href="https://krw-law.ie/patrick-jackson-4/">sue an Irish politician</a>, Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, for a tweet including the hashtag.They also <a href="https://krw-law.ie/patrick-jackson-4/">released a statement</a> saying that they would “not hesitate” to take action against anyone who defamed the player. Ó Ríordáin has since deleted his tweet and <a href="https://twitter.com/AodhanORiordain/status/983282392113836032">issued an apology</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">These threats from Jackson’s lawyers prompted a new hashtag #SueMePaddy – an example of the so-called ‘Streisand effect,’ where efforts to censor information online backfire.</p><p dir="ltr">“I’m entitled to my opinion and to express it. I thought OJ was guilty as well,” said McKenna. “They are trying to police women’s anger.”</p><p dir="ltr">There has also been an online backlash, with a counter-movement of men’s rights activists and tweeters under an #IBelieveThem and #IBelieveTheJury banner.</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">I'm entitled to my opinion and to express it. I thought OJ was guilty as well. They are trying to police women's anger."</p><p dir="ltr">Personally, I’ve had to block anonymous Twitter accounts that I believe were set up with the specific intention to troll me; they were new accounts with no followers who only tweeted at me. I’ve been challenged online by men claiming to be “real” rugby fans to “prove” my own fan credentials, and had my voice mocked after being grilled on local radio in Northern Ireland explaining why I decided to get involved in the debate.</p><p dir="ltr">A second crowdfunding campaign, to raise money for an advert calling for the players to be reinstated on their teams, <a href="https://www.gofundme.com/advert-to-let-them-play">exceeded</a> its own £2,000 target. The subsequent full page advert in the Belfast Telegraph, placed on Wednesday 11 April, was signed by “real fans standing up for the Ulster men.” It condemned “the extent of the social media backlash aimed at incriminating men unanimously acquitted of any crime.”</p><p dir="ltr">“We are fed up with this cyber persecution,” it read. "We want these innocent men reinstated and rightly allowed to resume their roles for both club and country.”</p><p dir="ltr">Peter Morris is chair of <a href="https://men-and-boys-initiative.co.uk/about/">The Men and Boys Initiative</a> in Northern Ireland and Scotland and one of several men who changed his Twitter name to #IBelieveThem. He sees the #IBelieveHer protests as the work of “radical feminists who can’t contain themselves.”</p><p dir="ltr">“This ‘I believe’ mantra” which he said the police have also adopted “has to stop,” Morris told me from his home in Edinburgh. “If you start from that premise – believing one party – then you have to disbelieve the other, then it’s not a fair process from the beginning; there are lots of false allegations,” he claimed.</p><p dir="ltr">UK fact-checking charity Full Fact has <a href="https://fullfact.org/crime/allegations-rape/">looked into the issue of false rape allegations</a> and concluded that 3-4% is a reasonable estimate for malicious complaints, based on evidence from England and Wales.</p><p dir="ltr">“Everyone should be anonymous” in sexual assault cases, Morris said. “There have been too many cases like this recently, where cases are falling apart and men are being cleared on a daily basis but their lives are ruined, regardless, because they are named straight away.”</p> <p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">"Men are being cleared on a daily basis but their lives are ruined, regardless."</p> <p dir="ltr">In the Republic of Ireland, rape trials are not open to the public and no one is named; in the UK, including in Northern Ireland, names are released after charges are brought. Morris said that he thinks it would be fairer to keep everyone’s identity secret until the verdict – if it’s guilty then those found guilty should be named; if it’s not guilty then the name of the complainant should be put on a “register” for “false accusers.”</p><p dir="ltr">This is a problematic and potentially misleading claim, however, as there are generally only two verdicts possible in a criminal case in this legal system: ‘guilty’ and ‘not guilty’. A ‘guilty’ verdict is given where guilt has been proven beyond reasonable doubt in the eyes of a jury, judge, or magistrates. ‘Not guilty’ verdicts are given in any case where guilt has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt.</p><p dir="ltr">Morris also claimed that there was a class element to the #IBelieveHer protests. It’s about “targeting white, middle-class men,” he told me, asking: “Where were these protests for Máiría Cahill? Where was her solidarity?”</p><blockquote data-lang="en" class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">it's not about who was guilty now it's time to realise that N.I. has to change its way and protect us that fall victim to this culture <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/IBelieveHer?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#IBelieveHer</a> <a href="https://t.co/vJiLjcy2YZ">pic.twitter.com/vJiLjcy2YZ</a></p>— E D (@erninedarragh97) <a href="https://twitter.com/erninedarragh97/status/979335197614399488?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 29, 2018</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <p dir="ltr">In October 2014, Irish politician and former Labour senator <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-29786451">Máiría Cahill waived</a> her own right to lifelong anonymity to publicly accuse a member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) of sexually abusing her as a teenager. She followed the trial closely.</p><p dir="ltr">Cahill bristled when I put Morris’s question directly to her. “I wasn’t thinking like that at all about the protests,” she said. “I felt an affinity with [the complainant], and I thought it was a positive thing for people to see what women have to go through when they take a case to court.”</p><p dir="ltr">She contrasted how the claimant’s cross-examination lasted for eight days while each defendant spent just half a day on the stand. Cahill’s own legal case collapsed after she withdrew support for prosecution, though she has never withdrawn her allegations.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Writing in the <a href="https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/news-analysis/it-takes-a-special-kind-of-courage-to-see-a-case-like-this-through-to-the-end-36758599.html">Belfast Telegraph</a> on 30 March, she explained some of the toll her ordeal: “Had I gone into court, I would have been faced with five sets of legal teams, split across three trials. On the morning of the first trial, I had had enough.”</p><p dir="ltr">She is also critical of the tone taken by Jackson’s lawyers in their public comments. She told me: “I thought the comments about the complainant were out of order and had I been the complainant I would have been very pissed off.”</p><p dir="ltr">Cahill is keen to stress that some positive changes have been made since her own trial. “Rapes have increased significantly this year from last year in Northern Ireland, so that means that more people are coming forward to report,” she said.</p><p dir="ltr">“But conviction rates haven’t jumped any. Now that could be for a number of reasons”, she continued, “but I’d like those reasons to be looked into carefully.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Who would dare to stick their hand up and report now?” McKenna asked me. “I went to the streets largely for [the complainant]. I wanted her to see the crowds and I hope she has taken comfort from it.”</p><p dir="ltr">“I don’t know if it will help her right now, but she has been part of perpetuating a national conversation on the rights of women in this country,” McKenna added. “And that’s quite a legacy.”</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> 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 Culture Equality International politics Women's rights and the media women and power Sexual violence gender 50.50 newsletter Lara Whyte Thu, 12 Apr 2018 15:41:14 +0000 Lara Whyte 117157 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Backlash podcast episode 2: "you can't eat a condom" https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lara-whyte-claire-provost/backlash-podcast-episode-2-you-cant-eat-condom <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Anti-choice activists at the United Nations argue that rural women need food, not reproductive choice. But unsafe abortions kill 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-15961793.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Vending machine with snacks and condoms, Berlin, Germany."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-15961793.jpg" alt="Vending machine with snacks and condoms, Berlin, Germany." title="Vending machine with snacks and condoms, Berlin, Germany." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vending machine with snacks and condoms, Berlin, Germany. Photo: Berliner Verlag/Archiv/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>For our second episode of The Backlash podcast, we look at the conservative groups lobbying against women's rights at the United Nations, how they define success, and what impact these successes have on women and girls.</p><p dir="ltr">We hear from professor <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/author/anne-marie-goetz"><b>Anne Marie Goetz</b></a> from the Center for Global Affairs at New York University, who was at the recent UN women's talks for 50.50, and <b>Raimundo Rojas</b> who attended as a delegate, as well as author <b>Clifford Bob</b> who explains how a 'Baptist Burka' network at the UN works against women.&nbsp;</p><p>We also speak to <b>Cledwyn Atush Mamai</b>, an organiser in Kenya's growing anti-abortion lobby, and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/tiffany-mugo">our columnist <b>Tiffany Mugo</b></a> talks us through her recent story on teenage girls arrested in Tanzania for getting pregnant. Listen to the episode by clicking on the audio player, or you can read the full podcast transcript below.</p> <iframe width="100%" height="120" src="https://www.mixcloud.com/widget/iframe/?hide_cover=1&autoplay=1&feed=%2F5050od%2Fthe-backlash-episode-2-you-cant-eat-a-condom%2F" frameborder="0" ></iframe> <h2><hr /><a href="https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/5050-podcasts-and-audio/id1351853078?mt=2">Listen on itunes here.</a></h2> <p><b>Lara Whyte (LW):</b> Hello and welcome to The Backlash: a podcast series tracking threats against women’s rights, brought to you by 50.50, the gender and sexuality section of openDemocracy. I’m Lara Whyte and I’m your host.</p><p dir="ltr">Thanks for joining us this month as we track the backlash against women’s rights. We will be hearing from our columnist Tiffany Mugo in South Africa; we will be in New York where last month the United Nations women’s rights conference took place; but first we are going to Kenya where so-called ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-family’ groups are on the rise.</p><p dir="ltr">Here’s what the recent March for Life in Nairobi, Kenya sounded like:</p><p dir="ltr"><b>Kenya protester:</b> A community that does not respect life is a community that lives not in accordance to the will of God. This is why we gather today, to say no to abortion, no to irresponsible behaviour that brings down the life of the family.</p><p><b>LW:</b> The march in Kenya was sponsored by dozens of organisations including CitizenGo, a Spanish right-wing group that is best known for its online petitions but increasingly its offline demonstrations. I spoke to one of the organisers of the March for Life just after it finished, Cledwyn Atush Mamai, and I start here by asking him how it went.</p><p dir="ltr"><b>Cledwyn Atush Mamai (CAM):</b> It’s been good; we had a good number that showed up. What we are now trying to do more is create awareness because it’s something that has not really been talked about. More and more people are becoming aware now on what needs to be done in the area of promoting the culture of life.</p><p dir="ltr"><b>LW:</b> Do you work with organisations from different countries?</p><p dir="ltr"><b>CAM:</b> Yes, yeah we normally have like, today we had another person from Nigeria who came to help us, and we had CitizenGo.</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/563303/29540982_1667780743308056_1317510113111398391_n.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="March for Life Kenya, March 2018."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/29540982_1667780743308056_1317510113111398391_n.jpg" alt="March for Life Kenya, March 2018." title="March for Life Kenya, March 2018." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>March for Life Kenya, March 2018. Photo: Facebook/CitizenGo.</span></span></span><b>LW:</b> How do you work with CitizenGo?</p><p dir="ltr"><b>CAM:</b> We’re now just starting to work with them; we’ve not been having them as one of our partners for a long time. So it’s only this year that we’ve begun to actually have a discussion around how we can work together in matters of promoting life in the country.</p><p dir="ltr"><b>LW:</b> Abortion is illegal in Kenya at the moment, yes? Why is there a need for a March for Life in Kenya?</p><p dir="ltr"><b>CAM:</b> We’ve always been, we seem to be, always reactive, talking about things that have happened and trying to oppose it. So what we’re trying to do is promote what is already happening in the country.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">'In Kenya, so-called ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-family’ groups are on the rise.'</span></p><p dir="ltr"><b>LW:</b> CitizenGo collected more than 180,000 signatures on a petition this year, demanding that abortion be ‘removed from the United Nations agenda’ along with what’s called ‘comprehensive sexuality education’. The petition was presented to delegates at the UN’s annual Commission on the Status of Women talks – or the CSW, as they are known for those in the know.</p><p dir="ltr">Anne Marie Goetz is a professor at the Center for Global Affairs, New York University. She was formerly chief advisor on peace and security at UN Women. Anne Marie joins us now from New York. You were at the UN talks and you wrote a piece for 50.50 about the backlash there. Do you want to start by telling us a little more about that?</p><p dir="ltr"><b>Anne Marie Goetz (AMG):</b> There’s been a backlash building to women’s rights since the Beijing 1995 conference... and that of course is linked to all kinds of other geopolitical developments including the rise of religious extremism in various parts of the world; the intensification of what could perhaps be described as disgruntled and toxic masculinities clustering around misogynistic agendas; it’s been linked to financial, fiscal austerity in response to the crisis of 2008 and earlier financial crises. </p><p>So there’s been a number of things building towards the sense that women’s rights have gone too far, men are feeling disenfranchised. And let’s not forget that behind all of this is the logic of late capitalism, which is an energy that leads to the rich getting infinitely richer and the poor getting poorer and no amount of global trade and technological advances seems to be enough to reverse that polarisation between and within societies.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">"There’s been a number of things building towards the sense that women’s rights have gone too far, men are feeling disenfranchised."</p><p>So that backlash has been building anyways. It has been felt at discussions at the CSW for a very long time, in part because of the role the Vatican plays, as an observer, but nonetheless as a very vocal and powerful one. And it has a very important role actually in fostering the build up of conservative voice at the Commission on the Status of Women.</p><p>So too, have theocratic countries, notably Iran, and after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the end of the very brief post-Cold War honeymoon, the intensification of authoritarian tendencies in Russia I would say have also fuelled this backlash against women’s rights which is rarely expressed as such. It’s usually expressed as simply pushing the UN to stick to established rules and stick to past agreements and not expand beyond them.</p><p dir="ltr"><b>LW:</b> One of the things you mentioned in your piece for 50.50 was how there’s these kind of strange bedfellows at these talks and…</p><p dir="ltr"><b>AMG:</b> Of course this is a recent development, because of the new administration in the US, and it first became apparent last year when the US sent a delegation to the CSW which included several very right-wing civil society organisations which had been identified by the southern law poverty group [Southern Poverty Law Center] as being hate groups when it comes to LGBTI issues, and of course they’re anti-abortion.</p><p dir="ltr">So this year the US has sent a delegation that is entirely made up of government personnel, of political appointees in the main, and they include people who have a record of being anti-abortion, and at least one, who is quite strongly anti-trans…</p><p dir="ltr"><b>LW:</b> That was Anne Marie Goetz, and you can read her piece – <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/anne-marie-goetz/will-reactionary-delegations-torpedo-un-talks-rural-women-csw">Will reactionary delegations torpedo UN talks on rural women?</a> – on our website; that is <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/">opendemocracy.net/5050</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/38967591590_6f4f497b65_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Commission on the Status of Women, March 2018."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/38967591590_6f4f497b65_k.jpg" alt="Commission on the Status of Women, March 2018. " title="Commission on the Status of Women, 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'>Commission on the Status of Women, March 2018. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Also at the UN talks, was Cuban-American anti-choice activist Raimundo Rojas. He wouldn’t tell me which organisation he was actually there with, but he wrote a blog accusing the United Nations of ignoring what women around the world actually want.</p><p dir="ltr"><b>Raimundo Rojas (RR):</b> We have many nations in Latin America, who have very protective laws on abortion, say, and we see that the UN, the first world, the European Union, the Americans, the Canadians, depending on the administration, want to do these social experiments on them, when what we need in the developing world is food, it’s water, it’s access to medicine, it’s you know, those are our needs.</p><p dir="ltr">You know, let’s feed the women of the world, let’s make sure they have access to medical care, you know, this is what women want, they want to be well-nourished, and not malnourished, and sometimes I think that gets lost in the grand scheme of things of the European Union.</p><p dir="ltr">To sit as I have for many years and listen to the women of Africa, listen to the women of Latin America, during negotiations that take place, you know we can talk about this and gender equality is important and access to all of these rights is important, but can we please first talk about survival? You can’t eat a condom.</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">"Gender equality is important and access to all of these rights is important, but can we please first talk about survival? You can’t eat a condom."</p><p dir="ltr"><b>LW:</b> But do you not think – ‘you can’t eat a condom’; sorry, is that what you just said?</p><p dir="ltr"><b>RR:</b> Yes, I believe it’s true. Well, I guess you could eat but you can’t digest it, I would say.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><b>LW:</b> Clifford Bob is an author and professor of political science at Du Caine University and coined the term the ‘Baptist Burkha network.’ I rang him up to find out what this term means.</p><p dir="ltr"><b>Clifford Bob (CB):</b> I did it more as a kind of colourful way to describe the interesting and in some sense surprising coalitions you see working on what they call traditional families or family value issues, and primarily working at the UN to promote their vision of traditional families, of the right to life, in opposition to groups that are promoting abortion rights or broad definitions of the family or even the basic concept of sexual orientation and gender identity.</p><p>These groups across religious lines are working at least loosely together to fight against those goals of various progressive groups, and others who might be part of that include the Holy See, and various Catholic NGOs, C-Fam is probably the most well-known of them, based in New York.</p><p>Increasingly, and this really happened after my research, I’ve been thinking I should have called it the Baptist Burkha Babushka coalition, because the Russian Orthodox Church is also heavily involved in a lot of these issues.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">"I should have called it the Baptist Burkha Babushka coalition."</p><p><b>LW:</b> You talk about how decades of non-action and slowdown are part of successful strategies for right-wing resistance. And so, if you look at the CSW, the Commission on the Status of Women, the real lack of achievement it has had, do you think that’s a sign that they have been successful, the Baptist Burkha Babushka Network?</p><p><b>CB:</b> Yes, I definitely do. The lack of progress on women’s rights, or something like that, or especially on abortion rights, at the UN, could be seen as a failure of the pro-abortion groups. The flipside of that, I would say, is seen by the pro-life groups as a success for them, even if they haven’t actually put into place a new policy per se, they have preserved the old policy which doesn’t recognise that right, or at least not as clearly as they would like. Similarly, in the case of definitions of the family, efforts to put into significant UN documents even the terminology of sexual orientation and gender identity have generally not succeeded despite very strong efforts by gay rights groups, but that is also a success for the groups that are fighting for their very traditional view of what a family is.</p><p dir="ltr"><b>LW:</b> So the impact of these victories by the anti-rights groups is what this series is tracking. </p><p dir="ltr">Early forced pregnancy when it’s not an actual death sentence for teenage girls can turn into to life sentence as they are forced out of their education. In Tanzania teenage girls have actually been arrested for getting pregnant whilst in school.</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">'In Tanzania teenage girls have actually been arrested for getting pregnant whilst in school.'</p><p>Our 50.50 columnist Tiffany Mugo <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/tiffany-kagure-mugo/teen-mom-tanzania-denied-sex-education-criminalised-for-pregnancy">reported on this earlier this week</a>. So here’s Tiffany, on what’s happening here.</p><p><b>Tiffany Mugo (TM):</b> It all comes down to this idea that women – it’s a very sort of conservative idea that women that get pregnant are just being loose, and throwing their lives away.</p><p dir="ltr">And it also feeds into the problem or the idea that educating and empowering the girl child isn’t exactly very helpful. So in terms of looking at girl children and education, it’s already enough of a struggle for us because people already think within the continent that putting their resources into boys is a lot better. So by the time a girl gets pregnant you’re like: ‘aw, for goodness sake,’ like: ‘what is going on here.’ Like: it’s bad enough that we had to spend money to send you to school and now this?</p><p dir="ltr">And it all feeds into that idea that whatever happens to a woman is her fault, so be it sexual assault, be it falling pregnant, so you find that this idea of sort of like cracking down on these girls, and the backlash against these girls – because the boys are all allowed to stay in school. It’s a distressingly widespread practice, be it officially or unofficially, because in some societies, in some spaces, girls simply won’t be sent back to school, even though it’s not like an official policy or anything, but it’s something that’s been ingrained on a state level and a sort of national level that this is how things must go, this is how things must happen.</p><p dir="ltr">That then brings the problem of how to fight back against something like that because it’s not official, so you can go to a school and they’ll be like ‘no, she just didn’t come back.’</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">"It all feeds into that idea that whatever happens to a woman is her fault."</p><p dir="ltr"><b>LW:</b> The girls who were expelled from school, they all had to do mandatory pregnancy tests, but yet they didn’t have sex education classes? To me, I just couldn’t quite get my head around that.</p><p dir="ltr"><b>TM:</b> If you had no idea about sex, how do you even begin to like ask what the hell is going on? Like when somebody says we’re testing you for pregnancy, and all you’ve ever been told is like boys are bad and like close your legs, and all sorts of other things like close your legs even when you’re just sitting around. It’s such a punishing system; it’s almost like you’re being punished for things you didn’t know, which I think for me is the most mind-boggling thing.</p><p dir="ltr">In Kenya, to use Kenya as an example – to look at the backlash against sex education programme within Kenya, you find that when people are asked about it a lot of them are saying: no, we don’t want it because it’s not taking into consideration our cultures, and the way we do things.</p><p dir="ltr">What is actually blamed for sort of the hot mess that apparently we are in, is these sort of western ideas that are brought by governments – sort of every government that comes and says ‘hey, you need to accept LGBT rights,’ and stuff like that. Or, in the case of Kenya and these sexual education programmes, the whole idea of comprehensive sexual education, is being blamed as being brought by the UN and western countries via the UN, because these sex education programmes want to look at ideas of masterbation, want to look at ideas of sexuality as a spectrum, as opposed to: ‘hello hetrosexual couple, here are baby-making tips,’ type thing.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><b>LW:</b> Just to stay on the UN, should the conference on women’s rights take place in New York? What’s your view on that?</p><p dir="ltr"><b>TM:</b> Oh, no. It’s a big no for me, because I know a lot of people who do incredible work who can’t access those spaces, because New York is far guys. New York is far, and getting an American visa? Oh God, forget about it.</p><p dir="ltr"><b>LW:</b> That’s it for us. Join us again next month. You can tweet us at <a href="https://twitter.com/5050od">@5050od</a> or <a href="https://twitter.com/Backlash_Track">@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 <a href="https://www.facebook.com/opendemocracy5050/">find us on Facebook</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">50.50 is an independent feminist media platform. You can support our work by donating on our website. Help us track the backlash against women’s rights.</p><p><b><i>This episode of The Backlash was presented by Lara Whyte, produced by Claire Provost and Lara Whyte, and recorded and edited by Simone Lai. Original music by Simone Lai.&nbsp;</i></b></p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-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%20ep2%20%28final%20version%29_1.mp3" type="audio/mpeg; length=17012113">The Backlash ep2 (final version).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 International politics Listen Podcast Tracking the backlash women's movements women's human rights women and power gender bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter young feminists Claire Provost Lara Whyte Wed, 11 Apr 2018 07:37:45 +0000 Lara Whyte and Claire Provost 117017 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Teen Mom Tanzania: denied sex education, then criminalised for pregnancy https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/tiffany-kagure-mugo/teen-mom-tanzania-denied-sex-education-criminalised-for-pregnancy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Pregnant teenagers face expulsion from school, arrests, even death. The backlash against sex education in Africa is punishing our girls, and must end now.</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/Tiffpic1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Photo: Sarah Elliott for the Center for Reproductive Rights."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Tiffpic1.png" alt="Photo: Sarah Elliott for the Center for Reproductive Rights." title="Photo: Sarah Elliott for the Center for Reproductive Rights." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Photo: Sarah Elliott for the Center for Reproductive Rights. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Tanzania was under the spotlight at the start of this year <a href="https://www.nation.co.ke/news/africa/Five-pregnant-pupils-their-parents-arrested-Tandahimba-Tanzania/1066-4255766-eohja1z/index.html"><span>after the arrest of five school girls for becoming pregnant</span></a>. The girls were held in the Mtwara region of the country along with their parents as part of a so-called crackdown on teenage pregnancy announced by district commissioner Sebastian Waryuba. </p><p>Their detention came after Waryuba ordered the arrests of 55 teenage girls who had become pregnant whilst in school in his southeastern Tandahimba district. Their male ‘partners in crime’ were also wanted by police and have been on the road since the girls were held in January. </p><p>The girls, aged between 16 and 19 years old, had already been expelled from school under the<a href="https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/10/29/no-way-out/child-marriage-and-human-rights-abuses-tanzania"> ‘offences against morality’ clause in the country’s 2002 education law,</a> making sure that they are isolated from their peers, lest they be a corrupting influence. &nbsp;</p><p>Tanzania, like its neighbouring east African countries, has major problems getting girls into school, and keeping them there. Between girls missing school due to <a href="http://allafrica.com/stories/201601051305.html">having their periods,</a> and the stubborn thinking that educating a girl child is essentially money down the drain, families tend to focus such investments on boys instead.</p><p>Though Tanzania abolished formal school fees and outlawed informal ‘contributions’ paid by parents in December 2015, more than 5 million children and 1.5 million adolescents remain out of school,<a href="https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/02/14/i-had-dream-finish-school/barriers-secondary-education-tanzania"> according to the NGO Human Rights Watch</a>.&nbsp;Dive a little deeper into the figures, and guess who’s missing the most school, from the earliest age? Girls.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Guess who's missing the most school, from the earliest age? Girls.</p><p>Though there is <a href="http://uis.unesco.org/">near gender parity at the start of primary school</a> – as it is compulsory for all seven-year olds to be enrolled in school – fewer than a third of girls who complete primary school end up completing the first part of secondary school, which normally goes from ages 14-17. Only 60% of Tanzanian women are literate, <a href="http://uis.unesco.org/">according to UNESCO</a>. </p><p>Within mainland Tanzania, those teenage girls who do manage to go through school are forced to <a href="https://www.reproductiverights.org/sites/crr.civicactions.net/files/documents/crr_Tanzania_Report_Part1.pdf">undergo mandatory monthly pregnancy tests</a>. There are no sexual or reproductive health classes, so the mystery of conception remains – until they end up pregnant. </p><p>According to the NGO <a href="https://www.reproductiverights.org/sites/crr.civicactions.net/files/documents/crr_Tanzania_Report_Part1.pdf">Center for Reproductive Rights,</a> 55,000 students have been expelled from Tanzanian schools for being pregnant over the last decade. </p><p>In rural areas, becoming pregnant early is both especially common and severely stigmatised, hence the prevalence of early marriage and backstreet abortions. The first national study into abortion by<a href="https://www.guttmacher.org/news-release/2016/unsafe-abortion-common-tanzania-and-major-cause-maternal-death"> Tanzania’s National Institute for Medical Research</a> and two other organisations estimated that 405,000 abortions were carried out in 2013, the vast majority of which were clandestine and unsafe. </p><p>Teenage pregnancy across Tanzania is by some estimates <a href="http://theconversation.com/punishment-wont-stop-teenage-pregnancies-in-tanzania-because-bad-behaviour-isnt-the-cause-90187">actually higher than it was 20 years ago</a>. Then, there is the issue of the dismal failure to curb maternal death rates that occur when children – again, particularly rural girls – give birth<span>.</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564081/Sarah_Elliott_CRR_12_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Photo: Sarah Elliott for the Center for Reproductive Rights."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564081/Sarah_Elliott_CRR_12_1.jpg" alt="Photo: Sarah Elliott for the Center for Reproductive Rights." title="Photo: Sarah Elliott for the Center for Reproductive Rights." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Photo: Sarah Elliott for the Center for Reproductive Rights. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></span><a href="https://dhsprogram.com/pubs/pdf/FR321/FR321.pdf">In 2010, government figures show </a>that 23% of girls between 15 and 19 gave birth; in 2015, it was 27%. If the plan is to curb the rise in teen pregnancy it seems like someone has missed the glaringly obvious: how comprehensive sexual education would enable teenagers to avoid pregnancy.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">It seems like someone has missed the glaringly obvious: how comprehensive sexual education would enable teenagers to avoid pregnancy.</span></p><p>Instead, there are draconian punishments and single-sex shaming, with the expulsion of girls from schools supposed to serve as some kind of warning to their classmates. </p><p>The failure of punishing tactics is reflected in the precious few <a href="http://www.thecitizen.co.tz/News/Tanzania-s-adolescent-fertility-much-higher-than-global-rates/1840340-4113766-hxfwr2z/index.html">available data sets around</a> on the adolescent birth rate in Tanzania, which is almost three times the global average of 49 births per 1,000 girls, at a staggering 135 births per 1,000 girls. </p><p dir="ltr">If these figures are difficult to follow, to me it seems deliberate: what they are hiding is a genocide of a generation of African women. Our continent’s contribution to the loss of an estimated <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/News/health/teenage-girl-dies-every-20-minutes-through-pregnancy-or-childbirth-save-the-children-foreign-aid-a7834571.html"><span>30,000 teenage girls</span></a> around the world who die due to complications related to childbirth and labour every year is too great.</p><p>Sub-Saharan Africa has <a href="https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/pub-pdf/EN-SWOP2013.pdf">the highest prevalence</a> of teenage pregnancy in the world. Next door to Tanzania, the Ugandan government has once again<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/oct/20/uganda-condemns-sex-education-for-10-year-olds-as-morally-wrong"> blocked attempts </a>to introduce sex education for adolescents, with the first lady and minister for education, Janet Museveni, calling the distribution of free contraceptives an “erosion of morals.”</p><p>Museveni used <a href="http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/Museveni-s-daughters-avoided-sex-before-marriage--says-wife/688334-4140742-4gf9v3/index.html"><span>her speech</span></a> at last year’s International Day of the Girl Child to denounce contraceptives as “not our culture.” Attending one of the many galas for the NGO-invented day she said: “People are given contraceptives to use them and do what they want, have sex, take pills, conceive and abort. This is not our culture in Africa.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">"People are given contraceptives and they do what they want, have sex, take pills, conceive and abort. This is not our culture in Africa."</p><p dir="ltr">This attitude is unhelpful and incendiary; for teenagers, it’s downright dangerous. According to the <a href="https://dhsprogram.com/pubs/pdf/PR80/PR80.pdf"><span>Uganda Demographic Health Survey</span></a>: "25% of adolescent girls and young women aged between 15 and 19 are either pregnant or a mother.”</p><p>The fight against sex education continues across east Africa, including with the participation of international conservative and religious organisations. </p><p>In Kenya, the right-wing Spanish campaign group CitizenGo recently <a href="https://www.nation.co.ke/news/education/Lobbies-urge-State-to-review-proposed-sex-education-curriculum/2643604-4260360-n0m1a6/index.html">presented a petition to the government</a> accusing the national curriculum of promoting “<a href="http://www.nation.co.ke/news/education/Lobbies-urge-State-to-review-proposed-sex-education-curriculum/2643604-4260360-n0m1a6/index.html">un-African and destructive</a>” values through a “rights based approach to sex education.” </p><p>It said that such education is “more destructive than Boko Haram or Al-Shabaab” – though neither of these terror groups have killed anywhere near the numbers of young women who die each year by forced, early pregnancy.</p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564081/Sarah_Elliott_CRR_05_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Photo: Sarah Elliot for the Center for Reproductive Rights."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564081/Sarah_Elliott_CRR_05_1.jpg" alt="Photo: Sarah Elliot for the Center for Reproductive Rights." title="Photo: Sarah Elliot for the Center for Reproductive Rights." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Empty desks where teenage girls should be. Photo: Sarah Elliot for the Center for Reproductive Rights. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></span>CitizenGo is rallying support for their opposition to children being taught “un-African” things such as masturbation. They insist that children should be taught abstinence only. This approach is still pushed <a href="https://www.guttmacher.org/news-release/2017/new-study-shows-sexuality-education-programs-kenyan-schools-are-failing-students">even though study after study</a> has proven that it simply doesn’t work. </p><p>Complications during childbirth are the leading cause of death for 15-19 year old girls globally, <a href="http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs364/en/">according to the World Health Organisation</a>, so the failure of this approach is absolutely devastating and needs urgent re-thinking. </p><p>How many other ways can the statistics prove what is already known to too many? If <a href="http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs348/en/">830 women die every day</a> from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, we have to urgently ask: just how many of these pregnancies were by choice?</p><p class="mag-quote-center">If 830 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and child birth, we have to urgently ask: just how many of these pregnancies were by choice?</p><p>Abstinence-only programmes are often pushed by religious organisations, including <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/tiffany-mugo/evangelicals-south-africa-broadcasting-hate-masked-as-morality">American fundamentalist evangelical groups.</a> The manoeuvring of these groups is so prominent within the continent, under the deceptively innocuous ‘pro-family’ banner.</p><p> Abstinence programs that limit sex education are but one branch of their pseudo-foreign policy, which could more accurately be described as a new form of colonial meddling in Africa.</p><p>The way that culture and ‘our morals’ is being used as a reason not to have sex education is schools is extremely baffling because the African continent is<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/tiffany-kagure-mugo/osunality-sex-lessons-from-africa"> littered with a history of having </a>sexuality schools. </p><p>The arrest of pregnant girls in Tanzania is the latest painful example of the absolute failures of sex education across Africa – but it will not be the last.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tanzania </div> <div class="field-item even"> Uganda </div> <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"> 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 Uganda Tanzania Culture Equality International politics Tracking the backlash women's human rights women's health gender bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Tiffany Kagure Mugo Mon, 09 Apr 2018 10:11:35 +0000 Tiffany Kagure Mugo 117085 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The pains and perils of childbirth in Ukraine https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tetiana-goncharuk/the-pains-and-perils-of-childbirth-in-ukraine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Giving birth is a feat of endurance for any woman. But aggressive treatment at the hands of medical staff, as well as corruption, make it even harder in Ukraine. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tatyana-goncharuk/v-mukah-kak-rozhaut-v-ukrainskih-roddomah" 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_00136689.LR_.ru__0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/RIAN_00136689.LR_.ru__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'>Hospital childbirth: a conveyor for the production of children or the most reliable way to protect a woman and a child? Source: Sergey Venyavsky/RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><em><em></em></em></p><p dir="ltr"><em><em>“</em>The midwife beat me on the legs, because I was wincing at the pain of ‘cleaning me up’.”</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>“When I was in labour, the doctor put so much pressure on my stomach that some of my ribs got broken.”</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>“They injected me with oxytocin, to speed up my labour: ‘we always do that’.” The medical staff were in a hurry to get the baby out, sew me up and send me back to the ward.”</em></p><p dir="ltr">There are <a href="https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=#%D0%93%D0%BE%D0%B4%D1%96%20%D0%BC%D0%BE%D0%B2%D1%87%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B8">so many stories</a> like this, and they all boil down to the same thing: women are reduced to incubators, and successful deliveries depend on the mood and loyalties of the medical staff. Ukraine follows the <a href="http://www.nlb.gov.sg/biblio/12541653">conveyor belt approach to childbirth</a> that was standard in the Soviet Union. </p><p dir="ltr">Lack of professional skills among staff is an issue as well, as is the state’s monopoly on obstetric care. The concept of a “home birth” just doesn’t exist in Ukraine. So women have basically no choice – they have to abide by the rules of the system.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Obstetric aggression</h2><p dir="ltr">According to the<a href="http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2018/positive-childbirth-experience/en/"> World Health Organization</a>, midwife aggression is a universal issue that is more or less common all over the world. But both scientific research (such as that conducted at<a href="http://eupress.ru/books/index/item/id/34"> the European University at St Petersburg</a> and the work of <a href="https://aig-journal.ru/en/page/viktor-e-radzinsky.html">Viktor Radzinsky</a>), as well as surveys by <a href="https://www.facebook.com/anketamam/">human rights organisations dealing with maternity issues</a>, show that the situation is particularly bad in the post-Soviet space.</p><p dir="ltr">In 27 years of independence, nothing much has changed in Ukraine in terms of training specialists in the psychology of pregnant women, medical ethics and the culture of interaction with women in labour. According to the specialists at the<a href="https://www.facebook.com/pg/pryrodni/photos/?ref=page_internal"> Natural Rights Ukraine</a> organisation, which works in this area, any training programmes that do exist are generally concerned with the pathology of childbirth and ignore recent international research, as well as paying little attention to the borderlines of natural childbirth, where medical intervention is unnecessary. All this results in a low professional level where the culture of obstetrics and medical intervention in childbirth is concerned.</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/564053/15101602231_d7344c0ba4_b_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/15101602231_d7344c0ba4_b_0.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Source: Рівне Вечірнє/Flickr. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>When Maria’s contractions began, she and her husband phoned for an ambulance to get her to the hospital. As her labour progressed very rapidly, the paramedics announced that they didn’t know how to deliver a baby or what to do with a woman about to give birth. But this lack of medical expertise is not the only problem: ethical issues are also often bypassed. Midwives are happy to invite groups of medical students to observe the mother-to-be or even the birth itself, without asking for her permission.</p><p dir="ltr">“When I was transferred to a delivery room, the doctor checked my dilation and, without asking my permission, stuck his fingers up my cervix to open it – this happened four times during my labour,” Larisa recalls. “After this I was given a general anaesthetic, so that I would be unconscious and no bother, as it was during the night. In the morning, students turned up at the hospital and were directed to my delivery room, despite the fact that I had refused them entry.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Women are often made to feel like a mere incubator, an object, or else an infantile, incompetent ‘disobedient’ person who can be punished or ignored for their ‘bad behaviour’”</p><p dir="ltr">“Women about to give birth are subjected to both physical and emotional violence,” says Anastasia Salnikova, a doula who works at the Ukrainian Catholic University’s Public Health Development Centre offering women physical, information and psychological support through their labour. “Women are often made to feel like a mere incubator, an object, or else an infantile, incompetent ‘disobedient’ person who can be punished or ignored for their ‘bad behaviour’.”</p><p dir="ltr">According to Natural Rights Ukraine, the most common forms of obstetric aggression are medical intervention without warning or asking the woman’s permission (breaking her waters, episiotomy, limiting her movement during labour etc.), the use of synthetic oxytocin (sometimes under the pretext of vitamins and glucose) and not allowing the woman’s partner to be present at the birth. Ukrainian law gives a woman the right to choose her birth position, but in practice no one asks her what she wants and she has to give birth lying on her back, which is convenient for the doctor, but risky for her and her baby. The medics’ unwillingness to place the baby next to its mother’s body immediately after its birth; feeding it with a mixture of formula and water without its parents’ permission, and the lack of help for the mother with breastfeeding are all examples of this aggression.</p><p dir="ltr">Ksenia, who had a baby last spring, tells me that her birth went well in general, except that her waters were broken without anyone telling her: “The man who did it was presumably a doctor. He was very rough and physical, just as he was when he looked at me on a gynaecological examination chair.” According to gynaecologist Lyudmila Kyrychenko, the waters are artificially broken if labour is proceeding too slowly – in other words, when there are clear indications for it and it may indeed be essential. But in Ukrainian maternity hospitals it’s often carried out without good reason, just to speed up labour (even if it is going normally), and then they use oxytocin. “They broke my waters, to make my labour shorter,” says Alina, who gave birth to a son a month ago, “The doctor thought he would be born in another hour or hour and a half, and when that didn’t happen they put me on an oxytocin drip, and speeded it up as much as they could.”</p><p dir="ltr">Yevhen Kubakh, a specialist with Natural Rights Ukraine, believes that one simple step could improve the situation considerably – medics’ compliance with existing Ministry of Health regulations, which are very progressive but rarely observed. These 2003 regulations state, among other things, that maternity facilities should regard a pregnant woman or a woman in labour “not as an object for certain medical manipulations aimed at hastening her delivery, but as a person and the central figure of an important moment in her life – childbirth”. The reality, however, as psychologist and doula Olha Gorbenko points out, involves “a failure to observe the rights of women during pregnancy and childbirth in Ukrainian maternity hospitals, and a lack of respect for their requirements and dignity.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">No money, no birth facilities</h2><p dir="ltr">Ukraine doesn’t have a universal insurance-based medical system of the type usual in most of western Europe. Under Ukrainian law, medical care, including during childbirth, is provided free by medical facilities and their staff, and the health system is financed by the taxpayer. This situation, however, only exists on paper. As well as paying their taxes, Ukrainians also have to pay the medics “under the counter”. Childbirth is no exception to the rule and is a pretty expensive business.</p><p dir="ltr">Natalya tells me that the doctor did a good job of her delivery: it all happened quickly and without complications: “but then he demanded $1,000 for his services. We also had to buy several bags of medications, as listed by the hospital, in advance and couldn’t return those that weren’t actually needed during the birth.”</p><p dir="ltr">Maryna prepared very carefully for her baby’s birth: she discussed everything with the doctor in advance, knowing that she would need a C- section: “I gave the hospital a charitable donation of 2,000 hryvnya [roughly €60] and paid the doctor as well. The doctor didn’t give me a figure until the last moment, and said after the birth that the sum was up to us. We paid him $1,000. He told other people what they had to pay straight away. It would have been easier if all the payments had just been agreed at the start.”</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/564053/3811891306_a530a1fcd3_o_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/3811891306_a530a1fcd3_o_0.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'>The working conditions of medical staff determine the quality of care for women in labor. Photo CC BY 2.0: 40weeks_ua/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>“Charitable donations”, in other words voluntary payments, are only voluntary in theory. As medical treatment is supposedly free in Ukraine, and the maternity hospital can’t give you an official invoice, medical facilities resort to subterfuge and disguise their fees as donations. But in practice, they are anything but voluntary – if you don’t pay up, you’ll be left having your baby in a corridor.</p><p dir="ltr">And despite the fact that expectant parents have to pay for medical services, the conditions and atmosphere in hospital wards are far from pleasant. “I decided to pay for a private ward,” says Yulia. “There were two of us in it: it was a terrible, Soviet kind of place. But the free wards had up to ten women in them and every night there’d be someone in labour, groaning and screaming. The antenatal wards were just as Soviet – redecoration (or rather, lack of it), ghastly furniture and too many people. They were so crowded as well: there was only 40cm between beds. I also paid for a post-natal ward, just because they allowed your husband or mother to stay there with you. The only women in the free wards either needed long bed rest or had no money at all.”</p><p dir="ltr">The medical staff are not known for politeness or tact – especially the junior staff, who often see a mother-to-be as less a women preparing to give birth and more a bottomless purse: “Reception staff are the rudest, and they are of two types,” says Natalya. “The first are nasty and rude, and don’t answer your questions until you put your hand in your pocket. The second are nice and friendly and tell you and show you everything, but they need a ‘present’ as well.”</p><p dir="ltr">In general, young couples can expect their child’s birth to set them back about €1,000, and to have to pay unofficially and out of their own pockets. Given the monthly minimum salary in Ukraine is around €120, this is a large sum for many families.</p><h2 dir="ltr">A system that needs changing</h2><p dir="ltr">Medics refuse to comment openly on the issue of obstetric aggression. But in private, they admit to stimulating labour artificially without there being any real need for it, just to have the baby born on their shift, so that they, and not their colleagues, will get an unofficial bonus from the happy parents. “Why does a doctor agree to deliver a specific couple’s child? Because it’s the only way to earn some money,” says an obstetrician who has asked to remain anonymous. </p><p dir="ltr">The other side of the problem is the low pay earned by gynecologists, obstetricians and neonatal specialists. The medical profession is one of the lowest paid in Ukraine, despite its eight-year training, and the level of responsibility carried by an obstetrician is the highest of all medical fields. The basic monthly salary of a junior doctor two years out of medical school is just €100-150. As a result, doctors accept extra, unofficial remuneration, and you end up with a vicious circle.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“A tired doctor is more interested in getting a baby out than waiting for the process to happen naturally”</p><p dir="ltr">Another significant factor is fatigue and overwork. “A tired doctor is more interested in getting a baby out than waiting for the process to happen naturally,” an anonymous obstetrician-gynaecologist tells me. “A woman might arrange to have her child delivered by a hospital’s medical director, but the night before the agreed date he or she is called out for a difficult birth. They then arrive at work at 7.30 in the morning and spend the whole day dealing with difficult administrative matters and operating on a patient. They return home and have just sat down to eat when the woman phones to say that her contractions have started. Are they going to be up all night for her son to be born at 7am the next morning after a previous sleepless night and stressful day? And that’s what they face day in, day out.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Many obstetricians transfer fears and negative experiences from one unfavourable outcome to others. Instead of a clinical review that might help other colleagues avoid a similar medical error, they are psychologically ‘torn apart’ by senior management,” the obstetricians tells me privately.</p><p dir="ltr">All this is not helped by a shortage of medical staff and a lack of potential measures to prevent professional burnout, not to mention limited access to information about new research and evidence-based medicine.</p><p dir="ltr">“Doctors who are responsible for women and children’s lives earn a very low salary for such responsible work, which lowers their desire and opportunities for professional development,” says senior neonatologist and Doctor of Medical Sciences Alyna Dunayevska. </p><p dir="ltr">“Attendance at<a href="http://www.ebcog2018.org/"> EBCOG's European Congress of Obstetrics and Gynaecology</a> costs around €2,000-3,000 in fees plus travel and accommodation, which is impossible on a Ukrainian doctor’s salary. And unfortunately, few of my colleagues speak English. Often, the only source of information for doctors is pharmaceutical company reps who are mainly interested in selling their products, and many lectures at Ukrainian professional conferences are paid for by pharmacy firms keen for orders. The result is a reliance on non evidence-based medicine.”</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/564053/3811928892_cbb8f5ebee_o_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564053/3811928892_cbb8f5ebee_o_0.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'>Caring is the most important thing in childbirth. Photo CC BY 2.0: 40weeks_ua/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Gynaecologists’ low professional level is obvious even to their patients. After Maria had her baby, a local gynaecologist diagnosed her with cervical erosion (which according to the latest research requires no treatment) and suggested treating her using methods found online. “When I heard the doctor say: ‘Have you decided on your treatment? Did you look on Google?’ I thanked him and left – I wouldn’t visit a specialist like that again!”</p><p dir="ltr">Situations where a woman with a locomotor disability is having a baby are still a big problem, since most well-women clinics have no experience of taking such a woman through pregnancy and childbirth. Elena, a wheelchair user, is one of the few disabled women in Ukraine to decide to have a child with her husband. It was a conscious decision and they spent a long time coming to it.</p><p dir="ltr">“At first, the doctors tried to dissuade me,” Elena tells me, “as they had no idea what the consequences might be and admitted that they had no experience of taking a disabled woman though a pregnancy. One of the doctors told me that it would be a ‘state of emergency’ for our whole town. I was scared to begin with, and became even more scared when I saw the doctors’ reaction, as I had no one to support me. I met with similar incompetence from the obstetricians and gynaecologists while I was in labour. There were moments when I felt insulted: a gynaecologist told me at some point to ‘sit on the operating table’ – as though I could do that myself!”</p><p dir="ltr">The lack of special equipment and gynecological examination chairs for disabled women in most women’s health centres means that women with spinal impairment have to be examined in their wheelchairs. Some perinatal centres specialising in services for disabled women will provide more appropriate facilities, but most women’s health centres are not equipped for them.</p><p dir="ltr">Members of the medical profession often make a woman feel guilty for any complications with her pregnancy, and try to persuade her that it is all her fault and that she doesn’t care about her unborn child. If a woman has a miscarriage, some gynaecologists are more likely to reproach her than to offer emotional support (for which they have had no training). And in the Ukrainian maternity hospital system, the stillbirth or perinatal death of a child is still as much of a taboo subject as it was in Soviet times, and only a few hospitals have psychologists on their staff to provide appropriate support for a woman in this situation. Late terminations on medical grounds are another area that is insufficiently regulated by law: only a regional expert commission can take a decision on the subject.</p><p dir="ltr">Ukraine also lacks openly accessible figures on the number of live births (vaginal with and without complications, caesarean sections) delivered by a given obstetrician, midwife and maternity hospital, as is standard in EU countries, to allow women to choose where to give birth. Ukrainian women mostly resort to word of mouth, as well as searching for information on various internet forums created by women for themselves.</p><p dir="ltr">All these issues are a real challenge for the health service reforms recently initiated in Ukraine. The reforms offer real progressive and positive changes in medical services and how they are financed. The issue of obstetric aggression, however, has is still to be targeted as a focus area, says specialist Yevhen Kubakh.</p><p dir="ltr">According to the experts, the solution to the problem may lie in the introduction of the three-stage model of delivery that has been successfully implemented in the Netherlands, UK, Germany, Israel, Canada, New Zealand, USA and other countries. The distinctive feature of this system is the choice a woman can make between midwife-centred and doctor-centred antenatal care (provided that she is in a low risk group). In Ukraine, however, midwives are not trained to work independently, delivering babies on their own in normal circumstances. A volunteer working group, including lawyers, practising doctors, activists and members of the public, is at present engaged in developing a legal framework for such changes.</p><p dir="ltr">As well as legislative changes, there’s also a need for changes in medical workers’ in-service training: access to recent research in evidence-based medicine; monitoring of compliance with existing regulations; improvements in communication between women and medical staff, and a new approach to funding healthcare. Other elements of change are equally vital: a proper review of medical staff’s working conditions; the introduction of a system to avoid burnout; the appointment of staff psychologists in all maternity hospitals and high quality training for them; the introduction of clinical investigations into medical errors instead of punitive measures. Otherwise we shall just have to continue relying on doctors’ conscientiousness and a fair amount of luck.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>All the mothers quoted in this article asked to be quoted anonymously.</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="/od-russia/ksenia-babich/crimea-is-pushed-to-limit">Crimea needs a cure</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ekaterina-borozdina/natural-birth-in-russia">Natural birth in Russia: the costs of “keeping it real”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-goncharuk/where-is-ukraines-new-police-force">Where is Ukraine’s new police force?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrii-ianitskyi/high-price-of-democracy-in-ukraine">The high price of democracy in Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/anna-rocheva/keeping-welfare-russian">Scaling back on healthcare may start with Russia’s migrants. But it won’t end there</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/marianna-kotova/meet-women-affected-by-abkhazia-s-abortion-ban">Meet the women affected by Abkhazia’s abortion ban</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/kathleen-weinberger/georgia%E2%80%99s-healthcare-privatisation-stands-as-warning-to-ukrainian-refo">Georgia’s healthcare privatisation stands as a warning to Ukrainian reformers</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 Tetiana Goncharuk Ukraine Fri, 06 Apr 2018 21:47:48 +0000 Tetiana Goncharuk 117073 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'The Tories cut, we bleed': the story of Women’s Lives Matter in Doncaster https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mich-le-beck/tories-cut-we-bleed-womens-lives-matter-doncaster <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Joyce Sheppard talks about the campaign to save South Yorkshire’s Women’s Aid – one of many domestic violence services impacted by government cuts.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_2882.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Women&#039;s Lives Matter protest."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_2882.JPG" alt="Women's Lives Matter protest." title="Women&#039;s Lives Matter protest." width="460" height="310" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women's Lives Matter protest. Photo: John Fuller. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>“The Tories cut, we bleed,” said Joyce Sheppard, 68, an active member of the Women’s Lives Matter campaign in Doncaster, a former coal mining town in South Yorkshire, in the north of England. </p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="https://www.facebook.com/WLMYorkshire">Women’s Lives Matter campaign</a> is a movement across South Yorkshire which originated in Doncaster in 2016, after the closure of the town’s Women’s Aid domestic violence service, one of many organisations that have been impacted by government funding cuts. </p><p dir="ltr">Sheppard is no stranger to grassroots activism; during the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_miners%27_strike_(1984%E2%80%9385)">Miners’ Strike of 1984-85</a>, she joined the Women Against Pit Closures campaign. I spoke to her in February 2018, a year after Prime Minister Theresa May released her draft <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/feb/17/theresa-may-domestic-violence-abuse-act-laws-consultation">domestic abuse bill</a>, which is still yet to be passed – the consultation period runs until <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43319733">31 May 2018</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">In the UK, domestic violence accounts for <a href="http://www.refuge.org.uk/our-work/forms-of-violence-and-abuse/domestic-violence/domestic-violence-the-facts/">two deaths a week</a>, on average. But the closure of domestic violence refuges has not received significant coverage in the national let alone international press. Sheppard accuses those in power of failing to listen to the concerns and voices of local women in places like Doncaster. </p><p dir="ltr">“Talk is cheap, isn’t it?” she said. “You can wear your suffragette rosette and have your picture taken but what are you actually doing for the women’s rights movement?”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“You can wear your suffragette rosette and have your picture taken but what are you actually doing for the women’s rights movement?”</p><p dir="ltr">As home secretary, May helped to pass the ‘<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39011224">coercive control, domestic violence protection orders and disclosure scheme’</a> which permits individuals to ask the police if their partner has a history of abuse. In February 2017, she described tackling domestic violence as “<a href="https://www.police.uk/news/prime-minister-announces-plans-transform-way-we-tackle-domestic-violence-and-abuse/">something I have always attached a personal importance to</a>.” </p><p dir="ltr">May’s draft bill last year came with a pledge to protect and support survivors and recognise the lifelong impacts that such violence can have on women and children. The government has also promised <a href="https://homeofficemedia.blog.gov.uk/2018/01/25/ministers-response-to-new-crime-survey-for-england-and-wales/">£100 million of dedicated funding</a> until 2020 to tackle violence against women and girls.</p><p dir="ltr">But Sheppard accused the government making such promises as “political fabrications to win votes.” She said: “It’s a year on and we still have seen no evidence [of increased funding] – in fact we have seen the opposite with [service] closures.” </p><p dir="ltr">“It’s an outrage,” Sheppard told me, adding: “We know that men and middle class women are victims of domestic violence too but it is proven that it is harder for poorer people to escape domestic violence and now where are they going to go?” </p><p dir="ltr">“The Tories are making it more and more difficult to get housing benefits; teachers aren’t equipped to deal with children who are witnessing or being victims themselves of domestic violence; the NHS isn’t equipped to deal with the financial consequences of treating the victims, not to mention the cost of mental health support.” </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“It is harder for poorer people to escape domestic violence and now where are they going to go?”</p><p dir="ltr">Women’s Aid was founded in 1974 ‘<a href="https://www.womensaid.org.uk/about-us/">to end domestic abuse against women and children.’</a> Among other things, the national charity runs a 24-hour domestic violence helpline and provides services in refuges. A <a href="https://1q7dqy2unor827bqjls0c4rn-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Survival-and-Beyond-Report-Summary.pdf">report</a> from the charity says there were 11,113 cases of domestic violence against women in the UK in 2016-2017.</p><p dir="ltr">Doncaster Women’s Aid was set up in 1976, funded by Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council (DMBC). <a href="http://www.itv.com/news/calendar/2016-04-14/doncaster-womens-aid-launch-fundraising-campaign-in-battle-against-closure/">In 2013, this funding ended</a> amid <a href="https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/campaigners-rally-to-save-doncaster-women-s-aid-centre">cuts to local authority spending</a> from the central government. <a href="https://socialistworker.co.uk/art/42293/Doncaster+Womens+Aid+++fight+to+save+key+service+that+saves+womens+lives">Three years of relying completely on lottery funding followed</a>, but more organisations became reliant on this route and the money soon ran out. </p><p dir="ltr">In April 2016, women took to the streets of Doncaster in protest and the Women’s Lives Matter campaign began. At first, it seemed successful: in January 2017, DMBC granted £30,000 in funding to South Yorkshire Women’s Aid (SYWA). But when this money dried up, local Labour Councillor Chris McGuinness said no more funding was available – despite revelations in the press that DMBC had <a href="https://freedomnews.org.uk/fighting-to-save-south-yorkshire-womens-aid/">£97.3 million</a> in usable cash reserves. </p><p dir="ltr">After two years of relentless campaigning, activists say that the voices and concerns of the Women’s Lives Matter campaign are still being sidelined. From the closure of Doncaster Women’s Aid in March 2016 to the opening of SYWA in January 2017, there were more than <a href="http://uniteresist.org/2017/10/appeal-from-save-south-yorkshire-womens-aid-sign-the-open-letter/">6,600 reported</a> incidents of domestic violence in Doncaster alone. </p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://freedomnews.org.uk/fighting-to-save-south-yorkshire-womens-aid/">According to Councillor McGuinness</a><strong></strong>, central government decisions – not those of the local authority – were to blame for the closure of Doncaster Women's Aid, and the subsequent lack of funding for SYWA. Sheppard isn’t satisfied with this response; she says that McGuinness cannot simply “wash his hands... and say ‘Oh well, sorry no available money to spend on this – case closed.’”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Women and children are going to die... it isn't good enough to say 'no funding available.'”</p><p dir="ltr">“Women and children are going to die,” Sheppard told me, adding: “In 2017 the people of Doncaster <a href="http://www.doncaster.gov.uk/services/the-council-democracy/local-elections-2017">voted Labour in</a> – the seemingly more ‘caring’ political party so they can campaign on our behalf.&nbsp;Our previous campaign was a success because we were visible and noisy. It isn’t good enough to say 'no funding available.'”</p><p dir="ltr">Women who have protested in Doncaster have also been “quashed or discredited using intimidation tactics,” Sheppard claimed, referring to the case of domestic violence worker and campaigner Louise Harrison, who activists say was <a href="https://freedomnews.org.uk/womens-aid-worker-victimised-for-speaking-out-against-cuts/">retaliated against and threatened with losing her job</a> amid her participation in protests against cuts.</p><p dir="ltr">Sheppard attributed this response to women’s activism to Doncaster’s “heavy industrial background and the breadwinner/homemaker model [that] is still prevalent in the minds of archaic men and the social structures of our town.”</p><p dir="ltr">The Women’s Lives Matter campaign, Sheppard continued, has shown “the very real danger our victims are in without Women’s Aid. 100 years since women won the vote and look: we are still campaigning for equality. This silencing of women has to be stopped.”&nbsp; </p><p dir="ltr">Despite the obstacles, she and her allies are not giving up; their crusade to save the lives of women in Doncaster, and across the UK, continues. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> England </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 uk England Civil society Women and the Economy women's movements women's health violence against women gendered poverty 50.50 newsletter young feminists Michéle Beck Fri, 06 Apr 2018 07:32:21 +0000 Michéle Beck 116719 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Mothers and children unlawfully housed in Sheffield B&Bs for years https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson-violet-dickenson/mothers-and-children-unlawfully-housed-in-shef <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Women and young children routinely placed in shared hostels with vulnerable homeless men.</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/536680/EarlMarshall_Guest_House.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Earl Marshall Guest House"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/EarlMarshall_Guest_House.JPG" alt="" title="Earl Marshall Guest House" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Earl Marshall Guest House (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>Mothers with young children have spent months on end in Bed &amp; Breakfast accommodation in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, living alongside vulnerable homeless single men. Women forced to share bathrooms and kitchens with men they don’t know tell us they’ve faced intimidation and racist abuse. They say they fear for themselves and their children.</p><p> Councils are obliged by law to avoid placing pregnant women or families with children in B&amp;Bs except as a last resort, and then for <a href="https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/homelessness/rules/emergency_housing_if_you_are_homeless">no longer than six weeks</a>. But we at South Yorkshire Migration &amp; Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG) know of women and children housed unlawfully in potentially dangerous B&amp;B accommodation for months, and some for years.</p> <p>At a B&amp;B on Grimesthorpe Road, Sheffield, mothers with children have been housed alongside vulnerable homeless single men.</p> <p>Called Earl Marshall Guest House, the B&amp;B is in Burngreave, to the north of the city, which has housed incoming migrants, workers in the steel industry, over the last sixty years, people from Yemen, Kurdistan, Pakistan. And in recent years from Central and Eastern Europe. The steel industry has almost disappeared and Burngreave, with its streets of redbrick terraced housing, is one of Sheffield’s poorest districts. </p> <p>We first met Esther at the Earl Marshall with her young daughter one sunny September afternoon in 2017. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Buggy_Esther_room.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Esther’s room"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Buggy_Esther_room.JPG" alt="" title="Esther’s room" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="240" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Esther's room (John Grayson)</span></span></span>For two months, mother and daughter, aged six, had shared one small cramped room, with bunkbeds and hardly any storage space. “Come in, there’s not much room in here to sit down,” Esther said. “I have to keep the buggy in here. It’s not safe to leave it by the front door.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Families with more children had bigger rooms, but hers was normal for a mother and child, Esther said. “I have our food in here, I can’t store it in the kitchen, there are no locked cupboards and about 20 people use that kitchen. There is only one cooker in there.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Esther, a survivor of trafficking from West Africa, said she didn’t feel safe at the B&amp;B. “I am frightened for my daughter,” she told us. “The man next door is very noisy, bangs on the wall at night — I think he uses drugs in there.” </p> <p>She said: “The worst thing is having to queue for toilets and showers with the men, it is not right for my little girl.”</p> <p>Her only income was the £20 a week she received from Sheffield social services for her daughter. “My social worker gives me vouchers for the food bank and she got them to provide a fridge in my room,” she said.<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/EarlMarshallkitchen_twenty_people.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A kitchen for 20"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/EarlMarshallkitchen_twenty_people.JPG" alt="" title="A kitchen for 20" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" width="240" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A kitchen for 20 people (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Storeroom_bedroom.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Storeroom_bedroom.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" width="240" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The ‘box room’ (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>Esther worried about other children in the house. Were they getting enough to eat? “They don’t serve breakfast unless you ask the woman,” she said. “Then it is never before eight, which means the children here who go to school have to eat cereals and milk bought by parents.” </p> <p>In a corridor we met an agitated woman dressed only in her nightie, who said excitedly: “I will be leaving soon, I will be moving out.” She opened her door to a small box-room with little natural light on a sunny afternoon, one tiny window obscured by a curtain. She said that’s where she was living.</p> <p>Other women forced to spend time at the Earl Marshall also feared for their children’s safety.</p> <p>Carol lived there for a year from February 2015. Like Esther she had survived trafficking from West Africa, had been turned down for asylum and so lost her financial support from the National Asylum Support Service.</p><p>“I was sharing a single bed with my daughter Sophie, no money and living with friends,” she told us. “They asked us to leave, and we went to the council as homeless.”&nbsp;</p> <p>We asked Carol what she felt when she first arrived at the Earl Marshall. “I hated it and did not want to stay,” Carol said, “but Sophie saw the bunk beds, and after months of sharing a small bed with me, thought it was great.”</p> <p>Carol told us: “It was worse at weekends. There were drunken men outside and inside, amongst the guests of the B&amp;B as well as in our part. An American man who ended up in our part on a very busy weekend told me ‘This place is not safe for the kids. I think it is the cheapest place in Sheffield.’</p> <p>“On those weekends all the mothers would gather with our children in the biggest of our rooms and stay there all weekend, making sure there was one of us with the children wherever they were.</p> <p>“While I was at the Earl Marshall there was a Chinese woman with a baby, and a woman from Cameroon with her child. She hated it and went back to Cameroon. Single refugee women came but only stayed one or two nights. There was a man with five children, all in the same room.”</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <h2>“No Recourse to Public Funds”</h2> <p>All three refugee families we spoke to from the Earl Marshall had found themselves labelled “No recourse to public funds”. In a letter to us in May 2016 the leader of Sheffield Council, Cllr. Julie Dore, explained what that means.</p> <p>“Public funds are defined and include all benefits and homelessness help from the Housing Department. This means that the Local Authority’s Housing department cannot provide accommodation under the housing laws.” </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Showers_EarlMarshall_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Showers at Earl Marshall"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Showers_EarlMarshall_0.JPG" alt="" title="Showers at Earl Marshall" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" width="240" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Showers at Earl Marshall</span></span></span>But, she added, “Children’s Social Care may still owe a duty to the children.”</p> <p>This comes under the Children Act 1989 (Section 17), Children in Need, for whom money that is provided is not considered to be public funds.</p><p> Dore went on: “We explore a number of options with such families including enabling them to return to their home country if they wish and it is safe to do so.” </p> <p>These Sheffield families receive only the equivalent of UK Child Benefit (around £20 for the first child). For the mothers, social workers gave Carol and Esther vouchers to take to the local food bank, and £5 each week to pay their Earl Marshall laundry bills. </p> <p>“They treat us bad,” said Carol. “Sometimes the bedclothes and washing were not collected on time, I had to change the beds and take the washing myself, it was difficult with a schoolchild to keep her clean. Breakfast was never till eight o’clock, too late for my child to get to school.”</p> <p>Dinah spent five months in the Earl Marshall with her daughter Adele who was six years old. She told us: “They would only wash bedclothes and school uniform in there, other things I washed by hand.”</p> <p>Waiting for toilets and showers were the worst times for the families. Carol said some of the men “asked us for money and called us racist names. Every time we had to wait, then we had to clean the toilet, so we could use it.”</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Waiting for toilets and showers were the worst times. The men asked for money and called us racist names.</p> <p>Dinah told us: “The showers were locked from 8pm to 9am. Waiting in the queue we heard screaming and banging doors and a naked man came in and joined the queue. I decided to buy a potty for our room so that we felt safe.”</p> <p>When she spoke to us a few weeks ago Dinah had been in the UK asylum system since 2001, 17 years. “I tried to become a student, but someone stole my passport and took my money. I was in a bad abusive relationship and ended up in a house rented by my church. They wanted to buy another place and evicted me and Adele, then we ended up in the Earl Marshall.</p> <p>“Adele had chicken pox when they told us we had to go to the Earl Marshall and I thought she would spread it to the other children. They told me ‘You can either go in there, or we will take Adele into care’.”</p> <p>Dinah remembered two Chinese women with two children each, girls and boys, in the Earl Marshall. “A student came with her small baby, she decided to leave the country. There was a lady, she was out of her mind, she kept saying, ‘I can hear the voice of my boyfriend’, over and over again.”</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <h2>Direct action</h2> <p>Earl Marshall managers spotted us taking photographs from outside the B&amp;B in September 2017. Esther asked us not to identify her in anything we reported. “I don’t want them to make me homeless again,” she said. And so it was November before we wrote to the council setting out the dangerous situation for children in the B&amp;B.</p> <p>We demanded that the council immediately rehouse any families with children remaining in the Earl Marshall and declare that it would never again be used as emergency accommodation for children.</p> <p>The secretary to the leader of the council replied on 22 November 2017.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I have forwarded on all of your emails regarding Earl Marshall B&amp;B to both Councillors Drayton and McDonald and asked them to contact you, as soon as possible.”</p> <p>Then…nothing (later they claimed not to have received our email). So, we decided on a more direct approach.</p><p>On 7 February 2018, SYMAAG members went along to a Sheffield City Council meeting. We presented a petition, asked questions and stated our demands:</p><ul><li><span> </span>End the use of the Earl Marshall guest house for homeless refugee children;</li><li><span> </span>Provide equal treatment for homeless refugee children to that given to other homeless children in Sheffield.</li><li>In response to our testimony about the long periods families spent in B&amp;Bs, Cllr. Jackie Drayton, chair of the Children, Young People and Families committee, said, “These were asylum seeker families who we could not help in other ways because they had no resource to public funds.”</li><li>Later, on 20 February 2018, we received an email from the chair of housing, Cllr. Jayne Dunn. She admitted the council’s department for children, young people and families (CYPF, more commonly known as social services) had two families accommodated in the Earl Marshall.</li></ul> <p>She said: “Both families have no recourse to public funds. One family has been there since 9th September 2016, and one family since 28th January 2016, just over 2 years. The families are supported by CYPF. In any case B+B is not a good option for families for long periods, and I have offered to help source alternative accommodation if this is appropriate for both families.”</p><p class="mag-quote-right">One councillor later admitted that the B&amp;B was unsuitable for the families</p> <p>Then Carol, who had asked a question at the council meeting in February, received a reply to our petition from Cllr. Drayton, chair of the CYPF committee who placed the families in the Earl Marshall.&nbsp;</p> <p>The letter, dated Dated 8 March 2018, contained no apology for the year Carol and Sophie had spent in the Earl Marshall. Cllr. Drayton said that, “Children’s services do not support bed and breakfast accommodation for families and work to prevent this whenever possible.”</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/536680/council_letter12 months.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Cllr. Jackie Drayton concedes that families have been housed in B&amp;Bs for more than 12 months (letter, 8 March 2018)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/council_letter12 months.JPG" alt="" title="Cllr. Jackie Drayton concedes that families have been housed in B&amp;Bs for more than 12 months (letter, 8 March 2018)" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cllr. Jackie Drayton concedes: families have been housed in B&Bs for more than 12 months (letter, 8 March 2018)</span></span></span></p><p>The letter admitted “some cases” in bed and breakfast “for over twelve months” were “unacceptable” and a review of the cases was underway. Any families in bed and breakfast for more than six weeks would have reports issued to “monitor” them. There was no commitment to stop using the Earl Marshall. “We will assess the concerns raised about the particular institution identified in the petition.”</p> <h2>Sheffield, City of Sanctuary, and the homeless</h2> <p>Lately, we spoke to Barry, a volunteer in mental health campaigning groups in Sheffield. He told us, “Over the past twenty years I have known of many people when they are discharged from NHS care, and find themselves homeless, who have been put in the Earl Marshall by Social Services.”</p><p><span class="mag-quote-right">They made me live in the same small bedroom with him, for three months.</span></p> <p>Mary is an elderly Anglican minister and refugee from Southern Africa, who runs an art and handicraft project for women refugees in Sheffield. She found herself in the Earl Marshall in 2015, with her adult autistic son.</p> <p>“There was a serious fire in our council house and the Council had to find somewhere for us to live whilst it was repaired,” she told us. “They wanted to place my adult son, who is autistic, in the Earl Marshall. I said he would not cope in there without me. They refused to budge, so I went there with him. They made me live in the same small bedroom with him, for three months.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><h2>Earl Marshall’s response</h2> <p>We contacted the Earl Marshall on 22 March and asked for a response to the refugee families’ specific allegations and concerns raised in this article. </p><p>Nada Mortin, director of Earl Marshall Guest House Ltd, replied on 26 March with the following statement:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p>Firstly, we refuse to comment on allegations of this nature as a matter of principle. We feel such comments may misrepresent the nature of our work or of the Hostel itself, which seeks to provide quality accommodation to homeless and vulnerable people in the community.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>We would emphasise and reiterate that at all times we have complied with all regulations and policies issued by Sheffield City Council from time to time together with all regulatory bodies applicable to our sector and at no time have any allegations been received by the Hostel, whether from the council or any resident or former resident, in connection with the operation of the Hostel. Residents have always been provided with the requisite facilities and access to the same at appropriate times.</p></blockquote><p>We contacted Ms Mortin again on 28 March and 4 April, again inviting her response to the families’ particular concerns about breakfast, shower, kitchen and laundry arrangements. We await her reply.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>All names of refugees and refugee children, and interviewees, have been changed.</em></p><p><em>Edited by Clare Sambrook &amp; Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi for&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight">Shine A Light</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="/john-grayson-violet-dickenson/children-made-homeless-by-migration-rules">UK migration rules make children homeless</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/theresa-may-s-hostile-immigration-regime-destroys-another-british-family">Theresa May’s hostile immigration regime destroys another family</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/pregnant-woman-g4s-asylum-housing">‘Please get me moved from here!’ Pregnant woman in G4S asylum housing</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/theresa-may-s-tough-line-on-immigration-punishes-br">Theresa May’s tough line on immigration punishes British children</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/how-do-we-get-out-if-there-s-fire-in-yorkshire-g4s-tenants-live">‘How do we get out if there’s a fire?’ In Yorkshire, G4S tenants live in fear </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/gareth-mitchell/high-court-blasts-outrageous-assault-by-tascor-staff-on-tort">High Court blasts ‘outrageous’ assault by Tascor staff on torture survivor</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/behave-or-get-deported-says-g4s">Behave or get deported, says G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/people-come-in-here-normal-but-they-get-ill-protesting-against-">‘People come in here normal, but they get ill.’ Protesting against deaths at a UK migrant jail</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/fail-fail-and-have-another-government-contract">Fail, fail, and have another government contract</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/five-years-of-denial-uk-government-s-reckless-pursuit-of-punitive-asylum-">Five years of denial: the UK government’s reckless pursuit of a punitive asylum policy — never mind the evidence of harm</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> Shinealight 50.50 Shine A Light John Grayson Violet Dickenson Thu, 05 Apr 2018 07:30:35 +0000 Violet Dickenson and John Grayson 117007 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How the UN women’s talks failed to call out corporate power – letting down our human rights defenders https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rebecca-reeve/un-csw-corporate-power-human-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Last month’s Commission on the Status of Women talks failed to tackle corporate impunity, despite increasingly recognised risks to women human rights defenders.</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/CSW-59-Wraps-up-as-Delegates-Look-Towards-2016.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Delegates at the 59th CSW in 2015."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/CSW-59-Wraps-up-as-Delegates-Look-Towards-2016.jpg" alt="Delegates at the 59th CSW in 2015." title="Delegates at the 59th CSW in 2015." width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Delegates at the 59th CSW in 2015. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND). Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), held annually in New York, is the UN’s preeminent event for gender equality. In formal proceedings, delegates of member states agree commitments for policy actions. At the 62nd CSW last month, <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw62-2018">the central theme was the empowerment of rural women and girls.</a>&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/csw/62/outcome/csw62-agreed-conclusions-advanced-unedited-version-en.pdf?la=en&amp;vs=3837">Agreed conclusions</a>, and <a href="http://undocs.org/E/CN.6/2018/3">the secretary general’s report</a>, promote a vague vision of rural women’s empowerment&nbsp;<span>–&nbsp;</span>one for which no particular government or UN body is accountable. But empowerment is not just about having an income and access to healthcare and education, as these documents suggest.</p><p dir="ltr">Rural women, especially those of indigenous heritage, face particular obstacles to realising their empowerment within a global context of limited government protection of human rights, and excessive corporate power. </p><p dir="ltr">Transnational corporations, in collusion with governments, are actively engaged in exploitation and violence against women in rural areas. <a href="https://www.awid.org/publications/women-human-rights-defenders-confronting-extractive-industries">Extractive industries have a particularly egregious track record</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet, at the CSW, official documents and proceedings failed to highlight the sinister role that systems of corporate power play in disempowering, and silencing, rural women.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">'Empowerment is not just about having an income and access to healthcare and education.'</p><p dir="ltr">A <a href="https://justassociates.org/sites/justassociates.org/files/violence_against_whrds_in_mesoamerica_2012-2014.pdf">report</a> from the Mesoamerican Initiative for Women Human Rights Defenders shows increased attacks against women human rights defenders across Latin America since 2012. The most frequently attacked: those working to protect land and territory.</p><p dir="ltr">Berta Cáceres, the world-renowned human rights defender in Honduras, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/04/world/americas/berta-caceres-indigenous-activist-is-killed-in-honduras.html">was assassinated in 2016</a>. She was an indigenous Lenca woman fighting the construction of the controversial <a href="https://ejatlas.org/conflict/proyecto-hidroelectrico-agua-zarca-honduras">Agua Zarca dam project</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">A report published last year by independent human rights law experts concluded that <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2017/11/02/americas/honduras-cceres-killling-report/index.html">her murder had been planned months in advance</a>, and involved collusion between financial institutions, power company executives, and members of the Honduran state security agency eager “to control, neutralise and eliminate any opposition.”</p><p dir="ltr">Cáceres’ children have continued the work of <a href="https://copinh.org/">COPINH</a>, the indigenous rights organisation that she founded. Her daughter Bertha Zuñiga Cáceres <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/2017/7/7/berta_caceress_daughter_speaks_out_after">has at 27 years old already survived an assassination attempt</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Bertha Zuñiga was at the CSW this year, talking at parallel events alongside other rural women land defenders who shared similar experiences of violence, criminalisation, harassment, and sexual abuse at the hands of state, military, and corporate actors.</p><p dir="ltr">Cáceres’ murder, and the attempted murder of her daughter, are examples of the grave risks associated with being a rural and indigenous woman who dares to confront corporate power.</p><p dir="ltr">Women human rights defenders are targeted because of their work, but also because <a href="https://www.awid.org/publications/women-human-rights-defenders-confronting-extractive-industries">they are women who dare to challenge deep-seated patriarchy.</a>&nbsp;In the absence of binding, international laws to regulate the human rights impacts of transnational companies, and alongside weak legal and judicial systems at national levels, they fight steep uphill battles for their rights.</p><p dir="ltr">As long as corporations and governments can commit acts of violence with impunity, being a woman who speaks out publicly for her rights can get you killed.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">'As long as corporations and governments can commit acts of violence with impunity, being a woman who speaks out publicly for her rights can get you killed.'</p><p dir="ltr">Outside of formal CSW proceedings, NGOs and civil society groups are invited to organise their own parallel events around the talks’ priority theme. There were multiple <a href="https://www.ngocsw.org/ngo-csw-forum/download-handbook-app-2017">parallel events at this year’s CSW</a> related to rural women defenders resisting corporate power and impunity.</p><p dir="ltr">Women’s rights activists shared their experiences of organising and fighting against extractive industries and damaging ‘development’ projects. Many also expressed that the official CSW talks and conclusions didn’t represent them.</p><p dir="ltr">At the CSW, where the end goal is getting member states to agree to the same set of conclusions, anything that is too specific, or too political, gets left out.</p><p dir="ltr">Exposing networks of corporate power and abuse would implicate a lot of people, institutions, and call into question the dominant model of neoliberal economic development. In other words, the work of women human rights defenders like Berta Cáceres seem to challenge global economic and governance structures too much to be incorporated into CSW conclusions.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/ACT3060112017ENGLISH.PDF">Amid closing space for civil society</a> in countries around the world, and with women human rights defenders under attack internationally, global spaces for women’s rights advocacy are more important now than ever before.</p><p>Women human rights defenders need international support to pressure governments into responding to corporate human rights abuses, challenge extractive models of development, and end corporate impunity. The CSW, whose mandate is to promote the empowerment of women and girls, can and should do more to support them.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/will-reactionary-delegations-torpedo-un-talks-rural-women-csw">Will reactionary delegations torpedo UN talks on rural women?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost-aicha-hanna-agrane/migrant-farmworkers-protest-sexual-violence">Migrant farmworkers protest in New York City against sexual violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/aya-takeuchi/i-was-told-not-to-bring-shame-on-japan">#MeToo in Japan: &#039;I was told not to bring shame on the country, with my story’</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"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Economics International politics Women's rights and corporate power women's movements women's human rights women and power violence against women gender 50.50 newsletter young feminists Rebecca Reeve Wed, 04 Apr 2018 07:45:53 +0000 Rebecca Reeve 116990 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘She could have been our Martin Luther King Jr’ – tribute to Marielle Franco https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/juliana-de-moraes-pinheiro/tribute-marielle-franco-who-rattled-system <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The city councilwoman advocated for the rights of the most oppressed Brazilians. This is why people around the world are mourning and protesting her death. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/juliana-de-moraes-pinheiro/un-homenaje-marielle-franco-desafi-al-sistema-y-lo-pag-">Español</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/1024px-Marielle_Franco_em_agosto_de_2016.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Credit: Mídia NINJA/Flickr. [CC-BY-SA-2.0]. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/1024px-Marielle_Franco_em_agosto_de_2016.jpg" alt="Credit: Mídia NINJA/Flickr. [CC-BY-SA-2.0]. Some rights reserved." title="Credit: Mídia NINJA/Flickr. [CC-BY-SA-2.0]. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Marielle Franco in August 2016. Credit: Mídia NINJA/Flickr. [CC-BY-SA-2.0]. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In Brazil, the federal government’s makeup<a href="http://infograficos.estadao.com.br/politica/o-ministerio-de-temer/"> does not reflect</a> the societal DNA of the population. More than <a href="https://agenciadenoticias.ibge.gov.br/agencia-noticias/2012-agencia-de-noticias/noticias/18282-pnad-c-moradores.html">54% of the country’s population</a> is black, but about <a href="http://www2.camara.leg.br/camaranoticias/noticias/POLITICA/475684-HOMENS-BRANCOS-REPRESENTAM-71-DOS-ELEITOS-PARA-A-CAMARA.html">80% of the parliament</a> and <a href="http://cenariotocantins.com.br/principal/menos-de-10-dos-parlamentares-sao-negros-ou-pardos-na-camara-no-senado-e-pior/">98% of the senate</a> is white. Only <a href="https://www.cartacapital.com.br/politica/a-sub-representacao-dos-negros-na-politica-brasileira">two black senators</a> have ever been elected. Women hold only <a href="http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/mercado/2017/09/1917143-temer-reduz-mulheres-no-alto-escalao-do-governo-ao-nivel-de-15-anos-atras.shtml">22% of senior positions</a> in government; just <a href="http://www2.camara.leg.br/camaranoticias/noticias/POLITICA/475684-HOMENS-BRANCOS-REPRESENTAM-71-DOS-ELEITOS-PARA-A-CAMARA.html">2.4% of them are black</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">At the local level, in the 2016 elections, only <a href="http://www.inesc.org.br/noticias/noticias-do-inesc/2016/outubro/o-retrato-da-politica-brasileira-branca-masculina-e-proprietaria">4.6% of elected council members</a> in all of Brazil’s municipalities were women. Of the 51 city council members of Rio de Janeiro, Marielle Franco was one of<a href="http://www.bbc.com/portuguese/brasil-43424088"> four black council members</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The only black woman from the <a href="http://www.rioonwatch.org/?p=2920">favelas</a> on the Rio city council, Franco was a clear exception in this political landscape. She advocated for the rights of the most oppressed Brazilians – and paid the ultimate price. She was assassinated on 14 March 2018. This is why people are mourning and protesting her death around the world.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">There are many different “Brazils”</p><p dir="ltr">Brazil is one of the <a href="http://hdr.undp.org/en/composite/IHDI">10 most unequal</a> countries in the world. Indeed, there are many different “Brazils”. One of these realities is the favelas, mostly<a href="http://www.ipea.gov.br/retrato/pdf/revista.pdf"> populated by black</a> Brazilians; a reality that is often ignored by national politicians and policies.</p><p dir="ltr">Franco was born and raised in the favela Complexo da Maré, in the north of Rio de Janeiro. She<a href="https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/cotidiano/2018/03/feminista-negra-e-cria-da-mare-quem-foi-a-vereadora-marielle-franco.shtml"> started working at age 11</a> to help support her family. At age 19, while pregnant with a daughter she would then raise on her own, she received a full scholarship to study Social Sciences at <a href="https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/pontifical-catholic-university-rio-de-janeiro-puc-rio">PUC-Rio</a>, one of the best private universities in Brazil.</p><p dir="ltr">She later earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the prestigious Fluminense Federal University, with a <a href="https://app.uff.br/riuff/bitstream/1/2166/1/Marielle%20Franco.pdf">thesis</a> on police violence in the favelas. In it, she acknowledged that for <em>favelados</em> (people who live in favelas) to overcome the vicious cycle of poverty and stigmas imposed on them, they must be twice as good at everything.</p><p>Franco represented the struggle to succeed in Brazil when one does not belong to the white middle class. Ambitious and intelligent black women like Franco are not uncommon. But few are able to overcome the stigmas in a society suffering from deeply rooted racism and sexism. Franco, elected as a city councilmember of Rio in 2016, received the <a href="https://www.cartacapital.com.br/sociedade/vereadora-do-psol-marielle-franco-e-morta-a-tiros-no-rio">fifth largest number of votes</a>.</p><p class="mag-quote-left">Franco represented the struggle to suceed in Brazil when one does not belong to the white middle class.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">As a militant and a politician, Franco fought for the empowerment of others who, like her, have few opportunities to break the barriers imposed on the black population of Brazil. She represented a Brazilian reality in which black citizens are deprived of their voice and of public power. She fought for the rights of the black people, the poor, and all who suffer injustices at the hands of a corrupt police state, including police members themselves.</p><p dir="ltr">Franco became a symbol of representation and resistance for poor and black Brazilians and bothered the predominantly white system.</p><p dir="ltr">In <a href="https://theintercept.com/2018/02/17/intervencao-militar-rio-de-janeiro/">February 2018</a>, the federal government gave the military control of security in Rio – a measure not taken since the dictatorship which ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985. This decision has been widely criticised as a <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/brazil-military-intervention-rio-de-janeiro_us_5a8b47efe4b0117adf71037c">political strategy</a> employed by the current conservative government to generate fear and gain votes in the upcoming presidential elections.</p><p dir="ltr">Franco was against this intervention and was appointed the<a href="https://theintercept.com/2018/03/16/marielle-franco-assassination-brazil-police-brutality/"> rapporteur</a> for a<a href="https://www.conjur.com.br/2018-fev-24/advogados-criam-grupos-fiscalizar-acoes-intervencao-federal%E2%80%9D%20with%20%E2%80%9Chttps://g1.globo.com/rj/rio-de-janeiro/noticia/em-mandato-na-camara-marielle-franco-defendeu-minorias.ghtml"> commission</a> monitoring the military’s use of force in the favelas.</p><p>She pushed barriers; her work rattled the system every day. This is why Franco was silenced. She was<a href="https://theintercept.com/2018/03/14/marielle-franco-assassinada-vereadora-psol/"> assassinated</a> on 14 March 2018 after speaking at an <a href="https://twitter.com/mariellefranco/status/974047507209703424">event</a> called "Young Black Women Who are Changing Power Structures".</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/1024px-Marielle_presente,_hoje_e_sempre!_(2).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Credit: Geraldo Magela/Agência Senado/Flickr. [CC BY 2.0] Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/1024px-Marielle_presente,_hoje_e_sempre!_(2).jpg" alt="Credit: Geraldo Magela/Agência Senado/Flickr. [CC BY 2.0] Some rights reserved." title="Credit: Geraldo Magela/Agência Senado/Flickr. [CC BY 2.0] Some rights reserved." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"Marielle is with us, today and always!" Credit: Geraldo Magela/Agência Senado/Flickr. [CC BY 2.0] Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Franco bothered the system by doing the work a politician is supposed to do: represent and defend their electorate, and ensure that campaign promises are honoured.</p><p dir="ltr">Her position threatened the status quo in Brazil with its failed institutions and repressive policies that have only contributed to the exponential growth of homicides. We now have<a href="http://www.bbc.com/portuguese/brasil-43413906"> one every 21 minutes</a>, most of which are of poor black people.</p><p dir="ltr">Upon her death, Brazilians poured into the streets of cities <a href="https://theintercept.com/2018/03/16/pretesto-marielle-franco/">all over the country </a>and protests have taken place around the world.</p><p dir="ltr">In Portugal, there were protests in<a href="https://www.publico.pt/2018/03/19/sociedade/noticia/homenagem-a-marielle-franco-reuniu-centenas-de-pessoas-em-9-cidades-portuguesas-1807267"> more than nine cities</a>. The Portuguese<a href="http://brasil.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,diante-de-morte-de-marielle-deputados-europeus-pedem-suspensao-de-negociacao-com-mercosul,70002228542"> Parliament demanded</a> the European Union suspend free trade negotiations with the South American trade bloc Mercosur until the violence ends against human rights defenders in Brazil.</p><p dir="ltr">In the US,<a href="https://www.facebook.com/MidiaNINJA/videos/1107330406091770/"> vigils</a> took place both in<a href="https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/cotidiano/2018/03/manifestantes-protestam-contra-morte-de-marielle-franco-em-nova-york.shtml"> New York</a> and in<a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/marielle-franco-murder-rio-protests_us_5ab126eee4b0eb3e2b30d66f"> Washington, DC</a>. Cities in <a href="https://www.sbs.com.au/yourlanguage/portuguese/en/audiotrack/brasileiros-percorrem-ruas-de-melbourne-em-protesto-pelo-assassinato-de-marielle-franco">Australia</a>,<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQTGfVqBWYA"> Canada</a>,<a href="http://br.rfi.fr/franca/20180317-sob-chuva-e-neve-brasileiros-e-franceses-marcham-por-marielle-franco-em-paris"> France</a>,<a href="http://www.dw.com/pt-br/brasileiros-homenageiam-vereadora-marielle-em-berlim/a-43031995"> Germany</a>, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LXR7EHAipc&amp;feature=youtu.be">Spain</a>, and the <a href="https://lab.org.uk/the-four-bullets-that-killed-marielle/">United Kingdom</a> also saw protests.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">She rattled the system, so she was silenced.</p><p dir="ltr">In Latin America, a region where most countries still live with the haunting memories of brutal dictatorships, Franco’s death hit close to home.</p><p dir="ltr">In <a href="https://www.revistaforum.com.br/na-argentina-maes-da-praca-de-maio-prestam-homenagem-a-marielle-franco/">Argentina</a>, more than 300 people marched along with the<a href="http://madres.org/"> Madres de la Plaza de Marzo</a>, the mothers and grandmothers whose children were disappeared during the military juntas of the 1970s and 1980s.</p><p dir="ltr">In <a href="http://www.eldesconcierto.cl/2018/03/16/fotos-asi-fue-la-emotiva-velaton-en-protesta-por-el-asesinato-de-marielle-franco-frente-a-la-embajada-de-brasil-en-santiago/">Chile</a>, a vigil took place in front of the Brazilian-Chilean cultural centre, joined by anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and feminist groups. A large crowd took to the Plaza Libertad in <a href="http://www.mtst.org/noticias/uruguay-acompano-y-se-solidarizo-con-el-pueblo-brasileno-tras-el-asesinato-de-marielle-franco/">Uruguay</a> under the motto: We are all Marielle. </p><p>In<a href="https://copinh.org/2018/03/mientras-alcemos-la-bandera-que-defendio-nunca-morira-marielle-vive/"> Honduras</a>, activists connected Franco’s death with that of Berta Cáceres, an indigenous leader and environmentalist who was killed in 2016.</p><p>Franco was silenced, but she has become a global icon. Now, the world might be able to start waking up to the complexities of the favelas, the deeply-embedded racism in Brazilian society and impunity towards those who attack and even kill activists for change.</p><p>The United Nations’ special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnès Callamard, <a href="https://news.un.org/pt/story/2018/03/1616111">said the evidence</a> suggests that Franco’s assassination was a targeted political act. This has left some of the groups she represented, and other human rights defenders in Brazil, feeling hopeless and intimidated.</p><p dir="ltr">Franco was a beacon of hope to those who suffer the stereotypes imposed by rich white men, who rule a country they do not represent. She could have been our Martin Luther King Jr., if she had had more time. To borrow <a href="https://twitter.com/mariellefranco/status/973568966403731456">her words</a>: “how many more will have to die until this war is over?”</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/laura-dowley/indigenous-women-presidential-campaign-mexico">How an indigenous woman left her mark on a tumultuous presidential campaign in Mexico</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"> Brazil </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> </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 Brazil Civil society Democracy and government Equality International politics women's movements women's human rights women and power 50.50 newsletter Juliana de Moraes Pinheiro Mon, 02 Apr 2018 11:00:00 +0000 Juliana de Moraes Pinheiro 116955 at https://www.opendemocracy.net #MeToo in Japan: 'I was told not to bring shame on the country, with my story’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/aya-takeuchi/i-was-told-not-to-bring-shame-on-japan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Journalist Shiori Ito spoke about her own experience of sexual assault in 2017 – a year marked by allegations against powerful men. Then came the backlash.</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/MeToo_NoffarGat13 Shiori Ito.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Shiori Ito."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/MeToo_NoffarGat13 Shiori Ito.jpg" alt="Shiori Ito." title="Shiori Ito." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shiori Ito. Photo: Noffar Gat/www.noffargat.com. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>“I was told not to bring shame on Japan, by spreading this story,” said freelance journalist <a href="https://www.shioriito.com/welcome">Shiori Ito</a>, at <a href="http://jwb-ny.org/lecturemeeting_0315/">a meeting</a> in New York City on the sidelines of the recent United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) talks.</p><p dir="ltr">In May 2017, Ito alleged publicly that she had been <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlYWkciXUrA">raped by a well-known television journalist</a> two years earlier. She has spoken about her experience several times since, including in a book, ‘<a href="https://www.amazon.co.jp/Black-Box-%E4%BC%8A%E8%97%A4-%E8%A9%A9%E7%B9%94/dp/4163907823">Black Box</a>,’ (currently available only in Japanese).</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking out about sexual violence is not something that is frequently done in Japan, even in the age of #MeToo movements globally. “I face a lot of backlash,” Ito told me, “but this is something I have to share.”</p><p dir="ltr">In stepping forward with her story, Ito has been credited with opening space for profoundly difficult conversations about sexual assault in Japan, which remains deeply conservative socially and has a significant<a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-gender-gap-report-2017"> gender gaps in spite of its overall wealth</a>.</p><p>“She broke Japan’s silence on rape,” <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/29/world/asia/japan-rape.html">said the New York Times</a>. Tokyo Weekender, an English-language magazine, called Ito “<a href="https://www.tokyoweekender.com/2018/02/shiori-ito-face-metoo-movement-japan-speaks/">the face of the #MeToo movement in Japan</a>” and “one of the few brave voices to speak out” from the country.</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/MeToo_NoffarGat16.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Copies of Shiori Ito&#039;s book."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/MeToo_NoffarGat16.jpg" alt="Copies of Shiori Ito's book." title="Copies of Shiori Ito&#039;s book." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Copies of Shiori Ito's book. Photo: Noffar Gat/www.noffargat.com. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Ito says that she was sexually assaulted in a Tokyo hotel room by a well-known journalist with whom she met for dinner to talk about job opportunities. (He has publicly denied these allegations).</p><p dir="ltr">She is one of a small number of Japanese women who spoke out publicly about their experiences of sexual assault in 2017, a year which saw a global wave of allegations against powerful men in media, entertainment and politics.</p><p dir="ltr">Journalist Akiko Kobayashi<a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/jp/akikokobayashi/darenimoiwanakatta?utm_term=.oukwaBzo7#.js2A5MQLg"> at Buzzfeed</a> told her story of child sexual abuse. Blogger Haruka Ito (known as Hachu) <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/jp/takumiharimaya/hachu-metoo?utm_term=.fuJ2ggoak#.ob7ZxxnyR">talked</a> about her experience with sexual harassment.</p><p dir="ltr">Ito talks about her experience with perhaps surprising openness. Though, she said in New York: “I have been introduced as a first ‘silence breaker,’ but it is not true. There have already been so many women who spoke up... Society had concealed the truth.”</p><p>Nearly <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/02/japan-women-sexually-harassed-at-work-report-finds">1 in 3 Japanese</a> women have been sexually harassed at work, according to a 2016 government survey. But women who speak out against such abuse are often blamed for ‘putting themselves’ in risky situations.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“I was vilified on social media and received hate messages and emails and calls from unknown numbers.”</p><p dir="ltr">In January, <a href="https://www.politico.eu/author/shiori-ito/">Ito wrote on Politico.eu:</a> “I was vilified on social media and received hate messages and emails and calls from unknown numbers. I was called a ‘slut’ and ‘prostitute’ and told I should ‘be dead.’ There were arguments over my nationality, because a true Japanese woman wouldn’t speak about such ‘shameful’ things.”</p><p dir="ltr">Eleven percent of Japanese men who responded to a <a href="https://infogram.com/--1gqo2qvyl4ywp78">2017 poll by the national broadcaster NHK</a> said that a woman who goes for dinner alone with a man is providing “sexual consent.” 27% considered a woman having a drink alone with a man to be providing such consent; 23% if she is wearing ‘revealing clothes; 35% if she is drunk.</p><p dir="ltr">There is an alarming tendency in Japan to minimise sex crimes by avoiding words such as rape altogether and referring to ‘mischief’ instead. Coerced sex without the use or threat of violence is not considered rape. The age of consent is only 13.</p><p dir="ltr">In her case, Ito says she went to the police who she said told her that these incidents are common but prosecutions rarely succeed. She says investigators later dropped her case despite having enough evidence to go forward.</p><p dir="ltr">In her <a href="https://www.politico.eu/author/shiori-ito/">article for Politico</a>, Ito says the title of her book ‘Black Box,’ “comes from the term prosecutors and police officers used to describe how rape happens behind closed doors. They kept saying: ‘We still don’t really know what happened; only you two know.’”</p><p>In December 2017, the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/29/world/asia/japan-rape.html">New York Times</a> said: “Ito’s story is a stark example of how sexual assault remains a subject to be avoided in Japan, where few women report rape to the police and when they do, their complaints rarely result in arrests or prosecution.”</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 2018-03-22 at 17.04.39.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Yuko Watanabe."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 17.04.39.png" alt="Yuko Watanabe." title="Yuko Watanabe." width="460" height="275" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yuko Watanabe. Photo: Noffar Gat/www.noffargat.com. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Thousands of women from around the world gathered in New York during the CSW meetings, which ended on Friday 23 March.</p><p dir="ltr">Ito spoke at an event titled “<a href="http://hrn.or.jp/eng/news/2018/02/14/4336/">Beyond the #MeToo movement: protecting silence breakers and changing social norms</a>”; she also gave <a href="http://jwb-ny.org/lecturemeeting_0315/">a talk</a> at the Japanese-American Association &nbsp;Women in Business group, in Japanese.</p><p dir="ltr">Lawyer Chris Brennan also spoke at the first meeting. He has worked on several sexual assault cases in the US. Where perpetrators are colleagues or employers, they may use their status to silence or threaten victims into quitting their jobs, he said.</p><p dir="ltr">At the JAA event Kazuka Ito, also a lawyer and the founder of Human Rights Now, said: “We are not supposed to be the ones who are blamed, the one who harassed must be blamed. But this is how it works in Japan, still.”</p><p dir="ltr">From the corporate world, a former director at the Eurasia Group consultancy firm Yuko Watanabe added that in Japan, human resources systems are not set up to respond to reports of incidents like this. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Japan’s sex crime laws were only recently amended for the first time in 110 years. </p><p dir="ltr">Japanese law is not a great help to survivors of sexually assault, either. <a href="http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/16/national/politics-diplomacy/diet-makes-historic-revision-century-old-sex-crime-laws/#.WXGuvdOGM_U">Japan’s sex crime laws</a> were only recently amended for the first time in 110 years.</p><p dir="ltr">The definition of rape was expanded to include oral and anal sex. Minimum sentences for rape were increased, but only from three years to five. <a href="https://www.npa.go.jp/laws/notification/keiji/keiki/keiki-290623/keiki-290623keihou.pdf">Conviction rates remain low</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Shiori Ito said at the JAA meeting that women who have experienced assault or harassment need more resources, criticising ‘outdated’ investigation methods on behalf of police and a lack of sufficient crisis services for women even around Tokyo.</p><p dir="ltr">Investigators may not have much experience working on these cases, she added, and may not respond appropriately to the psychological impacts of such crimes or the investigation process, in which victims may be asked repeatedly to remember and describe in detail the assault.</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/MeToo_NoffarGat1_Kumiko Hasegawa.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A meeting at the UN CSW in New York City."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/MeToo_NoffarGat1_Kumiko Hasegawa.jpg" alt="A meeting at the UN CSW in New York City." title="A meeting at the UN CSW in New York City." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A meeting at the UN CSW in New York City. Photo: Noffar Gat/www.noffargat.com. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>At the JAA Women in Business group, Kumiko Hasegawa recalled an old Japanese saying: “<em>Iyayo iyayo mo sukinouchi</em>.”</p><p dir="ltr">This means that even though women say “no,” “no” is "yes" just reversed. While this damaging idea is not unique to Japan, it contributes to violence against women by encouraging men to ‘push past’ resistance.</p><p dir="ltr">Amid <a href="http://www8.cao.go.jp/shoushi/shoushika/whitepaper/measures/w-2017/29webgaiyoh/html/gb1_s1-1.html">negative population growth</a>, Japan is <a href="https://www.kantei.go.jp/jp/headline/josei_link.html">trying to increase women’s participation</a> in the labour force. The government must urgently address sexual harassment at work much more seriously.</p><p dir="ltr">This is a social rather than an individual problem, according to Ito, who talked about her campaign <a href="https://twitter.com/WeToo_Japan">#WeToo</a> to highlight how sexual abuse and harassment affects everyone’s lives in some way.</p><p dir="ltr">But for this campaign to be successful in Japan, many more women will have to come forward to expose the extent of this problem – and this won’t be easy. </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-aicha-hanna-agrane/migrant-farmworkers-protest-sexual-violence">Migrant farmworkers protest in New York City against sexual violence</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"> Japan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Japan Culture Equality Women's rights and the media 50.50 newsletter gender Sexual violence violence against women women and power women's movements women's work young feminists Aya Takeuchi Wed, 28 Mar 2018 07:03:17 +0000 Aya Takeuchi 116824 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Thanks to social media, do teenage girls like Ahed Tamimi now have the power to influence wars? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/niki-seth-smith/ahed-tamimi-girls-social-media-war <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Social media has enabled girls and young women to influence contemporary conflicts in new ways, according to 'War in 140 Characters' author David Patrikarakos.</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-34502586.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Gaza demonstration in support of Ahed Tamimi. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-34502586.jpg" alt="Gaza demonstration in support of Ahed Tamimi. " title="Gaza demonstration in support of Ahed Tamimi. " width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gaza demonstration in support of Ahed Tamimi. Photo: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images.</span></span></span>In December 2017, a then 16-year-old Palestinian girl named <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/ahed-tamimi-latest-palestinian-girl-14-years-prison-kicking-spitting-israeli-soldiers-protest-family-a8149411.html">Ahed Tamimi was filmed slapping and kicking an Israeli soldier</a> outside her family home in the occupied West Bank. She had just heard that her 14-year-old cousin Muhammad had been shot in the head with a rubber bullet. </p><p dir="ltr">Tamimi then faced up to 10 years in prison on charges of assault and throwing stones. Last week she&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/21/palestinian-ahed-tamimi-accepts-plea-deal-to-serve-eight-months-in-jail">accepted a plea deal</a>&nbsp;of eight months in prison (including four months already served). She is reportedly expected to plead guilty to four assault, incitement and obstruction charges.</p><p dir="ltr">The video of the incident went viral and was widely reported; Tamimi has been compared to <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/ahed-tamimi-palestinian-rosa-parks-180114114647043.html">Rosa Parks</a> and <a href="https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-joan-of-arc-in-a-west-bank-village-1.5630101">Joan of Arc</a>, among other heroic figures. But while the confrontation has provoked much debate, little appears to have changed in the region, where Tamimi is yet another child detainee. The <a href="https://www.btselem.org/statistics/minors_in_custody">latest published statistics</a>, from November 2017, show Israel was holding more than 300 Palestinian minors in prison.</p><p dir="ltr">Though narrative victories can be as important as battlefield military gains in today’s conflicts, which are increasingly fought online and via social media as well. Tamimi’s story and her now iconic image has significant potential to influence opinions and positions on the ongoing occupation of Palestine.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">'Narrative victories can be as important as battlefield military gains in today’s conflicts.'</p><p dir="ltr">The potential influence of individual civilians, particularly girls and young women, in contemporary conflicts is a core theme in the recently-published book <a href="https://www.basicbooks.com/titles/david-patrikarakos/war-in-140-characters/9780465096152/">War in 140 Characters: How Social Media is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century</a>, by David Patrikarakos. It opens with a story that is strikingly similar to Tamimi’s case.</p><p dir="ltr">Patrikarakos’s first chapter is about another 16-year-old Palestinian girl, <a href="https://twitter.com/Farah_Gazan">Farah Baker</a>. She also became a global icon of resistance through social media, during the 2014 ‘Operation Protective Edge’ conflict in which the Gaza strip came under heavy bombardment. On Twitter, Baker’s followers grew from around 800 to more than 150,000 as she filmed the chaos from her balcony.</p><p dir="ltr">“She was a child, she was female, and a civilian. She was a civilian being bombed. She should have been the most powerless person, in a deeply patriarchal society,” Patrikarakos told me in a recent interview. But instead Baker drew global attention at a turning point in the Israel-Palestine conflict.</p><p dir="ltr">Patrikarokas argues in his book that while Israel won militarily in 2014, they lost the global information war: “In a major way, Operation Protective Edge inverted war's traditional paradigm: it was an information war played out on the battlefield, in which the former was, at times, more important than the latter.”</p><p dir="ltr">It's impossible to quantify the influence of Baker's following and story on this narrative victory. But Patrikarakos sees her sudden social media fame as indicative of a new era in which “a lone teenage girl can now battle, and threaten, the institutional power of one of the world’s most powerful armies.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">"A lone teenage girl can now battle, and threaten, the institutional power of one of the world’s most powerful armies.”</span>Patrikarakos calls this new kind of empowered, networked individual 'homo digitalis'. The shift between hierarchical to networked power in contemporary warfare didn’t start with Tamimi, or Baker, and such observations have been made before.</p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, Patrikarakos draws on the 1999 book ‘<a href="http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=23193">New and old wars: organised violence in a global era</a>’ by Mary Kaldor, who distinguishes between ‘old wars’ between states in which “battle is the decisive encounter” and ‘new wars’ that involve “networks of state and non-state actors.”</p><p dir="ltr">Operation Protective Edge, however, was one of the first wars to be documented mainly by amateurs on social media platforms. Since then, citizen journalists have become the often sole source of news in the Syrian civil war, accompanied by raging, complex disputes over credibility, authenticity and bias.</p><p dir="ltr">Amid these debates, and talk about ‘fake news,’ would Baker's story find the same audience today? Her appeal in 2014 leaned heavily on her presentation as a 'normal girl' caught up in a situation beyond her control. Her tweets often emphasised the innocence of children. “BOMBING CHILDREN IS NOT OKAY. That's when you know that HUMANITY DIED,” one read.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“BOMBING CHILDREN IS NOT OKAY. That's when you know that HUMANITY DIED.”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">As Patrikarakos points out, it's notable that <a href="http://globalthinkers.foreignpolicy.com/#chroniclers/list">Baker was named by Foreign Policy magazine as an influential 'chronicler'</a>, not an activist. </p><p dir="ltr">Tamimi's identity, on the other hand, is overtly political. Her family is renowned for documenting confrontations and abuses in their village of Nabi Saleh as well as for organising and protesting publicly.</p><p dir="ltr">Tamimi’s own history of activism has drawn global attention; she was invited to have <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/politicians-royals-and-celebrities-send-message-ahed-al-tamimi-1819082969">breakfast with Turkey's Prime Minister</a>, for example, after she was filmed in 2012 shoving and shouting at soldiers twice her size.</p><p dir="ltr">Significantly, both Baker and Tamimi managed to reach beyond the demographic who regularly follow events related to the Israel-Palestine conflict. How did this happen?</p><p dir="ltr">“This is an age that prizes authenticity above all else,” Patrikarakos told me. This might help explain why a child is more likely to be believed than an adult who understands the power of lies online, though his book also highlights a gendered dimension to this issue.</p><p dir="ltr">Tamimi and Baker both managed to communicate a sense of raw, righteous anger to their followers and the general public. This can be seen as related to a child’s pure sense of right and wrong. But are we also more likely to identify and sympathise with girls, who “could be your sister,” or “your daughter”?</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-34471278.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Ahed Tamimi talks with her lawyer at a military court in the West Bank."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-34471278.jpg" alt="Ahed Tamimi talks with her lawyer at a military court in the West Bank." title="Ahed Tamimi talks with her lawyer at a military court in the West Bank." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ahed Tamimi talks with her lawyer at a military court in the West Bank. Photo: Ilia Yefimovich/DPA/PA Images.</span></span></span>Patrikarakos noted another similarity between Baker and Tamimi; the former he said “has blue eyes and very pale skin. And Tamimi is blonde. And I think actually, unfortunately, this plays a big part because they're much more Western-friendly.” He added that Baker once told him that many people tweeted at her saying things like: “You've got blue eyes, how can you be a Palestinian?” </p><p dir="ltr">Tamimi’s appearance, with her long curly blonde hair (rare for Palestinians), has been particularly contentious. Some Israeli voices have alleged that the slapping incident was a manufactured performance for a global audience, to discredit Israel. She was dubbed <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/12/19/israelis-call-her-shirley-temper-palestinians-call-her-a-hero/">“Shirley Temper,”</a> and a formal investigation was even opened into the claim that her family were a troupe of actors.</p><p dir="ltr">But the accusation that the incident was purposefully filmed to influence a global audience, and therefore must be duplicitous or 'fake', is in itself a bizarre leap of logic. Tamimi’s family appears to be more than aware that physical confrontation and global content distribution are two sides of the same war. Isn’t this what an act of resistance looks like in the media age?</p><p dir="ltr">Israeli voices will no doubt continue to try and discredit Tamimi and her family on grounds that they are peddlers of 'fake news,' fully aware of the damage that an authentic, personal story of suffering can do. In Patrikarakos’s book, one official says: “There is nothing that a government spokesman can tweet or post to combat the image of a dead baby.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“There is nothing that a government spokesman can tweet or post to combat the image of a dead baby.”</p><p dir="ltr">Patrikarakos argues that Israel will always be at a disadvantage when it comes to the information war. Social media is an inherently emotional medium, favouring the sensational along with the horrific. To put it crassly: the suffering of the innocent gets clicks, and Israel inflicts far more civilian casualties.</p><p dir="ltr">At the same time, Israel can't afford to lose its hold on the stories we hear and share. “Israel is a huge weapons producer, militarily really powerful, but still a small country,” Patrikarakos told me. “It still essentially needs permission to fight wars. They need the backing of powerful states like the US. They need to win the war at the discursive level.”</p><p dir="ltr">Tamimi has been <a href="https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/middle-east/palestinians-hail-teen-ahed-tamimi-as-worth-a-thousand-men/news-story/ad9bca688623fadbaff2c4180cb184c6">hailed in Palestine as “worth a thousand men”</a> – despite the fact that there is no clear binary in the Israel-Palestine conflict between male combatants and female non-combatants, or between 'military' and 'civilian.'</p><p dir="ltr">Perhaps Tamimi’s gender does strengthen her power and influence in the global information war. But focusing on her role as a symbol, or a ‘tool,’ in this conflict can make it easy to lose sight of her humanity as a young person whose own life and future is at stake.</p><p dir="ltr">Personal stories of children and women have always played a prominent role in wartime propaganda. What’s changed is that now girls like Tamimi and Baker appear to have a higher degree of agency over how their stories are told.</p><p dir="ltr">And, as Patrikarakos pointed out: “Palestinians can never defeat Israel militarily. Now they have a chance of actually defeating them in the information sphere to the degree that it affects the military sphere.”&nbsp;</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"> Conflict </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 Civil society Conflict International politics Internet Women's rights and the media women and power women and militarism gender 50.50 newsletter young feminists Niki Seth-Smith Tue, 27 Mar 2018 06:49:44 +0000 Niki Seth-Smith 116406 at https://www.opendemocracy.net DRC mining industry is a prime example of how corporate power threatens women’s rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/valerie-bah/drc-mining-industry-corporate-power-womens-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This is why feminist activists are mobilising behind a proposed international treaty to regulate the impacts of transnational corporations.</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/DRC piece image 1_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Women artisanal miners near the Kamitunga gold mines."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/DRC piece image 1_0.png" alt="Women artisanal miners near the Kamitunga gold mines." title="Women artisanal miners near the Kamitunga gold mines." width="460" height="230" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women artisanal miners near the Kamitunga gold mines. Photo: Marie-Rose Shakalili.</span></span></span>On a research trip to the Kamituga gold mine in her home province of South Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), activist Marie-Rose Shakalili noticed something that’s often minimised in stories about mining in her country: that “women work disproportionately hard, breaking up stones, transporting and sifting them, grinding them into powder.” </p><p dir="ltr">Shakalili described a “brutality of gendered roles in mining operations” in the DRC, with women finding that their labour is undervalued at each step. “For a basin of crushed rocks, a woman might earn the equivalent of $3 a day, but since it’s backbreaking work, they often feel the need to bring [their] children… to assist them,” she added. </p><p dir="ltr">“Women who are active in the mining sector lead very difficult lives,” Shakalili continued. After finding an almost total lack of research and statistics on their conditions, she travelled to Kamituga to speak directly with women working in some of the region's many artisanal and small-scale mine sites – where people mine informally using rudimentary tools and sell (mostly) unprocessed products to traders and companies.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Women work disproportionately hard, breaking up stones, transporting and sifting them, grinding them into powder.” </p><p dir="ltr">A <a href="http://wilpf.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/WomenInArtisanalMinesInDRC_web.pdf">2016 report </a>from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), released just a few months before Shakalili’s research, is one of the few other studies of women’s experiences in the DRC’s informal mining sector.</p><p dir="ltr">Based on a survey conducted in Katanga province, it described alarming trends including labour and sexual exploitation on mining sites and security forces (state and private) appearing to protect corporate interests to the detriment of local populations. </p><p dir="ltr">At one artisanal mining site known as “Huit Cent,” for example, the report said that armed security forces have exacted “taxes” from workers and prevented them from organising. </p><p dir="ltr">The DRC mining industry is a prime example of how unbalanced corporate power threatens the rights of women, whose voices and experiences are too often marginalised or ignored altogether. Cases like these are why feminist activists have joined the international mobilisation for a new binding treaty to regulate the impacts of transnational corporations. </p><p dir="ltr">Artisanal miners produce <a href="http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTOGMC/Resources/336099-1156955107170/drcgrowthgovernanceenglish.pdf">90% of the mining sector’s revenues in the DRC</a>, according to the World Bank. They constitute <a href="https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/109111/SIPRIBP0910b.pdf">between 500,000 and 2 million informal workers</a> at the bottom of supply chains. They perform the hard manual labour that feeds into the industrial operations of international mining corporations, which process and sell the mined products abroad. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“The mining sector is overstacked in favour of men."</p><p dir="ltr">International mining corporations may have vast economic resources, political influence, legal armour, and media connections to shape public narratives about their activities. Members of local, often rural, communities may not benefit sufficiently from their operations and, with far fewer resources, often struggle to access justice when they suffer harm. </p><p dir="ltr">They may not be able to afford lawyers, for example, or they may be unable to travel long distances to courts, or even understand such proceedings and relevant documents, if they speak a local dialect or indigenous language. </p><p dir="ltr">The underrepresentation of women in local government exacerbates the ways in which their voices are sidelined, Shakalili adds. </p><p dir="ltr">“The mining sector is overstacked in favour of men,” said Shakalili, who told me about meetings that she observed, as part of her research, between mining company representatives and government officials where she found women and their concerns were routinely absent. </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/DRC piece image 2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Women human rights defenders. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/DRC piece image 2.png" alt="Women human rights defenders. " title="Women human rights defenders. " width="460" height="251" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women human rights defenders. Image: AWID.</span></span></span>The <a href="https://www.awid.org/">Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)</a>, where I work, is part of the <a href="http://www.treatymovement.com">Treaty Alliance</a> coalition which believes that new international laws are needed to regulate the impacts of transnational corporations. Our existing legal tools are not sufficient.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2002, a new <a href="http://www.genderaction.org/case/drc.html">Mining Code</a> was introduced in the DRC to regulate this sector. But it was drafted under advice from the IMF and World Bank which have, according to the civil society watchdog <a href="http://www.genderaction.org/index.html">Gender Action</a>, privileged the growth of the mining sector while disregarding its <a href="http://www.genderaction.org/publications/gbv/drc.pdf">gender impacts</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">According to a 2015 briefing from NGO <a href="https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/what-supply-chain-due-diligence/">Global Witness</a>, existing frameworks like the <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf">UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights</a>, and the <a href="http://www.oecd.org/corporate/mne/mining.htm">OECD’s Due Diligence Guidance</a>, have done little to ensure that companies operating in the DRC source conflict-free minerals, pay their fair share of taxes, or protect workers at the “bottom” of supply chains. </p><p dir="ltr">Though the Global Witness briefing does not discuss the demographics of artisanal miners, feminist research like that from WILPF highlights the specific vulnerability faced by women in the industry, who face gendered “violations of all kinds” – including barriers to job promotion beyond hard labour; lower pay than men; and sexual violence at work.</p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="https://www.fidh.org/en/">International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)</a> has warned that <a href="https://business-humanrights.org/sites/default/files/documents/20180207_Article_%20Biz%20in%20CAAs%20for%20BHRRC_FINAL.pdf">conflict-affected areas</a> are a “‘grey zone’ in terms of business and human rights” despite “heightened risks for gross human rights violations, of which companies may be perpetrators or accomplices.” </p><p dir="ltr">International humanitarian and human rights laws have fallen short of being able to “efficiently prevent, address, mitigate or account for business-related human rights abuses in conflict-affected areas,” hence the need for new laws. </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/DRC piece_image4.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Activists demonstrate in support of a binding treaty on transnational corporations."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/DRC piece_image4.png" alt="Activists demonstrate in support of a binding treaty on transnational corporations." title="Activists demonstrate in support of a binding treaty on transnational corporations." width="460" height="252" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Activists demonstrate in support of a binding treaty on transnational corporations. Photo: Global Campaign.</span></span></span>Discussions on a proposed <a href="https://www.stopcorporateimpunity.org/binding-treaty-un-process/">Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations</a> have been underway at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva since 2014. Negotiations over a draft treaty text are now expected to begin later this year. </p><p dir="ltr">Organisations including FIDH see this proposed treaty and the negotiations process as an opportunity to clarify human rights obligations for states and companies, including where businesses may play a role in “<a href="https://business-humanrights.org/sites/default/files/documents/20180207_Article_%20Biz%20in%20CAAs%20for%20BHRRC_FINAL.pdf">exacerbating or driving</a>” conflicts. </p><p dir="ltr">At AWID, my colleague Inna Michaeli explains: "War and conflict are not just profitable for the widest range of industries, they can in fact be caused and driven by economic and corporate interests.” </p><p dir="ltr">Michaeli has been working with other activists to lend <a href="https://www.awid.org/news-and-analysis/gender-perspective-un-binding-treaty-transnational-corporations">a feminist perspective and raise awareness on the possibilities that a binding treaty offers women human rights defenders</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Industries from mining to construction to banking and telecommunications “can all profit from conflicts and thus maintain a political interest in their continuation,” she said. “Given the vast economic and political power corporations hold today, this really is about human lives." </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Given the vast economic and political power corporations hold today, this really is about human lives." </p><p dir="ltr">In the DRC, Shakalili is also thinking about local structures that could help to minimise harm on mining sites. “To facilitate the survival of women,” she said, “we are talking about cooperatives so that women, and the children that they support, are represented in terms of earning and ownership [in the sector].” </p><p dir="ltr">Shakalili is one of 48 women human rights defenders who spoke about extractive industries impacts on their communities, and women in particular, in a 2017<a href="https://www.awid.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/eng_weaving_resistance_through_action-web.pdf"> report</a> published by AWID and the <a href="http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org">Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition</a> (WHRDIC).</p><p dir="ltr">This <a href="https://www.awid.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/eng_weaving_resistance_through_action-web.pdf">report</a> highlights a chilling statistic from a UN special rapporteur: out of 156 killings of women human rights defenders in 2015, 45% were of environmental, land and indigenous rights activists. Mining was one of the most lethal sectors, along with hydroelectric projects, agribusiness, and logging activities.</p><p dir="ltr">Many of the women cited in this report also criticised extractive models of development, demanding sustainable alternatives that would respect ecosystems, minimise economic disparities, and enable communities to thrive.</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/magdalena-sep-lveda/gender-equality-tax-reform-multinational-companies">Gender equality cannot be achieved without tax reform for multinational companies</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/valerie-bah/video-feminist-activists-corporate-impunity-binding-treaty">Video: feminist activists speak out against corporate impunity</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democratic Republic of the Congo </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </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 Democratic Republic of the Congo Conflict Equality International politics Women's rights and corporate power Women and the Economy women's movements women's human rights gender 50.50 newsletter women's work Valerie Bah Thu, 22 Mar 2018 07:55:09 +0000 Valerie Bah 116721 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How an indigenous woman left her mark on a tumultuous presidential campaign in Mexico https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/laura-dowley/indigenous-women-presidential-campaign-mexico <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Marichuy didn’t gather the necessary number of signatures to run for president, but that hasn’t stopped a movement’s campaign for political representation.<strong><em> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/laura-dowley/marichuy-mujer-ind-gena-deja-huella-en-la-campa-presidencial-mexicana">Español</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/1024px-Mitin_de_Marichuy_en_CU.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Credit: EneasMx/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0] Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/1024px-Mitin_de_Marichuy_en_CU.jpg" alt="Credit: EneasMx/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0] Some rights reserved." title="Credit: EneasMx/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0] Some rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Marichuy's supporters gather at the National Autonomous of Mexico in November 2017. Credit: EneasMx/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0] Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>“Mexico has been kidnapped by those in power, and with your help we’re going to get her back!” said María de Jesús Patricio at a political rally on 11 February. Her supporters filled the plaza outside the Palacio de Bellas Artes – a historic cultural hub in the heart of Mexico City – to listen to the woman that they hope can bring about a radical change in Mexican society. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Marichuy, as Patricio is commonly known, is an indigenous Nahua healer from the state of Jalisco in western Mexico. She was <a href="https://www.congresonacionalindigena.org/">nominated by the National Indigenous Congress (CNI)</a>, a coalition of 58 indigenous groups, as their spokesperson to represent them in this year’s presidential campaigns. </p><p dir="ltr">Though she did not succeed in collecting the required number of signatures to stand in the elections, expected 1 July 2018, the CNI says they will not be deterred. “After the 2018 elections there will be many more and we are going to carry on fighting,” said councilwoman Yamili Chan Dzul, from Yucatán in southern Mexico, at the February rally. “We are going to keep moving forward. This [campaign] is a call for us to awaken our consciousness.” &nbsp; </p><p dir="ltr">Gathering the <a href="https://www.ine.mx/candidaturasindependientes/">866,593 signatures – 1% of the average number of registered voters in each state – that independent candidates need to enter the race for president</a> proved problematic for the CNI. </p><p dir="ltr">Throughout their campaign for Marichuy’s candidacy, <a href="http://www.proceso.com.mx/510256/la-discriminacion-del-ine-a-marichuy">the congress argued that the mechanism for collecting signatures heavily discriminates against indigenous communities</a>, which constitute the core of their support base.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Mexico has been kidnapped by those in power, and with your help we’re going to get her back!”</p><p dir="ltr">Signatures are provided via a National Electoral Institute app, but many living in indigenous communities do not own mobile phones, let alone devices which connect to the internet. In Mexico, internet users account for just <a href="https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/IT.NET.USER.ZS">60% of the population</a>, according to World Bank data.</p><p dir="ltr">Marichuy was the first ever indigenous woman who attempted to stand as a candidate for the presidency, backed by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). </p><p dir="ltr">This radical left-wing indigenous movement is famous for having led an uprising in southern Mexico that began on 1 January 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the US and Canada came into effect, arguing that this deal and economic neoliberalism <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/2014/1/3/zapatista_uprising_20_years_later_how">would have a negative impact on indigenous communities</a>. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">On stage in February, Marichuy was flanked by five indigenous councilwomen chosen by their communities to represent them in the CNI. This all-women line-up was remarkable in a country where sexism is widespread. </p><p dir="ltr">“I am glad they [the CNI] have chosen a woman,” Rosario, a small business owner from the State of Mexico, just outside of Mexico City, told me. “These [indigenous] communities know that women have an important position, and that they have the capacity to organise.” </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/María_de_Jesús_Patricio__Marichuy_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Credit: Mayitayita/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0]. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/María_de_Jesús_Patricio__Marichuy_.jpg" alt="Credit: Mayitayita/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0]. Some rights reserved." title="Credit: Mayitayita/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0]. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, more commonly known as Marichuy, in Puebla, Mexico, in November 2017. Credit: Mayitayita/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0]. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Defending women’s rights is a high priority for the CNI. “When a woman stands up to demand her rights, to demand respect, for them [the government] it’s a threat and they make her disappear,” said councilwoman Guadalupe Vásquez Luna from Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest state. “They murder us. They rape us. They make us disappear.”</p><p dir="ltr">There was a strong sense of indigenous pride at February’s rally, as each of the councilwomen, dressed in the brightly coloured traditional clothing of their own communities, began their speeches in their respective indigenous languages. </p><p dir="ltr">Unlike many other CNI rallies held across the country over the last few months, most of this metropolitan crowd were non-indigenous Spanish-speaking Mexicans. As a sign of respect, they applauded these opening lines even though they did not understand them. </p><p dir="ltr">According to <a href="https://www.gob.mx/cms/uploads/attachment/file/121653/Infografia_INDI_FINAL_08082016.pdf">government statistics</a>, 21.5% of Mexico’s population self-identify as indigenous. Many of these communities are deeply dissatisfied with the current political and economic system in the country, which they see as benefiting a minority elite. In response, the CNI is proposing a new, anti-capitalist regime. </p><p dir="ltr">The CNI accuses the private sector of theft. “The international companies are robbing us. They take our lands, our forests and our mines,” said councilwoman Reyna Cruz López at the rally. She is from Oaxaca, <a href="https://www.forbes.com.mx/los-10-estados-con-mas-pobres-en-mexico/">the state with the second-highest percentage of people living in poverty after Chiapas</a>.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">“The international companies are robbing us. They take our lands, our forests and our mines.”</p><p dir="ltr">A <a href="http://www.hchr.org.mx/images/doc_pub/G1710193.pdf">2017 report from the UN Working Group on human rights and transnational companies</a> confirms major human rights concerns in the context of large-scale mining, energy, construction, and tourism projects in Mexico. </p><p dir="ltr">This report included examples of cases where the Mexican government and companies failed to comply with their obligation to ensure the participation of indigenous communities in projects which affect them. It mentions, for example, an expropriation order presented to an indigenous community in the State of Mexico in 2012 to build a motorway across their ancestral lands without prior consultation of the community.</p><p dir="ltr">CNI’s non-indigenous supporters share a frustration with capitalism. “We don’t believe that capitalism can be reformed,” said Gilberto López y Rivas, a professor of anthropology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, who was also at the February rally. “We need a profound change!” &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The CNI often focuses on human rights abuses suffered by indigenous communities. “They take away our language. They take away our traditional clothing. They take away our lands,” said Vásquez, from Chiapas. “But I am fed up with being humiliated. I am fed up with letting them take what is mine.” &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">She talked about the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/23/world/americas/23acteal.html">1997 Acteal Massacre</a>, in which she lost nine family members. She was 10 years old when paramilitaries stormed her local church, murdering 45 indigenous tzotziles members of a pacifist political group. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Councilwoman Magdalena García Durán also spoke from personal experience. In 2006, she was one of <a href="http://www.cndh.org.mx/sites/all/doc/Recomendaciones/2006/Rec_2006_038.pdf">207 people who were arrested</a> in the town of San Salvador Atenco, about an hour northeast of Mexico City, during a protest against the expropriation of indigenous lands. </p><p dir="ltr">“They beat us, they imprisoned us and they fabricated charges,” she told the crowd at the rally. <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/press-releases/2007/11/mexico-release-magdalena-garcc3ad-duran-glimmer-hope-all-atenco-detainees-2/">García was released after 18 months</a>, following a federal court’s finding that there was no evidence to justify her detention. </p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="https://www.oas.org/es/cidh/decisiones/corte/2016/12846fondoes.pdf">Inter-American Commission of Human Rights</a> later found, in relation to the San Salvador Atenco case, that the Mexican government was responsible for illegal and arbitrary detentions, a failure to ensure judicial guarantees, torture and numerous rapes. </p><p dir="ltr">The CNI proposes a more participatory form of government which works not just for indigenous communities but for all Mexicans. “We long for and believe that there are different ways of constructing power from below. A collective power in which everyone can participate,” said Marichuy, to applause in February.</p><p dir="ltr">Aida works on cultural projects with indigenous communities in Mexico City. “I like the fact that they don’t want power just so that they can sit on the throne. They want the people to organise,” she told me.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="ltr">“I like the fact that they don’t want power just so that they can sit on the throne. They want the people to organise.”</p><p dir="ltr">Most indigenous communities live in rural areas, but the councilwomen appeared keen to claim their relevance for urban audiences by insisting on a fundamental link between the city and countryside. “If the indigenous villages don’t plant beans and corn, the city will die of hunger,” insisted Francisca Álvarez Ortiz from the State of Mexico. </p><p dir="ltr">Víctor, a philosophy student from Mexico City, agreed. “The indigenous communities are the ones feeding us,” he told me. </p><p dir="ltr">But Álvarez’s claim hides an uncomfortable truth. In <a href="http://www.elnorte.com/aplicacioneslibre/articulo/default.aspx?id=1141750&amp;md5=879ab72eda7a6e34655f62ec7c8516b5&amp;ta=0dfdbac11765226904c16cb9ad1b2efe">2016, 65% of Mexico’s corn consumption came from imports, mainly from the US</a>, and <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0185084917300324">the corn production market in Mexico is dominated by two large companies – Gruma and Minsa</a>. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">As the Zapatistas predicted, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/11/24/what-weve-learned-from-nafta/under-nafta-mexico-suffered-and-the-united-states-felt-its-pain">small-scale Mexican farmers have suffered as a result of NAFTA.</a> <a href="https://ase.tufts.edu/gdae/Pubs/rp/wg/NadalyWise.pdf">They have been unable to compete with subsidised US corn producers on prices, and in the 10 years after the agreement was signed, US corn exports to Mexico increased by 323%. </a></p><p dir="ltr">Corruption is another hot topic for the CNI. <a href="https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2017#table">Transparency International’s 2017 annual corruptions perception index</a> of 180 countries ranks Mexico as the 45th most corrupt country, with an equal score to Laos, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay and Russia. </p><p dir="ltr">“We believe that in order to change the world we cannot be corrupt like the rest of them, like the politicians who pretend to represent us,” said Juan Villoro, a well-known writer and journalist who spoke at the February rally alongside the councilwomen. </p><p dir="ltr">Whilst the councilwomen successfully articulated grievances of indigenous communities, the CNI did not release detailed policy proposals, and their campaign has not been without setbacks.</p><p dir="ltr">Although Marichuy is now out of the race for president, her campaign has inspired her supporters. “There is a message beyond the signatures,” Aida told me, “even if she is not on the ballot paper, we, the people, are going to continue to organise.”</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="/democraciaabierta/massimo-modonesi/mexico-before-election-storm"> Upcoming elections in Mexico: a progressive wind of change is coming</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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"> 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 Mexico Democracy and government Equality International politics women's movements women and power gender Laura Dowley Tue, 20 Mar 2018 11:58:08 +0000 Laura Dowley 116670 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Video: feminist activists speak out against corporate impunity https://www.opendemocracy.net/valerie-bah/video-feminist-activists-corporate-impunity-binding-treaty <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Human rights abuses. Plundered resources. #Feminists4BindingTreaty explain why corporations must be held accountable for their impacts around the world.</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 2018-03-15 at 19.31.41.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="&quot;Corporate abuse disproportionately impacts women&quot; still from video."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 19.31.41.png" alt=""Corporate abuse disproportionately impacts women" still from video." title="&quot;Corporate abuse disproportionately impacts women&quot; still from video." width="460" height="250" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"Corporate abuse disproportionately impacts women" still from video.</span></span></span>“There’s more money now in the world than ever before in history. We have that wealth, it’s about redistributing it,” says Sanam Amin from the <a href="http://apwld.org">Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">Amin is one of several feminist activists who are speaking up about the impacts of corporate power abuses on women, and <a href="https://www.awid.org/news-and-analysis/gender-perspective-un-binding-treaty-transnational-corporations">mobilising behind a proposed binding treaty</a> to hold multinational corporations accountable for their activities’ impacts around the world.</p><p> <iframe width="460" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4X-ab46CpyQ" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media"></iframe>In this video we also hear from Taina Hedman from the <a href="https://www.iitc.org">International Indian Treaty Council</a> organisation of indigenous peoples; Eugenia Lopez Uribe from the Latin American regional NGO <a href="https://www.projectpoder.org/es/">Project on Organising, Development, Education, and Research (PODER)</a>; and Hakima Abbas and Felogene Anumo from the <a href="https://www.awid.org">Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">A <a href="https://www.awid.org/news-and-analysis/gender-perspective-un-binding-treaty-transnational-corporations">Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations</a> has been the subject of discussions at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva since 2014. Negotiations on a draft treaty text are expected later this year.</p> <p dir="ltr">For too long we’ve been left with few options other than to rely on the ‘good will’ of giant companies, and have seen lands and waters destroyed, and resources plundered from local communities offered very little in return. Follow <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Feminists4BindingTreaty&amp;src=typd">#Feminists4BindingTreaty</a> for updates on the campaign.</p><p dir="ltr"><a style="text-decoration-line: underline; font-size: 18px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 30px; font-family: &quot;Helvetica Neue&quot;, Arial, &quot;Liberation Sans&quot;, FreeSans, sans-serif;" href="https://opendemocracy.net/claire-provost/apply-for-5050-womens-rights-corporate-power-reporting-fellowship">Apply for a 50.50 women’s rights and corporate power reporting fellowship</a></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-aicha-hanna-agrane/migrant-farmworkers-protest-sexual-violence">Migrant farmworkers protest in New York City against sexual violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/claire-provost/apply-for-5050-womens-rights-corporate-power-reporting-fellowship">Apply for a 50.50 women’s rights and corporate power reporting fellowship</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"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Economics International politics Video Women and the Economy women's movements women's human rights women and power gendered poverty gender feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Valerie Bah Fri, 16 Mar 2018 08:20:20 +0000 Valerie Bah 116674 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Migrant farmworkers protest in New York City against sexual violence https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost-aicha-hanna-agrane/migrant-farmworkers-protest-sexual-violence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Protesters march on Thursday to demand fast food giant Wendy’s sign up to scheme to tackle exploitation and improve wages in supply chains.</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/NoffarGat5.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Farmworkers fast in New York City. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/NoffarGat5.jpg" alt="Farmworkers fast in New York City. " title="Farmworkers fast in New York City. " width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Farmworkers fast in New York City. Photo: Noffar Gat/www.noffargat.com. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>“If you are a person with a lot of power, benefiting from conditions where there's sexual violence, sexual harassment, and you are not using that power to change that, then you are complicit in that violence,” said Julia de la Cruz, a migrant farmworker who travelled to New York City last week to join a protest against sexual violence in the agriculture industry.</p><p dir="ltr">“Enough! No more violence! No more sexual harassment, sexual violence in the fields. We demand respect, we demand dignity, we demand justice. We do not want charity,” de la Cruz told more than 200 people who gathered at a rally on Sunday in midtown Manhattan.</p><p dir="ltr">De la Cruz was one of several farmworkers and members of the<a href="https://ciw-online.org/"> Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)</a> who spoke at the event, which launched a five-day “freedom fast.” She said: “We're here with our bodies and without food in our bodies, without nourishing our bodies. It's a public act to let people know and make them aware [of these issues].”</p><p dir="ltr">Another woman, Antonia, added: “I’m here as a mother with two daughters and I’m fasting... [but] this sacrifice is nothing compared to that of some of our compañeras who are still in fields where they still haven’t broken the silence, where they’re still being mistreated.”</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/NoffarGat.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Farmworkers fast in New York City. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/NoffarGat.jpg" alt="Farmworkers fast in New York City. " title="Farmworkers fast in New York City. " width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Farmworkers fast in New York City. Photo: Noffar Gat/www.noffargat.com. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>On Thursday evening (15 March), the farmworkers will end their fast with a “Times Up Wendy’s” march, which thousands of people are expected to attend. They are calling specifically for Wendy’s to join the CIW’s<a href="http://www.fairfoodprogram.org"> Fair Food Program</a> (FFP) which they say has significantly tackled exploitation in other restaurant and retail supply chains.</p><p dir="ltr">Launched in 2011, the FFP has been described by the Harvard Business Review as an “<a href="https://hbr.org/2017/09/audacious-philanthropy">audacious social change initiative</a>” that “defied the odds and achieved life-changing results.”</p><p dir="ltr">Under the program, purchasers support wage increases for farmworkers by paying an additional penny ($0.01) per pound of produce and by buying only from growers that meet a code of conduct including a zero-tolerance policy for slavery and harassment. Companies currently involved in the FFP include McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, and Taco Bell.</p><p dir="ltr">At Sunday's rally, women farmworkers described how conditions have changed in Florida's tomato fields under the FFP. Antonia said that when she arrived in the US state in the early 2000s, "there were no protections, no restrooms, you had to go in the fields," while they also faced expensive rents, low wages, and sometimes struggled to buy enough food to eat themselves.</p><p dir="ltr">The CIW also challenges Wendy’s decision to stop buying tomatoes from suppliers in Florida, shifting purchases to Mexico. In&nbsp;<a href="http://www.boycott-wendys.org/why-we-fast/">statement</a>&nbsp;released prior to this week's fast, farmworkers said: “sexual harassment in [Mexico’s] fields is endemic and farmworker women are intimidated into silence by a culture of fear, violence, and corruption.”</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/NoffarGat17.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Farmworkers protest in New York City."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/NoffarGat17.jpg" alt="Farmworkers protest in New York City. " title="Farmworkers protest in New York City." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Farmworkers protest in New York City. Photo: Noffar Gat/www.noffargat.com. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Wendy’s, which recently<a href="http://ir.wendys.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=67548&amp;p=irol-newsArticle&amp;ID=2333789"> reported</a> 2017 revenues of more than $1.2 billion, and profits of almost $215 million, has hundreds of restaurants that it operates directly along with thousands of franchise outlets around the world.</p><p dir="ltr">In a strongly-worded statement sent to openDemocracy, the company accused the CIW of “spreading false and misleading information about the Wendy’s brand and our business practices in their continuing effort to extract a financial commitment from us."</p><p dir="ltr">“The idea that joining their program, and purchasing Florida tomatoes, is the only way to operate ethically is simply not true,” the company added, describing its products as ethically-sourced from suppliers under a “strict code of conduct… [and] third-party certified human rights assessments.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Other companies listed as Fair Food Program participants also purchase tomatoes outside of the United States but have not been subject to the type of criticism aimed at Wendy’s. This is hypocrisy and it exhibits a lack of transparency to which Wendy’s and its customers are entitled," it said.</p><p dir="ltr">In response, Reverend Noelle Damico of the <a href="http://allianceforfairfood.org">Alliance for Fair Food</a> said it's “offensive” and incorrect of the company to "imply CIW is trying to extort Wendy's." The CIW does not receive money from FFP participants, and the penny-per-pound premium paid by buyers "goes straight to the growers who pass it on to their workers as a bonus in their paycheck,” she said.</p><p dir="ltr">Wendy’s, Damico added, “is the only major fast-food company that no longer buys tomatoes from Florida at all, but rather shifted its purchases to Mexico.”</p><p dir="ltr">These purchases, she continued, are "hardly transparent&nbsp;<span>– f</span>rom which growers is Wendy's purchasing, what exactly are the monitoring processes by which Wendy's assesses the conditions in the fields, and, importantly, what are the consequences for growers who fail to uphold Wendy's standard?"</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/NoffarGat2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Reverend Noelle Damico in New York City."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/NoffarGat2.jpg" alt="Reverend Noelle Damico in New York City." title="Reverend Noelle Damico in New York City." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Reverend Noelle Damico in New York City. Photo: Noffar Gat/www.noffargat.com. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The farmworkers’ protest this week comes as state and civil society representatives have gathered in New York City for the annual<a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw"> Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)</a> talks at UN headquarters, which this year are focused on rural women.</p><p dir="ltr">"Companies in recent years use gender equality and gay-friendly branding to promote themselves and capitalise on our rights. But actions speak louder than words,” said Inna Michaeli at the<a href="https://www.awid.org"> Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)</a>, one of many women’s rights groups present at the talks.</p><p dir="ltr">"Wendy's move to Mexico illustrates how impunity is tied to transnational operations. It allows corporations to escape responsibility even more,” Michaeli added, describing risks to women in supply chains including “sexual violence, discriminatory wages and dangerous health hazards.”</p><p dir="ltr">She argued that new international laws are needed to regulate transnational corporations’ human rights impacts, pointing to ongoing discussions over a proposed binding treaty on this issue that have been underway at the UN human rights council in Geneva since 2014.</p><p dir="ltr">Negotiations over a draft binding treaty text are now expected to begin later this year. It’s time, Michaeli said, that the “international human rights system catches up with the reality of corporate power and impunity.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/magdalena-sep-lveda/gender-equality-tax-reform-multinational-companies">Gender equality cannot be achieved without tax reform for multinational companies</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/claire-provost/apply-for-5050-womens-rights-corporate-power-reporting-fellowship">Apply for a 50.50 women’s rights and corporate power reporting fellowship</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"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Economics International politics Women's rights and corporate power Women and the Economy violence against women Sexual violence gender 50.50 newsletter women's work Aicha-Hanna Agrane Claire Provost Thu, 15 Mar 2018 12:10:17 +0000 Claire Provost and Aicha-Hanna Agrane 116644 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Gender equality cannot be achieved without tax reform for multinational companies https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/magdalena-sep-lveda/gender-equality-tax-reform-multinational-companies <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We can't achieve gender equality, or ensure women’s rights, without progressive tax policies.</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/563303/8117210184_e3ca8b5303_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Photo: Hernán Piñera/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0). Some rights reserved. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/8117210184_e3ca8b5303_k.jpg" alt="Photo: Hernán Piñera/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0). Some rights reserved. " title="Photo: Hernán Piñera/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0). Some rights reserved. " width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Domestic and care work responsibilities fall disproportionately on women. Photo: Hernán Piñera/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0). Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>Women’s organisations in developing countries can be proud of themselves. Thanks to their struggles, <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2015/poww-2015-factsheet-global-en.pdf?la=en&amp;vs=1345">more states have adopted laws</a> to promote gender equality at work. Overall,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/economic-empowerment/facts-and-figures#notes">women have greater access to their own incomes, more of us are working,</a> and the <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2015/poww-2015-factsheet-global-en.pdf?la=en&amp;vs=1345">gender gap in the quality of employment</a> is narrowing slightly. </p><p dir="ltr">Nevertheless, <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2015/poww-2015-factsheet-global-en.pdf?la=en&amp;vs=1345">pay gaps still exist </a>between women and men doing the same work. <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2015/poww-2015-factsheet-global-en.pdf?la=en&amp;vs=1345">Women are disproportionately represented</a> in informal jobs and jobs without decent working conditions including living wages, maternity leave, or pensions. In Africa and Asia, UN Women found that <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/csw61/women-in-informal-economy#notes">75% of women’s work is currently in the informal sector</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Women continue to carry disproportionate housework and unpaid care responsibilities. Looking after dependent family members, cleaning and cooking are still ‘women’s affairs’ in many places, limiting opportunities for education, training and paid work, making true economic empowerment impossible.</p><p dir="ltr">Today, there is renewed commitment to <a href="http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/gender-equality/">gender equality</a> and human rights at the international level, including through the UN’s 2013 sustainable development agenda. But this clashes with local political realities in many places, with governments implementing harsh austerity policies with devastating consequences for unprotected populations.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">'Governments are implementing harsh austerity policies with devastating consequences for unprotected populations.'</p><p dir="ltr">At the same time, the general public is increasingly aware that many multinational companies only pay a portion of the taxes they owe (as revealed yet again by the <a href="https://www.icij.org/investigations/paradise-papers/">Paradise Papers</a> scandal), leaving governments with fewer public resources. </p><p dir="ltr">What seems to have most surprised citizens is that many corporate tax abuses are legal. Companies can legally declare profits not where they are made, but in other countries with lower – even zero – tax rates. This perpetuates tax competition, pressuring countries into levying increasingly lower taxes.</p><p dir="ltr">Less well-known is how this system limits progress on women’s rights and gender equality – which cannot be achieved without tax reform for multinational companies.</p><p dir="ltr">Tax policies impact women and men differently, due to their different and unequal positions as workers, carers, consumers, and owners of assets. These policies may thus promote, or impede, gender equality progress.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">'Tax policies may promote, or impede, gender equality progress.'</p><p dir="ltr">When&nbsp;multinationals do not pay the taxes that they owe, states have fewer resources to invest in public services such as education, healthcare, childcare, justice systems and public drinking water and sanitation systems. </p><p dir="ltr">This can exacerbate gender equality due to women’s disproportionate participation in precarious or low-paid jobs. When social services are cut, <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2015/poww-2015-factsheet-global-en.pdf?la=en&amp;vs=1345">women tend to take on more unpaid care work</a>. Closing a school may force a woman to quit her job to care for her children.</p><p dir="ltr">Furthermore, when governments see their abilities to raise revenues diminished – due to multinationals not paying their full, far share of tax – <a href="https://opendocs.ids.ac.uk/opendocs/bitstream/handle/123456789/7996/PB109_AGID320_UnpaidCare_Online.pdf;jsessionid=BB940E6206489C70A42EB262F5EB2A15?sequence=1">they tend to compensate for this loss by increasing the tax burden on small and medium-sized business or on citizens and families</a> (generally by increasing sales taxes, for example value-added tax – VAT). </p><p dir="ltr">Such measures also have a gender dimension, as <a href="http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/---publ/documents/publication/wcms_457317.pdf">women are overrepresented in small and medium-sized business</a>&nbsp;and at the lowest wage levels. The more regressive the tax system, the more the burden of sustaining public policies will fall on the shoulders of women.</p><p dir="ltr">Whenever governments make or reiterate commitments to gender equality and women’s rights, we must remind them that we cannot achieve these goals without progressive tax policies.</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="/claire-provost/apply-for-5050-womens-rights-corporate-power-reporting-fellowship">Apply for a 50.50 women’s rights and corporate power reporting fellowship</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"> Economics </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 Economics Equality Ideas Women's rights and corporate power gendered poverty gender justice gender 50.50 newsletter women's work Magdalena Sepúlveda Wed, 14 Mar 2018 04:01:51 +0000 Magdalena Sepúlveda 116566 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Will reactionary delegations torpedo UN talks on rural women? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/anne-marie-goetz/will-reactionary-delegations-torpedo-un-talks-rural-women-csw <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span><span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial; font-variant-numeric: normal; font-variant-east-asian: normal; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">At the Commission on the Status of Women, commitments to rural women’s empowerment are under threat. Can new, progressive alliances block advances by reactionary delegations?</span></span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/6936809843_59a8b7b4ee_b.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Delegates fill the general assembly hall during the opening of the CSW in 2012."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/6936809843_59a8b7b4ee_b.jpg" alt="Delegates fill the general assembly hall during the opening of the CSW in 2012." title="Delegates fill the general assembly hall during the opening of the CSW in 2012." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Delegates fill the general assembly hall during the opening of the CSW in 2012. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The last time that the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) talks focused on rural women was in 2012, when discussions between member states collapsed amid opposition from some delegations to sexual and reproductive health and rights language. </p><p>Since then, CSW <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/outcomes">agreed conclusions</a> have come at the expense of commitments to sexual rights, and comprehensive sexuality education. Negotiations have become more tortured, and ‘outcome documents’ increasingly banal. </p><p>So what can we expect from this year’s event – where a number of countries, including the United States, are sending reactionary delegations?</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">'What can we expect from this year’s event – where a number of countries, including the United States, are sending reactionary delegations?'</span></p><p dir="ltr">The CSW is the UN’s largest annual gathering on gender equality and women’s rights. For states, civil society groups and other international organisations, it is a key international forum to agree priority concerns and commit to take actions. But negotiations also reflect shifts in global perspectives on the feasibility and methods for promoting gender equality.</p><p dir="ltr">This year, the CSW’s conclusions look set to suffer from the vacuum left by the US as it abandons aspects of its support for women’s rights. This vacuum has emboldened other governments who are hostile to the expansion of women’s rights, and who find themselves in unconventional coalitions with countries with whom they share little apart from anxieties about the rapidly changing social roles of women and families.</p><p dir="ltr">The US has never – even under the Obama administration – been able to support full reproductive rights and autonomy for women because of its own polarised domestic politics on abortion. This year, however, it appears to be making procreation the main focus of reproductive health, with an emphasis on ‘maternal health’ that sidelines the need to address women’s massive unmet demand for contraception around the world.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">'...an emphasis on ‘maternal health’ that sidelines the need to address women’s massive unmet demand for contraception around the world.'</p><p dir="ltr">That contraception is coming under attack is confirmed by the inclusion of pro-abstinence advocates on this year’s US delegation, such as <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/abstinence-hhs-family-planning-planned-parenthood-834646">Valerie Huber</a> of the Department of Health and Human Services. She heads an office that funds family planning support for 4 million poor Americans, but this month it released annual funding guidelines with <a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2018/03/06/abstinence-advocate-family-planning-dollars-389453">not a mention of women’s access to contraceptives</a>.&nbsp; </p><p dir="ltr">Some countries have pre-agreed regional positions to strengthen progressive stances at the CSW. Most notably, ministers of women’s affairs from 29 Latin American and Caribbean countries met last month in the Dominican Republic and issued a declaration on rural women’s empowerment that references families ‘in all their diversity,’ a phrase understood to include those with same-sex partners. This may help to neutralise extremists including the Guyana representation of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) group, which has in the past reflected Russia’s positions at the talks.</p><p dir="ltr">Luckily, the predominantly conservative Africa regional group (represented by Egypt, Comoros, and Cameroon) and the Arab group (represented by highly conservative Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain) have good starting positions on reproductive health including commitments to contraceptive access. Shared convictions from these regional groupings may help isolate the reactionary positions of delegations from the US, Iran, Nicaragua and the Vatican.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">'The US is perhaps the only country that holds a relatively progressive position on sexual rights at the CSW, while at the same time being hostile to women’s reproductive rights.'</span></p><p dir="ltr">The US is perhaps the only country holding a relatively progressive position on sexual rights at the CSW, while at the same time being hostile to women’s reproductive rights. Observers attribute this to Ambassador Nikki Haley’s defense of LGBTQI rights at the UN security council, with regard to ISIS persecution of sexual minorities.</p><p dir="ltr">Nevertheless, the US will face serious internal tensions this year on matters of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). One of its CSW delegates, Bethany Kozma, has been described as a ‘<a href="https://www.glaad.org/blog/president-trump-adds-violently-anti-transgender-activist-bethany-kozma-office-gender-equality">violently anti-transgender activist’</a>. Furthermore, the US no longer supports comprehensive sexuality education. Its current position on this long-contentious issue is aligned with that of Russia, stressing that parents should be the key filters and mediators of any education adolescents receive about sexuality.</p><p dir="ltr">Another dynamic to watch at this year’s CSW is the use of ‘national sovereignty’ arguments by some states to block advances on women’s empowerment. The Africa and Arab regional groups both support heavy-handed language to this effect. The US also joined this camp, stating at the end of 2017 that CSW conclusions ‘<a href="http://statements.unmeetings.org/media2/14683228/usa.pdf">do not necessarily change or reflect the United States’ obligations’</a> – in keeping with the current administration’s intensifying isolationism.</p><p dir="ltr">The US has also signaled that the CSW talks are not the appropriate forum to talk about markets, technology, migration or trade. It would prefer no mention of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Other countries including Hungary, have insisted that migration cannot be considered a positive phenomenon. Suggestions that these are not core matters for rural women threaten to diminish the scope and ambition of economic empowerment proposals.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">'There is no question that the CSW is more deeply polarised than ever before.'</span></p><p dir="ltr">Not all CSW delegations have been suddenly swamped with conservatives. The Marshall Islands has come out with a powerful position supporting SOGI and reproductive rights. Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Argentina continue to be powerful rights champions. From Africa and Asia, however, there have been fewer progressive stand-outs. Activists are eager to see whether representatives from the Philippines will stick to previously principled positions.</p><p dir="ltr">There is no question that the CSW is more deeply polarised than ever before. The global gender equality struggle desperately needs more champions from the global south, and repeating the 2012 failure to agree conclusions at the UN talks would do nothing to help rural women.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2016/10/14/promoting-land-rights-to-empower-rural-women-and-end-poverty">Three quarters of the world’s poor</a> live in rural areas. Despite their disproportionate role in small-scale farming and food security, women own very little of the world’s agricultural land and are <a href="http://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/special-edition-women-2012/women-struggle-secure-land-rights">vulnerable to displacement</a> due to divorce or widowhood. Even in wealthy countries, rural women are <a href="https://globalnews.ca/news/2520345/rural-small-town-women-nearly-twice-as-likely-to-be-assaulted-by-their-partners-statcan/">twice as likely</a> to be assaulted by their partners as urban women, and are much more likely to suffer <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/2017/08/167721/rural-america-maternity-deserts">pregnancy-related health complications</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">A CSW outcome that galvanises investments in rural women’s property rights, livelihood security, and access to public services would be welcome. But agreeing such an outcome at the expense of previously secure rights would not be a successful conclusion. If feminists want to avoid this result, now is the time to step up lobbying their national delegations as they arrive in New York.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/tracking-the-backlash">Tracking the backlash: why we&#039;re investigating the &#039;anti-rights&#039; opposition</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Equality International politics Tracking the backlash women's movements women's human rights women and power fundamentalisms feminism 50.50 newsletter Anne Marie Goetz Tue, 13 Mar 2018 05:13:58 +0000 Anne Marie Goetz 116633 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Illustration: imagining a feminist future together https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/diana-carolina-rivadossi/illustration-imagining-feminist-future-together <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A feminist future must be imagined before it can be created – and here art and illustration can play a powerful role.</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/DCRill.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Illustration: Diana Carolina Rivadossi. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/DCRill.jpg" alt="Illustration: Diana Carolina Rivadossi." title="Illustration: Diana Carolina Rivadossi. " width="460" height="334" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Illustration: Diana Carolina Rivadossi. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>I still remember the illustrations that captivated me as a child; they are part of me, and they are part of my imagination. They inspired me, and maybe I even draw and paint today because of them. I often feel that I breathe and I exist because I paint.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, what strikes me during exhibitions is that people often find something beyond what I had intended to communicate in my artwork. A small detail, such as the expression on a character’s face, can spark a memory, inspire a feeling, or open an imagination. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"A small detail, such as the expression on a character’s face, can spark a memory, inspire a feeling, or open an imagination." </p><p dir="ltr">Art can support us, send us messages, or give us hope. What you see and remember in an image can stay with you, impact you, and affect the decisions you take in your life. This is the potential power of illustration for a feminist future, too – which must be imagined before it can be created. </p><p dir="ltr">In this piece, women are gathered around a crystal ball. They are from different cultures and backgrounds. But they are physically and emotionally close to each other, united and focused on their task of imagining a better 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 2018-03-03 at 15.37.17.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Detail; Diana Carolina Rivadossi."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-03-03 at 15.37.17.png" alt="Detail; Diana Carolina Rivadossi." title="Detail; Diana Carolina Rivadossi." width="460" height="209" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Detail; Diana Carolina Rivadossi. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>I also wanted to subvert the ancient and malicious trope of women being witches and enchantresses. Individually, the women in this illustration, as in our world, may be strong or weak – but together they can be stronger. This is magical, and a truth that we must remember.</p><p dir="ltr">In ancient Greece, people travelled from far away looking for their futures in the prophecies and visions of the Pythia oracles. During the middle ages, women who used herbs and created potions to help people were persecuted and murdered. </p><p dir="ltr">Throughout history, women have held power that has been accepted (or not); heard (or not); cast as good (or evil), but felt and lived nonetheless. These women are our past, present and future.</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 2018-03-03 at 15.38.19_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Detail; Diana Carolina Rivadossi."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-03-03 at 15.38.19_0.png" alt="Detail; Diana Carolina Rivadossi." title="Detail; Diana Carolina Rivadossi." width="460" height="173" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Detail; Diana Carolina Rivadossi. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The history of art is also male-dominated. The illustrations that captivated me as a child were in books like the Jungle Book, or those of Jules Verne. What about women illustrators? </p><p dir="ltr">At art schools, we learn about few women artists. One exception is the famous Italian baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi, who was persecuted and even put on trial for having been sexually assaulted. It is difficult to be a woman in Italy today, but it was even harder before. </p><p dir="ltr">There are more well-known women artists now, but it is an ongoing challenge to be accepted and heard. Despite this, we continue to express ourselves, our visions, our intimacy, and our perceptions of the world through art. And sometimes, what we create inspires others. </p><p dir="ltr">I think illustration can be particularly impactful for young people. But I want to inspire others not because I am a painter or because I am a woman. I want to speak to the hearts of all human beings, with my own heart, as another human being. This is my feminist future. </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> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Feminist futures, feminist realities feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Diana Carolina Rivadossi Sat, 10 Mar 2018 07:55:52 +0000 Diana Carolina Rivadossi 116247 at https://www.opendemocracy.net