50.50 https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/5971/0 en Femicide in Mexico and Guatemala https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mabel-encinas/femicide-in-mexico-and-guatemala <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Feminists in Mexico and Guatemala working on femicide also use the concept of ‘feminicide’ to draw attention to state complicity in the killings of women. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/La Catrina Indignada FINAL.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/La Catrina Indignada FINAL.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>La Catrina Indignada (Incensed Catrina) by Mabel Encinas. Catrina collage of the women dead by feminicide.</span></span></span></p><p>The word ‘feminicide’ was popularised over twenty years ago to denounce the killing of women due to their gender. The crime is called ‘<a href="https://www.dukeupress.edu/terrorizing-women" target="_blank">feminicide</a>’ (‘<em>feminicidio</em>’) in Mexico and ‘<a href="http://www.dianarussell.com/origin_of_femicide.html" target="_blank">femicide</a>’ (‘<em>femicidio</em>’) in Guatemala. Although there have been some&nbsp;<a href="https://dlynx.rhodes.edu/jspui/bitstream/10267/27456/1/The%20World%27s%20Most%20Dangerous%20Place%20to%20be%20a%20Woman%20Final.pdf" target="_blank">attempts to differentiate the two concepts</a>, both terms&nbsp;emerge as a form of resistance: to assert that women’s lives matter, and such crimes should not go unpunished. Impunity contributes to the <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&amp;lr=&amp;id=Pjhq3eGcO4EC&amp;oi=fnd&amp;pg=PA5&amp;dq=femicide+in+ciudad+juarez+unsafe+streets+empty+lots+&amp;ots=K_a_fN_VFf&amp;sig=n5OYE3RCbsvdPV5UHe-x9kMsZvo#v=onepage&amp;q=unsafe%20streets&amp;f=false" target="_blank">normalisation of the feminicide machine</a>. This ‘machine’ is supported by gender inequality as the <a href="http://www.corteidh.or.cr/tablas/r26767.pdf">Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights</a> have suggested.</p> <p>Feminicide is part of a wider issue within cultures of gender inequality; men’s violence against women and girls -&nbsp; violence which attacks&nbsp;<a href="http://equidadgenero9.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/isabel-claudia-martinez-alvarez.html" target="_blank">their dignity, their integrity and their lives</a>&nbsp;and is part of gender orders which accord little value to the lives of women. &nbsp;In Mexico and Central America <a href="http://observatoriofeminicidiomexico.org.mx/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Iniciativa-Feminicidios-Federal1.pdf">murder is often preceded by beating, mutilations, burns, other forms of torture and by sexual violence</a>. Feminicide is an intentional crime, but too often impunity rules, especially when it is women living in poverty, and in the case of Mexico and Guatemala, indigenous women.</p> <p>In both countries, feminists challenge the indifference and<a href="http://www.corteidh.or.cr/tablas/r26767.pdf" target="_blank"> negligence</a>&nbsp;of justice systems, connecting this to institutionalised gender inequality, victim blame, and terror inducing sensationalism. It is this complicity which leads activists to argue that feminicide should be considered a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.corteidh.or.cr/tablas/r26767.pdf" target="_blank">state crime</a>. </p> <h3><strong>Mexico</strong></h3> <p>In 1993, a pattern of woman killing became evident in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, in Chihuahua, Mexico. The first woman in the list of victims was actually a girl, <a href="https://hipertextual.com/2016/10/feminicidios-en-mexico">Alma Chavira Farel</a>. That year, the first coalition of organisations, mothers, feminists and academics <a href="http://www.sdmujer.gov.co/inicio/782-campo-algodonero-historica-sentencia-en-los-casos-de-feminicidio">denounced the systematic violence against women in Ciudad Juárez</a>.&nbsp; A number of civil society organisations have emerged since (<em>Casa Amiga</em>, <em>Nuestras Hijas de Regreso</em>, <em>Justicia para nuestras hijas</em>, <em>Red Mesa de Mujeres de Ciudad Juárez</em>, and <em>Ni una más</em>). &nbsp;Most of the dead women of Juarez have been adolescents and young adults, many of them workers in maquila factories.</p> <p>Maquila companies process raw materials from other countries, mainly the US, with products exported back to be branded and commercialised. Multinational companies benefit from the use of cheap labour, usually employing women from small towns and rural areas, who are presumed to be<a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&amp;lr=&amp;id=7Kj-6T54PrcC&amp;oi=fnd&amp;pg=PP1&amp;dq=write+Disposable+Women+and+Other+Myths+of+Global+Capitalism&amp;ots=IlnXQjlX8c&amp;sig=lPL_QTS83YNCRfdC1WPF5Yt8Amc#v=onepage&amp;q=write%20Disposable%20Women%20and%20Other%20Myths%20of%20Globa"> more docile than men</a>. The turnover is extremely high: women workers are squeezed to the last drop and then replaced by others. Their welfare is of little concern and their human rights are violated as a matter of course. Apart from&nbsp;<a href="http://www.alternet.org/labor/after-20-years-nafta-thanks-nafta-what-happened-mexican-factory-workers-rosa-moreno" target="_blank">the working conditions</a>, factories are situated in deserted areas. It is this harsh reality, combined with a location on the border with the presence of <a href="http://www.cpcjalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Necropolitics-Narcopolitics-and-Femicide-Gendered-Violence-on-the-Mexico-US-Border.pdf">organised crime, drug trafficking and the presence of the army</a>, that creates a conducive context for the increase of feminicide.</p> <p><a href="http://juarez-the-city-where-women-are-disposable.deserial.com/ver-pelicula/dHQxMTU4NzIz/" target="_blank">In the wake of the <em>Dead Women of Juarez</em></a>, feminist groups highlighted the fact that feminicides happened <a href="https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/bitstream/handle/1887/40998/Hietbrink%2c%20Eline-s1376705-BA%20Thesis%20POWE-2016.pdf?sequence=1">in many other regions</a>. The first data came from the most populated state (county), the state of Mexico, which surrounds Mexico City, where 840 women were killed between 2011 and 2013. It is unclear how these crimes are classified. and <a href="http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/entrada-de-opinion/articulo/arnoldo-kraus/nacion/2016/03/13/feminicidio-en-mexico">only 145 were investigated</a> as feminicides. Additionally, 1,500 women have disappeared between 2005 and 2013, mainly adolescents between 15 and 17 years old. The pattern both in Ciudad Juarez and the state of Mexico is similar where <a href="http://www.fronterad.com/?q=bitacoras/javiermolina/entrevista-a-sergio-gonzalez-rodriguez-%E2%80%9Clo-perverso-y-barbarie-se-han-incrustado-en-mexico%E2%80%9D">organised crime, economic power and corruption coincide</a>. </p> <p>Between 2011 and 2014, the rate of feminicides increased five times, and between 2013 and 2015 <a href="http://www.economiahoy.mx/nacional-eAm-mx/noticias/7406635/03/16/Siete-mujeres-mueren-al-dia-en-Mexico-victimas-de-la-violencia.html" target="_blank">6488 women were killed</a>. In 2016, 3,000 women were been killed between January and mid-October, of which 1,185 have been identified as feminicides. &nbsp;In Mexico, a country of 120 million inhabitants, 77% of feminicides are not prosecuted, with a large proportion of bodies never identified. </p> <p>Community organisations and victim’s families have challenged state impunity and raised awareness, which has resulted in law reform. In 2007, the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.diputados.gob.mx/LeyesBiblio/pdf/LGAMVLV_171215.pdf" target="_blank">General Law of Women’s Access to a Life Free from Violence</a>&nbsp;was passed, and the crime of feminicide was specified in the Federal Penal Code in 2011. Currently 49 human rights and women organisations form a coalition – the National Citizen Observatory of Feminicide (<a href="http://observatoriofeminicidio.blogspot.co.uk/p/organizaciones-integrantes.html"><em>Observatorio Ciudadano Nacional del Feminicidio</em></a>). This organisation monitors feminicides, the application of the law, and demands accountability from the institutions responsible for preventing and prosecuting violence against women.</p> <h3><strong>Guatemala</strong></h3> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Mujeres de Guatemala.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Mujeres de Guatemala.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Festival "Yo soy voz de la memoria y cuerpo de la libertad" (I am the voice of memory and the body of freedom), Guatemala, February 2011. Credit: Albertina Cabrera</span></span></span></p><p>Femicide is even more <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/americas/guatemala/report-guatemala/">prevalent in Guatemala</a>, possibly&nbsp;<a href="https://dlynx.rhodes.edu/jspui/bitstream/10267/27456/1/The%20World%27s%20Most%20Dangerous%20Place%20to%20be%20a%20Woman%20Final.pdf" target="_blank">the most dangerous place to be a woman</a>. In a country of 15 million people, an estimated&nbsp;<a href="http://mujerguatemala.org/?portfolio=femicide-feminicide" target="_blank">6500 women</a>&nbsp;were murdered between 2000 and 2012 and that number <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/americas/guatemala/report-guatemala/">continues to rise</a>. In 2014, <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/americas/guatemala/report-guatemala/">766 women were murdered</a>. An average of <a href="http://ggm.org.gt/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Hist%C3%B3rico-y-tasa-junio-2016.pdf">2 women are killed every day</a> and only&nbsp;<a href="http://mujerguatemala.org/?portfolio=femicide-feminicide" target="_blank">2% of femicides are prosecuted</a>. &nbsp;Among <a href="http://mujerguatemala.org/?portfolio=femicide-feminicide">the most vulnerable are women</a> living in poverty or women in prostitution, who often have been victims of trafficking and live under the control of organised crime. </p> <p>The fact that Guatemala has been a pioneer in the recognition of feminicide is the result of the activism of groups of women fighting for their rights, such as <a href="http://ggm.org.gt/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Hist%C3%B3rico-y-tasa-junio-2016.pdf"><em>Grupo Guatemalteco de Mujeres</em></a>, Women for Justice, Education and Awareness (<em>Mujeres por la Justicia, Educación y el Reconocimiento</em>) and CAIMUS (<em>Centros de Apoyo Integral para Mujeres Sobrevivientes de Violencia</em>). Despite having achieved the <a href="http://www.oas.org/dil/esp/Ley_contra_el_Femicidio_y_otras_Formas_de_Violencia_Contra_la_Mujer_Guatemala.pdf">Law against Femicide and other forms of Violence Against Women</a>, the legacy of the civil war of the 60s has been pervasive. The country has a weak democracy and <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/laps.12001/full" target="_blank">a corrupt government</a>, which has produced a culture where there is limited accountability of state authorities, which results in impunity for those who kill women.</p> <p>This combination of impunity and the devaluation of women in a society with ingrained <em>machismo</em> and misogyny is evident in the <a href="http://ggm.org.gt/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/monitoreoLeyContraElFemicidio.pdf">brutality against the bodies of the victims</a>, which show evidence of rape, torture and mutilation.&nbsp; Almost all (90%) of the indigenous population live below the poverty line. Their marginalisation is evident in the fact that despite indigenous people being <a href="http://www.refworld.org/docid/49749d163c.html">half the population</a>, the media still tends to portray European characters. </p> <p>Legal reforms in Mexico and Guatemala have recognised femicide but this has, so far, made little if any difference.&nbsp; Both countries still need to ensure that the perpetrators are detected and prosecuted. To support this, a <a href="http://observatoriofeminicidiomexico.org.mx/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/GUIA-PERITAJES-WEB.pdf">manual</a> has been produced to improve evidence gathering and how such cases are approached. It is unclear whether this is having an impact yet. Changes in law enforcement need to be connected to wider engagements on women’s equality, including the development of sustainable livelihoods and lifelong learning.</p> <p>Activism by women, families and communities continues, fighting for women’s rights - and literally for the right to life. Supportive links with international organisations are vital: the ‘international community’ needs to show that it is watching what is happening in Mexico and Guatemala, to bring pressure to bear on those responsible for law enforcement and join the struggle to end impunity. </p><p><em>Read more articles on openDemocracy in this year's</em> <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-based-violence">16 Days: Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. </a></strong><em>Commissioning Editor: Liz Kelly</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/global-femicide-watch-preventing-gender-related-killing-of-women">Global Femicide Watch</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/audio/jane-gabriel/by-1">Femicide and Patriarchy in Lebanon</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ana-abelenda/behind-murder-of-berta-c-ceres-corporate-response">Behind the murder of Berta Cáceres: corporate complicity </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofu-tawamba-kate-kroeger-tatiana-cordero/berta-s-struggle-is-our-global-struggle">Berta’s struggle is our global struggle…</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rita-banerji/deadly-politics-of-wealth-femicide-in-india">A deadly politics of wealth: femicide in India</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-activisms-front-line">Women human rights defenders: activism&#039;s front-line</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sarah-marland/women-human-rights-defenders-protecting-each-other">Women human rights defenders: protecting each other </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jody-williams/defending-defenders-daunting-challenge">Defending the Defenders: a daunting challenge </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 class="field-item even"> Guatemala </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 Guatemala Mexico Civil society 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 50.50 Editor's Pick feminism gender gender justice violence against women women's movements Mabel Encinas Sun, 04 Dec 2016 14:27:45 +0000 Mabel Encinas 107044 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Italian mafia and violence against women https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/connie-agius/italian-mafia-and-violence-against-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the name of “culture” and “honour” young girls born into the ‘ndrangheta mafia in Calabria lose their sense of identity. Those who seek freedom pay a terrible price. &nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/ConnieSized.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/ConnieSized.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Madonna di Polsi, a festival known for the 'ndrangheta's attendance. Photo: Connie Agius. </span></span></span></p><p><em>I was married at 13.</em></p> <p><em>It ruined our lives.</em></p> <p><em>I wanted peace, love, to feel, to be myself.&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>Life has brought me nothing</em>&nbsp;<em>but pain.</em> </p> <p>This is not another story about a forced marriage in an Islamic country. </p> <p>It's a paragraph from a letter written by Maria Concetta Cacciola, a young woman in "modern", post-Enlightenment Italy. </p> <p>Her life in Rosarno, a small town that hangs over the deep blue Tyrrhenian Sea on the west coast of Calabria, played out like a Greek tragedy. Maria Concetta Cacciola had the bad luck to be born into a family respected in the underworld for its membership in the Italian mafia group known as the ‘ndrangheta. </p> <p>It's long been the dominant social force in Calabria, in Italy’s “toe”. The 'ndrangheta comes from the Greek: it means&nbsp;&nbsp;“courage” and “loyalty”. It’s one of the most powerful criminal organisations in the world. </p> <p>Each clan is autonomous. Only relatives can be indoctrinated. It's these ties of blood that let the mafia manipulate the concept of family loyalty and lock away their criminal secret dealings. The unbreakability of&nbsp;<em>Family</em>&nbsp;is what has made the 'ndrangheta so impenetrable to authorities. </p> <p>What unites these clans is the code of honour, which operates like a procedures manual. The rules are like those of mediaeval Europe - feudal in nature. </p> <p>Crime is inherited. Sons are educated from birth to become the next generation of criminal bosses. Their daughters are forced to marry these young mafiosi, sometimes before puberty. Not only do they have no choice of life partner, some 'ndrangheta women don't even marry outside the family - they're forced to marry cousins. The wedding vows are a tool to ensure the longevity of a "pure" ‘ndrangheta bloodline. </p> <p>As with medieval royalty, arranged marriages are also used to resolve feuds or build business alliances. The traditional practice of parading the bed linen stained with virginal blood on the balcony after a couple's wedding night has not died out in parts of Calabria. The red stain is evidence of an "honourable woman" - and it represents the lives lost during a feud that the marriage has resolved.&nbsp; </p> <p>Young girls lose their sense of identity in the ‘ndrangheta’s system. They are required to obey and serve the men of the family. Some women do not have their own bank accounts, are not permitted to drive and cannot leave the house without permission or a male chaperon. They must do whatever is demanded by the family – criminal or otherwise. </p> <p>Disobedience is not tolerated because it tarnishes the family’s honour and standing in the community. Omertà - the vow of absolute silence - is an important factor in their definition of honour. The punishment for breaking that silence can range from severe beatings to death.&nbsp; </p> <p><strong>Why do women tolerate this treatment?</strong> </p> <p>This feudal code is normalised from birth, so it is generally not challenged. The mafia also twist the concept of culture.&nbsp;Travelling in Calabria this year, I had a rare chance to sit down with a family, some of whom had been convicted for Mafia Association in Italy. My question about how they could justify their crimes, the murders, manipulation of family and their way of life, was met with a wry smile. </p> <p>"It's hard for you to understand," said one of the men. "It's part of the culture in the south. It's our family against the other [‘ndrangheta] families ... and the system." Mafia families drill the concept of "us" against "the rest" into the children. </p> <p>Maria Concetta Cacciola was one of many young women trapped in this world. Court documents show she grew up in a family heavily involved in the transportation of drugs and weapons.&nbsp;Her destiny was sealed at birth because of her surname. Forced to marry her husband, Salvatore Figliuzzi, at 13, by 15 she was pregnant. Figliuzzi was later convicted for mafia-related crimes. </p> <p>Maria Concetta, now an adult, still had no control over her own life. She was left with no choice but to move back with her parents. Back in what she now regarded as almost a family prison, she and her children were never left unsupervised - a rule the Mafia imposed to "honour" her husband while he served time in prison. </p> <p>Then things got really dangerous. Cacciola defied their law by having an online flirtation with another man, an "affair" which her family eventually found out about. The punishment was a beating so severe that she was left with fractured ribs. Maria Concetta was prevented from receiving treatment.&nbsp; </p> <p>Cacciola wanted her freedom. She turned to the Italian police who put her straight into witness protection. She was completely isolated - she'd had to flee without her children. </p> <p><em>“The best thing in my life is my children who I will keep in my heart. I leave them with so much pain and sadness,”</em>&nbsp;she wrote in a letter to her mother.&nbsp;<em>“I am entrusting my children to you, but I beg you. Do not make the same mistake with them. I want them to have a better life than the one I had.”</em> </p> <p>Cacciola thought she was close to her mother that she would understand her decision. That was an illusion. Her mother used the children to lure Maria Concetta back to Calabria. </p> <p>Against the advice of Italian police and her lawyers, Cacciola left the witness protection program and retracted her testimony. If she thought that would help, she was wrong.&nbsp; </p> <p>She felt her family home, already almost a jail, now turned into a dungeon. Cacciola contacted the police again. This time she wanted to take her children and leave forever, but that day would never come. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/image1.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/image1.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Overlooking Rosarno, where Maria Concetta Cacciola died. Photo: Connie Agius </span></span></span></p> <p>In August 2011, Maria Concetta Cacciola was found dead. She had swallowed a highly corrosive form of acid, leading to an agonising death. It's regarded as a common method of suicide in southern Italy, but a long investigation determined that Maria Concetta had not killed herself. </p> <p>This was murder, but who forced the acid down her throat is still unknown. Her mother, father and brother are now in prison for mafia related crimes and for the physical violence which led up to her death. </p> <p>Maria Concetta Cacciola is not the only woman to suffer at the hands of this family. Her relative Antonio Cacciola committed suicide. The Cacciola family blamed his wife, Giuseppina Multari, and decided to punish her by locking her in the house as a slave. </p> <p>Although forbidden to leave without an escort, one day Multari did manage to escape, but only briefly. She tried to kill herself by jumping into the sea, but was saved and taken back to the family, who responded by stepping up the security.&nbsp; </p> <p>In one last desperate attempt at freedom, Multari smuggled a letter out of the house to her father. This time she was successful and is now under witness protection. </p> <p><strong>Why should we care?</strong> </p> <p>This is not just a tragic story about a family in Italy. </p> <p>The list of cases that highlight violence against women in the mafia is growing - Lea Garofalo, Giuseppina Pesce, Tita Buccafusca,&nbsp;and Rita Di Giovine are only a few. </p> <p>The group manage at least 60 percent of Europe’s cocaine trade and have infiltrated clan members and associates into political, social, and economic institutions around the world. </p> <p>From Canada, the United States, South America, Africa to Australia – the ‘ndrangheta has spread like a cancer. </p> <p>The organisation’s family structure and mafia code are replicated in each arm of this criminal octopus. </p> <p>Many of the women born into mafia families outside Italy are also exposed to a continuous cycle of violence and repression.</p> <p><em>Read more articles on openDemocracy in this year's</em> <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-based-violence">16 Days: Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. </a></strong><em>Commissioning Editor: Liz Kelly</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karen-ingala-smith/when-man-kills-woman">When a Man Kills a Woman</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/global-femicide-watch-preventing-gender-related-killing-of-women">Global Femicide Watch</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk-and-jennifer-allsopp/due-diligence-for-womens-human-rights-transgressing-conventio">Due diligence for women&#039;s human rights: transgressing conventional lines </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Italy </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Italy Civil society Culture Continuum of Violence 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick bodily autonomy gender justice Sexual violence Connie Agius Sat, 03 Dec 2016 01:27:33 +0000 Connie Agius 106994 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A midnight move to set free child sex abusers: in the name of “our culture” https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/yakin-erturk/midnight-motion-to-set-free-child-sex-abusers-in-name-of-our-culture <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Recent law reform initiatives on sexual crimes against children in Turkey reveal the growing danger for women and girls, and the need to interrogate the myths and biases underlying the “our culture” discourse.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Turkishprotest1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Turkishprotest1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protest banner: "Withdraw the law clearing sexual assault" </span></span></span></p><p>Midnight of 17 November 2016, six MPs of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) tabled a surprise motion that would amount to amnesty for&nbsp;perpetrators of sexual abuse of minors, who committed their crime before 16 November 2016 - if the victim marries the offender, and if the act is committed without “force, threat, or any other restriction on consent.&nbsp; The motion was proposed as part of a draft bill to amend Article 103 of the Turkish Penal Code on sexual assault of children. With the votes of AKP MPs, the motion was included in the reform package as a “temporary” clause. </p> <p>Protestors from all walks of life, particularly women’s organizations, went to the streets demanding its withdrawal. Critics argued that the motion is scandalous, particularly on two grounds. Firstly, the reference to “marriage” as a precondition for amnesty implies, given the illegality of same sex marriage in Turkey, that sex crimes against boys are punishable, while against girls they are admissible. This violates the equality principle of the Constitution and normalizes rape and forced marriage of girls. Secondly, by seeking consent of the child to the act, a blind eye is turned to the entrapment of the girl into a state of coercion and violence.</p><p>Following the public outcry, the motion was withdrawn, and on 24 November the draft bill was adopted by the parliament without the controversial motion. </p> <p>While the withdrawal of the infamous clause was celebrated as a victory, it soon became clear that there is an inherent danger in the adopted bill itself. Feminist lawyers and women’s organizations - particularly the TPC 103 Women’s Platform made up of nearly 140 autonomous women’s organisations - are concerned about the age categorization that now exists in the amended Article 103. Although 15 years is still the age of consent, because of the way it is stated it leaves room for interpretation, which given Turkey’s judicial history, could entice some judges to seek consent from the girl child between 12 and 15 years of age. </p> <p><strong>The background <br /></strong></p> <p>The initiative to amend Article 103 was motivated by the Constitutional Court <a href="http://constitutionalcourt.gov.tr/">rulings</a> of December 2015 and July 2016 that annulled two clauses of Article 103, and gave the government twelve and six months respectively to amend the law accordingly. The annulments were justified on the grounds that the penal sanctions of the law do not differentiate the nature and circumstances of the act against victims in different age groups. </p> <p>In 2002, the minimum age of marriage was raised to&nbsp;17 years for both men&nbsp;and women, with a provision that allows marriage at the age of 16 with the consent of the court under “exceptional circumstances”. In 2004, the new Penal Code defined all sexual acts against children under the age of 15 as sexual abuse. With the going into force of the reformed laws, widespread abuse of the laws and problems burdening the courts were recorded. While most legal experts and women’s groups recognize and agree that these problems need to be addressed, the predicament is 0ver how to address them. </p> <p>Women’s organizations that have been advocating for abolishing child marriages by confronting its underlying causes, argue that while the new amendment toughens sentences for offenders targeting children under 12, the age categorization for 12 to 18 year- olds paves the way for lowering the age of consent below 15. </p> <p>Furthermore, reference to “circumstances of the case”, i.e. social context, customs and traditions, invites an unconditional shift from punitive justice to reparative justice, thus laying the ground for the violation of the Constitution as well as international treaties Turkey is party to.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Turkeychildabuse.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Turkeychildabuse.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="301" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protest demanding the withdrawal of the bill.</span></span></span></p><p><strong>Reality of culture and customs <br /></strong></p> <p>The architects of the infamous ‘motion’ of 17 November,<em> </em>as well as the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice who backed them up, were arguably acting under the premise that punitive measures overlook the reality of “the custom of child marriage” and the deprivations that result from sanctions applied to those involved. The Prime Minister, in defense of the motion, argued that there are over 3,000 men who are arrested for marrying a minor by conducting a religious ceremony with the “consent” of the family and the girl. “They don’t know the law, then they have kids, the father goes to jail and the children are alone with their mother… This is a law to eliminate this victimization for <em>just one time</em>.”<strong><em> <br /></em></strong></p> <p>The government’s approach to solving such a deep rooted problem by legalizing child marriages and the sexual abuse of girls, rather than taking measures to confront discriminatory values, empower girls and women, encourage girls’ education and the implementation of its own laws with diligence, is nothing short of state accomplice to crime. It is estimated that one in three marriages in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/turkey">Turkey</a> involves an underage girl, which implies that girls become mothers before they grow up. Advocacy and lobbying of women’s groups gave visibility to the magnitude of the problem, which motivated the Parliamentary Commission on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men in 2009 to conduct an investigation into child marriages and make recommendations towards its eradication. </p> <p>Governmental policy and action over the past years show a shift away from the understanding that led to the Commissions’ work, which was embraced with enthusiasm by its AKP members as well as those of other parties. In this sense, the AKP’s stand on sexual abuse and child marriage, irrespective of the intention, represents an ethical regression<strong>. </strong>The danger of such regression lies in its implications for eroding the moral fabric of society in the long run. Meanwhile, petty patriarchs, who are encouraged by those in authority, become empowered and voice their misogynous ideals without any need for restraint. </p> <p>For example, a pro-AKP author speaking at a TV program shortly after the infamous motion was opened to public debate, made provocative statements in defense of the government’s approach to child sexual abuse and early marriage.&nbsp; He took it upon himself to speak on behalf of the “Turkish culture” in declaring that a child at age of 12 or 13 should be able to get married if they wanted - the designation of 18 as the legal age for consent, according to him, is a Western invention.&nbsp; </p> <p><strong>Persistence of culture-based discourses</strong><em> <br /></em></p> <p>Regrettably, when it comes to the universality of women’s human rights and their validity in a given local context, such culture-based claims continue to dominate the public discourse in many societies. These discourses also provide a reference point for judicial systems in excusing acts of violence against women or justifying sexual abuse of a child, as is the case under discussion. </p> <p>The fact that, women’s rights are rejected in the name of&nbsp; “our culture” in seemingly diverse cultural contexts raise many questions and continually compel us to unpack, confront, and demystify such claims. </p> <p>During my six year tenure as UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, I witnessed how in almost all countries I visited, cultural references were made to excuse or reject women’s human rights. Authorities would invariably refer to “our culture” when questioned about their poor record in complying with their international obligations to combat violence against women and enhance gender equality.&nbsp; This prompted me to devote one of my thematic reports to the Human Rights Council to the subject of “Intersections of Culture and Violence against Women”. I have also included the text in my book, <a href="http://www.learningpartnership.org/violence-without-borders-paradigm-policy-and-praxis-concerning-violence-against-women"><em>Violence without Borders:</em> <em>Paradigm, policy and praxis concerning violence against women</em> (</a>2016).&nbsp;<em> <br /></em></p> <p><strong>Common myths <br /></strong></p> <p>In challenging cultural claims, I draw attention in the book to the myths surrounding dominant cultural paradigms. These myths serve to protect the interests of those who monopolize the right to speak on behalf of culture; they also develop a life of their own as they spread, take root, and transform into widely taken for granted “facts of life” over time.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>According to one myth, culture is presented as static and immutable time-honored “traditions.” Customary law, in particular, derives its legitimacy from this claim to tradition. However, throughout the world, the customs and traditions that constitute the foundation of local customary law have been distorted, eroded, and transformed as a result of factors such as colonialism, wars, invasions, mass migrations, national integration, etc. and have changed and reproduced themselves according to the shifting social dynamics and balances of power. </p> <p>The world order that has been spreading over the past few centuries has adjoined different cultures economically, politically, and socially within a hierarchical system of power. “Customs” that are positioned in opposition to women’s rights today have in fact been molded within the very cultural imperialism they claim to oppose and have served as a point of reference for hegemonic powers to solidify their positions through manipulating culture<strong>. <br /></strong></p> <p>Another common myth is that culture is homogenous and monolithic. A dominant, discriminatory paradigm is presented as the only legitimate interpretation of culture, while diverse voices are silenced, particularly if they are those of women or other marginalized groups. The concept of “Asian values” is a case in point. Similarly, The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (1990) presumes that there is one homogeneous Muslim view of Islamic values based on very intransigent human interpretations of the Qur’an. Human rights activists, reformist clerics and women’s rights groups working from within Islamic jurisprudence, among others, have <a href="http://www.musawah.org/">contested this monolithic representation</a> of Islamic culture. </p> <p>A third myth is that culture is apolitical and detached from the prevailing power relations as well as the economic and social circumstances it operates in. This view provides a convenient veil to disguise various interests and balances of power that underlie cultural practices that are harmful to women.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>Armed conflict, occupation, the war against terror, and militarist cultures, although with diverse outcomes, often reinforce dominant cultural paradigms that discriminate against women. Sustenance of group boundaries, family honor, and the maintenance of everyday life fall on the shoulders of women, for whom this means conformity to the strict norms of patriarchy. During conflict, the perceived need to “rally ’round the flag” of group identity or the wider, more “noble” causes is instrumentalized as a pretext to further entrench patriarchal control within the group or trivialize women’s movements. </p> <p>Similar dynamics can also be observed in immigrant, minority, or indigenous communities that experience ethnic or religious discrimination. In an effort to define themselves in opposition to the majority that rejects them, or to preserve the group identity threatened by the majority, there is a strong tendency among these groups to adopt essentialist or fundamentalist interpretations of their own culture. Men who regard themselves as the makers and protectors of culture impose rigid codes of conduct on women who are regarded as the transmitters and bearers of culture. Violence is used, where necessary, to enforce women’s compliance with these impositions. </p> <p>Militarist discourse also reinforces the public approval for violence as it promotes rigid notions of womanhood that draw on the traditional role of women as mothers to serve the national interest, including by raising “good soldiers,” and notions of manhood that favor violence-prone masculinity. In addition, in the case of failed states or when extremist groups besiege state institutions, the most oppressive and violent interpretations of culture are imposed on society, undermining the notion of rule of law, primarily when it comes to women’s rights.<strong><em> <br /></em></strong></p> <p>On the other hand, reducing violence to specific cultural practices of the “other” de-link the problem from its structural root causes and hinders women’s struggles for their rights. Particularly for women in the global south, such an approach implies that their “salvation” lies in denouncing their own cultural identity and surrendering to imperialist projects. </p> <p>In short, culturalizing the problem of women’s rights (whether in its orientalist or occidentalist form) diverts attention from the unequal gendered structures, as well as from the wider economic and political environment in which these hierarchies evolve and persist<em>.</em> It provides a perfect alibi for traditional patriarchs to evade any responsibility to accommodate women’s rights claims. Cultural interpretation of women’s subordination relieves the developed countries of the responsibility for poverty, dispossessions and destruction caused by capitalism, neoliberal economic policies, militarism, occupation, and armed conflicts. </p> <p>Compromising women’s rights or abandoning them to the mercy or compassion of the powerful is not an option. Therefore, the response to the challenges that confront us today in the name of cultural essentialism and relativism is to resist and disclose the oppressive practices in the name of culture, while respecting our diverse cultures and interpreting universal human rights on the grounds of not “uniformity” but rather “difference.”&nbsp; </p> <p>The 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Campaign that started in 1991—spanning from November 25, International Day on the Elimination of Violence against Women, to December 10, International Human Rights Day—emphasizes the need for the recognition of violence against women as an international human rights issue. The 16 Days Campaign has become a cultural event symbolizing women’s resistance to gender inequality. It draws on local culture to raise awareness while strengthening solidarity at a global level.</p> <p><strong>Pushing forward <br /></strong></p> <p>In the final analysis, the realization of women’s demands for rights and freedoms requires a consistent political commitment and a non-compromising willingness on the part of the state. In Turkey, the past decade has witnessed a steady decline in this respect. Parallel to this decline are the growing tensions with the West; a deep polarization in society; the refugee crisis; <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/yakin-erturk/call-to-engender-turkey%E2%80%99s-peace-process">the breakdown of Turkey’s peace process</a>; devastation caused by terrorism and counterterrorism measures; internal displacements; intolerance of all forms of criticism of the government; and finally, following the bizarre coup attempt of July 15, mass dismissals civil servants from all sectors, arrests of journalists, academics, politicians, including the Kurdish leaders of HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) and near breakdown of the EU accession process. </p> <p>Against this background, the backlash against women in Turkey will likely continue to accelerate with the blessing of the government. This is a serious setback and challenge for <a href="http://www.sunypress.edu/p-5728-shaping-gender-policy-in-turkey.aspx">feminist advocacy and activism</a>, which accounts for the many progressive laws concerning women’s rights passed under AKP administration since early 2000.<strong> </strong>Ironically, the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, which an AKP administration took ownership of and housed its inauguration in Istanbul in 2012, is also at risk of being trivialized. </p> <p>Nonetheless, as demonstrated in the reaction to the sexual harassment bill, the women in Turkey are determined to continue with their feminist struggle, although the stakes are higher and the challenges tougher today.</p><p>Human rights and secularism, with all their short comings, need to be defended to the end.</p><p><em>Yakin Erturk's new book was published by WLP in March 2016. It will shortly be available on Amazon. </em><a href="http://www.learningpartnership.org/violence-without-borders-paradigm-policy-and-praxis-concerning-violence-against-women"><strong><em>Violence without Borders:</em> <em>Paradigm, policy and praxis concerning violence against women</em></strong>.</a> </p><p><em>Read more articles on openDemocracy in this year's</em> <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-based-violence">16 Days: Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.&nbsp;</a></strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dilar-dirik/erdogan-s-war-on-women">Erdogan&#039;s war on women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mona-tajali/promise-of-gender-parity-turkey-s-people-s-democratic-party-hdp">The promise of gender parity: Turkey’s People’s Democratic Party (HDP)</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/gender-wars-in-turkey-litmus-test-of-democracy">The gender wars in Turkey: a litmus test of democracy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/margaret-owen/to-demand-peace-is-not-crime-turkish-academics-on-trial">&quot;To demand peace is not a crime&quot;: Turkish academics on trial </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/bingul-durbas/silencing-womens-rights-activists-in-turkey">Silencing women&#039;s rights activists in Turkey</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ayse-bugra/turkey-what-lies-behind-nationwide-protests">Turkey: what lies behind the nationwide protests? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/tangled-web-politics-of-gender-in-turkey">A tangled web: the politics of gender in Turkey</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/safak-pavey/rise-of-political-islam-in-turkey-how-west-got-it-wrong">The rise of political Islam in Turkey: how the west got it wrong </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk-and-jennifer-allsopp/due-diligence-for-womens-human-rights-transgressing-conventio">Due diligence for women&#039;s human rights: transgressing conventional lines </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/feminism-and-soul-of-secularism">Feminism and the soul of secularism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/not-church-not-state-gender-equality-in-crossfire">Not the Church, Not the State? Gender equality in the crossfire</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maggie-murphy/traditional-values-vs-human-rights-at-un">&#039;Traditional values&#039; vs human rights at the UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Turkey Culture Democracy and government 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick bodily autonomy feminism fundamentalisms gender women and power Yakin Erturk Fri, 02 Dec 2016 08:45:33 +0000 Yakin Erturk 107233 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Lesbians at the heart of the movement to end men’s violence https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lepa-mladjenovi/at-heart-of-movement-to-end-men-s-violence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Feminist lesbians have been passionate activists from the beginning of the movement against men’s violence and remain an inspiration for women to live independently of men.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>&nbsp;<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/lepasimage.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/lepasimage.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Lesbian feminists with a banner "I love, I trust, I value Myself: Stop Sexual Violence Against Women". Belgrade. </span></span></span></strong></p><p>I came out as a lesbian in the feminist encounters at the end of the eighties in Yugoslavia, a country which later dissolved through the nine years of war (1991-1999).&nbsp; At that time, some of us were passionate about ending patriarchy here-and-now and the first thing we started was to create women-only groups to empower women to get out of male violence.&nbsp; In Belgrade, we formed a feminist <em>SOS Helpline for women and children survivors of violence</em> in 1990, and we quickly realised that more than half of us were lesbians.&nbsp; There are similar stories from many places - Glasgow, Berlin, Bologna, Montreal….&nbsp; </p><p>Lesbians have been at the heart of the movement against men’s violence in many spaces across the world.&nbsp;&nbsp; From 1972,&nbsp; when the <a href="http://dcrcc.org/about-us/history/">first Rape Crisis Centre</a> was formed in Washington DC, lesbians were among the feminists who founded rape crisis centres and shelters for abused women in Europe, Latin America, US, Canada and Australia. &nbsp;I want to highlight this fact - that lesbians were and are engaged in the field of challenging men’s violence – but I also want to understand why this is important for lesbians themselves and for women dealing with legacies of violence. </p> <p>To write this piece I talked with many feminist lesbians of my generation, aged 50-65, who were delighted to discuss an issue many had never been asked about before:&nbsp; “Tell me about you as a lesbian in the movement against male violence?”&nbsp; The first thing most said was that lesbians were a much higher proportion in anti-violence groups than in the general population, and that working there was a way to create their vision of ending the oppression of women.&nbsp; Some said: “We came up with women only groups, they were our safe place, maybe the only places one could actually work in women-only environment”.&nbsp; One noted: “We wanted to get as far away as possible from our families and the patriarchal world”.&nbsp; Many lesbians were inventing who they were without reference to male-dominated social structures, using the political ideas of the early lesbian authors, like Charlotte Bunch’s famous essay ‘<a href="http://www.feminist-reprise.org/docs/lwmbunch.htm">Lesbians in revolt</a>’ from 1972:&nbsp; “It is a primacy of women relating to women which is at the heart of women’s liberation”. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/lepaimage2_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/lepaimage2_2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="330" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Feminist Action Against Sexual Violence, Rome 1976.</span></span></span></p> <p>Some of us had experiences of male violence in our lives, because like many<span> </span>with a girlhood we suffered child sexual abuse before we became lesbians. On the other hand we are <em>escapees of patriarchy</em> who have chosen to put an end to emotional, sexual and economic dependence on men, and have started to invent different maps of living.&nbsp; Like the famous words in the "Woman-identified-woman" written by the Radicalesbians in 1970: ‘A&nbsp;<em>lesbian</em>&nbsp;is the&nbsp;<em>rage of all women condensed</em>&nbsp;to the <a href="http://www.feminist-reprise.org/docs/radicalesbians.htm">point of&nbsp;explosion</a>’’.&nbsp; The transformation of this rage for many lesbians meant supporting women to get out of male violence – this began 40 years ago and is still true today.</p> <p>But this is not a simple story: initially many lesbians stayed silent in their collectives, because they were afraid.&nbsp; They were afraid of many things: that they would be accused of hating men; that the violence from men would be seen as the reason why they chose to love women.&nbsp; There were so many reasons for not talking: &nbsp;40 years ago there were hardly any messages that it was good to be a lesbian, so we said it to each other, again and again, with loving tenderness. </p> <p>But what is it historically that lesbians brought to this heterosexual civilisation, that Adrianne Rich in 1980 named <a href="http://www.transasdocorpo.org.br/uploads/ed00a77290ee205d3d0f16a97cf54628.pdf">‘compulsory heterosexuality’?</a> Firstly, the existence of lesbians <em>per se</em> means that heteronormativity is not the norm, but that norms are many. “We are different, we do not accept any compromise with male world. No mediation with them.&nbsp; We lesbians are creating a different space of liberty, where desire for women is central”, said Anna Pramstrahler from the Bologna <a href="http://www.casadonne.it/wordpress/">anti-violence center</a>.</p> <p>I remember a few years ago in the <a href="http://www.womenngo.org.rs/"><em>Autonomous Women’s Center Against Sexual Violence</em></a> in Belgrade, one woman who came for support was carefully observing the counsellors, especially the lesbians: &nbsp;&nbsp;“Some of you have a special kind of autonomy when you walk, when you talk… you are so different, I like it”.&nbsp;&nbsp; She noticed in our smiles, and maybe in our shoes too, that we were not leaning on men: from technical repairs of photocopy machines to guerilla actions, we were doing it on our own.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>We lesbians offer an alternative model for women getting out of male violence, because lesbian feminists have no sexual or emotional investment in men, we demonstrate that independence &nbsp;is possible.&nbsp; This is a totally new field of freedom for some women – that there is a choice to live autonomously from men if they want to.&nbsp; This possibility gets limited visibility in mainstream responses to violence against women.&nbsp; </p> <p>Many feminist lesbians, like Alix Dobkin, one of the first out lesbian singer-songwriters, believe “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9iW0E7RKac">The first woman in your life is you</a>”! That is the anti-patriarchal message that women get when organisations value their lesbian staff and volunteers. &nbsp; </p><p>Lately, Roma groups working on men’s violence have another dimension to deal with.&nbsp; In Roma, and many other communities, girls are given to so called ‘early marriages’. Their adult life often starts with rape at age of 14 or 15.&nbsp; There is no choice of sexuality here, it is a brutal example of the criminal aspect of compulsory heterosexuality.&nbsp; Danica Jovanovic, coordinator of <em>Romnjako Ilo</em> - a group for non-heterosexual Roma women in small town in Serbia, Novi Bečej - said:&nbsp; “For us Roma women it is crucial to have lesbians working with women who escape violence.&nbsp; Our young women never had the possibility to love women, they are sold at 14, and only at age of 30 or so, when they are free from perpetrators, they have a chance to choose. But there is no choice unless they have models of lesbians in front of them.” </p> <p>Today, when many specialist violence against women organisations have become &nbsp;professionalised it is important to remember that the needs of women escaping violence reflect the same crucial values of the feminist movement as before:&nbsp; The truth is that creating&nbsp; women only spaces is as essential as it was with the first rape crisis centers.&nbsp; Women need each other to speak about their experience when men are not present. It is as simple as that. We also need feminist approaches in counseling which take women’s autonomy as a foundation. &nbsp;We need passionate activists who are role models as lesbians, Roma women, black women, migrant women, women with disabilities. In order to make our dreams come true: to see all women free.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p><em>Read more articles on openDemocracy in this year's</em><strong> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-based-violence">16 Days: Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. </a></strong><em>Commissioning Editor: Liz Kelly</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/louise-pennington/transforming-victim-blaming-culture">Transforming a victim blaming culture</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/what-will-it-take-to-end-violence-against-women-in-uk">What will it take to end violence against women in the UK? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/guilaine/since-i-gave-you-phone-it-s-not-rape">Since I gave you a phone it’s not rape </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/fiona-vera-gray/men-s-intrusion-rethinking-street-harassment">Men&#039;s intrusion: rethinking street harassment</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karen-ingala-smith/when-man-kills-woman">When a Man Kills a Woman</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"> Serbia </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 16 Days: activism against gender based violence sexual identities gender feminism bodily autonomy Lepa Mladjenović Thu, 01 Dec 2016 08:45:07 +0000 Lepa Mladjenović 107005 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Men's intrusion: rethinking street harassment https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/fiona-vera-gray/men-s-intrusion-rethinking-street-harassment <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>To capture the impact of ‘street harassment’ on women’s sense of self, we may need to rethink our language to better fit the lived experience.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>&nbsp;<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/harassstreet.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/harassstreet.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p>A couple of guys as I was walking were like hey babe.</p> <p>I’ll wear jeans just because it’s safer.</p> <p>Oi bitch, oi slag, get your tits out you slag.</p> <p>I always walk with purpose.</p> <p>The other guy waiting there goes oh cheer up love.</p> <p>I want to talk back but you’re taking that risk.</p> <p>Oi you come over here, sit on my face.</p> <p>His trousers around his ankles</p> <p>just jerking off. </p><p>He slapped me across the face.</p> <p>He said can I cum on your tits.</p> <p>He was pushing the gate trying to get through and screaming.</p><p>It’s easier to pretend I don’t hear anything.</p> <p>The excerpt from <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=qESTDAAAQBAJ&amp;printsec=frontcover&amp;source=gbs_ge_summary_r&amp;cad=0#v=onepage&amp;q&amp;f=false">my research</a> above, each line taken directly from a different woman, shows something of the range and extent of such intrusion, and how it acts to limit women’s <a href="https://theconversation.com/have-you-ever-wondered-how-much-energy-you-put-in-to-avoid-being-assaulted-it-may-shock-you-65372">freedom</a>. </p> <p>Attention to women’s experiences of intrusive men in public space is having something of a resurgence. Traditionally one of the most understudied yet commonly experienced forms of violence against women, the renewed focus is due in no small part to the ways in which digital platforms have been harnessed to make the experience visible, with apps like <a href="http://harassmap.org/en/">Harassmap</a> used to show the scale of such practices, or the use of social media to share videos like <a href="https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=imkaan+i+want+to+be+free">this one</a> from <a href="http://imkaan.org.uk/">Imkaan</a> and the <a href="http://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/">End Violence Against Women Coalition</a>, capturing Black women’s testimonies of how sexist practices are racialised.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/TheMap.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/TheMap.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="310" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: Harassmap.org</span></span></span></p><p>Combined with this, direct action has been skilfully and creatively mobilised by women worldwide. From the encouragement for women to take up space seen in both the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlgGNv5t92A">Why Loiter</a> and <a href="http://girlsatdhabas.tumblr.com/">Girls at Dhabas</a> movements, to the art of <a href="http://stoptellingwomentosmile.com/">Tatyana Falalizadeh</a> and the energy of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ze4AH_5kJw">Hijas de Violencia</a> (the Daughters of Violence), women and girls are pushing back on the ways in which men’s practices constrain our movements in public spaces. </p> <p>This new wave of activism and awareness gives us an opportunity to reflect on our concepts, and strategise our responses. To rethink the commonplace framing of such practices under the heading of ‘street harassment’. </p> <p>The term ‘street harassment’ is drawn from the pioneering work of Catharine MacKinnon and Liz Farley to define sexual harassment in the late 1970’s. This work originally aimed to mark out occupational sexual harassment in order to provide a structure for legislative redress, though it was later broadened to include educational institutions, an increasing area of policy focus today from <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmwomeq/91/91.pdf">sexual harassment in schools</a>, to <a href="http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/reports/Documents/2016/changing-the-culture.pdf">sexual harassment in universities</a>. </p> <p>But when our aim shifts from seeking legal redress to finding ways of articulating women’s experience both to the wider realm and to ourselves, we find aspects that can’t be captured by legalistic terminology. Aspects that may be better captured through the language of intrusion. </p> <p><strong>Intrude</strong> <em>[verb]&nbsp;&nbsp;</em>in·trude&nbsp;\in-ˈtrüd\</p> <p>The deliberate act of putting oneself into a place or situation where one is uninvited. </p> <p>The reliance of legal definitions on objective measures and binaries (either something <em>is</em> ‘street harassment’ or it is not) fails to capture the ways in which intrusive men choose and use ambiguous spaces. We are taught to doubt, dismiss, deny. Nothing really happened if it can’t be verified beyond what it feels like to us, and who do we think we are? Women’s experiences are never the source of authoritative knowledge about the world. The knowledge that informs the law. </p> <p>A legal framework, such as that which underpins the concepts of sexual and street harassment, can assist in recognition of experiences as harmful. But it can alienate anyone who does not feel entitled to legal redress, or those who have witnessed police violence played out on their bodies and those that they love. The position of the law as an assumed objective arbitrator of acceptability means the epistemic norms and terminologies within it can be taken up as dominant narratives, silencing experiences that legally ‘do not count’. Setting the limits of what can be said. We lose the ability to talk about ambiguity. Those times where something both did and didn’t happen, the impact of anticipation – those times when we’ve thought maybe…</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Maybe we’ll just sit over here, get on the bus, do a quick scan, and we choose</p><p>the seat closest to women, or closest to the driver, or catch the next train, just</p> <p>to be safe. Or maybe we’ve pulled out our phone to avoid being stared at,</p> <p>called someone to avoid being spoken to, stop when we get off the bus, not</p> <p>sure if he’s following just wait back to see. Cheer up love it might never</p> <p>happen. He might not be following you, touching you, staring at you. But it</p> <p>feels like he is. Or he could. It feels like the last time he did, the last time the</p> <p>last 'he' did. </p> <p>Possibility itself can be intrusive, pushing its way into our awareness, uninvited. But none of this can be claimed as sexual harassment using any available definition. Where the legal frame struggles, our experience becomes unspeakable. So we don’t speak enough about how we changed routes home just in case something happened, and we stay mostly silent about the times when we actually didn’t feel harassed. When we are amused, complimented, bored. </p> <p>We know the notion of a universal ‘women’s experience’, singular and shared, applicable to all, works to reduce us by denying women access to the multiple positions, contradicting and competing, that can be occupied by subjects. And legal frameworks struggle here, with how the same act can be defined differently both between different women and by the same woman in different contexts. The frame of harassment works to suggest that practices not experienced this way are unproblematic, leaving no space to explore the impacts of intrusions that may be experienced as wanted or desired. But we know there are consequences. The process of routine interruptions into women’s internal world, a disruption not only of one’s time to oneself but one’s time <em>in</em> oneself, has outcomes irrespective of whether such interruption is experienced as pleasurable. </p> <p>That sudden feeling of being pulled outside of yourself, without wanting, without warning. </p> <p>Interrupted.</p> <p>Disrupted. </p> <p>Intrusion allows for a broader range of practices to be addressed. It foregrounds the actions of the perpetrator, rather than our response, honouring women’s autonomy – our ability to make meaning in multiple ways. So too, ‘uninvited’ unlike the usual ‘unwanted’ affirms our power to choose who is able to enter into our physical and emotional space. As a verb it sits more closely to how such practices are lived, where one’s inner world is entered into, rather than solely acted on. </p> <p>Such a shift may have limitations. We could lose some of what we gain in locating practices as harassment: the power for legal redress and acknowledgement of harm. Or struggle in mobilising social change, losing the gains of ‘street harassment’ as a widely understood concept. But we must remember in expanding our terms, one frame need not replace the other. And the existence of limits doesn’t ever mean we shouldn’t push against them. </p> <p>Men’s intrusion: one response to the challenge of finding language that springs from our internal knowledge rather than conforming to the needs of a structure. </p> <p>There are so many more. </p> <p>Let’s find them.</p><p><em>Read more articles on openDemocracy in this year's</em> <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-based-violence">16 Days: Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. </a></strong><em>Commissioning Editor: Liz Kelly</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/sexual-harassment-in-uk-schools">Sexual harassment in UK schools</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/reni-eddolodge/women-everywhere-have-their-movement-limited-by-male-gaze">Women everywhere have their movement limited by the male gaze</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/hana-marku/sexual-harassment-in-kosovo-no-longer-invisible">Sexual harassment in Kosovo: no longer invisible</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ghaidaa-al-absi/who-is-to-blame-street-sexual-harassment-in-yemen">Who is to blame? Street sexual harassment in Yemen</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/liz-cooper/politics-of-sexual-harassment-in-spain">The politics of sexual harassment in Spain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/eba%E2%80%99-el-tamami/harassment-free-zone">Harassment free zone </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/fear-and-fury-women-and-post-revolutionary-violence">Fear and fury: women and post-revolutionary violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zoe-holman/state-complicity-in-sexual-abuse-of-women-in-cairo">State complicity in the sexual abuse of women in Cairo</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </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 16 Days: activism against gender based violence bodily autonomy everyday feminism gender gender justice Sexual violence young feminists Fiona Vera-Gray Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:48:33 +0000 Fiona Vera-Gray 106995 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A long road: domestic violence law in China https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/yuan-feng/long-march-domestic-violence-law-in-china <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>After 20 years of campaigning by women’s rights activists, China now has its first domestic violence law. The challenge ahead is to make it work to guarantee the safety of women and children. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/womencircle.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/womencircle.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women's NGO outreaches to grassroots women in ethnic minority areas in Yunnan. Credit: Yuan Feng</span></span></span></p><p>Earlier this year, Ms. Dai was awarded compensation by a court which recognised that her th<strong>e</strong>n husband, Mr Liu, had committed domestic violence. However this same court awarded Mr Lui custody of her son, despite the fact that Mr Lui had <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/canadian-womans-case-galvanizes-chinese-moms-caught-in-custody-battles/article31466063/">abducted</a> the child in 2014 when he was 17 months old, ruling that it was in the best interests of the child for the father to have custody. The court has since issued a protection order for Ms. Dai<strong><em>.</em></strong> But as I write this article she has been blocked from seeing the child by Mr. Liu and his family, and her personal information such as her home address has been posted on the internet by him. </p> <p>This case reflects the contradictory effects of the first&nbsp;<a href="http://en.pkulaw.cn/display.aspx?cgid=261780&amp;lib=law" target="_blank">domestic violence (DV) law in China</a> which came into effect on <a href="http://chinalawtranslate.com/%E5%8F%8D%E5%AE%B6%E5%BA%AD%E6%9A%B4%E5%8A%9B%E6%B3%95-2015/?lang=en" target="_blank">&nbsp;March 1, 2016</a>.</p> <p>The Chinese domestic violence law was a hard won achievement of women’s activism - the campaign took almost two decades. It was passed by Chinese law makers at the end of 2015, 20 years after Beijing was the host city of the Fourth UN World Conference on Women. Enlightened and equipped by that conference and its follow up actions, Chinese women activists began to mobilise to claim the right to live free from domestic violence and initiated a law reform movement in 1998. The Anti-Domestic Violence Network (ADVN, 2000-2014), a coalition of 75 NGOs, across 28 of 31 provinces, undertook surveys on the prevalence of domestic violence, the attitudes of police and judicial officers, and established pilot projects in urban and rural areas for a multi-agency intervention model.&nbsp; They also created awareness raising campaigns and a training programme for community workers, health professionals, police, prosecutors, judges and journalists.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/yuanmap.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/yuanmap.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="414" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Map showing the members of the Anti-Domestic Violence Network and world wide connections.</span></span></span></p><p>In 2003, the first draft bill, prepared by the ADVN, was submitted to the National People’s Congress (NPC), the law-making body of China. In 2008, the All-China Women’s Federation, the government backed women’s organisation, joined the campaign and submitted their version of a draft bill. In 2012, the Standing Committee of the NPC finally included this proposal into the “preparatory consideration items”.</p> <p>After the issue entered the law-making agenda, progress – if any – was hidden from the public.&nbsp;To both speed up and make the process more transparent young feminists organised public events, including street art. &nbsp;During&nbsp;the 2012 '16 Days of action against gender based violence' (November&nbsp;25 to December&nbsp;10) more than a dozen young activists demanded a domestic violence law by shooting topless pictures within a “wounded brides” performance art in five&nbsp;large&nbsp;cities. During&nbsp;the&nbsp;annual session of the NPC&nbsp;in&nbsp;2013, three of the young activists came to Beijing to present&nbsp;a&nbsp;petition with 12,000 signatures&nbsp;asking for speedy progress and more&nbsp;participation<strong>&nbsp;</strong>by&nbsp;women&nbsp;in the process. <strong>&nbsp;</strong> </p> <p>These events were covered by more than ten domestic and international media and are readily available on news and opinion websites, both in Chinese and English. An article in the <a href="http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/29/chinese-activists-demand-clarity-on-domestic-violence-law/?_r=0" target="_blank">International New York Times&nbsp;</a>reads:&nbsp;“Fed up with being excluded from the decision-making process, Chinese feminists not only want a law against domestic violence, they also want to know exactly what’s going into it, in a new push for accountability from their opaque government. The petition, “Asking for Openness and Transparency in the Process of the Anti-Domestic Violence Law” spelt that out. </p> <p>Ensuring the law reflected what feminists were asking for was a tough fight. The two official drafts <a href="http://chinalawtranslate.com/domestic-violence-law/?lang=en" target="_blank">prepare by the State Council</a>&nbsp;and<a href="http://chinalawtranslate.com/domestic-violence-law-draft2/?lang=en" target="_blank">&nbsp;a working committee of the NPC</a>&nbsp;invited public feedback in 2014 and 2015. They contained many defects: the definition of “family”did not include co-inhabiting relationships; violence was limited to physical assaults; education and prevention excluded the mass media; and protection orders failed to mention the role of the police. &nbsp;To make women’s voices heard, feminist NGOs reached out to different communities to collect hidden needs and perspectives of: disabled <a href="http://chinadevelopmentbrief.org.cn/news-17023.html" target="_blank">people; women living with HIV/AIDs</a>; women&nbsp;<a href="http://chuansong.me/n/980614" target="_blank">migrants from rural area</a>; women survivors of domestic violence; lesbian, bisexual and trans women. A working group prepared detailed amendments which they shared widely. As a result the proposed law had <a href="http://www.npc.gov.cn/npc/flcazqyj/node_8195.htm" target="_blank">42203 comments and suggestions from 8792 contributors through the internet</a>. This level of engagement is second only to responses on revising the criminal law.&nbsp; </p> <p>One contributor was a women prisoner, Li Yan in Sichuan province. She received a death sentence for killing her violent husband, after multiple attempts to seek help from the local women’s federation and the police. &nbsp;This led to widespread calls for her to receive a fair trial: the UN High Commission of&nbsp; Human Rights also issued a supportive statement. The Supreme Court then requested that the provincial high court undertake<a href="https://www.questia.com/newspaper/1P2-38018595/when-calls-for-revenge-overwhelm"> a retrial</a>, and<a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-32443564"> Li Yan was reprieved</a>. On the basis of her own experiences Li Yan offered recommendations to refine to draft law.</p> <p>Now we face the challenge of making the law work to prevent violence, ensure duty bearers respond and hold perpetrators to account, at the same time as supporting survivors. &nbsp;The law permits police to issue a warning, provided the violence reaches a certain threshold. A woman from Shanxi province seeking this remedy was refused, the police claimed that they had never heard of this part of the law. &nbsp;The woman then requested that the court issue a protection order. &nbsp;The court declined, saying that this would imply that the marriage was over. &nbsp;When she was abused again she took a copy of the warning letter to the police and they issued one.&nbsp;The husband then refused to sign that he had received the letter, so the police again told her there was nothing they could do. She then returned to the court which heard her evidence, but the judge showed her evidence to her violent husband and allowed him to a take picture, then asked her to withdraw her case. &nbsp;Feeling very unsafe she went to stay with friends, she returned to see her child only to discover that her husband had deleted all the numbers from her phone, including those of the agencies she had sought help from.&nbsp; She then turned to the local women’s federation who advised her to be more positive in the marriage, to demonstrate more care for her husband and child.&nbsp; </p><p>Perhaps this is an extreme case, perhaps not.&nbsp;</p><p> What it does show is that there is a still a large gap between the intent and rights enshrined in the law, and how the police, the courts and judges, and the women's federation respond. &nbsp;</p> <p>Last August, Ms. Dai, the young women who lost custody of her son, joined with ten other women in the same situation and held a press conference. Their stories attracted wide media attention. &nbsp;Feminists are encouraging survivors to speak out, to publicise what the law should be doing - and what it is failing to do.&nbsp; Training continues, and work has begun with young people. Finally, we are monitoring the implementation of the law as reported in the news media, on the websites of the government and women's organisations, and by the service providers.&nbsp;</p> <p>After 1000 days Ms. Dai has still not seen her child and there is still no verdict on the appeal of her case.&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em>Read more articles on openDemocracy in this year's</em> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-based-violence">16 Days: Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. </a><em>Commissioning Editor: Liz Kelly</em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ting-guo/question-of-rape-in-china">Questioning rape in China</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/guilaine/since-i-gave-you-phone-it-s-not-rape">Since I gave you a phone it’s not rape </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/naila-kabeer/grief-and-rage-in-india-making-violence-against-women-history">Grief and rage in India: making violence against women history? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ting-guo/blood-brides-feminist-activists-cracking-chinas-patriarchal-order">Blood brides: feminist activists cracking China’s patriarchal order</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ting-guo/china-s-leftover-women-and-left-out-system">China&#039;s &quot;leftover women&quot; and the left-out system</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/preventing-violence-against-women-sluggish-cascade">Preventing violence against women: a sluggish cascade?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/quest-for-gender-just-peace-from-impunity-to-accountability">The quest for gender-just peace: from impunity to accountability </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"> China </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 China 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's human rights violence against women patriarchy Yuan Feng Tue, 29 Nov 2016 07:33:27 +0000 Yuan Feng 106997 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What will it take to end honour based violence in the UK? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/hannana-siddiqui/lasting-change-to-end-honour-based-violen <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>‘Honour killings’ represent the tragic consequences of the failure to tackle honour based violence. Greater state action in supporting black feminist leadership, and ensuring protection and provision is essential.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/VAWG Demo 2013 (2).JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/VAWG Demo 2013 (2).JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="344" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protest against 'honour based' violence against women. Image: Southall Black Sisters</span></span></span></p> <p>The ‘honour’ killing of Banaz Mahmod represents the tragic consequences of the failure of state and minority communities to tackle honour based violence. The solution, however, does not lie in prevention by communities alone, but also greater state action in supporting black feminist leadership, and ensuring protection and provision.&nbsp; </p> <p class="blockquote-new">"I find it really hard to say how much her death has affected me. Words just do not say enough.. .. The last time I saw Banaz alive was in 2005 ... I wish with all my heart I had taken her with me in 2005 because she would then still be alive…I can honestly say there's not been one night without having nightmares about what has happened to her…My life will never be the same again. If there's one thing I could wish for it would be to have Banaz back. I miss her and love her.”</p> <p>These <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2007/jul/21/ukcrime.topstories3">words</a> are those of the sister of Banaz Mahmod, murdered in a so called ‘honour’ killing in Britain in 2006 by her father, uncle, male cousins and other men in the community. &nbsp;They represent the extreme and tragic results of honour based violence (HBV) in black and minority ethnic (BME) communities which needs urgent action to address through prevention, protection and provision.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>At a recent conference in Britain, a senior police officer stated that the police could not eradicate HBV alone; that sustained change could only be made by the communities themselves through <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2007/jul/21/ukcrime.topstories3">community driven solutions</a>. &nbsp;He also said that the pitfalls of the past should be avoided, such as leaving it to male community leaders or ‘gatekeepers’ to resolve problems through mediation and religious arbitration or ‘paralegal’ systems, which simply increase risks to victims. Instead, he called on black and ethnic minority&nbsp; women fighting oppression within these communities to be regarded as the ‘leaders’ and ‘role models’ to create change. &nbsp;</p> <p>These pitfalls, and the need to change cultural and religious attitudes and practices through BME women’s leadership and self-empowerment have long been demanded by black feminists. However, while this recognition by the police is welcome,&nbsp; sustained change cannot be achieved by the community alone. While both community and the state are accountable, it is the state which has a legal obligation for ‘due diligence’ to protect blacknd minority ethnic women and girls from honour based violence.&nbsp; Prevention has to be accompanied by protection and provision. Even action within communities hostile to patriarchy or the power base of its conservative male leadership, such as BME women and girls’ services and campaigns to tackle HBV and for women’s rights, needs state support to prevent repression. Yet these are the very services and campaigns that often the state fails to support!<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p><strong>Prevention</strong></p> <p>While the need for provision for specialist services for black and minority ethnic women is supported, prevention and challenging cultural attitudes which underpin harmful practices is a priority in the government’s <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/522166/VAWG_Strategy_FINAL_PUBLICATION_MASTER_vRB.PDF">Ending Violence against Women and Girls Strategy 2016-2020</a>. However, although recently the government has supported a few prevention projects by BME women, it has done little in focusing national campaigns on cultural change within these communities in partnership with the women’s organisations. Instead, it continues to emphasise work with male leaders, for example, by issuing a <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/faith-and-community-leaders-unite-to-condemn-fgm">faith leaders declaration </a>&nbsp;against female genital mutilation.&nbsp; </p> <p>Despite the government’s position, there are a few successful examples of <a href="http://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/data/files/resources/20/promising_practices_report_.pdf">promising practice </a>in prevention work led by black and ethnic minority women, which should be replicated or scaled up by the state. The <a href="http://www.southallblacksisters.org.uk/">Southall Black Sisters </a>whole school’s project&nbsp; showed that classroom sessions with male and female pupils and teacher training by experts from BME women’s services had a significant impact in raising awareness, and changing attitudes and behaviour on violence against women and girls - particularly forced marriage and honour based violence (<a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=KZQbBQAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PT84&amp;lpg=PT84&amp;dq=siddiqui+and+bhardwaj&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=cQjpCz4t-i&amp;sig=Hh9oLwN9TIC5gX5VyPSXFxeDSQU&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwj4zuf-qrrQAhUKM8AKHaKaDc0Q6AEILDAG#v=onepage&amp;q=siddiqui%20and%20bhardwaj&amp;f=false">Siddiqui and Bhardwaj</a>, 2014). The project also developed a young BME female pupil <a href="http://www.southallblacksisters.org.uk/">Ambassadors for Change </a>programme which campaigned within the school and more widely. Feedback from the pupils indicated that Southall BlackSisters involvement in the project was critical to its success, that the lessons had exposed some myths about the violence in their communities and, feeling more determined to obtain help for victims, they demanded that issues such as honour based violence should be part of the national curriculum. The teachers also expressed relief at obtaining new insights and support to discuss sensitive issues such as religion, which previously they were less confident in addressing because of a lack of knowledge or a fear of a community backlash. Southall Black Sisters has now published its education pack, <a href="http://www.southallblacksisters.org.uk/reports/changing-hearts-and-minds">Changing Hearts and Minds</a> to disseminate lesson plans and best practice. It is also extending the Ambassadors programme to survivors to challenge cultural and religious norms and practices within the community.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Fatima Training for trainers 2016 (2).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Fatima Training for trainers 2016 (2).png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Fatima training for trainers. </span></span></span></p> <p>Another example of prevention work is <a href="http://www.human-right.net/index.php?lang=en">The Fatima Project, </a>an EU Daphne funded multi-country project, which in the UK was led by the <a href="http://angelou-centre.org.uk/">Angelou Centre </a>. It aimed at preventing honour based violence through educational training activities with communities delivered by 15 predominately BME women’s organisations from across the country. The participants, mainly survivors and women from the communities, reported raised awareness of their rights, where to seek help and wanting to do more to tackle the problem. Some were also shocked about the scale and nature of the honour based violence and other forms of gendered violence in their communities. One participant said, “it was good to know what are root causes of violence, and how as a community and society we make excuses and female blame.” Another asked “why is this information not more available? it would have made a difference to me” and yet another said “you feel more powerful and confident when educated.”</p> <p><strong>Protection</strong></p> <p>Contrary to its due diligence obligations under <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/text/econvention.htm">CEDAW</a> &nbsp;and the <a href="https://rm.coe.int/CoERMPublicCommonSearchServices/DisplayDCTMContent?documentId=090000168046031c">Istanbul Convention </a>&nbsp;(when ratified), the government’s violence against women strategy advocates a ‘whole family’ or ‘troubled families’ approach which loses its primary focus of protecting victims and holding perpetrators to account. It is also woefully inadequate in meeting the challenges of the collective nature of domestic violence/HBV where codes of ‘honour’ are used to justify, collude or inflict abuse by multiple perpetrators in extended BME families and communities. It is also worrying that the government is considering using the ‘restorative justice’ approach to change and penalise offending behaviour in domestic violence cases. This approach, although it does not aim to save relationships and is conducted in formal settings, nevertheless ignores the imbalance of power, and the nature of emotional and coercive control in abusive relationships. It also places blackandminority ethnic women under even greater pressure by the state to accept ‘mediation,’ ‘arbitration’ and ‘reconciliation’ with perpetrators as a solution-&nbsp; in a context where there are already cultural expectations to use these informally to ‘save’ marriages and keep the family together to prevent ‘shame’ and ‘dishonour’. </p> <p>Additionally, as <a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-06-13?showNoDebateMessage=True">stated in the strategy</a>, the government intention to raise awareness of domestic violence as a crime among BME women and end their isolation by teaching them English would not be so sinister if harmful practices and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jan/18/david-cameron-stigmatising-muslim-women-learn-english-language-policy">learning English for Muslim women/mothers</a> were not also linked to the wider agenda of preventing extremism and immigration control. Why should measures to protect these women and girls from gendered violence, which is a cause and consequence of gender inequality, be shaped by these policies which are criticised by many for fuelling race and religious discrimination. Indeed, this approach amounts to multiple discrimination – the very thing that the government's strategy to end violence against women says it wants to oppose!</p> <p>The policing of honour based violence and other harmful practices is also considered a priority for the state, particularly after several cases of so called ‘honour killings’ and their dramatic failure in preventing the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2007/jul/21/ukcrime.topstories3">murder of Banaz Mahmod</a> who reported threats to her life and other abuses to the police <em>five times</em> before her death in 2006.&nbsp; However, even following the outrage of this death, a recent <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic/wp-content/uploads/the-depths-of-dishonour.pdf">investigation</a> into HBV, forced marriage and female genital mutilation by the HMIC found that although there are pockets of good practice, there is a ‘very mixed picture in terms of police preparedness and effectiveness’ and that ‘the police and other organisations still do not have a sound and complete understanding of the nature and magnitude of these crimes, nor how best to respond to them.’ However, the HMIC proposal to government to review the legislative framework with a view to criminalise all forms of HBV where existing offences do not adequately deal with the particular context of the crimes perhaps takes the police off the hook for their failure to enforce current law. It also wants consideration of penalties to take account of the violence as an aggravating element. </p> <p>Criminalisation raises concerns about driving the problem underground, and diverting resources away from legal aid and welfare services. Offences introduced on forced marriage and female genital mutilation have so far not yielded any or many prosecutions and convictions, and some BME women’s groups complain of victims refusing to come forward due to a fear of jailing their parents or other relatives.&nbsp; There is also concern that the seriousness of domestic homicide and violence in BME communities seems to be downgraded as a crime. While the HMIC recognises that this kind of violence has common features with domestic abuse, the two are difficult to distinguish as in many cases, domestic violence in BME communities involves multiple perpetrators and represents the act of violence on one side of the coin while ‘honour’ is used to justify it on the other side. </p> <p>There is also concern that culturalisation and ‘exoticisation’ of gender based violence against BME women undermines an understanding of gender inequality rather than culture or religion (although these can be used to justify it) as the root cause. This could lead to race based solutions such as more immigration controls like the 21-year age requirement for overseas spouses introduced on the pretext of tackling forced marriage, but which limited rights to family life for marriage migrants (the requirement was overturned on these grounds in 2011 in the <a href="https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2011-0022-press-summary.pdf">cases of Quila and Bibi). </a>It can also lead to neglecting to apply basic standards of established best practice on domestic and sexual violence, and safeguarding because honour based violence is considered so ‘different’ that it requires very ‘different’ solutions, resulting in under-policing due to cultural or religious sensitivities or over-policing due to racism and stereotyping <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=B9wGDAAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PT228&amp;lpg=PT228&amp;dq=hannana+siddiqui+true+honour&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=ehqefKZHS1&amp;sig=TUiMBI5aUmrpGE_R0VNEiSHxFBM&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwim8KrVs7zQAhWpBcAKHfnjCaMQ6AEIGzAA#v=onepage&amp;q=hannana%20siddiqui%20true%20honour&amp;f=false">( Siddiqui</a> 2013).</p> <p>I have also long raised a concern about failure of the police and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to tackle the extrajudicial nature of crimes against BME women and girls, including domestic homicide, honour killings, forced marriage, imprisonment, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/pragna-patel/transnational-marriage-abandonment-new-form-of-violence-against-women">abandonment</a>, and other abuses overseas. These cases require more robust application of current law. These issues were first raised in the honour related murder of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2007/sep/20/ukcrime.prisonsandprobation">Surjit Athwal</a>, which, due to the lack of support from the British and Indian police (although the British police investigation improved later as a ‘cold case’) and from the FCO took nine years to bring to justice in 2007. The alleged suspects living in India have still not been tried.&nbsp; The FCO appears to intervene more robustly in cases involving non-minority British nationals murdered or in trouble overseas; examples include <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/3792078/Lucie-Blackman-murder-case-Timeline.html">Lucie Blackman</a> &nbsp;and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/apr/26/madeleine-mccann-inquiry-could-end-months-met-chief-bernard-hogan-howe">Madeleine McCann.&nbsp; </a>These seems to be on-going features in more recent cases of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/29/pakistan-police-seek-samia-shahid-mother-and-sister-over-her-death">Samia Shahid, </a>Manjit Kular, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/12/boris-johnson-urged-secure-safe-return-amina-al-jeffery-father-locked-up-saudi-arabia">Amina Al-Jeffery</a> and <a href="http://www.southallblacksisters.org.uk/justice-for-seeta">Seeta Kaur. &nbsp;</a>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Provision</strong></p> <p>Even with regard to state concern for specialist services, the government’s violence against womenand girls strategy leaves it to local commissioners to fund specialist services for BME women and girls where conservative male leaders control or influence local Councils and health bodies. Despite the government’s promise to publish guidance or statement of expectations, cash strapped local authorities are unable to adequately respond, and investment is urgently needed by central government to ring fence a funding stream to address historical underfunding of these services. In a context of austerity and competitive commission favouring larger, generalist providers, this failure has led to the <a href="https://www.dropbox.com/s/c3n2gjs4g2g37s2/IMKAAN%20-%20STATE%20OF%20THE%20SECTOR%20%5BFINAL%5D.pdf?dl=0">demise of the sector. </a>An ironic outcome at a time when the state has expressed so much concern for harmful practices and isolation of BME women, and prevention and implementation can not be effective without these frontline community based services because BME women and girls are more likely to use them to access mainstream support.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>This and wider cuts in legal aid and welfare services may also be one of drivers behind BME women’s (another being increased pressure by orthodox religious or conservative forces within their communities) growing use of community based religious arbitration and faith based services on family issues such as divorce, forced marriage and domestic violence; thus diverting vulnerable women away from the criminal and civil justice system, and subjecting them to discriminatory parallel religious laws.&nbsp; </p> <p>There is a concern that the state is accommodating these developments. Under the preventing extremism agenda, there is a duty on local authorities to promote social cohesion, which is more often than not interpreted as funding muslim specific services, including those for muslim women, which is increasingly done at the expense of <a href="http://www.southallblacksisters.org.uk/campaigns/save-sbs-campaign-2008">secular feminist BME women’s groups</a>. &nbsp;Even state attempts to respond to criticism of Sharia Courts for discriminating against muslim women in two current initiatives, a government review and an investigation by the Select Committee, have forced secular black feminists to <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/pragna-patel-gita-sahgal/whitewashing-sharia-councils-in-uk">boycott</a> the former and demand a <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/sharia-councils/written/43507.html">fair hearing </a>in the latter as restricted remits and procedures, and/or controversial panellists cast doubts on their commitment to question the discriminatory effects of these tribunals on women’s rights. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In the late 1990s, for a brief moment, black feminists agreed with national government when the then junior Home Office Minister, Mike O’Brien advocated a ‘mature multi-culturalism’ in the debate on forced marriage. This acknowledged how old style multi-culturalism had a ‘<a href="http://cdn.basw.co.uk/upload/basw_22604-2.pdf">moral blindness</a>’ by ignoring women’s rights within BME communities due to cultural sensitivity. Mature multi-culturalism recognised the need for the state to intervene in to order to protect the human rights of BME women without undermining good race relations.&nbsp; </p> <p>Multi-faithism is now replacing multi-culturalism, which stands accused of undermining social cohesion and the war against terror, and mature multi-culturalism is forgotten. Despites its criticism of cultural relativism and stated aim to protect BME women, the state is repeating the mistakes of the past by promoting a version of ‘multi-faithism’ which ignores these women’s rights in the name of ‘religious sensitivity.’ Perhaps the way forward is to adopt a mature multi-cultural and ‘mature multi-faithism’ approach within a secular state&nbsp; which guarantees rights to believers and non-believers without privileging any particular religion, but,at the same time protects against both religious and gender discrimination.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Debates and policies on honour based violence also need to be informed by wider frameworks of violence against women and girls, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersectionality">intersectionality</a>, secularism and human rights - thus avoiding discriminatory responses by the state on the grounds of gender, race and religion. So, while education and prevention is vital, this should be driven through secular black feminist leadership with state support and action to ensure that all women and girls have voice, protection and provision in order to create real and lasting change.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><em>Read more articles on openDemocracy in this year's</em><strong> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-based-violence">16 Days: Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. </a></strong><em>Commissioning Editor: Liz Kelly</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="/pragna-patel-gita-sahgal/whitewashing-sharia-councils-in-uk">Whitewashing Sharia councils in the UK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/one-woman-s-brush-with-sharia-courts-in-uk">One woman’s brush with Sharia courts in the UK: &quot;It ruined my life forever&quot; </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/pragna-patel/use-and-abuse-of-honour-based-violence-in-uk">The use and abuse of honour based violence in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/pragna-patel/transnational-marriage-abandonment-new-form-of-violence-against-women">Transnational marriage abandonment: A new form of violence against women? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rahila-gupta/assault-on-bme-womens-organisations-in-uk">16 Days: cutting Black and minority ethnic women&#039;s organisations </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/asset-stripping-in-women-s-sector-in-uk">16 Days: asset stripping the women’s sector in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/no-exceptions-one-law-for-all">No exceptions: one law for all</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heidi-basch-harod/embracing-shame-turning-honour-on-its-head">Embracing shame: turning honour on its head</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yasmin-rehman/refusing-to-recognise-polygamy-in-west-solution-or-soundbite">Refusing to recognise polygamy in the West: a solution or a soundbite?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/pragna-patel/%27shariafication-by-stealth%27-in-uk">&#039;Shariafication by stealth&#039; in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/disembodying-honour-and-exposing-politics-behind-it">Disembodying honour and exposing the politics behind it</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yasmin-rehman/muslim-women-and-met-only-pawn-in-their-game">Muslim women and the Met: Only a pawn in their game</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/majd-shafiq/there-is-no-honour-in-%E2%80%98honour-killing%E2%80%99">There is no honour in ‘honour killing’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/gita-sahgal/sharia-security-and-church-in-uk-dangers-of-home-office-inquiry-into-sharia">Sharia, security and the church: dangers of the British Home Office Inquiry </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sukhwant-dhaliwal-chitra-nagarajan-rashmi-varma/feminist-dissent-why-new-journal-on-gender-and-">Feminist Dissent: why a new journal on gender and fundamentalism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sajda-mughal/ending-forced-marriage-in-uk-problem-with-top-down-policy">Ending forced marriage in the UK: the problem with top down policy </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amrit-wilson/criminalising-forced-marriage-in-uk-why-it-will-not-help-women">Criminalising forced marriage in the UK: why it will not help women </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </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 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism Continuum of Violence 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change fundamentalisms gender justice violence against women Hannana Siddiqui Mon, 28 Nov 2016 09:03:27 +0000 Hannana Siddiqui 107154 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Anti-feminism, then and now https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/anti-feminism-then-and-now <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Menace and the threat of violence have a particular address to women. Welcome to a new phase of anti-feminism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/AngelaMcRobbie4.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/memestate/3458884720">Flickr/Rich Anderson</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>When <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silvio_Berlusconi">Silvio Berlusconi</a> was Prime Minister of Italy we got a taste of things to come in the USA. Media mogul, showman and willing to play the buffoon but always with a sense of menace, Berlusconi was <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Soprano">Tony Soprano</a> in real life, a man to whom women were inevitably little more than a piece of ass. Remember that <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sg2G46v8dc">moment caught on film</a> when Michelle Obama seemed to flinch with discomfort at having, diplomatically, to shake hands with the man? </p> <p>Berlusconi objected, with his whole being, to the rise of independent women. He was a man who wanted to turn the clock back to a time when women knew their place and were subservient as mothers, grandmothers, mistresses and show girls. To any woman of my generation there was something familiar about this kind of older man, aggrieved because he could no longer pinch a woman’s behind with impunity. </p> <p>When forced to interact with powerful women on the world stage such as Germany’s Chancellor <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Merkel">Angela Merkel</a>, Berlusconi became the joker, poking fun at her, playing like a schoolboy and pulling ‘funny faces’ behind her back as though she was nothing more than a nanny figure, in effect saying ‘don’t expect me to take you seriously.’ </p> <p>Confronted with the reality of feminist voices he adopted a classic post-feminist stance, insulting and reviling feminists as unattractive, old and disgusting while at the same time promoting unqualified and stereotypically glamorous women into positions of power across his own government. He also hinted at a new form of ‘mediated’ fascism—a love of being in the spotlight while making relentless denunciations of the left and populist claims to represent the common man, always willing to skirt close to the edges of legality. </p> <p>Now, some years later, Donald Trump’s victory displays these same characteristics on a much grander scale. Trump’s unapologetic sexism seems to give <em>carte blanche</em> to an insurgent patriarchy which can now re-assert itself with confidence, having previously been seen as dormant—so look out Angela Merkel, or British Prime Minister <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theresa_May">Theresa May</a>, or <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicola_Sturgeon">Nicola Sturgeon</a>, the First Minister of Scotland. Low level or ‘undiplomatic’ insults reflect a particular way of exercising power, a way of putting women in their place regardless of their party affiliation. &nbsp;</p> <p>Since November 8 2016 many feminists have asked why so many white women voted for Trump. Is this indicative of women’s own misogyny? A good deal of ire has been directed at Hillary Clinton for espousing ‘elite white feminism’ while failing to connect with working class women across the United States. But large numbers of black and other ethnic minority women voted for Clinton, not just because of the racism shown during Trump’s candidacy but also because the fantasy of being a pre-feminist woman who is somehow protected by husbands or fathers and supported by a male breadwinner never had any traction with them—the racialized nature of the labour market rarely permitted a model comparable to this fantasy to emerge, so there was no thought of going back in time to being the archetypal 1950s housewife. </p> <p>In any case, the argument that Clinton was out of touch with ordinary women voters who haven’t seen their real wages rise for decades still doesn’t explain why many of them were willing to vote for a man who is prepared to limit their rights to reproduction and thus impede their very ability to take participate in the workplace on any kind of equal level with men. This phenomenon is only explicable if we take anti-feminism more fully into account.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Although anti-feminism is always changing its colours, it never goes away. &nbsp;As the writer and activist Susan Faludi documented in her important book <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backlash:_The_Undeclared_War_Against_American_Women">Backlash</a>,</em> an angry oppositional movement of ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_Majority">moral majority</a>’ adherents arose almost concurrently with the rise of liberal and socialist feminism in the USA. In my own book <em><a href="https://uk.sagepub.com/en-gb/eur/the-aftermath-of-feminism/book211463">The Aftermath of Feminism</a></em> I traced a later complexification of this backlash which seemed to have a less invidious, more progressive or even pro-women dynamic. </p> <p>This movement entailed a new form of championing of women, and especially young women, on condition that they abandoned feminism as old hat, anachronistic and deeply unattractive—as something associated with old and seemingly embittered women from a past era—in favour of a ‘go-for-it’ pathway of female individualisation. This was the post-feminism of ambitious and competitive ‘Alpha Girls’ who could easily achieve their goals in the new meritocracy without the help of feminism. </p> <p>During the period of Tony Blair’s governments in the UK this ethos pervaded political and popular culture. Feminism was put into cold storage as women were expected to be smiling and compliant ‘Blair babes.’ I recall this time well, when even female students who were otherwise interested in questions of work, employment, gender and sexuality nevertheless repudiated feminism,&nbsp; feeling that they could do just as well without it. It was fashionable to affect a kind of ‘phallic femininity’ by acting like a young man, with a flask of whisky in the back pocket, happy to hang out in a lap-dancing club.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p><a href="https://newleftreview.org/II/56/nancy-fraser-feminism-capitalism-and-the-cunning-of-history">Nancy Fraser</a> and others have accused some feminists of becoming complicit with the neoliberal order by advocating this kind of achievement-driven or ‘choice-based’ notion of female empowerment, a complex way of saying that they have sold out to capitalism by accepting a place in the sun that is offered to a select few. In the process, much of liberal feminism has morphed into a more overtly market-driven and competition-based idea of female success, though even this form of ‘neoliberal feminism’ may be anathema to the Trump worldview.</p> <p>At the same time, there has also been a feminist renaissance that embraces many different types and forms of feminist campaigning and organising. The <em><a href="http://everydaysexism.com/">Everyday Sexism</a></em> project is one of the best examples of how feminism has recently shown itself to be so needed. Equally important has been the web-activism of the last decade, like <a href="https://www.thefword.org.uk/">the <em>F Word</em></a> in the UK or the ways in which US feminists have galvanised to demonstrate against Trump’s infamous <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/10/07/donald_trump_2005_tape_i_grab_women_by_the_pussy.html">‘pussy-grabbing’ comments</a>. But what has taken almost all young and older feminists aback has been the level of abuse, violence and vitriol to which this new visibility has given rise. </p> <p>Anti-feminism has now taken on a much more aggressive edge. This hostility has found a home on the internet, and it has moved from there onto the streets, as the terrible <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jo_Cox">death of the MP Jo Cox</a> has shown. Ostensibly Cox was killed because she aimed to stem the tide of hostility against immigrants and asylum seekers. But it also seems no accident that she was a woman. The catalogue of women campaigners, politicians and commentators who have received death threats that resulted in the need for police protection <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/jo-cox-dead-violent-threats-online-abuse-natalie-mcgarry-trolls-a7086436.html">has risen steeply in the last 12 months</a>. Sadly Cox didn’t get to the point of requesting that protection. </p> <p>Menace and the threat of violence have a particular address to women, different from men who are squaring up to fight each other. Berlusconi belonged to the realm of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Godfather_(film_series)">Godfather films</a> in which women were slapped about for daring to confront the man of the house. Among his many statements in recent days, Trump has said, provocatively, that there is no need to be ‘scared,’ but the new backlash takes the form of an undisguised provocation to women who are willing to take a stance. The core of rights that were eventually won in regard to contraception and abortion are now more than ever before under threat. It is women themselves who will be forced to defend the freedoms which have had to be fought for from the early days of the ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second-wave_feminism">second wave’ of feminism</a>.</p> <p>We cannot yet tell how real this threat is, but faced by this latest backlash there’s an urgent need for women across the boundaries of class and ethnicity to take heed and find new ways of defending their rights, both for their own sakes and for their daughters as well as for their husbands, fathers and sons, for they also need to be reminded of how feminism has and will continue to enhance their lives.&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="/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/gathering-and-assembling-judith-butler-on-future-of-politics">Gathering and assembling: Judith Butler on the future of politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/is-passionate-work-neoliberal-delusion">Is passionate work a neoliberal delusion?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/kieran-ford/don-t-mourn-organize-three-ways-millennials-can-build-better-post-trump-f">Don’t mourn, organize! Three ways millennials can build a better post-Trump future</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> Transformation 50.50 Transformation feminism Angela McRobbie Liberation Activism Culture Intersectionality Mon, 28 Nov 2016 01:00:00 +0000 Angela McRobbie 107152 at https://www.opendemocracy.net When a Man Kills a Woman https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karen-ingala-smith/when-man-kills-woman <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Across everything that divides societies, we share in common that men’s violence against women is normalised, tolerated, justified - and hidden in plain sight.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/counting-dead-women-montage.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/counting-dead-women-montage.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: Counting Dead Women project </span></span></span></p><p>Since 25 November last year, at least 118 women and girls in the UK aged over 13 have been killed by men, or a man has been the primary suspect. </p><p>An average of one woman dead at the hands of a man every 3 days. </p><p>I’ve been recording women’s names and details of how they were killed since January 2012 when <a href="https://kareningalasmith.com/counting-dead-women/">Counting Dead Women</a> was launched. </p><p>Today we commemorate 653 women.</p> <p>Men’s fatal violence against women in the UK crosses boundaries of class, race, nationality and age.&nbsp; Over the last year, the oldest woman killed was 85, 18 were over 60, and 21 were aged 25 and under.&nbsp; They included hairdressers, writers, shop assistants, prostituted women, a politician, lawyers, students and school girls; women born in Eritrea, Poland, China, Italy and other countries, and of course women born in the UK with a range of ethnic backgrounds. &nbsp;Most, but not all, were killed by current or former partners, others were killed by burglars, rapists, neighbours, brothers, sons, men they saw as friends or men who paid for sex.&nbsp; </p> <p>Many think of intimate partner violence, or, more broadly, domestic violence, if they think about women killed by men at all.&nbsp; This focus is reflected and reinforced by official statistics.&nbsp; The Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes an annual report on violent crime, including homicide.&nbsp; <a href="http://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/compendium/focusonviolentcrimeandsexualoffences/yearendingmarch2015">For the year ending March 2015, the Home Office Homicide Index recorded 518 homicides. </a>&nbsp;There were 186 female victims, 331 male victims, and one victim whose sex is unknown/undeclared. </p><p>The proportion of female victims was the highest recorded for 20 years. 19 men and 81 women were killed in circumstances described as partner/ex-partner homicides. 31 were killed by other family members (domestic/family violence). </p><p>But what about the remaining 74 women?&nbsp; Is it important to have a sex-specific analysis of their deaths?</p><p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jul/13/vulnerable-woman-died-shampoo-bottle-bdominal-cavity-sexual-assault">51-year-old Majella Lynch died in hospital</a> after the a removal of a 400ml shampoo bottle&nbsp; from her abdominal cavity.&nbsp; William Mousley QC, prosecuting, said &nbsp;“The bottle could not have been self-inserted because of the extreme pain such an act would have caused.” Mousley said her attacker, Daniel McBride, 43, an habitual user of hardcore pornography “had an interest in violent sexual activity and was in the mood for sex that night having had an argument with his girlfriend and being rejected by another female.”&nbsp; <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-derbyshire-28657367">Yvette Hallsworth,</a> 36, was selected by&nbsp; Mateusz Kosecki&nbsp; because she was “slightly built.” At 18 he was already a predator targeting women in prostitution.&nbsp; He had attacked at least three women who sold sex before he killed Yvette Hallsworth, stabbing her 18 times.&nbsp; Judge Michael Stokes QC described him has having a “fascination, if not an obsession” with prostituted women. &nbsp;</p><p>How can a feminist perspective of men’s violence against women disregard some women when patriarchal misogyny, violent sexualisation and objectification are so clear in their murders? </p> <p>The prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV) is globally uneven. <a href="http://euc.sagepub.com/content/11/5/601.abstract">Corradi and Stockl, 2014</a>, looked at the relationship between men’s fatal violence against women, feminist activism and government policy in European countries since the 1970s.&nbsp; They found no clear link between rates of IPV and government policies, rather that feminist activism was a crucial catalyst of change - and was most effective when it was independent of government.&nbsp;</p><p>“Since the late 1960s, organized women’s activism played a fundamental role in rallying the state to tackle VAW.” (Corradi &amp; Stockl, 2014: 605). </p><p><a href="http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/fileadmin/docs/H-Research_Notes/SAS-Research-Note-14.pdf">It is estimated that across the world around 66,000 women and girls are violently killed every year</a>. Comparing country-by-country data is challenging, partly because there isn’t a cross-national approach to collecting and disaggregating murder statistics by the sex of both victim and killer, but globally women are at greater risk than men of intimate-partner homicides and are overwhelmingly killed by males.&nbsp; Across everything that divides societies, we share in common that men’s violence against women is normalised, tolerated, justified - and hidden in plain sight, and that there is a lack of truly proactive and deeply rooted state action to protect women’s right to life.</p> <p>Of course it is essential to look at domestic and intimate partner violence, including homicide; but to focus only on this context not only obscures the full extent of men’s fatal violence against women, it also misses the sex differences within these crimes.&nbsp; <a href="https://kareningalasmith.com/2016/09/01/intimate-partner-and-domestic-violence-homicides-sex-differences-april-2012-march-2015-3-years/">In the UK, women are more than 7 times more likely to be&nbsp; killed by a man than men are by a women in the context of intimate partner homicide</a>. Men are more likely than women to be killed by a same-sex partner, and histories of violence before the homicide are different - with men tending to have inflicted months or years of violence and abuse on the women they go on to kill, while women tend to have suffered months or years of violence and abuse from the man they go on to kill. </p> <p>Responses to men’s violence against women which focus almost exclusively on&nbsp; ‘healthy relationships’, supporting victim-survivors&nbsp; and reforming the criminal justice system simply do not go far enough. Men’s violence against women is a cause and consequence of sex inequality between women and men.&nbsp; The objectification of women, the sex trade, socially constructed gender, unequal pay, unequal distribution of caring responsibility are all&nbsp; simultaneously symptomatic of structural inequality whilst maintaining a conducive context for men’s violence against women. Feminists know this and have been telling us for decades. </p> <p>One of feminism’s important achievements is getting men’s violence against women into the mainstream and onto policy agendas.&nbsp; One of the threats to these achievements is that those with power take the concepts, and under the auspices of dealing with the problem shake some of the most basic elements of feminist understanding right out of them.&nbsp; State initiatives which are not nested within policies on equality between women and men will fail to reduce men’s violence against women.&nbsp; Failing to even name the agent – men’s use of violence – is failure at the first hurdle. </p> <p class="Default">Working in partnership, Counting Dead Women and Women’s Aid Federation England, supported by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Deloitte, have developed <a href="https://www.womensaid.org.uk/what-we-do/campaigning-and-influencing/femicide-census/">The Femicide Census</a>, a &nbsp;relativity database&nbsp; that&nbsp; allows&nbsp; data&nbsp; to &nbsp;be&nbsp; collated&nbsp; and&nbsp; disaggregated&nbsp; for&nbsp; analysis. It currently contains information regarding over 1000 women who were killed by men between 2009 and 2015. Our intention is to build a research resource than can be used as a tool to influence understanding and policy development. &nbsp;We’ll soon be releasing our first report. In September, our work was cited as an example of good practice in a <a href="http://www.niaendingviolence.org.uk/perch/resources/un-vaw-report-femicide-census.pdf">report </a>by the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women. </p><p>Feminists have started Counting Dead Women or femicide count projects in <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DestroyTheJoint/">Australia,</a>&nbsp; <a href="http://ohegarty.blogspot.co.uk/p/counting-dead-women-canada-if-you-are.html">Canada</a>, <a href="https://countingdeadwomen.nz/2016-2/">New Zealand</a> and <a href="http://blackfeministranter.blogspot.co.uk/p/counting-dead-aboriginal-women-2016.html">Counting Dead Aboriginal Women</a>.&nbsp; There is feminist action against femicide on every continent, in countries including <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/19/argentina-women-strike-violence-protest">Argentina</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/aug/13/women-peru-protest-rising-tide-murder-sexual-crime">Peru</a>, <a href="https://www.thelocal.it/20160602/italys-small-silent-protest-against-femicide-sara-di-pietrantonio">Italy</a>, <a href="http://ibasque.com/mujeres-muertas-en-espana-por-violencia-machista/">Spain</a>, <a href="https://genderbytes.wordpress.com/petition/petition-to-stop-female-genocide-femicide-gendercide-in-india/">India</a>. </p><p>Women across the world are finding ways to protest the murders of our sisters<em>. </em></p> <p>By recording women’s names, and where possible their photographs, we want to create a reminder that women are not reducible to statistics. </p><p>653 women dead in the UK in 5 years at the hands of men cannot be 653 isolated incidents. Action is needed and action can be taken to reduce these killings.</p><p><em>Read more articles on openDemocracy in this year's</em><strong> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-based-violence">16 Days: Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. </a></strong><em>Commissioning Editor: Liz Kelly</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/global-femicide-watch-preventing-gender-related-killing-of-women">Global Femicide Watch</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/fateful-marriage-political-violence-and-violence-against-women">The fateful marriage: political violence and violence against women </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/quest-for-gender-just-peace-from-impunity-to-accountability">The quest for gender-just peace: from impunity to accountability </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/millions-of-women-still-rising-to-stop-male-violence">Millions rising to stop male violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk-and-jennifer-allsopp/due-diligence-for-womens-human-rights-transgressing-conventio">Due diligence for women&#039;s human rights: transgressing conventional lines </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/what-will-it-take-to-end-violence-against-women-in-uk">What will it take to end violence against women in the UK? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/austerity-and-domestic-violence-mapping-damage">Austerity and domestic violence: mapping the damage</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/liz-cooper/who-cares">Violence against women in Spain: who cares?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/iran-%27bloody-stain%27-on-nation">Iran: a &#039;bloody stain&#039; on the nation</a> </div> </div> </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 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change feminism gender justice violence against women women and power Karen Ingala Smith Sun, 27 Nov 2016 09:27:33 +0000 Karen Ingala Smith 106993 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Since I gave you a phone it’s not rape https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/guilaine/since-i-gave-you-phone-it-s-not-rape <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As evidence of UN peacekeepers’ sexual violence against Black African women and girls grows, media reporting and research reinterprets this as ‘transactional sex’, through the logic of colonialism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Predatory Peacekeepers2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Predatory Peacekeepers2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: Predatory Peacekeepers</span></span></span></p><p>A few months ago, the campaign&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23predatorypeacekeepers">#predatorypeacekeepers</a> started on social media. It followed a report from a Canadian AIDS charity accusing <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/politics/the-vile-sex-abuse-by-un-peacekeepers-is-leaving-the-united-nati/">UN and French troops in the Central African Republic (CAR) of sexually abusing at least 98 girls</a>.&nbsp;The damning report alleged that three girls had been tied up and forced to have sex with a dog, that one of the victims subsequently died and that many of the abuses were orchestrated by a French General. Since publication, more victims have come forward. Many spoke of degrading sexual acts including soldiers urinating on the victim’s body or in her mouth.</p> <p>Allegations of <a href="https://mediadiversified.org/2016/04/12/the-uns-good-vs-bad-narrative-clears-the-way-for-sexual-violence-and-impunity/" target="_blank">sexual misconduct by UN soldiers have been </a>documented in most of the countries where UN peacekeeping troops serve. However, what seems striking in CAR is the alleged involvement of senior officers and the age of the victims.&nbsp; In December 2015, an <a href="http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/centafricrepub/Independent-Review-Report.pdf" target="_blank">Independent Panel</a> produced scathing findings on the way the UN had responded to the allegations in CAR. It identified systematic failures and highlighted a culture of impunity, inadequate investigatory mechanisms and unsatisfactory structures to support victims. &nbsp;There has been no public update by the UN on the progress made in implementing the recommendations of the Panel.&nbsp; The few prosecutions have exclusively been of (Black) <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/04/peacekeepers-trial-sex-abuse-car-160405040318812.html" target="_blank">African Peacekeepers</a>. &nbsp;White predatory peacekeepers, it appears avoid accountability.</p> <p><strong>‘Transactional sex’ and fallacy of consent</strong></p> <p>Both social and legal definitions of rape are centred, if only partly, on the notion of consent. One way to nullify rape is to establish consent or to effectively blur its boundaries. This is achieved in relation to the victims of predatory peacekeepers when sexual relations between Black/African women and UN soldiers are described as transactional. In ‘transactional sex’, one party gets sexual access to another person’s body in exchange for gifts and/or other goods. &nbsp;As there is a material gain (usually for the women) consent is thus deemed to be present.&nbsp; Any quick internet search reveals that the media has been awash with headlines of transactional sex.</p> <p><a href="http://jezebel.com/un-peacekeepers-having-transactional-sex-with-locals-is-1710590278">Women in Haiti and Liberia are selling sex to United Nations peacekeepers in exchange for aid and lifestyle improvements like cell phones and church shoes.</a></p> <p>‘<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-33089662">UN peacekeepers 'barter goods for sex'</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/06/un-peacekeeping-transactional-sex-haiti/395654/">A Humanitarian Mission Becomes a Disaster: A forthcoming report documents United Nations workers exchanging relief goods for sex.</a></p> <p><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2015/06/16/u-n-peacekeeping-and-transactional-sex/?tid=article_nextstory">U.N. peacekeeping and transactional sex</a></p> <p>Reporting sex in exchange of goods, and luxury goods and/or mobile phones, in particular does more than imply consent. It invites public judgements around the morality of the victims and, reproduces ‘misogynoirist’ associations between black womanhood and materialism. This taps into implicit prejudices and bias and reduces cognitive dissonance. The last link above, by Cage, refers to a <a href="http://www.nyu.edu/projects/beber/files/Beber_Gilligan_Guardado_Karim_TS.pdf">research project</a> conducted in 2012 on the prevalence of this so called ‘transactional sex’ in Monrovia (Liberia) during the civil war. The study estimates that 58 000 women aged between 18 and 30 had engaged in ‘transactional sex’ with UN&nbsp;personnel at some point and that over half were below 18 on the first occasion. &nbsp;Despite this, the words rape or consent are notably absent in this piece. &nbsp;Similarly, allegations in Haiti involved children but again media reports of ‘transactional sex’ were written with no reflection on the presumption of consent.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Predatory Peacekeepers.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Predatory Peacekeepers.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="646" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: Predatory Peacekeepers</span></span></span></p><p>Age differences are a major source power differential, which is just one of the reasons why sexual offences against minors are specified in most penal codes.&nbsp; Given that such offences exist in most nations it is extraordinary that the potential that such acts might be sexual abuse of children is rarely broached. &nbsp;In addition to age, a number of contextual constraints should lead to questions about the validity of consent. &nbsp;</p> <p>The power differentials - social, legal, institutional and even symbolic - between the Black/ African women and UN soldiers create a number of barriers to their capacity to give meaningful consent.&nbsp; Differences in ‘social class’ and geo-political positioning, in race, in emotional vulnerability – let’s not forget we are talking about women in war or otherwise environmentally precarious zones – soldiers’ holding and/or having access to heavy artillery and guns, each and cumulatively make consent impossible to give freely. Presumably, it is for these reasons that the UN <a href="https://cdu.unlb.org/Portals/0/PdfFiles/PolicyDocC.pdf">banned its peacekeepers from engaging in ‘transactional sex’</a>. </p> <p><strong>Whiteness and the rape-ability of Black/African girls and women</strong></p> <p>An intersectional approach is needed to grasp the particular sexual subjugation of Black/African women by western or western commissioned men, and the media’s apparent determination to impute consent onto them. It also avoids a decontextualized account which unwittingly reproduces violence in ways central to the white patriarchal colonial order: here African and Black woman appear as inferior and subordinated, yet that very subordination is rendered invisible. This process normalises gendered and racialised violence whilst making it impossible to name whiteness as the key underlying structure. </p> <p>But, whiteness is engaged here. It is engaged in the structural invisibilisation of the Black/African victims and in the failure to hold white perpetrators to account. It is engaged in the presentation of Black bodies as sites for white expressions of sadism and sexual perversion, and in the reproduction of gendered racialised hierarchies.&nbsp; The social construction of Black women’s sexuality as ‘promiscuous’ and depraved has a long colonial history which continues to lead to an unwillingness, conscious or otherwise, to protect black girls/women’s bodies from sexual assault and rape.</p> <p>At the core of our presumed suitability for violent sexual consumption or rape-ability, is not only our constructed hyper-sexuality but also ideas of dirt and impurity – markers of course of our inhumanity – victims of predatory peacekeepers could be perversely sexually violated and soiled (with urine) because their bodies were deemed impure. &nbsp;This implicit responsibility is both the cause and effect of their worthlessness.&nbsp; And so, sexual contact with men constructed as superior, as noble saviours willing to touch the Black body, cannot possibly be violent. &nbsp;Rape almost becomes envisaged as a gift, which should be gratefully received.&nbsp; Indeed this dynamic is symbolised and materialised by each so called ‘transaction’. One may even wonder, had there been no crude act of violence or no report of women and girls being tied-up, whether the term rape might even have been used at all in CAR.</p> <p>Under colonialism African childhood and womanhood were aggressively denied as part of a conscious effort to dehumanise. Remnants of this system of oppression continue to shape the treatment of black people today, with those at the bottom of the hierarchy of blackness, being the most disposable. &nbsp;Indeed, the impunity which surrounds the abuse by western men of third world black bodies exemplifies this. Speaking of ‘transactional sex’ is, therefore, both a vehicle for old colonial notions and a way for predatory peacekeepers to resist accountability for their rape and sexual exploitation of children and of vulnerable women. However, given that <a href="https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/95euxfgway/InternalResults_160118_BritishEmpire_Website.pdf">recent evidence</a> suggests almost half of the British public sees colonialism as something to be proud of and, that about a third consider that ‘we talk too much about the cruelty and racism of Empire, and ignore the good that it did’, then no doubt mass murder/mutilation can be offset against any purported ‘<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/shortcuts/2016/jan/20/empire-state-of-mind-why-do-so-many-people-think-colonialism-was-a-good-thing">economic development’</a>. Under this logic, perhaps being given a mobile phone can be seen to constitute consent and even rape can be offset against ‘<a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-peacekeepers-abuse-idUSKBN0OQ2CP20150610">lifestyle improvements’</a>.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><p><em>Read more articles on openDemocracy in this year's</em><strong> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-based-violence">16 Days: Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. </a></strong><em>Commissioning Editor: Liz Kelly<br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/immunity-and-impunity-in-peace-keeping-protection-gap">Immunity and impunity in peace keeping: the protection gap</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/melanie-cura-deball/un-peacekeeping-blue-banner-for-hope-or-red-flag-for-abuse">UN peacekeeping: blue banner for hope, or red flag for abuse?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lauren-wolfe/when-does-violation-of-womens-bodies-become-red-line"> When does the violation of women&#039;s bodies become a &quot;red line&quot;?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/preventing-violence-against-women-sluggish-cascade">Preventing violence against women: a sluggish cascade?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/stopping-sexual-violence-in-conflict-gender-politics-in-foreign-policy">Stopping sexual violence in conflict: gender politics in foreign policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/politics-of-human-rights-and-united-nations">The politics of human rights and the United Nations</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/quest-for-gender-just-peace-from-impunity-to-accountability">The quest for gender-just peace: from impunity to accountability </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/jessica-dawn-wilson/is-there-real-commitment-to-women-peace-and-security">Women, peace and security: the UN&#039;s rhetoric-reality gap</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie-slavenka-drakulic/slavenka-drakuli%C4%87-violence-memory-and-nation">Slavenka Drakulić: violence, memory, and the nation</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"> Central African Republic </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 Central African Republic 50.50 Women, Peace & Security 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick bodily autonomy feminism Sexual violence violence against women women and militarism Guilaine Kinouani Fri, 25 Nov 2016 09:03:33 +0000 Guilaine Kinouani 107048 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Transforming a victim blaming culture https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/louise-pennington/transforming-victim-blaming-culture <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Media discussions of male violence against women focus on the actions of the victim rather than the perpetrator. How can we challenge this narrative using survivor’s testimony without putting them at risk of online harassment?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/AP Photo:Paul Elias_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/AP Photo:Paul Elias_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="361" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A protest in San Jose calling for the recall of County Judge Aaron Persky for the six-month jail term he sentenced Brock Turner to for a sexual assault conviction. Credit: AP Photo/Paul Elias.</span></span></span></p><p>“If I was Ched Evans i would find that whore and actually rape her this time!!" </p> <p>This is one of the many abusive and threatening messages directed at the victim in the rape trials (and appeals) of footballer Ched Evans’ over the past 4 years. She has experienced an <a href="http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/ched-evans-trial-masterclass-why-women-dont-report-rape-1586457?utm_source=social&amp;utm_medium=twitter&amp;utm_campaign=/ched-evans-trial-masterclass-why-women-dont-report-rape-1586457">incessant barrage of abuse and threats of physical and sexual violence</a> via Twitter, alongside a deliberate smear campaign including repeated breaches of her anonymity. She has also received a tremendous amount of support from women across the UK. Her experiences demonstrate both the importance of centering <a href="http://everydayvictimblaming.com/responses-to-media/what-has-happened-to-a-victim-centred-approach-in-cases-of-domestic-abuse-in-the-english-criminal-justice-system/">the voices of survivors</a>, who are frequently disbelieved, but also the limitations, particularly with the development of social media platforms predicated on notions of <a href="http://womenactionmedia.org/twitter-report/twitter-abuse-recommendations/">‘free speech,’</a> that allow survivors of rape to be labeled ‘a fucking cunt’ or ‘lying psycho bitch’.&nbsp; &nbsp;Social media platforms have, to date, been unwilling to have honest discussions of the reality, representation, and ubiquity of male violence against women and girls, despite <a href="http://fra.europa.eu/en/press-release/2014/violence-against-women-every-day-and-everywhere">a recent EU report</a> that suggests 1 in 3 women between the ages of 18-74 have experienced sexual or physical violence. </p> <p><a href="http://everydayvictimblaming.com/">Everyday Victim Blaming</a> was founded in 2014 to transform a victim blaming culture into a victim-centered justice system.&nbsp; We recognize the power of mainstream media and social media, in creating and maintaining the <a href="http://discoversociety.org/2016/03/01/theorising-violence-against-women-and-girls/">conducive context</a> in which violence against women and girls occurs. Our perspective is predicated on the concept of <a href="http://www.wavaw.ca/what-is-rape-culture/">rape culture</a>, which first appeared in feminist writing in the 1970s. A victim blaming culture consists of a complex set of beliefs, theories and practices that minimise, absolve, and ignore men’s personal and legal responsibility for perpetrating violence against women and girls, this is paralled by women being made responsible for preventing violence by following a set of ever changing ‘rules’ that form <a href="http://everydayvictimblaming.com/evb-analysis/police-safety-campaigns-institutionalised-victim-blaming/">‘safety advice</a>’. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Don&#039;t Rape.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Don&#039;t Rape.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Whilst our campaign also tracks and challenges inappropriate, offensive and misleading <a href="http://everydayvictimblaming.com/evb-analysis/">media coverage of male violence against women and girls</a>, we also created a non-judgmental, safe space in which victims and survivors of domestic and sexualized violence and abuse can <a href="http://everydayvictimblaming.com/personal-experiences/">share their experiences</a>. We have published stories written by women who have never spoken publicly before, others ask only that we read their story and then permanently delete it - their only need is to have one person who knows, even if that person is a complete stranger in an online space.&nbsp; </p> <p>Many of the submissions we receive are from women asking: <a href="http://everydayvictimblaming.com/personal-experiences/i-think-it-was-rape-content-note/">“was this rape”</a> or “I think it was rape”. The same phrases appear in post after post: <a href="http://everydayvictimblaming.com/personal-experiences/why-didnt-you-say-no/">“why didn’t I say no”</a>, and <a href="http://everydayvictimblaming.com/personal-experiences/raped-and-blamed/">“why didn’t I leave”</a>. These women have not yet approached specialist organisations like Rape Crisis, Women’s Aid, and Refuge because they worry about ‘wasting’ their time.&nbsp; Many simply want someone to say ‘I believe you’. The women who have reported their experiences to the police in the UK speak of disbelief and a refusal to investigate – a <a href="http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic/wp-content/uploads/crime-recording-making-the-victim-count.pdf">2014 report</a> by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary identifying the frequency with which sexual offences were ‘no-crimed’ by police forces across the UK did not surprise us.&nbsp; </p> <p>In the long term, awareness of the reality and ubiquity of male violence against women and girls will transform victim blaming culture, but there are serious ethical considerations about using the voices of victim/ survivors as the basis of feminist campaigns on social media platforms that are unwilling to take responsibility for their users’ abuse and harassment of women. Twitter may have banned professional troll Milo Yiannopoulos for directing a targeted campaign of racist and misogynistic hate at Ghostbusters’ actress <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/19/leslie-jones-twitter-abuse-deliberate-campaign-hate">Leslie Jones</a>, but it does very little in response to the thousands of men who use their platform as a way to silence and punish women. Facebook pushes its <a href="http://everydayvictimblaming.com/responses-to-media/7428/">‘real name’</a> policy even when thousands of women have made it clear they use pseudonyms to hide from men who have threatened them. Until Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and others recognize that ‘free speech’ does not guarantee the right to threaten violence, feminist campaigns have to balance raising awareness with a responsibility to protect women from online abuse. </p> <p>We only share survivor testimony publicly for two weeks across social media platforms. &nbsp;They remain published on our site as it is essential to ensure their voices are heard, but we want to minimise their chances of harassment. Equally, we are aware of the ways in which mainstream media outlets use the voices of victims as clickbait. We want to create a safe space for survivors without using their experiences in a way replicates these patterns, therefore we prioritise challenging myths and inappropriate language in mainstream media on Twitter and filing formal complaints with specific media outlets. </p> <p>We rarely use hashtags like #WeBelieveYou or <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/09/women-share-sexual-assault-stories-on-twitter-after-donald-trump-comments">#notokay</a> when we share posts on social media as a way of preventing ‘trolls’ (a misnomer that fails to recognize the severity of the criminal acts that may be being perpetrated) from targeting survivors. At the same time, these tags are essential in enabling women to collectively share their experiences. Campaigners need to support these women with positive messages in order to drown out the men’s rights activists who label women liars: using tags without recognising the inevitability of the abuse that will follow puts women at risk.&nbsp; </p> <p>Whilst we do not edit in other ways, we do remove identifying details, as anonymity is central to our campaign and we have, on occasion, chosen not to publish posts that are uniquely identifying. This is partly to protect women from litigious perpetrators, particularly if they are ex-partners or husbands, but also because the legal right to anonymity for victims of sexualized violence has been repeatedly breached in online spaces over the past few years, as evidenced in the treatment of the complainant in the Evans rape trial. Protecting the anonymity of survivors and their right to privacy must be understood as a human right and be the basis of any campaign. </p> <p>Social media, with its ability to connect women globally, has the potential for transformative political activism. It provides women a space in which to share their experiences and support each other. It enables feminist campaigns to access spaces that were blocked previously by financial considerations. However, if we want to challenge media narratives that focus on <a href="http://everydayvictimblaming.com/responses-to-media/andrew-parsons-wife-murderer-but-still-a-good-father/">‘good fathers’</a> and ‘Stanford rapists’ (as opposed to simply rapist since Brock Turner’s access to an Ivy League education is deemed more important than the criminal act of rape) using survivor testimony to create a victim-centred justice system, we need to be clear and careful in how and why we are using women’s testimonies, finding ways to centre their voices without putting them at risk of further abuse. </p><p><em>Read more articles on openDemocracy in this year's</em><strong> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-based-violence">16 Days: Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. </a></strong><em>Commissioning Editor: Liz Kelly</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/lisa-longstaff/rape-victims-prosecuted-for-false-rape-allegations">The rape victims prosecuted for &quot;false&quot; rape allegations</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jenny-morgan/crime-not-shame-challenging-ideology-of-rape">Crime not shame: challenging the ideology of rape</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/beatrix-campbell/ched-evans-football-in-eye-of-perfect-storm">Ched Evans: football in the eye of a perfect storm</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/gender-violence-in-media-elusive-reality">Gender violence in the media: elusive reality</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/zara-rahman/internet-politics-feminist-guide-navigating-online-power">Internet politics: a feminist guide to navigating online power</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lauren-wolfe/when-does-violation-of-womens-bodies-become-red-line"> When does the violation of women&#039;s bodies become a &quot;red line&quot;?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/angela-neustatter/changing-behaviour-of-male-perpetrators-of-domestic-violence">Changing the behaviour of male perpetrators of domestic violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sarah-green/british-democracy-and-women%27s-right-to-live-free-from-violence">British democracy and women&#039;s right to live free from violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/reni-eddolodge/responding-to-sexual-abuse-in-uk-class-race-and-culture">Responding to sexual abuse in the UK: class, race and culture</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/naila-kabeer/grief-and-rage-in-india-making-violence-against-women-history">Grief and rage in India: making violence against women history? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/what-will-it-take-to-end-violence-against-women-in-uk">What will it take to end violence against women in the UK? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/what-will-it-take-to-end-violence-against-women">What will it take to end violence against women? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/beatrix-campbell/men-and-lads-playboy-nods-to-cultural-revolution">Men and Lads: Playboy nods to the cultural revolution</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 Continuum of Violence 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 50.50 Voices for Change violence against women Sexual violence gender justice bodily autonomy Louise Pennington Fri, 25 Nov 2016 09:03:27 +0000 Louise Pennington 107007 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fear and humiliation at the job centre https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/harriet-williamson/fear-and-humiliation-at-job-centre <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The lack of self-confidence among young women looking for a job in Britain, revealed in the ‘<a href="http://www.youngwomenstrust.org/assets/0000/2981/Future_of_JCP_YWT_response_April_2016_-_Final.pdf">Work It Out</a>’ report, is a phenomenon engineered by social and cultural factors. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/1215041_94b88a82.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/1215041_94b88a82.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jobcentre Plus. Photo: Paul Farmer/All rights reserved </span></span></span></p> <p>Ken Loach’s <em>I, Daniel Blake</em> provides a heart-wrenching exposé of the cruelty that bubbles beneath the surface of the Department of Work and Pensions’ dealings with some of Britain’s most vulnerable people. New research published on 15th November shows that Jobcentre Plus is currently failing Britain’s young women on a massive scale.&nbsp; </p> <p><a href="http://www.youngwomenstrust.org/">Young Women’s Trust,</a> an organisation dedicated to supporting women between 16 and 30, has <a href="http://www.youngwomenstrust.org/assets/0000/2981/Future_of_JCP_YWT_response_April_2016_-_Final.pdf">put together a report</a> condemning job centres across the country for being utterly ineffectual in help young women to re-enter the workplace. The report found that only 19 per cent of young women who visited a job centre in the last year said that it helped them find a job, and 44 per cent said that Jobcentre Plus hadn’t given them useful information about work and training opportunities, compared to 34 per cent of young men surveyed. </p> <p>Young Women’s Trust’s ‘Work It Out’ report sheds light on a situation where job centres are actually driving young women away and alienating them from claiming the temporary financial support that they need. </p> <p>The clue really should be in the name. A ‘job centre’ should be a place where people are aided in their search to find a job, and prepared for employment with opportunities to hone and develop their skills. This is clearly not the case, when the majority of young women are having overwhelmingly negative experiences of Jobcentre Plus. </p> <p>Hattie is a 24-year-old writer and illustrator. She’s been in and out of employment since graduating in 2013 and after doing two full-time unpaid internships, signed on at the job centre. She says:</p><p> <span class="blockquote-new">“I was encouraged to apply for a job every day, even if it didn't fit with what I wanted from a role. Seemingly they cared more about getting me off their books as soon as possible than what I needed from a job. Eventually they decided that I should apply for a couple of Christmas temp jobs to earn money, and I took a job at GAME. It didn’t guarantee me any hours and I usually had one four-hour shift a week, earning me less than £30. My mental health suffered immensely and I ended up quitting. As far as I'm aware, if you quit a role given to you by the Job Centre then you can't go back on to claim JSA. The following month I had to survive on money given to me over the holidays, and I looked and felt horrendous due to poor diet and had little to no drive to even leave the house because I didn’t have any money.”</span> </p> <p>Dr Carole Easton, Chief Executive of Young Women’s Trust, says: “Young women are more likely to be out of education, employment and training than young men.&nbsp; They want to work and be financially independent but they aren’t getting the necessary support. It is clear from this report that job centres need to change.” </p> <p>Abby* is 23 and had to leave her paid job at a charity because they failed to make reasonable adjustments to help mitigate the effects of her health problems. She told me that the job centre ‘terrifies’ her. She says: </p><p class="blockquote-new">“I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve burst into tears in the job centre. I went in with the attitude that it might be hard, but that they were there to help. This is not true, and it is only by preparing for a horrible experience each time I have to go I have been able to protect myself as best I can. I have had experience of three different job centres.&nbsp;</p><p class="blockquote-new">They were totally useless when it came to accommodating my disabilities, both in terms of helping me find appropriate work, and how to assist me when I was physically there. My disabilities mean I need to take lifts rather than stairs, and I have constantly been questioned and told I am ‘raising suspicions’ when needing to use the lift (where you have to be accompanied by a member of staff). When I’ve arrived early (because if you’re late you will be sanctioned) I am told I am not allowed to be there because I’m too early. And so they make you wait outside the building, regardless of the weather and regardless of your disability.”</p> <p>Abby’s experience is not unique. With 59 per cent of young women surveyed describing their time at the job centre as ‘humiliating, and 68 per cent calling it a ‘stressful’ experience, it’s evident that Jobcentre Plus is not fulfilling its role. No one should go to a government branch, in need of help, and be humiliated or treated with base disrespect.</p> <p>It’s clear from the testimonials of hundreds of benefit claimants and from anonymous information given by DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) employees that due to the measures introduced under Iain Duncan Smith, Jobcentre Plus staff are actively encouraged to impose financial penalties on those claiming support. </p> <p><a href="http://www.parliament.uk/documents/PCS%20(SAN0161)%20300115.pdf">The PCS union produced documents in 2015</a> that show Jobcentre Plus managers threatening staff who failed to instigate enough sanctions with performance reviews, or denying them performance-based pay raises. Regardless of whether financial sanctions are appropriate, staff are pushed to approve them. There’s also evidence that staff are encouraged to use <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/patrick-butler-cuts-blog/2015/feb/03/sanctions-staff-pressured-to-penalise-benefit-claimants-says-union">‘the hassle factor’</a> to make claiming benefits so difficult and frustrating that people are forced off the DWP’s books. These tactics are corrupt, disingenuous and bullying, and have no place in a civilised, humane Britain. </p> <p>In terms of the gender imbalance found in the Young Women’s Trust’s ‘Work It Out’ report, female respondents expressed higher levels of self-doubt. 54 per cent of young women said they lacked self-confidence, while only 34 per cent of young men reported the same. Young men were markedly more confident when applying for a new job than young women, and more young women said that they would be put off applying for a job if they didn’t meet all the criteria than the young men surveyed. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/640px-Jobcentre-plus-.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/640px-Jobcentre-plus-.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jobcentre plus. Image: wikimedia</span></span></span></p> <p>The so-called ‘confidence gap’ is likely to be a product of living in a stubbornly unequal society, where women are still viewed as ‘other’ and their work is demonstrated to be less financially valuable, due to the existence of the pay gap. </p> <p>In the UK, the pay gap currently <a href="http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/policy-research/the-gender-pay-gap/">stands at 13.9% for full-time workers</a>, meaning that women will in theory be working from 10th November until the end of 2016, for no pay at all. The pay gap continues to exist, because despite the 1970 Equal Pay Act, there are still men and women receiving different pay for doing the same role, and around 54,000 women each year are forced to leave their jobs after receiving poor treatment on returning from having a baby. </p> <p>Caring and domestic responsibilities within the home still fall overwhelmingly to women, meaning that women are more likely to choose part-time work or jobs with flexible hours. Part-time jobs are typically lower paid with fewer opportunities for upward career progression. The labour market also remains stubbornly divided, and where ‘feminized’ sectors like the caring professions and the leisure industry, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/sep/25/uk-women-lower-paid-work-figures">staffed by workers who are 80% female,</a> typically involve poor pay and little professional esteem. </p> <p>American journalist and author <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/23/female-confidence-gap-katty-kay-claire-shipman">Jessica Valenti writes</a> that the ‘confidence gap’ is merely an understanding of how little women are valued by society. She says that to lack confidence is “not a personal defect as much as it is a reflection of a culture that gives women no reason to feel self-assured”. Between the <a href="http://rapecrisis.org.uk/statistics.php">very real threat of sexual violence</a>, the images of physical ‘perfection’ we’re deluged with on a daily basis <a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/sadiq-khan-there-will-be-no-more-body-shaming-adverts-on-the-tube-a3269951.html">via advertising</a>, the pressures of the billion-pound weight-loss industry and the expectations placed on women from an<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/porn-sluts-and-playground-groping---yet-the-government-still-has/"> increasingly young age via pornography</a>, it’s hardly surprising that young women don’t report the same levels of confidence as their male peers. Remember, that if you’re too confident or capable, you’ll be branded ‘bossy’ or a ‘bitch’. </p> <p>Another point worth addressing is that 85 per cent of young women said that they’d applied for jobs and not heard anything back. Often dubbed the ‘fight for feedback’, it has become increasingly difficult to receive any meaningful response from roles if your application is unsuccessful. Even if you attend a first or second-stage interview, businesses may not feel the need to provide any feedback on why they decided to go with another candidate. </p> <p>This serves to make the process of finding a job intensely demoralizing. You can apply for literally hundreds of roles, and only receive a cursory email response from a handful of them. It’s unsurprising that searching for employment is viewed as a depressing or hopeless task, like chipping away at an unyielding rock-face. When applying for jobs, you can’t learn from rejections if you don’t know where you went wrong. </p> <p>Businesses who fail to respond to unsuccessful applicants (even when they’ve attended interviews) might argue that they just receive too many applications to reply to unsuitable candidates, but surely this is an indication that there are too few jobs to go around, and that forcing JSA claimants to apply for roles 30+ hours per week is putting a strain on employers. </p> <p>The UK government has a responsibility to support those who are out of work, both through financial aid and by providing opportunities for training and professional growth. In a wealthy, Western society, this responsibility should be fulfilled no matter which party has the majority in Westminster. However, job centres are failing those who turn to them for help precisely for ideological reasons. The Tory disregard for the vulnerable, dispossessed and unlucky is not beneficial to our society. It’s merely a form of kicking those who are already down, rather than extending a hand to lift them up. </p> <p>The lack of self-confidence among young women highlighted by the ‘Work It Out’ report is a phenomenon engineered by social and cultural factors. When young women are faced with the arbitrary, inhuman nature of a bureaucracy (in this case, Jobcentre Plus) that’s specifically engineered to work against claimants, the effects of poor self-belief are incredibly damaging. Inadequate provision at job centres and unpleasant behaviour from DWP staff can not only prevent young women from finding appropriate employment, but can also cruelly bar them from reaching their full potential. </p> <p><em>*Names have been changed.</em> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/can-i-help-emotional-labour-and-precarity">&quot;Can I help?&quot; Emotional labour and precarity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maid-in-london/exposing-daily-violence-of-womens-hotel-work">Exposing the daily violence of women&#039;s hotel work</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/barbara-gunnell/how-women-are-paying-for-recession-in-uk">How women are paying for the recession in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/precariat-and-mad-men-secretaries-temping-under-tory-government">The precariat and Mad Men secretaries: temping under the Tory government</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/angela-mcrobbie/womens-working-lives-in-new-university">Women&#039;s working lives in the ‘new’ university</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sujata-aurora/grunwick-40-years-on-lessons-from-asian-women-strikers">Grunwick 40 years on: lessons from the Asian women strikers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/fran-bennett/gender-and-poverty-in-uk-inside-household-and-across-life-course">Gender and poverty in the UK: Inside the household and across the life course</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/women%27s-paid-and-unpaid-work-and-colonial-hangover">Women&#039;s paid and unpaid work, and the colonial hangover</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/angela-neustatter/welcome-to-my-home-welcome-to-my-hell">Welcome to my home, welcome to my hell</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/beatrix-campbell/neoliberal-neopatriarchy-case-for-gender-revolution">Neoliberal neopatriarchy: the case for gender revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/who-cooked-adam-smith%E2%80%99s-dinner-women-and-work-postcrash">Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? Women and work post-crash</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </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 Economics Women and the Economy 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change gender women's work Harriet Williamson Wed, 23 Nov 2016 09:54:33 +0000 Harriet Williamson 107035 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Grunwick 40 years on: lessons from the Asian women strikers https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sujata-aurora/grunwick-40-years-on-lessons-from-asian-women-strikers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The women who led the Grunwick dispute challenged not just the stereotypes of Asian women within British society, but also within an overwhelmingly white, male trade union movement.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/picket_sw012.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/picket_sw012.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="293" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'Asian women picketing outside Grunwick. Jayaben Desai (right). Photo: Phil McCowan </span></span></span></p> <p>Forty years ago in 1976 a group of workers, predominantly South Asian women, led some of the biggest mobilisations the labour movement has ever seen in Britain. A small factory, the Grunwick photo processing plant situated in a residential backstreet in Willesden, north west-London, became the focus for trade union activity which put South Asian women centre-stage for the first time. </p> <p>Although rather patronisingly dubbed <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-37244466">“Strikers in Saris”</a> by the press who liked to emphasise the exotic novelty of Asian women on picket lines, the images of the strike remain undeniably powerful and have served as an inspiration to generations of Asian women who came after them. </p> <p>The majority of the women at the Grunwick factory were “citizens of empire” – Asians from East Africa – which meant they were “twice migrants” when they arrived in in the UK. Many had led relatively comfortable lifestyles back in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and on coming to England suddenly found themselves in a world where they were at the bottom of the pile both socially and economically. Grunwick’s management were explicit about how they saw these women as ripe for exploitation; factory owner George Ward is alleged to have told one worker “I can buy a <a href="http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/license/3273291">Patel for £15</a>”, and as Jayaben Desai, who became the de facto strike leader, <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Finding-Voice-Asian-Women-Britain/dp/0860680126">explained</a>: “Imagine how humiliating it was for us, particularly older women, to be working and to hear the employer saying to a young English girl ‘You don’t want to come and work here, love, we won’t be able to pay the sort of wages which will keep you here'.” </p> <p>That judgment by the factory owners, laden with the assumption of Asian women’s inherent passivity and submissiveness, couldn’t have been more wrong. When the workers were described as “chattering monkeys” by a factory manager (presumably a reference to their speaking in Gujarati) Jayaben responded: “What you are running here is not a factory, it is a zoo. But in a zoo there are many types of animals. Some are monkeys who dance on your fingertips, others are lions who can bite your head off. We are the lions, Mr. Manager.” </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/mrsdesai_pm HR.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/mrsdesai_pm HR.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="310" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jayaben Desai. Photo: Phil McCowan.</span></span></span></p> <p>Pushed to breaking point by compulsory overtime and a host of other petty humiliations, Jayaben and five others walked out demanding the right to join a trade union and were subsequently sacked. They kickstarted a two-year dispute that challenged not just the stereotypes of Asian women within wider British society but also within an overwhelmingly white, male trade union movement. </p> <p>The Grunwick management were keenly aware of how to exploit this situation. Owner George Ward, an Anglo-Indian himself, <a href="https://data.journalarchives.jisc.ac.uk/britishlibrary/sparerib/view?volumeIssue=33313337323334343737%2333383234353738313239$%233534&amp;journal=33313337323334343737%2333383234353738313239">said</a> (falsely) about one striker “She’s only gone on strike because her boyfriend’s on the picket line”, knowing full well that spreading a rumour about her having a boyfriend could lead to community disgrace. </p> <p>But of course, this wasn’t the first time that South Asian women had been part of the struggle against workplace exploitation –&nbsp;they had been at the forefront of earlier industrial disputes of Asian workers, most of which were at best largely ignored and at worst actively obstructed by trade unions. Most notably at <a href="https://hatfulofhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/before-the-unity-of-grunwick-40-years-since-the-imperial-typewriters-strike/">Imperial Typewriters</a> in Leicester in 1974, just two years before Grunwick, when Asians went on strike at being paid lower wages than white workers. Their trade union didn’t just fail to back the strikers but actively opposed them so becoming complicit in maintaining a racist wage differential. The ideas of the National Front, who had been organising within workplaces and agitating on the issue of immigrants and wages, ran deep. </p> <p>Perhaps it was because the dispute at Grunwick was <a href="http://libcom.org/library/the-grunwick-strike-a-sivanandan">primarily about trade union recognition</a>, rather than one that was explicitly raising concerns of racism or sexism, that the Grunwick strikers were able to bring the ranks of the British trade union movement to Willesden. A series of mass pickets intended as a show of strength and with the aim of stopping strike-breakers from entering the factory attracted 20,000 from across the country, steel-workers and miners among them. Local postal workers, key to Grunwick’s operation as a mail-order business, refused to handle Grunwick’s post. Even dockers who just a few years earlier had marched in support of Enoch Powell were now giving support to a group of Asian women. Grunwick was the first time foreign-born workers were, however fleetingly, seen as part of the British working-class. </p> <p>The strike still failed. The postal workers’ union (the UPW) capitulated at the threat of a legal challenge to the postal boycott, effectively halting any form of secondary action and the strikers union (Apex), disconcerted at the militancy of the pickets and keen not to embarrass the Labour government, also eventually withdrew support. And so, at the hands of the trade union leaderships, one the biggest mobilisations of the labour movement which built feminist and anti-racist solidarity became one of the biggest betrayals in working class history. </p> <p>Since Grunwick Asian women have continued to sustain and lead workplace disputes. A year later in 1979 workers won their battle for union recognition at the Chix bubblegum factory in Slough. Other disputes –&nbsp;at <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/punjabi-poor-and-mad-as-hell-a-group-of-asian-women-took-on-their-bosses-they-lost-their-strike-but-1466532.html">Burnsall’s</a> metal finishing factory in 1992, <a href="https://newint.org/features/1997/10/05/interview/">Hillingdon Hospital</a> in 1995 and <a href="http://www.striking-women.org/page/gate-gourmet-timeline">Gate Gourmet</a> in 2005 –&nbsp;were less successful and, like Grunwick, all ended with strikers feeling betrayed and let down by their respective unions. It has been these migrant communities, whom <a href="http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/anti_racism_working_class_formation_and_the_significance_of_the_racialized">Satnam Virdee</a> has termed “racialized outsiders”, who have been central in key challenges to workplace exploitation in Britain – a fact which continues to be sidelined by the mainstream trade union movement. </p> <p>Now the story of Grunwick and the lessons we can draw from it are examined in <a href="https://grunwick40.wordpress.com/2016/10/24/we-are-the-lions-launches/">a new exhibition on display at the Brent Museum</a>. Using exclusive archive material originally collated by Brent Trades Council, photographs, and news reports “We are the lions” celebrates the inspirational women of Grunwick while also tracing the threads which connect it, and some of its preceding struggles, to those happening in today’s workplaces. </p> <p>Now non-unionised casual labour and zero-hours contracts are seen as normal. Low-paid jobs, such as those at Grunwick are off-shored to India or the Philippines, while those that cannot be off-shored – cleaning, care work and catering – are where women and migrants are concentrated. Parallel to this the emergent ‘gig economy’ driven by new technologies represents an even more disposable workforce where not only can you order a taxi, food delivery or a cleaner via an app, you can also be effectively hired and fired via it too. </p> <p>What gives us hope for the future are the vocal campaigns being run by those at the sharp end of this exploitation. The <a href="https://www.facebook.com/SOASJ4C/?fref=ts">cleaners at SOAS</a> and <a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/gender/2016/11/14/justice-for-the-lse-cleaners/">LSE</a> and the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/06/teaching-assistants-durham-pay-slashed-women-lions-of-durham-grunwick?0p19G=c">teaching assistants at Durham</a> are leading some of the most inspirational campaigns in Britain today – against outsourcing, low pay and for dignity at work. Some, as migrants, have had experiences of organising for their rights in their countries of origin and, although much has changed in the forty years since Grunwick, as they challenge exploitative employment practices here in the UK, it is clear that issues of race and gender are still at the forefront.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p><a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/from-grunwick-to-deliveroo-getting-organised-getting-unionised-tickets-27955302061"><strong>“From Grunwick to Deliveroo: getting organised, getting unionised”</strong></a>, <em>a one-day conference on migrant workers, trade unions and the new economy takes place on Saturday 26 November at Willesden Library (free but registration advised).&nbsp; </em></p><p><a href="https://grunwick40.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/we-are-the-lions-the-story-of-the-grunwick-strike-1976-1978/"><strong>“We are the lions”</strong></a> <em>the exhibition commemorating the Grunwick strike is open until Sunday 26 March 2017 at</em> <a href="https://goo.gl/maps/anfYkkDCWsS2">Brent Museum &amp; Archives, The Library at Willesden Green, 95 High Road, London NW10 2SF</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/maid-in-london/exposing-daily-violence-of-womens-hotel-work">Exposing the daily violence of women&#039;s hotel work</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/angela-mcrobbie/womens-working-lives-in-new-university">Women&#039;s working lives in the ‘new’ university</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/women%27s-paid-and-unpaid-work-and-colonial-hangover">Women&#039;s paid and unpaid work, and the colonial hangover</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/beatrix-campbell/neoliberal-neopatriarchy-case-for-gender-revolution">Neoliberal neopatriarchy: the case for gender revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/precariat-and-mad-men-secretaries-temping-under-tory-government">The precariat and Mad Men secretaries: temping under the Tory government</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/who-cooked-adam-smith%E2%80%99s-dinner-women-and-work-postcrash">Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? Women and work post-crash</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/can-i-help-emotional-labour-and-precarity">&quot;Can I help?&quot; Emotional labour and precarity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/fran-bennett/gender-and-poverty-in-uk-inside-household-and-across-life-course">Gender and poverty in the UK: Inside the household and across the life course</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/barbara-gunnell/how-women-are-paying-for-recession-in-uk">How women are paying for the recession in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-defining-economic-citizenship">Women defining economic citizenship </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/angela-neustatter/welcome-to-my-home-welcome-to-my-hell">Welcome to my home, welcome to my hell</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </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 Women and the Economy 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Voices for Change women's movements gendered poverty gendered migration women's work Sujata Aurora Tue, 22 Nov 2016 09:33:27 +0000 Sujata Aurora 106980 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Donors thinking big: beyond gender equality funds https://www.opendemocracy.net/emily-esplen/donor-funding-beyond-gender-equality-funds <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The case for investing in southern women’s rights organisations is firmly established, but to create sustainability, resilience and long-term change donors need to invest in the infrastructure of the organisations and movements. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Screenshot from Sasa! video.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Screenshot from Sasa! video.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Video screenshot from Raising Voices SASA! </span></span></span></p> <p>Members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) provided $35.5 billion in aid to gender equality in 2014; this was an all-time high. Around 28% − nearly $10 billion − went to civil society organisations (csos). </p> <p>The vast majority of this aid supported international non-governmental organisations (ingos) or civil society organisations based in the donor country. In 2014, only 8%<strong> </strong>of gender focused aid to civil society<strong> </strong>went directly to csos in developing countries. </p> <p>No DAC agency is able to systematically track its funding to women’s rights organisations specifically. However, data reported by DAC members suggests that women’s groups may be missing out from the increase in aid going to civil society organisations for gender-related work. In 2014, $192 million was reported as targeting women’s rights organisations directly. This is lower than in previous years. Where resources are reaching southern women’s groups, they are typically small-scale and short-term<strong>. </strong>While small amounts of money can stimulate learning and innovation, they do not enable vital expansion, scale-up and strengthening of organisational and operational capacity. </p> <p>It was in this context that the Secretariat of the DAC Network on Gender Equality (<a href="http://www.oecd.org/dac/gender-development/">GENDERNET</a>) initiated a <a href="http://www.oecd.org/dac/gender-development/donor-support-to-southern-women-s-rights-organisations.htm">review</a> to deepen understanding of how donors are partnering with southern women’s rights organisations, and what is working well and less well.&nbsp; This article sheds light on the findings. </p> <p><strong>What are the challenges? </strong></p> <p><em>“Ten years back, the bureaucracy was less. We didn’t have these extremely demanding administrative set-ups. There has been a change towards stricter monitoring and evaluation requirements and strong financial control. Now we have more money managed by less people.” </em>Gender specialist, DAC donor agency, interviewed for the GENDERNET review<em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>Gender advisors in bilateral agencies report a common set of challenges in their efforts to fund southern women’s rights organisations. One is the pressure to keep transaction costs low. This has been accelerated by staffing cuts in several agencies, resulting in fewer staff to administer grants and a preference for funding fewer organisations that can absorb large amounts of money. Concerns over perceived risk – financial and reputational – also shape resourcing decisions, encouraging donors to fund organisations that are already familiar to them (mostly northern based). </p> <p>A related challenge is the need to demonstrate impact – quickly and at scale. There is often a perception that (smaller) southern organisations lack the capacity to deliver at scale and to demonstrate results in a way that meet donor requirements. </p> <p>Concerns over risk and results are placing heavy demands on organisations applying for or receiving aid. One gender advisor lamented the <em>“long list of difficult requirements”</em> her agency places on CSOs in order to qualify for funding. She questioned the focus on internal management systems at the expense of what organisations are doing and achieving.</p> <p>Another challenge is the lack of dedicated gender budgets and expertise. Often decisions about funding women’s rights organisations are taken at the country level, in the absence of any corporate guidelines or common understanding of how best to do this. Support for women’s rights organisations then depends on the gender capacity of the country office and how far supporting women’s rights organisations is perceived as useful. According to one gender advisor, what would really make the difference is <em>“a gender budget of my own”. </em></p> <p>These challenges are reducing donors’ appetites for supporting smaller, local women’s groups. This can undermine diversity and potential for innovation. Some gender advisors described the futility of investing in the capacity of local organisations while at the same time undermining their capacity by funding larger organisations, that can crowd out the space and funding for local organisations. </p> <p>How are donors navigating these constraints? </p> <p>Gender advisors in donor agencies are navigating these constraints with some success. Some agencies earmark flexible funds for catalytic work on gender equality to support learning and innovation. Others nurture medium-size national partners over the longer term through core support. Some invest in bilateral and multilateral gender equality funds or women’s funds to support women’s groups and grassroots activities which they could not fund directly. The most promising approaches use a mix of funding modalities to support partnerships with civil society organisations of different sizes and capabilities. </p> <p>Below are some encouraging examples. They point to possibilities for strengthening donor support to southern women’s groups and help dispel the myth that larger funders are institutionally unable to support those at the grassroots.</p> <p>Flexible, long-term partnerships that evolve as an organisation grows: Irish Aid’s support for the Uganda-based women’s rights organisation <a href="http://raisingvoices.org/">Raising Voices</a> is a good example. Initially, the Irish Embassy in Uganda provided funding to support community mobilisation efforts to prevent gender-based violence and HIV. In 2012, Irish Aid and the UK Department for International Development funded a randomised control trial to assess the impact of Raising Voices’ <a href="http://raisingvoices.org/sasa/">SASA</a>! community mobilisation methodology. Following highly <a href="http://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-014-0122-5">successful results</a>, Irish Aid took the decision to shift its support from its embassy to headquarters, and from project funding to core support. This allowed Raising Voices to expand beyond its practice-oriented work to adapt its SASA! methodology for different contexts and to disseminate learning on gender-based violence prevention at regional and global levels. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Manusher Jonno on Orange Day.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Manusher Jonno on Orange Day.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="215" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Manusher Jonno on 'Orange Day'.</span></span></span></p> <p>Partnerships with national organisations that have legitimacy within communities: The Creating Opportunities for Poor and Excluded People (COPE) programme in Bangladesh shows the value of nurturing national organisations with established links to the grassroots. Supported by DFID, the programme is implemented by a national non governmental organisation, the <a href="http://www.manusherjonno.org/">Manusher Jonno Foundation</a> (MJF). MJF supports around 117 ngos including women’s rights groups to work with marginalisd communities (e.g. minorities, people with disability, dalits) with whom they have long-standing relationships. The organisation supports not only building citizens’ awareness and capacity to raise their voices and claim their entitlements but also works with government to improve the accountability of service providers and public institutions, and to respond to citizens’ demands. The organisation is unique in also providing capacity building to “small partners” (community-based organisations or people’s organisations) that applied to MJF for funding but were unsuccessful due to their weaker capacity. The model enables local csos to come together to exchange lessons, innovate and strengthen solidarity in the face of tough political challenges. Support from donor agencies is more likely to be effective when harnessed to these locally-owned processes of change.</p> <p>Bilateral gender equality funds: When designed well, dedicated gender equality funds have proven an effective mechanism for donor agencies to reach southern women’s rights organisations with funding that is flexible and responsive to their needs. A good example here is <a href="https://amplifychange.org/">AmplifyChange</a>, which enables bilateral donors to support southern civil society directly, on a large scale and in a co-ordinated manner. Launched in 2014, AmplifyChange is a joint funding mechanism to support southern cso advocacy on sexual and reproductive health and rights. It has four funding windows tailored to a range of organisations, including small, grassroots and/or newer organisations. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Necklace created for 20th anniversary of UN Trust Fund to EVAW.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Necklace created for 20th anniversary of UN Trust Fund to EVAW.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women.</span></span></span></p> <p>Harmonisation with existing multilateral funding instruments:<strong> </strong>The advantage of multilateral funds is twofold. Firstly, they enable donors to support small and grassroots women’s rights organisations which they could not fund bilaterally. Secondly, they create opportunities to influence the international system and improve co-ordination of donor efforts in support of gender equality. There are a number of well-established multilateral funds to choose from, from long-standing instruments such as the <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/trust-funds/un-trust-fund-to-end-violence-against-women">UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women</a> and UN Women’s <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/trust-funds/fund-for-gender-equality">Fund for Gender Equality</a>, to newer mechanisms such as the recently launched <a href="http://mptf.undp.org/factsheet/fund/GAI00">Global Acceleration Instrument</a> for Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action. </p> <p>For these reasons, a number of bilateral donors are investing in and shaping UN funds as one way to deliver on their own gender equality objectives. DFID has engaged closely with the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women. A priority for DFID has been getting more resources to smaller southern-based civil society and women’s rights organisations, in support of steps the Fund itself was taking. These efforts are paying off: the Trust Fund has adopted a new strategy for supporting small organisations and women’s rights organisations and recruited a small Grants Portfolio Manager to provide specialist support. </p> <p>Women’s funds: A handful of donors are looking to women’s funds as crucial partners in getting resources to southern women’s rights organisations and movements. <a href="http://www.mamacash.org/content/uploads/2015/08/16_IDSB46.4_Moosa_Kinyili.pdf">Women’s funds</a> are uniquely well-connected to women’s organisations at the grassroots level and can reach small and emerging groups that are less able to access larger sources of funding. For example, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) is preparing its third round of support to <a href="http://www.mamacash.org/">Mama Cash</a>. The partnership is driven by Sida’s commitment to supporting grassroots women’s groups, but also by the need to do so in a way that isn’t too burdensome for its own administration. Similarly, the Netherlands has allocated 40 million euros over four years to be channelled through four southern women’s funds, the majority of which is going through the <a href="http://awdf.org/">African Women’s Development Fund</a>. </p> <p>In general, however, DAC donors show limited awareness of the role and impact of women’s funds and are underutilising their potential to reach southern women’s groups.&nbsp; </p> <p><strong>Potential ways forward</strong></p> <p>The case for investing in women’s rights organisations is firmly established. The GENDERNET review sought to shed light on how this can best be done. Based on the findings, here are five potential ways forward: </p> <p>Reaching women’s rights organisations takes deliberate effort. Generic funding will not automatically trickle down to women’s groups: it takes an intentional approach that builds support for women’s rights organisations into the structure of funding mechanisms. For example, donors can earmark a percentage of the budget for women’s rights organisations, establish separate funding windows and insist that women’s groups sit on boards of funds. </p> <p>Better monitoring is needed of how much finance reaches southern women’s rights organisations – directly and indirectly, as core and project funding – and of the quality of this support. Donors should strengthen internal tracking and information systems to monitor this, and evaluate the support they provide to women’s rights organisations. This should include particular attention to relationships between grantees and the local women’s groups they sub-grant to. </p> <p>Women’s movements require breath, depth and diversity. Donors can best fund this diversity using a mix of funding streams and mechanisms; this includes direct support to mid-sized national and regional women’s organisations that work in an impactful way. Reaching the grassroots is best achieved by investing in specialist, well-anchored funding intermediaries, such as women’s funds. This is a win-win for donors, enabling them to get funding to the grassroots while subcontracting the partnership and administrative workload. </p> <p>Investing in the infrastructure of organisations and movements is the basics of sustainability, resilience and long-term change. This requires multi-year core support that i)&nbsp;allows women’s rights organisations to strengthen their organisational capacity and preparedness to seize new political opportunities, ii)&nbsp;strategically adapt and innovate and iii)&nbsp;persevere in the face of backlash. This is vital for the well-being and sustainability of organisations and activists on the frontline. </p> <p>Money matters but non-financial support is also crucial. Donors can commission research into the value-added of women’s rights organisations and can support women’s groups to conduct baselines and document their impact and added value. They can link women’s rights organisations with other potential funders and create spaces for women’s groups to be heard and have influence. They can lead from the front by convening peers and building collaborations around strengthened support to southern women’s rights organisations. In these ways, DAC donors can help foster safe and enabling environments in which women’s rights organisations and movements can thrive. </p> <p><em>This article is the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of the members or the Bureau of the DAC Network on Gender Equality.</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala/transformative-strategy-true-value-of-investing-in-women%E2%80%99s-rights">A transformative strategy: the true value of investing in women’s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zohra-moosa/movements-money-and-social-change-how-to-advance-women%E2%80%99s-rights">Movements, money and social change: how to advance women’s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/gender-politics-of-funding-women-human-rights-defenders">The gender politics of funding women human rights defenders</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala/beyond-individual-stories-women-have-moved-mountains">Beyond individual stories: women have moved mountains </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/angelika-arutyunova/womens-human-rights-watering-leaves-starving-roots">Women&#039;s human rights: Watering the leaves, starving the roots </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/andrea-cornwall/reclaiming-feminist-visions-of-empowerment">Reclaiming feminist visions of empowerment</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-activisms-front-line">Women human rights defenders: activism&#039;s front-line</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women%27s-rights-have-no-country">Women&#039;s rights have no country</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala/what-does-transforming-economic-power-mean">What does transforming economic power mean?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/valerie-hudson/getting-serious-about-data-on-women">Getting serious about data on women</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Equality 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick feminism gender gender justice women and power women's movements young feminists Emily Esplen Mon, 21 Nov 2016 09:27:33 +0000 Emily Esplen 106952 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fatherhood – take it at your own risk https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/agnish-ray/fatherhood-take-it-at-your-own-risk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>International Men’s Day is a moment to interrogate how Britain’s parental leave system continues to exclude men from family life – and exclude women from the workforce<em>. </em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/PA-8424658(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/PA-8424658(1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Fathers attend a meeting of the EU Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality to support paternity leave legislation. Thierry Charlier/ AP/ Press Association Images </span></span></span></p><p>In what seemed to be a big step towards closing the enormously gender-inequality in the UK’s system of statutory parental leave (which allows women statutory parental leave of up to 52 weeks, while men have just two), it became legal last year for mothers and fathers to share a period of parental leave totalling 50 weeks equally between them. </p> <p>It was hoped that this shift to shared parental leave (SPL) would cultivate a society in which men could identify more strongly as caring and nurturing fathers, setting progressive examples of masculinity for future generations, and in which a woman was not automatically assumed as the primary caregiver taking absence from work. </p> <p>However, more than a year and a half later, the impact looks negligible. Recent figures from the HMRC show that only 4% of new fathers in the UK have opted to take any additional time off work. </p> <p>Despite this, British businesses have been <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-37785683">calling on the government</a> for maternity pay to be extended even further, and for next week’s Autumn Statement to budget for this. The proposals are presented as a means of keeping more women in the workforce, under the premise that parental leave is something that women look for in an employer. But a move like this would fail to address deep gender division in what we think of as parental and professional responsibility.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p><strong>The law has changed – but the culture has not</strong> </p> <p>Progress at legal level often means something very different in practice. Speaking ahead of <a href="http://www.internationalmensday.com/">International Men’s Day 2016</a>, Jeremy Davies of the <a href="http://www.fatherhoodinstitute.org/">Fatherhood Institute</a> tells me that not enough organisations are actively encouraging employees to take shared parental leave. “It’s one thing to change a policy on paper,” he says, “but it’s another to actually change the culture to the point where an individual dad feels confident enough to ask for this stuff. If employers are serious about cultural change, there’s still a lot to do.” </p> <p>He believes that it is often difficult for employees to navigate the technicalities of shared parental leave; and while many employers provide enhanced maternity packages, exceeding statutory requirements in order to attract female employees, this generosity is often not mirrored in shared parental leave provisions. </p> <p>An employment lawyer at UK law firm <a href="http://www.slaterheelis.co.uk/">Slater Heelis</a> concedes that “people won’t want to take shared parental leave if it’s detrimental to their career”. But having a baby already disproportionately affects women’s careers, and is a key influencing factor in the lack of women in senior positions and in <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/equal-pay-day-women-earn-nothing-from-today-until-2017--sort-it/">an ever-widening gender pay gap</a>. So the acceptance that the low uptake of SPL is down to men’s unwillingness to damage their careers is troubling because it indicates how entrenched we are in a culture that assumes a woman’s professional and financial autonomy to be less important. </p> <p>“Choice” is often figured as the ultimate, unchangeable decider. That when given the choice, it will invariably be the man who continues to work – because women have more natural maternal instincts; or because women are more closely bonded to a newborn baby; or because men are less naturally gifted in childcare. But considering the lack of compensation and flexibility offered for men taking SPL, as well as a culture that tells men they are incompetent parents and women that earning money is less important for them, the external influence on these “choices” is deeply problematic.&nbsp; </p><p><strong>Are we too insistent on the biology of parenthood? <br /></strong></p> <p>While carrying and giving birth to a child is a powerful experience which creates a deep bond between a mother and her newborn, parental leave is not just about giving birth – it is also about the practicalities of raising a child. The over-insistence on the biology of childbirth when it comes to developing parenthood legislation fails to recognise that much of childcare can be provided by parents of both genders. It also puts an unfair pressure on women to be a certain kind of mother, and have a kind of relationship with her child, which can have dangerous consequences, like the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/julie-seeney/a-working-mums-guilt_b_9757310.html">social shaming of women who are passionate about their careers</a>, and even <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-37832567">post-natal depression</a>. </p> <p>Gendered biology has throughout history been exploited for the means of maintaining divisions in society. Women were denied the vote because it was supposed that their emotions inhibited them from making rational decisions. And now, still, parenthood laws are too insistent on certain preconceptions of how gendered bodies work, and on the biological, heterosexual nuclear family model, which relies on strict conventions of male and female identity. </p> <p>So when interrogating men’s abilities to look after children, some of the most compelling examples are to be found in male same-sex couples, where roles of “maternity” and “paternity” are not automatically allocated to either one parent or the other. <a href="https://twitter.com/philreaysmith">Phil Reay-Smith</a>, a 42-year-old London-based media consultant and former TV presenter, adopted a child with his partner Michael nearly eight years ago. At this time, before SPL was legal, an adoptive same-sex couple had to elect a primary parent (allowed the equivalent of maternity leave) and a secondary parent (allowed the equivalent of paternity leave). </p> <p>So what happens when two parents make childcare decisions without the influence of society’s divided gender conventions? For Phil and Michael, it was largely a financial decision. This is undoubtedly also often also the main factor for heterosexual couples; but the troubling conclusion there is that the gender pay gap is still so deeply delineated that in most given male-female couples the father is almost always likely to be the bigger earner. Evidently, the choices made by new parents are not just naturally pertinent to their gender – they are driven by larger socio-economic structures that are still deeply divided by gender.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p><strong>Things aren’t working – but there is still room for improvement <br /></strong></p> <p>The enormous disparity between paternity leave and maternity leave is one of the key hindrances to gender equality in society. It is a system that disallows men to truly identify with parenthood, belittling them to the point that they do not feel capable of raising a child. But, as families with two male parents clearly illustrate, there is nothing inherent to men that disables them from taking the same amount of parenting responsibility as women. “We, and other gay parents we know, are absolute proof that men can do it,” says Phil. “Men <em>can</em> take a year off work and look after their kids. Men <em>can</em> be the ‘mum’.” </p> <p>A big part of the reason SPL has not created greater quality is it entails the mother officially bringing an end to her maternity leave in order to give part of her time off to the father – instead of the father being allocated a bigger period of time of his own (like “daddy quotas” in countries like Sweden). As the Slater Heelis employment experts confirm, “a non-transferable right to further parental leave, paid at an income-related level may persuade more fathers to take further leave” – so there is still room for improvement. </p> <p>Given that the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-gender-gap-report-2016/">World Economic Forum has also reiterated</a> the strong case for greater gender equality in this area, we need to stop thinking of parental leave as a women’s issue. Motherhood should not be an excuse for the lack of women in senior positions; careers should not be an excuse for a man to be denied the full fatherhood experience. In a world in which becoming a parent had equal impacts on both men and women’s lives, neither gender would be categorically disadvantaged or have to suffer professionally and financially for the very fact of parenthood. </p> <p>We are still in early days – perhaps a year and a half is too soon for new laws like this to really see any tangible impact. Nonetheless, unless we recognise that more needs to be done, fatherhood is still too often something offered to men at their own risk.</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/beulah-maud-devaney/unlimited-parental-leave-progress-or-pr-coup">Unlimited parental leave: progress or PR coup?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/agnish-ray/brand-of-manliness-that-is-bad-for-world">A brand of manliness that is bad for the world</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gary-barker/why-don%E2%80%99t-men-care">Why don’t men care?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 UK Equality 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Voices for Change gender Agnish Ray Sat, 19 Nov 2016 00:33:27 +0000 Agnish Ray 106791 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Erdogan's war on women https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/dilar-dirik/erdogan-s-war-on-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Kurdish women in one of the strongest and most radical women’s movements in the world are taking a battering from the Turkish state with impunity - as Europe looks the other way</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/j.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/j.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ayla Akat Ata, spokeswoman of Free Women’s Congress (KJA), 8th March celebration 2014 when she was still an MP.</span></span></span></p><p>‘’We will resist and resist until we win!“ chants Sebahat Tuncel before her mouth is forcibly shut by half a dozen police officers who drag her along the floor and detain her in early November. </p> <p>Nine years ago, a convoy of victory signs, cheerful slogans, and flowers received Tuncel as she was released from prison to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/18/opinion/18tuncel.html?_r=1">enter parliament, having been elected while still inside</a>. Tuncel, now in jail again, is one of dozens of Kurdish politicians from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) or the regional Democratic Regions Party (DBP) arrested by the Turkish security forces since late October under Turkish president Erdogan’s “anti-terror” operations against those <a href="https://roarmag.org/essays/hdp-arrests-dictatorship-turkey/">challenging his authoritarian rule</a>. This crackdown follows the attempted coup in July and represents a re-escalation of the war between the state and the Kurdish movement since the summer of 2015, <a href="http://blog.crisisgroup.org/europe-central-asia/2015/08/11/a-new-cycle-begins-in-turkey-pkk-conflict/">ending a-two- and-a-half-year-long peace process</a>. Like the advice given to the German anti-terrorist squad in the 1980s “Shoot the women first!” the toxic masculinity of the state became apparent in its declaration of a war on women; the strength of the militant Kurdish women’s movement poses the biggest threat to the system. Sebahat Tuncel’s case is not unique. &nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/DSC_3441_1.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/DSC_3441_1.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gültan Kışanak's photos. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>At the end of October, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/nadje-al-ali-latif-tas-g-ltan-ki-anak/kurdish-women-s-battle-continues-against-state-and-patriarchy-">Gültan Kisanak</a> was detained. &nbsp;She was the first female co-mayor of Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality and former MP, &nbsp;who spent two years in the 1980s in the notorious Diyarbakir prison, where she survived the most atrocious forms of torture, such as having to live for months in a dog hut full of excrements because she refused to say&nbsp; ‘I am a Turk‘. Her arrest was immediately followed by the violent arrest of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/nadje-al-ali-latif-tas-ayla-akat/kurds-and-turks-are-at-edge-of-cliff">Ayla Akat Ata</a>, former MP and now spokeswoman of the Free Women’s Congress (KJA), the largest women’s umbrella organisation in Kurdistan and Turkey, <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-security-idUSKBN1370DP">which is among the 370 civil society organizations banned by the government since mid-November</a>. She was hospitalised several times due to police violence during her parliamentary term and survived assassination attempts. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/fft16_mf5512330.Jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/fft16_mf5512330.Jpeg" alt="" title="" width="450" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sebahat Tuncel, Ayla Akat Ata, Selma Irmak and Pervin Buldan protest a security bill in parliament. All except Pervin Buldan are now in jail. Photo: Murstafa Istemi/Milliyet</span></span></span></p><p>Selma Irmak is among the MPs elected from prison, where she spent more than 10 years on terrorism charges and participated in hunger strikes. Gülser Yildirim was imprisoned for five years before elections. Another MP is Leyla Birlik, who stayed with the civilians under military fire in Sirnak during the entire duration of the military lockdown, witnessing the brutal killings of countless civilians by the army. Her brother-in-law, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/turkey-dragged-kurdish-man-video_us_56142087e4b022a4ce5fc79e">Haci Lokman Birlik</a>, activist and film-maker, was executed by the army in October 2015; his corpse was tied to an army vehicle and dragged through the streets. Soldiers filmed this and sent the video to Leyla Birlik with the message “Come pick up your brother-in-law”. </p> <p>The list goes on. We chose such courageous women as our representatives. They are now political prisoners despite being elected by more than five million people. </p> <p>The ultra-conservative policies of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) under Erdogan have led to the <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/tr/originals/2015/02/turkey-ozgecan-sex-crimes-murder.html">rise of violence against women in Turkey</a> over the last decade and a half. Not only do high profile members of the administration, including Erdogan himself, frequently <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/24/turkeys-president-recep-tayyip-erdogan-women-not-equal-men">reject equality between women and men</a> in favour of attitudes that normalise rape culture, gender violence and misogyny, the AKP further launches explicit physical attacks on women and LGBTI+ people. The hyper-masculine state not only collectively punishes the Kurdish community as separatists, terrorists, or conspirators against the state, it portrays Kurdish women activists as “bad women”, <a href="https://roarmag.org/essays/hdp-arrests-dictatorship-turkey/">shameful whores</a> and violators of the nuclear family. </p> <p>Historically, rape and sexual torture, including post-mortem “virginity tests”, have been used by the Turkish state to discipline and punish women’s bodies as noted by Anja Flach in her book <a href="https://www.amazon.de/Frauen-kurdischen-Guerilla-Geschlechterverh%C3%A4ltnis-Hochschulschriften/dp/3894383771">Frauen in der Kurdischen Guerrilla</a> which has not been translated from German. &nbsp;In prisons, women are subjected to intimate searches to humiliate them sexually. Recently, soldiers stripped the clothes off Kurdish women militants’ corpses and <a href="http://jinha.com.tr/en/ALL-NEWS/content/view/28874">shared these images on social media</a>. Another <a href="http://kurdishquestion.com/article/3557-women-pkk-fighters-killed-execution-style-by-turkish-soldiers">&nbsp;brutal video </a>showed the Turkish army shooting guerrilla women in the head and throwing them off mountain cliffs. GermanG3 rifles were used in the video illustrating western complicity in these war crimes.</p> <p>While such atrocities were often committed secretly in the 1990s, sharing images on social media is a new attempt at demoralising women’s resistance and demonstrating state power.&nbsp; These methods resemble those of ISIS across the border and violate all war conventions. Sexually abusing an activist woman, who dares to challenge male hegemony, aims to break her willpower and deter further activism. The attacks on women politicians need to be read in this context. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/CXByEqzWEAE9mTc.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/CXByEqzWEAE9mTc.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Kurdish woman protesting the Turkish army in Kerboran last year. Image:Zehra Dogan/JinHa. </span></span></span></p> <p>Long before mainstream media was under fire in Turkey, reporters of <a href="http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/inside-a-kurdish-all-female-news-agency-765">JinHa</a>, the first all-women news agency of the Middle East, were attacked. Committed to an explicitly feminist lens in their work, JinHa’s workers exposed the state’s crimes from a gendered perspective. Now JinHa is banned and several members are in jail.<em> <br /></em></p> <p>The HDP is the only <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/cuma-%C3%A7i%C3%A7ek/hdp-focus-of-leftwing-opposition-beyond-prokurdish-mobilization">progressive oppositional party</a> left in Turkey with its secular, diverse, pro-minority, pro-women, pro-LGBT rights and ecological agenda. It has by far the highest percentage of women in its ranks. Even without the system of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mona-tajali/promise-of-gender-parity-turkey-s-people-s-democratic-party-hdp">co-presidency</a>, a policy of the Kurdish freedom movement which ensures shared leadership between a woman and a man, the vast majority of female mayors are in the Kurdish regions. Through a decades-long struggle, especially encouraged by the imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, the active role of women in politics is a normal part of life in Kurdistan today. </p> <p>The women of the HDP and DBP do not embody bourgeois ideas of representative politics and corporate feminism. Almost all politicians currently under attack have spent time in prison, been subject to police brutality, sexualised torture, assassination attempts or some form of violent treatment by the state. They are always at the forefront in the protests against the state and army. </p> <p>Women were also significant actors in the peace process initiated by Abdullah Öcalan with the Turkish state in March 2013. Every meeting on Imrali Prison Island included women. In 2014, Öcalan recommended that women be represented in the meetings as an organised force, rather than only as individuals. Thus, Ceylan Bagriyanik joined the meetings as the representative of the women’s movement. The <a href="http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/kurdish-peace-call-made-amid-row-on-security-bill.aspx?pageID=238&amp;nID=78999&amp;NewsCatID=338">Dolmabahce Declaration</a>, the first joint declaration between the warring parties included women’s liberation as one of the ten points for justice and lasting peace. The state and media were unable to make sense of the Kurdish movement’s insistence on the centrality of women’s liberation in the peace process. </p> <p>We face collective punishment for passing the highest election threshold in the world which requires a political party to win at least&nbsp;10 per cent&nbsp;of the national vote to enter parliament. Our cities are razed to the ground, our loved ones <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/turkey-under-fire-from-un-for-alarming-reports-of-rights-abuses/2016/05/10/0f9eccb7-45cd-4685-9483-181fdfd2cadf_story.html">murdered</a>, burned alive, bombed, shot, or beaten to death. Our cultural heritage and environment are erased forever, our MPs dragged on the streets, our <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-kurds-idUSKCN12Q19K">mayors</a> replaced by governmental trustees against our will, our <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/30/turkey-shuts-media-outlets-terrorist-links-civil-servants-press-freedom">media censored</a>, our <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2016/11/04/turkey-blocks-access-to-whatsapp-facebook-and-twitter/">social media blocked</a>. By destroying the possibility of peaceful, legal politics within democratic frameworks, Turkey has left the Kurds with no other option than self-defence. International institutions, above all the European Union, have failed the Kurdish people in appeasing Erdogan. In other words, western governments support the systematic elimination of one of the strongest and most radical women’s movements in the world. </p> <p>The philosophy of the Kurdish women’s movement proposes that every living organism has its mechanisms of <a href="http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Kurdish-Womens-Radical-Self-Defense-Armed-and-Political-20150707-0002.html">self-defence</a>, like the rose with its thorns. This concept is not defined in a narrow physical sense, but includes the creation of autonomous self-governance structures to organise social and political life. Protecting one’s identity against the state through self-defence is partly enabled by building self-reliant political institutions. </p> <p>In an era when women’s naked corpses are exposed on social media by the army and elected officers are subject to torturous abuse by the capitalist-patriarchal state, women are fighting back to show that their honour is not up for men to define because honour does not lie between women’s legs; it lies in our resistance, the resistance culture established by the trailblazers of our movement. Our jailed politicians defend this honour. </p><p>From prison, the HDP co-chair Figen Yüksekdag sent <a href="https://www.hdp.org.tr/en/english/news/news-from-hdp/messages-from-our-co-chairs-and-mps/9200">this message</a>: “Despite everything, they can’t consume our hope, or break our resistance. Whether in prison or not, the HDP and us, we are still Turkey’s only option for freedom and democracy. And that's why they are so afraid of us. Do not, not a single one of you, allow yourself to be demoralised, do not drop your guard, do not weaken your resistance. Do not forget that this hatred and aggression is rooted in fear. Love and courage will definitely win“.</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="/nadje-al-ali-latif-tas-g-ltan-ki-anak/kurdish-women-s-battle-continues-against-state-and-patriarchy-"> Kurdish women’s battle continues against state and patriarchy, says first female co-mayor of Diyarbakir. Interview </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mona-tajali/promise-of-gender-parity-turkey-s-people-s-democratic-party-hdp">The promise of gender parity: Turkey’s People’s Democratic Party (HDP)</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/gender-wars-in-turkey-litmus-test-of-democracy">The gender wars in Turkey: a litmus test of democracy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/margaret-owen/to-demand-peace-is-not-crime-turkish-academics-on-trial">&quot;To demand peace is not a crime&quot;: Turkish academics on trial </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/bingul-durbas/silencing-womens-rights-activists-in-turkey">Silencing women&#039;s rights activists in Turkey</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ayse-bugra/turkey-what-lies-behind-nationwide-protests">Turkey: what lies behind the nationwide protests? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/tangled-web-politics-of-gender-in-turkey">A tangled web: the politics of gender in Turkey</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/safak-pavey/rise-of-political-islam-in-turkey-how-west-got-it-wrong">The rise of political Islam in Turkey: how the west got it wrong </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 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 Turkey Civil society 50.50 Gender Politics Religion feminism fundamentalisms gender gender justice violence against women women and militarism Dilar Dirik Thu, 17 Nov 2016 09:27:33 +0000 Dilar Dirik 106870 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sound the Trumpet https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/meredith-tax/sound-trumpet <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Trump offered white voters the illusion they could prosper. We have to offer all our people a way to move forward together and save the planet. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/PA-29164806(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/PA-29164806(1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protests in Missouri against President-elect Donald Trump. Jeff Roberson / PA/Press Association Images.</span></span></span></p> <p>In the weeks leading up to Nov. 8, as the election loomed like a cloud about to burst, I was unmoored by a feeling of dread so strong I could barely sleep. The debates had been so awful, Trump’s threats to immigrants and Muslims so terrifying, his dismissal of climate change so incredible, his contempt for women so appalling, his glare so demented, his late night tweets so childish and unhinged. It simply was not possible that people would see this satyr as a “strong man” with some unique ability to fix the country’s problems. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>But by the early hours of 11/9, Trump had won enough electoral college votes to be declared president, and Hillary had conceded. It has now become increasingly clear that she <a href="http://www.snopes.com/2016/11/13/who-won-the-popular-vote/">won the popular vote</a> by a fairly large volume—absentee ballots are still being counted—but because of an archaic constitution set up to protect slave states, lost in the Electoral College.</p> <p>In the eight months leading up to this dreadful denouement, indigenous people from all over the world had flocked to an encampment at Standing Rock, North Dakota, in an action <a href="http://karamariaananda.com/blog/women-of-standing-rock">initiated and largely led by women</a>. Their purpose was to block a fracking pipeline scheduled to be built on their land—on a protected burial ground, in fact—without their consent. They have been met by the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/04/dakota-access-pipeline-protest-standing-rock-women-police-abuse">entire militarized might of the state of North Dakota</a>, along with oil company mercenaries and police forces brought in from other states. Some young Native American organizers camped out in front of Hillary Clinton’s New York headquarters to get her to take a position against the Dakota Access Pipeline. <a href="http://thefreethoughtproject.com/hillary-turns-back-standing-rock-sioux-path-forward-must-serve-broadest-public-interest/#VXuksTpVXCoYBzI4.99">Her only response</a> was that “all of the parties involved—including the federal government, the pipeline company and contractors, the state of North Dakota, and the tribes—need to find a path forward that serves the broadest public interest.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/James MacPherson.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/James MacPherson.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="248" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Standing Rock encampment. James MacPherson/ AP/Press Association Images.</span></span></span></p> <p>At least Hillary knows global warming is real, though she barely mentioned it in the debates, which had not a single question on the subject. Trump believes climate change is a Chinese hoax. He has vowed to abrogate the Paris climate agreement and <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/11/11/meet-the-man-trump-is-relying-on-to-unravel-obamas-environmental-legacy/">appointed a coal industry shill</a> as his energy czar. For this reason alone, not to mention all the others, this election is a tragedy for the earth and all the species we share it with.</p> <p>This spring was such a hopeful time—what a joy to hear Bernie Sanders actually call the problems we face by their right names and use the words capitalism and socialism without fear! His campaign seemed to get stronger every day, though it was clear from the beginning that the Democratic Party was not open to new energies from the left; they wanted to do business as usual and had convinced themselves it would work, even though the country was clearly calling for change.</p> <p>The feminists I know were divided between Hillary and Bernie. Though I too would like a woman president, I supported Bernie, and not only because I worried about her ethical tone deafness, Wall Street allegiances, and bellicosity—“we came, we saw, he died.” I don’t think electing women politicians can make up for the absence of a feminist movement that takes questions of class, race, war, and power thoroughly on board. We don’t have that movement yet and Hillary’s campaign did nothing to build it. Her speeches were all policy points, nothing to inspire the listener, just the usual American exceptionalist framing of the US as a unique power sent by God to save the world—a view she shares with Obama, Biden, and most politicians of both parties.</p> <p>When Hillary got the nomination, I voted for her and urged everyone else to do so because the alternative was to put a jittery thug at the top of the most powerful military in the world, a man who is not only a clear sociopath but has been happy to act as front man for a nascent fascist front made up of the Klan, the Nazi Party, and the various mad armed groups who call themselves patriots. But inconceivably, he is now the President-elect.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/PA-29125724_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/PA-29125724_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>President-elect Donald Trump on election night. Evan Vucci PA/Press Association Images</span></span></span></p> <p>Why did Trump get so many votes? <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/13/opinion/sunday/2016-election-thank-you-notes.html?_r=0">Reams of analysis</a> are already being written. There was his open mobilization of sexism, racism, and anti-immigrant nativism, his playing to people’s economic insecurity and blaming immigrants for the economic woes of the majority. There was the Democratic National Committee’s undermining of Bernie, whom some think could have beaten Trump. Hillary herself blames <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/13/us/politics/hillary-clinton-james-comey.html">Comey's partisan FBI interventions</a>. The role of the media was appalling throughout; they normalized a fascist campaign and focused on Hillary’s emails as if they were the equivalent of Trump’s rape and multiple financial crimes.</p><p>It was also a new media environment, where people could get all their news and opinions from the internet and never look at a paper or TV. As <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/trump-and-the-truth-the-viral-candidate">Andrew Marantz</a> explained in the <em>New Yorker, </em>the alt right had a system for making lies favorable to Trump go viral. Some of these fake news stories were traceable to <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/how-macedonia-became-a-global-hub-for-pro-trump-misinfo?utm_term=.ar98gv4QZ#.lg7wEZ0Ky">Macedonian teenagers</a> who set up popular pro-Trump sites so they could make money from Facebook. </p><p>The vote was also the product of years of systematic Republican gerrymandering and <a href="http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/election/article113977353.html">voter suppression</a>, which may have cost Hillary key states. And the fact that people were so turned off by the candidates and the election process that <a href="http://imgur.com/TOGIbcP">a million fewer people voted in this election</a> than in 2008. And many voters—in New York State, 6500 in <a href="http://www.newsnet5.com/news/local-news/oh-cuyahoga/record-number-of-cuyahoga-co-voters-leave-the-presidential-portion-of-their-ballots-blank">Cuyahoga County</a> alone— hated both candidates so much they left the top line of their ballot blank and just voted for the candidates down ticket.</p><p>But the most obvious explanation for Trump’s win is his skill as a con man. All evidence to the contrary, many people in the Rust Belt see him as a brilliant businessman who will fix the economy so they can once more get decent jobs. To improve their own prospects, they were willing to overlook his racism and sexism. As my daughter-in-law, a black feminist, puts it, “Most people are selfish. They may live in a big house while somebody a few streets over has no home, but they won’t give up a room.”</p><p>The election exposed all the contradictions within the US feminist movement. Not only was Hillary was the first woman presidential candidate nominated by a major party, her program was strong on things a lot of women need: equal pay, subsidized childcare, universal pre-K, parental leave, reproductive rights. Meanwhile Trump is an accused rapist whose campaign, as <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/hillary-clinton-has-one-more-badly-behaved-man-left-to-vanquish/">Katha Pollitt</a> says, took place in a testosterone cloud, with advisors like Roger Ailes, a defendant in multiple sexual harassment cases; Newt Gingrich, a hypocrite and serial adulterer; and Rudy Giuliani, who used a TV interview to tell his wife he wanted a divorce. Trump supporters sported tshirts with slogans like “Trump that bitch” and “She’s a cunt, vote for Trump.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Concedingdefeat Matt Rourke.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Concedingdefeat Matt Rourke.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hillary Clinton conceding defeat. Matt Rourke/AP/ Press Association Images. </span></span></span></p><p>The thought that <a href="http://www.cnn.com/election/results/exit-polls">53% of white women voters</a> could support this man is enough to make a feminist despair. No wonder many feel totally betrayed, particularly women of color—only 4% of black women voted for the guy. My desktop is full of articles with titles like <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/09/opinions/trumps-win-women-filipovic/index.html">"Trump Win Boils Down to White Women",</a> <a href="http://www.versobooks.com/blogs/2936-elite-white-feminism-gave-us-trump-it-needs-to-die">"Elite White Feminism Gave Us Trump: It Needs to Die"</a>, and <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2016/11/09/white_women_sold_out_the_sisterhood_and_the_world_by_voting_for_trump.html">"White Women Sold Out the Sisterhood and the World by Voting for Trump"</a>. </p> <p>But it never made sense to assume that women would see themselves in Hillary Clinton and thus vote for her. The idea that women will naturally want to vote for other women is an illusion, though one central to liberal feminism. The suffrage movement argued that giving women the vote would bring about an era of social justice and world peace because women were innately more caring than men. After the war, suffragists were dismayed to see that women usually voted with their families and communities.</p><p>Here lies one of the divides between liberal and left wing feminism. Liberal feminists focus on individual rights. To win these rights, they work through electoral and institutional politics. They assume women will be motivated to fight on their own behalf and will see no conflict between their interests as women and the interests of their class, community, or family.&nbsp; </p><p>Left wing feminists try to reconcile individual with collective rights, such as the rights of labor, racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities, and dissidents—the current buzzword for this approach is <a href="https://www.academia.edu/29220905/_Intersectionality_Socialist_Feminism_And_Contemporary_Activism_i">intersectionality.</a> But meshing feminist politics with progressive organizing can be difficult because leftwing movements tend to be led by men who discount women’s independent thought and want to use their labor for purposes they consider more urgent than women’s liberation.</p><p>And there are ideological weaknesses on all sides. What with the reductionist Marxism of the hard left, the post-structuralism of the academic left, the flakiness of the anarchist left, and the attitude-policing of the cultural left, it can be hard to find anyone in the US who thinks strategically. To the extent a practical left wing feminist movement now exists, it is led by embattled and mobilized working class and minority women and queers like those in the National Nurses Union, Black Lives Matter, and the encampment at Standing Rock. And while liberal feminists saw Hillary’s candidacy as the fulfillment of their dream of equality, the nurses supported Bernie and the women of BLM and the native American movement did not take a position supporting anyone.</p><p>So far, election post mortems have focused on demographics: who voted and why they voted differently this time than last. The focus has been on assigning blame: Trump’s victory is the fault of white women, of the white portion of the working class, of third party voters in Pennsylvania. This approach is not productive. Rather than more blame, we need clearer political ideas and programs that will get to people where they live—metaphorically and in actual neighborhoods.</p> <p>We have a long period of resistance ahead. Liberals have demonstrated that they are not strong enough to fight fascism. Only a stronger left can do that. And the only way to build a stronger left is to present an alternative vision of the society we want, one that opposes both the right and the status quo, and is based on practical organizing to make people’s lives better. The ideas being worked out in <a href="https://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/the-revolution-in-rojava">Rojava,</a> with their combination of ecology, feminism, self-defense and direct democracy, are a source we could draw on.&nbsp; </p> <p>But we don’t have a lot of time—Trump’s administration will inevitably disappoint many who voted for him, who are likely to move farther right unless we can offer them something that goes beyond protest and reaches towards daily life. Until we actually begin to build “a new society within the shell of the old” there is no point in talking about Elizabeth Warren in 2020 or a third party or anything else that involves voting. We already know the limitations of electoral democracy. Only half the US population even bothers to vote and that half is evenly divided between right and left. Trump offered—for white people only—the illusion that they could prosper under his leadership. We have to be able to offer all our people a chance to work together, a believable path forward, and a vision that centers on saving the planet. &nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/pablo-castillo-diaz/us-this-land-is-hisland">Hisland</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/zoe-samudzi/donald-trump-is-not-uniquely-bigoted">Donald Trump is not uniquely bigoted. He&#039;s &#039;as American as apple pie&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/climate-change-and-false-gods-moloch-and-biblepunchers-in-us">Climate change and false gods: Moloch and the bible-punchers in the US </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/pablo-piccato-fabian-bosoer-federico-finchelstein/why-president-trump-will-target-independent-media">In Trump&#039;s America, the independent press would become the enemy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/lawrence-rosenthal/donald-and-duce">The Donald and the Duce </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/keith-j-bybee/how-should-we-understand-trump-s-uncivil-behaviour">How should we understand Trump’s ‘uncivil’ behaviour?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/todd-gitlin/interrupting-trump-s-strut-is-only-start">Interrupting Trump’s strut is only a start</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/revolution-is-not-dinner-party">A revolution is not a dinner party</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/osprey-orielle-lake/mapping-womens-resistance-to-social-and-ecological-degradation">Mapping women&#039;s resistance to social and ecological degradation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/melina-loubicanmassimo/awaiting-justice-%E2%80%93-indigenous-resistance-to-tar-sand-development-in-cana">Awaiting justice: Indigenous resistance in the tar sands of Canada</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 United States Civil society Democracy and government Understanding the rise of Trump 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick feminism gender justice women and power young feminists Meredith Tax Tue, 15 Nov 2016 00:27:33 +0000 Meredith Tax 106773 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Hisland https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/pablo-castillo-diaz/us-this-land-is-hisland <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This land is Hisland: the role of sexism in the US elections. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/PA-29124889.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/PA-29124889.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>President-elect Donald Trump gives his acceptance speech in New York, Nov. 9, 2016. Press Association / Mary Altaffer</span></span></span></p><p>In 2015, there were <a href="http://www.ipu.org/pdf/publications/wmnmap15_en.pdf" target="_blank">96 countries</a> in the world with a higher percentage of women elected to lower or single houses of parliament than the United States. This is the number that I have felt missing in the many articles written to explain Hillary Clinton’s surprising loss to Donald Trump. </p> <p>Here is another one that I have not found either: in the last five decades, almost half of <a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/07/30/about-one-in-ten-of-todays-world-leaders-are-women/" target="_blank">142 nations studied by the World Economic Forum</a> have had a female head of government or an elected head of state. Several countries have now had multiple women leaders. The United States is of course not one of them, even though it is one of the world’s oldest continuous democracies and has held 57 democratic elections for president, a higher number than most countries in the world. </p> <p>Since Sri Lanka elected the first woman leader in 1960, the two major parties in the United States have nominated 27 men and only one woman for President, and 26 men and two women for Vice President. The women lost each time, and one of those elections is still the worst result for either party in history: 13 electoral votes out of 538 in 1984.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>I have seen much more commentary attributing Hillary’s loss to race-based backlash, economic anxiety, and worldwide trends against the establishment and towards authoritarianism, than to sexism. The arguments in favor of these explanations are strong, but so are the objections. </p> <p>When voters went to the polls, the economy had registered an unprecedented eighty consecutive months of economic expansion, including an all-time record for private-sector job growth, bringing the unemployment rate under five percent.</p> <p>In 2015, middle class wages had recorded their <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/09/13/the-middle-class-and-the-poor-just-had-the-best-year-since-the-end-of-the-great-recession/" target="_blank">biggest percentage increase</a> since they started collecting these statistics in the 60s, and poverty rates fell more than any time since 1968. </p> <p>In the last few years, the price of gas had plummeted and the stock market had skyrocketed. </p> <p>Almost every single explanation of economic anxiety among the working class ignores the fact that non-white working class voters supported Hillary overwhelmingly. </p> <p>Almost everyone agrees that we witnessed an anti-establishment wave or a “change” election, but that was not felt in nearly any race other than for the White House. For example, less than 3 % of House races were lost by the incumbent party that held that seat. And even that matter is debated without any acknowledgement that perhaps there is something profoundly sexist behind framing a Manhattan billionaire who has spent more than four decades as a celebrity and friendly with the political elite as the anti-establishment candidate, rather than the first woman ever to run for President as the nominee of one of the major parties. &nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/PA-29115418_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/PA-29115418_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Stronger together, Hillary Clinton campaign rally 8 November. Press Association / Andrew Harnik </span></span></span></p> <p>It is possible that the role of sexism in the election results has been less explored because there have been many headlines noting that <a href="http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/clinton-couldnt-win-over-white-women/" target="_blank">53 percent of white women voted for Trump</a>, that the number of <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/11/09/501437309/women-record-several-firsts-with-wins-in-u-s-senate-elsewhere" target="_blank">minority women in the Senate quadrupled</a> and the Senate will have a record number of women, and that elections to the House of Representatives also witnessed several firsts for women. These milestones are important, but they don’t amount to a significant change for women in politics in the United States. In the Senate, out of 100 seats, we had 20 women senators. Now we have 21. &nbsp;</p> <p>Sexism and double standards were a running theme during the campaign, with the election pitting a feminist woman against arguably the most overtly misogynist male candidate in modern US history, but it has almost dissipated in post-election analysis, with some <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/nov/12/hillary-clinton-we-failed-her-sarah-churchwell" target="_blank">excellent exceptions</a>. I have not seen it offered as an explanation for disappointing turnout among some of the voters that showed up in 2008 and 2012 to vote for Obama. </p> <p>As if women cannot be sexist, the surprisingly high number of women that voted for Trump is used to invalidate claims that sexism was not just a factor, but perhaps the most important factor in this election. You will find many more commentators attributing the lack of importance of newspaper endorsements, debate wins, money, and a stronger ground game, to Trump’s historic ability to upend most (if not all) political conventions, rather than the fact that we had a woman at the top of the ticket for the first time.&nbsp;</p> <p>In a Presidential election that registered the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/politics/voter-turnout-shows-widest-gender-gap-in-election-history/2016/11/10/36c51c6a-a79d-11e6-ba46-53db57f0e351_video.html" target="_blank">widest gender gap on record</a> among voters, it is perhaps too easy an explanation for the pundits, too tired a trope for their readers, and too inconvenient a truth for us Americans. But it is something that is so obviously evident to feminists, so closely in line with everything else we know about women in US politics, and so clarifying of all the confounding features of this campaign and election results, that it should be central to the flood of articles that try to make sense of it. </p><p> After all, there is something quite sexist about ignoring it.</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="/christina-asquith/hillary-doctrine-untangling-sex-and-american-foreign-policy">The Hillary Doctrine: untangling sex and American foreign policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/valerie-hudson/of-canaries-and-coal-mines">Of canaries and coal mines</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/what-sex-means-for-world-peace">What sex means for world peace</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/valerie-hudson/foundation-of-human-security-in-every-society">The foundation of human security in every society</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/distance-travelled-beijing-hillary-and-women%27s-rights">The distance travelled: Beijing, Hillary, and women&#039;s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/marc-edelman/nastiest-candidate-won-now-what">The nastiest candidate won. Now what?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/carol-j-adams/sexual-politics-of-meat">The sexual politics of meat</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/this-is-what-feminist-foreign-policy-looks-like">This is what a feminist foreign policy looks like</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/valerie-m-hudson/toward-feminist-foreign-policy">Gloria Steinem: toward a feminist foreign policy </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mariano-aguirre/triumph-of-rage-over-reason">A triumph of rage over reason</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/allison-drew/not-my-president">Not my president </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/zoe-samudzi/donald-trump-is-not-uniquely-bigoted">Donald Trump is not uniquely bigoted. He&#039;s &#039;as American as apple pie&#039;</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 United States Civil society Culture Democracy and government Equality Understanding the rise of Trump 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick feminism gender patriarchy women and power young feminists Pablo Castillo Diaz Mon, 14 Nov 2016 00:03:27 +0000 Pablo Castillo Diaz 106754 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Internet politics: a feminist guide to navigating online power https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/zara-rahman/internet-politics-feminist-guide-navigating-online-power <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span style="color: #222222; font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8px;">Recognising the political importance of our technical decisions is within reach, leading ultimately to reclaiming power and control of our activism in the digital sphere as well as in the offline world.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/internet.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/internet.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: feministinternet.net</span></span></span></p><p>In feminist activism, it goes without saying that the personal is political. Our technical decisions, however, are subject to far less scrutiny but their effects have equally far-reaching consequences upon our activism.</p> <p>Few would deny that control and power are feminist issues. But what about digital control or online power? </p> <p>At the <a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/">AWID Forum</a> in September, one activist told me that their organisation had closed its own website, and is instead communicating with its communities entirely through its Facebook page. This decision makes sense for several reasons. Facebook's existing infrastructure is easy to use, and the community this organisation seeks to reach is already using Facebook. In addition, it’s cheaper, easier and requires less maintenance. </p> <p>Politically, though, this means this organisation has relinquished control and power over its online presence to a <a href="https://newrepublic.com/article/117878/information-fiduciary-solution-facebook-digital-gerrymandering">largely opaque, profit-driven, US-based mega-corporation, with zero accountability</a>. Recently, they’ve noticed that the new membership rate of its page is not increasing at the same rate as previously, perhaps indicating that its visibility on the newsfeeds of people who would potentially be interested in their work has somehow decreased. It could be any number of factors, though – that the page isn't being “recommended” to potential members as often as it was before, or that it doesn't come up as highly when people search for related keywords, among others. Frustratingly, they have no way of finding out what the actual reason is. </p> <p>As a result, part of the organisation's already limited budget that should have been spent on its own communications is now being spent on <a href="https://nonprofits.fb.com/topic/ads/">Facebook Ads</a>, to make sure that their group reaches people who might be interested - but again, there’s no way of knowing how effective this is. </p> <p>To reiterate: this means that money is being transferred from a small, resource-constrained activist organisation to Facebook, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/28/technology/facebook-earnings-zuckerberg.html?_r=0">a company which reported a profit of $3.69 billion in profit last year</a>. This direct consequence of relying on proprietary and corporate-owned technologies for our activism is a loss of control and autonomy. </p> <p><strong>Increasing access at what cost?</strong> </p> <p>In Bangladesh, <a href="http://arrow.org.my/publication/arrow-change-sexuality-srhr-internet/">Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) advocates have had to take tough decisions around whether or not to engage with Free Basics</a>, a platform offered by Facebook, which has the noble-sounding goal of “connecting the unconnected”. </p> <p><a href="https://info.internet.org/en/story/free-basics-from-internet-org/">Free Basics</a> aims to do this by partnering with mobile phone operators in certain countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America to provide access to certain websites and services without extra cost to the user. This kind of practice is known as <a href="https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/02/zero-rating-what-it-is-why-you-should-care">“zero-rating,”</a> and means that someone using the Free Basics application would be able to access certain websites without having a data subscription, or paying any more than they usually would. This results in Free Basics being the very first contact that millions of people, especially in rural areas, may well have with the internet. </p><p> However, while zero-rated applications like Free Basics provide concrete access to some websites and internet services, it violates a principle known as <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_neutrality">net neutrality</a><strong><span>,</span></strong> the principle that internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without prioritising or blocking particular sites or applications. </p> <p>Under zero-rated applications like Free Basics, just a tiny section of the internet is provided for free. Content shown on the app is moderated by those in charge of Free Basics who have a great deal of control over what people see and what they don’t and how the personal data of users is being managed (or further used) on the platform.</p> <p>Because of this violation of net neutrality, digital rights activists in many countries, notably India, have been campaigning against Free Basics. Though it has been launched in Bangladesh without any regulatory hitches, just next door in India,<a href="http://www.savetheinternet.in/"> campaigners mobilised a huge movement of people to speak up against Free Basics plans</a>, which led to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/may/12/facebook-free-basics-india-zuckerberg.">zero-rated applications being banned by their regulatory agency</a>.</p> <p>For SRHR advocates in Bangladesh, a potential partnership with Free Basics and Facebook provides a number of visible and concrete benefits. Without any extra cost to the activist groups, they have the opportunity to have their information appear on the Free Basics app in Bangladesh – the content within it is provided free of cost to the users. This would increase the reach of their information, thus potentially educating more women than before about important sexual rights and reproductive health topics. For Free Basics, it looks good that they are including topics like this in their initial offering of the application. Indeed, just looking at this part of the puzzle could give the impression that a partnership fits the aims and resources of both parties, almost perfectly.</p> <p>But partnering with a platform like Free Basics means handing over control of who sees the content, how the content is edited, and how long it stays available, to the people behind Free Basics, i.e. Facebook. Beyond control over content, it also means providing data to Free Basics on who accesses the services which essentially amounts to the personal data of their beneficiaries.</p> <p>Many of the issues addressed in sexual rights advocacy have traditionally been sensitive within the Bangladeshi context - and at the moment, this kind of information is being mediated by a proprietary gatekeeper with zero accountability measures. There is no way to hold it to account - <a href="http://datasociety.net/pubs/ap/CaseStudies_PublicSphere_2016.pdf">it’s not a public service, it’s a private one</a>. As such, it could shut down, change content, or change its terms and conditions at any time.</p> <p>What initially seemed to be an ideal partnership, then, has many hidden disadvantages in the longer term, and on a political level. S<a href="http://www.thedailystar.net/bytes/tech-happening/rob1-internetorg-launches-free-internet-robi-subscribers-81516">ome SRHR groups have decided to partner with Free Basics for now</a>, but the fact remains that there are important political implications of this decision. </p> <p><strong>Recognising realities </strong></p> <p>Pragmatically speaking, it is important to recognise that many activist groups have very limited resources, especially those working on politically controversial topics, or in poor countries. They simply have no other option right now but to engage with and use the easiest options out there - which are overwhelmingly proprietary tools.</p> <p>Human rights defenders I’ve spoken to are forced to make <a href="https://library.theengineroom.org/humanrights-tech">pragmatic decisions around their uses of technology</a>, favouring Google Drive for collaborating with others, despite this potentially allowing the US Government to access their data. Using open source software would, theoretically, allow individuals to have more control over what they do, and if the software has security audits, provide assurance that their privacy is being protected. But for now at least, the <a href="https://library.theengineroom.org/humanrights-tech/">reliability and usability of open source alternatives</a> for activists working in high-risk environments is limited.</p> <p>How can we change this, given the constraints and difficult realities of feminist activism?</p> <p><strong>Building alternatives </strong></p> <p>Happily, some groups and organisations focus on finding and building alternative options which reflect feminist politics online, as well as, off. <a href="https://www.apc.org/">The Association for Progressive Communications</a> has developed a series of <a href="http://feministinternet.net/sites/default/files/FeministPrinciplesoftheInternetv2.0_0.pdf">Feminist Principles of the Internet</a>, and has gathered a community of people who are working to turn those principles into reality - starting by <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/12/feminist-internet-empowering-online-harassment">imagining what a feminist internet would look like</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://www.engagemedia.org/">Engage Media</a>, a social and environmental justice organisation from Asia Pacific, has built <a href="https://www.engagemedia.org/Projects/Plumi">Plumi</a>, an open source video-sharing web application. Their aim is to create “truly democratic media, where independent video initiatives gain control over their own distribution infrastructure.” It’s a feminist alternative to YouTube, empowering the creator of a video to hold power over the infrastructure rather than the corporation holding power over the content creator.</p> <p>For now, these examples remain as the outliers rather than the norm. For the norm to change and for activists to make technical decisions that accurately reflect their political ideologies, a number of things need to happen.</p> <p>Understanding the potential consequences of our technology choices and making <a href="https://responsibledata.io/">responsible data</a> decisions require a higher level of technical capacity among the decision-makers in an organisation which often simply isn’t present. In my work at <a href="http://www.datasociety.net/">Data &amp; Society</a>, I’m looking at the role of <a href="http://datasociety.net/initiatives/additional-projects/tech-translation/">“tech translators”</a> - people who help social change communities with lower tech literacy understand and communicate with more tech-savvy people. There seems to be a clear need for people to play this translation role, helping convey context, needs and technical realities to pave the way for well-informed decision making.</p> <p>As well as this, on the technical side, there needs to be usable, open-source alternatives to the array of proprietary tools that are currently being used to meet their needs. It is unrealistic to expect people to eschew proprietary tools that are meeting all of their needs in lieu of unreliable alternatives.</p> <p>On the user side, activists need to recognise the political importance of their technical decisions, and then be able to translate their contexts and ideologies into the digital sphere. Short-term, this translation might happen through key individuals with high levels of tech literacy or through direct support from organisations like <a href="https://theengineroom.org/">The Engine Room</a>. Long-term, though, there needs to be an investment of time and effort to boost technical literacy across the board.</p> <p>Though the long term goal might be daunting, the first step of recognising the political importance of our technical decisions is within reach, leading ultimately to reclaiming power and control of our activism in the digital sphere as well as in the offline world.</p> <p><strong>Read the full <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016">series of articles</a> published by openDemocracy in the run up to, during, and post-Forum</strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/chloe-safier/young-feminist-movements-power-of-technology">Young feminist movements: the power of technology</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/self-care-in-digital-space">Self-care in a digital space</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-radloff/african-cyberfeminism-in-21st-century">African cyberfeminism in the 21st century </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/fatimah-kelleher/future-is-%E2%80%98smart%E2%80%99-but-is-it-equal-african-women%E2%80%99s-digital-agency">The future is &#039;smart&#039; but is it equal? African women’s digital agency</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/security-is-not-just-cctv-valuing-ourselves-is-security">Security is not just CCTV: valuing ourselves is security</a> </div> </div> </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"> Bangladesh </div> <div class="field-item even"> India </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> 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 digitaLiberties 50.50 United States India Bangladesh Civil society Internet 50.50 Highlights 2015 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick everyday feminism feminism women and power women's work young feminists Zara Rahman Fri, 11 Nov 2016 12:33:27 +0000 Zara Rahman 106672 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Teaching gender inequality in Sri Lanka https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/thursica-kovinthan/teaching-gender-inequality-textbooks-and-traditions-in-sri-lanka <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Sri Lanka has been lauded for equal access to education for girls and boys, but textbooks and traditions continue to play a role in perpetuating inequitable gender norms and stereotypes.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Sri Lanka has in some circles been considered a model of post-colonial gender equality compared to its South Asian counterparts due to high <a href="http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/sri_lanka_statistics.html">literacy rates</a> &nbsp;for men and women, 97.7 and 98.6 respectively, universal franchise for both sexes as early as 1931, and two female state leaders. &nbsp;Sri Lanka’s long history of free and compulsory education for boys and girls which was achieved shortly after independence, and girls’ equal access to education and gender parity in all three levels (primary, secondary, and tertiary) of education has been an important contributing factor to this idea of gender equality.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/SriLankangirls.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/SriLankangirls.png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="427" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Yet women still continue to grapple with the same old questions of gender inequality in Sri Lanka. In addition to experiencing high levels of gender based violence, women’s labour force participation is half that of men and double their <a href="http://www.undp.org/content/dam/srilanka/docs/mdg/Gender_Dimensions%20of%20Sri%20Lanka.pdf">unemployment rates</a>. In 2013 only 35 percent of the <a href="http://www.statistics.gov.lk/samplesurvey/LFS_Annual%20Bulletin_2015-f.pdf">working population were women</a>. Women continue to be under represented in upper level management and decision making positions in both the private and public sector.&nbsp; Equal participation, retention, and performance by girls in education has not led to equal representation of women within decision making. A glass ceiling continues to keep women out of governance. Currently there is only a five percent representation of women in parliament and two percent in local government. Which begs the question, what is going on here, why haven’t gains in education translated to economically independent and empowered women in Sri Lanka? </p> <p>Education is often championed for its transformative possibilities related to liberation, empowerment, social justice, individual freedoms, human rights, and the reduction of social inequities such as gender inequality. From this perspective, education is regarded as a means that will enable learners to think critically and have the ability to challenge the status quo. Schools are sites for the construction of girls’ and women’s identities and should ideally contribute to their active role in society. Generally, however, education systems reflect and help to reinforce the prevailing power arrangements of the state and society. Many education reforms focus more on utilitarian goals, such as the transmission of knowledge and skills, to help learners become contributing members of the existing and often hegemonic, political, economic, and social order. This has been the case in Sri Lanka, where utilitarian goals have side-lined the agenda of promoting values of gender equality. Rather than challenging gender norms and stereotypes, education has played a significant role in perpetuating them. </p> <p>Sri Lankan classrooms are often embedded with gender boundaries that reproduce powerful patriarchal hierarchies. Interviews with civics teachers, analysis of the civics curriculum, discussion with students and classroom observations show that there exist two key challenges to promoting gender equality in Sri Lanka through education. These include strong gender biases and ideologies held by teachers and a curriculum particularly social studies and civics curricula and a school system that emphasizes the protection of culture and tradition at all cost. These factors work in tandem to maintain the status quo when it comes to challenging traditional gender norms. </p> <p>Teachers generally hold strong gender biases based on their own upbringing and ideologies. Though they agree that gender equality is important, many teachers believe that because girls are doing so well in schools there is in fact no gender inequality in schools or Sri Lanka for that matter. This may be true on the surface level with respect to the classroom, where girls are on equal footing with the boys in classroom discussion and marks. The differences are apparent in the subtle hidden curriculum of the day-to-day practices of teachers and students. Whether it is the way teachers only call upon female students to sweep classrooms or ask only the male students to move desks, gender roles and responsibilities are assigned in the day to day life of the school through teacher-student and student-student interactions. </p> <p>Some teachers took the “I don’t differentiate between girls and boys” stance, not understanding the need to move beyond the equal treatment of boys and girls to the equitable treatment of them. The characteristics attributed to boys and girls respectively also impacted their engagement in learning. For example, many teachers and students felt that girls were better in the social science subjects because they were patient and good at memorizing information. Boys were perceived to be adventurous, problem solvers who could think outside of the box and therefore are more suited to science and technology subjects. One can only imagine the detrimental effects these fixed expectations have on girls AND boys. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/SriLanka_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/SriLanka_0.png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="426" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>The gendered expectations of teachers are reflected in the students’ civics textbooks that promote gendered forms of citizenship, which is further protected with the seal of tradition, and culture, thus creating a rift in the way boys and girls are able to engage in society. The mandatory civics curriculum from grades 6-9 continues to depict men and women and girls and boys in outdated traditional gender roles, despite mandates by the Ministry of Education to avoid gender biases in textbooks. Much of the text feature male role models and historical figures. In rare instances there are images of girls in leadership roles; however, these instances are relegated to the school. Images related to men and women’s roles in society, such as work, or family conform to traditional fixed gender roles, thus reinforcing the status quo that although women have full access to education they should still maintain their traditional roles in society in and outside of the home. </p> <p>The disparity in gender roles is further reinforced with an emphasis on the theme of the protection of traditions, cultures, and customs. In all of the textbooks examined, there was a strong and repeated emphasis on the need to follow traditions. For example, the grade nine civics textbook states, “Social Security is ensured by virtue of the individual upholding the customs and manners, social values, rules and regulations as well as traditions that prevail in society” and the grade seven texts states, “You should be well aware of the traditions followed by members of the family. You should vehemently follow and practise these traditions<strong>”</strong>. The depiction of women and men in traditional gender roles alongside the emphasis on the need to follow tradition to uphold society leaves very little space for teachers or students to challenge the status quo. Interlinked with tradition is the family, a space that is exulted as sacred and foundational to the core of society. The civics textbook creates a direct link between the family unit and the nation as a whole throughout all of the grades. One should be obedient to the leaders of the nation just as one is obedient to the head of the household i.e. the father. Thus the curriculum and classroom are essentially grooming girls to become good (well educated) mothers and wives and boys into providers and leaders in society. </p> <p>Students and teachers, particularly in war affected communities, echoed the text books’ emphasis on holding on to tradition, culture, and family values. This is in response to the destabilization of the traditional family unit as a result of three decades of war and the rapid influence of globalization. &nbsp;War affected communities had been sheltered from mass media and globalization for close to 30 years and are now dealing with the consequences of open access to everything from Facebook to pornography. Many teachers and students’ response to this is to fall back to traditional values and norms. Some teachers and students felt that the influence of social media on the way women dressed was leading to the increase in gender violence against women. The example provided was the predominance of young women wearing leggings rather than traditional clothing. There is a growing belief that the shift away from tradition puts women at risk of violence and that it is in some ways warranted because women had strayed from the model of the traditional good women. This creates a dangerous space for women and girls who may challenge the status quo. </p> <p>Even though education in post-war Sri Lanka is contributing to reinforcing gender norms rather than challenging them, currently there is a significant gap in knowledge and understanding of the link between education and subtle day to day practices that devalue women and girls. A fixation with equal access has led to a dangerous complacency that facilitates and normalizes inequity. Officials and policy makers often fail to consider that the content of education perpetuates negative norms and stereotypes. Challenging these deeply entrenched practices will require the explicit integration of gender equality training for all those involved in the education system from policy makers to teachers. But before that policy makers at the highest level need to confront their own ideologies and have an open and honest conversations on how long we are going to continue to hide behind gender parity, tradition, and the traditional family unit to allow gender inequality to persist in Sri Lanka. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/chulani-kodikara/state-racism-and-sexism-in-postwar-sri-lanka">State racism and sexism in post-war Sri Lanka </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/chulani-kodikara/justice-and-accountability-for-war-related-sexual-violence-in-sri-lanka">Justice and accountability for war related sexual violence in Sri Lanka</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/chulani-kodikara/sri-lanka-where-are-women-in-local-government">Sri Lanka: where are the women in local government?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/sri-lanka-women-in-conflict">Sri Lanka: women in conflict </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/charlotte-bunch/remembering-sunila-honouring-women%E2%80%99s-human-rights-defenders">Remembering Sunila, honouring women’s human rights defenders</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Sri Lanka </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 openIndia Sri Lanka 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy gender justice gender feminism Thursica Kovinthan Tue, 08 Nov 2016 09:48:27 +0000 Thursica Kovinthan 106477 at https://www.opendemocracy.net One woman’s brush with Sharia courts in the UK: "It ruined my life forever" https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rahila-gupta/one-woman-s-brush-with-sharia-courts-in-uk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“My daughter and I appeared before the Sharia court at Regent's Park mosque in London. They were not interested in anything we had to say, the whole process was shocking.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/OD3A_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/OD3A_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protest in London against the Law Society's guidance on Sharia Wills April 2014. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/See Li </span></span></span></p> <p>The UK government is conducting an <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/independent-review-into-sharia-law-launched">inquiry</a> into the operation of Sharia courts which is being boycotted by <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/pragna-patel-gita-sahgal/whitewashing-sharia-councils-in-uk">a number of women’s organisations</a> because its remit is too narrow, and the panel of judges is not seen as ‘independent’ enough. </p><p>Parallel to this, the Home Affairs Committee has also launched an <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/home-affairs-committee/inquiries/parliament-2015/inquiry6/">inquiry</a> into whether the principles of Sharia are compatible with British law.</p><p>On 7 November, there will be a public seminar on "Sharia Law, Legal Pluralism and Access to Justice" 7-9pm at Committee Room 12 at the Houses of Parliament. Below, we publish the story of a woman Shagufta (not her real name) who spoke to the campaign group, <a href="http://onelawforall.org.uk/">One Law for All</a>, and described how a brush with the Sharia courts ruined her life forever. </p> <p>I am a practising Muslim. My faith is central to who I am. I was born in 1947 in Pakistan and joined my husband in the UK in 1965. I am from a middle-class Pakistani family and found life in England hard. It was a huge culture shock. We settled in the north of England. I supported my husband with his business interests and eventually had my own business running a cookery school and a halal food company. I had six daughters and a son. </p> <p>After my husband died in 1987 I moved to London with my children.&nbsp; My older daughter, Lubna (not her real name) moved to London in 1994 after the breakdown in her marriage. After the British courts granted her a civil divorce, I hoped that would be the end of our involvement with my ex-son-in-law. Sadly this was not to be the case. He visited our local mosque and denounced me to the gathering, saying that I was ‘a loose woman’ who was pimping her daughters. He asked the mosque elders to help him get his children and his wife back to save their morals. A delegation from the mosque visited my home to convince me that the best thing would be to make my daughter return to her husband. I told them she was divorced but they said the English divorce meant nothing and was not valid in Islam. I was so angry at the vile allegations of these men. </p> <p>Another Imam, a close family friend of ours, told us that Lubna would have to seek a <em>khula</em> (divorce) from a Sharia court. I vehemently disagreed and cited the cases of several Muslim women I had known who had been divorced in the English courts without any need for a religious divorce. These women had since remarried too. The imam said the mosques had failed in their duty and that these women would go to hell as they were committing <em>zina </em>(adultery) and producing <em>haram </em>children. I reluctantly agreed to speak to Lubna.</p> <p>We appeared before the Sharia court. The whole process in the Sharia court at Regents Park mosque was shocking. Lubna was dismissed every time she spoke; I was treated very disrespectfully every time I tried to intervene. They were not interested in anything we had to say, not even the real risks that my ex-son-in-law posed to his children let alone to my daughter. He had beaten my grandson a few years earlier and split his head open. He still has scars on his face.</p> <p>None of the information from the civil proceedings (affidavit, non-molestation orders etc) was admissible in the Sharia Court. When Lubna’s ex-husband stated that he did not want to grant <em>khula</em> but wanted a reconciliation ‘for the sake of the children’, the Judges agreed. I was horrified. As my daughter and I were protesting so much, a further hearing date was set.&nbsp; At the next hearing, Lubna was told to reconcile and that a <em>khula </em>would not be granted. We were also told that my ex-son-in-law had custodial rights over my grandchildren and that they would remain with Lubna as long as my ex-son-in-law agreed. I do not have words to convey my anger at what was being done in this supposed court. I left the Sharia Court determined to find a way to protect my daughter and her children. </p> <p>After the hearing, Lubna lived with a sustained campaign of harassment and abuse from my ex-son-in-law. &nbsp;During this time he kidnapped my grandchildren and threatened to keep them if Lubna did not allow him to come and live with her. He threatened to kill me and my other children if she involved the police. It was only with the help of her father-in-law that the children were returned to her.</p><p>What happened next, I cannot even bring myself to say the words so I will quote from Lubna’s statement, ‘Several weeks after the children were returned to me, my ex-husband began calling at all hours of the day and night (he had my address and contact details from the Sharia Court papers). I refused to let him in. I contacted the police and applied for a new non-molestation order. However, the harassment did not stop. Very late one night my ex-husband broke in and violently raped me. I did not report this to the police as I was too scared. After the rape he wrote to my mother and the Imam and told them I had slept with him and that we were now together again. My mother came to my house as soon as she received the letter and was shocked to see the injuries resulting from the violence I suffered that night.’</p> <p>It breaks my heart – all that she had to go through.</p> <p>My family in Pakistan were horrified to hear that there were Sharia courts in England. My family sent written advice from several scholars in Pakistan and India which confirmed that there was absolutely no need for a <em>khula</em> as the civil divorce was recognised as a formal termination of the marriage; if Lubna were to remarry in Pakistan then a copy of the divorce from the English courts would be sufficient. </p> <p>However, with regard to my grandchildren, the letters did confirm that Lubna only had guardianship of the children under Sharia principles but as she had custody of the children under English civil law, they advised that the ruling of the English courts should be accepted as they had based their decision on the best interests of the children. </p> <p>I sent copies of the letters to my ex-son-in-law and his father. His father gave his word that this would be an end to the matter. He had never thought a Sharia divorce certificate was necessary.&nbsp; I do not understand where these Sharia courts have come from. I come from the generation of immigrants to this country that was able to be part of British society and to be Muslim without the need for separate legal systems. After the Sharia court proceedings ended I supposed that my life would continue as it had done before. Nothing could have prepared me for what lay ahead.</p> <p>The ostracism began with people who had once been friends starting to avoid me. I asked my friend Guljabeen if she knew what was going on. Guljabeen told me that the incident at the mosque (where I was accused of pimping my daughters) had become common knowledge in the area where we lived. My children were no longer welcome in the homes of their Muslim friends. I used to sing the <em>naats</em> and <em>nasheeds</em> at prayer gatherings and was well known for doing this. All invitations to do this ceased. </p> <p>Three of my other daughters have married non-Muslims and left Islam. I have suffered almost total ostracism for supporting them in their choices. My closest friend from childhood, who lives in the area, has stopped visiting me. My only wish has been for my daughters to be safe and happy. I taught them about their faith – how to pray, fast, be good and decent human beings – I did my duty as a mother. As for their choices in regard to their own religious practice – they are adults and must make their own choices about what is right and wrong. Only Allah can judge us in the end.</p> <p>In the end, I decided not to leave the area where we live and start all over again. Why should I? I am old now and tired of all of this. I wanted to share these experiences with you so that you can begin to understand how the community judges control women like me. I knew as a widow without a male to protect me I was an easy target. Even in London a big city with millions of people it is very hard to move away from this control. </p> <p>My time is coming to an end, but I am so sad for the generations to come if we continue on the path of this new Islam.</p><p><strong>This case study is one of many <a href="http://onelawforall.org.uk/sharia-testimonials/" target="_blank">testimonies</a> gathered by women’s rights organisations, namely British Muslims for Secular Democracy, Centre for Secular Space, Iranian Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, &nbsp;One Law for All and Southall Black Sisters.</strong></p><p><em>Read more articles on openDemocracy's platform</em><strong> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-frontline-voices-against-muslim-fundamentalism">Frontline Voices Against Fundamentalism</a></strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/pragna-patel-gita-sahgal/whitewashing-sharia-councils-in-uk">Whitewashing Sharia councils in the UK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/gita-sahgal/sharia-security-and-church-in-uk-dangers-of-home-office-inquiry-into-sharia">Sharia, security and the church: dangers of the British Home Office Inquiry </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/no-exceptions-one-law-for-all">No exceptions: one law for all</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yasmin-rehman/refusing-to-recognise-polygamy-in-west-solution-or-soundbite">Refusing to recognise polygamy in the West: a solution or a soundbite?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/pragna-patel/use-and-abuse-of-honour-based-violence-in-uk">The use and abuse of honour based violence in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/pragna-patel/transnational-marriage-abandonment-new-form-of-violence-against-women">Transnational marriage abandonment: A new form of violence against women? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/pragna-patel/freedom-to%E2%80%99-and-freedom-from%E2%80%99-rebalancing-tension-in-favour-of-gender-equality">Freedom &#039;to’ and freedom &#039;from’: rebalancing the tension in favour of gender equality</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/politics-of-hope-pragna-patel">Pragna Patel: a politics of hope and not hate</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/cassandra-balchin/having-our-cake-and-eating-it-british-muslim-women">Having our cake and eating it: British Muslim women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/progressive-muslims-in-world-of-isis-and-islamophobes">Progressive Muslims in a world of ISIS and Islamophobes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sukhwant-dhaliwal-chitra-nagarajan-rashmi-varma/feminist-dissent-why-new-journal-on-gender-and-">Feminist Dissent: why a new journal on gender and fundamentalism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/fundamentalism-and-education">Fundamentalism and education</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sajda-mughal/forced-marriage-in-uk-hidden-from-view">Forced marriage in the UK: hidden from view </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/shirin-ebadi-who-defines-islam">Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/faith-know-thy-place">Faith: know thy place</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/gita-sahgal/secular-space-bridging-religious-secular-divide">Secular space: bridging the religious-secular divide?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deepa-shankaran/right-to-have-rights-resisting-fundamentalist-orders">The right to have rights: resisting fundamentalist orders</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marieme-h%C3%A9lielucas-maryam-namazie/promoting-global-secular-alternative-in-isis-era">Promoting the global secular alternative in the ISIS era</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 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 UK Culture Equality 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick feminism fundamentalisms gender justice violence against women women's human rights Rahila Gupta Mon, 07 Nov 2016 00:03:27 +0000 Rahila Gupta 106523 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How will António Guterres tackle the UN’s gender problem ? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ourania-s-yancopoulos/un-s-gender-problem <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Can António Guterres make good on his promises to advance gender equality as UN Secretary-General, or will “politics trump gender” once again in an organization established to stand for all the world’s people?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Guterres(1).JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Guterres(1).JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Secretary-General designate António Guterres addresses the UN General Assembly on the occasion of his appointment, 13 October 2016.</span></span></span></p><p>Throughout the Secretary-General selection process, <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37565570">António Guterres</a> publically committed to achieving a gender-balanced United Nations. “The UN must be at the forefront of the global movement towards gender equality,” he wrote in his <a href="http://www.antonioguterres.gov.pt/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/antonio-guterres-vision-statement.pdf">vision statement</a> dated February 2016, “Given that previous commitments to gender parity were not fulfilled, the SG should present and implement a road map for gender parity.” </p> <p>The occasion of Guterres’s appointment on 13 October 2016, served as yet another visible reminder of just how far the United Nations needs to come. Despite remarks by both the General Assembly President, <a href="http://www.un.org/pga/71/2016/10/13/appointment-of-the-secretary-general-of-the-united-nations/">Peter Thomson</a>, and current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on women’s empowerment and their historic role in this year’s selection process, only one woman crossed the stage to welcome Guterres to his new position. </p> <p>However, the UN’s only woman Permanent Representative serving on the current Security Council – US Ambassador, Samantha Power – took the opportunity to deliver a hopeful <a href="https://usun.state.gov/remarks/7484">message</a>, “[W]hile being a woman is not among Mr. Guterres’s many qualifications, he has pledged gender parity at all levels of the United Nations, with clear benchmarks and timeframes.” </p> <p>As the work of his transition team gets <a href="http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/20320/now-that-he-s-won-the-race-for-secretary-general-how-will-guterres-run-the-u-n">well under way</a> expectations are high for Guterres to make good on his pledges. UN Women’s former Chief Advisor on Peace and Security, Anne-Marie Goetz told openDemocracy, “Mr. Guterres has been careful to mention gender issues in recent public statements. But now is the time to send a convincing message about his intentions, a confidence-building indication of the steps he will take to strengthen the UN's flagging work on gender equality and to build women's leadership.” </p> <p>The UN has an obvious and complex gender problem – and it’s up to Guterres to provide clear indication that he will move the United Nations in the right direction. And quickly.<em> <br /></em></p> <p>The United Nations was founded seventy-one years ago. Since then, 28 women have chaired one of the UN’s <a href="http://www.un.org/en/ga/maincommittees/">six main committees</a> (compared to 424 men); 3 women have served as <a href="http://www.un.org/pga/71/president/presidents-of-the-general-assembly/">General-Assembly President</a> (compared to 68 men); and zero have ever held the position of <a href="https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/former-secretaries-general">Secretary-General</a>. </p> <p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/15/world/europe/united-nations-secretary-general-women.html?rref=collection%2Fbyline%2Fsomini-sengupta&amp;action=click&amp;contentCollection=undefined&amp;region=stream&amp;module=stream_unit&amp;version=latest&amp;contentPlacement=8&amp;pgtype=collection&amp;_r=0">Recent revelations</a> about the organization’s failures to empower women within its senior staff show that the roots of gender bias run deep. Moreover, the UN’s selection last month of comic-book character <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/wonder-woman-role-un-campaign-sparks-outcry/">Wonder Woman</a> as its first <a href="http://www.dccomics.com/blog/2016/10/20/wonder-woman-designation-as-honorary-ambassador-for-the-empowerment-of-women-and">honorary ambassador</a> for women and girls’ empowerment is a graphic reminder of the UN’s failure to take gender issues seriously. Protests by UN staff erupted immediately. One of the protest organizers who spoke to openDemocracy on the basis of anonymity explained,“[F]or something that is this important, you need a woman or a man who can speak, who can travel, who can champion these rights.” “If you’re looking for a woman with long black hair, toned arms, […] great legs- pick Michelle Obama,” she exclaimed. “She’s out of a job on the first of January – and she kicks ass!” </p> <p>For another protestor, Cass DuRant, what Wonder Woman stands for goes completely against the core values of the UN, “She is a warrior and those are male values. The UN is not about going in and fighting to resolve issues, it is about talking and compromising and agreeing, so on every imaginable level we think she is a poor choice.” </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/wonderwoman-protest.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/wonderwoman-protest.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>UN staff protest the designation of Wonder Woman to honorary ambassador for women and girl’s empowerment. Bebeto Matthews / AP/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p>The nearly 30,000 people who have signed the online <a href="http://www.thepetitionsite.com/741/288/432/reconsider-the-choice-of-honorary-ambassador-for-the-empowerment-of-women-and-girls/">petition</a>, started by U.N. staffers, agree. The petition reads, "The message the United Nations is sending to the world with this appointment is extremely disappointing." </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/700143.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/700143.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="314" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Wonder Woman actress Lynda Carter. Photo: Kim Haughton/UN</span></span></span></p> <p>Wonder Woman’s appointment is a reminder that in an organization that has made gender equality a stated “<a href="http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/gender-equality/">top priority</a>,” today, women make up just twenty percent of <a href="https://www.un.int/protocol/sites/www.un.int/files/Protocol%20and%20Liaison%20Service/headsofmissions.pdf">Permanent Representatives</a>, twenty-one percent of <a href="http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=a/71/360">Senior Managers</a><strong>,</strong> six percent of military experts, and three percent of <a href="http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/contributors/gender/2016gender/aug16.pdf">military troops</a>. </p> <p>It could not be more obvious—from <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/world/2016/02/27/peacekeepers/">reports</a> of sexual violence by UN Peacekeepers, to the persistent gender imbalance in the UN’s <a href="https://www.carnegiecouncil.org/studio/multimedia/20160504/index.html">senior management</a>, and now the seemingly tone-deaf appointment of Wonder Woman—that the United Nations desperately needs an overhaul in its attitudes about women. </p> <p>That task will fall to António Guterres. </p> <p>The work Guterres has performed in the areas of gender parity and women’s empowerment both as a politician in Portugal and as an official in the UN is well <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/redressing-uns-gender-gap-how-do-sg-contenders-compare">recognized</a>. But while he has a laudable feminist record<strong>, </strong>there are aspects to his career that give gender equality advocates pause.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>Even before becoming Portugal’s Prime Minister in 1995, Guterres was committed to gender equality. In an email to openDemocracy earlier this fall, Guterres reflected on his early exposure to gender issues, “I became aware of these issues as a teenager doing volunteer work in poor neighborhoods of Lisbon. I witnessed the extra burden that weighed upon women living under precarious conditions, doing menial jobs and still carrying the responsibility for keeping extended families, often on their own. I wanted to help change this and other harsh realities in my country. That is why I went into politics—to effect change.” </p> <p>As leader of Portugal’s Socialist Party he enacted a quota system to impose a minimum threshold of representation of women in party offices. The thirty percent quota was far from parity but still quite impressive almost two decades ago in a country that had only recently transitioned to democracy. </p> <p>Such change did not come easily. In the email exchange, Guterres noted, “Reactions … ranged from harshly opposed to mildly indifferent. We had to go the extra mile to convince people that this was important and this was the right way to go.” </p> <p>At the same time, however, Guterres publicly opposed a referendum on Portugal’s strict law against <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/121970.stm">abortion</a><strong>, </strong>instead favoring a law that mandated jail time for Portuguese women who performed the procedure. According to the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/14/world/americas/united-nations-un-antonio-guterres.html?rref=collection%2Fbyline%2Fsomini-sengupta&amp;action=click&amp;contentCollection=undefined&amp;region=stream&amp;module=stream_unit&amp;version=latest&amp;contentPlacement=9&amp;pgtype=collection"><em>New York Times</em></a>, while a majority of the Socialist Party favored the move to reform abortion laws, Guterres opposed it based on his Catholic faith. </p> <p>While his stance on abortion may call into question his stance on gender equality, Guterres’s commitment to women’s empowerment did not waiver when he became the UN’s tenth High Commissioner for Refugees in 2005. During his tenure, he worked to shift UNHCR’s focus from perceiving refugee women and girls as vulnerable victims, to promoting their empowerment. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/05-14-2015Dadaab_Somali.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/05-14-2015Dadaab_Somali.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>António Guterres meets Somali refugees at Dadaab camp in Kenya (May 2015). B.Loyseau/UNHCR</span></span></span></p> <p><a href="http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/protection/women/5769092c7/unhcr-age-gender-diversity-accountability-report-2015.html">The successes</a> of Guterres’s programs during this time abound. In Pakistan, UNHCR arranged for mass information campaigns to ensure women are aware of individual registration to guarantee their security, access to essential services, and political rights. In Liberia, guidelines on refugee election procedures now ensure that fifty percent of the camp leadership is women. To advance gender equality in food security in Afghanistan, women are now prioritized for food distribution. And in Jordan, separate pick-up areas and times for food distribution are designated for women. </p> <p>Not only did Guterres work to advance a different narrative about women and girls on the ground, but he also worked to achieve gender parity at all levels of institutional leadership. When Guterres came into office in 2005, women made up not even thirty percent of the UNHCR’s senior positions. According to UNHCR <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/redressing-uns-gender-gap-how-do-sg-contenders-compare">records</a>, gender parity was fully met within his Senior Management Committee by the end of his tenure—with ten women and ten men—and rose to forty-two percent among all senior leadership positions. “If I had to choose just one measure during my years at UNHCR that really had an impact and triggered substantive change I would say parity at the Senior Management Committee,” said Guterres in an email to openDemocracy. He does regret however, that during his tenure the proportion of women among junior levels staff appeared <a href="http://www2.unwomen.org/~/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/how%20we%20work/unsystemcoordination/data/un/projections/unhcr.pdf?v=1&amp;d=20160817T205813">to drop</a>. </p> <p>Now, Guterres has <a href="http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/watch/ant%C3%B3nio-guterres-portugal-informal-dialogue-for-the-position-of-the-next-un-secretary-general/4843896055001">committed</a> to achieving full gender parity in the United Nations. In an interview with <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/redressing-uns-gender-gap-how-do-sg-contenders-compare">openDemocracy</a> in early September, he provided more detail, saying he would start with the UN’s most senior levels—a tactic he believes will have the greatest and swiftest impact. </p> <p>But some gender-parity advocates worry that these rhetorical commitments are empty, and that promises of a feminist agenda from a male Secretary-General may not amount to much. In a recent <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/redressing-uns-gender-gap-how-do-sg-contenders-compare">interview</a> with openDemocracy, Shazia Rafi, UN Expert and former Secretary-General of Parliamentarians for Global Action, said, “[Men] have had their chance for seventy years, they have not created a more equal or peaceful world, they have not kept their commitments on gender equality made over twenty years ago at the Beijing Conference 1995; I was there, I helped write the words.&nbsp;There is no reason to believe the men will do so now.” After the appointment of Mr. Guterres, Rafi says her views have not changed per se. “But, I am open to them doing something completely different from the pattern of the last 70 years,” she&nbsp;wrote in an email on 3 November. </p> <p>The UN has committed itself to fifty-fifty gender parity in top senior managerial posts since <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/fplegbasis.htm">February 1996.</a> The closest it ever got in those twenty years was twenty-four percent in <a href="http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=a/71/360">2012</a>. In fact, if the current trend continues, the UN will favor men in its senior positions for <a href="http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/studio/multimedia/20160504/index.html"><em>the next 110 years</em></a><em>.</em> </p> <p>The UN’s gender problem is much more than just staffing issues. </p> <p>Gender equality activist groups such as the <a href="https://www.gopetition.com/petitions/a-feminist-agenda-for-the-new-un-secretary-general.html">United Nations Feminist Network</a>, and the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lyric-thompson/is-feminist-united-nations-possible-in-our-lifetime">International Center for Research on Women</a>, have outlined clear, concrete proposals for the next SG. These feminist agendas include targets from achieving gender parity to preventing and addressing sexual harassment, and even repurposing the UN’s <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw59-2015">Commission on the Status of Women</a>. </p> <p>Changes in staffing, however, can be delivered almost immediately. </p> <p>On the occasion of the appointment of a new Secretary-General, all high-level employees submit letters of resignation. This gives Guterres the chance to take bold action toward parity. If Guterres appoints a gender-equal <a href="https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/senior-management-group">Senior Management Group</a>—just as Canada’s <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/04/canada-cabinet-gender-diversity-justin-trudeau">Justin Trudeau</a> appointed a gender-equal Cabinet upon taking office in 2015—the move would be a brave step forward toward a gender-equal UN. He might next consider sending seventy-five-year-old Wonder Woman back into retirement.</p><p><em>This article is an expanded version of an <a href="https://www.ethicsandinternationalaffairs.org/2016/united-nations-real-feminist-next-secretary-general-antonio-guterres/#.WBALHw3OC2k.twitter">op-ed</a> published in the Carnegie Council Journal, Ethics and International Affairs, 25 October.</em></p><p><strong>Read more articles in openDemocracy’s series on <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/gender-and-un">Gender and UN</a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/still-no-woman-at-helm-UN">Still no woman at the helm of the UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/redressing-uns-gender-gap-how-do-sg-contenders-compare">Redressing the UN&#039;s gender gap: how do the SG contenders compare? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/time-to-vote-pick-feminist-woman-to-lead-un">Choose a woman to lead the UN!</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ourania-s-yancopoulos/lone-raised-hand-who-will-become-next-un-secretary-general">A lone raised hand: who will become the next UN Secretary-General ?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/madam-secretary-general">Madam Secretary-General?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/kavita-n-ramdas/building-bridge-to-future-towards-feminist-un">Building a bridge to the future: towards a feminist UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/still-no-country-for-women-double-standards-choosing-next-UN-Secretary-General">Still no country for women? Double standards in choosing the next UN Secretary-General </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourania-s-yancopoulos/is-un-really-moving-toward-gender-equality-or-is-it-trying-to-cover-up-lack-of">Is the UN really moving toward gender equality? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/un-gender-generation-and-counter-terrorism-in-women-peace-and-security-debate">UN resolution 2242: gender, generation, and counter terrorism </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sophie-giscard-destaing/gender-and-terrorism-un-calls-for-women-s-engagement-in-countering-viol">UN calls for women’s engagement in countering violent extremism: but at what cost? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/jessica-dawn-wilson/is-there-real-commitment-to-women-peace-and-security">Women, peace and security: the UN&#039;s rhetoric-reality gap</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lyric-thompson/girls-speaking-truth-to-power-at-un-global-2030-agenda">Girls speaking truth to power at the UN: the global 2030 Agenda </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women%27s-rights-have-no-country">Women&#039;s rights have no country</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maggie-murphy/traditional-values-vs-human-rights-at-un">&#039;Traditional values&#039; vs human rights at the UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/gita-sahgal/who-wrote-universal-declaration-of-human-rights">Who wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ? </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> </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 Democracy and government 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Gender and the UN 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter feminism gender women and power women's human rights Ourania S. Yancopoulos Fri, 04 Nov 2016 09:33:27 +0000 Ourania S. Yancopoulos 106457 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Uncomfortable assumptions about security: the UK vote on support for Saudi Arabia https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/celia-mckeon/uncomfortable-assumptions-about-security-uk-vote-on-support-for-saudi-arabia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Pervasive and problematic assumptions about the UK’s security lie at the heart of parliament’s recent decision to continue to support Saudi Arabia, despite accusations of war crimes in Yemen.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Airstrike Sanaa.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Airstrike Sanaa.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="216" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Air strike in Sana'a, Yemen. Ibrahem Qasim/Flickr </span></span></span></p><p>On Saturday 8th October, more than 140 people were <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/saudi-coalition-air-strike-yemen-funeral-a7352021.html">killed</a> and over 500 injured when warplanes bombed a funeral in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a. In the words of one rescuer, “The place has been turned into a lake of blood.” The airstrike, which was quickly attributed to Saudi Arabia’s military, prompted brief sparks of international outrage as civilians were once again targets in a war which has killed more than 10,000 people. The Saudi authorities later confirmed that the strike was a “<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/19/saudi-coalition-bombing-of-yemen-funeral-was-a-deliberate-error/">deliberate error</a>”. Those who pay greater heed to the Geneva Conventions, the so-called “Laws of War” that govern the conduct of armed conflict, might more accurately describe it as a war crime.</p> <p>So how is it that less than one month later, MPs in Westminster voted last week against a Labour motion calling on the UK government to withdraw its support for the Saudi-led coalition? What arguments could possibly justify the decision made by 283 MPs to continue to back a government which stands <a href="http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2016/73">accused</a>, not just once but on repeated occasions over the last 18 months, of deliberately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure? </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Bombing Sadaa.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Bombing Sadaa.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bombed higher educational facility in Sa'ada. Philippe Kropf/OCHA.</span></span></span></p> <p>It would be wrong to suggest that the MPs who participated in the debate made light of the issues at stake. On the contrary - <a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2016-10-26/debates/61DFF92D-1BE0-4909-8020-76FC80CA5136/Yemen">many spoke</a> with passion, conviction and in some cases, deep knowledge, about the need to end the suffering of the people of Yemen. No-one disagreed with the necessity of securing a ceasefire and pursuing a political solution to the conflict. But several MPs argued that despite serious <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/saudi-arabia-led-coalition-could-be-committing-international-crimes-bombing-civilians-in-yemen-un-a6940701.html">allegations of war crimes</a> by the Saudi coalition, it remains right and proper to continue to provide support to the Saudi government, in the form of arms exports and specialist military advice.</p> <p><strong>The legal position</strong></p> <p>The legal question-marks hanging over UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia could not be clearer. In December 2015, barristers from Matrix Chambers published the <a href="https://www.matrixlaw.co.uk/news/matrix-members-find-uk-government-is-in-breach-of-national-eu-and-international-law-and-policy/">opinion</a> that:</p> <p>“any authorisation by the UK of the transfer of weapons and related items to Saudi Arabia… in circumstances where such weapons are capable of being used in the conflict in Yemen, including to support its blockade of Yemeni territory, and in circumstances where their end-use is not restricted, would constitute a breach by the UK of its obligations under domestic, European and international law.”</p> <p>Two parliamentary select committees have subsequently <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/15/crispin-blunt-report-foreign-affairs-committee-says-arms-sales-to-saudis-yemen-judged-high-court">argued</a> that the government should suspend licenses to the Kingdom, pending independent investigations of alleged atrocities. And the High Court has given <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/date-court-legal-challenge-ban-british-arms-sales-to-saudi-arabia-yemen-a7384331.html">permission for a judicial review</a> of the government’s position, in a case brought by Campaign Against Arms Trade. </p> <p>Despite these grave concerns, some MPs argued that any action to suspend such deals would be premature. They suggested that Saudi Arabia should be given more time to undertake its own internal investigations of alleged violations, despite the <a href="https://www.rt.com/news/362712-hrw-saudi-war-crime-yemen/">lengthy delays and unsatisfactory outcomes</a> so far. Boris Johnson seemed less perturbed still, justifying the continued approval of arms exports on the basis that other countries would “happily supply arms” without subjecting their exports to the “fairness and rigour” that characterise UK processes. </p> <p>It is hard to see how this position can be squared with the government’s pride in the “leading role” it recently played in the negotiation of the legally-binding international Arms Trade Treaty. And this position is also at odds with its assertion in the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-security-strategy-and-strategic-defence-and-security-review-2015">2015 UK National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review</a> that the rule of law is a “core British value” - part of a “golden thread of conditions that lead to security and prosperity”. The strategy goes on to note that the UK continues “to lead by example, including supporting the International Committee of the Red Cross to strengthen compliance with the Geneva Conventions…. We will work with our allies and partners to strengthen, adapt and extend the rules-based international order and its institutions.”</p> <p>The arguments put forward in defence of the status quo last week suggest otherwise. They imply that the principles and obligations that are supposed to define the UK’s role in the world are discretionary; they can be trumped, when required, by a series of pragmatic assumptions, priorities and interests. It is therefore worth examining and exposing these arguments, as they play a crucial role in shaping the UK establishment’s response not only to the current crisis in Yemen, but to national security policy more generally. </p> <p><strong>The ‘benign influence’ argument</strong></p> <p>Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Crispin Blunt MP claimed in the debate that current UK policy has a benign influence on the Yemen conflict, arguing that the expertise provided to the Saudi military helps to reduce the risk of civilian casualties. In a similar vein, Boris Johnson argued that if the UK suspended its support, it would immediately forfeit its diplomatic influence over Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen and over Riyadh’s eventual support for a negotiated solution. Yet the evidence supporting either of these arguments is in short supply. The Report of the UN Panel of Experts attributed 60% of civilian casualties in the conflict to the Saudi-led coalition, despite all the targeting assistance provided up to now. And it is even more of a stretch to argue that arms exports are likely to increase the prospect of a negotiated settlement of the conflict. The International Committee of the Red Cross has long since <a href="https://www.icrc.org/eng/assets/files/other/icrc_002_0734_arms_availability.pdf">suggested the opposite</a>, noting that “Large-scale arms transfers can be a source of tension in peacetime and generate high levels of casualties once hostilities begin.” Indeed, it is probably more credible to argue, as the journalist Peter Oborne <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/reign-british-neo-cons-and-party-war-128790447">has done</a>, that the parliamentary vote on Wednesday “sent the green light to Saudi Arabia and its allies to carry on bombing, maiming and killing”. Far from being benign, the UK’s approach is likely to fan the flames of this desperate conflict, as it has done in too many other parts of the Middle East. </p> <p><strong>The jobs argument</strong></p> <p>While the ‘benign influence’ argument is framed in terms of the best interests of the people of Yemen, more immediate domestic priorities were of greater concern to other MPs. Gerald Howarth began his intervention by reminding fellow parliamentarians that as MP for Aldershot, he “represents the headquarters of the fourth largest defence company in the world, BAE Systems”. He went on to say that the Saudis “should be commended for what they are doing, not criticized.” He noted that defence exports had made a significance contribution to the UK’s defence-industrial capability, generating prosperity across the UK. </p> <p>Mark Menzies MP made the same case on a more human scale, arguing that 16,000 people in his constituency would be out of work without exports to Saudi Arabia. He reminded parliament that&nbsp;“every single one of those people is a human being, not a number; they have mortgages to pay, they have skills and they have jobs.”</p> <p>The livelihoods of people living in the UK are clearly a legitimate concern in any public policy decision – and particularly amid the current economic and political uncertainties. However, this argument fails to acknowledge the massive amount of public subsidy for jobs related to arms exports – most recently <a href="https://www.caat.org.uk/issues/jobs-economy/subsidies">calculated</a> to be in the region of £700 million per annum by the respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). In the <a href="https://www.caat.org.uk/issues/jobs-economy/subsidies">words</a> of the Financial Times International Economy Editor, “You can have as many arms export jobs as you are prepared to waste public money subsidising.”</p> <p>And what about the ultimate human impact of the political decisions to subsidise the jobs that make contracts like the Salam deal viable? Could it be the case that some of our MPs believe that the lives of the people of Yemen are a price worth paying for UK jobs?</p> <p><strong>The ‘regional security ally’ argument</strong></p> <p>A further strong line of argument was that, despite concerns about civilian casualties, the UK should stand by Saudi Arabia as a vital security ally, critical to regional stability and the fight against terrorism and radicalisation. In the words of Seema Kennedy MP, “Stability in Saudi Arabia is in the British national interest.”</p> <p>Yet concerns about Saudi Arabia’s contribution to regional and global insecurity are <a href="http://www.foreignpolicyi.org/content/fpi-bulletin-saudi-arabia-and-terror-financing">well-documented</a>. Moreover, evidence that arms exports play a positive role in building the UK’s security is hard to find. A 2015 <a href="http://www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/policy-institute/publications/A-benefit-not-a-burden.pdf">study</a> by Kings College London into the security, economic and strategic value of Britain’s defence industry was forced to conclude that it could not “quantify the net security gains” from export-driven relationships such as the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. </p> <p>However, even if these doubts did not exist, the argument that a UK ally should receive unwavering support in the face of accusations of war crimes deserves further scrutiny. As with the jobs argument, the implication of this position is that the lives of those thousands of civilians who have been killed by the Saudi-led coalition are somehow less important than the lives of people in the UK, who must be protected from the threat of terrorism at any cost. </p> <p>It is likely that the MPs who spoke in defence of Saudi Arabia’s importance as an ally would want to distance themselves from that position. But the shameful reality is that parliament’s refusal to suspend its support for Riyadh gives exactly that message. And in doing so it shines an uncomfortable light on an assumption that lies at the heart of the UK’s current approach to security - that the security of people in this country is a supreme imperative, to which the needs of others can be legitimately subordinated. </p> <p>In May this year, the Ammerdown Group published a discussion paper, <a href="http://www.rethinkingsecurity.org.uk/files/Rethinking_Security_full_report.pdf">Rethinking Security</a>, which offered a critique of the UK’s current approach to security. It pointed out that the problem with UK security lies in the dominant narrative about what security means, whom it should benefit, and how it should be achieved. It argued that this narrative privileges UK national security over the security of people elsewhere, rather than recognising security as a common right; that it&nbsp;aims to advance ‘national interests’ defined by the political establishment, including corporate business interests and UK ‘world power’ status, and so dissociates the practice of security from the needs of people in their communities,&nbsp;and that it assumes a short-term outlook. </p> <p>The parliamentary debate last week is a stark illustration of the pervasive nature of this narrative, and its impact on the critical political decisions of the day. Shamefully, it is the people of Yemen who will pay the price for this approach, unless and until we challenge these assumptions and make a compelling case for a new approach to security, that can better meet the needs of all people, whether they live in the Middle East or the UK.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/celia-mckeon/reimagining-security">Reimagining security</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/military-intervention-in-yemen-international-system-in-crisis">Military intervention in Yemen: the international system in crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/helen-lackner/who-apart-from-its-people-wants-peace-in-yemen">Who, apart from its people, wants peace in Yemen?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/andrew-smith/even-saudi-arabia-accepts-that-saudi-forces-are-killing-civilians-in-yemen-so-why-is">Saudi forces are killing civilians in Yemen, so why is the UK still arming the regime?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ray-acheson-rebecca-johnson/un-are-development-and-peace-empty-words">The UN: are development and peace empty words? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/valerie-hudson/foundation-of-human-security-in-every-society">The foundation of human security in every society</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/helen-lackner/war-in-yemen">The war in Yemen</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/new-narrative-on-human-rights-security-and-prosperity">A new narrative on human rights, security and prosperity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leymah-gbowee/leymah-gbowee-five-words-for-men-of-libya">Leymah Gbowee: five words for the men of Libya</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mairead-maguire/common-vision-abolition-of-militarism">A common vision: The abolition of militarism </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/meaning-of-peace-in-21st-century">The meaning of peace in the 21st century</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn/getting-to-peace-what-kind-of-movement">Getting to peace: what kind of movement?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/there-are-more-of-us-who-want-peace-than-want-killing-to-continue">There are more of us who want peace than want the killing to continue</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/celia-mckeon-diana-francis/story-of-moral-abandon">A story of moral abandon</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/this-is-what-feminist-foreign-policy-looks-like">This is what a feminist foreign policy looks like</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/ammerdown-invitation/security-for-future-in-search-of-new-vision">Security for the future: in search of a new vision</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Saudi Arabia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Arab Awakening Yemen Saudi Arabia UK Civil society Conflict Why Yemen matters 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change 50.50 newsletter patriarchy Celia Mckeon Thu, 03 Nov 2016 09:27:33 +0000 Celia Mckeon 106426 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Daring to report: facing death in India https://www.opendemocracy.net/raksha-kumar/daring-to-report-facing-death-in-india <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A strong culture of impunity, enjoyed by the powerful in India, is dismantling the very foundations of a thriving media in the world’s largest democracy. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/IndiaComposite3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/IndiaComposite3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="142" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Left to right: Akshay Yadav. Jagendra Singh. Umesh Rajput. Sumit Galhotra/ Committee to Protect Journalists. </span></span></span></p><p class="Body">In February this year, the <a href="https://cpj.org/about/">Committee to Protect Journalists </a>asked me to co-author a <a href="https://cpj.org/reports/2016/08/dangerous-pursuit-india-corruption-journalists-killed-impunity.php">report</a> on the dangers of being a journalist in India. CPJ is a New York City based non-profit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. Not only do they document the dangerous situations that journalists find themselves in, but assist some scribes financially as well. </p><p class="Body"> For the past two decades the organisation tracked journalist killings in India and observed a curious pattern. Since 1992, 27 journalists were murdered with corruption and politics being identified as the two deadliest beats in the country. </p> <p class="Body">To investigate why reportage on corruption and politics in India had killed almost the same number of journalists that <a href="https://cpj.org/killed/asia/afghanistan/">war reportage in Afghanistan</a> had in the same period, I set out with CPJ’s senior research associate, Sumit Galhotra. </p> <p class="Body">The three-week long reporting expedition took us to narrow lanes of Shahjahanpur in volatile eastern Uttar Pradesh and dingy offices of Hindi news dailies in Chhattisgarh. We spoke to a wide range of journalists, editors, media analysts and lawyers on what makes it easy to get away with murder of journalists. </p> <p class="Body">We discovered that a strong culture of impunity, enjoyed by the powerful, dismantled the very foundations of a thriving media in the world’s largest democracy. </p> <p class="Body">I have tried to summarise our findings and place our work in context in this short article. The full report can be read <a href="https://www.cpj.org/reports/2016/08/dangerous-pursuit-india-corruption-journalists-killed-impunity.php">here</a>. </p> <p class="Body"><strong>Regional language journalists have it hardest <br /></strong></p> <p class="Body">According to the Registrar of Newspapers for India’s 2011 report, India has 82,237 newspapers. More than 32,000 of those are in Hindi and only about 11,000 in English. Numbers of other regional language publications are significantly higher. &nbsp;Similarly, the viewership for Hindi news channels far surpass the viewership figures of English ones.</p><p class="Body">Since the reach and impact of Hindi media was much higher, three journalists who worked in small-town India for Hindi news outlets became our case-studies. Ironically, despite the smaller reach, English language journalists in India carry a clout that gives them a layer of protection, which Hindi journalists lack.</p><p class="Body">Reporting on powerful men who live in the same village becomes dangerous. Therefore, many of them prefer to ignore the issues that matter, while some others sell-out. </p><p class="Body"> The few journalists who persevere become targets. For those that dare to report on important issues, passion is the only fuel. Financial return for a local journalist is negligible. What makes matters worse is that almost all of them are freelance journalists, with no backing from a particular organisation. If attacked, the journalists are left to fend for themselves by the publishers. <br /> <br /> The journalists we profiled in our report belonged to the third category. All three of them exposed the powerful people in their articles, and eventually all three met their deaths.</p><p class="Body">“<em>Freelancer Jagendra Singh, who died from his injuries after allegedly being set on fire by the police in June 2015, was reporting on allegations that a local minister was involved in land grabs and a rape.</em></p><p class="Body"><em>Before he was shot dead in January 2011, Umesh Rajput was reporting on allegations of medical negligence and claims that the son of a politician was involved in an illegal gambling business. </em></p><p class="Body"><em>Investigative reporter Akshay Singh was working on a story linked to the US$1 billion Vyapam admissions racket when he died unexpectedly in July 2015</em>.”</p><p class="Body">There is another deeper reason for journalists who cover local issues to be targets. While urban Indians need not come into regular contact with government institutions, in rural India it is almost impossible to survive without the state. For instance, village-dwellers come into direct contact with their elected representatives to demand basic infrastructure such as roads, schools, hospitals etc. Contrarily, in the cities, many don't vote in local elections at all. In such a situation, the role of journalists who live in small towns and report on local goings-on becomes crucial.</p><p class="Body">It is curious that the larger media fraternity does little to raise the issue of journalist safety. While there are fragmented efforts in different corners of the country to unite journalists under a network and fight for safety, there is no concerted pan-India movement. For instance, we met journalists in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh who were demanding a journalist protection law which would provide additional safety to those who report from conflict areas. That was just a sliver of the larger demand that should be made.</p><p class="Body">The most important step that the government could take in order to protect journalists is to ensure they are given a free hand to function. By not punishing any of the accused in the killings of 27 Indian journalists, the establishment is sending a covert message. Killing for journalists for doing their jobs is not okay. And that should be made clear.</p><p class="Body"><strong>No women journalists</strong> </p> <p class="Body">All the stakeholders we spoke to were men. My co-author and I felt the gender imbalance starkly. However, it is one aspect we could not focus on in any detail in the report as the format of the report was case study based. </p> <p class="Body">Most journalists in villages are men. The reason for this is two-fold. Literacy rates are much higher amongst men and mobility is easier for men in the rural parts. Travelling in over-crowded buses, walking long distances and speaking to strangers do not come naturally for rural women. Traditional roles of patriarchy are still entrenched. </p> <p class="Body">For a small number of women who dare to report from the villages, there have been repeated threats to their lives and safety. Many women work in collectives, specifically from rural areas. <a href="http://khabarlahariya.org/">Khabar Lahariya </a>from Uttar Pradesh and <a href="http://www.mediamagazine.in/content/rural-women-take-journalism-redefine-lives">Navodayam</a> from Andhra Pradesh, being two of the most well known. Their reach is limited and they are constantly struggling to raise money. They face regular threats of sexual violence and attacks to their families. </p> <p class="Body">Physical threats to journalists are one of the main reasons for influential regional language media being shaken to its very foundation. In order for India's democracy to survive it is essential to have a vibrant media that instils restraint in the minds of the transgressors. </p> <p class="Body">However, in this young democracy where institutions are still trying to stabilise, having a weak media is a death blow. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 openIndia India Civil society 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter Raksha Kumar Wed, 02 Nov 2016 08:33:27 +0000 Raksha Kumar 106315 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Invisible fathers of immigration detention in the UK https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/melanie-griffiths/invisible-fathers-of-immigration-detention <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The British state has regulated relationships between its citizens and certain foreigners since at least the Colonial era. Today’s border controls continue to police people’s intimate lives and retain sexist and racist assumptions.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/theverne walkway.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="The Verne walkway (Picture: Michael Collins, Right to Remain)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/theverne walkway.jpg" alt="The Verne walkway (Picture: Michael Collins, Right to Remain)" title="The Verne walkway (Picture: Michael Collins, Right to Remain)" width="448" height="332" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Verne walkway (Picture: Michael Collins, Right to Remain)</span></span></span>Lou, who I met one windy afternoon last year, knows all too well the devastation that immigration detention can wreak on one’s family. Lou arrived in the UK as an unaccompanied asylum seeking teenager 15 years ago. Vulnerable and orphaned, life was tough. But then Lou met, fell for and moved in with Sam, a British citizen. After a couple of years, she became pregnant. It was an accident but Lou was delighted when their baby girl, Mary, was born. All this time, Lou’s asylum claim languished at the Home Office. Until, one day the authorities realised that the claim had been refused (but never communicated) years before. To the family’s great distress, Lou was taken away to an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) for removal from the UK, leaving Sam and their daughter behind.</p><p>The length of time that Lou had lived in the UK, coupled with baby Mary’s British nationality, meant that it was always going to be difficult for the Home Office to remove Lou. But this didn’t stop the Home Office trying. And despite the damage being caused to the family, Lou was kept in detention as they tried. The initial wrenching shock of detention eventually gave way to what Lou called the slow “suffocation” of lengthy detention. In the end, Lou spent an incredible&nbsp;<em>four</em>&nbsp;<em>years</em>&nbsp;in immigration detention, separated from Sam and Mary. Mary was just a toddler when Lou was taken, and so almost all her memories of bonding are based in the visits hall of an IRC.</p><p><strong>Parenting from afar</strong></p><p>At first Lou was detained fairly close to the family home, so Sam could visit often, bringing their daughter after nursery. Desperate to be a proper parent despite being separated by detention, Lou lived for these visits, and supplemented them with phone calls, letters and drawings that they sent each other. Lou did manual work at the IRC, despite the pitiful ‘wages’, so as to be able to make a contribution to Mary’s care. After a year, however, Lou was transferred, without explanation, to an IRC far away. The strains of detention rose to be ever greater and the visits now required an overnight hotel stay and became less frequent. Eventually the stress became too much and Sam and Lou’s relationship broke down.</p><p>Now the hurdles of parenting were almost insurmountable. The visits, which took up a lot of time and money, were dependent upon Sam’s goodwill and generosity. And seeing Mary started to bring Lou as much pain and loss as joy. Lou said that the hardest times were hanging up after a telephone conversation and the days after the little girl’s visits. They were so painful that sometimes Lou thought that breaking all contact might be best for them both.</p><p>Lou only got through detention by imagining a future reunited with Mary and finally being able to parent her properly. But they remained separated even when Lou was released from immigration detention. In what Lou considers to be a calculated act of cruelty, the assigned Home Office housing is at the opposite end of the country from Mary. The requirement to remain at this address coupled with obligations to regularly report to the police mean that it’s not possible to travel far. In addition, the tiny amount of money that Lou receives (which in any case is not in cash), will never cover the travel costs. The result is a family that remains splintered, an unhappy little (British) girl, and a parent that is effectively still imprisoned, albeit no longer behind physical walls. It breaks Lou’s heart every time that Mary asks why they still cannot see each other.</p><p><strong>A gender gap?</strong></p><p>Immigration detention causes enormous damage to parents and children. This is true whatever the gender of those involved, and yet the detention of parents is almost only ever discussed in relation to mothers. But like the vast majority of detained parents, Lou is a father.</p><p>The British state has attempted to regulate the relationships between its citizens and (certain) foreigners since the Colonial era, when contact between white British women and colonised men was considered especially problematic and of requiring management. Today, border controls continue to police people’s intimate lives, and they retain (albeit now less explicitly) various gender and ethnicity biases. We see it in the creation of gendered and racialised categories such as ‘immigration detainee’, ‘illegal immigrant’ and ‘foreign criminal’, labels which in rhetoric and reality are disproportionately applied to men (about 85% of immigration detainees in the UK are men, as are 89% of people forcibly removed)&nbsp;and ethnic minorities.</p><p>A mixture of sexism and racism may explain why quite so little recognition is given to these men’s emotional lives. Many speak of their roles as parents and partners being ignored, devalued or disbelieved entirely under suspicion that they were established merely to circumvent immigration controls. When I ask Lou if he thinks he’d be treated differently if he was a mother he exclaims: “Obviously. Obviously. Obviously!” He recognises that mums are also separated from their children by detention, but believes that they tend to be released more quickly than dads, and are more likely to have the emotional trauma recognised and compensated for.</p><p>Lou believes that it is his gender that allowed the system to so easily steal four years of his daughter’s life from him, and that legitimises their continued, pointless separation. He blames his gender for enabling decision-makers to deem his private life sacrificial to the ‘public interest’ of his deportation, and to accuse him of “using this baby to stay in this country”. It is hard to imagine that such a hurtful accusation is put as often to women, nor the argument (also made to Lou) that he could be just as adequate a parent after deportation, parenting by telephone and Skype.</p><p><span><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Cv4pWrGXYAAaeMZ.jpg-large" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Tinsley House detention centre&#039;s visitors&#039; room (Picture: Michael Collins, Right to Remain)"><img src="/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Cv4pWrGXYAAaeMZ.jpg-large" alt="Tinsley House detention centre's visitors' room (Picture: Michael Collins, Right to Remain)" title="Tinsley House detention centre&#039;s visitors&#039; room (Picture: Michael Collins, Right to Remain)" width="460" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tinsley House IRC's visitors' room (Picture: Michael Collins, Right to Remain)</span></span></span></span></span></p><p><strong>Detained dads</strong></p><p>My conversation with Lou is part of an ESRC-funded project at the University of Bristol on mixed-citizenship families affected by immigration enforcement. As lead researcher, I have been talking to UK-based men of various nationalities, all of whom have a British or European partner or child, but whose lack of a secure immigration status puts them at risk of forced removal. Although damaging to all, immigration detention has particular implications for people with family members in the UK. Several interviewees had been detained – and therefore put under the extreme stress of threatened removal – during key life events. They missed pregnancies and births, at best only virtually present. One man heard his baby’s first screams over the telephone, whilst another couple communicated throughout the labour using Whatsapp.</p><p>Lou, like many fathers, tried hard to parent his daughter whilst in immigration detention, even after his relationship with her mother ended. But even when contact can be maintained, detention entails an unknown, but often long, period of separation. Travel costs, distance and fear often hinder families from visiting, hurting both children and parents. One NGO employee told me that as detention starts to stretch into the months, the detained men he works with all notice their children regressing and developing psychological problems.</p><p>Unlike with prisons, detained parents are not helped or encouraged to stay in contact with families. Indeed, much of Lou’s detention was at an IRC several hours away from his family. He feels that this was a ploy to stop his family from being able to visit, which brings legal, as well as emotional, repercussions. A paucity of visits is used by decision-makers to suggest that detained men are not performing meaningful family roles, and that thus their family life is no bar to deportation.</p><p><strong>Detained without walls</strong></p><p>As Lou also demonstrates, the impact on families of immigration detention often continues even if a person is released. Men tend to leave detention with stringent conditions such as frequent reporting to the police, evening curfews and electronic tagging. These severely restrict normal life and tie a person to a particular place, which may well be far from their families. Add on a lack of money or right to work, as well as the emotional damage caused by detention, and the hurdles against rekindling family ties can be enormous.</p><p>Lou feels that, as an ex-detainee, the Home Office is deliberately splitting up his family in order to “break him” emotionally, and is “playing games” by using his young daughter as bait to tempt him into breaching his conditions of release. Unfortunately for Lou, his legitimate desire to live near his daughter and contribute financially to her upbringing (so as “to see her smile”), would entail&nbsp;<em>illegitimately</em>&nbsp;‘absconding’ from his accommodation and working illegally. Lou considers it a Home Office tactic: “deprive him! So he’s going to mess up and then we’ll justify detaining him!”</p><p>Cruelly, and as Lou is well aware, his continued separation from Mary also has legal implications. Even if the separation is involuntary and an artefact of the immigration system, it undermines his case to remain in the UK on the basis of his family life. Lou is trapped. In order to follow the Home Office’s rules, Lou must accept the pain of hardly seeing Mary and the guilt of being unable to financially support her. But in so doing, not only is their relationship forever damaged, but Lou knows that the decision-makers will become increasingly unlikely to “accept I’m a genuine father.” He tells me that they will ask him: “When did you last see your daughter? Where’s your evidence?”</p><p><strong>Final words: “I’m not leaving my child here. How can I? Who does that?”</strong></p><p>Lou’s experience of a slow asylum system, of long-term immigration detention, and of continued entrapment after release, not only illustrate the harms that the British immigration system does to families – including British children – but also demonstrates that these harms play out in gendered ways. The immigration system shapes people’s relationships and family identities, including as husbands, boyfriends and fathers. It also judges and values these roles, with the Home Office typically placing far less weight on the ‘husband’ or ‘father’ roles of currently&nbsp;<span>–</span><span>&nbsp;or previously-detained men, than do the men themselves or their loved ones.</span></p><p>And shamelessly, not only does the immigration system prevent these men from being the partners and fathers that they were or wish to be, it then draws on the diminished contact to dispute the value&nbsp;<span>–</span><span>&nbsp;or even very existence&nbsp;</span><span>–</span><span>&nbsp;of the relationships. We, as academics and activists, must be careful not to contribute to these gendered (and racialized and classed) narratives, however well meaning, by perpetuating the myth that in relation to immigration detention, issues of love, parenting and emotion arise only with&nbsp;</span><em>women.</em><span>&nbsp;By emphasising other factors, such as ones of legality or criminality, when discussing detained&nbsp;</span><em>men&nbsp;</em><span>we reproduce the sexist assumptions and constraints of the immigration system. In so doing, we risk dehumanising and flattening the identities of both genders.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/arresting-mass-detention-of-migrants-build-trust-not-walls">Arresting the mass detention of migrants: ‘Build trust, not walls’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/refugee-crisis-demilitarising-masculinities">The refugee crisis: demilitarising masculinities </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/h/animals-or-slaves-memories-of-migrant-detention-centre">Animals or slaves? Memories of a migrant detention centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lea-sitkin-bethan-rogers/immigration-detention-most-unbritish-phenomenon">Immigration detention: a most un-British phenomenon</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ben-du-preez/no-end-to-horrors-of-detention">No end to the horrors of detention</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/agnes-woolley/setherfree-spectrum-of-solidarity-for-refugee-women">#SetHerFree: a spectrum of solidarity for refugee women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/eiri-ohtani/immigration-detention-expensive-ineffective-and-unjust">Immigration detention: &quot;expensive, ineffective and unjust&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/melanie-griffiths/immigration-detention-in-media-anarchy-and-ambivalence">Immigration detention in the media: anarchy and ambivalence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/saskia-garner/life-after-detention">Life after detention</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 UK Democracy and government Equality 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick gendered migration gender 50.50 newsletter Melanie Griffiths Mon, 31 Oct 2016 10:36:14 +0000 Melanie Griffiths 106263 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Historic UN vote to negotiate a Nuclear Ban Treaty in 2017 https://www.opendemocracy.net/rebecca-johnson/historic-un-vote-to-negotiate-nuclear-ban-treaty-in-2017 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On 27 October, the UN General Assembly's Disarmament and Security Committee voted for negotiations in 2017 on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, with momentous consequences for Trident renewal.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Medact demo at 18 July debate demo_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Medact demo at 18 July debate demo_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>NHS workers oppose Trident renewal, Parliament Square 18 July 2016.</span></span></span></p> <p>Over 71 years after atomic weapons flattened the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, leading to the development of over 50,000 nuclear weapons by ten nations, a majority of 123 UN Member states have voted to convene a multilateral UN conference in 2017 "<a href="http://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com16/resolutions/L41.pdf">to negotiate a legally binding treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination</a>". &nbsp;Led by a broad cross section of nuclear free countries, including South Africa which eliminated its nuclear arsenal in 1991, their objective is to create a nuclear weapons prohibition regime under International Humanitarian Law. Their intention is to accelerate the abolition of today's nuclear arsenals of over 15,000 weapons, reduce the proliferation-driving value attached to these weapons of mass destruction, prevent nuclear detonations and deter further modernization and proliferation. </p> <p>Building on the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the new multilateral treaty will for the first time provide a comprehensive approach to prohibiting activities such as the use, deployment, production, transporting, stockpiling and financing of nuclear weapons. It will also extend the NPT's nuclear disarmament obligation by creating a clear, unequivocal legal obligation to eliminate existing arsenals that will apply to non-NPT as well as all NPT states. </p> <p>The UK was among 38 states that voted against negotiating such a treaty, though diplomats privately acknowledged that they were in a weak position to stop negotiations from going ahead. &nbsp;A further 16 governments decided to abstain.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>If the UN First Committee vote is confirmed by the UN General Assembly in December, as is likely, the negotiations will go ahead, with sessions timetabled for March, June and July 2017 in New York.&nbsp;&nbsp; The <a href="http://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com16/resolutions/L41.pdf">resolution for "taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations"</a>, which was led by Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa, with 57 co-sponsors, calls for the negotiations to be open to all UN Member States, in accordance with General Assembly rules of procedure, which means that if consensus cannot be achieved, decisions are taken by majority.&nbsp;&nbsp; Relevant international organisations and civil society will be actively encouraged.&nbsp; </p> <p>All states will be encouraged to participate, but none will be given a veto power to block the negotiations or decisions.&nbsp; This makes it possible to envisage a nuclear ban treaty being delivered in time to be adopted by the United Nations at a high level meeting in 2018, as some states have already advocated.&nbsp; </p> <p>This UN vote and next year's negotiations look set to be a huge game-changer.&nbsp; So why is it being ignored by mainstream British media?</p><p>As noted by a handful of forward-looking Green, Labour and Scottish MPs during <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rebecca-johnson/trident-time-warp-party-politics-defence-needs">last July's Trident debate</a>, a nuclear ban treaty is better for UK security than spending over £205 billion on upgrading Trident and threatening to fire it at Moscow or wherever, as <a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-07-18/debates/16071818000001/UKSNuclearDeterrent">Theresa May currently advocates</a>. &nbsp; </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/UK Amb Matthew Rowland UNFC 14.10.16.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/UK Amb Matthew Rowland UNFC 14.10.16.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'> UK’s UN disarmament Ambassador Matthew Rowland</span></span></span></p> <p>In two speeches given by UK ambassador Matthew Rowland on 14 October, the tone was anxious and hectoring, as this desperate British diplomat pleaded with his non-nuclear peers to join him in voting against a resolution that he knows the UK will not be able to avoid or withstand. &nbsp;Still he proclaimed that "<a href="http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com16/statements/14Oct_UK.pdf">as long as nuclear weapons exist NATO will remain a nuclear alliance</a>" and that the UK intends to have nuclear weapons for "<a href="http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com16/statements/14Oct_UK.pdf">the foreseeable future</a>".&nbsp; Even in NATO countries, however, those assumptions are being questioned and criticised. &nbsp;Weeks before the UN vote, the Norwegian, Dutch and Belgian parliaments strongly argued for their governments not to oppose the resolution or negotiations, though only the Netherlands had the courage to defy the NATO whip and abstain.&nbsp; </p> <p>In a further development initiated by European Greens, MEPs supported a <a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=MOTION&amp;reference=P8-RC-2016-1122&amp;format=XML&amp;language=EN">European Parliament resolution</a> that called for EU governments to participate constructively in the proposed UN multilateral negotiations "to prohibit nuclear weapons in 2017 ".&nbsp; Backed by 415 MEPs, this EP resolution also invited "Vice-President/High Representative Federica Mogherini and the European External Action Service to contribute constructively to the proceedings of the 2017 negotiating conference".&nbsp; Only 124 MEPs voted against, mainly from the far right parties, with 74 abstentions. &nbsp; </p> <p>Though non-binding, the EP resolution is significant for having situated efforts to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in the context of nuclear security and nonproliferation, dismissing arguments from Russia and various NATO states that prohibiting nuclear weapons would somehow undermine nonproliferation and security. </p> <p>The Japanese government's decision to &nbsp;<a href="http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/videos/20161028161853822/">vote against the UN resolution</a> for multilateral negotiations to ban nuclear weapons came under heavy criticism from parliamentarians, religious groups and civil society, most notably the Hibakusha <a href="http://www.hibakushastories.org/meet-the-hibakusha/meet-setsuko-thurlow/">survivors</a> of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb attacks.&nbsp; Despite voting against, Japan has promised to participate in the negotiations when they are convened. </p> <p>Russia, whose "<a href="http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com16/statements/14Oct_UK.pdf">disturbing…&nbsp; rhetoric</a> about the use of nuclear weapons and the frequency of snap nuclear exercises" was cited by the UK's Ambassador Rowland as a major reason for the UK to oppose the resolution, was on the same side as the US and UK in wanting to carry on having nuclear weapons to use, deploy and project power with.&nbsp; Russia appeared dismissive of the security interests of countries who wanted to ban nuclear weapons when they don't have any. Several African and Latin American diplomats reported that Russia was especially active behind the scenes in evoking its weapons and assistance in past proxy wars in efforts to persuade their governments to oppose the multilateral disarmament negotiations.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>On 24 October, <a href="http://www.icanw.org/campaign-news/nobel-laureates-urge-nations-to-support-a-ban/">15 Nobel Peace Laureates</a> joined Nobel science Laureates in an open letter. This emphasised the "need to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons" and called for nuclear prohibition negotiations to be concluded quickly so that "we can move rapidly towards the final elimination of this existential threat to humanity".&nbsp; </p> <p>Unconsciously or deliberately, US Ambassador <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-27/nuclear-armed-foes-unite-against-a-un-call-to-shed-their-weapons">Robert Wood</a> echoed them: “How can a state that relies on nuclear weapons for its security possibly join a negotiation meant to stigmatize and eliminate them?”&nbsp; What, then, was President Obama's claiming to want when he advocated 'the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons' in his <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-barack-obama-prague-delivered">2009 Prague speech</a>?&nbsp; Eight years on from receiving his premature Nobel Peace Prize in 2008, Obama's policies have embedded nuclear modernization and expenditure more deeply than ever.&nbsp; </p> <p>That's why this <a href="http://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com16/votes/L41.pdf">UN vote</a> is so important.&nbsp; It moves diplomatic and legal action beyond the veto power of nuclear-dependent governments that want to keep their privileges under the NPT.&nbsp; It came as no surprise that the US, UK, France, Russia and Israel voted against, with most of NATO, Australia and Japan.&nbsp; But they can't block the process that the UN has now launched.&nbsp; Interestingly, North Korea voted for negotiations to ban nuclear weapons, while China, India and Pakistan abstained. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/UN NY Oct 2016.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/UN NY Oct 2016.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>United Nations Headquarters, New York, October 2016.</span></span></span></p> <p>Looking forward, what does this mean?&nbsp; </p> <p>Negotiations will go ahead in 2017, unless the nuclear-armed states that are permanent members of the UN Security Council unite to derail it, which no longer appears very likely. &nbsp;Since 2013 they have tried ignoring, misrepresenting, arm-twisting, pleading and threatening.&nbsp; Now they have a choice whether to boycott the negotiations, in the knowledge that the non-nuclear nations can bring a nuclear ban treaty into force with or without them, or participate in hope of weakening the outcome to fit their nuclear interests.&nbsp; But history demonstrates that even if they decide not to accede to the new treaty, the norms and prohibitions will percolate into their nuclear decision-making. </p> <p>The UN vote is the product of civil society initiatives working in partnership with a core group of states on a strategy that has met its first phase objectives in six years. Over 440 organisations in 98 countries joined the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons because they were convinced by our arguments that irreversible nuclear disarmament would be more effectively achieved by prohibiting nuclear weapons as soon as possible, thereby creating new norms and legal requirements to reinvigorate a range of disarmament processes.&nbsp; </p> <p>ICAN and our partners may be celebrating this UN vote, but we are already focussing on what we want to see in the nuclear ban treaty, and how the provisions will help governments and civil society to implement further steps have been paralysed or stymied for many years, including the "thirteen steps" adopted by NPT states in the 2000 NPT Review Conference, and relevant steps advocated by arms controllers and Global Zero for total elimination, verified and monitored through an appropriate form of nuclear weapons convention when that becomes feasible. </p> <p>As for the UK, the nuclear ban treaty in the pipeline makes Trident renewal completely untenable, notwithstanding the posing for cameras by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon as he "cut steel" for four new nuclear submarines after the Ministry of Defence signed further multibillion pound contracts with BAE Systems.&nbsp; &nbsp; </p> <p>Prime Minister Theresa May may want to boycott the UN negotiations, but Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who attended the <a href="https://www.bmeia.gv.at/en/european-foreign-policy/disarmament/weapons-of-mass-destruction/nuclear-weapons-and-nuclear-terrorism/vienna-conference-on-the-humanitarian-impact-of-nuclear-weapons/">Vienna Conference</a>, has now appointed a <a href="http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-d32b-Yorkshire-MP-given-new-peace-role#.WBPDfeErKRt">Minister for Peace and Disarmament</a>, Fabian Hamilton MP, who said that one of his main roles will be to participate in the UN multilateral disarmament meetings. &nbsp;Similarly, the Scottish government is arguing for a seat at the UN negotiations, arguing that they have special interests as a country forced to host nuclear weapons against the will of the majority of Scotland's people. </p> <p>In accordance with past experience, ranging from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Mine Ban Treaty, and the Cluster Munitions Convention, among others, the UK's attempts to prevent negotiations going ahead will soon make way for tactics to derail, dismiss, obstruct and undermine a constructive outcome.&nbsp; When a nuclear prohibition treaty is concluded, however, the UK will soon sign, though without much enthusiasm, and try and save whatever they can from the Trident fiasco.&nbsp; And in a few years UK politicians and diplomats will probably take credit for the treaty as a long-standing British objective.&nbsp; </p> <p><em>&nbsp;Read more articles in our long running series</em>: <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/towards-nuclear-non-proliferation">Towards Nuclear Non-Proliferation</a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/from-hiroshima-to-trident-listening-to-hibakusha">From Hiroshima to Trident: listening to the Hibakusha </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/scrapping-trident-holistic-approach">Scrapping Trident: the holistic approach</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/will-nagasaki-be-last-use-of-nuclear-weapons">Will Nagasaki be the last use of nuclear weapons?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marilyn-waring/helen-caldicott-and-first-nuke-free-country">Whose work was the inspiration for the first nuke-free country?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/austrian-pledge-to-ban-nuclear-weapons">The Austrian pledge to ban nuclear weapons </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/britain-boycotts-uns-multilateral-nuclear-disarmament-talks">Britain&#039;s boycott of the UN multilateral nuclear disarmament talks</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/nuclear-survivors%27-testimony-from-hell-to-hope">Nuclear survivors&#039; testimony: from hell to hope </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/do-british-member-of-parliament-remember-hiroshima">Hiroshima: do the British Members of Parliament remember ? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/from-fukushima-to-hinkley-point">From Fukushima to Hinkley Point</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/npt-and-risks-to-human-survival-inside-story">NPT and risks to human survival: the inside story </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson-daniela-varano/npt-nuclear-colonialism-versus-democratic-disarmament">NPT: nuclear colonialism versus democratic disarmament </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/npt-gulf-between-nuclear-haves-and-have-nots">NPT: the gulf between the nuclear haves and have-nots</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/gathering-speed-to-ban-nuclear-weapons">Gathering speed to ban nuclear weapons</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/new-generation-taking-over-reins-of-nuclear-abolition">A new generation: taking over the reins of nuclear abolition</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </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 Towards Nuclear Non-proliferation 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change women and militarism 50.50 newsletter Rebecca Johnson Sat, 29 Oct 2016 23:27:33 +0000 Rebecca Johnson 106323 at https://www.opendemocracy.net I Love Dick: what makes a feminist classic? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sian-norris/i-have-mixed-feelings-about-dick <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Chris Kraus's feminist classic <em>I Love Dick</em>, reissued in paperback this year, confronts the reader with complex questions about what it means to be a woman artist and&nbsp;a sexual woman in love with a man. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><strong>&nbsp;<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/6F5BB5B4-FF95-4B88-93F8-159396FC7ED4-3493-0000024F926A6DB1_tmp_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/6F5BB5B4-FF95-4B88-93F8-159396FC7ED4-3493-0000024F926A6DB1_tmp_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="363" height="367" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>I Love Dick. Image: Sian Norris </span></span></span></strong></p><p class="Body">For Chris Kraus’ feminist classic <a href="https://serpentstail.com/i-love-dick.html"><em>I Love Dick</em></a> reissued in paperback this year feels like perfect timing. Its republication by <a href="https://serpentstail.com/i-love-dick.html">Serpent’s Tail </a>has come at a time when more and more women are writing auto-fiction and straight fiction that attempts to tell a truth about sexuality, friendship, feminism and the wide variety of women’s lived experiences. From Joanna Walsh’s <em>Hotel </em>and <em>Vertigo</em>, Claire Louise Bennett’s <em>Pond</em>, Zoe Pilger’s <em>Eat your Heart Out</em> and Katherine Angel’s <em>Unmastered</em>, I’m constantly picking up books that explore women’s lives in an often exposing, uncomfortable but ultimately satisfying way. </p> <p class="Body">It also makes sense in terms of the recent resurgence of feminism. Although feminism never went away, there has been an upsurge in feminist publishing and activism over the last five years - and again, particular attention has been paid to the expressions and depictions of female sexuality. The personal has always been the political in feminism, and as we live our lives ever more in the public glare of social media this maxim feels truer than ever. </p> <p class="Body">But is <em>I Love Dick</em> a feminist classic? And what makes a feminist classic anyway? What does this re-embracing of Kraus’s novel say about the struggles we still face as women and writers to express desire and sexuality through literature, and what has changed for the better (or worse) since Kraus’ book was first published in 1997? </p> <p class="Body">'Every letter is a love letter' writes Kraus, and her letters form the vast majority of the book. Kraus tells the story of meeting Dick with her husband Sylvère, and falling in love with him. The married couple embark on a project of writing Dick letters in an attempt to articulate both Chris’ love and Sylvère’s fascination with her love. As the book continues, Sylvère drops off the page and the letters are entirely from Chris. Through her letters, she explores her desire for Dick, as well as her reflections on art, literature, being a woman artist and her own sexuality. </p> <p class="Body">I spoke to writer Katherine Angel about <em>I Love Dick</em>, and the experience she took from reading it. She told me: "I absolutely loved the way Dick is a kind of blank in the book; he is a screen on to which Kraus projects her ideas, her art: a foil for her articulating her subjectivity. The one-sidedness of it was crucial I thought."</p><p>The one-sidedness of the relationship is both crucial and uncanny. Throughout the book the reader is very aware that our understanding of Dick is entirely formed through Chris’ gaze on him. We don’t see Dick except through the prism of her desire. As Angel points out, he is the blank screen where she puts all her thoughts, wants, feelings - we never see him as the subject but only as the object. He is pure projection and pure fantasy. As Chris puts it: </p><p><em>'I’ve projected a total fantasy onto an unsuspecting person and then actually asked him to respond!'</em></p> <p class="Body">It is shocking that in 2016 writing so openly and blatantly about female desire and the female gaze still has that power to surprise and disconcert – to feel so transgressive. It’s no exaggeration to say that much of our cultural depictions of desire and sexuality place the male as the subject and the woman as the object. For Kraus to upend that, and to do it with such energy and disregard for social norms, is both exciting and a little frightening. The book is confrontational because it demands we pay attention to female desire. It demands we pay attention to the female gaze and it refuses to apologise. </p> <p class="Body">One of the few things we actually hear Dick say is an admission of Kraus’ fantasy: </p><p class="Body"><em>'You don’t even know me.'</em></p> <p class="Body">It sums up a lot of the reader’s potential confusion. How can she love Dick after spending one evening with him? What does love mean when she doesn’t even know him? Is she in love with him, or in love with her idea of him? And does that even matter? </p> <p class="Body">This usage of Dick turns him from a human subject to the object of a woman’s fantasy - something that most women will probably recognise as having happened to them.</p><p class="Body">Kraus certainly does. As the book progresses, she uses Dick as an opportunity to explore ideas about women’s marginalisation in the art and literary world - and of course our wider world where men are allowed subjectivity and women are reduced to objects. In one striking passage she talks about the hot young male artists of New York in the 1970s/1980s: </p> <p class="Body">&nbsp; <em>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;'<em>While these men were getting famous. While me and all my friends, the girls, were paying for our rent and shows and exploring “issues of our sexuality” by shaking to them all night long in topless bars.'</em></em></p> <p class="Body">The division is clear. The men are the subjects, the women are objects. The men have the gaze and control the gaze, while the women are fantasy. Men were making art about the big, male issues that got respect. Women were making art that was seen as female and therefore marginal: </p> <p class="Body"><em>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; '<em>Dear Dick, I’m wondering why every act that narrated female lived experience in the ‘70s has been read only as “collaboration” and “feminist”. The Zurich Dadaists worked together too but they were geniuses and they had names.'</em></em></p> <p class="Body">Kraus’ exploration of what it means to be a woman in the art world are some of my favourite sections of <em>I Love Dick</em>. She rails against being reduced to the “wife”, to being the “plus one” on guest lists while her husband is named: </p> <p class="Body"><em>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; '<em>“Who’s Chris Kraus?” she screamed. “She’s no-one! She’s Sylvère Lotringer’s wife! She’s his ‘plus-one’!”'</em></em></p> <p class="Body">She celebrates the women who were transgressive, noisy, disruptive, and who demanded attention - the women like the artist Hannah Wilke who she links her own work with. She writes: </p> <p class="Body">&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; '<em>Who gets to speak and why is the only question.' &nbsp;</em></p> <p class="Body">and criticises how art has been patriarchy’s servant in allowing the silencing women’s subjectivity: </p> <p class="Body">&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; '<em>Art supersedes what’s personal. It’s a philosophy that serves patriarchy well.'</em></p> <p class="Body">This is one of the joys of Kraus’ writing - and one of the things that brings it into 'feminist classic' territory. It is so <em>so </em>SO personal, and joyous in its exposing, personal nature. Kraus writes so beautifully and clearly about how culture is invested in silencing women’s personal experience - particularly personal and sexual experience - and she slams down against the expectation that a good woman is a silent one: </p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<em>&nbsp;'Jack Berman obviously was an expert on what constituted a Virtuous Woman. Someone who keeps her mouth shut and respects the rules of “privacy”.'</em></p> <p class="Body">By Berman’s measure, then, Kraus is not a virtuous woman and she is unashamed of it. She argues that our culture: </p> <p class="Body">&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; '...<em>presumes that there’s something inherently grotesque, unspeakable, about femaleness, desire.'</em></p> <p class="Body">She celebrates the female voice and the need to express the female lived experience: </p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<em>&nbsp;'I think the sheer fact of women talking, being, paradoxical, inexplicable, flip, self-destructive, but above all public is the most revolutionary thing in the world.'</em></p> <p class="Body">But how does one speak/write an honest account of female sexuality? What does it mean to be honest about sex and desire and heterosexuality, in a society where inequality between the sexes means that women’s voices, desires and pleasures are so often silenced? How do we negotiate sexuality in a society which fetishizes and celebrates male dominance and female submission? </p> <p class="Body">These are some of the questions Kraus raises in <em>I Love Dick</em> - and they are some of the most troubling and confrontational ideas in the book. As author Emily Gould puts it: "[It] was the first work of fiction I’d ever read that acknowledged […] that women who love men are going to have to come to terms with their complicity in their own repression and subjugation, and find ways to address it."</p> <p class="Body">This is perhaps the big question heterosexual feminist women have to ask themselves. How do we negotiate loving men, wanting and desiring men, in a patriarchal culture? Can we ever really enjoy equal relationships with men when our whole economic and social structures thrive on male dominance? And how do we talk about or understand our own sexual preferences? These are big, scary and confrontational questions that we are all guilty of shying from. And that desire to shy away from this difficulty and discomfort is one of the things that, at times, makes reading <em>I Love Dick</em> intensely troubling. </p> <p class="Body">Because Kraus does not hide away from these complications – she confronts them head on. And she demands that reader joins her:</p><p class="Body">&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; '<em>My entire state of being’s changed because I’ve become my sexuality: female, straight, wanting to love men, be fucked. Is there a way of living with this like a gay person, proudly?'</em></p> <p class="Body">These questions form one of the central tensions of the book. On the one hand, Chris is a sexual subject: she is the gazer, she is the person who feels desire for Dick and acts on that desire. He is her fantasy - even her object. And on the other hand, the whole process of her desire for him and the hopelessness of her love is incredibly self-abasing. She describes sex as ‘degradation’ and having sex as ‘disintegrating’. So while we have this strong depiction of female lust, we also have this intensely uncomfortable depiction of female debasement to male power. </p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/(null).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/(null).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="366" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The author with the book I Love Dick</span></span></span></p> <p class="Body">Before I finish I want to quickly mention the recent pilot that brings the action of <em>I Love Dick</em> into the 21st Century. The great challenge for the TV show is the character of Dick himself. Because on-screen, he has to become a character. And as good as the camera is at lingering on Kevin Bacon’s physicality, as soon as we see him and he speaks, he is no longer Chris’s creation. As Angel put it to me: "In the book, Dick is the means through which Chris can articulate herself. In the pilot, he’s a charming, arrogant man."</p> <p class="Body">On TV, Dick is no longer the fantasy. He becomes a subject and that balance of power shifts unavoidably.</p><p class="Body"><strong><em><a href="https://serpentstail.com/i-love-dick.html">I Love Dick</a> </em></strong><em><em>was reissued in paperback this year by Serpent's Tail </em></em><strong><em><em><br /></em></em></strong></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> </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 patriarchy feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Sian Norris Fri, 28 Oct 2016 17:45:33 +0000 Sian Norris 106312 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Honduras: the battle to protect women human rights defenders https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/laura-carlsen/honduras-battle-to-protect-women-human-rights-defenders <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Protection of women human rights defenders must be based on recognizing not only their existence, but also their contribution to creating better societies.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>­­­</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/bertaanniversary.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/bertaanniversary.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A shrine in memory of Berta Cáceres. Photo: Just Associates ( JASS) </span></span></span></p> <p>You shouldn’t have to risk your life to demand respect for your rights and the rights of others, but in Honduras hundreds of defenders have been threatened and murdered for doing just that. Most of these cases are not investigated or prosecuted.&nbsp; </p> <p>Honduran women human rights defenders delivered this message to UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, during a visit to the country in August. Just days before arriving in Tegucigalpa, Forst issued a <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20397&amp;LangID=E">joint press release</a> with the Inter-American Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, José de Jesus Orozco, <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20397&amp;LangID=E">publicly</a> declaring, “Honduras is one of the most hostile and dangerous countries in the world for human rights defenders.” His visit focused on impunity, which he deemed “a huge obstacle to access to justice for defenders”. </p> <p>Just weeks later, an armed commando <a href="https://www.yahoo.com/news/theft-case-files-environmentalist-killing-worries-un-012848930.html">stole the case file</a>s on the assassination on 2 March of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/ndana-bofu-tawamba-kate-kroeger-tatiana-cordero/berta-s-struggle-is-our-global-struggle">world-renowned feminist and environmental leader Berta Cáceres</a>. The masked men, as yet unidentified, took the files at gunpoint from the car of a judge who claimed she was taking them home “to study.” Although six people have been arrested, including two military men and employees of the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ana-abelenda/behind-murder-of-berta-c-ceres-corporate-response">company building the dam</a> Cáceres opposed, the masterminds of the crime are suspected to be higher up and as yet untouched. Forst issued a statement saying that the theft demonstrated the incapacity or lack of will of the Honduran authorities to investigate. </p> <p>Seven UN Rappoteurs co-signed a <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=19805&amp;LangID=E">call to end impunity</a> in Honduras a month after the assassination, citing “A backlash against women human rights defenders,” and explaining that “Women human rights defenders are generally further exposed to retaliation, harassment and violence as they usually challenge the patriarchal culture and deep-rooted gender stereotypes about the role of women in society.” </p> <p>With Berta Cáceres’s case moving farther, rather than closer to justice, and assassinations of human rights defenders unabated, a surreal sense of outraged impotence has settled on Honduras. In death, Cáceres's case and her cause continue to create a stir. People around the world shook their heads in disbelief at the latest news of the bizarre abduction of the files. The UN again called for an independent investigation into the murder, which the Honduran government has rejected.</p> <p>The Honduran justice system fails in more than <a href="http://www.laprensa.hn/honduras/778877-410/honduras-90-de-los-delitos-quedan-en-la-impunidad">90% of cases, </a>criminals are not tried, found guilty and punished. This is especially true when the culprits are powerful economic or political actors, or government officials and members of the police and armed forces. Daysi Flores, national director of <a href="http://justassociates.org/en/jass-mesoamerica">Just Associates (JASS)</a> in Honduras, said that this context of impunity has allowed organized crime to flourish, “And not just drug trafficking, but also the organized crime that carries out illegal land grabs and usurps communities’ natural resources, and the organized crime that loots our social security system and public goods to the detriment of the people’s living conditions.” </p> <p>While unable or unwilling to prosecute crimes, the government has moved aggressively in charging human rights defenders on the basis of weak or non-existent evidence. Three years before being murdered, <a href="http://justassociates.org/en/action/call-action-freedom-berta-caceres-honduras">Caceres was arrested</a> in a military operation and accused of “illegal arms possession” and being a threat to Honduran security. The courts released her only after an international campaign demanding her freedom. More recently, <a href="https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-gladys-lanza-ochoa">Gladys Lanza</a>, director of the Movement of Women for Peace “Visitacion Padilla”, was charged and convicted of defamation for defending a woman who denounced a government official for sexual and labor harassment. Due to the constant stream of threats against her, she was granted precautionary measures until her death in Sept. 2016 from an illness that many say was exacerbated by the legal harassment she faced. </p> <p>Forst’s visit opened up a forum for Honduran human rights defenders to recount the attacks and threats they suffer in their daily work in defense of land and territory, political rights, and sexual and reproductive freedom. Marcia Aguiluz of <a href="https://www.cejil.org/en">CEJIL</a>, warned in the meeting that&nbsp; “Criminalization is becoming one of the obstacles that governments use to limit the right to defend rights.” Others described a nation where those who seek justice are assassinated, threatened, imprisoned and slandered. The attacks take place as the government looks the other way - or actively delivers the blows. </p> <p>In a <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20397&amp;LangID=E">press release</a> on 19 August, Forst and Orozco urged the Honduran government to “Immediately adopt and apply effective measures to protect human rights defenders, so they can carry out their human rights work without fear or threat of violence or murder.” </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/ada460.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/ada460.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="415" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ada Osorio, leader of the Miskita Indigenous Women / Mairen India Miskitu Asla Takanka. Photo: Just Associates </span></span></span></p> <p>Most of those who testified at the forum were women human rights defenders (WHRD) who face a double burden of risk due to discrimination. Despite their vulnerability, they lead many of the most significant and dangerous battles for defense of rights.&nbsp; </p><p>Just Associates ( JASS) presented a new <a href="http://justassociates.org/es/publicaciones/enfoque-genero-proteccion-defensoras-experiencias-mexico-honduras" target="_blank">report</a>, produced with <a href="https://protectioninternational.org/" target="_blank">Protection International</a> and the Center for Justice and International (<a href="https://www.cejil.org/en" target="_blank">CEJIL)</a>, entitled “<em>Gender Focus in the Protection of Women Defenders</em>” which examines protection measures and legislation in Honduras and concludes, “Despite that Honduras is one of the countries in the region with the highest rate of violence against defenders, it’s among those that has had the fewest tools to confront it.”&nbsp; The authors add that what measures there are, tend to exist only on paper. In this context, international protection can be an essential shield for defenders. </p> <p>Daysi Flores, said “We’ve been warning that there are government reprisals againt defenders and that’s why we’ve had to resort to international mechanisms. The whole state apparatus and the laws are used to retaliate against women and men defenders, especially when they appeal to these protection mechanisms.”&nbsp; Those present at the forum asked for protection mechanisms that specifically take women into account because “The current mechanisms tend to see defenders as objects of protection,” Flores noted. “We’re active subjects in protection. We have to have an integrated understanding that takes into account our particular circumstances and our diversity, but also recognizes that patriarchy is an intrinsic philosophy, and that protection without a gender focus isn’t protection.” </p> <p>As if to underline the point, on Aug. 25 two defenders returning from the meeting with the UN Rapporteur, Karen Mejia and Carmen Gabriela Diaz, were apprehended by police and questioned for three hours without being allowed to contact their lawyers. Thanks to an alert sent out by defenders networks, the two were finally released. Forst’s office strongly <a href="http://tiempo.hn/ddhh-feministas-detenidas-estigmatizadas/">denounced the incident</a>, noting that it vividly demonstrated the situation they had just described to him as the UN representative. Human rights organizations sent out a statement saying, “The response of the state, instead of activating protection mechanisms, was to discredit and stigmatize both them and organizations of women’s human rights defenders,” </p> <p>The continued vulnerability of women human rights defenders results in part from the top-down design and implementation of protection mechanisms. No one is asking the women. Flores said, “We can’t expect mechanisms to respond to the needs of women if women aren’t included in developing those mechanisms and actions that have to do with their protection<em>,</em>” She pointed out that active and empowering participation of WHRD in developing ways to be safe breaks with the failed patriarchal model of armed guards and restrictions. The forum concluded that “Protection of women defenders must be based on recognizing not only their existence, but also their contribution to creating better societies.” </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Tomas.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Tomas.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>COPINH leader Tomas Gomez lights incense in memory of Berta Cáceres. Photo: Just Associates ( JASS).</span></span></span></p> <p>Honduras is now confronting a full-blown human rights crisis that makes headlines throughout the world, but has somehow not triggered any meaningful action on the part of the international community. Last March, after a second COPINH leader was murdered, UN experts <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53486#.V_eNGLVEahQ">warned</a> that violence and impunity are so high the nation is at risk of turning into “a lawless killing zone.” </p> <p>“What we’re experiencing today in Honduras is the result of the fateful coup d’état of June 2009,” stated Gilda Rivera, director of the national Center for Women’s Rights. Rivera explained in a <a href="mailto:http://rompeviento.tv/%3Fp=11586">recent interview</a> that the military takeover virtually destroyed the institutional order, which has not been restored. “When a country is left in conditions of impunity, illegality and disrespect for institutions, what happens is that this turns against you and the instability and political crisis grows deeper.” Add to that, an economic model “That intensifies inequality, repression and looting of public goods” and you have a recipe for the kind of violence and rights violations that Honduras is experiencing today. Extractive industries that exploit raw materials such as minerals, oil, water and land have created tremendous pressure to transfer territory and resources from the traditional ownership and stewardship of indigenous and rural farmers to transnational corporations. The Honduran government has been an indispensable ally in this momentous shift. </p> <p>Women like Berta Cáceres are at the forefront of defense against corporations’ incursions on their lands. Current models of protection largely ignore these causes of the attacks on defenders. The US and Honduran governments have pretended impunity is a technical problem, without political or economic roots. The strategy of pouring public money into US ngos, private security companies and the Honduran military and police has not resolved the problem. It has got worse. &nbsp; </p> <p>The <em>Coalition against Impunity</em> made up of some fifty Honduran human rights organizations, is <a href="http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/19058">now calling</a> for an immediate suspension of all foreign aid to Honduras security forces due to widespread corruption, abuse and violation of human rights. More than fifty US Congressional members have presented the <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/5474">Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act</a> to suspend security aid until hers and ­­­more than 100 other assassinations are investigated and brought to justice, police and military are prosecuted for crimes, and the armed forces are removed from policing.&nbsp; </p> <p>­­­</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>­</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofu-tawamba-kate-kroeger-tatiana-cordero/berta-s-struggle-is-our-global-struggle">Berta’s struggle is our global struggle…</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ana-abelenda/behind-murder-of-berta-c-ceres-corporate-response">Behind the murder of Berta Cáceres: corporate complicity </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Honduras </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 DemocraciaAbierta Honduras Civil society Democracy and government 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 newsletter feminism gender justice violence against women women's human rights Laura Carlsen Thu, 27 Oct 2016 07:33:27 +0000 Laura Carlsen 106286 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'Bogus' asylum seekers? The ethics of truth-telling in the asylum system https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/james-souter/bogus-asylum-seekers-ethics-of-truth-telling-in-asylum-system <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The British tabloids and the Home Office are united by their assumption that asylum seekers who lie during their claims are undeserving of protection. Yet this view runs contrary both to widely held moral principle and refugee law. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In 2007, the British Home Office refused asylum to a Congolese individual who claimed to have been persecuted by militia. In its <a href="http://www.iasuk.org/media/16851/use_of_coi_in_uk_rsd_final_may%202009.pdf">refusal letter</a>, the decision-maker speculatively found that ‘it is not considered credible that after going to the trouble of attacking your family in 2004, the militia would have then allowed you and the rest of your family to reside in peace for two years’. As with many such letters, the Home Office inferred that, because it found the applicant’s testimony to be incredible, they faced no risk on return. Had the case been public at the time, the tabloids would have most probably concluded that this was yet another case of a ‘bogus’ asylum seeker, lying through their teeth to gain access to the British benefits system.</p> <p>This case is just one example of how judgements concerning the honesty of asylum seekers have become highly potent. The notion of the ‘bogus’ asylum seeker has become a familiar refrain by the tabloids and many politicians, casting most refugees as fraudulent ‘economic migrants’. Similarly, as the refusal letter exemplifies, the Home Office has made asylum seekers’ credibility the key question when deciding their claims, giving rise to its well-documented <a href="../../../../../../../../5050/james-souter/asylum-decision-making-in-uk-disbelief-or-denial">culture of disbelief</a> in which decision-makers often presume their deceit from the start. The tabloids and the Home Office are united in one key respect: their assumption that to be dishonest in an asylum claim is to be undeserving of protection. Both effectively assume that if asylum seekers are insincere, they face no risk on return.<strong> </strong></p> <p>This assumption urgently needs to be challenged, not least due to its serious human consequences. The notion of the ‘bogus’ asylum seeker has done a good deal to weaken public support for asylum, heavily restricting the political space for more inclusive policies which would provide greater protection to refugees. At the same time, the culture of disbelief is one stage in an unjust process of exclusion which frequently leads to their destitution and deportation.</p> <p>The assumption also affects employees and volunteers within the refugee sector who, while often motivated by compassion and a sense of injustice, may struggle to prevent it from colouring their view when interacting with asylum seekers they believe may have lied. When recently facilitating a discussion on this topic at the Oxford-based organisation, <a href="http://www.asylum-welcome.org/">Asylum Welcome</a>, I found a real appetite to make sense of the moral issues surrounding truth-telling in the asylum context. </p> <p>Refugee advocates, such as the <a href="http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/practice/basics/facts">Refugee Council</a>, have often pointed out that it is, strictly speaking, impossible to be a ‘bogus’ asylum seeker, as anyone is entitled to apply for asylum under international law, whether or not they are eventually found to be entitled to refugee status. It is less often recognised, however, that the notion that to be dishonest is to be undeserving flows directly from the phrase ‘bogus asylum seeker’ itself, for the word ‘bogus’ can mean both ‘untruthful’ and ‘groundless’. Yet these two notions need to be decoupled, for it is perfectly possible that asylum seekers may lie during their claims while being fully eligible for asylum. Asylum seekers may lie precisely <em>because </em>of their risk on return, not because of its absence.</p> <p>How might this risk lead asylum seekers to lie? As <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2005/mar/12/politicalbooks.highereducation">Caroline Moorehead</a> has discussed, they may lie because they are ‘terrified that their real story is not powerful enough’ to gain the protection they may badly need. This is a completely legitimate fear in a process that is partly founded on what Chloé Lewis and Azeemah Kola have described in a related context as a ‘<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.org.uk/5050/chlo%25C3%25A9-lewis-azeemah-kola/justice-for-asylum-seekers-in-uk">hierarchy of suffering</a>’, whereby the Home Office often finds return to anything but the most intolerable conditions not to engage the UK’s legal obligations. The threshold for what counts as persecution is set so high that the Home Office could readily concede that asylum seekers will be returned to a dire situation, while concluding that it is just not quite dire enough.</p> <p>Asylum seekers may also be compelled to lie because the only way they can secure protection from serious harm is to fit themselves within restrictive refugee law. Current law privileges some forms of harm, such as persecution, over others, such as material deprivation or lack of vital health care. Although the broader category of <a href="http://www.qualificationdirective.eu/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=150:article-15c&amp;catid=56&amp;Itemid=82">subsidiary protection</a> – which covers some asylum seekers at risk of other forms of serious harm such as the death penalty or torture – has been established in EU law, in practice others still fall through the gaps.</p> <p>Lying may also be a response to asylum seekers’ enforced state of limbo while their claims are being decided, not knowing whether they will be granted asylum or returned to the situation they fled. In this precarious state, without entitlement to work, it is entirely unsurprising that, as <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Human-Cargo-Journey-Among-Refugees/dp/0099492873">Moorehead</a> has also discussed, rumours and ‘good’ stories circulate which might just help to cut short this agonising waiting time.</p> <p>All this strongly suggests that the asylum system itself effectively <em>produces</em> lying. Its hierarchy of suffering, restrictive legal provisions and enforced limbo can all strongly encourage, if not compel, asylum seekers to lie to secure protection. However, the role of the system in generating these lies is ignored and the blame is often placed squarely on the shoulders of the asylum seeker. The accusation of the ‘bogus’ asylum seeker thus becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the shortcomings of the system are displaced onto its victims.</p> <p>This assumption is often expressed, especially by the tabloids, in a highly moralised manner: not only are dishonest asylum seekers ineligible for asylum, but their lies are morally wrong. A good way to test the validity of this judgement is to ask whether it is consistent with wider moral beliefs on lying. What, then, do most of us believe about the ethics of lying? A famous example discussed by the German philosopher, <a href="http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&amp;staticfile=show.php?title=360&amp;chapter=61937&amp;layout=html&amp;Itemid=27">Immanuel Kant</a>, can help to bring our intuitions into focus here.</p> <p>Imagine that a murderer knocks on our door and asks us where a friend, who he is pursuing, is staying. Kant takes the extreme view that to lie to the murderer would be morally wrong, even if that lie would save the friend’s life. We can confidently bet that most people would reject this view, and that they would do so because they believe that lying is morally unjustified <em>unless </em>it is required, or at least understandable, given a desperate or exceptional circumstance.</p> <p>If we apply this principle to the asylum system, then the blanket moral condemnation of all asylum seekers who lie cannot be sustained, for the examples discussed above suggest that some asylum seekers are in precisely the kind of desperate and exceptional circumstance which makes lying either necessary or morally understandable. Necessity knows no law, as the adage goes. The tabloids and the Home Office have simply failed to ask <em>why </em>asylum seekers might lie.</p> <p>This inconsistency between widespread moral belief and our condemnation of asylum seekers who lie also belies a double standard: we effectively hold asylum seekers to higher moral standards than we apply to our fellow citizens. While we acquire membership through the arbitrary fact of birth, asylum seekers are effectively called upon to demonstrate their honesty and moral virtue in order to secure the same status, despite the fact that they may be in pressing need of protection. While most of us accept the general permissibility of lying in extreme circumstances, many of us become rigid Kantians when considering the claims of asylum seekers, expecting the utmost sincerity when they knock on the door of our state. In doing so, we effectively transplant our everyday ethics of truth-telling from the context of our relatively privileged lives to the entirely different scenario facing asylum seekers. We forget that this ethics is something of a luxury.</p> <p>This double standard is highly ironic, as it effectively inverts or distorts legal principles applied to fellow citizens. As <a href="http://www.forcedmigration.org/podcasts/feed.xml">Didier Fassin</a> recently observed, it renders asylum seekers ‘suspect until proven sincere’. Moreover, the standard of proof in asylum law is meant to be <em>lower </em>than that within criminal and civil law, which more often involves fellow citizens. As <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Refugee-International-Law-Guy-Goodwin-Gill/dp/0199207631/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1311865017&amp;sr=1-1">Guy Goodwin-Gill and Jane McAdam</a> have noted, given the extremely high stakes involved for the asylum seeker, all that is required is that there be a ‘reasonable chance’ of persecution on return.</p> <p>None of this is to deny that some lies made by asylum seekers can be morally wrong, and that some asylum seekers who are ineligible for asylum may lie to cover their lack of risk on return. It is only to argue that it is far from necessarily being the case. According to the intuitive view outlined above, if the lie is not the result of a desperate or exceptional circumstance, then it is morally unjustified. If an asylum seeker faces no risk on return and is using the asylum system as a means of gaining residence only, then they are not entitled to asylum and their lies to that end are morally wrong.</p> <p>It is not just on a moral level that the requirement of unfailing honesty is unwarranted, however. It also has little legal basis. The <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10.html">1951 Refugee Convention</a>, as <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Refugee-International-Law-Guy-Goodwin-Gill/dp/0199207631/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1311865017&amp;sr=1-1">Goodwin-Gill and McAdam</a> have also observed, ‘makes no provision as to character’. Eligibility for refugee status turns on whether the asylum seeker has a well-founded fear of persecution, not whether they are honest. This is also recognised in the <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/publ/PUBL/3d58e13b4.pdf">UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ Handbook</a>, which recognises that ‘untrue statements by themselves are not a reason for refusal of refugee status’.</p> <p>It is true that asylum seekers’ lies, whether justified or not, present a serious difficulty for decision-makers, who must sometimes seek to identify risk on return in spite of, not with the help of, the asylum seeker’s testimony. Yet an improved approach, focused on identifying this risk rather than on spotting falsehoods, would not take the identification of a lie as necessarily fatal to an asylum claim, but rather as a starting-point for further investigation, to be undertaken perhaps with the help of further country of origin information.</p> <p>What is needed above all is a reappraisal of the role of character in asylum. It is often implicitly assumed that shortcomings of character imputed to asylum seekers – who are often characterised as liars, scroungers and cheats – render them undeserving of our protection. Yet the fundamental purpose of asylum is not to help us select morally desirable individuals for membership in our polity, but rather to protect individuals from serious harm. Politicians have often claimed that the refusal of ‘bogus’ applicants is necessary to uphold the integrity of the asylum system. On the contrary, the demand of unwavering honesty has obscured asylum’s fundamentally humanitarian rationale.</p> <p><em>This article was first published on openDemocracy in 2011</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/james-souter/asylum-decision-making-in-uk-disbelief-or-denial">Asylum decision-making in the UK: disbelief or denial?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/kjartan-sveinsson/reconnecting-race-equality-and-migration-policy">Reconnecting race equality and migration policy </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/azeemah-kola-chlo%C3%A9-lewis/justice-for-asylum-seekers-in-uk">Justice for asylum seekers in the UK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/tearing-down-bridge-to-inclusion-for-young-asylum-seekers">Tearing down the bridge to inclusion for young asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/fast-track-to-despair">Fast track to despair</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/lifer-is-better-than-detainee">&quot;A lifer is better than a detainee&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/lonely-death-of-jimmy-mubenga">The lonely death of Jimmy Mubenga</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/liz-allcock/theatre-of-inhumanity-damning-portrayal-of-uk-asylum-system">Theatre of Inhumanity: a damning portrayal of the UK asylum system</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/natasha-walter/telling-story-of-how-women-become-asylum-seekers">Telling the story of how women become asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/why-britain%E2%80%99s-refugees-and-asylum-seekers-have-little-to-cheer-about-reply">Why Britain’s refugees and asylum seekers have little to cheer about: a reply to Tim Finch</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"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Ideas International politics human rights 50.50 People on the Move James Souter Wed, 26 Oct 2016 15:43:27 +0000 James Souter 60643 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Radio Mewat: radio by the people, for the people and of the people https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/archana-kapoor/this-is-radio-mewat-voice-of-people <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The transformative power of community radio for young women in India is up against a central government ban on the stations broadcasting news and discussing politics. Radio Mewat is staying on air.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="m7097146774660027025m-7026095108105864367gmail-body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Warisa3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Warisa3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Warisa Bano, radio reporter. Photo: Mubarik Khan </span></span></span></p> <p class="m7097146774660027025m-7026095108105864367gmail-body">Warisa Bano had a dream. Unlike other young women in Mewat, she wanted to be a radio jockey. She grew up listening to BBC’s Hindi service, the only news channel her grandfather tuned in to every day. She was amazed at how a box could beam out voices from afar. She wanted to be part of this magic. Her family refused to allow her to enrol in college&nbsp;as they feared that an educated girl would not find a groom. Warisa had a serious problem at hand.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m7097146774660027025m-7026095108105864367gmail-body">Mewat, a district in India's northern state of Haryana, is not an easy place for women to have ambitions. Located 70 kilometres from India’s capital Delhi and predominantly Muslim, the region has low literacy rates and women are generally married off early. It’s not unusual for many to have 8-10 children. Ever since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in Delhi, Mewat’s problems have been aggravated. Its illiteracy, unemployment and lifestyle are all being interpreted through the prism of religion.</p> <p class="m7097146774660027025m-7026095108105864367gmail-body">Warisa, then aged 19, found an ally in her grandfather who, on her insistence, accompanied her to the only community radio station in the vicinity, <a href="http://www.radiomewat.org/">Radio Mewat</a>, 23km away from her home. It was the initiative of an ngo, <a href="http://www.smartngo.org/">SMART</a> (Seeking Modern Applications for Real Transformation), which was set up in 2000. When the Government of India revised its policy guidelines in 2007 to allow not-for-profit organisations a licence to run community radio stations, which were earlier restricted to educational institutions only, SMART grabbed this opportunity. Radio Mewat was launched in September 2010. When Warisa turned up, Radio Mewat invited her to be the guest on their programme ‘Aaj Ka Mehmaan’ (Today’s Guest). Warisa was on air.</p> <p class="m7097146774660027025m-7026095108105864367gmail-body">Her keenness to join the radio station resulted in a long period of negotiations with her family. They conceded but with certain conditions – Warisa had to complete all the household chores before she left home. That meant that she had to get up every day at 4 am – summer or winter – to complete her work. She would then leave home at 6:45 am, take different modes of transport to cover the distance to reach the station at 8 am. She was never late. Within no time at all she became a known voice, and became what can only be called a celebrity in her community. Warisa began receiving invitations to be the Guest of Honour at local school functions. She was invited to hoist the national flag on Independence Day in a local girl’s school, and also make the keynote address at the opening of the first women’s police station in the district, an honour by any standard but even more remarkable given Warisa's journey. She was featured on <a href="http://www.ddindia.gov.in/">Doordarshan</a>, the national television channel and other local channels. In less than a year Warisa was transformed into a confident, mature woman with a voice that was known everywhere.</p><p class="m7097146774660027025m-7026095108105864367gmail-body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Warisa2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Warisa2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="285" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Warisa speaking on national television. Photo: Mubarik Khan.</span></span></span></p> <p class="m7097146774660027025m-7026095108105864367gmail-body">After 4 years of working at Radio Mewat, Warisa had a sizeable following. She decided to put her stardom to use and contested elections for local self-government – the panchayat. She lost by a whisker. She then decided to pursue a career in medicine and is now working as a lab assistant at a local medical college. She is now 23, and is still unmarried. </p> <p class="m7097146774660027025m-7026095108105864367gmail-body">Warisa’s is just one of many stories that speak of the transformative power of radio, in a community where watching television is considered against the tenets of Islam, and women are not allowed to go out; there are no restaurants or movie halls, malls or gardens. Even the mosques are not open to women who are confined to the house. In these circumstances, radio has become their only companion. Until a few years back the women were not even allowed a mobile phone but at least that has changed and has now afforded them an opportunity to connect to radio. Through this device, they listen, and call into the community radio station.</p> <p class="m7097146774660027025m-7026095108105864367gmail-body">From Radio Mewat they get information about local government schemes, consumer rights, nutrition, financial inclusion - a programme to help people learn about financial institutions including banks, and create an understanding of the financial services that can be accessed. Through this programme SMART helped open over 25,000 savings accounts, helped farmers access loans and insure their crops and helped landless labour borrow money to start small businesses), learn English, maths and the history of Mewat. For women, particularly the radio is a boon. It has served not only as a platform for expression but also as a one-stop shop for solutions. </p> <p class="m7097146774660027025m-7026095108105864367gmail-body">In 2013, when Mewat had a sensitive District Police chief, Radio Mewat did a programme with the police department where the radio doubled up as a complaint registering centre. The majority of complaints came from women who do not feel safe going to a police station. Through this programme hundreds of issues were addressed including the presence of an illicit liquor distillery, in a predominantly Hindu<em> </em>village, that used to serve as a hangout for all the men. The complaint which was sent to the radio station was taken up by the police and the distillery was raided and shut down. This helped in building the credibility of both the community station and the police. Radio Mewat won two national awards for its community engagement and innovative programmes.&nbsp;</p><p class="m7097146774660027025m-7026095108105864367gmail-body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Warisa4.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Warisa4.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="185" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Warisa, reporting from slums near Delhi. Photo: Mubarik Khan.</span></span></span></p> <p class="m7097146774660027025m-7026095108105864367gmail-body">As a result of a government ban on news and current affairs on community radio stations and private FM stations, the radio has been walking a thin line trying to separate development news from current affairs. Despite all the constraints, Radio Mewat has helped bring in more transparency and accountability in this district. Consequently, it has also caused disquiet in the corrupt administration. Radio Mewat has been blamed for making the people aware of their rights, and encouraging them to speak up, and demand their rights. </p> <p class="m7097146774660027025m-7026095108105864367gmail-body">Not being allowed to broadcast news undermines a key objective of community radio stations: giving a voice to people living at the margin. Recently, the radio station was confronted with a big dilemma when alleged cow protectors raped two women and killed two of their older relatives. Their crime was consumption of beef, an inexpensive and a high protein food for the less privileged, in an area where it is proscribed by the state of Haryana’s BJP government. This incident was followed by a clampdown on biryani (a rice dish layered with meat) to prevent local people from using cow meat. By any reckoning this was a national issue being played out in the station’s backyard, but the radio team was forced by law to not report either the incident or provide a forum for the local people to express their grievances. Besides, there was a threat from district officials that if Radio Mewat gave legitimacy to the protesters – it would be shut down.&nbsp;</p> <p class="m7097146774660027025m-7026095108105864367gmail-body">These are difficult times for community radio stations like Radio Mewat. On the one hand the support from the government in terms of advertisements or sponsored programmes (the only way to get some financial assistance) has been stopped and on the other hand the community feels the radio is no longer a voice of the community, as it is not airing their concerns. For a community radio, which is supposed to be community owned – a radio by the people, for the people and of the people – the big question is: does one get into discussing the growing turmoil in the community or just focus on non-controversial issues like imparting education, propagating government schemes or being agony aunt to the women of Mewat? As the content of the radio programmes is constantly monitored by the central government, it is not easy to engage in discussions that the regulators could find subversive which, in turn, could lead to the lockdown of these small community run stations. </p> <p class="m7097146774660027025m-7026095108105864367gmail-body">When this issue was discussed with the community, the mood was firm. Under no circumstances did they want their radio to be shut down. They were perhaps cognisant, too, of the transformative role that radio played in their lives and how it could also help in discovering the next Warisa from a remote village of this abysmally poor area when she hears the voice on her FM radio “<em>As-<em>Salaam</em>-<em>Alaikum<strong> </strong></em>, Namaste</em>, this is Radio Mewat”!&nbsp; </p> <p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 openIndia India Civil society 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion women and power feminism 50.50 newsletter Archana Kapoor Wed, 26 Oct 2016 09:27:33 +0000 Archana Kapoor 106250 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Táhirih unveiled: poet, theologian and revolutionary https://www.opendemocracy.net/asiya-islam-naim-bro-khomasi/tahirih <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Táhirih – an important figure in Persian history – helps us imagine a more diverse feminism and a more progressive Middle East. Her legacy is not limited to Bahá’ís but belongs to all of us.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>&nbsp;</strong><em>"Just let me paint my flashing eyes&nbsp;with&nbsp;black, </em></p><p><em>and I&nbsp;would turn&nbsp;the&nbsp;day&nbsp;as&nbsp;dark&nbsp;as&nbsp;hell". </em>- Táhirih.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/TahirihillustrationbyIvanLloyd-crop.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/TahirihillustrationbyIvanLloyd-crop.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="316" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tahirih. Illustration by Ivan Lloyd in Tahirih – “A Poetic Vision” (Desert Rose Publishing). </span></span></span></p><p>Around the same time as the 1848 <a href="https://youtu.be/OFtkVKu9usk">Seneca Falls Convention</a>, commonly seen as the first chapter of the women’s movement in the West, several thousands of miles away, in Iran, a lone woman was creating ripples.</p> <p>Eighty one Babis – the precursors of present-day Bahá’ís – were gathered in the village of <a href="https://escholarship.org/uc/item/8r22d22q">Badasht</a> after their leader, the Bab, had been captured by the king. The emerging religious movement needed to decide what to do next and define the identity of the movement in a moment of crisis. One of the leaders in Badasht,<span> Táhirih - </span>a poet, theologian, and the only woman among the 81 Babis – advocated for a definitive break from Islam.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Badasht, Effie Baker 1930.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Badasht, Effie Baker 1930.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="266" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Badasht, 1930. Photo: Effie Baker </span></span></span></p> <p>One day <span>Táhirih</span> appeared adorned and unveiled in an all-male gathering. As she entered, all stood “aghast before this sudden and most unexpected apparition,” narrated witness <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/67803260">Abu Turab</a>, as beholding “her face unveiled was to them inconceivable.” Abu Turab then goes on to describe a man who “was so gravely shaken that he cut his throat with his own hands. Covered with blood and shrieking with excitement, he fled away from the face of Táhirih.”</p> <p>While to Bahá’ís this episode represents the point of break with Islam, Táhirih – also known as Qurrat al-'Ayn or Fatimah Baraghani – remains relatively unknown in mainstream feminism. People like University of Virginia professor <a href="https://youtu.be/OFtkVKu9usk">Farzaneh Milani</a>, however, think that Badasht should be seen as “the beginning of women’s movement” in the Middle East.</p> <p>Born in Qazvin in the mid-1810s into a family of high clerics, Táhirih did not stake any claims to feminism. But her journey indeed gives us the opportunity to trace an alternative history of modern feminism, one that is deeply tied to its Middle Eastern roots. This differs from the usual picture showing the West as the source of all good or all evil, and other cultures as receiving vessels.</p> <p>What made Táhirih and the Babi movement revolutionary comes down to their progressive understanding of history. They believed that God’s will unveils from time to time, according to culture and context. Religion is relative, not absolute, and, most crucially, time moves forward. This matters because conceptions of time and social change are <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/190822268">intertwined</a>.</p> <p>To <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/8387300">Mangol Bayat</a>, an independent Iranian scholar, the Babi’s progressive conception of history goes back to twelfth century Ismailis of Alamut, who thought that the Qur’an’s inner truth would unfold progressively. <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/18256692">Abbas Amanat</a>, a Yale history professor, traces this philosophy’s roots back to sixteenth century Persian theosophers, especially Mulla Sadra and his students.</p> <p>Independently of this philosophy’s exact lineage, we known that by the nineteenth century Babis were extending its implications to the social realm. Religious revelations, they thought, produce not only humanity’s spiritual but also material evolution. And no one made the logical implications of this idea clearer than <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/18256692">Tahirih</a>. “And day after day,” she wrote in 1845, “the cycle of the universe is in progress… and there is no suspension in His emanation.”</p> <p>Most religious traditions have important female figures. What makes Táhirih remarkable is that she did not play the roles of a good daughter, wife, or mother – at least in the traditional sense. Deeming herself a bigger place in the world, Tahirih left her husband and children in order to spread the word of what she thought as a new age.</p> <p>In a letter to her husband, she <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/43475242">wrote</a>: “If your desire had really been to be a faithful mate and companion to me, you would have hastened to meet me in Karbila … Three years have lapsed since our separation. Neither in this world nor in the next can I ever be associated with you. I have cast you out of my life forever.”</p> <p>Our hero left her native Qazvin for Najaf, Baghdad, Karbila, then went back to Qazvin, and finally travelled through Tehran and Mazandaran. According to <a href="https://youtu.be/OFtkVKu9usk">Farzaneh Milani</a>, freedom of movement represents one of Táhirih's most meaningful struggles in a time when women were expected to stay at home.</p> <p>As Táhirih moved from place to place and her following grew, she started challenging senior clerics to public debates – an arena where she could hardly be beaten. “No ranting shaykh rules from his pulpit throne,” she sentenced in a <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/55098467">poem</a>. “No sham, no pious fraud, no priest commands!... Good riddance! We are done with folly’s show!” </p> <p>Not surprisingly, people in power vilified her. In his chronicles, a royal court historian named <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/24429138">Sepehr</a> accused Táhirih of dressing like a “peacock of paradise” and letting her male followers “come to her throne and kiss those lips of hers which put to shame the ruby of Ramman, and rub their faces against her breasts, which chagrined the pomegranates of the garden.” Sepehr – who was not exactly a restrained writer – also alleged that Tahirih recommended the marriage of one woman to nine men.</p> <p>The mix of hate and fascination that Táhirih produced among her enemies apparently reached the Shah of Iran, who – some sources indicate – asked for the poet’s hand in marriage. “… I’ll walk the beggar’s path – though bad – it’s mine,” she wrote in a <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/55098467">poem</a>, presumably as a response. “It’s Alexander’s road that you pursue. Ride past my camp, on your road to nowhere. May you have all you wish, for it’s your due”.</p> <p>Badasht was not the first time Táhirih unveiled in public. During the first day of Muharram of 1845, she attended a gathering in the city of Karbila unveiled and wearing bright colours, not black as is customary during the month of mourning for Shia Muslims. When the word spread, a mob attacked her house and the governor put her under arrest. A Babi troubled with Táhirih’s radical views <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/18256692">wrote</a> a letter to the Bab saying: “…this woman has exceeded the limits and abrogated the shari’a that we inherited from our fathers and grandfathers.” </p> <p>Why would she be so disruptive? To Táhirih, it seems, unveiling served as shock therapy, a way of attacking prevailing norms, generating intense emotions, and mobilising other Babis to action. Her unapologetic deliberate radicalness in appearing unveiled in public can be read as a form of protest that only she, as the sole woman among several men, had access to. At the time, Babis were trying to figure out their relation to Islam and decide whether Shari’a still applied. Táhirih’s public unveiling was a dramatic sentence saying no.</p> <p>And her strategy seems to have worked. The Babi who wrote the accusatory letter received a response from the Bab himself, which was read before 70 of his followers in the Kazimayn district of Baghdad. It <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/18256692">said</a>: “Do not dispute al-Tahira in her command for she is aware of the circumstances of the cause and there is nothing for you but submission to her since it is not destined for you to realize the truth of her status.”</p> <p>Among the followers of the Bab, Mulla Husayn and especially Quddus are often considered as the most prominent leaders. We would like to argue that, in fact, Táhirih was equally, if not the most, influential individual in shaping the overall direction of the Babi movement once the Bab was put under arrest.</p> <p>In the days after Táhirih’s unveiling in Badasht, some participants renounced their faith. But according to <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/67803260">Nabil</a> – the most famous chronicler of early Babi history – those who stayed, “witnessed the most revolutionary changes in the life and habits of the assembled followers of the Bab. Their manner of worship underwent a sudden and fundamental transformation. The prayers and ceremonials by which those devout worshippers had been disciplined were irrevocably discarded.”</p> <p>Táhirih herself refused to assume a secondary role within the movement. At one point, Nabil <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/67803260">says</a>, she called Quddus “a pupil whom the Bab has sent me to edify and instruct.” “By all accounts,” states Columbia University professor <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/709594643">Hamid Dabashi</a>, “[Tahirih] was the Lenin of this ‘Marxism,’ the chief theorist and leader of revolutionary action.”</p> <p>Táhirih helps us imagine a more diverse feminism and a more progressive Middle East,&nbsp;not the one&nbsp;the media sells us. Her legacy is not limited to Bahá’ís but belongs to all of us. Revisiting figures like Tahirih helps us appreciate the plurality of ways in which women have changed history.</p> <p>Two years after Badasht, Táhirih was arrested and taken to Tehran. On separate accounts, the <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/67803260">son</a> of the mayor and an <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/844230981">Austrian physician</a> – both eye witnesses – described her death during a wave of repression that <a href="http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/martyrs-babi-babi">took the lives</a> of thousands of Babis. On a&nbsp;night in August 1852, government guards forced Táhirih from the place she was arrested and took her to a field just outside Tehran. In her mid-thirties, she was strangled to death – with her own veil, as she requested. Her body was pushed into a hollow well and rocks were thrown on top of it.</p> <p>It is for us to take one by one the rocks&nbsp;out of&nbsp;that&nbsp;well.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sukhwant-dhaliwal-chitra-nagarajan-rashmi-varma/feminist-dissent-why-new-journal-on-gender-and-">Feminist Dissent: why a new journal on gender and fundamentalism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson-devi-leiper-o%27malley/young-feminists-resisting-tide-of-fundamentalisms">Young feminists: resisting the tide of fundamentalisms</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/shirin-ebadi-who-defines-islam">Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/bringing-radicalism-of-seneca-falls-into-21st-century">Bringing the radicalism of Seneca Falls into the 21st century</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/fundamentalism-and-education">Fundamentalism and education</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deepa-shankaran/right-to-have-rights-resisting-fundamentalist-orders">The right to have rights: resisting fundamentalist orders</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Iran Culture Equality 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter feminism fundamentalisms gender justice women and power Asiya Islam Naim Bro Khomasi Mon, 24 Oct 2016 06:45:33 +0000 Naim Bro Khomasi and Asiya Islam 106152 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'Not a tomboy, a lesbian or a Hijra but a transman' https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nicola-desouza/gender-in-india-not-tomboy-lesbian-or-hijra-but-transman <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>‘Whenever laws and bills in India are passed regarding transgender rights, transmen are almost never called to the discussion table. So what can I, a transman expect? Sometimes I feel I am in ‘No Man's Land’.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/sid rain resized.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/sid rain resized.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="370" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Siddhant More. Image: Siddhant More.</span></span></span></p> <p>The transgender man somehow hasn’t made it to India's collective public imagination, and continues to remain an inscrutable figure in the LGBTI discourse. Siddhant More, a transman from Mumbai laments the fact that his identity is akin to that of an alien’s. In a refreshing interview, he speaks about his identity, the physical process of his transition and LGBTI politics in India. </p> <p>Born into a healthy female body, 38 year-old Siddhant More can today pass off as any regular male in his late 20s. The first time I met Sid, as he is popularly known, was in Mumbai along with Nepali transgender activist <a href="http://queer-ink.com/an-interview-with-bhumika-shrestha/">Bhumika Shrestha</a>. Neesha, a friend who came along was dumbstruck upon learning that Sid was born female, and repeatedly scanned his muscular frame and beard exclaiming, 'But he.. I mean she.. I mean he’s just like a guy. Even his voice. Are you pulling a fast one on me?'</p> <p>City-born and bred Neesha is no stranger to American sitcoms televised in India where LGBT characters are prominent (Will &amp; Grace, etc) however meeting Siddhant the transman was like a far-out phenomenon unfolding before her eyes. Having grown up in Mumbai through the 90s, Neesha has known tomboyish girls who dressed like boys, but who never quite passed off as males. To her, Siddhant was no tomboy — he was a '100 percent male!' She went on, 'Imagine if I dated a transman like him who hid this fact from me, and I found out only after marriage. Wow, after today, I'll always doubt who is a real man and who is a transman.' A barrage of emotions swept over her from shock, anger and even betrayal. This is just one of the reactions Siddhant comes across when he decides to 'out' himself to certain people. </p> <p>He says, 'I’ve always been a tomboy. Only on the first day of work in 2001 I wore a <em>salwar kameez</em>. The next day onwards I started wearing pants and shirts. Back then I wasn't even aware that I was transgender. I thought I was a lesbian as I was attracted to girls. However I realized I was different from them. While lesbians were comfortable with their bodies, I wasn’t. I've always been ill-at-ease with my breasts. It was finally in 2008 I realized I was transgender when I met another transman on the social-networking site, Orkut. The day he came out to me as a transman, was the first time I heard this word. When he spoke, I felt like he was speaking about my own experiences. I realized that most transmen think they are lesbians initially. Some figure out their gender identity when they are really old. I was 30 which is also quite old. I should have figured it out at 20 or 21. I feel like I wasted ten years of my life in a woman's body.'</p> <p><strong>The transition process</strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Sidhant More Pic resized.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Sidhant More Pic resized.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="265" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br /></strong></p> <p>Siddhant started his transition from female-to-male in May 2012 when he began taking testosterone shots. Within 3-4 months, the changes brought upon by the male hormones were visible. His voice deepened, a moustache grew and he gained weight. He decided to tell his boss about his transition only after the changes were impossible to hide. Siddhant's boss initially thought that transgender meant <a href="http://www.satyamevjayate.in/accepting-alternative-sexualities/episode-3article.aspx?uid=s3e3-ar-a3">'<em>hijra</em>'</a> – transwomen - because in the Indian context, transgender equals male-to-female transgender individuals, more specifically <em>hijras</em>. Transmen are an unheard of species, aliens at best. Sid says, 'I explained to him that my soul was that of a male, but I was trapped in a woman's body. &nbsp;He was supportive and sanctioned a loan and leave for my surgery. I finally came out last year to my colleagues — three whole years after I started my transition. Before that, I tried hiding my moustache by shaving it but they had realized much before that I was transitioning. If you want people to start addressing you as a male, it's important to come out to them.'</p> <p>As his transition progressed, Siddhant experienced changes in the way people perceived and addressed him — a constant reminder that his transition is a success. He beams, 'I feel like a man when servers in restaurants address me as 'Sir'. Over the phone too, candidates call me 'Sir' as I no longer sound girlish. When women check me out, l feel good about it. Today, not one single person believes I was born a girl.'</p> <p>'I think we all are quite gender-fluid in a way. Though I identify as a male, I have so many qualities a female is expected to have in Indian society. I do housework, I cook and I like it. I remember once telling some transmen that I was cooking, and they felt so let down. My best friend is a straight woman who likes adventure sports and riding bikes. I sit behind on her bike even as Indian men give me disapproving looks for letting a woman ‘take control’. </p> <p>I identify as a heterosexual transman. Although I believe that gender can be fluid, I’m unable to understand how gay men can be attracted to other men. Similarly gay men can't understand how I am attracted to females. Perhaps this is why many transpeople feel that they can never truly belong to the LGBTI umbrella. Gender identity and sexual orientation are completely different things. Still, the community should stand together.'</p> <p><strong>The law and LGBTI</strong></p> <p>Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, without making explicit references to LGBTI people, criminalizes the sexual expression and identity of homosexuals as it reads:</p> <p>“377. Unnatural offences. Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.</p> <p>Not surprisingly, this law has been used as a tool of harassment and extortion by the <a href="http://www.caravanmagazine.in/vantage/how-section-377-became-payday-extortionists-and-police-alike">police</a>. Films have been made specifically on this subject such as ‘<a href="https://vimeo.com/174338206/29bdafba81">Any Other Day</a>’ produced by Shobhna S. Kumar. </p> <p>Siddhant says, ‘As <a href="http://www.lawyerscollective.org/vulnerable-communities/lgbt/section-377.html">Section 377 only mentions unnatural sex</a>, I think it doesn’t apply to lesbians, and to transmen because there is no penetration involved. Still, the entire community feels criminalized. We don't get into the technicalities of what constitutes 'unnatural sex'. The rules are so grey that even lesbians and transmen can be harassed and blackmailed. In fact, it's heterosexual couples too who could be indulging in 'unnatural sex' but when it comes to them, it's always and strictly a bedroom matter. They won’t land up in jail for ten years or undergo life imprisonment. Our community is a softer target. That said, I can't think of any actual convictions under section 377.'</p> <p><strong>The transmen of India</strong></p> <p>Siddhant says that an organization for Indian transmen exists, and that only transmen can register on the website; outsiders aren't allowed. Given that India's law criminalizes homosexuality, chances of abuse of information and blackmail are heightened particularly as transmen are seen as violating Indian culture by rejecting their female-born bodies, in a country whose <a href="http://www.census2011.co.in/sexratio.php">sex ratio</a> is already skewed in favor of males. </p> <p>Siddhant also rues the fact that the show <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIUQJN1B0aQ">Satyamev Jayate</a>, hosted by Aamir Khan invited two transwomen, a lesbian, and a gay man but not a transman. He says, 'That show broke ground with millions of Indians who for the first time saw that members of the LGBTI community were just normal human beings looking for acceptance. It's unfortunate they could not invite a transman citing time-constraints. They could have had a transwoman and a transman each instead of two transwomen. It could’ve made a difference. On a positive note, I was transitioning around the same time the show was televised, and several people who watched it said they understand trans issues better now. '</p> <p>Sometimes, Indian parents are known to pressurize their gay sons to marry, and continue having male lovers on the side if need be. Immortality though continuing bloodlines and grandchildren almost always takes precedence over the child's personal choice and happiness. Does Siddhant feel a similar pressure? He says, 'I'm not concerned about never having my own children. If my future partner wants a child, we will probably adopt. If she really wants to have her 'own' baby, I'm okay with an anonymous IVF donor.' The question of family inheritances and legacies often arises.. When a transman transitions from female to male, his brother could be threatened that another male heir has suddenly appeared on the scene. A transman is a nightmare to a male sibling, his wife and children. Even if the transman adopts a child and starts his own family, the biological children of his brother would be more favored by aging parents who see their own immortality in these 'blood’ grandchildren. Sometimes even close family members like aunts who support you through your transition could tell you things like, 'Even if you adopt, that child is an outsider and not from this family bloodline. Your brother's son is the actual blood heir so let the parental house nomination be in his name.' </p> <p>Fortunately, there are supportive parents who are concerned that their trans children could be abused and thrown out of the house by greedy siblings once the parents have passed away. It's all very complicated. </p> <p><strong>Making changing from female to male formal </strong></p> <p>Siddhant announces proudly that he now has an Indian passport with MALE written on it. This is his first passport. He explains, 'I first made an affidavit that I changed my gender and have become Siddhant More. My doctor had given me a certificate after my surgery stating that I could be considered as ‘male’. I attached newspaper clippings regarding my name change, and submitted the documentation at the passport office. I got my passport after five months. My Election Card, Adhaar Card and Pan Card are all MALE too. I just can't change my education certificates where my name is the female birth name. That's irreversible.’ </p> <p>Siddhant says, ‘Luckily, I changed my official documents during the time of the <a href="http://www.lawyerscollective.org/updates/supreme-court-recognises-the-right-to-determine-and-express-ones-gender-grants-legal-status-to-third-gender.html">path-breaking 2014 NALSA judgement</a> by India’s Supreme Court which gave Indians the right to choose their gender without doing sex reassignment surgery. Transgenders were given recognition in government forms and an option for ‘Transgender’ was added to ‘Male’ and ‘Female’. The current proposed <a href="http://thewire.in/56299/failures-of-the-new-transgender-bill/">Transgender Rights Bill</a> of 2016 however takes away a transperson’s right to self-determination of gender identity. According to the bill, a transgender is someone who is neither wholly female nor wholly male, or a combination of male or female, or neither male nor female. How could they get the basic definition of ‘transgender’ so wrong? Also, a team of doctors and professionals will decide who qualifies as ‘transgender’. Hopefully this bill will be amended.’</p> <p><strong>Transmen in policy-making </strong></p> <p>Siddhant says, ‘Whenever laws and bills are passed regarding transgender rights, transmen are almost never called to the discussion table. Not once, have I been called, nor am I aware of other transmen who've been invited to sit with policy-makers. It's as if the word 'transgender' in the Indian context is exclusively reserved to <em>hijras</em> and transgender women.&nbsp; </p> <p>This isn’t all. I've been intimidated at transgender consultation meetings where <em>hijras</em> (trans women) have said I had no right to be there since my official documents state 'Male' and not 'Transgender'. They assume I’m ashamed of the 'transgender' label and wish to disappear into the male species. Transwomen who can easily pass for females aren’t spared either, and are considered traitors. So what can I, a transman expect? Sometimes I feel I am in ‘No Man's Land’. </p> <p>It appears like the Indian transman has much distance to cover when it comes to achieving personal happiness, safety and financial security. Siddhant was born into a privileged family in cosmopolitan Mumbai but can all of India's transmen claim the same? </p> <p>Will this society allow for them to blossom and realize what they were meant to be? Or will they forever be considered transgressors who left behind their female bodies in a rejection of the CIS hetero-patriarchy?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/trans-women-and-feminism-struggle-is-real">Trans women and feminism: the struggle is real</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala-geetanjali-misra-nafisa-ferdous/suspend-judgment-feminisms-and-feminists-com">Feminists and feminisms come in many forms: Suspend judgment! </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/cecilia-chung/hiv-call-for-solidarity-with-transgender-community">HIV: a call for solidarity with the transgender community </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ray-filar/questioning-imperative-to-be-gendered">Questioning the imperative to be gendered</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/transgender-challenge-to-feminist-politics">Transgender: the challenge to feminist politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/juliet-jacques/remembering-our-dead-global-violence-against-trans-people">Remembering our dead: global violence against trans people</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dee-borrego/who-was-rita-hester">Who was Rita Hester? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 openIndia India Culture 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy gender bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Nicola Desouza Thu, 20 Oct 2016 06:27:03 +0000 Nicola Desouza 105956 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Lost childhoods: age disputes in the UK asylum system https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/kamena-dorling/lost-childhoods-age-disputes-in-uk-asylum-system <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Children seeking asylum in the UK are regularly disbelieved about how old they are and can end up facing harmful, protracted disputes. The culture of disbelief so often criticised in the Home Office has now seeped into some local authorities.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>&nbsp;“The only concern held by the assessors was that his shyness and apparent uncomfortable disposition may have been due to his being an adult attempting to hide his physical appearance and project an image of a young person.”</em> (Quote from a local authority age assessment)</p> <p>Two years ago, Coram Children’s Legal Centre <a href="http://www.independentageassessment.co.uk/caselaw/Y%20v%20Hillingdon%202011.pdf">secured a victory</a> in the High Court of Justice of England and Wales for a victim of trafficking, known as ‘Y’. The case centred not on convicting Y’s traffickers of a criminal offence, nor on securing damages for the years of systemic abuse she had experienced having been kept as a domestic slave since the age of five. Instead, the legal battle centred on the decision taken by the local authority, to whom she had turned for support and protection, to dispute her age. </p> <p>Y knew her date of birth, but like many other asylum seekers and victims of trafficking who come from countries that do not register all births, or who have had to destroy their documentation while fleeing to the UK, she had no passport, birth certificate or other documentation to prove how old she was. Rather than accepting her account, the social workers carrying out an assessment of Y concluded that she was over 18, not 16 as she claimed, and moved her into accommodation with adults.&nbsp; That assessment could only be challenged in court, by initiating a judicial review of the local authority’s decision, and by spending three days in a ‘fact-finding’ hearing so that the judge could come to their own view with regard to Y’s age. In the event the judge believed Y and held that she was the age she claimed to be. </p> <p>After the case, Y pledged to ‘make the most of my life’ and went on to study child care at college. But the process of being disbelieved and of having to challenge the local authority legally had taken nearly three years: yet more time wasted on top of the ten years of her childhood she had already lost. Crucially, while the dispute was ongoing, she was also denied the <a href="http://www.childrenslegalcentre.com/index.php?page=faqs_trafficking">protection to which she was entitled as a victim of trafficking</a>, such was the focus on her chronological age rather than her needs and vulnerability.</p> <p>Each year, <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/tables-for-immigration-statistics-january-to-march-2013">at least one quarter</a> of all unaccompanied children claiming asylum in the UK have their ages disputed. These children are alone, without family, trying to rebuild their lives, often while <a href="http://www.childhoodbereavementnetwork.org.uk/documents/Finalseminarreport_000.pdf">dealing with</a> bereavement, trauma, experiences of exploitation and abuse, and mental health problems. Their age is fundamental both to their access to local authority care and to the proper determination of their asylum, immigration or trafficking case, but these children are regularly disbelieved about how old they are and can end up facing harmful, protracted disputes, during which they frequently do not receive the support and protection to which they are entitled. </p> <p><strong>A long, costly and damaging system</strong></p> <p>Assessing age is <a href="http://www.unicef.org/protection/Age_Assessment_Practices_2010.pdf">extremely difficult</a>. Within different ethnic and national groups there are wide variations in young people’s growth and ages of puberty, and children may look and act older as a result of their experiences in their country of origin. Even when using medical evidence, it is impossible to identify a child’s exact chronological age, and a <a href="http://www.clusterweb.org.uk/UserFiles/KSCB/File/Resources_and_Library/The_Health_of_Refugee_Children_1.pdf">margin of error of up to five years either side</a> applies. While the UK government has <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17567082">focussed</a> on dental x-rays as a means of determination, the simple truth is that there is no magic bullet for establishing precise age. The system that has developed in the UK involves an age assessment conducted by social workers, with the only guidance being the criteria developed through jurisprudence as these assessments have been challenged in the courts. There is no appeal process; as demonstrated in the case of Y, the only way a child can challenge the outcome of the assessment is by judicial review.</p> <p>As a <a href="http://www.childrenslegalcentre.com/index.php?page=happy_birthday?">new report</a> published by Coram Children’s Legal Centre highlights, the age assessment process is long, costly and most importantly damaging to the children involved. In the 35 age dispute cases reviewed for the report, the length of time taken to resolve the issue of the child’s age ranged from ten months to over four years, with many children denied access to support, accommodation and appropriate education during that time.&nbsp; As one judge in a recent age assessment case in the Court of Appeal <a href="http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed104952">stated</a>: ‘These appeals show how disputes as to age assessments can generate prolonged and costly litigation. The expense is bad enough. But even worse is the damage that delay and uncertainty may cause to the interests of children’.</p> <p>The case of ‘H’ highlights the many problems and safeguarding concerns raised by age disputes. Arriving in the UK at aged 16, having suffered years of abuse in Afghanistan, H was assessed to be an adult and dispersed to Home Office accommodation. The social workers had concluded that he looked older than 16 and that he was ‘deliberately trying to make himself appear younger’. Months later, despite concerns raised by a nurse&nbsp; working with H regarding his mental health and her firm belief that he was a child for whom it was dangerous to be housed with adults, H was assessed again to be over 18. Eventually he was detained in an immigration removal centre. Following a court order ordering his release, he was assessed by a third local authority, who found him to be the age he claimed to be.&nbsp; In all it took a year, three assessments, and costly legal action to resolve his case, during which time he was detained for nearly a month. </p> <p><strong>Unnecessary disputes</strong></p> <p>A principal problem is that, instead of accepting the child’s age where there is no reason to doubt it and applying the benefit of the doubt <a href="http://www.seekingsupport.co.uk/images/pdfs/seek_supp_age_disputes_02_12_12.pdf">in line with case law</a>, immigration officials and social care professionals regularly dispute age and put the children through unnecessary age assessments. The <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/james-souter/asylum-decision-making-in-uk-disbelief-or-denial">culture of disbelief</a> so often criticised in the Home Office has seeped into some local authorities, and this, as well as conscious and unconscious attitudes to asylum, immigration and race, affects how assessments are conducted.&nbsp; Many assessments examined for the report showed unsound conclusions frequently based solely on the child’s appearance and demeanour. If one child is aggressive this is deemed to be ‘adult behaviour’; if another child is passive it is used to draw the same conclusion.</p> <p>More worryingly, the focus on protecting the child and determining their needs is often lost entirely, and the risks and potential damage of treating a child as an adult overlooked. While it is important to be vigilant so that adults claiming to be children are not placed in foster care or in schools with younger children, it is equally important to ensure that <em>every</em> child is protected and that children do not end up placed in immigration detention, or at risk of abuse in unsupervised accommodation with adults.</p> <p><strong>A less contentious and distressing process</strong></p> <p>What is needed is a shift in the default position of the Home Office and local authorities so that the age of a child is disputed only when there is clear reason to doubt their account of how old they are or the evidence they provide. Where an assessment is necessary, it should be conducted in a fair and lawful manner, with the views of independent professionals feeding into a holistic, multi-agency assessment process. While supporting migrant children imposes sometimes unwelcome financial burdens on cash-strapped local authorities, the financial burden of protracted legal challenges is significant too. Rather than litigation, an alternative, less distressing resolution process should be considered to reduce the contentiousness and costs of disputes and enable faster resolution. In addition, the Home Office, as a matter of urgency, must take further action to ensure that no unaccompanied child is placed in immigration detention, an ongoing concern <a href="http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/latest/news/766_new_government_stats_show_children_still_being_detained_our_response">raised</a> by charities such as the Refugee Council.</p> <p>The vulnerabilities of young refugees and migrants can often be forgotten in the race to prioritise immigration control over individual rights. No organisation working with children in the immigration system would deny that there may be occasional cases of people claiming to be younger than they are. Nor can it be ignored that some children will be briefed by smugglers who facilitate their journeys to this country. But these exceptional cases should not shape the whole system for children who do not have proof of their age, and should not excuse a process that does not adequately consider the needs and rights of children within it.</p><p><em>This article was first published in June 2013</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sarah-campbell/uk-immigration-control-children-in-extreme-distress">UK immigration control: children in extreme distress</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-kennedy/us-immigration-bill-silence-on-deportation-of-children">US immigration bill: silence on the deportation of children </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/nando-sigona/life-in-limbo-for-uk%E2%80%99s-irregular-migrant-children-and-families">Life in limbo for UK’s irregular migrant children and families</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/is-there-alternative-to-locking-up-migrants-in-uk">Is there an alternative to locking up migrants in the UK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nando-sigona/triple-vulnerability-lives-of-britains-undocumented-migrant-children">Triple vulnerability: the lives of Britain&#039;s undocumented migrant children</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-kennedy/usa-dreaming-comprehensive-immigration-reform">USA: DREAMing comprehensive immigration reform</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/uk-border-agencys-long-punitive-campaign-against-children-helped-by-g4s-an">The UK Border Agency&#039;s long, punitive campaign against children (helped by G4S and Serco)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-kennedy/through-hell-to-limbo-in-lorry">Through hell to limbo in a lorry </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/lorena-cotza/who-does-this-world-belong-to-unaccompanied-immigrant-children-in-italy">&quot;Who does this world belong to?&quot; - unaccompanied immigrant children in Italy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/james-souter/asylum-decision-making-in-uk-disbelief-or-denial">Asylum decision-making in the UK: disbelief or denial?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/david-rhys-jones/is-she-victim-or-illegal-immigrant-uk-border-agency-decides">Is she a victim or an illegal immigrant? The UK Border Agency decides</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anna-musgrave/when-nowhere-is-safe">When nowhere is safe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anna-dixie/double-standards-dispersal-and-pregnant-asylum-seekers-in-britain">Double standards: dispersal and pregnant asylum seekers in Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/natasha-tsangarides/pregnant-detained-and-subjected-to-force-in-uk">Pregnant, detained, and subjected to force in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/zubair-gharghasht/afghan-voice-radio-frontline-of-%E2%80%98new%E2%80%99-afghanistan">Afghan Voice Radio: The frontline of a ‘new’ Afghanistan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nando-sigona/uk-migration-policy-we-need-to-talk-about-citizens">UK migration policy: we need to talk about citizens</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-sachrajda/uk-immigration-policy-more-than-enforcement-issue">UK immigration policy: more than an enforcement issue </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nikandre-kopcke/maz%C3%AD-mas-%E2%80%9Cwith-us%E2%80%9D">Mazí Mas, “with us”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marissa-begonia/hope-of-migrant">Hope of a migrant</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nath-gbikpi/deconstructing-detention-in-britain">Deconstructing detention in Britain</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> England </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 uk England europe voices from exile institutions & government Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change 50.50 newsletter Kamena Dorling Thu, 20 Oct 2016 02:45:33 +0000 Kamena Dorling 73132 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Resurgent Sikh fundamentalism in the UK: time to act? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sukhwant-dhaliwal/resurgent-sikh-fundamentalism-in-uk-time-to-act <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Growing confidence among resurgent Sikh fundamentalist networks in the UK was evident in recent protests against inter-faith marriage. A desire to control Sikh women’s relationship choices is a key focal point for their mobilisation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Image 2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Image 2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Masked men disrupt an inter-faith marriage at Leamington and Warwick gurdwara, UK. Photo: Independent. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p> <p>On Sunday 11th September 2016, as world attention focused on the 15th anniversary of Islamist attacks on the Twin Towers, local press attention momentarily shifted to the arrest of <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-37332307">55 members of Sikh Youth UK </a>at the Leamington and Warwick <em>gurdwara</em> (place of worship for Sikhs). The group claimed that this was a <a href="http://sikhpa.com/sikh-youth-uk-statement-on-leamington-gurdwara-protest/">‘peaceful protest’</a> against the scheduled Anand Karaj (Sikh wedding ceremony) between a Sikh bride and non-Sikh groom. They also claimed that they are not opposed to interfaith marriage per se – stating that Sikh and non-Sikh couples can have a civil marriage and also receive a <em>gurdwara</em> blessing – but that the <a href="http://www.gurunanakdarbar.net/sikhrehatmaryada.pdf">Rehat Maryada</a>, a code of conduct developed in the 1930s, reserves the Anand Karaj for Sikhs exclusively. This prohibition was re-iterated in an August 2015 <a href="http://sikhcounciluk.org/anand-karaj-resolution-clarification-flowchart-declaration/">agreement</a> reached by 300 Sikh organisations. </p> <p>There are problems with these claims. The protest was clearly intended to intimidate. Protestors turned up with heads and faces covered and some were carrying kirpans. Although they claimed that kirpans are ceremonial daggers and that these had been misrepresented by the media as ‘blades’ and ‘weapons’, religious references were used to obfuscate the blindingly obvious. It’s true that kirpans are usually only carried by a small minority of baptised Sikhs but there is also a history in the UK of kirpans, and Sikh martial arts weapons, being used during violent in-fighting within <em>gurdwaras</em> and especially by Sikh fundamentalist factions. Moreover, this particular incident followed other aggressive interventions at <em>gurdwaras</em> in <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/wedding-between-sikh-bride-and-non-sikh-groom-stopped-by-thugs-at-london-temple-10450476.html">Southall</a>, <a href="http://www.itv.com/news/central/2015-10-15/inter-faith-couple-forced-to-wed-in-secret-describe-heartbreak-caused-by-protests-against-their-union/">Birmingham</a>, <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-21721519">Coventry</a> and <a href="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/vadodara/Hardliners-stop-interfaith-marriage-in-gurdwara-spark-off-debate-on-multi-culturism-in-UK/articleshow/14716384.cms">Swindon</a>. </p> <p>As with these other episodes, the protestors filmed the incident and circulated the film footage in a move to publicly shame families already pushing against deeply conservative proscriptions. The <a href="https://www.facebook.com/gurcharan.singh.9237244/posts/10208332570324649">film footage</a> shows protestors referring to interfaith marriage (not just the Anand Karaj) as ‘messed up’, stating that ‘Leamington is finished when we’ve got elders saying it’s alright to marry white people, black people’. Jagraj Singh has been one of the main spokespeople defending the protests. One need look no further than the youtube videos of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/user/basicsofsikhi">Basics of Sikhi</a> to see him opposing interfaith relationships. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VojEymbI51k">In one such clip</a>, he states ‘relationships or dating are not part of Sikhi, marriage is part of Sikhi’. Relationships outside the conjugal union are presented as uncontrolled lust and marriage is clearly seen as something that only takes place between two Sikhs. </p> <p>The <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikh_Rehat_Maryada">Rehat</a> is highly gendered and presents a problem for minority Sikhs who do not subscribe to the Khalsa version of the religion. The section on marriage states ‘a Sikh’s daughter must be married to a Sikh’ and tells Sikh women to treat their (Sikh) husbands with ‘deferential solicitude’. Fortunately, more liberal Sikhs have spoken out about the hypocrisy of protestors who selectively focus on one section of a man made code of conduct that has itself been amended three times while turning a blind eye to serious issues like familial sexual abuse. <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/if-young-sikhs-opposing-interfaith-marriage-are-just-asserting-their-religious-identity-here-are-the-a7296631.html">Herpreet Kaur Grewal</a> noted that the focus is always on Sikh girls marrying out while there is relative silence and inaction on caste discrimination and female foeticide. Throughout the 1980s and the 1990s, the prohibition on mixed relationships manifested itself in regular reprisals between Sikh and Muslim gangs for targeting ‘their’ women. The question is, why has this resurfaced now? Why has a rule invented in the 1930s gained renewed significance in the last few years? The Leamington incident has given rise to some intense theological debates but one needs to focus, instead, on the political context of these events to comprehend their dynamics. </p> <p><strong>Resurgent Sikh fundamentalist forces in the UK</strong> </p> <p>In the past decade, but particularly since the 2012 <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Ipledgeorangeofficial">I Pledge Orange</a> campaign for a stay of execution of <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-17532832">Balwant Singh Rajoana</a>&nbsp; (one of four Sikh fundamentalist activists responsible for the suicide bomb that in 1995 killed the Chief Minister of Punjab and 17 other people) there has been an exponential rise in the numbers and confidence of Sikh fundamentalist forces in the UK. This growing momentum is particularly visible at the annual commemoration in London of <a href="http://www.caravanmagazine.in/reportage/shattered-dome">Operation Bluestar</a>, the name given to the Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi’s assault on the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar in June 1984. </p> <p>Importantly, a number of Sikh fundamentalist activists had fled to the US, Canada and Europe in anticipation of Indira Gandhi’s crackdown on Sikh militancy. Two organisations behind the annual June 1984 commemoration events – Dal Khalsa and Sikh Federation UK – are the main Sikh fundamentalist organisations in England. The <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dal_Khalsa_(International)">Dal Khalsa</a> is a right wing political party that emerged as a cover for <a href="http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/india/a-community-led-by-dunces">Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale</a>’s electoral ambitions so that he could present himself as an orthodox protector of the religion. The group have been implicated in the murder of members of minority sects and its primary objective is to establish a Sikh theocratic state otherwise known as Khalistan. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Image 1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Image 1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sikhs rally in Trafalgar Square, 2011, to mark the attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984. Photo: BBC</span></span></span></p> <p>&nbsp;The Sikh Federation UK are a large Sikh political party (conventions numbering 10,000 delegates) but it’s leadership are <a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/news/mayor/kens-adviser-is-linked-to-terror-group-6640438.html">almost entirely former</a> members of the organisation International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF). ISYF was established by Bhindranwale’s nephew Jasbir Singh Rode and others living in Walsall in order to mobilise international support for secession from India. ISYF was banned in Britain in 2001 under anti-terror laws because its members had been <a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/news/mayor/kens-adviser-is-linked-to-terror-group-6640438.html">responsible for</a> assassinations, bombings and kidnappings. Along with the Babbar Khalsa International, they were implicated in the 1985 bombing of the Air India flight 182 from London to Montreal which killed 329 people and also the attempted bombing of the Air India flight 301. But key members of the ISYF founded the Sikh Federation UK. The ISYF and the Sikh Federation UK have the same objectives but through their seemingly ‘reasonable’ and ‘civilised’ lobbying tactics, Sikh Federation have successfully garnered support among key politicians leading to their success in lifting the UK’s ban on ISYF. </p> <p>The annual commemoration in London of Operation Bluestar has become a space where many of the nodes in the constellation of Sikh fundamentalist networks in the UK become highly visible. Sikh organisations that otherwise pass as moderate welfare providers or civil rights groups reveal their ideological leanings at these events. Moreover, the organisers are actively involved in reconstructing collective memory as the terror instilled by Bhindranwale and his men is overlooked or forgotten and Sikh fundamentalist claims are sanitised. Every major political party now sends an MP to address the rally in Trafalgar Square. These demonstrations have grown from a hundred or so fairly marginal student groups, to tens of thousands of participants of varied ages from around the country. The demand for Khalistan and the pressure to live by the rules of a very narrow version of Sikhism have been intensely invigorated. Sikh fundamentalism now has many foot soldiers who have become a major thorn in the side of gurdwara committees up and down the country, organising talks at gurdwaras and bussing people in to impose their world view. </p> <p><strong>Policing Sikh mores: women in the firing line </strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Within the last couple of years, Sikh fundamentalists discovered the political mileage of public policy attention to child sexual exploitation. Following a series of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/apr/08/rochdale-grooming-case-10-men-sentenced-to-up-to-25-years-in-jail">headline cases</a> in which networks of predominantly Pakistani men were convicted of sexually exploiting white British girls, Sikh fundamentalists claimed that girls from their communities had also been targeted by Muslim men. In September 2013, the BBC’s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcK1KTPDOt0">Inside Out</a> documentary series publicly applauded the ‘services’ of Mohan Singh of the <a href="http://www.sasorg.co.uk/">Sikh Awareness Society</a> (SAS). Twitter activity after the Inside Out documentary was very telling – while outraged Sikh women said they would never trust Mohan Singh and his men to assist them with any difficulties, Sikh men felt vindicated by a programme that validated their own communal anxieties. </p> <p>In the last three or four years, Mohan Singh has become something of a celebrity and a regular speaker at <em>gurdwaras</em> and Sikh student societies up and down the country, whipping up anxieties about women’s relationships and the activities of young people. At one of his talks at a <em>gurdwara</em> in east London, which I attended with a friend, there was deafening silence as he told a packed audience – men, women, young people and small children - that their daughters and sisters were being raped by Muslim men. A series of pictures of Asian men convicted of sexual offences against children were referred to as a ‘long list of Muslim perpetrators’. These images ran seamlessly into paintings of Moghul warriors beheading and suffocating Sikh leaders during the 1500s in order to make the argument that Muslims represent an historical threat to the ‘Sikh nation’ or ‘Qaum’. Flagging a crisis among Sikhs, Mohan Singh admonished the liberalism of Sikh parents with respect to alcohol consumption and allowing their children to choose their own partners. &nbsp;No mention was made of the fact that violence and abuse is still far more likely to take place within the home, nor were there words of condemnation for familial sexual abuse perpetrated by Sikhs themselves. </p> <p>It is no coincidence that inter-faith marriages have become a growing concern during the same period. Nor that the Birmingham based Sikh Awareness Society has grown in popularity, as has the Wolverhampton based Sikh Federation UK. Young men from the Midlands are bussed into areas around the country to stop inter faith marriages from taking place. Indeed Sikh Youth UK, the group claiming responsibility for the incident on 11th September, is also speaking at <em>gurdwaras</em> and Sikh student societies. Their topic of choice is, unsurprisingly, sexual exploitation and proscriptions on drug and alcohol consumption. Mohan Singh called for Sikhs to establish a national network to ‘protect’ their women and children – Sikh Youth UK are just one of a number of groups that appear to have heeded that call. </p> <p>In 2014, Mohan Sigh’s growing popularity and his tour of the UK’s <em>gurdwaras</em> translated into a new section of a draft Sikh Manifesto- entitled ‘action against perpetrators of grooming and forced conversions’-&nbsp; by the Sikh Federation UK, Sikh Council and Sikh Network. The document was used to lobby MPs in the run up to the 2015 General Election to meet specific ‘Sikh demands’. The document reveals skills among Sikh fundamentalists for working through the spaces of governance and power. The Manifesto was endorsed by all the main political parties, an irony indeed for the Sikh Labour councillors in Leamington Spa who are currently under attack by the same Sikh fundamentalist forces. </p> <p>Both the Dal Khalsa and Sikh Federation UK were quick to defend the Sikh Youth UK’s protest at Leamington and Warwick <em>gurdwara</em>. While the Dal Khalsa picketed the police station where 55 protestors were held, the Sikh Federation were quick to go on the media offensive. They issued a <a href="https://www.facebook.com/UKSINGH/posts/10154558329963092">press release</a> and gained sympathetic press coverage from <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-3784604/All-one-weapons-seized-police-Sikh-temple-believed-ceremonial.html">the tabloids</a>. While claiming to represent ‘the Sikh community’, SFUK defended ‘the justifiable objection’ of Sikhs to interfaith marriage, they applied pressure on the police to apologise for their ‘over reaction’, and demanded a ‘more sensitive’ response to future protests. Moreover, by stating they would raise media coverage of this issue at a government meeting on hate crime they sought to equate opposition to fundamentalist mobilisations and conservative codes of conduct with hate crime! The press release claims that ‘virtually all gurdwaras’ have been implementing an agreement reached in August 2015 but they fail to mention that this agreement was meant to be voluntary but is, in fact, being imposed through force; this so called ‘agreement’ came about after an assault on an inter faith marriage in Southall in August 2015 and after pressure on that <em>gurdwara</em> to heed the most right wing Sikh voices. Surrounded by the rising tide of fundamentalism, Leamington and Warwick gurdwara committee’s defiance on inter-faith marriage must be applauded and supported. It is a much needed breath of fresh air. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sukhwant-dhaliwal-chitra-nagarajan-rashmi-varma/feminist-dissent-why-new-journal-on-gender-and-">Feminist Dissent: why a new journal on gender and fundamentalism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/pragna-patel-gita-sahgal/whitewashing-sharia-councils-in-uk">Whitewashing Sharia councils in the UK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/no-exceptions-one-law-for-all">No exceptions: one law for all</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nira-yuvaldavis-sukhwant-dhaliwal/25-years-women-working-against-fundamentalism-in-uk">25 years: women working against fundamentalism in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/gita-sahgal/sharia-law-apostasy-and-secularism">Sharia law, apostasy and secularism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/radha-bhatt/university-challenge-secular-neutrality-or-religious-privilege">University Challenge: secular neutrality or religious privilege? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/feminism-and-soul-of-secularism">Feminism and the soul of secularism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/not-church-not-state-gender-equality-in-crossfire">Not the Church, Not the State? 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This pilot project holds great potential as an innovative approach to the so-called ‘refugee crisis’.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Events such as the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Lampedusa_migrant_shipwreck">horrific shipwreck of 3 October 2013</a> off the coast of Lampedusa are now commonplace in the Mediterranean. With <a href="https://euobserver.com/tickers/135342">over 6,000</a> people reported to have been rescued on 3 October 2016, a new approach is long overdue. This is why a programme of safe and legal passage, already underway in Italy, is so important. In pressing for an effective response to <a href="http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/pais/research/researchcentres/irs/humandignity">deaths at sea</a>, <a href="http://www.santegidio.org/pageID/11676/langID/it/Cosa-sono-i-corridoi-umanitari-per-i-rifugiati.html">Corridoi Umanitari</a> – <a href="http://www.mediterraneanhope.com/corridoi-umanitari-0">humanitarian corridors</a> – appears to provide a new way forward for Europe’s so-called ‘refugee crisis’.</p> <p><strong><em>Corridoi Umanitari</em></strong><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>Humanitarian Corridors is the result of an ecumenical collaboration between Catholics and Protestants. This includes <a href="http://www.santegidio.org/index.php?&amp;idLng=1064">Community of Sant Egidio</a>, the <a href="https://www.oikoumene.org/en/member-churches/europe/italy/fcei">Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy</a><span> (FCEI)</span>, and the Waldensian and Methodist Churches. While many states are moving <a href="https://euobserver.com/tickers/135327">against European efforts to relocate</a> people seeking refuge, the Corridoi Umanitari programme strives to put a more human and humane approach into action. It does so by facilitating the direct movement of people from the Middle East and North Africa to Europe.</p> <p>As a pilot initiative which began earlier this year, this programme is the first of its kind in Europe. It aims to prevent border deaths at sea by providing a safe flight to Italy, and it therefore also aims to combat smuggling and trafficking networks. Specifically, the programme seeks to support people in so called “vulnerable conditions” to enter Italy legally on the Article 25 Schengen <a href="http://www.schengenvisainfo.com/schengen-visa-types/">Limited Territorial Validity (LTV) visa</a> . This means that people are able to make a claim to international protection once they have safely arrived to Europe, rather than making dangerous journeys without visa authorisation in order to claim territorial asylum.</p> <p>The Italian government has agreed to support a total of 1,000 arrivals via this mechanism over two years. Italy appears keen to demonstrate political leadership in this area, and recent indications suggest the programme will be extended further. Indeed, the programme comes at a relatively low price. The Humanitarian Corridoors programme is funded by the Waldensian Church via the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight_per_thousand">eight per thousand tax system</a>, as well as by fundraising efforts. Hence, it does not present any costs to the Italian government.</p> <p>People are chosen to participate in the programme through visits made directly by programme organisers to camps in Lebanon. There, interviews are held with potential beneficiaries to assess whether their situation meets one or more vulnerability criteria. These criteria include: (a) those who have experienced conflict, warfare and persecution; (b) women, particularly pregnant women and single mothers; (c) unaccompanied minors; (d) those who have been identified in a first stage of assessment as <a href="https://www.rsc.ox.ac.uk/files/publications/working-paper-series/wp55-prima-facie-determination-refugee-status-2010.pdf"><em>prima facie</em> refugees</a>; and (e) those who have serious medical needs that cannot be treated where they are.</p> <p>Once programme organisers have identified a list of people who qualify on one or more of these bases, the list is forwarded to the Italian Embassy for approval. To date, around 300 people had entered Italy from Lebanon via this route. It was recently reported at a Mediterranean Hope (FCEI) press conference that another 100 are due to arrive on 20 October. Plans to extend the project to Morocco and Ethiopia and to introduce the initiative to European states beyond Italy are already underway.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><strong>A new way forward?</strong></p> <p>So, can Humanitarian Corridors provide a way forward from the so-called refugee crisis? Two points are worth noting here. First, the initiative is important because it <em>broadens</em> the understanding of who counts as a person in a vulnerable situation. It does not rely on distinctions that have been questioned&nbsp; by <a href="http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/pais/research/researchcentres/irs/crossingthemed/output/evidence_paper.pdf">recent research</a> such as those between political and economic or between forced and voluntary migration.</p> <p>Second, the initiative also <em>deepens</em> protection by providing a <a href="http://www.unhcr.ie/news/irish-story/unhcr-calls-for-safe-and-legal-routes-for-refugees-as-mediterranean-death-r">safe and legal route</a> for those seeking safety in Europe, and by initiating support and integration measures immediately on arrival. This is critical in order that international protection measures are not <a href="https://www.routledge.com/Refugee-Protection-and-the-Role-of-Law-Conflicting-Identities/Kneebone-Stevens-Baldassar/p/book/9780415835657">diluted</a> through the reduction of rights in practice, and in order to mitigate against policies of <a href="https://theconversation.com/eu-leaders-seek-to-share-responsibility-for-migration-in-malta-50542">externalised measures of control</a> that have become integral to European policies over recent years.</p> <p>The importance of this initiative is highlighted by a man I spoke with from Syria, who arrived to Italy with his wife via this programme in June 2016. He described his journey as “incomparable” with that of his brother, whom travelled via the Balkan route to Turkey last year. Moreover, he explained how his brother was surprised that when the couple arrived in Turin they had a house, a flat key, and freedom to come and go. His brother spent four months in a camp like a prison when he first came to Europe. “He was not dealt with as a human being” my new <em>amico</em> (friend) tells me.</p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Picture2_2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Beneficiaries of the scheme attend a press conference in Lampedusa on 3 October 2016 (Author photo)."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Picture2_2.png" alt="Beneficiaries of the scheme attend a press conference in Lampedusa on 3 October 2016 (Author photo)." title="Beneficiaries of the scheme attend a press conference in Lampedusa on 3 October 2016 (Author photo)." width="400" height="534" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Beneficiaries of the scheme attend a press conference in Lampedusa on 3 October 2016 (Author photo).</span></span></span>Beyond political gesture</span></p> <p>Despite the importance of this programme, questions remain as to the limited scope of this project. In particular, an issue emerges here about the challenges of an initiative that does not involve legal duty on the part of the state. While some legal opinion asserts that <a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2014/509986/IPOL_STU(2014)509986_EN.pdf">states should be obliged</a> under international and European law to provide humanitarian visas for people who request them, there does not seem to be indication to suggest that states see any obligation to provide safe and legal routes. As such there is a risk that the programme is reduced to a political gesture on the part of governments that seek to present an image to the wider community that they are ‘doing their bit’.</p> <p>Moreover, there are also problems in the linkage of this initiative to formal procedures of applying for asylum, especially where existing visa frameworks remain unchallenged. While the definition of vulnerability that the programme employs is important in expanding the definition of international protection, it does not fully free itself from existing categorisations of protection along with hierarchies embedded in the provision of refugee status, subsidiary protection and temporary protection. Critically, it does not go so far as to challenge the grossly unequal visa policies that lead to the irregular movements to Europe in the first place. Without this, there is a risk that the initiative could simply provide a soft edge to an essentially brutal system.</p> <p>Finally, there is also an issue here about civil society organisations taking responsibility for the provision of protection needs in place of the state. Professor Paolo Naso from Universita di Roma, Sapienza, who is responsible for the programme, highlighted this at a press conference in Lampedusa on 3 October 2016. He asked: “Is it only by chance that the only real experiment [in safe and legal routes] comes from two small independent churches and not from authorities or big institutions?”</p> <p>As a pilot project, Corridoi Umanitari holds great potential as an innovative approach to the so-called ‘refugee crisis’. It also needs further development in order that it is not reduced to political gesture, and in order that the safe and legal routes it opens up are part of a wider transformation of the conditions under which border deaths so frequently occur.</p> <p>Yet the significance of Humanitarian Corridors is readily evident on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa. Here, 3 October is a head-on confrontation with the realities of increasing border deaths; tragedies which local residents have now faced for many years. Each year commemoration events are organised by the group <a href="http://www.comitatotreottobre.it/">Comitato Tre Ottobre</a>, involving survivors of the 3 October shipwreck, family members of the deceased, NGOs and the local community at large.&nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Picture1_4.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Survivors and officials board boats in preparation for the 3 October memorial at sea (Author provided) "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Picture1_4.png" alt="Survivors and officials board boats in preparation for the 3 October memorial at sea (Author provided) " title="Survivors and officials board boats in preparation for the 3 October memorial at sea (Author provided) " width="400" height="534" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Survivors and officials board boats in preparation for the 3 October memorial at sea (Author provided).</span></span></span>While 3 October is an event that brings the survivors to the fore, it is haunted by those that are not present. This not only includes those who died on the journey, but also those who cannot join the event as their status does not permit legal travel. Let’s not forget the many who are immediately detained on being rescued at sea, as well as those who are deported from European territories such as the most recent targets of such policies: <a href="https://euobserver.com/migration/135349">people returned to Afghanistan</a>.</p> <p>Indeed, it is not only the tragedy of border deaths, but also the criminalisation of migration that needs to stop. Humanitarian Corridoors present one partial, yet nevertheless very important, step in this direction.</p> <p><em>&nbsp;A <a href="//theconversation.com/flights-to-italy-for-refugees-offer-a-humanitarian-way-forward-for-europe-66451">shorter version</a> of this article was published in the Conversation on 5 October 2016.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/qusay-loubani/small-illegal-refugee-paradise">Small, illegal refugee paradise</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/arresting-mass-detention-of-migrants-build-trust-not-walls">Arresting the mass detention of migrants: ‘Build trust, not walls’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jane-freedman-vasiliki-touhouliotis/fleeing-europe"> Fleeing Europe?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/charles-heller-lorenzo-pezzani/mourning-dead-while-violating-living"> Mourning the dead while violating the living</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/gabriel/red-letter-days">Lampedusa: red letter days</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/vicki-squire/hotspot-stories">Hotspot stories from Europe&#039;s border</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/qusay/idomeni-devil-s-game">Idomeni: a devil’s game </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/alexandra-embiricos/back-way-to-europe-gambia-s-forgotten-refugees">The back way to Europe: Gambia’s forgotten refugees </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/jerome-phelps/eu-must-not-leave-greece-to-solve-migration-crisis">The EU must not leave Greece to solve the migration crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nando-sigona-and-jennifer-allsopp/mind-gap-why-are-unaccompanied-children-disappearing-in-thous">Mind the gap: why are unaccompanied children disappearing in their thousands?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 EU Democracy and government International politics europe 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter Vicki Squire Mon, 17 Oct 2016 09:28:06 +0000 Vicki Squire 105972 at https://www.opendemocracy.net