50.50 Gender Politics Religion https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/7419/all cached version 12/06/2018 10:01:44 en "They are coming for your children" – the rise of CitizenGo https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lara-whyte/the-rise-of-citizengo <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The right-wing campaigning platform has coordinated mass online petitions – and offline actions. Its reach is growing, alarming human rights advocates. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/lara-whyte/el-avi-n-del-odio-y-el-auge-de-citizengo">Español</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-30659927.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="CitizenGo&#039;s &quot;hate bus&quot; in New York."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-30659927.jpg" alt="CitizenGo's "hate bus" in New York." title="CitizenGo&#039;s &quot;hate bus&quot; in New York." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>CitizenGo's "hate bus" in New York. Photo: Erik McGregor/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>This month, tourists and beachgoers in Spain will be treated to the sight of a bright orange plane, flying overhead, declaring its opposition to a proposed law against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Among other things, the bill would see businesses and organisations fined for non-compliance. It has been backed by the left-wing Podemos party and activists for LGBT rights. </p> <p dir="ltr">The plane will carry a banner warning: “they are coming for your children’. Right-wing campaigners planning the stunt say the proposed law is part of an attempt by the “political classes” to “<a href="http://www.20minutos.es/noticia/3104163/0/hazte-oir-avioneta-lema-ley-mordaza-lgbti-van-a-por-tus-hijos/#xtor=AD-15&amp;xts=467263">indoctrinate our children</a>” and grant “privileges to certain groups above the rights of all”. </p><p dir="ltr">Those wishing to avoid what has already been called “the hate plane” cannot. Exact locations of where it will fly, between Cadiz and Gerona, have been kept under wraps.</p> <p>The controversial stunt is the latest offline action from CitizenGo, an online hub for conservative campaigners that launched in 2010. It is known for coordinating large-scale e-petitions, including against transgender rights and abortion, and has been described as the right-wing counterpart to sites like MoveOn.org and Change.org.</p> <p>But the impact this group is looking for is offline – and it is increasingly organising real-world actions. The planned launch of the “hate plane” follows controversy earlier this year after campaigners painted a bus with transphobic slogans like “boys have penises, girls have vulvas, don’t be fooled,” and took it on a tour of cities across Spain.</p> <p>The “bus of freedom” (as the campaigners called it) prompted high-profile protests and counter-protests. It was eventually forced off the road and banned in Barcelona, Madrid and Pamplona by city authorities. CitizenGo, however, is not slowing down. Rather, its rise and growing reach has alarmed human rights advocates. &nbsp;</p> <p>At the US thinktank Political Research Associates, LGBT and gender researcher Cole Parke said the growth of groups like CitizenGo contrasts with the beliefs of some “progressive activists...that the opposition is an aging and increasingly irrelevant minority”. Parke said: “the right's online savviness (and expanding political power) suggests that this is not at all the case”.</p> <h2>The rise of CitizenGo</h2> <p dir="ltr">CitizenGo started in Spain, as a project of another controversial organisation called HazteOir. It now claims to have millions of supporters in more than 50 countries.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the UK, CitizenGo’s articulate volunteer spokesperson Mario Velasco told me: “We are active citizens who think it is possible to live in a society where family and freedom of speech and religion and life is a priority. The internet is providing us with a tool, which is not good or bad. But we have the moral duty to use it for good, and that is our main goal”.</p> <p dir="ltr">HatzeOir was founded in 2001. Earlier this year, a team of investigators in Spain traced <a href="http://www.atresplayer.com/television/programas/equipo-de-investigacion/temporada-1/capitulo-186-yunque-descubierto_2017020200372.html#fn_sinopsis_lay">links between the group and “El Yunque”</a>, a mysterious secret society that allegedly has cells across Mexico and the US mobilised to “defend the Catholic religion and fight the forces of Satan though violence or murder”, according to Mexican investigative journalist <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/El_Yunque.html?id=q6_hAAAACAAJ&amp;redir_esc=y">Alvaro Delgado</a>. Previously, in 2014 a <a href="http://www.elconfidencial.com/espana/2017-03-02/quien-es-hazte-oir-autobus-transfobo-el-yunque_1341111/">judge dismissed a claim by HazteOir</a> disputing links between the groups.</p> <p dir="ltr">CitizenGo describes itself as “pro-family” and a defender of life, family, freedom, and dignity. Madrid lawyer Ignacio Arsuaga, <a href="http://www.elmundo.es/loc/2017/03/03/58b868f1ca4741ec3c8b45c9.html">reportedly</a> the great-grandson of the late dictator General Francisco Franco, sits at the helm of both it and HatzeOir.</p> <blockquote data-lang="en" class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="es">Pilotando el avión de la libertad, el que va a parar la <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DictaduraDeG%C3%A9nero?src=hash">#DictaduraDeGénero</a> de la <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LeyPodemosLGTBI?src=hash">#LeyPodemosLGTBI</a> de <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Podemos?src=hash">#Podemos</a> y el establishment político <a href="https://t.co/QLuocchves">pic.twitter.com/QLuocchves</a></p>— Ignacio Arsuaga (@iarsuaga) <a href="https://twitter.com/iarsuaga/status/892362195685781504">August 1, 2017</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <p dir="ltr">“They have self-consciously modelled themselves on MoveOn.org, Change.org or other petition sites,” activist and human rights lawyer Naureen Shameem told me. She works for the <a href="https://www.awid.org/">Association of Women’s Rights in Development</a> (AWID) and is monitoring the backlash against sexual and reproductive rights, and growing “anti-rights” activism at the UN in particular.</p> <p dir="ltr">CitizenGo has been on AWID’s radar for some time, as Arsuaga also sits on the board of a group called the World Congress of Families which organises large-scale regional and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost/re-branding-hate-family-friendly">international conferences to create alliances between “pro-family” groups</a>. </p> <p dir="ltr">Shameem says these organisations “often speak and try to appropriate the language of human rights to their own ends.” She adds: “the focus of what they do is power orientated. A manipulation of religious arguments to increase power and undermine the universality of rights”.</p> <h2>Power and rights</h2> <p dir="ltr">CitizenGo’s largest campaign to date has been a petition “supporting” the parents of terminally-ill British child Charlie Gard, which gathered more than half a million signatures worldwide. Velasco says the platform decided to get involved in this case because of its opposition to the state, rather than the family, deciding what was in the child’s best interests. </p><p> <b><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/lara-whyte/charlie-gard-cause-celebre-us-christian-right">READ MORE: How Charlie Gard became a cause célèbre for the US Christian right</a></b></p> <p>Increasingly conservative and religious right groups are appealing to what they call “parental rights” in their attempts to strengthen their “hierarchical and traditional concept of the family,” according to a report written by Shameem and published earlier this year by the new<a href="https://www.awid.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/ours_trends_report_2017_en.pdf"> Observatory on the Universality of Rights</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/OURS-graphic1 (1)_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Mapping anti-rights actors and their connections. Infographic: OURs Initiative."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/OURS-graphic1 (1)_0.png" alt="Mapping anti-rights actors and their connections. Infographic: OURs Initiative." title="Mapping anti-rights actors and their connections. Infographic: OURs Initiative." width="460" height="280" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mapping anti-rights actors and their connections. Infographic: OURs Initiative.</span></span></span>The internet, Velasco says, is CitizenGo’s main “tool to promote family life and values in western societies”. Many of their petitions focus on rolling back or preventing gains on LGBT rights and women’s access to abortion and contraception. Others have focused on persecuted Christians in the Middle East and calls to close refugee centres in Poland. </p> <p dir="ltr">There is even a <a href="http://citizengo.org/es/64347-dominos-pizza-le-entra-vida-graciasdominosmx">petition thanking Domino's Pizza</a> for its "support" for a Mexico City anti-abortion march. It says: “I’m very happy to know that there are companies that are humanly responsible and committed to the first right, the right to life”.</p> <p dir="ltr">But, Velasco adds: “We are trying to get people engaged offline as well”. He told me: “We have summer camps for CitizenGo training, we also organise events at the United Nations. We recently sent people to work in Iraq on refugee camps. We have a variety of activities around the world”.</p> <p dir="ltr">In numerous countries CitizenGo has linked up with other like-minded organisations including grassroots and community-level “pro-family” groups. “They have become much more active at a regional level,” adds Shameem.</p> <p dir="ltr">The transphobic bus ordered off the streets of Spanish cities also appeared across the Atlantic in the US. Greeted with protests during its appearance in New York, the bus continued to Connecticut, Philadelphia and Baltimore before its final stop in Washington DC.</p> <p dir="ltr">Utilising the opportunities of social media platforms, Velasco says, is how CitizenGo works across borders. Petitions deemed potential ‘global priorities’ by campaigners are translated into seven languages for maximum reach. </p> <p dir="ltr">“It’s the internet that helps us understand people’s sufferings all over the world,” says Velasco, rather breathlessly. “We understand that no matter where you are in the world, you can try and change the world. It’s not just about your country, it’s about humanity”.</p> <h2>Right-wing humanity</h2> <p dir="ltr">At Political Research Associates, Parke says it’s crucial to consider and challenge the specific version of humanity being promoted. “CitizenGo's campaigns are unquestionably linked by a shared ideology – one that is explicitly anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion,” they told me. “Additionally, the platform promotes a radical (and dangerous) redefinition of religious freedom”.</p> <p>Parke said that the concept of religious freedom was "intended to serve as a shield against religious imposition," but that groups like CitizenGo are trying to use it as "a sword of right-wing Christian hegemony" instead. </p><p>They described a “standard right-wing equation first birthed in the US: advance an oppressive agenda rooted in the advancement of heterosexism, white supremacy, and Christian hegemony by mobilising resentment against marginalised communities”. </p><p> <b><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/lara-whyte/charlie-gard-cause-celebre-us-christian-right">READ MORE: Re-branding hate?: ultra-conservative organising under a "family-friendly" banner</a></b></p> <p dir="ltr">CitizenGo is not the only group that’s used the internet for clicks, self-promotion and attempts at political influence. It also encourages other politically similar organisations to use its website to do the same. </p><p dir="ltr">Can the digital realm amplify the views of these groups, to the point of changing offline realities? This is certainly their goal. In Spain, efforts to block the proposed equality law (the focus of CitizenGo’s upcoming “hate plane”) will likely crescendo ahead of the vote in September.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is expected that the bill will eventually pass – but without the support of the prime minister’s conservative People’s Party. The debates, strategies and tactics advanced by CitizenGo and its allies, however, will continue regardless of the outcome. Human rights activists remain on high alert. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lara-whyte/charlie-gard-cause-celebre-us-christian-right">How Charlie Gard became a cause célèbre for the US Christian right </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost/global-anti-abortion-lgbt-rights">&quot;This is a war&quot;: Inside the global &quot;pro-family&quot; movement against abortion and LGBT rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost/re-branding-hate-family-friendly">Re-branding hate?: ultra-conservative organising under a &quot;family-friendly&quot; banner</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/observatory-on-universality-of-rights/fundamentalism-united-nations">How do we fight anti-rights fundamentalism at the United Nations?</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"> Spain </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 Spain Civil society Tracking the backlash 50.50 Gender Politics Religion women's human rights fundamentalisms bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Lara Whyte Wed, 09 Aug 2017 09:11:43 +0000 Lara Whyte 112725 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The future of sex in Africa https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nana-darkoa-sekyiamah/future-of-sex-in-africa <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Stigma and growing religious fundamentalism are preventing women from fully accessing a range of reproductive health services.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/3106526668_c9c4def53a_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Accra."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/3106526668_c9c4def53a_z.jpg" alt="Accra." title="Accra." width="460" height="336" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Accra, Ghana. Photo: Francisco Anzola/Flickr. CC BY 2.0. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><em>Originally published on&nbsp;<a href="https://thisisafrica.me/future-sex-africa/">This is Africa</a>.</em></p><p>In December last year I went to see a doctor. I had been feeling tired and wanted to check whether my haemoglobin levels had dropped, given that I am prone to anaemia. I also asked to be prescribed the emergency morning-after contraceptive pill. The doctor sent me off for my lab tests and said I could pick up my prescriptions from the nurse at reception. When I did so, I realised that he had not issued me a script for the pill, so I went back to see him. He ummed and ahed awkwardly and eventually said something along the lines of: “I don’t believe in giving prescriptions to stop pregnancy. You can get it over the counter”. I was stunned into silence for a few seconds and then I said: “I can get anything over the counter in Ghana. I came to the hospital for a reason. I need you to do your job and give me a prescription”. He refused. I explained to him that I also needed the prescription so that my medical insurance would reimburse me. He shook his head and said no.</p> <p>When we think about the future of sex in Africa, we need to think about our current reality. Women continue to have limited access to comprehensive reproductive health. Even in situations where the law gives us access, ‘cash and carry’ health-care systems, stigma and a growing religious fundamentalism prevent us from fully accessing a range of reproductive health services.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/31647298_86bbe60eca_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A billboard in Ghana."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/31647298_86bbe60eca_z.jpg" alt="A billboard in Ghana." title="A billboard in Ghana." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A billboard in Ghana. Photo: hiroo yamagata/Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>At the 2016 African Feminist Forum (AFF) held in Zimbabwe, two Angolan women connected in person for the first time. They had previously known each other virtually, and only met in person when they attended the feminist gathering in Harare, with over 150 other activists. When Sizaltina Cutaia and Âurea Mouzinho returned home, they decided to start Ondjango Feminista. They wanted to create a space for feminist women in Angola and for women to raise their consciousness on feminist issues. Earlier this year in Angola, the government attempted to pass a bill banning abortions, no matter the circumstances. It didn’t matter whether you needed an abortion because you had been raped, or if the life of the mother was in danger if the pregnancy continued – this would have been a blanket ban.</p> <p>Ondjango Feminista worked to resist the passing of this law. They were involved in direct action to lobby parliamentarians not to pass the bill and they organised a march to demonstrate visibly against the law. They got support from some high-profile women, including Isabella dos Santos – which was a struggle for them because of political and ideological differences. The day before their scheduled march, the government announced that the bill had been postponed. They still went on to march, and the bill was subsequently re-introduced to parliament but in a very different form to what had initially been proposed. This is another example of the fact that one aspect of the challenge that African feminists face (and I think this is also a global challenge) is constantly fighting to hold the line, and not to lose rights that have already been hard won.</p> <h2><strong>The role of religious fundamentalism</strong></h2> <p>Today, the biggest challenge to sexual rights on the continent comes from an increasing alliance between religious fundamentalists of all stripes.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.awid.org/">The Association for Women’s Rights in Development</a>&nbsp;and the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.oursplatform.org/">Observatory on the Universality of Rights</a>&nbsp;has a new report, ‘<a href="https://www.awid.org/publications/rights-risk-observatory-universality-rights-trends-report-2017">Rights at Risk</a>’, which shows how a range of Christian, Muslim and civil society fundamentalist actors, including states such as the Vatican, work together to resist the idea that human rights are universal and something that everyone, no matter where they are in the world, are entitled to.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Today, the biggest challenge to sexual rights on the continent comes from an increasing alliance between religious fundamentalists of all stripes.</p> <p>The biggest danger from this alliance of the far right has come from the exporting from the US to different parts of our continent of what is described as the ‘<em>culture war’</em>&nbsp;or ‘<em>culture</em>&nbsp;<em>conflict</em>’. This refers to the conflict between traditionalist or conservative values and progressive or liberal values and it is the reason we have had US evangelists working with Ugandan politicians to attempt to pass the ‘kill the gays’ bill. It is visible in how US-based anti-rights groups <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost/global-anti-abortion-lgbt-rights">organise huge conferences</a> where they provide training on how participants can pursue their anti-rights agenda in multi-lateral spaces like the UN. The repercussions of these conferences are felt not only in these international policy spaces, but also in various countries on the African continent.</p> <p>All of these factors contribute to a dire picture when one considers the landscape of sexual rights on the continent. Countries like South Africa, which on paper has some of the most progressive laws around LGBTQI rights, suffers from an epidemic of violence against women in general terms, and in particular the horrendous violence – including so-called ‘corrective rape’ – that LGBTQI people face.</p><p> However, this dire picture has been responded to by inspired activism. Recently the African feminist movement lost one of its most inspired activists, Prudence Mabele, a founder of the Positive Women’s Network. A leading activist who was living positively, she was one of the first women in South Africa to declare her HIV-positive status publicly. Mabele and numerous other women tackled head on the stigma of living with HIV, creating support networks for women to live positively and to be in the driving seat of work around HIV and Aids activism.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/35887836311_87c154e230_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Funeral of Prudence Mabele."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/35887836311_87c154e230_z.jpg" alt="At the funeral of Prudence Mabele." title="Funeral of Prudence Mabele." width="460" height="265" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>At the funeral of Prudence Mabele. Photo: GovernmentZA/Flickr. CC BY-ND 2.0. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><h2><span>Women are speaking out</span></h2><p>There are other glimmers of hope. An increasing number of feminist activists are creating space to talk about sex, sexuality, sexual rights and everything in between. I fall into this category. Since 2009, alongside my co-blogger Malaka Grant and a collective of contributors, I have curated the blog&nbsp;<a href="http://adventuresfrom.com/">Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women</a>&nbsp;as a space where African women can share their own stories about sex and sexuality. I often meet women who give me direct feedback about what the blog has meant to them personally and how it has enabled them to have conversations with partners that might otherwise have been difficult to have, or even to just learn about sex from other women. These are things that are near impossible to do in contexts where there is little to no sex education.</p> <p>There are blogs, like&nbsp;<a href="http://holaafrica.org/">HOLA Africa</a>, that provide space and visibility to queer African women – something that, in my view, radically responds to the false notion that homosexuality is ‘unAfrican’. There are feminist organisations such as the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cal.org.za/">Coalition of African Lesbians</a>&nbsp;(CAL) that have fought stigma and discrimination for years and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.awid.org/news-and-analysis/after-years-activism-cal-attains-observer-status-achpr">finally achieved NGO expert status</a>&nbsp;in spaces such as the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights. This was achieved despite the objections of such people as Mohamed Bechir Khalfallah, vice chair of that commission in 2015, who gave a speech in which he rejected CAL’s application, stating: “These people are an imported virus that will spread across Africa and have no place in this human rights body”.</p> <p>There are many more activists and movements that recognise the centrality of sexual rights and bodily integrity: Freedom and Roam Uganda; None on Record; the African Feminist Forum and the various National Forums; artivists such as Zanele Muholi and her Faces and Phases Project; radical academics such as Stella Nyanzi and Pumla Gqola; funding organisations such as the African Women’s Development Fund. These activists and activist organisations are amongst those that are holding the line, and pushing for women and people everywhere to be able to access their full range of bodily, sexual, health and reproductive rights.</p><p><em><em>* Join&nbsp;</em></em><em>N<span class="m_-1395603353347393357gmail-st"><em>ana</em>&nbsp;Darkoa&nbsp;<em>Sekyiamah (<a href="https://twitter.com/nas009">@nas009</a>)&nbsp;</em></span></em><em>for a Twitter chat on the future of sex at 1pm BST on Friday 4 August, along with&nbsp;</em><em>Tiffany Mugo (<a href="https://twitter.com/tiffmugo">@tiffmugo</a>).</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/tiffany-mugo/digital-future-of-sex">Coitus and conversation: the digital realm is taking sex to new levels</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/observatory-on-universality-of-rights/fundamentalism-united-nations">How do we fight anti-rights fundamentalism at the United Nations?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost/re-branding-hate-family-friendly">Re-branding hate?: ultra-conservative organising under a &quot;family-friendly&quot; banner</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"> Ghana </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 Ghana Feminist Africa 50.50 Gender Politics Religion women's human rights feminism bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah Fri, 04 Aug 2017 08:04:35 +0000 Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah 112685 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Where is the line between Islam and Islamism? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rahila-gupta/islam-islamism-freedom-expression <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A recent conference on freedom of expression threw up issues around relationships between ex-Muslims and reformist Muslims – and the ideological confusion of their allies.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/RGp1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Public art protest organised by Victoria Gugenheim in solidarity with persecuted freethinkers, at the conference in London."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/RGp1.jpg" alt="Public art protest organised by Victoria Gugenheim in solidarity with persecuted freethinkers, at the conference in London." title="Public art protest organised by Victoria Gugenheim in solidarity with persecuted freethinkers, at the conference in London." width="460" height="197" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Public art protest organised by Victoria Gugenheim in solidarity with persecuted freethinkers, at the conference in London. Photo: CEMB.</span></span></span>In the ten years of its existence, the Council for Ex-Muslims of Britain (<a href="https://www.ex-muslim.org.uk/">CEMB</a>) has organised annual conferences to draw attention to issues facing ex-Muslims, their status as apostates and blasphemers, the distinction between Islam and Islamism, islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism, the links with other religious fundamentalisms, and religion and women’s rights. </p><p>To mark CEMB’s tenth anniversary, the international <a href="http://www.secularconference.com/watch-live/">conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression</a> that took place in London last month was bigger and bolder than any before it. Appropriately, substantial time was devoted to the journeys and testimonies of women and men who asserted their right to live free from religion and found themselves at best forsaken by family (and that’s no easy option) and at worst risking death and imprisonment.</p><p dir="ltr">Whenever speakers gather from around the world I’m reminded of the truism that context is everything. At this conference, those who came from Muslim majority countries tended to be harsher in their condemnation of Islam – one even called it a “virus” – than speakers who have lived in the west where minority status, security concerns and tendencies to see all Muslims as terrorists have obliged them to tread a careful path between the religion and its politicisation. </p><p dir="ltr">Jimmy Bangash, a gay Pakistani living in Britain, broke with that pattern in a session called ‘Out, Loud and Proud,’ saying he struggled with the distinction between Islam and Islamism. He referenced the case of <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-40609482">Jahed Chaudhury</a>, the first Muslim gay man in Britain to marry, who was spat at and threatened with acid attacks by Muslims. Bangash said it was disingenuous to call this Islamism when it was simply people following Islam. </p><p dir="ltr">With that remark, Bangash landed on a central faultline in the conference between those who were practising, progressive Muslims and those who felt that the door marked ‘exit’ was the only option as Islam was essentially unreformable. Could these two groups of people work together in a secular alliance or do atheists and ex-Muslims feel silenced because their critique of religion is seen as offensive by some believers? &nbsp;</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">Could these two groups of people work together in a secular alliance or do atheists and ex-Muslims feel silenced because their critique of religion is seen as offensive by some believers?</span>These simmering tensions surfaced during a panel entitled ‘Secularism as a Human Right’. Chris Moos, council member of the <a href="http://www.secularism.org.uk/" target="_blank">National Secular Society</a>, lit the fuse when he said it was not helpful to describe religious people as ‘stupid’ (in reference to comments made earlier at the conference) if you are trying to build an inclusive secular movement. He argued for more religious people to be part of campaigns for secularism, but said he feared they stayed away feeling their beliefs “were on trial”.</p><p>In her closing statement on this panel, Karima Bennoune, UN special rapporteur on cultural rights, emphasised that while the struggles of atheists are important, they are separate from those of secularists. This drew a passionate response from Maryam Namazie, founder of CEMB. Namazie said her "whole life has been bulldozed by Islam". She expressed frustration at lacking space to say that Islam offends her, for fear of offending some of her religious sisters in a secular alliance. </p><p dir="ltr">Gita Sahgal, director of the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Centre-for-Secular-Space-146394662125826/">Centre for Secular Space</a>, argued from the floor that atheism got a raw deal in secular circles. She also talked passionately about the price paid by some ex-Muslims for whom “simply to pronounce their atheism was to fall into a human rights void", losing their homes, jobs, custody of children and all their civil and social rights. </p><p dir="ltr">Ex-Muslims in Muslim majority countries have had to undertake dangerous journeys to becoming visible in order to find and give support to other ex-Muslims. Ex-Muslims in the west have had access to many more potential allies. But, as many speakers reiterated, finding the right allies can be a minefield.&nbsp; <strong><br /></strong></p><p>In another conference session, Benjamin David, editor of <a href="https://conatusnews.com/">Conatus News</a>, talked about the 'regressive left', the 'liberal left' and the 'progressive left'. Later, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Silverman_(activist)">David Silverman</a>, president of American Atheists, delivered a high-octane, humorous presentation on ‘wrong left’ and ‘wrong right’ allies. Although talking of the American context, much of what he said applies to the UK too.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/RGp2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A slide from Silverman&#039;s talk. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/RGp2.jpg" alt="A slide from Silverman's talk." title="A slide from Silverman&#039;s talk. " width="460" height="250" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A slide from Silverman's talk at the conference in London.</span></span></span>Though deliberately reductionist, Silverman’s talk made some serious points. Black and minority ethnic (BME) feminists in the west, and particularly in Britain, have never received support from those who should have been their natural allies – the left – in their struggle against religious fundamentalism, particularly Islamic fundamentalism. </p><p dir="ltr">Silverman noted that the 'wrong left' believe that criticising Islam is racism, and in fact make no distinction between Islam and Islamism. He said the 'right to not be offended' has been gaining ground among left-liberal circles, shutting down free speech. </p><p dir="ltr">A recent example of this is the refusal by organisers of the Pride 2017 march in London to support Maryam Namazie and other ex-Muslims against a complaint filed by the East London Mosque which described a CEMB placard saying “East London Mosque incites murder of LGBT” as itself “inciting hatred against Muslims”. The mosque said it had a “track record for challenging homophobia in East London”. </p><p dir="ltr">In a <a href="https://www.ex-muslim.org.uk/category/pressreleases/">statement, </a>Pride organisers said their community advisory board was considering whether CEMB could join the next march in 2018. “If anyone taking part in our parade makes someone feel ostracised, discriminated against or humiliated, then they are undermining and breaking the very principles on which we exist," it said. "Pride must always be a movement of acceptance, diversity and unity. We will not tolerate Islamophobia”. (That old chestnut!)</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">the 'right to not be offended' has been gaining ground among left-liberal circles and shutting down free speech </p><p dir="ltr">At the London conference, Asher Fainman, president of the <a href="https://www.goldsmithssu.org/activities/societies/oursocieties/7096/">Goldsmiths University Atheist Society</a>, deplored how universities had become bastions of the 'right to not be offended'. He described an <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kl0sI47tVgY">infamous incident</a> when he invited Namazie to speak and her talk was repeatedly disrupted by students from the Islamic Society. They literally pulled the plug on her Powerpoint presentation when she showed cartoons of Jesus and Mo.</p><p dir="ltr">Namazie has been disinvited from talks at a number of universities on the basis that she is an Islamaphobe (a favourite tactic in shutting down criticism). At the conference, Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of <a href="https://www.indexoncensorship.org/">Index on Censorship</a>, said it was a tragedy that the right to free speech was increasingly associated with the right – though it is too important a right for progressive people to relinquish. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/RGp3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A slide from Silverman&#039;s talk. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/RGp3.jpg" alt="A slide from Silverman's talk. " title="A slide from Silverman&#039;s talk. " width="460" height="249" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A slide from Silverman's talk at the conference in London.</span></span></span>I am not sure there is a 'right right' or what its position would be but, in Silverman’s framework, the 'wrong right' is racist<strong> </strong>because it posits Christianity as morally superior, therefore justifying all critiques of Islam. This position leads logically to support for ex-Muslims but this support is the kiss of death because it further alienates potential left supporters.</p><p dir="ltr">Silverman described the paradox that “the right doesn’t care about rape culture, homophobia or sexism unless it is in Muslim culture and we have a left that cares a lot about these things unless it is in Muslim culture. The right says Islam creates terrorists, the left says that criticising Islam creates terrorists”.</p><p dir="ltr">In this landscape, organisations like CEMB, <a href="http://southallblacksisters.org.uk/">Southall Black Sisters</a> and Centre for Secular Space have been trying to occupy that lonely space where the primacy of universal rights is respected, regardless of brickbats from the left and right, of the 'wrong' or 'right' kind. Challenging religion should have no greater consequences than the crossfire of intellectual debate.</p><p><em>This article is part two of a series on the <a href="http://www.secularconference.com/">Conference on Free Expression and Conscience</a>, which took place in London in July 2017. Next, we look at the threats and risks facing defenders of free expression, in Bangladesh and beyond.<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/rahila-gupta/politics-nudity-feminist-protest">The politics of nudity as feminist protest – from Ukraine to Tunisia </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> </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 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Gender Politics Religion secularism fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Rahila Gupta Thu, 27 Jul 2017 12:39:46 +0000 Rahila Gupta 112537 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The politics of nudity as feminist protest – from Ukraine to Tunisia https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rahila-gupta/politics-nudity-feminist-protest <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Frontline activists, including women who use their topless bodies as political statements, are gathering in London to deplore threats to free expression worldwide.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/07_14-FemenStick-4127.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="FEMEN activists. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/07_14-FemenStick-4127.jpg" alt="FEMEN activists." title="FEMEN activists. " width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>FEMEN activists. Photo: Jacob Khrist.</span></span></span>Such are the risks to some frontline activists who have dared to challenge religious orthodoxies around the world that an international <a href="http://www.secularconference.com/">conference on Free Expression and Conscience</a>, 22-23 July, is taking place at an undisclosed venue in central London, the location known only to the participants. </p> <p>One of the keynote speakers, Bonya Ahmed, was attacked by machete and her husband, Avijit Roy, was brutally killed on the crowded streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh because they ran a blog for freethinkers. </p><p>Other speakers and participants – including members of the <a href="https://www.ex-muslim.org.uk/">Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain</a> (CEMB), the main organising group behind the conference – also have stories of harassment, death threats and physical danger. Even (or perhaps especially), in the 21st century, with the rise of the religious right, free speech can result in a death sentence. </p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">...in the 21st century, with the rise of the religious right, free speech can result in a death sentence.</span> </p> <p>Inna Shevchenko, leader of the controversial group <a href="https://femen.org/">FEMEN</a>, is scheduled to speak on "Gods vs Girls: Is Religion Compatible with Feminism?" She had to leave her native Ukraine in 2012, and seek asylum in France, after being abducted, beaten, tortured and threatened with death by security forces. </p><p> FEMEN activists have achieved notoriety because their main form of public protest has been inscribing slogans across their bare chests. Shevchenko told me, in their defence: “What do we do? We appear in the square, we take off our tops, we put slogans on our breasts and we scream the slogans, we do nothing else. We are then thrown on the floor and strangled, kidnapped, arrested. This is disproportionate. It reveals a lot about the violence that patriarchal institutions inflict on women who dare to disagree”.</p><p>In Ukraine, FEMEN has used these tactics to protest against what Shevchenko calls the three institutions of patriarchy: dictatorship, the sex industry and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – an important reminder to those who equate extremism with Islam that institutionalised religion of all denominations can be dangerous to your health. </p> <p>Shevchenko says: “Dictatorship is usually one male leader who fosters the cult of the father of the nation. Similarly, in monotheist religions, there is one father i.e. God who punishes you, who protects you and who defines who you are and what your position in society will be”. (Of course, this pattern is also replicated in the family). </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/JK_FEMEN_CALENDRIER-4.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="FEMEN activist is tackled to the ground."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/JK_FEMEN_CALENDRIER-4.jpg" alt="A FEMEN activist is tackled to the ground." title="FEMEN activist is tackled to the ground." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A FEMEN activist is tackled to the ground. Photo: Jacob Khrist. </span></span></span>FEMEN was founded in 2008, Shevchenko says, as a reaction to the exponential growth of sex tourism in Ukraine.<strong> </strong>She grew up in post-communist Ukraine and recalls a catastrophic economic collapse in which the national currency was replaced for six years by coupons that expired within three months. Under communism, she says, gender gaps had reduced somewhat as women’s employment and educational opportunities opened up <span class="st">– but afterwards</span> unemployment hit women the hardest, pushing many into the arms of a rich husband or the sex industry. </p> <p>Shevchenko and FEMEN have been <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/meredith-tax/nude-protests-and-political-contradictions">criticised</a> for the crudity of, and contradictions in, their arguments and tactics. But her clarity of analysis on the question of religion is lacking in some feminist quarters. Whilst she accepts that a feminist can be a believer, the idea of religious feminism to her is an oxymoron. Shevchenko says: “It would be intellectually dishonest to say that religion will provide the grounds for women’s liberation. No, it’s feminism that will provide the grounds for women’s liberation and it is through feminist ideas that religious ideas and text could be modified”. </p><p>FEMEN’s topless tactics have been <a href="http://www.feministcurrent.com/2012/10/31/there-is-a-wrong-way-to-do-feminism-and-femen-is-doing-it-wrong/">condemned</a> by some feminists for playing into the culture of sexism by exposing their breasts. To this Shevchenko responds: “I get it when sexists make this argument, but I don’t understand it when feminists [do]... What those feminists are saying is that a woman’s body can be de-sexualised by hiding it – but that is what religious institutions are saying. I’m saying I’m going to give my definition of what my body is. My body is sexual when I decide it to be sexual, my body should be political when I decide it to be political”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">"My body is sexual when I decide it to be sexual, my body should be political when I decide it to be political”</p><p>The success of nudity as political protest seems to depend largely on context. In the west, where women’s naked bodies have been commodified and used to sell goods, reclaiming nakedness for political purposes is much harder. In conservative societies, where women’s dress is intensely policed, any breach of the codes is both brave and revolutionary. &nbsp; </p><p>Mona Eltahawy tells a funny story in her book <a href="http://1.droppdf.com/files/gz5Xz/headscarves-and-hymens-mona-eltahawy.pdf">Headscarves and Hymens; Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution</a> about a Tunisian feminist Amira Yahyaoui who asked a Salafist member of the constituent assembly a question. When he refused to answer her, as he did not speak to “naked” women (she was not wearing a hijab), Yahyaoui began to undress. The Salafist was horrified and demanded to know what she was doing. She said: “I’m showing you what a naked woman looks like” – and he promptly answered her question.</p><p>Other Muslim women have braved censure or death to use their bodies to make a political statement, including <a href="http://maryamnamazie.com/hijab-is-sexism-not-anti-racism/">Aliaa Elmahdy</a>, the naked Egyptian blogger, and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/meredith-tax/nude-protests-and-political-contradictions">Amina Tyler</a>, the Tunisian blogger who posted a topless picture of herself in 2013. Maryam Namazie – an Iranian ex-Muslim, and an organiser of this weekend’s conference – has used toplessness as a form of protest on a number of occassions, most recently at the Pride 2017 march in London. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Maryam.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Maryam Namazie."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Maryam.jpg" alt="Maryam Namazie." title="Maryam Namazie." width="403" height="538" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Maryam Namazie. Photo: CEMB (Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain).</span></span></span>Namazie told me: “A pillar of Islamist rule is the erasure of the female body from the public space. So what better way to resist than with the female body?” Both Elmahdy and Tyler, under threat from conservatives, have had to flee their countries of origin. Feminists and progressives must defend the right of these women to free expression, rather than make common cause with religious conservatives, even if we do not personally see nudity as a form of liberation. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">“A pillar of Islamist rule is the erasure of the female body from the public space. So what better way to resist than with the female body?”</p><p>This insight is sometimes missing in white feminist critiques of female nudity. When the Pakistan social media celebrity <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nighat-dad/dishonourable-killing-of-pakistani-social-media-celebrity">Qandeel Baloch</a> was murdered by her brother – for bringing “shame” to the family with sexually-charged videos and photos posted online – some older British feminists took to a Facebook discussion where one asked whether Baloch “joining the oppressive western world and slathering herself in make-up and posting vids of herself twerking and always doing the bidding of men... [was] SO empowering”. But nothing is as undermining of religious patriarchal mores as a woman flaunting her sexuality.&nbsp; </p><p>The failure of some sections of the progressive left to challenge institutionalised religion’s assault on free expression will be one of the themes running through this weekend's conference in London. Billed as the Glastonbury of freethinkers and featuring 70 speakers from more than 30 countries, other discussion topics will be resistance to religion from gay rights campaigners, the growing influence of religion in the law and the state, secularism as a human right and identity politics.&nbsp; </p><p>For Namazie, “the conference is a timely reminder that freedom of conscience is not just for the believer but [also] for the nonbeliever. That free expression is not just to defend the sacred but to reject it”. Exercising this right has already caused harm and cost lives. This is a significant battleground for our times.</p><p><em>This article is part one of a series </em><em>on the </em><a href="http://www.secularconference.com/" target="_blank"><em>Conference on Free Expression and Conscience</em></a><em>, </em><em>which took place in London in July 2017. Next, we look at the situation of ex-Muslims and the beleaguered freedom to express criticism of religion. </em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ukraine </div> <div class="field-item even"> Tunisia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> London </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 North-Africa West-Asia London Tunisia Ukraine Culture 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 newsletter feminism fundamentalisms patriarchy women's movements Rahila Gupta Fri, 21 Jul 2017 12:01:43 +0000 Rahila Gupta 112410 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What is ‘femonationalism’? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/niki-seth-smith/what-is-femonationalism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Academic Sara Farris talks about the 'instrumentalisation' of migrant women in Europe by right-wing nationalists – and neoliberals.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Le Pen PA-31744885.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Marine Le Pen."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Le Pen PA-31744885.jpg" alt="Marine Le Pen." title="Marine Le Pen." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Marine Le Pen in 2017. Photo: Sylvaoin Lefevre/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span> Sara Farris recently published a provocative book entitled <a href="https://www.dukeupress.edu/in-the-name-of-womens-rights">In the name of women’s rights: the rise of femonationalism</a>. In it, she examines how right-wing nationalists, neoliberals, and some feminists and women’s equality agencies, all invoke women’s rights to stigmatise Muslim men and advance their own political objectives. She argues that there is an important political-economic dimension to this seemingly paradoxical intersection. </p><p dir="ltr">It’s a timely – but complex – book including case studies from France, Italy and the Netherlands. I called Farris, who is currently senior lecturer in sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, to dig further into some of the questions that her book raises. This is an edited transcript of our conversation.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>NSS: In your book, you talk about feminists and ‘femocrats’ (female bureaucrats) “betraying their emancipatory politics” and “invoking women’s rights to stigmatise Muslim men" to advance their political objectives. Is this a knowing betrayal, or is the work of these women being exploited?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">SF: On one hand we have right-wing nationalists exploiting and mobilising issues of gender equality, particularly in campaigns against Muslims. These are right-wing leaders like France’s Front National leader Marine Le Pen – she doesn't really care about women's rights, it's obviously just a way to stigmatise Muslims. This is one of the faces of ‘femonationalism’: nationalists instrumentalising feminism. On the other hand, it also describes how some feminists – and I really want to stress <em>some</em> feminists, a minority – are increasingly attacking Islam as a religion, claiming that it is a religion that oppresses women.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>NSS: Let’s take the example of the ‘burkini ban’ in France, which your book considers. Who were the feminists that supported that ban, and do you see them as ‘femonationalist’ figures?</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Farris book_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Duke University Press, 2017."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Farris book_0.jpg" alt="Duke University Press, 2017." title="Duke University Press, 2017." width="231" height="346" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Duke University Press, 2017.</span></span></span></strong>SF: Several feminists supported the veil bans, and the burkini ban – I'm thinking of very well-known feminist intellectuals like <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/07/25/against-nature">Elizabeth Badinter</a>, as well as the ex-minister for women’s affairs, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. She was a representative of the centre-left, a socialist, and she <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jul/16/french-minister-women-muslims">even suggested</a> that the ban go further than public schools, that they might have to look at the workplace too. Many prominent feminists and ‘femocrats’ have supported these laws, and this has strengthened anti-Islam positions in the name of women's rights.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>NSS: You ask whether there is a “new unholy alliance" between right-wing nationalists, feminists, ‘femocrats,’ and neoliberals. But the story of white women ‘saving’ brown women from brown men is not new. How do you see the history of these trends?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">SF: I should clarify: I question in the book whether this is really an "unholy alliance" and I choose instead to use the term "convergence" as it better describes the fluidity, the fact that people and political figures from very different political projects are converging in this space, and there are a lot of contradictions in this space.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>NSS: "Alliance" would suggest that this is a conscious re-grouping?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">SF: Exactly, and I don't think it is.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">There is also nothing particularly 'new' about what's going on. We have plenty of examples of imperialists and colonialists claiming that they were bringing ‘civilisation’ to ‘uncivilised countries’, including women's rights. In Algeria in the 1950s the French military developed this obsession with unveiling Muslim women. Some feminists also supported these colonial enterprises in the name of women's rights.&nbsp;What has been remarkable since 9/11, is the increased popularity of the idea that women's rights are at stake when it comes to Muslim communities in particular.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>NSS: But, without generalising, women in many Muslim countries face limits and threats to their rights.&nbsp;</strong><span>Not to mention, in today’s context, the rise of ISIS. Couldn't this explain the increasing focus on these areas?</span></p><p dir="ltr">SF: I'm not convinced. One of the justifications for invading Afghanistan was precisely to liberate women, and that was before ISIS and the events unfolding after 9/11.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>NSS: Is there a relationship between your book and <a href="https://www.dukeupress.edu/terrorist-assemblages">Terrorist assemblages: homonationalism in queer times</a> by academic Jaspir Puar? It argued a decade ago that dynamics of sexuality, race, gender, nation, class, and ethnicity are realigning in relation to contemporary forces of securitisation, counterterrorism, and nationalism. </strong></p><p dir="ltr">SF: Puar's book was a source of inspiration. She was very acute in portraying this phenomenon of some representatives of the LGBT community in the US supporting American nationalism, especially after 9/11, and supporting anti-Islam campaigns, under the idea that Muslims are against gay rights. I'm not looking at gay rights, I'm focused on women's rights, but Puar opened up a very important conversation. I'm also putting emphasis on the political-economic foundations of femonationalism.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>NSS: Indeed, your book looks at increasing demand in the west for feminised labour – childcare, elderly care, cleaning, domestic labour – and how this relates to the treatment of Muslim women migrants in particular. </strong></p><p dir="ltr">SF: This is one of the main contributions I tried to make, to shed light on the economic aspects of this femonationalist ideology, and of Islamophobia. The idea of migrants being job-stealers is very male. I have in mind the poster by UKIP, for example – the British white man who is begging in the street. My question was: where are the women migrants? They're not really represented in the media as job-stealers, but as obedient passive victims of their own supposedly backward cultures.&nbsp; </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/UKIPad.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A UKIP poster shows a British white man begging in the street."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/UKIPad.jpg" alt="A UKIP poster shows a British white man begging in the street." title="A UKIP poster shows a British white man begging in the street." width="460" height="255" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A UKIP poster shows a British white man begging in the street. Where are the women? </span></span></span>In Italy, the former leader of the very racist party Northern League, Roberto Maroni, said: “There cannot be regularisation for those [migrants] who entered illegally, for those who rape women or rob a villa, but certainly we will take into account for regularisation all those situations that have a strong social impact, as in the case of migrant caregivers”. These caregivers, of course, are mostly women. This is the sexualisation of racism. Women are presented as victims for whom, if properly assimilated, space can be made&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;whereas men are the unredeemable others.&nbsp;Anti-Islam feminists talk about Muslim women's emancipation, but what does this emancipation look like? They are doing jobs that lots of feminists don't want to do. The struggles of the 1970s were precisely about liberating women from household chores and domestic labour.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">This is the sexualisation of racism. Women are presented as victims for whom, if properly assimilated, space can be made&nbsp;–&nbsp;whereas men are the unredeemable others.</span><strong>NSS: Your book seems to suggest that all programmes to get women migrants into work are problematic as they “tacitly encourage” the adoption of “western feminists’ notion of emancipation through productive labour”. But many migrant women would have worked in their countries of origin too. </strong></p><p dir="ltr">SF: Some people say 'at least they have a job'. Yes, of course. And caring, cleaning and other social reproductive jobs are work and should be recognised as such. But they are often low-pay, low-status and exploitative jobs, often without contracts. As feminists, we need to put social reproduction very high on the agenda again. In the last ten, 20 years, liberal feminism has become more mainstream. We need to go back to very important issues like free universal childcare.&nbsp;It's important to join the battle of women's domestic labour organisations. For example there's an <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/25/lse-striking-cleaners-outsourced-university-injustice">ongoing struggle</a> by cleaners at the London School of Economics, many of whom are female migrant workers, fighting for recognition, against zero hours contracts.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>NSS: Your research also looks at the emphasis on motherhood in civic integration programmes, and how this relates to essentialist ideas around the woman as the bearer of culture.</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Naar.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A still from a Dutch government integration video."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Naar.jpg" alt="A still from a Dutch government integration video." title="A still from a Dutch government integration video." width="460" height="287" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A still from a Dutch government 'integration' video in which the ‘typical’ mother says: “If kids come from a good family in which they’ve been positively stimulated...they’ll be fine whatever happens.” </span></span></span>SF: This is one of the biggest contradictions of these civic integration programmes: there’s so much emphasis on teaching Muslim migrant communities women's rights, and feminist ideas, but then these programmes contain rather traditional ideas around women as fundamentally mothers.&nbsp;In the Netherlands, they even ask women to demonstrate that they are engaging in the process of proper motherhood – they need to take an exam, in which they answer questions about Dutch models of motherhood and parenthood. They need to bring in evidence of their efforts, for example that they went to meet their children's teacher, that they maybe did some volunteering work. There is a huge emphasis on women as the mothers of the future generation. They need to be culturally assimilated to western values in order to transmit them.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>NSS: What if, for fear of demonising Muslim men, or contributing to anti-Islam agendas, things swing in the opposite direction and efforts to support and empower Muslim migrant women are rolled back? Is that a risk?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">SF: This is a classical dilemma, when anti-sexism is played out against anti-racism. It’s something Black feminists in the US wrote a lot about in the 1960s and 1970s and continue to debate: how can we denounce sexism in our communities, when we know that could then be used to attack Black men? There is no easy answer. We need to support in every way the possibility for women of any community to denounce sexism wherever it presents itself. The question we should ask is: are we really enabling this? How can we support the struggle of these women, in this context of incredibly harsh and rising Islamophobia? The struggle against racism and sexism must go hand in hand. </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/lea-sitkin/neoliberal-feminism">It&#039;s up to you: why neoliberal feminism isn&#039;t feminism at all</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 class="field-item even"> France </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Netherlands </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 Netherlands France Italy 50.50 Gender Politics Religion women and power feminism 50.50 newsletter Niki Seth-Smith Thu, 13 Jul 2017 11:08:52 +0000 Niki Seth-Smith 111804 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Horn of Africa: there are no quick fixes in ‘countering violent extremism’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/hala-alkarib/horn-of-africa-countering-violent-extremism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Normal1">An effective response to violence and harmful ideologies is important. But projects are failing to adequately engage with root causes.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Normal1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Hargesa road-Hala.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Hargeisa. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Hargesa road-Hala.jpg" alt="A road in Hargeisa." title="Hargeisa. " width="460" height="316" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A road in Hargeisa. Photo: Hala Alkarib.</span></span></span><span>Since 9/11, western countries have increasingly invested in programmes to prevent transnational violent extremism. These include serious militarised measures but also “softer” civic interventions under the banner of ‘countering violent extremism’ (CVE). An example is funding social development programmes, implemented by civil society, with the aim of engaging and deterring individuals and communities from “radicalisation”.</span></p> <p class="Normal1"><span>An effective response to militant Islamist violence, threats, and underlying ideologies, is extremely important. But in</span><strong> </strong><span>the Horn of Africa,</span><strong> </strong><span>CVE programmes have failed to adequately engage with root causes of religious extremism.</span></p> <p class="Normal1"><span>In some cases they have failed so miserably that we must ask: to what extent are they actually genuine efforts to address violence and militancy? Are they merely superficial gestures? And how did such a complex issue become the additional burden of NGOs already struggling with layers of </span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/23/muslim-human-rights-group-accuses-kenyan-government-of-harassment">political and legal restrictions</a><span> and limited capacity?</span></p><p class="Normal1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IDPs women Somaliland -Hala.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Displaced women in Somaliland. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IDPs women Somaliland -Hala.jpg" alt="Displaced women in Somaliland. " title="Displaced women in Somaliland. " width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Displaced women in Somaliland. Photo: Hala Alkarib.</span></span></span><span>“The flame only burns those who touch it” is a Sudanese saying that resonates today. Religious militancy is not a new phenomenon in the Horn of Africa. People have lived through this fire for the past 30 years. In Somalia, thousands have been killed as a result of the brutal Al Shabaab insurgency which has lured Muslim youth towards militancy by exploiting community vulnerabilities including poverty.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Normal1"><span>In this region, religious militancy often disguises itself as an ideology for resistance against state corruption, ethnic and cultural biases. Meanwhile, counter-terror programmes often ally themselves with the same corrupt regimes. The west considers Sudan, for instance, a </span><a href="http://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/civil-society-statement-push-factors-sudan-and-khartoum-process">collaborative partner</a><span> – though it is itself an incubator of religious militancy as a result of repressive policies and laws.</span></p> <p class="Normal1"><span>Indeed, CVE programming has fallen far short of the mark – conceptually and in implementation. Even the language used is deeply problematic. </span><span><a href="https://www.un.org/counterterrorism/ctitf/en/plan-action-prevent-violent-extremism">Measures to prevent violent extremism</a></span><span> is vague and ambiguous.</span></p> <p class="Normal1"><span>CVE programmes are clearly supposed to be ‘soft power’ projects in parallel to military counter-terror interventions. But: what exactly do they mean by “violent extremism”? Is extremism acceptable if it is not violent? At what measureable point does an ideology become ‘extreme’? What countermeasures are acceptable?</span></p> <p class="Normal1"><span>And: Are these projects specifically focused on Islamic religious militancy, or violence based on other religions and ideologies as well?</span></p> <p class="Normal1"><span class="mag-quote-center">Religious militancy often disguises itself as an ideology for resistance against state corruption, ethnic and cultural biases.</span></p><p class="Normal1">These programmes have also been overly simplistic, largely ignoring driving factors of militancy and violence including injustices inflicted upon the region’s population. The – largely flawed – operating assumption is that providing grants to NGOs to undertake development-style programming will lead to a shift in communities’ social identities, or erase those inequalities and injustices. </p> <p class="Normal1"><span>Last year, the International Organisation for Migration launched a call for proposals on CVE stating that it intended to provide “</span><span>small and quick impact support </span><span>that capitalises on community driven interventions aimed at mitigating risk factors that contribute towards violent extremism. These will be preceded by interactive and participatory community consultations.”</span></p> <p class="Normal1"><span>But how can we think that transforming and influencing social and cultural identity can be accomplished through “small and quick impact support”?</span></p> <p class="Normal1"><span>Since the First World War, British and French colonial governments, and later the US government, helped cement political Islam and its organisations as buffers against Soviet Union’s expansion and to counter socialism’s influences in their quest for absolute control over Middle Eastern oil and gas.</span></p> <p class="Normal1"><span>Today states such as Saudi Arabia and Iran stress that Islam has only specific veiled versions, of which they are the vanguards. Supposedly, Muslims all over the world must be either Shia like in Iran or Sunni Salafi like in Saudi Arabia.</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">The Islamic faith also has a rich heritage of reform and transformative discourse.</p> <p class="Normal1">But, like other religions Islam is very diverse. Peoples’ experiences with it vary based on their specific historical and cultural contexts and perceptions<strong>. </strong>The Islamic faith also has a rich heritage of reform and transformative discourse, which can be used to facilitate persuasive transition in communities using their own religious guidance. </p> <p class="Normal1"><span>The Horn of Africa – which includes Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti – is close to the Arab Gulf region and thus it has been largely influenced by Salafi religious militancy ideology.</span></p> <p class="Normal1"><span>Here, the challenging religious context is further compounded by the complexity of social identity. Universal citizenship is not affirmed or applied by all states, to the disadvantage of minorities. Often, ethnic and religious affiliations also shape identity – as well as access to resources and services.</span></p> <p class="Normal1"><span>I recently heard the story of a donor-funded CVE project in the coastal areas of Kenya, which shows what’s at stake when NGOs, following donor agenda, forget that social and cultural change requires great effort, knowledge, and community ownership.</span></p> <p class="Normal1"><span>This project had proposed removing all references to </span><em>jihad</em><span> in the Qur’an in Islamic religion classes for “Madrassa” children – provoking anger and revolt from the local community over the presumption that it could intervene in matters of religious identity like this, amending and censoring materials.&nbsp;</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">Pursuing social transformation requires focusing on, and investing in, civil movements from within.</p> <p class="Normal1">Years of experience challenging religious militancy and its impact on women has taught me that pursuing any form of social transformation requires focusing on, and investing in, civil movements from within. It is the role of people living in regions where militant Islam is rife to lead and decide on the best approach to countering it. </p> <p class="Normal1"><span>Trying to address injustices suffered under militant Islamists requires meticulous and tireless work – but it is one of the most effective approaches.</span></p> <p class="Normal1"><span>Women’s movements have also been negotiating and challenging discrimination within different sects of Islamic traditions, text and jurisprudence</span><a href="http://www.islamandfeminism.org/amina-wadud.html">. Academic Amina Wadud</a><span> has contributed to a feminist reading of Quranic text based on equality and justice which counter to traditional and militant readings. Addressing religious militancy’s impacts and drivers is also a core priority of the </span><a href="http://www.sihanet.org/">SIHA Horn of Africa women’s network</a><span>.</span></p> <p class="Normal1"><span>This approach must be adopted by political parties too and be connected to wider struggles for democracy, freedom of belief, equality and justice. Unfortunately, most CVE programmes and other counter terrorism strategies can only be characterised as pursuing ‘quick-fixes’ and short-sighted and short-term gains.</span></p> <p class="Normal1"><span>Communities in the Horn of Africa must look inside rather than outside for solutions.&nbsp;</span><span>Within civil society, we must tackle prohibitions and fear of debate and critical engagement with Islam. Internationally, we need a new agenda, centred on liberation, to support movements relevant to the communities most affected by violent extremism.</span></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Somalia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Sudan </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Kenya </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ethiopia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Uganda </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 Uganda Ethiopia Kenya Sudan Somalia Civil society Conflict 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Gender Politics Religion women and power fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Hala al-Karib Tue, 11 Jul 2017 10:35:10 +0000 Hala al-Karib 112025 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A fatwa against sexual violence: the story of a historic congress of female Islamic scholars https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mirjam-k-nkler-eva-nisa/fatwa-sexual-violence-women-Islamic-scholars <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Can women interpret Islamic law? Scholars who think so recently gathered in Indonesia, where fatwas were also issued against child marriage and environmental degradation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_3081(1).JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="One of the religious deliberation sessions."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_3081(1).JPG" alt="One of the religious deliberation sessions." title="One of the religious deliberation sessions." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>One of the religious deliberation sessions. Photo: Dr Nur Rofiah. </span></span></span>Can women interpret Islamic law? This question would have been a ‘no-brainer’ to a Muslim from Damascus in the 12th century, when <a href="http://www.markuswiener.com/books/women-in-the-islamic-world-women-in-the-islamic-world-from-earliest-times-to-the-arab-spring/">women served as renowned teachers of the Islamic tradition,</a> and the opinions of <a href="http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-women-and-islamic-cultures/legal-and-jurisprudential-literature-9th-to-15th-century-EWICSIM_0006">women jurists</a> on questions of Islamic law carried weight comparable to that of male jurists. </p><p dir="ltr">Yet, if one asks a Muslim today: have you ever asked a woman for an interpretation of Islamic law?, the answer from Dakar to Dhaka, from Sarajevo to Cape Town, from Jakarta to Ann Arbor will usually be “no”. </p><p dir="ltr">Women are not asked to interpret Islamic law, and few expect them to do so. Very often, this is because <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10357823.2016.1227300">women are not sufficiently trained for this work. If they are, they tend to be consulted only on so-called ‘women’s issues’</a> such as child rearing, a wife’s duties towards her husband and towards others in the family, household organisation, and hygiene.</p><p dir="ltr">In recent years, however, Muslims in different parts of the world have started to address gender imbalances in juristic expertise. In India, Turkey and Morocco, programs have been set up to train women as <em>muftis</em> (jurists who can issue fatwas or expert legal opinions). Judicial bureaucracies in <a href="http://www.sistersinislam.org.my/files/downloads/women_as_judges_final.pdf">Malaysia</a> and the <a href="http://www.wluml.org/node/5082">Palestinian Authority </a>have begun to hire female judges in their sharia courts. </p><p dir="ltr">Recently, Indonesian organisations also joined forces to convene the <a href="https://kupi-cirebon.net">Muslim world’s first congress </a>of <em>ulama perempuan</em>: women Islamic scholars. </p><p dir="ltr">This historic event, held in late April in Cirebon, West Java, was nothing short of a breakthrough in terms of re-establishing the long-lost juristic authority of women to produce Islamic legal recommendations and rulings. It concluded with the issuance of three historic fatwas – against sexual violence, child marriage, and environmental degradation exacerbating gender inequality. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Between us, we have studied Islamic authority and gender for decades. We interviewed several of the women scholars, as well as some of the male attendees, involved in the event to learn more about it and the deliberations process. We have also been able to analyse some of the copious explanatory material issued by the congress.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">It was nothing short of a breakthrough in terms of re-establishing women's juristic authority </p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref:oiso/9780199764464.001.0001/acref-9780199764464-e-0305?rskey=LwB68C&amp;result=213">Women’s juristic authority</a> was squarely on the agenda. Such authority can manifest itself in Islam in several ways including by leading prayer, reciting the Qur’an, delivering a sermon, transmitting a hadith (a saying of the prophet). The pinnacle of this authority is the ability to interpret Islamic sources to make recommendations of behaviour in the here and now. </p><p dir="ltr">In most contemporary Muslim societies, this is exercised in two main ways. The first is by issuing fatwas. These are legal recommendations based typically on interpretations of the Qur’an and hadith. (Different sects in Islam regard different hadiths as authentic, and therefore the specific source material differs from sect to sect.) </p><p dir="ltr">A person trained to issue a fatwa is called a <em>mufti</em>, with the feminine form in Arabic <em>muftiya</em>. Fatwas are only recommendations and they are not binding. But they can carry great weight. In some countries, <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1884209">policy makers take fatwas of leading Islamic authorities into account</a> when, for example, considering reforms to family law, inheritance, Islamic finance or food and medicines regulations. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The second way this authority is exercised is by serving as a judge in an Islamic court. This requires deep engagement and expertise interpreting religious sources, and the needed erudition and experience can take decades of study and training to acquire. </p><p dir="ltr">In Indonesia, for instance, family courts for the Muslim majority apply Islamic law (non-Muslims are subject to civil family law). Since the 1950s, judges for these courts have been trained in the country’s Islamic state institutes. </p><p dir="ltr">Although female judges of Islamic law were unheard of at the time – and remain a minority – admission to these institutes was not restricted to men. <a href="http://www.aljamiah.or.id/index.php/AJIS/article/view/159">And so women also completed this advanced training and, from the 1960s, some have been appointed judges in Indonesia’s Islamic courts</a>. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_3079.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Women ulama visit the Indonesian minister of religious affairs before the congress."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_3079.JPG" alt="Women ulama visit the Indonesian minister of religious affairs before the congress. " title="Women ulama visit the Indonesian minister of religious affairs before the congress." width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women ulama visit the Indonesian minister of religious affairs before the congress. Photo: Dr Nur Rofiah.</span></span></span>In 1970, Sudan also appointed women as judges in courts applying what’s known as “non-codified” Islamic law (under which judges must interpret original sources, as there is no codified text issued by the state, like a statute or book of law). </p><p dir="ltr">However, it would take another 35 years before women would be appointed to Islamic courts in other countries. Malaysia did so in 2005, the Palestinian Authority in 2009, and <a href="http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/1.785991">Israel just a few months ago appointed the first woman judge to its Islamic courts</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The congress in Indonesia aimed to raise awareness about these developments and strengthen local initiatives to promote women’s juristic authority in Islam. Importantly, it showed that it’s not only women who stand behind this struggle. Male scholars, while a minority, were also among the speakers and attendees. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">It’s not only women who stand behind this struggle. Male scholars were also at the congress.&nbsp; </span>At the congress’s core was “<em>musyawarah keagamaan</em>” (religious deliberation) to formulate fatwas. In many Muslim countries fatwas are associated with individual Islamic leaders, but <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/30119298?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents">Indonesia has a long tradition of fatwas</a> issued by Islamic institutions’ ‘fatwa commissions.’</p><p dir="ltr">The women <em>ulama</em> at the congress issued three <a href="https://kupi-cirebon.net/musyawarah-keagamaan/">fatwas</a>. This in itself was historic as fatwa issuing has long been monopolised by male clerics. (There are, for example, only seven women ulama out of 67 members of the fatwa commission of Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) – a prominent Islamic organisation, set up by the government in the 1970s).</p><p dir="ltr">The first fatwa issued focused on sexual violence. It emphasises that such violence including within marriage (marital rape) is forbidden under Islamic law (<em>haram</em>). It also distinguishes <em>zina </em>(adultery and fornication) from rape. It emphasises that victims must receive psychological, physical and social support – not punishment.</p><p dir="ltr">The second fatwa concerns child marriage. It says these practices bring harm (<em>mudarat</em>) to society. The <em>ulama</em>’s accompanying commentary calls for raising the Indonesian legal marriage age for girls from 16 to 18 years. Importantly, as most child marriages are not registered with the state in the first place, the fatwa also tells ordinary Muslims and imams that it is obligatory (<em>wajib</em>) to prevent them. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The third fatwa links environmental destruction and social inequality. It describes environmental degradation for economic gain as <em>haram</em> and says it has in recent decades in Indonesia exacerbated economic disparity with women the most affected. It notes how drought, for example, adds to the burdens of rural women typically responsible for preparing food and fetching water. </p><p dir="ltr">Participants told us that deliberations on this fatwa also touched on issues of land and forest governance, and how deforestation affects women in particular. It demanded that the Indonesian government should impose strict punishments on perpetrators of environmental destruction. Among other things, the discussion noted illegal deforestation campaigns in Indonesia to make space for vast palm oil plantations.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Like the best judges in any society, the women <em>ulama</em> are also experts in diverse contemporary issues. </p><p dir="ltr">The women <em>ulama</em> based their religious interpretations on four sources: the verses of the Qur’an, hadith, <em>aqwal ‘ulama</em> (views of religious scholars), and the Indonesian constitution. They used a methodology called “unrestricted reasoning” (<em>istidlal</em>), with stated aims to maximise <em>maslaha</em> (public interest) and reduce <em>mudarat</em> (harm) to arrive at rulings. </p><p dir="ltr">The three fatwas show that women <em>ulama</em> also have the ability and the expertise in Islamic sources to formulate these recommendations. They also show that the <em>ulama perempuan</em> do not restrict themselves to the Qur’an, hadith, other classical Islamic texts, and talking about the past. Like the best judges in any society, they are also experts in diverse contemporary issues. </p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, Nur Rofi’ah, an expert in Qur’anic and gender studies who took part in the congress, told us that it produced more than fatwas, which usually consist of only a few pages of argumentation. The congress considered a larger range of sources during its deliberations, including evidence of conditions and challenges faced by women. It also produced far longer and more in-depth textual explanations.</p><p dir="ltr">Some Indonesian gender rights activists, and Indonesian fatwa committees themselves, use the term <em>sikap keagamaan</em> (religious views) for recommendations that come out of this more complex deliberation process and outcome. </p><p dir="ltr">But whether one calls these fatwas or <em>sikap keagamaan</em>, their significance was clear: This congress was a historic step towards reestablishing the long-lost juristic authority of women to produce Islamic legal recommendations and rulings.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Indonesia </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 Indonesia 50.50 Gender Politics Religion women and power Sexual violence gender 50.50 newsletter Eva Nisa Mirjam Künkler Mon, 26 Jun 2017 14:01:49 +0000 Mirjam Künkler and Eva Nisa 111775 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Abortire in Italia: come l'obiezione di coscienza è diventata una minaccia per i diritti e la salute delle donne https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claudia-torrisi/aborto-italia-obiezione-di-coscienza <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Quasi 40 anni dopo la legalizzazione dell'aborto – tra proteste e movimenti di liberazione culturale – le donne faticano ancora ad accedere ai servizi essenziali. <em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claudia-torrisi/abortion-italy-conscientious-objection"><strong>Read this article in </strong></a><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claudia-torrisi/abortion-italy-conscientious-objection">English</a>.</strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/CT1_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Piazza San Pietro nella città del Vaticano."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/CT1_0.jpg" alt="Piazza San Pietro nella città del Vaticano." title="Piazza San Pietro nella città del Vaticano." width="460" height="287" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Piazza San Pietro nella città del Vaticano. Foto: Evandro Inetti/PA Images. Tutti i diritti riservati. </span></span></span>Laura è di Napoli e ha scelto di interrompere la gravidanza il 6 giugno 2008. Al figlio che stava aspettando era stata diagnosticata la sindrome di down: “Ero alla ventunesima settimana di gravidanza, e ho preso questa decisione,” spiega.</p><p dir="ltr">Al mattino presto è stata ricoverata all'ospedale suggeritole dal suo ginecologo, dove le è stato indotto il travaglio. Ma “il reparto per le interruzioni di gravidanza stava aperto solo per mezza giornata, a causa della mancanza di ginecologi disponibili,” racconta. </p><p dir="ltr">“Alle 13 sono stata spostata al reparto maternità. Sono rimasta circa 24 ore circondata da donne che stavano partorendo e medici obiettori di coscienza che non si sono presi cura di me.”</p><p dir="ltr">Laura è stata lasciata da sola: nessuno ha monitorato la sua perdita di sangue o la sua dilatazione, nessuno le ha alleviato il dolore o le ha dato informazioni. “Ho espulso il feto alle 9 del mattino [del giorno dopo]. Ero da sola, il cordone ombelicale era ancora attaccato al mio corpo. Ho dovuto gridare per chiamare un dottore,” mi spiega.</p><p dir="ltr">Ilaria si è rivolta a un ospedale di Roma quattro anni dopo, il 10 giugno 2012. Era alla 24esima settimana di gravidanza, e il feto era affetto da un esteso linfangioma (una malformazione congenita del sistema linfatico). Dottori e specialisti le avevano consigliato di abortire; anche se la bambina fosse sopravvissuta, la salute della madre sarebbe stata comunque a rischio.</p><p dir="ltr">“Alle 5 del pomeriggio un'infermiera mi ha applicato un catetere venoso, poi è andata via. La ginecologa è arrivata tre ore dopo per indurre il travaglio. Io piangevo, ma la dottoressa mi ha guardata a stento,” racconta la donna. In seguito ha scoperto che quella ginecologa era l'unica in tutto l'ospedale a effettuare aborti. </p><p dir="ltr">Ilaria stava male: “Ho urlato e vomitato ripetutamente, ma non è arrivato nessuno. Alle 3:30 del mattino le infermiere mi hanno portata nella sala parto, dove un'ostetrica mi ha visitata senza dire una parola. Lo stesso hanno fatto tutti coloro che sono entrati nella stanza nelle ore successive. Intanto io continuavo a piangere.” </p><p dir="ltr">Alle 6 del mattino Ilaria ha espulso il feto. Come Laura, era da sola, e ha dovuto suonare un campanello per chiamare qualcuno. In seguito la donna racconta di aver avuto capogiri, vertigini e difficoltà a respirare. Ma i dottori l’hanno mandato a casa dicendo che “avevano cose più serie di cui occuparsi e avevano bisogno del lettino.” </p><p dir="ltr">Laura ha scritto della sua esperienza in <a href="https://tempestaeditore.it/shop/tempesta-laica/abortire-tra-gli-obiettori/">un libro pubblicato nel 2012</a>. “Le donne hanno bisogno di sapere. Quando ho deciso di abortire, ignoravo tante cose. Ho scritto quello che ho vissuto, e diverse donne mi hanno poi contattata dicendo che avevano avuto storie simili,” mi dice.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Sette ginecologi italiani su dieci sono obiettori di coscienza”</p><p dir="ltr">L'aborto è stato legalizzato in Italia quasi 40 anni fa – nel 1978, con la legge 194 che permette alle donne l’interruzione volontaria di gravidanza [IVG] nel primo trimestre, e dopo 90 giorni solo se c’è un rischio per la vita o la salute della madre o se ci sono gravi patologie del feto. </p><p dir="ltr">Questa legge è stata approvata dopo proteste e un ampio movimento per il diritto di scelta. Ma oggi, in diverse aree del paese, le donne faticano ancora ad accedere a servizi che sono un loro diritto. </p><p dir="ltr">Secondo la legge 194, medici, infermieri, anestesisti e altri assistenti possono dichiararsi obiettori di coscienza ed essenzialmente rifiutarsi di fare aborti. E tanti lo fanno.</p><p dir="ltr">I <a href="http://www.salute.gov.it/imgs/C_17_pubblicazioni_2552_allegato.pdf">dati raccolti annualmente dal Ministero della Salute</a> mostrano come sette ginecologi italiani su dieci siano obiettori di coscienza. </p><p dir="ltr">In alcune regioni, questa cifra è ancora maggiore. In Molise, per esempio, è obiettore un incredibile 93% dei ginecologi. Sicilia e Lazio sono fra le regioni dove questa percentuale supera l’80%. </p><p dir="ltr">In generale solo il 60% degli ospedali italiani offre i servizi di interruzioni di gravidanza. Nonostante questi numeri, <a href="http://www.salute.gov.it/imgs/C_17_pubblicazioni_2552_allegato.pdf">verso la fine del 2016 il Ministero della Salute ha detto</a> che“riguardo l’esercizio dell’obiezioni di coscienza...non emergono criticità nei servizi.” </p><p dir="ltr">Silvana Agatone, ginecologa e fondatrice della <a href="http://www.laiga.it/index.php">LAIGA</a>, associazione di medici non-obiettori, mi dice che la legge 194 prevede espressamente che gli ospedali debbano fornire i servizi di aborto sia nel primo trimestre che dopo. </p><p dir="ltr">Però, “i medici che fanno gli aborti oltre il primo trimestre sono davvero pochi,” spiega la dottoressa, citando come esempio il caso del Lazio, dove tutti e sette i dottori che fanno aborti dopo i primi 90 giorni si trovano a Roma.</p><p dir="ltr">“Nelle altre città della regione – Rieti, Frosinone, Latina, Viterbo – le donne non hanno accesso a questo servizio. E questi centri stanno perdendo anche gli aborti entro i primi 90 giorni, a causa della crescente obiezione di coscienza. È un fatto molto grave,” dice Agatone.</p><p dir="ltr">L’anno scorso il <a href="http://www.repubblica.it/salute/2016/04/11/news/aborto_consiglio_europa_bacchetta_italia_non_obiettori_discriminati_-137363379/">comitato dei diritti sociali del Consiglio d'Europa</a> ha detto che in Italia i diritti delle donne vengono violati a causa della diffusa obiezione di coscienza che limita l’accesso ai servizi di interruzione volontaria di gravidanza. </p><p dir="ltr">I medici non obiettori, invece, affrontano discriminazioni e “diversi tipi di svantaggi lavorativi diretti e indiretti,” ha aggiunto il comitato. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Ecco la sua diagnosi prenatale. Se vuole abortire vada da un'altra parte.”</p><p dir="ltr">Nel 2013, Carla (nome di fantasia) aveva 21 anni e non si sentiva pronta per diventare madre. “Ho deciso immediatamente,” dice, riguardo la sua scelta di terminare la gravidanza nel primo trimestre. “Ma non potevo immaginare che sarebbe stato così difficile.”</p><p dir="ltr">Carla ha chiamato un ospedale di Roma, dove le hanno detto di presentarsi lì “al mattino molto presto.” Mi dice che è arrivata lì alle 6, in un reparto che si trovava in un sottoscala, “come se ci fosse qualcosa da nascondere.”</p><p dir="ltr">Non era da sola: “C'era una fila di donne in attesa, alcune di loro erano lì dalle 4 del mattino. Il reparto apriva alle 9, e solo per cinque o dieci di noi ci sarebbe stata la possibilità di accedere al servizio quel giorno. Io ho dovuto provare in un’altra struttura.”</p><p dir="ltr">Per gli aborti nei primi 90 giorni, gli ospedali possono chiamare ginecologi da fuori. Per le donne che chiedono “aborti terapeutici” (dopo il primo trimestre, come nelle storie di Laura e Ilaria), invece, il medico deve fare parte dello staff dell'ospedale, poiché questo tipo comporta l’induzione di una sorta di travaglio. In questi casi, l'obiezione di coscienza diventa un problema più grosso.</p><p dir="ltr">Intanto, il numero di centri di diagnosi prenatale continua a crescere, anche negli ospedali cattolici. “Le strutture religiose si rifiutano di fare aborti,” spiega Agatone, secondo cui, in sostanza, queste strutture dicono alle donne: “Qui c'è la sua diagnosi prenatale. Se vuole abortire vada da un'altra parte.”</p><p dir="ltr">Cosa fanno le donne? Molte sono costrette a migrare finché non trovano un ospedale dove riescono ad accedere ai servizi di cui hanno bisogno. “A volte devono recarsi in un'altra città o in un'altra regione. Talvolta vanno all'estero,” dice. </p><p dir="ltr">Il Ministero della Salute ha detto che in generale in Italia <a href="http://www.salute.gov.it/imgs/C_17_pubblicazioni_2552_allegato.pdf">il numero di aborti è diminuito</a>. Ma secondo Agatone questo dato ignora questioni cruciali.</p><p dir="ltr">“Quante donne chiedono di abortire? Non lo sappiamo. Quando le donne non riescono ad accedere all'IVG in Italia, provano all'estero o illegalmente. Sappiamo di donne che si sono provocate tramite farmaci degli aborti spontanei,” spiega.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Perché tutti questi obiettori di coscienza?</p><p dir="ltr">Maurizio Silvestri è un ginecologo dell'ospedale di Spoleto, una piccola città dell’Umbria. È stato obiettore di coscienza per quasi tutta la sua carriera, ma recentemente ha cambiato idea. </p><p dir="ltr">“Credo che il legislatore nel 1978 non avesse potuto prevedere questa epidemia di obiezione di coscienza,” mi dice. </p><p dir="ltr">“Nell'ospedale di Spoleto - spiega il dottore - c'è sempre stato qualcuno disponibile [a fare aborti]. Questo mi ha consentito di fare un passo indietro. Se non sei obbligato a fare aborti, non li fai: ti metti da parte e guardi le cose dalla finestra.” </p><p dir="ltr">Tre mesi fa, Silvestri ha ritirato la sua obiezione: “Sono certo che quando sarò chiamato a fare un'IVG – non è ancora successo – starò male. Ma so che mi sentirei peggio se sapessi che una donna è morta per aborto clandestino perché non ha trovato un ginecologo disposto a interrompere la sua gravidanza in ospedale,” spiega.</p><p dir="ltr">“Credo che l'embrione sia una vita? Sì, ma anche la donna lo è. Per di più l'aborto è consentito dalla legge, e questo dobbiamo rispettarlo,” dice il medico.</p><p dir="ltr">Questa prospettiva – e il cambiamento di posizione del dottor Silvestri – però, non è comune. </p><p dir="ltr">La presenza del Vaticano al centro di Roma ha sempre influenzato la politica italiana e il dibattito pubblico. L'opposizione della Chiesa cattolica all'aborto ha alimentato lo stigma verso questi servizi e verso le donne che chiedono di accedervi. </p><p dir="ltr">Nel 2016, Papa Francesco ha <a href="http://www.ansa.it/english/news/2016/04/08/no-to-abortion-and-euthanasia-says-pope_ba3b2370-bd2e-43a6-9175-561afdd8307e.html">riaffermato</a> la posizione del Vaticano, sostenendo l'obiezione di coscienza da parte dei medici: “La famiglia protegge la vita a ogni stadio...Ricordiamo a coloro che lavorano nella sanità il loro dovere morale a esercitare l'obiezione di coscienza,” ha detto.</p><p dir="ltr">Quest’anno, Nicola Zingaretti, presidente della regione Lazio, <a href="http://roma.repubblica.it/cronaca/2017/02/22/news/aborto_il_lazio_assume_ginecologi_non_obiettori_rischio_licenziamento_se_dovessero_rifiutarsi_-158890433/?ref=HREC1-2">ha emesso un bando</a> per l'assunzione di due ginecologi all'ospedale San Camillo di Roma, specificando che era rivolto esclusivamente a medici <a href="http://roma.repubblica.it/cronaca/2017/02/22/news/aborto_il_lazio_assume_ginecologi_non_obiettori_rischio_licenziamento_se_dovessero_rifiutarsi_-158890433/">non obiettori di coscienza</a>. </p><p>La decisione ha generato polemiche e riaperto il dibattito sui media sulla legge 194. La Conferenza episcopale italiana <a href="http://www.repubblica.it/salute/2017/02/22/news/s_camillo_cei_obiezione_e_diritto_snaturata_194-158929177/">ha detto</a> che il proposito di Zingaretti “impedisce l'obiezione di coscienza” e “snatura l'impianto della legge 194 che non aveva l'obiettivo di indurre all'aborto ma di prevenirlo.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/CT2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Marcia per la vita a Roma"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/CT2.jpg" alt="Marcia per la vita a Roma." title="Marcia per la vita a Roma" width="460" height="337" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Marcia per la vita a Roma. Foto: Claudia Torrisi. </span></span></span>Nel 2015, un <a href="https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/2016-06/047.2-G@-Abortion-july-2015.pdf">sondaggio condotto da Ipsos</a> ha rilevato che circa il 15% degli italiani intervistati ritiene che l'aborto non dovrebbe essere mai consentito o dovrebbe essere permesso quando esiste un pericolo di vita per la madre. La percentuale era dell’1% in Svezia, 3% in Francia, 5% in Inghilterra e 6% in Germania. </p><p dir="ltr">Lo scorso mese, migliaia di attivisti contro l'aborto hanno partecipato alla “<a href="http://www.marciaperlavita.it/">Marcia per la Vita</a>” a Roma. Organizzata da un network di associazioni pro-life, la manifestazione era alla sua settima edizione dal 2011. </p><p dir="ltr">Alcune organizzazioni cattoliche come <a href="https://www.facebook.com/miliziachristi/">Militia Christi</a> e <a href="http://www.generazionefamiglia.it/">Generazione Famiglia</a>, e formazioni politiche di destra – tra cui <a href="http://noiconsalvini.org/">Noi con Salvini</a>, Fratelli d’Italia, e il Movimento Nazionale per la Sovranità, fondato dall'ex sindaco di Roma Gianni Alemanno – hanno marciato per le strade portando cartelli e striscioni con frasi come “Scegli la vita” o “Stop aborto ora.”</p><p dir="ltr">Agatone però ritiene che la diffusa obiezione di coscienza in Italia abbia poco a che fare con credenze religiose o morali, e più con questioni legate alle carriere dei medici. </p><p dir="ltr">“I ginecologi non obiettori sono spesso visti come quelli 'sporchi', a volte vengono isolati dai colleghi,” dice. “Tra l'altro, hanno più difficoltà nel progredire nelle loro carriere. La ragione è semplice: la maggior parte dei primari degli ospedali è composta da obiettori di coscienza, che per lo più vengono da scuole cattoliche. Quindi a loro volta tendono a preferire medici obiettori.”</p><p dir="ltr">Secondo Agatone, la situazione può anche peggiorare: “Le nuove generazioni sentono che è meglio essere obiettori, che è più facile. Pensano che ci sarà qualcun’altro a fare questo 'lavoro sporco' per loro. Ma il rischio è che presto non ci sarà proprio nessuno.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claudia-torrisi/abortion-italy-conscientious-objection">Abortion in Italy: how widespread &#039;conscientious objection&#039; threatens women’s health and rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/claudia-torrisi/italian-media-violence-against-women">Monsters, jealousy and “sick love” — how the Italian media covers violence against women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost/global-anti-abortion-lgbt-rights">&quot;This is a war&quot;: Inside the global &quot;pro-family&quot; movement against abortion and LGBT rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost/re-branding-hate-family-friendly">Re-branding hate?: ultra-conservative organising under a &quot;family-friendly&quot; banner</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-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 Tracking the backlash 50.50 Gender Politics Religion women's human rights women's health bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Claudia Torrisi Sat, 17 Jun 2017 10:01:11 +0000 Claudia Torrisi 111708 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Abortion in Italy: how widespread 'conscientious objection' threatens women’s health and rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claudia-torrisi/abortion-italy-conscientious-objection <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Almost 40 years after abortion was legalised – amid mass protests and a broader cultural liberation movement – women still struggle to access crucial services. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claudia-torrisi/aborto-italia-obiezione-di-coscienza"><em><strong>Leggi questo articolo in italiano.</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-31567989.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A mass in St. Peter&#039;s Square at the Vatican"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-31567989.jpg" alt="A mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican." title="A mass in St. Peter&#039;s Square at the Vatican" width="460" height="297" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. Photo: Evandro Inetti/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Laura, from Naples, decided to terminate her pregnancy on 6 June 2008. The baby she was expecting had been diagnosed with down syndrome, she explains. “I was 21 weeks into my pregnancy, and I took this decision.”</p><p dir="ltr">Early one morning, Laura went on her gynecologist’s recommendation to a hospital where she was admitted and labour was induced. But, she says, “the ward for abortions was open only half-day, because there weren't enough doctors available.” </p><p dir="ltr">“At 1pm I was moved to the maternity ward. I stayed there for about 24 hours surrounded by women who were giving birth and doctors who were conscientious objectors and didn't take care of me,” she says. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Laura was left alone: nobody was monitoring her blood loss or her dilation, nobody was easing her physical pain or giving her information. She tells me: “I expelled the fetus at 9am [the next morning]. I was alone, with the umbilical cord still attached to my body. I had to scream to call a doctor.”</p><p dir="ltr">Four years later, Ilaria went to a hospital in Rome on 10 June 2012. She was 24 weeks into her pregnancy and the fetus had an extended <a href="http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1086806-overview">lymphangioma</a> (a congenital malformation of the lymphatic system). Doctors and specialists recommended an abortion; even if the baby survived, her health was endangered too.</p><p dir="ltr">“At 5pm a nurse gave me an intravenous catheter, then she left the room. The gynecologist came three hours later to induce labour. I was crying, but the doctor barely looked at me,” Ilaria says. Later, she discovered that this was the only gynecologist who performed abortions in the whole hospital. </p><p dir="ltr">Ilaria was in pain: “I screamed and threw up repeatedly, but nobody came. At 3.30am the nurses took me to the delivery room, where an obstetrician visited me without saying a word. As did everyone who came in the following hours. Meanwhile, I was still crying.” </p><p dir="ltr">At 6am Ilaria expelled the fetus. Like Laura, she was alone and had to ring a bell to call someone. Afterwards, Ilaria says she experienced dizziness, vertigo and difficulties breathing. But she was sent home by doctors who said “they had more serious things to manage, and they needed the bed.”</p><p>Laura wrote about her experience in <a href="https://tempestaeditore.it/shop/tempesta-laica/abortire-tra-gli-obiettori/">a book published in Italian in 2012</a>. She tells me: “Women need to know. When I decided to have an abortion I didn't know a lot of things. I wrote down what I'd been through and lots of women contacted me saying they had similar stories.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Seven out of ten Italian gynecologists are conscientious objectors.</p><p dir="ltr">Abortion was legalised in Italy almost 40 years ago – in 1978, with <a href="http://www.salute.gov.it/imgs/C_17_normativa_845_allegato.pdf">a law</a> (known by its number, 194) that allows women to terminate pregnancies during the first trimester, and after 90 days only if the mother’s life or health is at risk or if there are serious fetal pathologies. </p><p dir="ltr">This law was passed off the back of mass protests and a broader cultural liberation movement which saw women take to the streets to demand the right to choose. But, today, women across the country still struggle to access the abortion services they are legally entitled to. </p><p dir="ltr">According to the 194 law, doctors, nurses, anesthetists and other assistants can declare themselves conscientious objectors and essentially refuse to perform abortions. And many do.</p><p dir="ltr">In fact, <a href="http://www.salute.gov.it/imgs/C_17_pubblicazioni_2552_allegato.pdf">data collected annually by the department of health</a> shows that as many as seven out of ten Italian gynecologists are conscientious objectors. </p><p dir="ltr">In some regions, this figure is even higher. In Molise (in central Italy), for example, an astonishing 93% of gynecologists are conscientious objectors. Sicily and Lazio (where Rome is) are among other regions where this number is also over 80%. </p><p dir="ltr">Across the country, the department of health says that only 60% of all hospitals offer abortion services. But, despite these numbers, <a href="http://www.salute.gov.it/imgs/C_17_pubblicazioni_2552_allegato.pdf">in late 2016 the department said</a>, “regarding the exercise of conscientious objection...there are no critical issues in [access to] services.”</p><p dir="ltr">Silvana Agatone, a gynecologist and founder of the <a href="http://www.laiga.it/">LAIGA</a> association of non-conscientious objectors, tells me the law clearly states that hospitals must provide abortion services, both during and after the first trimester. </p><p dir="ltr">But, she says, “doctors who do abortions after the first trimester are very few,” giving the example of Lazio, where all seven doctors providing later-term abortions are in Rome. </p><p dir="ltr">“In the other cities of the region – Rieti, Frosinone, Latina, Viterbo – women don't have access to this service. And these towns are losing abortion care in the first 90 days too, due to increasing conscientious objection. This is a very serious fact,” Agatone says.</p><p dir="ltr">Indeed, last year the <a href="http://uk.reuters.com/article/us-italy-abortion-idUKKCN0X820O">social rights committee of the Council of Europe</a> said women’s rights were being violated in Italy as a result of widespread conscientious objection limiting access to safe abortion services. </p><p dir="ltr">It added that doctors who do not object also face discrimination and “various types of direct and indirect labour disadvantages.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Here is your prenatal diagnosis. If you want an abortion, go elsewhere.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2013, Carla (a pseudonym) was 21 years old and didn't feel ready to be a mother. “I decided immediately,” she says, about her choice to terminate her pregnancy, in the first trimester. “But I couldn't have imagined that it would be so difficult.” </p><p dir="ltr">Carla called a hospital in Rome and was told to get there “very early in the morning.” She tells me she arrived at 6am and was sent to a ward in the basement, “like there was something to hide.”</p><p dir="ltr">She wasn't alone: “There was a line of women waiting, some of them had been there from 4am. The ward opened at 9am, and only for five or ten of us was there the possibility to access [abortion] services that day. I had to try another hospital.”</p><p dir="ltr">During the first 90 days, hospitals can call outside doctors to perform abortions. But, for women seeking “therapeutic abortions” (after the first trimester, as in Laura and Ilaria’s stories), the doctor must be a member of the hospital’s medical staff as labour must be induced. Here, conscientious objection becomes a bigger problem. </p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, the number of prenatal diagnosis centres is growing, even in Catholic hospitals. “Religious structures refuse to do abortions,” Agatone explains, and so they effectively tell women: “'Here is your prenatal diagnosis. If you want to an abortion, go somewhere else.”</p><p dir="ltr">What do women do? Many are forced to travel around until they find a hospital where they can access the services they need. “Sometimes they have to go to another city or to another region. Sometimes they go abroad,” says Agatone.</p><p dir="ltr">Overall, across Italy the health department has said that <a href="http://www.salute.gov.it/imgs/C_17_pubblicazioni_2552_allegato.pdf">the number of abortions is going down</a>. But Agatone says this fact alone ignores crucial questions.</p><p dir="ltr">She explains: “How many women ask for access to abortion care? We don't know. When women fail to get abortions in Italy, they try abroad or illegally. We know of women who have used pills to provoke miscarriages.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Why are there so many conscientious objectors?</p><p dir="ltr">Maurizio Silvestri is a gynecologist at a hospital in Spoleto, a small city in the central Umbria region. He was a conscientious objector for almost his entire career – but he recently changed his mind. </p><p dir="ltr">He tells me: “I think that the legislator in 1978 could not have foreseen this epidemic of conscientious objection.”</p><p dir="ltr">Silvestri explains: “In Spoleto's hospital there has always been someone available [to perform abortions]. This fact allowed me to step back. If you're not not obliged to do abortions, you do not: you stand back and just look at things through the window.”</p><p dir="ltr">Three months ago, he retired his objection. He says: “I am sure that when I will be called to do an abortion – it has not happened yet – I will feel bad. But I know I would feel worse if I knew that a woman had died from a clandestine abortion because she couldn't find a gynecologist available to end her pregnancy in hospital.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Do I think that an embryo is a life? Yes, but a woman is too. Moreover, abortion is allowed by law, and we have to respect that,” he says. </p><p dir="ltr">This perspective – and this change in Silvestri’s own position – isn't common, however. </p><p dir="ltr">The Vatican, located at the centre of Rome, has long influenced Italian politics and debates and the Catholic church’s opposition to abortion has increased stigma related to these services and women who ask for them.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2016, Pope Francis <a href="http://www.ansa.it/english/news/2016/04/08/no-to-abortion-and-euthanasia-says-pope_ba3b2370-bd2e-43a6-9175-561afdd8307e.html">reaffirmed </a>the Vatican's position and approved of conscientious objection by doctors. “The family protects life at every stage,” he said. “We remind those who work in health facilities of their moral duty to conscientious objection.”</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, Nicola Zingaretti, governor of Lazio, advertised jobs for two gynecologists to join the staff at the San Camillo Hospital in Rome, specifying that these positions were for doctors <a href="http://roma.repubblica.it/cronaca/2017/02/22/news/aborto_il_lazio_assume_ginecologi_non_obiettori_rischio_licenziamento_se_dovessero_rifiutarsi_-158890433/">who did not object to abortion</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">This was a controversial move and it reopened debate in the media on the 194 law. <a href="http://www.repubblica.it/salute/2017/02/22/news/s_camillo_cei_obiezione_e_diritto_snaturata_194-158929177/">The Italian Bishops' Conference</a> said that Zingaretti’s advertisement “inhibits conscientious objection” and “distorts the structure of the 194 law that didn't aim to induce abortion but to prevent it.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_2833.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="&quot;March for Life&quot; in Rome"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_2833.jpg" alt=""March for Life" in Rome" title="&quot;March for Life&quot; in Rome" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"March for Life" in Rome. Photo: Claudia Torrisi.</span></span></span>In 2015, an <a href="https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/2016-06/047.2-G%40-Abortion-july-2015.pdf">Ipsos public opinion survey</a> found that 15% of Italian respondents agreed that abortion should never be permitted or only when the mother’s life is in danger. In contrast, that percentage was 1% in Sweden, 3% in France, 5% in the UK and 6% in Germany.</p><p dir="ltr">Last month, thousands of anti-abortion activists joined a "<a href="http://www.marciaperlavita.it/">National March for Life</a>" in Rome. Organised by a network of pro-life associations, it was the seventh Italy has seen since 2011. </p><p dir="ltr">Fringe Catholic organisations with names like <a href="https://www.facebook.com/miliziachristi/">Militia Christi</a> and <a href="http://www.generazionefamiglia.it/">Generazione Famiglia</a>, and right-wing political groups – including <a href="http://noiconsalvini.org/">Noi con Salvini</a>, Fratelli d’Italia, and Movimento Nazionale per la Sovranità, founded by former mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno – took to the streets carrying signs and banners saying "Choose life" and "Stop abortion now.”</p><p dir="ltr">But Agatone suggests that widespread conscientious objection in Italy has little to do with religious or moral beliefs – and more to do with doctor's careers. </p><p dir="ltr">“Non-objector gynecologists are often seen as the 'dirty' ones, sometimes colleagues isolate them,” she says. “Moreover, they have more difficulties in advancing their career. The reason is simple: the majority of hospital directors are conscientious objectors, and they often come from religious schools. So in turn they tend to prefer doctors who are objectors.”</p><p dir="ltr">According to Agatone, the situation could indeed get worse. She says: “New generations feel that it is better to be objectors, that it's easier. They think that somebody else will do this 'dirty work' for them. But the risk is that soon there really will be nobody.” </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost/global-anti-abortion-lgbt-rights">&quot;This is a war&quot;: Inside the global &quot;pro-family&quot; movement against abortion and LGBT rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost/re-branding-hate-family-friendly">Re-branding hate?: ultra-conservative organising under a &quot;family-friendly&quot; banner</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claudia-torrisi/italian-media-violence-against-women">Monsters, jealousy and “sick love” — how the Italian media covers violence against women</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Italy </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Italy Tracking the backlash 50.50 Gender Politics Religion women's human rights women's health bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Claudia Torrisi Thu, 15 Jun 2017 12:40:05 +0000 Claudia Torrisi 111528 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Re-branding hate?: ultra-conservative organising under a "family-friendly" banner https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost/re-branding-hate-family-friendly <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">Diverse groups are joining international “pro-family” alliances. Their common cause? To block and roll back feminist and sexual rights gains. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_4377.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="World Congress of Families summit in Budapest. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_4377.jpg" alt="World Congress of Families summit in Budapest. Photo: Claire Provost." title="World Congress of Families summit in Budapest. " width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>World Congress of Families summit in Budapest. Photo: Claire Provost.</span></span></span>In a small meeting room, dozens of people are listening closely to speakers, from around the world, talk about how to craft “winning messages” and draw new supporters into causes that are often considered to be among the most divisive.&nbsp; </p><p class="normal">Activists, non-profit workers, and some politicians, take turns with the microphone, sharing their experiences of what has and hasn’t worked, opportunities and threats, fundraising challenges, and their passion for the work that they do.&nbsp; </p><p class="normal">On one hand, it feels familiar: I have covered international development and human rights as a journalist for years and I have been to meetings like this before. </p> <p class="normal">But this was different: a training session for “emerging leaders” in anti-abortion and anti-gay rights campaigns, at last month's <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost/global-anti-abortion-lgbt-rights">World Congress of Families (WCF) international summit in Budapest, Hungary</a>. At times, it felt like a boot camp on how to spin intolerance and re-brand hate with “positive images”. </p> <p class="normal">The summit itself was organised under the banner of “building family-friendly countries,” which may at first glance seem unobjectionable and even warm. But this is a deeply exclusionary movement that opposes all 'deviation' from its ideal family of a married man and woman and their (preferably many) children. </p> <p class="normal">In the US, the progressive think tank Political Research Associates has been tracking groups like the WCF for years. It calls the <a href="http://www.politicalresearch.org/tag/world-congress-of-families/#sthash.rcFDiM89.dpuf">“pro-family” rhetoric </a>“deceptive” and part of a campaign that has unleashed “a torrent of destructive anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ legislation, persecution, and violence around the world”. </p> <p class="normal">This agenda, it’s warned, “ultimately damages – and seeks to dismantle – any and all “nontraditional” families”.&nbsp; </p><p class="normal">But it seems to have been alarmingly effective, bringing diverse groups together in a conservative movement of movements, working at the international level and, likely, in your country as well. The WCF says it has a network of allies in at least 80 countries. </p><p> The “protection of the family” discourse was also highlighted in <a href="https://www.oursplatform.org/resource/rights-risk-trends-report-2017/">a report last month</a> from the new Observatory on the Universality of Rights – an initiative of more than a dozen women’s organisations – as “a key example of the religious right's move towards holistic and integrated advocacy, binding together disparate narratives, histories, themes, and rights-foci under a seemingly innocuous umbrella term”.</p><p dir="ltr">After all, how do you take a stance against “family”? </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“There’s a lot of holistic ultra-conservative organising...”</p><p class="normal">Naureen Shameem, working with the OURs initiative, said the religious right has, with notable success, developed complex yet coherent frameworks for alliances that have multiple components to them. </p> <p class="normal">“They basically do a lot of intersectional work,” she said, referring to the concept that has been key to progressive feminist and social justice organising for years.&nbsp; </p><p class="normal">Coined in the late 1980s by US scholar and civil rights activist Kimberlé Crenshaw, “intersectionality” sees identities and systems of oppression including racism, classism, and gender and sexuality-based discrimination as interconnected.&nbsp; </p><p class="normal">Understanding the multidimensional nature of injustices and inequalities should encourage broader coalition-based work – but realising the promise of this approach remains an ongoing challenge.&nbsp; </p><p class="normal">For instance, while the Women’s March, following the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, explicitly referenced intersectionality, “the experience was anything but,” according to Black Lives Matter organiser <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/befriending-becky-on-the-imperative-of-intersectional_us_58a339efe4b080bf74f04114">DiDi Delgado</a>.&nbsp; </p><p class="normal">She said it was “bittersweet for women of colour and trans women” and that, “for all its symbolism and potential, the Women’s March was largely a tightly packed shrine to alabaster skin and pink vulvas”.</p> <p class="normal">Surprisingly, perhaps, “there’s a lot of holistic ultra-conservative organising and concepts, like the protection of the family,” said Shameen. This discourse, she said, is “pretty savvy, because the language sounds quite friendly, because everyone in some sense has family relations and it can be a zone of love, though not always”. </p> <p>This is “really embedding all these patriarchal, heteronormative, regressive concepts in a package which sells very well,” she said.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p class="normal">Attendees at the WCF summit in Budapest included delegates from Russia and America, Poland and Hungary. There were priests and pastors, MPs and party officials, anti-abortion activists and campaigners against marriage equality for LGBT couples. </p><p class="normal">Speakers included a former Fox News producer from the US, an anti-abortion campaigner from Trinidad and Tobago, and a youth activist from Poland. A representative of the right-wing Lega Nord political party in Italy, infamous for its xenophobic rhetoric, spoke alongside participants from Nigeria and Kenya.&nbsp; </p><p class="normal">At one session, WCF president Brian Brown celebrated that “something new is happening”. He insisted: “what unites us is so fundamental...we have to be willing to speak together”.</p><p class="normal">At the international level including at the United Nations, the OURs report also documented alliances between “traditionalist actors from Catholic, Evangelical, Mormon, Russian Orthodox, and Muslim faith backgrounds” which it said have “found common cause in…attempting to revert feminist and sexual rights gains”.&nbsp; </p><p class="normal">Shameem said such alliances are now “not merely trying to block or undermine [such gains]...but also trying to embed a concept of human rights where rights move from the individual to powerful institutions like the traditional family”.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">“Disguising gender discrimination under an ideology of conservative family values...”</p> <p class="normal">Hungary’s right-wing government, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has taken up the “family-friendly” rhetoric with gusto.&nbsp; </p> <p class="normal">Language was also included in Hungary’s 2011 constitution to define marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman and to state that life begins at the moment of conception. The same year, images appeared plastered across the Budapest metro system depicting a fetus begging: "LET ME LIVE!" – part of a controversial government anti-abortion campaign using <a href="http://www.euractiv.com/justice/reding-demands-return-eu-funds-hungarian-anti-abortion-campaign-news-505684">European Union funding</a>. </p><p class="normal">Government schemes have also been set up to encourage large families in particular – including one<a href="http://www.kormany.hu/en/prime-minister-s-office/news/state-to-grant-huf-10-million-aid-to-couples-agreeing-to-have-three-children"> </a><a href="http://www.kormany.hu/en/prime-minister-s-office/news/state-to-grant-huf-10-million-aid-to-couples-agreeing-to-have-three-children">programme</a> that gives grants of 10 million forints ($35,076) to couples who agree to have three children in 10 years.</p> <p class="normal">Politicians at the highest levels have publicly made homophobic remarks – including the mayor of Budapest who reportedly called homosexuality “<a href="http://index.hu/belfold/2015/06/04/tarlos_a_pride_visszataszito/">unnatural and repulsive</a>”. At hostels in the city, visitors' guides warn of a “rather unprogressive... attitude towards the LGBT community. It is advisable to avoid public displays of affection”.</p> <p class="normal">Access to abortion, while legal, can be limited by “unnecessary waiting periods, hostile counselling or conscientious objection,” warned <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20027&amp;LangID=E">a UN working group on discrimination against women</a> in 2016. </p><p class="normal">This working group also <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20028&amp;LangID=E">called on the Hungarian government</a> “not to disguise gender discrimination under an ideology of conservative family values”. The group's chairperson said: "the pervasive and flagrant stereotyping of women, including by some political leaders...and the insistence on a woman’s role as primarily wife and mother, are extremely alarming”. </p><p> Indeed, the propaganda and public campaigns of conservative alliances around “the family” are something of a masterclass in 21st century political communications – a sharp-edged lesson on how language matters and, when combined with strategic action, how it can have dangerous real-world impacts. Watch this space.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost/global-anti-abortion-lgbt-rights">&quot;This is a war&quot;: Inside the global &quot;pro-family&quot; movement against abortion and LGBT 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> </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 Tracking the backlash 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 newsletter bodily autonomy fundamentalisms gender women's human rights Claire Provost Tue, 13 Jun 2017 17:30:53 +0000 Claire Provost 111401 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Violence against women and extremism are intrinsically linked: overlooking this puts rights at risk https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sussan-tahmasebi/violence-against-women-extremism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Religious groups we work with, in the fight against extremism, must have a commitment to universal rights – as well as peace.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-31409425.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="US President Trump and Saudi King Abdul Aziz"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-31409425.jpg" alt="US President Trump and Saudi King Abdul Aziz" title="US President Trump and Saudi King Abdul Aziz" width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>US President Trump (right) and Saudi King Abdul Aziz (centre), in Riyadh in May 21, 2017. Photo: PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Countering and preventing violent extremism is a top priority for the international community today. And, notably,<a href="https://www.usip.org/blog/2014/10/religious-leaders-countering-extremist-violence-how-policy-changes-can-help"> international actors</a> are increasingly eager to engage local<a href="http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/extremism-fight/"> religious groups</a> in the belief that they are well-placed in communities to provide alternative peaceful visions for would-be extremist supporters.</p><p dir="ltr">This is a significant new trend and it can be appropriate in some contexts. However, there are lessons learned by women’s rights movements – who have been at the forefront of addressing and preventing extremism for decades – which must inform the international community in this process.</p><p dir="ltr">For instance: women’s rights activists have long known that extremists distort religion and make selective use of it to justify violence in their quest to gain and maintain political power or access to resources. For this reason, wherever we see the rise of extremism, we can also find resistance including from secular political groups and social movements.</p><p dir="ltr">The international community must not undermine such local movements against extremism and should instead continue to support them and their valuable perspectives too. Crucially, engagement with religious groups cannot come at the price of undermining rights: the groups we work with must have a commitment to universal rights as well as peace.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Crucially, engagement with religious groups cannot come at the price of undermining rights.</p><p dir="ltr">Unfortunately, too many international groups seem to have engaged and partnered with actors who, while espousing peace from a religious perspective, actually harbour misogynistic and discriminatory viewpoints when it comes to women’s rights, sexual minorities, or religious and ethnic minorities. </p><p dir="ltr">For example, many countries engaged in the “global coalition to counter ISIS” continue to discriminate in law and in practice against women and LGBT people – including Saudi Arabia, which recently reaffirmed its commitment to work with US President Trump against extremism and terrorism. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has also been repeatedly engaged by international groups, but its position on women and sexual rights is regressive at best.</p><p dir="ltr">While international actors cannot engage in testing the ideologies of our local partners, we must not inadvertently strengthen groups which espouse more acceptable or less overt forms of violence, such as that perpetrated against women and sexual minorities. We have an obligation not to undermine the concept of universal values, even when faced with arguments based on culture and religion. </p><p dir="ltr">To give into these arguments would be turning our backs on universal human rights and could increase risks to those working to promote rights locally. At a minimum, even if our partners feel they cannot advocate fully and vocally for universal rights, they must commit to never actively promote discrimination and they must not condone violence against women, sexual minorities, ethnic and racial minorities and other marginalised groups. </p><p dir="ltr">Violence against women and extremism are intrinsically linked and we cannot dismiss or accept such violence as a cultural phenomenon. Extremists specifically and strategically target women and their efforts to ensure equality and rights. They often attribute women’s progress to a western-imposed agenda, playing on vulnerabilities and beliefs that are inherent to progress and transition and are often rooted in injustices at the hands of colonial rulers or non-democratic governments aligned with western powers.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-31201168.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Old town Tripoli, Libya."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-31201168.jpg" alt="Old town Tripoli, Libya." title="Old town Tripoli, Libya." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Old town Tripoli, Libya. Photo: Simon Kremer/PA Images.</span></span></span>For example, in 2012 a Libyan activist observed that extremists in that country first focused their attention and violence on women, targeting those who went to coffee shops. Their argument was that women appearing in such public places was against traditional values and beliefs. In Aceh, Indonesia, one of the first decrees of the local government seeking to impose its version of Sharia law was to<a href="http://wunrn.com/2010/05/indonesia-aceh-muslim-dress-code-law-against-revealing-clothing/"> ban women from wearing pants</a>, claiming these were western imports. </p><p dir="ltr">Extremists, whether Christian, Buddhist or Muslim, often present women’s rights as opposed to religion, and in so doing build alternative truths around which they can unite segments of the population. The targeting of women’s rights and the perpetuation of violence against women are strategies used by extremists to gain legitimacy within their communities. They build on this to push for other agendas, which promote hate and violence against marginalised groups.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The targeting of women’s rights is a strategy used by extremists to gain legitimacy within their communities.</p><p dir="ltr">In the US, the religious right has been extremely successful in gaining public support and mobilising its constituents by <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost/global-anti-abortion-lgbt-rights">opposing women’s reproductive health rights, namely abortion</a>. They have done so based on religious justifications and through violence targeting women and clinics providing abortion services. The Christian right’s agenda has since grown to include advocacy against LGBT people and, increasingly, against Muslims and immigrants.</p><p dir="ltr">Violence against women is a springboard issue for many extremist groups; the perpetuation of such violence is a coalescing and binding force in coalitions designed to promote violence against other groups. In addressing and preventing violent extremism we must therefore pay special attention to the gendered aspects of violence perpetrated by extremists. </p><p dir="ltr">We have to remember, too, that state actors can also promote extremist ideologies or justify policies on the basis of religion which target the rights of women and minorities and feed sectarianism and conflict. Governments may adopt policies that financially or otherwise support non-state extremists. Officials may choose to appease extremists by not holding them accountable for violations and crimes, in exchange for guarantees or commitments to refrain from challenging government power. </p><p dir="ltr">While the United Nations and governments may be limited in how they engage with or criticise governments that promote extremist values, international NGOs and civil society institutions have greater leeway and also greater responsibilities in developing nuanced approaches and programs. Having varied local partners that support both peace and rights can help international NGOs to make informed decisions and craft appropriate responses.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The erosion of these rights is something women’s groups have been warning about for decades.</p><p dir="ltr">Extremist groups have also become savvy in adapting to and taking advantage of different structures, including by setting up civil society organisations. Civil society groups harbouring extreme religious ideologies have long advocated against women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive rights,<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/observatory-on-universality-of-rights/fundamentalism-united-nations"> at the international level and within the UN system</a>. They often work with conservative or extremists governments and conservative religious institutions to undermine universal rights. </p><p dir="ltr">With the strengthening of extremist movements, the emergence of populist governments that actively advocate against rights at the national and international levels, and increasing restrictions placed by authoritarian states on independent civil society, there is a growing fear that universal rights may be undermined or weakened even further. The erosion of these rights is something women’s groups have been warning about for decades.</p><p dir="ltr">A diversity of legitimate local partners working to promote peace as well as rights is key to ensuring that international NGOs engage effectively in this area. They must know the context in which they work and depend on trusted partners with legitimacy within women’s movements to guide them in efforts to address and prevent extremisms. To do otherwise risks undermining progressive rights agendas and decades of experience and work of women’s movements. It risks moving us all to the right of centre in our collective efforts.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost/global-anti-abortion-lgbt-rights">&quot;This is a war&quot;: Inside the global &quot;pro-family&quot; movement against abortion and LGBT rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/observatory-on-universality-of-rights/fundamentalism-united-nations">How do we fight anti-rights fundamentalism at the United Nations?</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> </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 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Gender Politics Religion women's human rights women and power violence against women fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Sussan Tahmasebi Wed, 07 Jun 2017 08:24:09 +0000 Sussan Tahmasebi 111360 at https://www.opendemocracy.net "This is a war": Inside the global "pro-family" movement against abortion and LGBT rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost/global-anti-abortion-lgbt-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span class="st">At a recent summit in Budapest, anti-abortion celebrities and anti-gay rights activists gathered with their political allies waging a ‘spiritual war’ for the ‘traditional family.’</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/FullSizeRender(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="World Congress of Families summit in Budapest."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/FullSizeRender(1).jpg" alt="World Congress of Families summit in Budapest." title="World Congress of Families summit in Budapest." width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>World Congress of Families summit in Budapest. Photo: Claire Provost. </span></span></span>In a darkened hall at the Budapest Congress Centre, an image of the classic American TV show, The Brady Bunch, appears illuminated on a giant screen. At the podium is Jack Hanick, a former Fox News producer who describes television as “at the centre of a spiritual war”.</p><p dir="ltr">Hanick points to the 1950s as the golden age, when “the father was the central figure” and “the mother stayed at home.” The Bradys were not his wholesome ideal but the beginning of the decay: a “blended family” of stepparents and stepchildren, where the father “has power over only half of the children”.</p><p dir="ltr">Fast forward to today and the hit sitcom Modern Family “idealises same sex marriage”. This, Hanick said, is the latest chapter in “TV’s role in the destruction of the traditional family”. He claimed: “This is a war, but it is not a war to be waged in the physical world”.</p><p dir="ltr">Hanick was in Hungary in late May for the 11th World Congress of Families summit, with hundreds of other anti-abortion and anti-LGBT activists and their political allies from across the globe. The conference programme described its goal as “to unite and equip leaders to promote the natural family”.</p><p dir="ltr">Speakers were explicit: this means a married mother and father and their children. They name-checked diverse fights against comprehensive sexuality education, abortion, same-sex marriage, “gender ideology,” surrogacy, and euthanasia.</p><p dir="ltr">But they called for positive, “winning messages,” alliances, and strategies that go after “hearts and minds” – recalling the shorthand used repeatedly by the US for winning over supporters and public opinion in the context of wars. </p><p dir="ltr">Several speakers talked specifically about “appropriating the language” of human rights to bolster conservative campaigns.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">"this is a war, but it is not a war to be waged in the physical world"</p><p dir="ltr">Attendees included anti-abortion celebrities like Lila Rose, founder of <a href="https://www.liveaction.org/">Live Action</a> – the online “pro-life” movement using new media to “target millennial women.” Others came from groups like the <a href="https://www.nationformarriage.org/">National Organisation for Marriage</a> (NOM) and the <a href="https://www.adflegal.org/">Alliance for the Defence of Freedom </a>(ADF).</p><p dir="ltr">These groups are well-known to women’s rights activists. In the US, the WCF has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Centre as an anti-LGBT “hate group”. The progressive thinktank <a href="http://www.politicalresearch.org/tag/world-congress-of-families/#sthash.rcFDiM89.dpuf">Political Research Associates says</a> it’s among “the major driving forces behind the US Religious Right’s global export of homophobia and sexism”. </p><p dir="ltr">NOM was <a href="http://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/10/21/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-anti-lgbtq-world-congress-of-families-wcf/#sthash.cv1p5ezu.SpWGLKHh.dpuf">formed in 2007 specifically to pass California’s Proposition 8</a> bill to prohibit same-sex marriage. ADF also focuses on legal advocacy. Its founder, Alan Sears, co-wrote a book called <a href="http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/the-homosexual-agenda">The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">On the WCF programme there were pastors and bishops along with MPs, activists and academics. Delegates came from around the world, including Trinidad and Tobago, Nigeria, and Kenya. Many were from Hungary and the US. </p><p dir="ltr">The theme of the summit – “Building Family-Friendly Nations: Making Families Great Again” – included a hint of the “Make America Great Again” slogan used by US President Donald Trump in his election campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">Registration was free – though <a href="https://wcf11.org/wcf-xi-registration/?vip">“VIP” tickets</a> were also available at $350 per person, or $500 per married couple, including special receptions, lunches, and a “networking lounge.” There was also an extra one-day European pro-life forum. </p><p dir="ltr">After lunch, participants split into groups for sessions like “family advocacy at international institutions” and an “emerging leaders pro-family training” focused on “how to win at networking, campaigning, fundraising and advocacy.” </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/FullSizeRender(6).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Budapest family festival."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/FullSizeRender(6).jpg" alt="Budapest family festival." title="Budapest family festival." width="460" height="299" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Budapest family festival. Photo: Claire Provost.</span></span></span>There was music, and games too. On Saturday night: a “Symphony of Life.” And on Sunday: a “Viva Familia” Family Festival in Budapest. “We are the builders of the new culture that… will span the globe,” said one speaker at the summit. “We need to redeem Hollywood,” said another.</p><p dir="ltr">From South Africa, one speaker said that, after the fall of apartheid in 1994, “the doors were thrown open and an ultra-liberal constitution was imposed on us...and all kinds of wickedness came into South Africa including pornography”.</p><p dir="ltr">The “LGBT agenda” he added, “is an ideology that's been imposed on us...it is not part of African culture, it is imported from other nations”. </p><p dir="ltr">“This is a war,” he insisted.</p><h2 dir="ltr">A transnational “anti-rights” alliance</h2><p dir="ltr">For years women’s rights activists have warned that groups pushing back against rights related to gender and sexuality have become increasingly organised and interconnected. Last year, a new <a href="https://www.oursplatform.org/">Observatory on the Universality of Rights</a> (OURs) was set up by more than a dozen organisations to monitor these groups.</p><p dir="ltr">Their <a href="https://www.oursplatform.org/resource/rights-risk-trends-report-2017/">first report</a>, released last month, mapped how a “transnational community” of “anti-rights actors” has formed and the impact it's had on “watering down of existing agreements… deadlock and conservatism in negotiations; sustained undermining of UN agencies… and success in pushing through regressive language in international human rights documents”.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/OURS-graphic1_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="OURs infographic"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/OURS-graphic1_0.png" alt="Mapping anti-rights groups and connections." title="OURs infographic" width="460" height="280" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mapping anti-rights groups and connections. Infographic: OURs initiative.</span></span></span>At the Budapest summit, WCF president Brian Brown said “something new is happening.” He insisted: “what unites us is so fundamental...we have to be willing to speak together.”</p><p dir="ltr">Several speakers said “the family” is a “common cause” between countries including Russia and the US regardless of other tensions.</p><p dir="ltr">One man said explicitly that attendees should “appropriate" human rights language and use positive messages of love, joy, peace and hope to draw people in.</p><p dir="ltr">Another stressed the “key to winning any campaign” is to “bring the majority of the public”. He said: “that's a war of culture, of a whole society”.</p><p dir="ltr">After the event, a<a href="http://www.manilatimes.net/family-takes-center-stage-global-politics/329818/">&nbsp;delegate from the Philippines</a> said the WCF has “created a new model of cooperation between government and national and international family organisations on the defense of human life, the family and marriage”. </p><p dir="ltr">In the Philippines, <a href="https://www.reproductiverights.org/sites/crr.civicactions.net/files/documents/pub_fac_philippines_1%2010.pdf">abortion has been criminalised for over a century</a> and President Rodrigo Duterte has recently said the country will not legalise same-sex marriage, stressing that it is <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/world/asia/duterte-same-sex-marriage-philippines.html?_r=0">Asia’s bastion of Roman Catholicism</a>. Last month, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/27/rodrigo-duterte-jokes-to-soldiers-that-they-can-women-with-impunity">Duterte also “joked” with soldiers</a> on Mindanao island, where he imposed martial law, that they could rape women with impunity. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In a session at the Budapest summit, Claudio D'Amico read a statement from Matteo Salvini, leader of the Italian right-wing Lega Nord (“Northern League”) party, urging collaboration to defend the “natural family” that is “constantly being threatened”.</p><p dir="ltr">D'Amico said pro-family agreements can be struck between MPs from diverse parties. Last year, he said, he helped organise a “Family Lunch” with representatives from countries including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Sweden and Switzerland, on the sidelines of an Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) parliamentary assembly. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/FullSizeRender(5).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="World Congress of Families summit in Budapest."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/FullSizeRender(5).jpg" alt="World Congress of Families summit in Budapest." title="World Congress of Families summit in Budapest." width="460" height="299" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>World Congress of Families summit in Budapest. Photo: Claire Provost.</span></span></span>A representative from the Dveri party in Serbia said support from the WCF was “life-changing.” In 2013, “we managed to stop the Gay Pride parade in our capital city,” he said to applause. “We're looking at our neighbours, the Hungarians, as an example of how to create a family-friendly country,” he added.</p><p dir="ltr">Hungary is “the hero of pro-family and pro-life leaders from all over the world,” <a href="https://wcf11.org/wcf-xi-description">according to the WCF</a> website, celebrating the government’s “defense of family, life, and Christianity”. </p><p dir="ltr">The summit itself had opened with a “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/26/hungary-lgbt-world-congress-families-viktor-orban">pugnacious speech</a>” by Hungarian President Viktor Orban, in which he claimed the European Union was dominated by a “liberal ideology that’s an insult to families”. The <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/26/hungary-lgbt-world-congress-families-viktor-orban">Guardian called Hungary’s hosting of the summit</a> “the latest episode in Orban’s quest to position himself as a self-styled defender of “European Christian values”, a role he has used to justify his Fidesz government’s draconian treatment of mainly Muslim refugees and migrants”.</p><p dir="ltr">Under Orban’s leadership, Hungary has defined marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman, and life as beginning at conception, in its new 2011 constitution. The government has also introduced new policies to promote large families with many children in particular.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“the hero of pro-family and pro-life leaders from all over the world”</p><p dir="ltr">Access to abortion, while legal, has been limited by “unnecessary waiting periods, hostile counselling or conscientious objection,” according to <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/02/06/dispatches-hungary-tells-women-wait">a UN working group</a>. Homophobic remarks have been made at the highest level, including by the mayor of Budapest who in 2015 reportedly said homosexuality is “<a href="http://index.hu/belfold/2015/06/04/tarlos_a_pride_visszataszito/">unnatural and repulsive</a>”.</p><p dir="ltr">Many of the summit attendees were from the US where Vice President Michael Pence – an “<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/07/15/what-it-means-that-mike-pence-called-himself-an-evangelical-catholic/?utm_term=.9af5786b5af4">evangelical Catholic</a>” – declared that “<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/mike-pence-abortion-rally-life-washington-dc-donald-trump-annual-event-a7550476.html">life is winning again in America</a>” at an anti-abortion rally in January.</p><p dir="ltr">Trump’s administration has already reinstated and expanded the '<a href="http://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(17)30084-0/fulltext?rss=yes">Global Gag Rule</a>' prohibiting US foreign aid money from going to organisations that provide or even give information about abortion. It has also <a href="http://time.com/4724227/unfpa-funding-trump-mexico-city-policy-abortion/">defunded the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)</a>. </p><p>Earlier this year, the US government’s official delegation to the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women meetings in New York also<a href="http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2017/03/15/trump-is-sending-anti-lgbt-activists-to-un-womens-rights-conference/">&nbsp;included an activist from the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM)</a> – a key player in the “pro-family” lobby at the international level. Among other things, C-FAM sends out e-mail newsletters with subject lines like: “Anti-Christians Continue Attack on Pro-Lifers, Your Help Needed” and “8 Days and Counting...Radical Feminists Descend on UN”.</p><h2 dir="ltr">"Positive stories"</h2><p dir="ltr">The OURs report warned that “anti-rights actors are making inroads into human rights standards” with growing numbers and networks and “imaginative and sustained re-conceptions of what human rights norms should and do mean”.</p><p dir="ltr">At the international level, it said, these groups “are no longer merely on the defensive or reactive; they are strategic and proactive”. Their goal, it suggested, is to insert and insist on language at the international human rights level “that validates patriarchal, hierarchical, discriminatory and culturally relativist norms”.</p><p dir="ltr">Numerous alternative or parallel human rights declarations and documents have been drawn up and promoted by these groups over the years including the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.familywatchinternational.org/fwi/declaration_on_the_rights_of_children.cfm">Declaration on Rights of Children and their Families</a>, the&nbsp;<a href="https://civilsocietyforthefamily.org/">Family Articles</a>, the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.worldfamilydeclaration.org/">World Family Declaration</a>, the&nbsp;<a href="http://rightsofthefamily.org/">Declaration on the Rights of the Family</a>, the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.politicalnetworkforvalues.org/aims.html">Decalogue of Commitments for Human Dignity and the Common Good</a>, and the&nbsp;<a href="http://sanjosearticles.com/?page_id=2">San Jose Articles</a>&nbsp;– which assert state responsibility to “protect the unborn child from abortion”.</p><p dir="ltr">The WCF summit closed with its own declaration – a “Budapest covenant.” It says: “The natural family is the true reservoir of liberty and the foundation of effective democracy”. For avoidance of doubt, it defines this natural family as one man and one woman, married, for life, for “the purposes of procreation”.</p><p dir="ltr">It calls on “peoples and nations to make new alliances" for the "natural family" and put it "at the centre of political and cultural life”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“to restore the natural family we must use TV”</p><p dir="ltr">In his speech, Hanick, the former Fox News producer, insisted, more specifically: “To restore the natural family we must use TV.”</p><p dir="ltr">“As more positive stories about any topic appear, public opinion in the US moves,” he said, adding that, when this happens, politicians and courts move too. He closed with a specific challenge to the audience: to “get one positive story about the natural family up every three months on your local TVs”.</p><p dir="ltr">Once that’s accomplished, he said, try for every month, then every week, then every day. “Public opinion will change,” he declared. For single, divorced and unmarried parents, LGBT communities, and the reproductive rights of women everywhere, it was an ominous promise indeed. </p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Equality International politics Tracking the backlash 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Gender and the UN 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 newsletter feminism fundamentalisms gender patriarchy sexual identities women's human rights Claire Provost Tue, 06 Jun 2017 08:59:55 +0000 Claire Provost 111297 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How Rojava-inspired women's councils have spread across Europe https://www.opendemocracy.net/rahila-gupta/rojava-inspired-womens-councils-europe <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="western">Could this little-known system provide a way forward for real democracy – from the bottom up – in our failing neoliberal political systems?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Dance Hamburg conference_0.jpg" alt="Mesopotamia Dance Society" title="Mesopotamia Dance Society" width="460" height="250" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mesopotamia Dance Society, at the Challenging Capitalist Modernity conference in Hamburg. Credit: Babak Bataghva, Network for an Alternative Quest.</span></span></span></p><p class="western">Every time I speak at public meetings in Britain about the gender equality and direct democracy experiment being carried out in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/revolution-in-rojava">Rojava</a>, Northern Syria, I am invariably asked by an inspired audience what we can learn from there – and how can we implement it here. </p> <p class="western">Given the growing consensus in the west about the importance of equal pay and equal representation of the sexes at all levels of employment, one of the basic tenets of the Rojava revolution, co-presidentship – where every institution is headed up by a man and a woman – should not be too much of a hard sell. </p> <p class="western">Yet even co-presidentship cannot be easily replicated within a system like ours which, driven by profit rather that values, might simply discard the idea as untenable on the grounds of cost and over-staffing. After all, the state is being rolled back everywhere; NGOs are scrabbling for cash; and jobshares are simply not the same thing. </p> <p class="western">So, until I attended the recent <a href="http://www.networkaq.net/">Challenging Capitalist Modernity</a> conference in Hamburg – and met Hatice Kaya, co-president of the Hamburg Women’s Council, an organisation modelled on the women’s councils in Rojava to ensure that a feminist perspective shapes all policies – I was always stuck for an answer to those audience questions.</p> <p class="western">This was a massive three-day conference, attended by more than 1200 people, and organised by Kurdish activists and their German allies. Its organisation also reflected its focus, on what a post-capitalist society might look: It was free to attend, with participants who could afford to invited to make donations; local Kurdish families provided free accommodation; and vegetarian lunches were provided by a radical anarchist collective, with voluntary donations put towards conference costs. </p><p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Panel - hamburg_1.jpg" alt="Panel at the Hamburg conference" title="Panel at the Hamburg conference " width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Panel at the Hamburg conference. Credit: Babak Bataghva, Network for an Alternative Quest.</span></span></span></p> <p class="western">Demand for free accommodation had boomed this year, for the third biennial conference in a row, from 30 to more than 300 people. But no one was left homeless as a result of the generosity of Kurdish families who opened up their homes. Kaya was one of them, hosting five participants.</p> <p class="western">A political activist originally from south-east Turkey, Kaya works in catering in Hamburg and has been elected co-president of the women’s council (which has 30-40 members) for two terms, each lasting one year. </p> <p class="western">Previously, she served two terms as co-president of the Hamburg People’s Council (70 members), where there is a minimum quota of 40% for each sex while 20% is up for grabs depending on who puts themselves forward for election. The women’s council is a parallel autonomous structure tilting political power towards women, who have been identified as the drivers of this revolution. </p><p class="western">People’s Councils began to be set up in areas with sizeable Kurdish communities in 2005, be they in Europe, south-east Turkey or northern Syria, when Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the Kurdish freedom movement, introduced the concept of <a href="https://corporatewatch.org/news/2016/apr/18/democratic-confederalism-kurdistan">democratic confederalism</a> – essentially self-governing communities in a bottom-up democratic structure. </p><p class="western">In Rojava – recently renamed the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria – these councils are totally responsible for the running of society and all its functions from the economy to health, education and self-defence, even setting up the most successful forces in Syria in the fight against ISIS so far. <span> <strong></strong></span></p><p class="western"><span>The success of the Rojava model has, in turn, reinforced the importance of self-organisation in Kurdish communities across Europe.</span></p><p class="western"><span class="mag-quote-center">...the success of the Rojava model has reinforced the importance of self-organisation in Kurdish communities across Europe... </span></p><p class="western">In Hamburg, women's councils were set up in 2009. There is also a fledgling <a href="https://rojwomen.wordpress.com/">Roj Women’s council</a> in London. </p><p class="western">In Bakur – the predominantly Kurdish south-eastern region of Turkey – this attempt at self-administration <a href="http://kurdishquestion.com/article/3690-turkey-turned-into-a-war-zone">has been brutally quashed by Erdogan</a> with bombing, killing, homes burned down and the arrests of elected co-mayors of various towns (then replaced by officials from the ruling AKP party). </p> <p class="western"> In European cities, this system gives the Kurdish community a cohesive and united voice: to continue its political education, strengthen solidarity with the Kurdish struggle, gain practical lessons from the exercise of democracy and provide services where the state fails to do so. </p><p class="western">Dilar Dirik, a Kurdish activist, who translated my interview with Kaya, said: “The motivation is to organise oneself wherever one lives." </p><p class="western">Dirik explained: "Because the struggle for self-determination is not just a territorial one, it is about being able to organise one's life with minimal reliance on the state and its structures.”</p> <p class="western">The Kurdish community in Hamburg have divided the area nominally into nine regions where Kurds congregate. They aim to set up a people’s council and a women’s council in each region but so far they have managed to set up only three women’s councils and three people’s councils. </p> <p class="western">Each council has committees to deal with political mobilisation, culture, education, community support, peace and conflict resolution and public relations. The work of most of these committees is relatively self-evident. I was particularly curious about the peace and conflict resolution committee which, apart from dealing with disputes between neighbours and within families, deals with domestic violence. </p> <p class="western">Women from minority communities in Western Europe, and particularly Britain – such as those represented by organisations like <a href="http://www.southallblacksisters.org.uk/">Southall Black Sisters</a> and <a href="http://onelawforall.org.uk/">One Law for All</a> – have spent much of their political energy trying to <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/pragna-patel-gita-sahgal/whitewashing-sharia-councils-in-uk">weaken community mechanisms</a> of mediation where the aim is to persuade women to remain married even where there is violence, looking to the state for solutions instead. Could a community influenced by the progressive ideas of Öcalan and implemented by feminists across the Kurdish diaspora offer a different, possibly more radical, option?</p><p class="western">Kaya cites the case of a woman who wanted to separate from her violent husband. The woman asked the women's council to help get rid of him as he refused to leave. The conflict resolution committee met with both of them separately and then together. They successfully persuaded the husband that the wife had the right to stay in the house as she was looking after the children. The wife started divorce proceedings in the German courts; the women’s council supported her through the legal process as she was not familiar with the system. They monitored the husband’s movements and ensure that he stayed away from the family home.</p><p class="western"><span class="mag-quote-center">...the state may hand out legal solutions, but it does not attempt to transform male mentality...</span></p><p class="western">Kaya was at pains to explain that while they were wholly behind the woman, they were also keen “not to exclude the man altogether but to explain to him that a woman is not his property, why violence is bad, to give examples from the Kurdish resistance and tell him that the institution of marriage is not sacred, that even if at some point this woman had decided to marry him, she doesn’t have to live with him if she doesn’t want to.”</p> <p class="western">Kaya added: “We don’t want him to go away because he’s been forced to but because he understands what he’s doing is wrong. Ultimately he is a member of the community and we want to transform his thinking.”&nbsp;</p> <p class="western">Why is this community mechanism better than the state mechanism in responding to cases of domestic violence? </p><p class="western">Kaya says that the state may hand out legal solutions, but it does not attempt to transform male mentality. Peer pressure is also an effective part of transformation; men in cases like these lose face in front of members of their community. This is different, though related, to the dynamic in conservative communities, where it is women who lose face as violence is often justified on the grounds that the wife had strayed or not performed her duties. </p> <p class="western">Of course, there is no compulsion to use the women’s councils, women come of their own free will, said Kaya. Often, they turn to the councils after they have been failed by the state.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">...the potential to transform society and the state altogether.</p><p class="western">To my anxieties that the state was being let off the hook, Kaya responded: “While we have our own autonomous systems, like language classes, doing work with our own youth, our own community, we also make demands of the state because ultimately we live in this state, our children are born here, grow up here, go to school here. We must make demands for legal changes.”</p> <p class="western">Here then are the beginnings of a way forward for the implementation of real democracy, from the ground up, in a failing neoliberal political system.&nbsp;</p> <p class="western">We do not have to build communities based on ethnicity; these could arise out of shared interests or shared locality. We already have groups of people who come together to prevent a library from closing or to demand better services from local hospitals. If such movements were structured around the ideas of democratic confederalism, a non-state social paradigm with race and gender equality at the heart of it, exercising our democratic muscles in this sustained manner would not just build a more engaged citizenry – it would also contain the potential to transform society and the state altogether. </p><p class="western"><strong><em>Rahila Gupta is speaking about Rojava and feminist mobilisation at the <a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/defending-progressivism-tickets-32043277305" target="_blank">Defending Progressivism conference</a> in London, Saturday 29 April 2017.</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/meredith-tax/revolution-is-not-dinner-party">A revolution is not a dinner party</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/rojava-revolution-how-deep-is-change">Rojava revolution: how deep is the change?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/rojava-revolution-it-s-raining-women">Rojava revolution: It’s raining women </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/rojava-revolution-on-hoof">Rojava revolution: on the hoof </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/rojava-revolution-reshaping-masculinity">Rojava revolution: reshaping masculinity </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/rahila-gupta/rojava-s-commitment-to-jineoloj-science-of-women">Rojava’s commitment to Jineolojî: the science of 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> </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 Revolution in Rojava 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 newsletter feminism gender justice patriarchy violence against women women and power women's movements Rahila Gupta Fri, 28 Apr 2017 07:43:08 +0000 Rahila Gupta 110467 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Conflict in Syria: stop instrumentalising women’s rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/maria-al-abdeh/syria-instumentalising-women-s-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The international community is not listening to us. It must depoliticise the fight against sexual violence and humanise the countering violent extremism strategy.</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/Picture1_10.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Women Now vigil in remembrance of Jo Cox MP. Women Now. All rights reserved. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Picture1_10.png" alt="Women Now vigil in remembrance of Jo Cox MP. Women Now. All rights reserved. " title="Women Now vigil in remembrance of Jo Cox MP. Women Now. All rights reserved. " width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women Now vigil in remembrance of Jo Cox MP. Women Now. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>From the outset of the crisis, women have played a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/maria-al-abdeh/supporting-women-s-empowerment-during-armed-conflict-lessons-from-syria">significant role</a> in challenging violent and extremist agendas inside Syria. However, the difference between Syrian women’s definition of extremism and that of the international community is deep: for Syrian women, every act of violence committed in the war is 'ideological and terrorist' in nature, constructed upon the logic of the extermination of the 'other'. Based on this approach, female activists have led protests against all kinds of dictatorship and terrorism, from the Assad regime to ISIS, while also risking their lives to protest and lead campaigns for the liberation of detained prisoners, and against child recruitment. Some of these stories have been heard; some were <a href="http://badael.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Syria_october22.pdf">documented</a> in a 2015 Badael report. Many other stories have not made the headlines.</p> <p>Yet the last thing that those of us working in the field of women’s empowerment inside Syria want is to be instrumentalised by foreign agendas or to be perceived or portrayed as such. There are factions on many sides of the conflict that will seek to delegitimise and slander our activities. Regime representatives may accuse us of being fronts for extremist opposition factions. Conservative elements within the opposition are opposed to our vision of women’s rights and human rights, and the interdependence of the two. Yet international actors have also wittingly or unwittingly contributed to this politicisation of women’s rights in Syria.</p> <h2>'Women countering violent extremism'</h2><p>While writing this article I have witnessed the rollout of a new trend in the international community: 'women on the front line of countering violent extremism'. I know very well the role of women in countering terrorism and extremist thought through children’s education in authentic religious texts on peace and coexistence and I highly recommend the support for those efforts. I have even criticised the international community’s confusion of religion and extremism and the ignorance of the role of religion in community resilience.</p> <p>However, I’m completely astonished at the expectations of the international community, which pushes women to the frontline of countering terrorism, but then ignores them as they call to stop the bombing, stop arming, break the siege; when they cry that fighting extremism cannot be done by arms and airstrikes: an ideology of hate can only be defeated by one of solidarity and justice for all; when they demand justice and accountably; when they request support for the education of children and youth. The international community that disregards all these calls – and then expects women to have a solution to the mire created by militarisation, the lack of accountability and the decline in education, which only put women in more danger.</p> <p>It is important to note that the only impact visible to Syrian civil society organisations (including women’s organisations) of counter terrorism law has been to slow down financial transactions. Vital funding is being stalled for months before reaching Syrian organisations; women activists are left in acute financial need while some projects are left to completely fall down because of this. Another impact is the vetting process, which prevents any individual from being paid without being thoroughly vetted beforehand. What kind of impact can this have? When one of our women’s group recently lost a colleague, killed by an airstrike, the donors refused to compensate her family or pay her salary to her family under the rationale that neither the husband nor any other family member who might benefit from the $200 were vetted. It is possible for women and men activists to die, to suffer from severe trauma without any health insurance, working as heroes under terrible living conditions without any protection or compensation due to counter-terrorism measures.</p> <h2>Instrumentalising the fight against sexual violence</h2> <p>Concerning the instrumentalisation of the fight against sexual violence, an example would be the visit of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) on Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict in March 2015. Women Now For Development, along with other Syrian women’s civil society groups, organized for the SRSG to meet with survivors of sexual violence in Lebanon and Turkey, alongside her visit to Damascus. The vast majority of the women that the SRSG met had endured horrific forms of sexual violence, and other forms of torture, at the hands of the Syrian regime. (The <a href="http://sn4hr.org/blog/2015/03/09/4586/">number</a> of women killed during the conflict between 2011 and 2015 is 18,457&nbsp;by the Syrian regime (96%), 427&nbsp;by opposition groups (2.2%), 211&nbsp;by ISIS and other extremist groups (1%), and 31&nbsp;by Kurdish Forces (less than 0,5%). In terms of arbitrary detention, the regime is also way ahead with 6,500 women arrested, or 83% of women arrested by all parties in the conflict. With regard to the documentation of sexual abuse, the only documentation we have is of 7,500 women abused by the Syrian regime forces. We don’t have reliable data about abuse by other parties, but observation suggests the same pattern seen for killing and arrests, with a very high majority attributed to the Syrian regime. Yet, for political reasons, the public statements made by the SRSG during her visit and media coverage of these focused entirely on the abuses perpetrated by ISIS.</p> <p>The effects of this misrepresentation of what the women survivors of sexual violence had shared were terrible both for the women themselves and for the civil society groups supporting them. The women themselves felt betrayed. Both they and the organisations that had facilitated the meetings with the SRSG faced significant criticism within their community as the visit had been clearly used to serve an external political agenda that wrongly portrayed the regime in a positive light in contrast to criticisms of ISIS. Moreover, in its report in April 2016, the SRSG is calling to build on her visit to Damascus, ignoring a <a href="http://www.alhayat.com/m/story/9787838">letter</a> signed by 400 women’s and human rights organizations and activists expressing their concern about the visit and ignoring the fact that no change has been observed to the level of Syrian regime brutality against female detainees.</p> <p>If we are not able to protect both women and men survivors of sexual violence, the very least we can do is not to harm them or use them to support political agendas.</p> <p>The successful alternative to these cases of instrumentalisation has been the amazing solidarity of some international women’s organisations and individuals. An example of one person’s initiative that produced a magical impact was the support provided by Jo Cox, a British Member of Parliament, until her tragic death last year. Cox’s advocacy within the British parliament and media on the situation of both Syrian women and the wider Syrian conflict exemplified a serious and sustained engagement and commitment to bringing the recommendations of grassroots activists to the attention of decision-makers, the media and the public. She was the first parliamentarian to answer the Daraya women’s letter and led ISSG’s effort to break the siege of besieged areas.</p><p>The solidarity, activism and championing efforts that Jo Cox MP provided became a transformative experience for the women in our centres and others active across Syria. Women in our centres were traumatised by her tragic death: some wrote a letter to the late Jo Cox, some organized a silent gathering, some prepared a video about her entitled 'Jo Cox, Syrian women will never forget you', others sent a letter of support to her family. Despite the devastating conditions they are facing, Syrian women took the time to remember someone who stood in solidarity with them on a humanitarian basis.</p><p><strong><span><em>This article is the second of a three part series on women activists in Syria by Maria Al Abdeh. Read the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/maria-al-abdeh/supporting-women-s-empowerment-during-armed-conflict-lessons-from-syria">first</a>. &nbsp;</em></span></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/maria-al-abdeh/lessons-from-syria-on-womens-empowerment-during-conflict">Lessons from Syria on women&#039;s empowerment during conflict</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/hayet-zeghiche/violence-against-women-in-syria-hidden-truth">Violence against women in Syria: a hidden truth</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lisa-davis-yifat-susskind/standing-our-ground-at-un-commission-on-status-of-women-csw">Standing our ground at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nazik-awad/without-global-solidarity-women-s-movement-will-collapse">Without global solidarity the women’s movement will collapse</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/opendemocracy-5050/no-borders-on-gender-justice">No borders on gender justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/fraught-road-to-justice-sri-lankan-victims-of-sexual-violence">The fraught road to justice: Sri Lankan victims of sexual violence </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yawning-chasm-in-uk-national-security-strategy-security-for-whom">UK National Security Strategy: security for whom? </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"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 North-Africa West-Asia Syria Civil society Conflict Equality International politics 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Editor's Pick fundamentalisms gender justice Sexual violence violence against women women and militarism women's human rights women's movements Maria Al Abdeh Wed, 19 Apr 2017 09:14:38 +0000 Maria Al Abdeh 110205 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Gender-just laws versus “divine” law in Sri Lanka https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/hyshyama-hamin-and-chulani-kodikara/battling-sri-lankan-state-gender-just-laws-vs-divine-law <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The heated debate over reforming Muslim personal law in Sri Lanka has resulted in an unprecedented mobilization of Muslim women across the country calling for progressive and gender-just laws.</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/MMDA articles 2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/MMDA articles 2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The debate over reforming Muslim personal law in social media and the mainstream press in Sri Lanka. </span></span></span></p> <p>Securing equality within the family remains one of the biggest challenges for women across the world. Central to this is the struggle to rewrite personal status and family laws that are deeply hetero-patriarchal. Sri Lanka’s constitutional reform process has brought this into sharp focus particularly with respect to equality in the family for Muslim women. At its center are Article 16(1) of the current <a href="http://www.priu.gov.lk/Cons/1978Constitution/Chapter_03_Amd.html">Constitution</a> and Sri Lanka’s Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA).&nbsp; </p> <p>Sri Lanka’s MMDA, which is applicable to the Muslim minority community, was first codified during Dutch and later British colonial rule as part of a plural system of family laws. Successive post-independence governments guaranteed the maintenance of the MMDA, while recognising the prerogative of the Muslim community to reform these laws at their own initiative. Since then the MMDA was ‘reformed’ by male elites in 1929 and then again in 1956, ostensibly to reflect the ‘true spirit of Islam’. Yet the efforts of Muslim women’s rights activists, who have for more than 20 years, been calling for reform of these laws to reflect the values of gender justice and equality have been to no avail. Political parties claiming to represent Muslims have long refused to push for progressive and gender-just reform of personal law for fear that such reform will alienate their vote bank. Muslim women have also been unable to rely on Article 12 of the Constitution, which guarantees gender equality due to the presence of Article 16 of the Constitution. The latter holds that that all unwritten and written laws at the time the Constitution came into effect (1978) shall remain valid and operative notwithstanding any inconsistency with its fundamental rights guarantees. </p> <p>An example from 1995 illustrates this point only too well. When the age of marriage for males and females was raised to 18 in 1995, it excluded Muslims. This was justified by the then Minister of Justice on grounds that the ‘Muslim community is entitled to be governed by their own laws, usages and customs and it would not be productive to aim at a level of uniformity which does not recognize adequately the different cultural traditions and aspirations of the Muslim community’. This ‘respect’ for the cultural rights of minorities was however an all-too-transparent mask for a patriarchal bargain between political parties in a coalition government ruled by entrenched ethno-religious identity politics. </p> <p>However, the present Constitutional reform moment has sparked a fresh debate and discussion around the MMDA and given rise to an unprecedented mobilization of Muslim women across the country demanding its reform. Lead by community-based women activists and a new generation of Muslim women who have come together under the banner of the <a href="http://www.mplreforms.com">Muslim Personal Law Reforms Action Group</a> (MPLRAG), they are calling not only on the Muslim community and its leadership but on the State to assume responsibility to ensure that Muslim women and girls enjoy equal rights as citizens of Sri Lanka.&nbsp; </p><p>Social media platforms such as Whatsapp, Twitter and Facebook and increased news reporting on the issue acted as the catalysts for this unprecedented mobilization of Muslim women. It is now manifesting itself in a slew of writings - personal opinion pieces as well as more analytical&nbsp;writing - demanding substantive reform by pro-reform Muslim women, and a (few) men, in the mainstream press as well.</p> <p><strong>Discrimination under Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act in Sri Lanka</strong> </p> <p>Discrimination under the MMDA takes multiple forms. Under the Act, adult women need the consent of male guardians to marry while men can marry up to four times, without any conditions. Husbands have a right to unilateral and unconditional divorce while wives have to prove fault, show evidence, produce witnesses and go through multiple hearings before <em>Quazis</em>, a position which the MMDA reserves for exclusively for ‘male Muslims of good character’ though it is paid for from public funds. </p> <p>The current controversy over the MMDA centers in particular on the resistance from powerful and conservative sections within the community to reform on two counts: stipulating a minimum age of marriage and recognition of women’s right to be appointed as <em>Quazis</em>. At the forefront of this resistance are the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) and the Sri Lanka Towheed Jamaat (SLTJ). &nbsp;A committee to reform Muslim Law established by the state in 2009 (the Justice Saleem Marsoof Committee), which includes the head of the ACJU, is yet to reach consensus largely on these two issues even after 8 years of deliberations. </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/MMDA article 1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/MMDA article 1.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'>Arguments on social media and the press over Muslim personal law in Sri Lanka. </span></span></span></p> <p><strong>Progressive Interpretations and retrogressive resistance <br /></strong></p> <p class="s">There is a long history of women rights activists demanding reform within an Islamic framework, presenting progressive reinterpretations of the Quran and evidence from Malaysia and Indonesia, which also follow the <em>Shafi madhab</em> (school of Islamic jurisprudence) followed in Sri Lanka. Yet conservative Muslim groups have consistently rejected this in favour of retrogressive and sexist interpretations. Despite evidence to the contrary, calls for a minimum age of marriage have been dismissed on the ground that child marriages are rare exceptions within the Muslim Community. </p> <p class="s">The opposition to women as <em>Quazi</em> court judges stems from a range of deeply prejudiced and misogynist views. These include that women are biologically weaker, especially due to menstruation, emotionally unstable, have lower mental capacity, and are less capable of making sound decisions and retaining knowledge and information needed to function as judges. Meanwhile Muslim women have held and continue to hold positions of authority in the judiciary and the legal profession in Sri Lanka and globally.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p class="s"><strong>CEDAW, GSP plus and MMDA Reforms <br /></strong></p> <p>In February this year, Muslim women took their struggle before the UN, although not for the first time. Sri Lanka’s eighth periodic review by the UN Committee to monitor state compliance with the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) provided another platform to push for equality. Muslim women’s rights activists not only highlighted the lack of progress on reforms, but also the increasing intimidation faced by them and women who have shared testimonies, from conservative actors within the community. </p> <p class="s">The Committee’s concluding observations, released in March, makes several recommendations including calling on the Government of Sri Lanka to: a) eliminate restrictions on women’s eligibility to be appointed as Quazis, Members of the Board of Quazis (the Quazi appellate body), Marriage Registrars and adjudicators; b) raise the age of marriage to 18 years for all citizens; and, c) amend the Penal Code statutory rape provisions to apply to all children without exception. Moreover, the Committee has called on the government to amend the General Marriage Registration Ordinance (GMRO) to give Muslims the choice to register marriages under the general law and for the repeal of Article 16(1) of the Constitution to allow for judicial review of all legislation including the MMDA. </p> <p>These recommendations give an opportunity for the State to address discrimination under the MMDA and the <em>Quazi</em> court system and establish basic non-negotiable rights for Muslim women. However, can Muslim women rely on the Sri Lankan state to rise to this challenge? </p> <p>In November 2016, a senior minister told the <a href="http://www.dailymirror.lk/article/GSP-Committee-to-look-into-Muslim-Marriage-Divorce-Act-118129.html">media</a> about a proposal to appoint a Cabinet Sub-committee to consider suitable amendments to the MMDA (ignoring the existence of the Marsoof committee). The reason he advanced was that “Muslim Law in Sri Lanka is not in conformity with international norms” and amending “the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act is also a part of international protocol, which is a requirement to obtain trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP plus)”. </p> <p>This sparked a storm of protest by those resisting reforms. The ACJU issued a <a href="https://acju.lk/news/acju-news/item/914-affairs-on-muslim-personal-law">press statement</a> that it “strongly opposes bringing changes in the Muslim Personal Law either due to international pressures or stimulation of any evil forces acting against the Muslims”. This year, associations such as the Colombo District Masjid Federation (CDMF) with a network of 175 mosques, carried out signature campaigns against reforms in various mosques. The CDMF issued an <a href="https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/regressive-groups-continue-to-throw-hurdles-at-mmda-reforms/">open letter</a> signed by 15,000 signatories including the religious heads of the ACJU stating that to their knowledge no public consultations had been undertaken by the Marsoof committee and urging that any amendments to the MMDA “should not be, in contravention of Divine Law”.&nbsp;<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>This conflation of ‘divine law’ and the MMDA is a common tactic of those resisting reforms. That ‘<em>Sharia</em> or divine law cannot be touched’ is frequently deployed as a conversation stopper on MMDA reforms. This of course completely ignores the fact that local cultural practices and secular laws in fact make up the provisions of the MMDA, as well as the rich diversity in Islamic jurisprudence, legal tradition and practice on this issue, which is globally evidenced. </p> <p>Conservative actors have benefitted from the lack of awareness about the MMDA, its origins and its problems among vast segments of Sri Lankan Muslims. Many who believe that the MMDA is based entirely on divine and unchangeable <em>Sharia </em>are most likely also unaware of the daily-lived realities and violations against women and girls because of the MMDA. <a href="http://groundviews.org/2017/03/09/mmda-personal-narratives-6">Narratives of injustices</a> faced by Muslim women documented by activists and citizen journalism websites are now attempting to address this gap. </p> <p>Many mainstream human rights actors also fail to understand the extent of the divergence of viewpoints on MMDA reform within the Muslim community and tend to perceive that consultation to reach consensus within community is the solution. This lack of awareness all around has been debilitating for those struggling for reform. </p> <p>Following the GSP plus fiasco, <a href="https://mplreforms.com/2016/11/07/statement-on-gsp-plus-mmda-reforms/">the Muslim Personal Law Reform Action Group</a> pointed out that linking reform of MMDA to GSP plus gave room for those who had been resisting change to characterize any change as an international imposition while erasing the long standing struggle of Muslim women demanding for changes to this law. This also raises the question whether CEDAW recommendations are now going to be characterized as more international pressure to be resisted? And with this pushback, will the Sri Lankan State acting in concert with male elites of the Muslim community continue discriminating against Muslim women and girls and be party to these injustices?</p><p><em>Read more articles on openDemocracy 50.50's platform</em> <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-frontline-voices-against-muslim-fundamentalism">Frontline Voices Against Fundamentalism </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/thursica-kovinthan/teaching-gender-inequality-textbooks-and-traditions-in-sri-lanka">Teaching gender inequality in Sri Lanka </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/culture-versus-rights-dualism-myth-or-reality">Culture versus rights dualism: a myth or a reality?</a> </div> <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/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-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion women's human rights violence against women gender justice feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Chulani Kodikara Hyshyama Hamin Tue, 04 Apr 2017 09:27:33 +0000 Hyshyama Hamin and Chulani Kodikara 109818 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Gender and fundamentalism: when religion muscles in on development https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rahila-gupta/gender-and-fundamentalism-when-religion-muscles-in-on-development <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The truism that there cannot be real development without women’s participation needs a caveat: women’s rights cannot be achieved while religious forces are involved in development.</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/WP_20170318_15_47_08_Pro(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/WP_20170318_15_47_08_Pro(1).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'>Seminar on Gender Fundamentalism and Development at SOAS. Ayesha Khan presents her analysis of the way religious fundamentalism impacts on gender and development in Pakistan.Photo: Rahila Gupta</span></span></span></p><p>Ruth Pearson, Emeritus Professor of International Development at the University of Leeds, one of the speakers at a seminar on Gender, Fundamentalism and Development, recounted how issues on which a consensus could not be reached in international conferences, such as the 1995 Beijing Women’s conference, would be placed in a square bracket.&nbsp; Unsurprisingly, ‘gender’ more often than not ended up in a square bracket, usually as the result of pressure from religious, conservative governments like Iran or the Vatican because they found the idea that gender was socially constructed rather than biologically fixed a threatening one. In this interesting series of seminars, organised jointly by SOAS and UEL (University of East London), on ‘Gender, fundamentalism and… ’ the third issue changes each time to ensure that gender and fundamentalism are foregrounded whether we are looking at the government’s PREVENT strategy or development issues. There was a truly international dimension to the discussion with some speakers zooming in on countries as diverse as Kenya, Myanmar, Pakistan and Jordan, while others roamed the globe more broadly at a dizzying speed.</p> <p>The most obvious, most recent and most well-known example of the way in which these three issues intersect is the so-called ‘global gag rule’ imposed by Donald Trump which blocks US funds to any organisation involved in abortion care and advice. Ruth explained that while this has been the kneejerk policy reinstatement of every Republican president since Reagan, Trump’s order goes further and applies to any healthcare organisation in receipt of US Aid, not just family planning organisations. </p> <p>Speaker after speaker outlined the way in which the aid and development agenda has been skewed by a new world order shaped by the rise of religious forces. &nbsp;According to Ruth, the reason why there has been no further UN conference since Beijing 1995 is because progress in universal human rights and reproductive rights for women could no longer be relied on in the post-cold war world with the dissolution of the Soviet Bloc and its commitment to secularism.</p> <p>The shrinking of the state under neo-liberalism in many parts of the world combined with austerity budgets and reduced welfare spending has left it wide open for FBOs (faith based organisations) to take over services, many of which are delivered to women in need. &nbsp;Ruth cited a WHO report which estimated that 40% of health services in Sub-Saharan Africa are provided by the faith-based sector and between 30 to 70% of health sector infrastructure there is owned by FBOs. Afaf Jabiri, Senior Lecturer at the School of Social Sciences, UEL, pointed out that in Jordan, shelters for women are run by the women’s wing of the Islamic front which refuse to admit women escaping sexual violence as they are seen to be ‘immoral’ women who were in some way complicit in the crime. </p> <p>In Pakistan, local religious actors have been flexing their muscles on a range of issues such as education for girls and reproductive rights for women; the development paradigm there has been affected by Talibanisation.&nbsp; Ayesha Khan, who works with the Collective for Social Science Research in Karachi, reported that ‘There is a new interest in faith based programming, new support for informal justice mechanisms and sidelining of rights based discourse. Aid agencies are shrinking their vision of the achievable.’&nbsp; USAID spent time and money trying to win over local mullahs to support their campaign for increased contraceptive uptake although there is no empirical evidence to suggest that this strategy might work. In fact, family planning is one area where there is a convergence of views between the Taliban and mainstream political parties. Militants believe that family planning is a cover for a conspiracy to reduce the Muslim population. Their slogan, <em>‘barra khandan, jihad asaan </em>’ i.e. bigger families makes jihad easier, is hardly like to be a good fit with women’s reproductive rights.</p> <p>The power of local religious actors to impact the women’s rights agenda is very clearly visible in the impact that the Pakistani Taliban has had on the delivery of primary health services in the border areas contiguous with Afghanistan. The women who worked in the <a href="http://www.who.int/workforcealliance/knowledge/case_studies/CS_Pakistan_web_en.pdf">Lady Health Workers programme</a>, partly funded by external aid agencies, delivering vaccinations, ante-natal screenings, nutrition counselling and contraceptives were discredited for the crime of leaving their homes to carry out their duties and earning money. Many stopped going to work when the Taliban decreed that they should be punished by sexual assault or death. </p> <p>The post 9/11 punitive atmosphere fomented by the War on Terror initiatives across the world has also encouraged a counter movement of engaging enthusiastically with faith based organisations (FBOs), or rowing back on women’s rights in a placatory measure. A commander of the Britsh Metropolitan police <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/jun/26/immigration.childprotection">complained</a> that police work on forced marriage was being hampered by the British government’s desire to keep religious leaders onside in the bigger fight against extremism. In Pakistan, the government trades women’s rights in exchange for the integration of its religiously conservative tribal areas into the political system of the country. Ayesha described government moves to legalise the <em>jirga</em>, or tribal council, used in conflict resolution, a move opposed by women’s groups. A range of international donor agencies, including DFID and the World Bank are funding capacity building and training for jirga members despite the fact that their record of delivering justice to women stands on shaky grounds. In the UK too, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/pragna-patel/&#039;shariafication-by-stealth&#039;-in-uk">cuts in legal aid</a> have been partly responsible for increased uptake of parallel legal systems like the sharia councils.</p> <p>In many of the war zones, political power has been gained at gunpoint by religious leaders and ensured their inclusion in peace settlements. Syria is a prime example of this where <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/madeleine-rees/syrian-women-demand-to-take-part-in-peace-talks-in-geneva">women’s presence in the peace negotiations</a> is negligible even though research quoted by Valerie Amos, Director of SOAS, showed that the presence of women increased the prospect of lasting peace by 20 per cent.</p> <p>Whilst Valerie made a passionate case for the importance of the law in challenging gender discrimination, Ayesha showed how the law itself could be bypassed by the alternative dispute resolution system in Pakistan and Afaf explained how there was a deliberate blurring between laws and fatwas in Jordan as a way of bringing religious discourse into the mainstream. NGOs in Jordan have been campaigning for legislation to criminalise honour killings and to end the practice of forcing women to marry their rapists. Instead of passing laws, the Fatwa department issued fatwas to that effect, a move that was welcomed by UN Women as well as Jordanian feminists who had not taken fatwas seriously to date. </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/WP_20170318_16_30_40_Pro(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/WP_20170318_16_30_40_Pro(1).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'>From l to r: Awino Okech, Nadje Al-Ali, Ayesha Khan, Ruth Pearson and Afaf Jabiri, SOAS seminar. Photo: Rahila Gupta </span></span></span></p> <p>International aid agencies have enforced new ways of networking for change: a DFID initiative to deal with domestic violence in Jordan expected NGOs to strategize together with ‘moderate’ religious leaders of different faiths. Afaf pointed to the irony of the easy alliance struck up between Muslim and Christian leaders against women’s rights. At the meeting between Jordan and CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women), Jordan was represented by two sharia judges, among others, despite the fact that it prides itself on its modernity. Afaf reported that CEDAW told the NGOs that now was not the right time to raise the issue of women’s rights in Jordan because it had enough on its plate with containing refugees and fundamentalism. In the past the NGOs would have been outraged but it is a sign of the extent to which they have co-opted.</p> <p>The unwillingness or inability of development agencies to understand the dangers of religious forces, moderate or otherwise, is one issue. There is also the issue of how fundamentalism is framed. Afaf referenced Edward Said’s notion of ‘imperial continuity’ in relation to the notion of fundamentalism and to whom it should apply, while referring to the <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/03/official-resigns-israel-apartheid-report-170317182241142.html">furore</a> over the ESCWA (Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia) report which documented religious fundamentalism within the settler colonial state of Israel. Rima Khalaf, Head of ESCWA, resigned in protest at being asked by the UNSG to withdraw the report because it labelled Israel an apartheid state. Afaf questioned the hypocrisy of international organisations which do not challenge Jewish claims to land promised by God while condemning ISIS for its claim to land in Syria and Iraq on the same grounds. </p> <p>It seems as if the ambitions on paper expressed in the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN, particularly <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/women-and-the-sdgs/sdg-5-gender-equality">SDG 5</a> which deals with gender equality, will continue to stand in inverse proportion to their likelihood of being achieved on the ground unless we are prepared to challenge religious forces which are implacably opposed to women’s rights.</p><p><em>Read more articles on openDemocracy 50.50's platform</em> <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-frontline-voices-against-muslim-fundamentalism">Frontline Voices Against Fundamentalism </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/deniz-kandiyoti/conflict-and-custom-in-new-world-order-conversation-with-gita-sahgal">Conflict and Custom in the New World Order : a conversation with Gita Sahgal</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/pragna-patel/sharia-debate-who-will-listen-to-us">The Sharia debate in the UK: who will listen to our voices? </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/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/rahila-gupta/preventing-violent-extremism-noose-both-too-tight-and-too-loose">Preventing violent extremism: a noose that is both too tight and too loose </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/chlo%C3%A9-lewis/religion-gender-and-migration-beyond-obedience-vs-agency%E2%80%99">Religion, gender and migration: beyond &#039;obedience vs agency’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/gita-sahgal/sharia-law-apostasy-and-secularism">Sharia law, apostasy and secularism</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/deniz-kandiyoti-gita-sahgal/soft-law-and-hard-choices-conversation-with-gita-sahgal">&#039;Soft law&#039; and hard choices: a conversation with Gita Sahgal</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/culture-versus-rights-dualism-myth-or-reality">Culture versus rights dualism: a myth or a reality?</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/rahila-gupta/faith-know-thy-place">Faith: know thy place</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/from-war-on-terror-to-austerity-lost-decade-for-women-and-human-rights">From the war on terror to austerity: a lost decade for women and human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 even"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/why-relentless-assault-on-abortion-in-united-states">Why the relentless assault on abortion in the United States?</a> </div> </div> </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 World Forum for Democracy 2017 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion women's human rights patriarchy gender fundamentalisms feminism 50.50 newsletter Rahila Gupta Mon, 03 Apr 2017 08:03:33 +0000 Rahila Gupta 109815 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'Faith and family': shrinking common ground at the UN CSW https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/stephanie-sugars/UN-CSW-Worldwide-Organisation-Women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Worldwide Organization for Women took a hard line against all forms of comprehensive sexual education, often provided by UN bodies, highlighting ideological differences within the CSW.</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/CSW Open.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/CSW Open.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'>Opening of Commission on Status of Women 61st Session. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas</span></span></span></p><p>The conference room in the UN Church Center, New York, hummed with conversation. Like many of the events that had taken place over the last week and a half, women from around the world were gathered as part of the Commission on the Status of Women. But, the forum event hosted by the Worldwide Organization for Women on Tuesday was unlike almost all others: many speakers focused on condemning comprehensive sexuality education, a key policy of the UN long-advocated by the CSW.</p> <p>WOW was founded in 1977 with the motto: Faith, Family, Sovereignty. Their 14 Principles highlight traditional gender roles, the sanctity of life beginning at conception, and the “natural family.” Their stances on comprehensive sexual education, abortion, and LGBT issues tend towards the conservative, and they have not hesitated to vocally <a href="http://wowinfo.org/articles/do-you-know-what-really-happening-united-nations">resist</a> and condemn efforts the United Nations has made to address these issues. </p> <p>WOW is not alone: conservative groups such as Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam) and The Heritage Foundation have acted similarly. WOW’s concerns, and indeed even their motto, are reflected in a 2001 Heritage Foundation report: “How U.N. Conventions on Women’s and Children’s Rights Undermine Family, Religion, and Sovereignty.” Both C-Fam and The Heritage Foundation were included in the US’s official delegation to the CSW, and their influence on negotiations has never been higher.</p> <p>Yet WOW has worked in concert with other NGOs and the CSW in the past to sponsor and co-author statements on <a href="http://undocs.org/E/CN.6/2012/NGO/13">rural education</a>, <a href="http://undocs.org/E/CN.6/2012/NGO/65">mental health</a>, and <a href="http://undocs.org/E/CN.6/2013/NGO/78">gender-based violence</a>. In recent years, however, WOW has not contributed to any NGO statements to the CSW, instead focusing on events promoting their views on the “natural family” and motherhood. There is considerable room for collaboration and success on issues such as prevention of sexual violence against children and domestic and care work—both key focuses for the organization this year. But addressing WOW’s ideological concerns would roll back hard-won advances in women’s rights around the world.</p> <p>Amaka Ada Akudinobi, an active leader in WOW Africa, spoke on the state of sexual violence in Nigeria, highlighting persistent issues of child marriage, abduction, and rape, and the key role of the family. This aligns with the values and aims of the CSW and UN both. The importance of family to preventing or recognizing the signs of abuse was also stressed by Cecilia Anicama, a Programme Specialist on Violence against Children, during <a href="http://www.salvationarmy.org/isjc/csw6018">last year’s CSW</a>. And Special Representative to the UN Secretary General on Violence against Children Marta Santos Pais herself&nbsp;<a href="http://srsg.violenceagainstchildren.org/story/2017-03-10_1538">placed</a> protection of children from violence at the forefront of the Human Rights Council session earlier this month.</p> <p>There continues to be room for meaningful collaboration between conservative groups like WOW and the UN on issues of sexual violence, but this is not the case when it comes to Comprehensive Sexual Education. CSE has been central to United Nations efforts since the UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, UN Population Fund, UNICEF, and World Health Organization published <a href="http://www.unesco.org/new/en/hiv-and-aids/our-priorities-in-hiv/sexuality-education/international-technical-guidance-on-sexuality-education/">the first global guidance</a> on sexuality education in 2009. Today, it is integral to UNESCO’s strategy on HIV/AIDS, and is implemented by UNFPA with the help of local governments around the world. CSE “enables young people to protect their health, well-being and dignity,” UNFPA <a href="http://www.unfpa.org/comprehensive-sexuality-education">writes</a> on their website. “And because these programmes are based on human rights principles, they advance gender equality and the rights and empowerment of young people.”</p> <p>Speakers during WOW’s forum event were far from supportive of these programs. “We are not against sex education,” said Sharon Slater, president of Family Watch International. “But this goes way beyond sex education… its an assault on our children: on their health, on their innocence.” </p> <p>During the event, Slater screened an excerpt of “The War on Children,” a video produced by Family Watch International about CSE and what they term the “sexualization of children.” It highlighted the CSE’s “obsessive focus on abortion;” discussion of gender identity, claiming it leads to “gender confusion” and amounts to “mental molestation;” and Planned Parenthood’s goal of “hooking children on sex” because it “is a multi-billion-dollar industry for Planned Parenthood.”</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/Pence_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Pence_0.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'>Vice President Mike Pence speaks in front of the March for Life Friday, Jan. 27, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Credit: TNS/SIPA USA/PA Images</span></span></span></p><p>The FWI film contained multiple inaccurate or misleading statements. While it repeatedly condemned the inclusion of speaking with children between the ages of two and six about masturbation as an “assault on their innocence,” <a href="http://www.summitmedicalgroup.com/library/pediatric_health/pa-hhgbeh_masturbation/">multiple</a> <a href="http://nctsn.org/nctsn_assets/pdfs/caring/sexualdevelopmentandbehavior.pdf">pediatric</a> <a href="http://www.tncac.org/documents/3-child-sexual-behavior.pdf">associations</a> have <a href="https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/healthy-sexual-behaviour-children-young-people/">established</a> that it is healthy and normal for children around this age to discover and practice masturbation on their own. The film also claimed that abstinence-only or -focused education is as effective as CSE. However, research <a href="http://www.siecus.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.ViewPage&amp;PageID=1193#_edn1">has</a> <a href="http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/1487">found</a> that teens who received CSE as compared to abstinence-only education start having sex later, have less sex and fewer partners, are more likely to use protection, and are less likely to become pregnant or contract a sexually transmitted infection.</p> <p>Understanding WOW’s opposition to CSE requires recognizing one of the biggest threats they see to children: “moral grooming.” Yvonne Averett, vice president of WOW, identified “moral grooming,” as opposed to that done by sexual predators, as the most common form children are exposed to online. A slide during her presentation indirectly defined ‘moral grooming’ as exposure to “ideas that conflict with religious and family values.” It is this exposure that underlies many of the critiques WOW has of CSE, namely its inclusion of abortion, same-sex relationships, and exploration of gender identity. The education on these issues is seen as partisan and contrary to the values central to the cultural and religious beliefs of WOW and its members.</p> <p>It is on these issues that CSW and WOW, with the support of other conservative organizations and governments, have typically differed. The 61st session of the CSW has focused on women’s economic empowerment. WOW continues to champion traditional gender roles: “WOW knows that motherhood is the most important occupation and provides the most for world peace and economic global sustainability than any other occupation a woman can engage in,” said Nicholeen Peck, president of WOW. “When a mother sees her role of mother as the most significant role in her life, then she is more happy and her children are more happy.” While CSW has, for the first time, included language on sexual orientation and gender identity in the agreed conclusions, WOW’s centering of the “natural family” stands inherently opposed to what they regard as LGBT “lifestyles.” </p> <p>Reconciling these views are increasingly difficult and, for individuals on both sides, undesirable. The question remains: Is there room and reason to work together? On some issues, the answer appears to be yes. The inclusion of care and domestic work performed in the home in measures of GDP is a win for both WOW and the CSW this session, with the current draft stating that laws and policies should recognize “that work of the home, including unpaid care and domestic work, generates key human, social, and moral capital essential for sustainable development.” Yet conservative organizations are influencing language: well-established and widely-accepted references to sexual and reproductive health services are under threat this year because of their association with abortion services.</p> <p>The CSW does not need a unified front, even though it presents ‘agreed conclusions’ at the end of the meeting. Some issues will be left unaddressed far longer than their advocates would like; others will be fought against by those who see them as regressive or damaging. Norms and values shift and change as the push for fuller, more comprehensive protections and rights persists. Akudinobi, in reference to combatting female genital mutilation, said something applicable in many struggles for human rights: “How do you do that to a child? All in the name of culture? Maybe it was once our culture, for we all know that culture is not static. Culture was created by all of us, the community, and it’s time we stood up against it.”&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/yakin-erturk/culture-versus-rights-dualism-myth-or-reality">Culture versus rights dualism: a myth or a reality?</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/zohra-moosa/csw-its-time-to-question-vaticans-power-at-un">CSW: it&#039;s time to question the Vatican&#039;s power at the UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maxine-molyneux/of-rights-and-risks-are-women%E2%80%99s-human-rights-in-jeopardy">Of rights and risks: are women’s human rights in jeopardy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/gender-wars-women-redefining-customs-as-crimes">Gender wars: women redefining customs as crimes </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Gender and the UN 50.50 Women's Movement Building UN Commission on the Status of Women 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 newsletter bodily autonomy fundamentalisms gender justice secularism women's movements Stephanie Sugars Sat, 25 Mar 2017 16:08:58 +0000 Stephanie Sugars 109679 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Nagaland and the fight for a women's quota https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/dolly-kikon/nagaland-fight-for-women-quota <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Tribal bodies dominated by men, protesting against a 33 percent reservation for women to participate in public office, have brought parts of Nagaland to a standstill.</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/image.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/image.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit:Dolly Kikon and Inotoli Zhimomi</span></span></span></p><p>Nagaland, in North-East India, is the only state where there has been sustained opposition to the 33 per cent reservation for women to participate in public office, a policy which has been implemented across India. An urban local bodies election was scheduled to take place on February 1 and would have been the first to implement the reservation. However it was met with violent protests that shut down educational institutions, public offices and shops across the state. The election has been indefinitely postponed, but due to the struggles of Naga women the issue has been kept in the limelight.</p> <p>Since 2006, when the first Amendment of the Nagaland Municipal Act was enacted, tribal bodies dominated by men have consistently opposed the affirmative action policy passed by the government of India. After these initial protests, the momentum for the opposition to 33% did not subside.&nbsp; Opposition grew over the years as tribal bodies and cultural associations threatened people with dire consequences if they came out to support the affirmative action.</p> <p>When the state government of Nagaland decided to go ahead with the 2017 Municipal election and implement the 33% reservation for women, male tribal bodies spearheaded a series of protests. In the beginning church elders and civil society leaders were called upon to broker a temporary peace. It was agreed that the government would defer the elections and tribal organisations would call off their opposition campaign. However, the administration allowed the elections to take place in certain districts that were not opposed to the reservation. This led to a call for a return to the streets by the male protestors. &nbsp;</p> <p>On 5 March 2017, the Central Nagaland Tribal Council (CNTB) <a href="http://www.nagalandpost.com/ChannelNews/State/StateNews.aspx?news=TkVXUzEwMDExMDc4OQ%3D%3D">issued an order</a> to “restrain” youth and women who were speaking up for 33% reservation. State security forces killed three male protesters who were attending public meetings organised by male tribal bodies. During the weeks to come, mobs organised by tribal associations burnt down public property. In an attempt to quell the unrest, the government resorted to censorship of social media and internet.<em> </em>The protesters blamed the government of Nagaland for failing to consult ‘the people’, in other words, the male tribal bodies and authorities. Condemning the government of Nagaland for being ‘anti-Naga people’ and disrespecting customary practices and culture, the violent protests intensified. As a result, the urban local bodies’ election was postponed indefinitely and the Chief Minister of Nagaland, Mr. T.R. Zeliang was forced to step down and hand over power to his colleague Dr. Shurhozelie Leizitsu.&nbsp;</p> <p>Some normality has been restored after the decision to postpone the 33 per cent reservation for women indefinitely. Yet, the situation remains uncertain as public workers do not have offices to return to. Many government buildings were burnt down by the protesters and equipment such as pollution toolkits, documents, and furniture <a href="http://morungexpress.com/offices-struggle-get-back-track/">destroyed</a>.</p> <p>The opposition to affirmative action has opened up serious concerns and debates about gender justice in Naga society. Nagaland, with a population of 1.9 million, has managed its own civil and legal affairs since its inception as a federal unit within the Republic of India in 1963. Customary courts and traditional tribal organisations have functioned as the administrative and moral authorities in the state. Although there is a Legislative Assembly where members are elected through the Indian electoral system every five years, the traditional courts and organisations enjoy a degree of influence that is unprecedented and cannot be found in other states within the country. A provision within the Constitution of India, known as Article 371 (A) guarantees protection of Naga culture and customs, land ownership, including preservation of local social and religious practices.</p> <p>These functions have given immense power to the male tribal councils and associations in Nagaland. However, their rise to power also needs to be understood against the backdrop of the armed conflict between Naga national groups fighting the government of India since 1947 for their right to a sovereign homeland. Given the long conflict, state organs and public offices in Nagaland are defunct, and Naga society is extremely militarised. Leaders who are heads of parliamentary political parties and hold important positions are accused of corruption and of instrumentalising the conflict for their political gains. Given the political instability, the tribal organisations have emerged as a powerful public forum. As in other indigenous societies around the world, these bodies were revered in the past and Naga culture and customs were propagated as practices handed down ‘since time immemorial’.</p> <p>The iteration of Naga culture as pure and unique has come to be contested in the ongoing debate about women’s rights. Advocates of the 33 per cent reservation, such as women and youth organisations, and male and female individual voices, have argued against the notion of a static and masculine Naga culture. They have argued that customary laws and practices that continue to exclude women cannot be held as instruments of justice. &nbsp;The male-dominated tribal bodies exclude women’s participation, although Naga women hold important positions as administrators, doctors, engineers, academics, and are successful entrepreneurs. It is significant that none of these positions are within the ambit of Naga traditional institutions. Therefore, the processes of negotiating for women’s rights in Naga society are regarded as a demand outside the traditional customary set-up. On this logic, Naga women’s assertions for gender justice have been tagged as ‘anti-Naga’ move.&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/535193/Naga.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Naga.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="297" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Naga tribesmen wait to perform a cultural dance at the opening day of the state annual Hornbill Festival. Credit: PA Images / NurPhoto</span></span></span></p><p>There is an anxiety and fear that sharing traditional decision-making platforms with women will ruin Naga society. &nbsp;Journalist Amrit Dhillon <a href="http://www.theage.com.au/world/nagaland-where-men-are-on-strike-until-women-go-back-to-the-kitchen-20170214-gucdtw.html">reported</a> these sentiments when she spoke to Naga male protesters. In her piece titled ‘Nagaland, where men are on strike until women go back to the kitchen’, she quoted Mr. Hokiye Sema who said, "In Naga society a women is not equal to man. We give women respect but they cannot make decisions. Even in our village councils, women speak only if they are invited to give their opinion to the men. Giving women equality will destabilise our society and our ancient customs." &nbsp;Speaking to Dhillon, another Naga male protester, Mr Vekhosayi Nyekha, the co-convener of the Joint Co-ordination Committee (JCC) said, "Naga women work at home and in the fields. Men go to war. Men make the decisions. That’s Naga culture for centuries and we won’t allow anyone to destroy our culture". Despite the powers arrayed against them, Eyingbeni, a Naga feminist theologian who supports the quota for women said, "I believe all the chaos is related with (sic) 33% reservation…I cringe at womenfolk joining the bandh (strike) in their Sunday best...all the more the reason to reserve seats for them. We will keep hope burning for women".</p> <p>In order to demand the implementation of the quota, a <a href="https://www.change.org/p/prime-minister-of-india-support-naga-women-s-political-voice-33-seat-reservation-in-nagaland?source_location=minibar">signature campaign</a> was launched online in February. Situating the history of excluding Naga women in political decision making bodies, the campaign stated, "Nagaland state parliament has only one female (only a fill-in of her husband’s seat who passed away in the midterm). This is 54 years of exclusive men’s club!! It’s time for women’s political voice to be heard in Nagaland." The appeal and campaign was sent to the office of the Prime Minister of India and various government bodies, Naga traditional councils, and international organisations. An important part of the campaign appealed for a citizen inquiry to look into the destruction of property and loss of life during the protests, and to initiate a debate on gender justice in the state.</p> <p>It is important to reiterate that the struggle for gender justice is not spearheaded by women alone. Male and female supporters of the 33 per cent reservation have encountered Naga men and women who believe that tribal authority and power should rest with Naga men alone. Under such circumstances, as cultural and political organisations look to the central government of India to intervene and resolve the crisis, it is becoming clear that the battle is closer to home. Unless debates and dialogues for gender justice and Naga women’s experiences of patriarchy, violence, and everyday humiliation are recognised, the movement for gender justice will remain a fragmented one. As Naga feminist activist Inotoli Zhimomi <a href="http://raiot.in/nagaland-needs-to-honestly-discuss-33-reservation-for-women/">notes</a>, "Implementing the 33% reservation does not reflect negative aspect of Naga culture, therefore, it should not be seen as a punitive measure against Naga cultural practices. On [the] contrary, if there is anything negative it is the rejection of such affirmative action. It is the denial of the patriarchy that defines Naga society."</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dolly-kikon/sexual-violence-and-culture-of-impunity-in-nagaland">Sexual violence and the culture of impunity in Nagaland</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/civilresistance/bhavana-mahajan/woman-challenging-state-sanctioned-violence-in-northeast-india">A woman challenging state-sanctioned violence in Northeast India</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/breaking-free-womens-movement-India-universities">Breaking Free: a women&#039;s movement in Indian universities </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 India 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion patriarchy gender justice gender feminism 50.50 newsletter Dolly Kikon Fri, 17 Mar 2017 14:50:59 +0000 Dolly Kikon 109500 at https://www.opendemocracy.net No borders on gender justice https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/opendemocracy-5050/no-borders-on-gender-justice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) takes place in New York, gender justice advocates from around the world are uniting around the following principles.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div style="color: #666;font-size:110%;;margin-bottom:30px"><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women"><img style="float:right;width:auto !important" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/5050-uncsw2017-d-140x80px_1.png" /></a><p style="background-color:#f7f7f7;padding:10px;margin:0">This article is part of our <a style="color:#333;text-decoration:underline" href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women">coverage</a> of the United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women, New York, March 2017</p></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/HearOurVoice.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/HearOurVoice.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'>International Women's Day March, New York, 8 March 2017. Credit: PA Images / Erik McGregor</span></span></span></p><p><em><strong>Initiated by: MADRE, Just Associates (JASS), Center for Women’s Global Leadership, AWID, Urgent Action Fund, Women in Migration Network and Outright Action International.</strong></em></p><p>This year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York comes as multiple governments have succumbed to a dangerous right-wing populism and authoritarianism, unleashing resurgent anti-migrant, misogynist, racist, neocolonialist, and neoliberal policies.</p><p>In the face of this, and at a time of ongoing wars, refugee crises and attacks on human rights, women civil society and gender justice advocates from around the globe are coming together in New York to develop and share strategies of resistance, and to reassert that women’s rights are human rights. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><h3><strong>Platform of Principles</strong></h3><p>We stand together for gender justice and migrant rights. Inspired by the March 8th International Women’s Strike, we call for civil society actions during the CSW to ignite resistance to the conditions that have produced right-wing populism and given rise to authoritarian governance. These conditions include neocolonialism, neoliberalism and the wars that have been waged to uphold those systems. We stand in solidarity with women and our allies who have been blocked from coming to New York to lobby the world’s governments by anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies of the United States. We seek to highlight the voices of these missing civil society actors during the CSW and to demand their access to this and other UN spaces.</p><p>We unite around the following principles:</p><h3><strong>Freedom of Movement and an End to Border Imperialism</strong></h3><p>We recognize that the rights of refugees and migrants are endangered by racist and xenophobic border policies, and that women face particular gender-based threats. We know that migration is driven in significant part by policies that place corporate profits over the lives and wellbeing of people and the environment. We call for governments to respect the rights of all refugees, including those fleeing war, poverty, gender-based violence and climate disasters. We call for governments to remove barriers to migrants seeking safety and economic stability, for an end to criminalization of migration, and for an end to raids, arrests, deportations, detentions and other police actions against immigrant communities. We further call for governments to respect the rights of women and girls to move freely within their own countries, to go to work or school, and to socialize and organize with their communities, without hindrance from state or private actors.</p><h3><strong>Civil Society Access to the UN Commission on the Status of Women and All UN Spaces</strong></h3><p>For too long, the inter-governmental meetings at CSW have sidelined and ignored the voices of civil society, and failed to recognize the expertise and leadership of grassroots women activists. We demand that CSW become a space for civil society feminist policymaking that unites women and gender justice advocates from all parts of the globe while centering the needs of those women who have been historically marginalized and are today on the frontlines of our global crises. As the only nominally democratic institution of global governance, we demand that the UN system live up to its promise of upholding the full range of human rights for all people.&nbsp;</p><h3><strong>An End to Gender-Based Violence</strong></h3><p>We demand governments take measures to prevent and to ensure justice and reparations for all forms of gender-based violence, whether committed by private actors, police, soldiers, border agents or other state actors. We call on states to grant legal status and lives of dignity to refugees fleeing gender-based violence. We demand that governments refrain from using women as human shields when they cite women’s rights violations to justify imperial wars. We call on governments to consult with and lend support to civil society women’s organizations, particularly local, grassroots women’s groups that fight for gender justice and provide necessary services to people fleeing gender-based violence in war and disaster zones. We further call for women human rights defenders and their families to be protected and to receive justice and reparations for violence, forced disappearance or murder committed against them.</p><h3><strong>Reproductive Justice for All</strong></h3><p>We affirm reproductive justice as a cornerstone of human rights for all women, cis and trans. We assert the full range of reproductive rights as fundamental to women’s autonomy and self-determination, and we stand in defense of every mother’s right to raise her child in a safe and healthy environment. This vision includes the right to choose whether or not to have children, the freedom to determine the number and spacing of those children, and the financial and material support to ensure wellbeing. To realize this vision, we call for full protections for the rights to abortion, contraception and universal health care for all, irrespective of income, race, nationality, sexuality, gender identity, HIV/AIDS status, or other status.</p><h3><strong>LGBTIQ Rights</strong></h3><p>We recognize that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, gender non-conforming and queer-identified people are disproportionately subject to discrimination and violence. We demand the full spectrum of human rights protections for LGBTIQ people and call on governments to eliminate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. &nbsp;</p><h3><strong>Labor Rights and Full Social Benefits</strong></h3><p>The world’s wealth is based largely on women’s labor, paid and unpaid. As states have abdicated their responsibility for social and economic rights through neoliberal austerity measures, women – already the primary caretakers for everyone – are forced to absorb the unpaid work burden of defunded public services. We demand living wages and full labor protections for women working in formal and informal sectors. We call on governments to end austerity and to ensure women’s full access to all social welfare benefits necessary to live free of poverty.</p><h3><strong>Environmental Justice for All</strong></h3><p>While poor, rural and Indigenous women are made especially vulnerable to climate change by discrimination and poverty, they are more than victims: they are sources of solutions. Women leverage their roles as stewards of natural resources to devise innovative, locally-rooted responses to climate change. Yet the voices of women are routinely excluded from policymaking—despite the visionary solutions they offer. This results in climate policies that further marginalize women, undermine human rights generally and reinforce assumptions that created the climate crisis in the first place. We call for meaningful consultation with women, with Indigenous Peoples, and all others who are modeling sustainability, acting as environmental stewards, and standing up to pollution and resource exploitation. We furthermore call for consistent global enforcement of the principles of free, prior and informed consent to combat expansion of extractive industries and other environmental destruction.&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>Gender justice is central to realizing a world where all people enjoy the full range of human rights. Women and allies joining together in New York during CSW understand that our international networking, our collaborative organizing and our creative change strategies are more necessary than ever. We will gather at CSW to:</p><p>Renew strategies to reclaim international democratic spaces, address the current global political climate, and defend the full range of women’s human rights and the international norms and institutions meant to uphold them.</p><p>Protest the racist and Islamophobic policies that bar access for many to UN Headquarters. Amplify the demands of those who have been excluded, and reassert our commitment to the human rights of migrants and refugees, without discrimination.</p><p>Deepen a process of consultation and collaboration rooted in international solidarity with women who have been historically marginalized and those who are most at risk from the authoritarianism of a growing number of countries, particularly Muslim women and migrant and refugee women.</p><p><strong><em>The #NoBordersOnGenderJustice initiative have signed a letter to the Members of the UN Commission on the Status of Women expressing their concerns. You can sign it <a href="https://www.madre.org/press-publications/human-rights-report/letter-members-un-commission-status-women">here.</a>&nbsp;</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/lisa-davis-yifat-susskind/standing-our-ground-at-un-commission-on-status-of-women-csw">Standing our ground at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/culture-versus-rights-dualism-myth-or-reality">Culture versus rights dualism: a myth or a reality?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/time-for-fifth-world-conference-on-women">Time for a Fifth World Conference on Women?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/missing-link-in-women%27s-human-rights">The missing link in women&#039;s human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lyric-thompson/towards-feminist-united-nations-six-point-agenda-for-new-sg">Towards a feminist United Nations: a six-point agenda for the new SG</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sanam-naraghi-anderlini/trump-s-slap-in-face-of-lady-liberty">Trump&#039;s slap in the face of Lady Liberty</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/ninth-man">António Guterres: The Ninth Man </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/gender-wars-women-redefining-customs-as-crimes">Gender wars: women redefining customs as crimes </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rosalie-fransen/un-csw-women-s-reproductive-rights-or-culture-of-death"> UN CSW: debating women’s reproductive rights or a “culture of death” ? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sophie-giscard-destaing/where-is-gender-sensitive-humanitarian-response-to-protecting-women-refugees"> UN CSW: ending impunity for gender-based crimes against women refugees </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karin-attia/how-do-we-engage-men-and-boys-as-allies-in-ending-violence-against-women">UN CSW: engaging men and boys in ending violence against women as allies not protectors</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/joanna-lockspeiser/un-csw-still-failing-to-count-all-women">UN CSW: still failing to count all women </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/margaret-owen/un-csw-cedaw-article-5-must-be-applied-now">UN CSW: the way to empower women is to use CEDAW Article 5, not the CSW</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/meredith-tax/sound-trumpet">Sound the Trumpet </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/ninth-man">António Guterres: The Ninth Man </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/clare-church/indigenous-women-brave-storm-to-begin-talks-for-uncsw">Indigenous women brave the storm to begin talks at UN CSW</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/stephanie-sugars/queer-and-trans-issues-are-sidelined-again-at-united-nations-csw">Queer and trans issues are sidelined again at the United Nations CSW</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-reeve/pr-profit-and-empowering-women-in-garment-industry">PR, profit and ‘empowering women’ in the garment industry</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Gender and the UN 50.50 Women's Movement Building UN Commission on the Status of Women 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy women's movements gender justice feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Multiple authors Mon, 13 Mar 2017 11:13:46 +0000 Multiple authors 109403 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Will Nepal give equal citizenship rights to women? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/amal-de-chickera-catherine-harrington/will-nepal-give-equal-citizenship-rights-to-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Nepali women are treated as second-class citizens, due to discriminatory nationality law.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/6081164334_212e3b6fdc_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/6081164334_212e3b6fdc_z.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 Nepali woman holds a sign as part of the World Bank 'Think EQUAL' campaign. Credit: Stephan Bachenheimer / World Bank </span></span></span></em></p><p><em>“Is it my fault that I don’t have a nationality?” </em>a young Nepali girl asked recently on one of the country’s prime-time talk shows. <em>“No it is not. It is your mother’s,” </em>replied the male authority figure. The girl is one of countless women, men, girls and boys in the country who are classified as stateless, despite being born in Nepal to Nepali mothers.&nbsp;</p> <p>Nepal remains <a href="http://equalnationalityrights.org/the-issue/the-problem">one of twenty-six countries</a> that denies women the equal right to confer nationality on their children, and one of roughly fifty that denies women the right to pass nationality to their spouses and to even acquire and retain their own nationality. </p> <p>We recently travelled to the country, on behalf of the <a href="http://equalnationalityrights.org/">Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights</a> to increase government authorities’ and legislators’ awareness of the significant harm done by this discriminatory nationality law to individuals, families, and indeed to the country’s economy and reputation. </p> <p>We witnessed a country striving to write a new chapter marked by stability and a shared prosperity. Ten years after its historic peace agreement, one year after the establishment of its new Constitution, and still recovering from the devastating 2015 earthquake, this young democracy is considering how to lay the foundation for a fairer society that transcends the political conflict and economic hardship of the past. &nbsp;</p> <p>Like too many countries though, it is trying to do so having tied one of its own hands behind its back. </p> <p>The impact of gender discrimination in nationality laws is significant and wide-ranging: from denied access to education and healthcare, to the inability to own property, hold a bank account or drivers license, vote, or run for public office. Many end up statelessness, not considered citizens by their own countries, or indeed, any other country in the world.</p> <p>Denied equal rights, the child of a Nepali woman whose father is ‘unknown’ (a term with great stigma attached) should, according to the Constitution, have access to citizenship. In practice, such children can only apply for naturalized citizenship – which is citizenship not by right, but at the discretion of state authorities, most of whom are deeply conservative. The child of Nepali woman and a foreign man may only apply for naturalized citizenship <em>if</em> the child has not acquired any other citizenship <em>and</em> is a permanent resident of Nepal. Even when it comes to securing one’s own citizenship, Nepali girls must do so through their father and married Nepali women through their spouse. </p> <p>This year, laws that conflict with the new constitution, including the nationality law, are expected to be amended. This presents an opportunity to advance the nationality rights of Nepali women and their children in some circumstances – an opportunity that, if leveraged, would benefit the country and further gender equality. However, to achieve equal nationality rights for Nepali men and women, a Constitutional amendment is urgently needed.</p> <h3><strong>The cost of exclusion</strong></h3> <p><em>“If my daughters become refugees in another country, will they then be able to get a nationality?”</em> This was the question being asked by Deepti Gurung, a Nepali woman unable to secure Nepali nationality for her children born in Nepal, despite trying everything possible for many years. That an educated woman would even fleetingly consider refugee status in a foreign country as a ‘solution’ to securing her children’s future, points to a profound sense of helplessness.</p> <p>When we visited Deepti and her family, sitting in her living room and eating her expertly made samosas, we could feel the deep sadness, frustration, and desperation of this mother who would do anything to give her daughters the opportunity to succeed in life. She knew that, despite all her efforts, the list of opportunities that her daughters would be denied was long and the burden heavy.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/6853075257_8befe136b5_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/6853075257_8befe136b5_z.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'>Nepali woman and daughter outside a clinic. Credit: Possible Health</span></span></span></p><p>When speaking with her daughter, what struck us was not just that here was an intelligent young woman who would never become the doctor she dreamt of being, or whose plans to be a lawyer were indefinitely put on hold until she got citizenship. Here also was a country heavily dependent on its next generation, but missing out on some of its best and brightest young talent due to an ill-conceived and discriminatory law that most countries have relegated to the history books. </p> <p>Though ‘lucky’ is never a word Deepti would use to describe her family’s situation, many affected families face situations that are far more dire. Sapana Pariyar's husband abandoned her and their two children, refusing to grant his citizenship to his wife or daughters. Single mothers who were married before applying for citizenship have little chance of securing theirs or their children's. Lacking the documents needed for formal employment, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtIlhGSIM80">Sapana does hard labor</a> to try to put enough food on the table for her children. The meager salary was not enough, however, to pay primary school fees or rent in their modest home. As a result, the family is homeless and the two young daughters cannot go to school. </p> <p>The personal cost of statelessness is <a href="http://www.institutesi.org/worldsstateless.pdf">well-documented and wide-ranging</a>, but states are not necessarily motivated into action by this alone. However, the cost of statelessness is not only individual. States also pay a price: an opportunity cost of a growing disenfranchised population with no means to support itself or contribute to the formal economy; the development cost of not being able to benefit from the full potential of all its people; the socio-political cost of ever-increasing inequality and tension. </p> <p>The link between gender equality and sustainable economic development is not groundbreaking. Development experts and human rights actors have emphasized the connections for years. That is why the <a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs">Sustainable Development Goals</a> (SDGs) include ending discrimination against women as a stand-alone goal (Goal 5), while also integrating gender indicators throughout the other sixteen goals. Nepal and countries with similar laws will not be able to reach targets on nine of the seventeen SDGs, as long as they retain gender-discriminatory nationality laws. These include targets related to achieving peace, justice and strong institutions (Goal 16), quality education (Goal 4), the eradication of poverty and hunger (Goals 1 &amp; 2), and the reduction of inequalities (Goal 10).</p> <p>We have all been patriarchal societies and continue to be, to varying degrees. No country has a monopoly on that history. But it is a legacy that is holding every country back – notably so when gender discrimination is sanctioned by law and prevents access to citizenship. Discriminatory nationality laws provide insight into the state’s position that despite whatever else is written, rights and responsibilities are ultimately defined (and denied) by gender. They show that all citizens are really not equal before the law. &nbsp;</p> <p>Nepal will be drafting a new citizenship law in the coming year. Like other countries with discriminatory nationality laws, it will also be establishing a national action plan to realize the Sustainable Development Goals. And so, well into the 21<span>st</span>&nbsp;century, it has a dual opportunity to finally end one of the great exclusions of the 20<span>th</span>&nbsp;century and to set its course on the path to equality, justice, and sustainable development for all. For the sake of its people, its future, we can only hope that this is an opportunity it will take.</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/nicoal-desouza/nepal-struggle-for-equal-citizenship-rights-for-women">Nepal: the struggle for equal citizenship rights for women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/blog/nepals_widows">Nepal&#039;s widows</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"> Nepal </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 Nepal 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 People on the Move gender justice 50.50 newsletter Amal de Chickera Catherine Harrington Thu, 09 Mar 2017 09:56:13 +0000 Amal de Chickera and Catherine Harrington 109324 at https://www.opendemocracy.net India's female genital mutilation: a thousand-year-old secret https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rita-banerji/indias-female-gential-mutilationj-thousand-year-old-secret <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>So little was known, until recently, about the secretive practice of FGM in a small &nbsp;Muslim community that India is not even on the UN’s list of FGM countries.</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/535193/800px-Mausoleum_Dawoodi_Bohra_Duwat,Burhanpur_era.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/800px-Mausoleum_Dawoodi_Bohra_Duwat,Burhanpur_era.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'>Mausoleum of Dawoodi Bohra community. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.</span></span></span></p><p>India’s Dawoodi Bohra community has been so closeted about its practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) that its recent disclosure shocked even women’s rights activists. It was the highly publicised criminal trial of the FGM of two Bohra girls in Australia, in 2010 and 2011, which shattered the secrecy around this practice.&nbsp; Following investigation and trial, the mother of the girls, the midwife and a Bohra priest in Australia <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/mar/18/three-sentenced-to-15-months-in-landmark-female-genital-mutilation-trial">were sentenced to 15 months in prison</a> in 2016.</p> <p>They are a Shia Muslim sect that <a href="http://www.tehelka.com/story_main48.asp?filename=Ws220211BOHRASII.asp">migrated to India</a> &nbsp;from Yemen in the 12th&nbsp;century.&nbsp; Their custom of FGM probably originated in Yemen as it’s still a <a href="https://orchidproject.org/fgm-in-yemenas-high-as-69-in-coastal-regions/">widespread practice there</a>. The Bohra population is only about one million in size, with most settled in western India, and smaller communities in other countries. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps what shocks most is that this practice is being carried out among the Bohras who are regarded as a progressive, prosperous and well educated community.&nbsp; In fact, the Bohras are proud that their daughters are encouraged to excel in their education and jobs in much the same way as their sons. Most Bohra women are not veiled and choose modern, western attire and lifestyles. Even the burkha of Bohra women, called the Rida, is designed to reflect the <a href="https://www.pri.org/stories/2011-04-24/how-bohra-muslims-set-themselves-apart">community’s view of itself</a> as being innovative and progressive. The Rida leaves the face uncovered, with a flap as option, and instead of the conservative black, it is always in bright colours like deep pinks, reds and greens, with lace and designs. </p> <p>Nonetheless, recent testimonies and initiatives by Bohra women indicate that FGM is practiced widely.&nbsp; In 2015 a group of women launched ‘<a href="https://sahiyo.com/about-us/who-we-are/">Sahiyo</a>’ meaning ‘female friend,’ an online platform that aims to create a safe, women-supported space for Bohra FGM survivors to <a href="https://sahiyo.com/category/stories-and-narratives/">share their personal stories</a> and to lobby support via <a href="https://www.change.org/p/end-female-genital-mutilation-in-india">a petition</a> for a law to ban FGM in India.&nbsp; As there is no law in India banning FGM, a survey by Sahiyo indicates that the ratio of Bohra girls who have been subjected to FGM could be as <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/02/fighting-female-genital-mutilation-india-bohra-160225093408129.html">high as 80 per cent</a>. The survey also includes Bohra women in the US, UK and Australia.&nbsp; After India, the second highest proportion of women in the survey, <a href="https://sahiyo.com/our-history/">31 percent</a>, are in the US.</p> <p>The Bohras practice <a href="http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/fgm/overview/en/">Type-I FGM</a> which involves the partial or complete removal of the clitoris or clitoral hood. The clitoris is referred to as the ‘Haram ki boti’ or ‘sinful piece of flesh’ a recognition of its biological role in women’s orgasms and libido.&nbsp; Even though FGM is called ‘Khatna’ or ‘circumcision,’ which is a ‘coming of age’ social ritual and fervently discussed and debated among women in other communities, what makes it odd among the Bohras is that it appears to be an extremely clandestine procedure.&nbsp; &nbsp;<a href="http://www.dnaindia.com/lifestyle/report-a-pinch-of-skin-a-documentary-that-attempts-to-lift-the-silence-on-female-genital-mutilation-1986973">Aarefa Johari</a>, one of the co-founders of Sahiyo says it is <a href="http://www.dnaindia.com/lifestyle/report-a-pinch-of-skin-a-documentary-that-attempts-to-lift-the-silence-on-female-genital-mutilation-1986973">never talked about</a> even among girls and women. &nbsp;Testimonies from Bohra women, <a href="https://breakthesilencespeakthetruth.wordpress.com/">discussed in agonising details</a>, show the procedure is carried out by impoverished women practitioners, (who probably just need the income) in unhygienic environments, using a razor blade without anaesthesia. </p> <p>FGM should be relatively easy to eradicate in India. Clearly <a href="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/survey-80-of-bohra-women-subjected-to-genital-mutilation/articleshow/57011229.cms">many Bohra women</a> want this custom abolished.&nbsp; Public testimonies of survivors show extreme angst. Many women <a href="http://www.hindustantimes.com/static/fgm-indias-dark-secret/">have admitted</a> that this has affected their sex lives adversely.&nbsp; Others speak of a much deeper psychological scarring caused by this childhood trauma. As <a href="https://breakthesilencespeakthetruth.wordpress.com/2015/08/18/no-comments-no-words/#comments">one woman says</a>, ‘The pain was blinding and ravaging… At 33, I feel sick and mentally disturbed because still I remember that day… I can only believe that most of our women feel like me. But consider themselves weak to change. But I ask still, Why? How can we put our children through this horror of FGM?’ Oddly, even though many Bohra women are extremely uncomfortable about the practice and want it to stop, there’s no clear answer as to why or how it continues.</p><p>‘People fear ostracism in the community,’ <a href="http://www.dnaindia.com/lifestyle/report-a-pinch-of-skin-a-documentary-that-attempts-to-lift-the-silence-on-female-genital-mutilation-1986973">explains Aarefa Johari</a>. &nbsp;She says families who don’t do FGM stay silent about their choice.&nbsp;&nbsp; Dilshad Tavawala, a child protection lawyer in Canada, who believes FGM is a violation of child rights, <a href="http://www.hindustantimes.com/static/fgm-indias-dark-secret/">also speaks about</a> how ‘the backlash [of ostracisation] is considerable and many just won’t do business with you.’ &nbsp;</p> <p>While ostracisation is a powerful tool of control in small, homogenous, rural communities, it is generally non-effective for the urban, middle and upper income, educated strata because the environment offers alternatives.&nbsp; However, what makes the Bohras an exception, is that the community’s structure and function is akin to that of a cult. </p> <p>The community is tightly controlled by the religious head, the <em>Syedna</em>. &nbsp;Every individual, from birth, is issued a <a href="https://www.pri.org/stories/2011-04-24/how-bohra-muslims-set-themselves-apart">Bohra identity card</a> without which they are not even allowed to enter their mosques.&nbsp; Bohras are required to take <a href="http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/nathwani-commission-finds-atrocities-committed-by-syedna-saheb-on-dawoodi-bohras/1/427345.html">an oath of allegiance</a> (<em>misaq</em>) to the <em>Syedna</em>, and must obtain his permission not just for religious issues, but for <a href="https://www.pri.org/stories/2011-04-24/how-bohra-muslims-set-themselves-apart">all personal, familial and professional decisions</a>.&nbsp; Furthermore, they <a href="http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/nathwani-commission-finds-atrocities-committed-by-syedna-saheb-on-dawoodi-bohras/1/427345.html">have to pay a compulsory tax</a> to the <em>Syedna</em> for every activity – including birth, death, marriage, business and education. &nbsp;They must acknowledge him as the ‘<em><a href="http://www.rediff.com/news/special/special-bohra-dissenters-challenge-oppressive-priesthood/20110304.htm">Jan-O-Mal ka Malik’</a></em> (The Lord and Master of Their Life and Properties) and have the inscription `<em><a href="http://www.dawoodi-bohras.com/news/69/97/Fighting-on/d,pdb_detail_article_comment/">Abde-Syedna'</a></em> or ‘Slave of the <em>Syedna</em>’ on their wedding cards. &nbsp;The <em>Syedna</em> also asserts himself as <a href="http://www.milligazette.com/news/4583-bohra-an-islamic-sect-reduced-to-a-cult">the sole trustee</a> of all the mosques and associated properties, trusts and monetary contributions. &nbsp;As Asghar Ali Engineer (1939-2013), <a href="http://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/mumbai/other/There-will-never-be-another-Asghar-Ali/articleshow/20055415.cms">one of the fiercest spokesperson of the Bohra reformist</a> &nbsp;movement <a href="https://www.pri.org/stories/2011-04-24/how-bohra-muslims-set-themselves-apart">had said</a>, ‘You can’t literally breathe without their permission.’&nbsp; The punishments for noncompliance are severe and include not being allowed to pray in the mosque, bury a parent, being forcefully divorced, being forcefully disowned by families, physical harm, and sabotage of businesses and careers.&nbsp; In 1978, the Citizens for Democracy appointed <a href="http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/nathwani-commission-finds-atrocities-committed-by-syedna-saheb-on-dawoodi-bohras/1/427345.html">the Nathwani Commission</a> to investigate charges of tyranny against the <em>Syedna</em>. In its 220-page report, the Commission recounted testimonies of victims and <a href="http://www.dawoodi-bohras.com/news/56/97/Recommendations-of-the-Nathwani-Commission/d,pdb_detail_article/">said it had found</a> ‘large-scale infringement of civil liberties and human rights.’&nbsp; Strangely, most Indian media did not report on this. The <a href="http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/nathwani-commission-finds-atrocities-committed-by-syedna-saheb-on-dawoodi-bohras/1/427345.html">India Today magazine did</a> but found that witnesses, who had agreed to speak to them, suddenly withdrew.&nbsp; After receiving threats, the magazine was forced to conceal the reporter’s name.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Successive Prime Ministers from <a href="http://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/mumbai/other/There-will-never-be-another-Asghar-Ali/articleshow/20055415.cms">Indira Gandhi</a> to <a href="http://www.narendramodi.in/narendra-modi-meets-newly-appointed-religious-head-of-dawoodi-bohra-community-syedna-mufaddal-saiduddin-5912">Narendra Modi</a> have pandered to the immensely wealthy <em>Syedna</em>, conferring political clout on his totalitarian control on the Bohra community. The <em>Syedna</em> has encouraged the <a href="https://scroll.in/article/690304/why-bohra-muslims-are-so-enamoured-of-narendra-modi">Bohras to embrace Modi</a> despite widespread aversion to his role as chief minister in the 2002 carnage of Muslims in Gujarat for which he has been rewarded by Modi with a <a href="http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/padma-awards-late-dawoodi-bohra-leader-family-among-those-who-refused-to-accept-awards/">Padma Shri</a>, one of India’s highest civilian awards.</p> <p>In a 2016 public sermon in Bombay, the <em>Syedna</em> <a href="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Bohra-cleric-urges-female-genital-mutilation/articleshow/52031699.cms">instructed the community</a> to continue with FGM. He was responding to the FGM trials and arrests in Australia that year. The Australian authorities had <a href="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Three-sentenced-for-female-circumcision-in-Australia/articleshow/52680225.cms">arrested a senior Borah cleric</a> for attempting to thwart investigations and for directing ‘members of the community [in Australia] to give false accounts to the police.’&nbsp; Fearing a similar crackdown, the Bohra <a href="https://thewire.in/39127/the-resistance-against-female-genital-mutilation-is-growing/">clergy in the US, UK and Europe</a> told their communities to comply with the laws of the land. This was probably just lip-service for it is understood that the <em>Syedna</em>, whose seat is in Bombay, is the ultimate authority for Bohras the world over.&nbsp; In his public sermon the <em>Syedna</em> emphasised that ‘the act has to happen…Stay firm…Even [for] the big sovereign states…we are not prepared to understand.’</p> <p>It is critical for India to have an anti-FGM law and to enforce its implementation, especially as India’s medical community has failed to address the ethics of FGM and is inclined to exploit it. The danger here is the <a href="https://scroll.in/pulse/825437/the-designer-vagina-debate-as-demand-for-genital-cosmetic-surgery-swells-so-does-the-criticism">medical legitimisation of FGM</a> as Shaheeda Kirtane, co-founder of Sahiyo, points out.</p><p><span>A public&nbsp;<a href="https://www.change.org/p/end-female-genital-mutilation-in-india?recruiter=10896240&amp;utm_source=share_petition&amp;utm_medium=copylink" target="_blank">petition to the Indian government</a>&nbsp;&nbsp;by the advocacy group <a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/699671530168678/" target="_blank">Speak Out on FGM</a>&nbsp;to outlaw FGM in India has garnered more than 80,000 signatures. The groups founder&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ndtv.com/author/masooma-ranalvi" target="_blank">Masooma Ranalvi</a>, a Bohra FGM survivor, who has also been pushing for the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ndtv.com/blog/dear-un-what-about-female-circumcision-among-my-bohra-community-1274970" target="_blank">UN to recognize FGM in India</a>, has launched a second&nbsp;<a href="https://www.change.org/p/unfpa-female-genital-mutilation-must-end-in-india-united-nations-please-hear-our-pleas" target="_blank">petition to the UN</a></span><span>&nbsp;<span class="m_-4348794341698413582gmail-"></span></span><span><span class="m_-4348794341698413582gmail-"></span>.&nbsp; Inclusion in UNFPA and UNICEF’s<span class="m_-4348794341698413582gmail-">&nbsp;</span></span><a href="http://www.unfpa.org/publications/unfpa-unicef-joint-programme-female-genital-mutilationcutting-accelerating-change" target="_blank">Joint Programme</a><span><span class="m_-4348794341698413582gmail-">&nbsp;</span>on the eradication of FGM would give Bohra activists the much needed global support to nudge the Indian government into action.&nbsp;</span></p><div class="yj6qo ajU"><div id=":v7" class="ajR"><img class="ajT" src="https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif" alt="" /></div></div><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 India Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy violence against women gender justice gender feminism bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Rita Banerji Wed, 08 Feb 2017 12:24:36 +0000 Rita Banerji 108668 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Under Trump, we are all women https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/soraya-chemaly/under-trump-we-are-all-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The same strategies used against women for decades by the Christian right and the anti-abortion movement are now, under Donald Trump's presidency, being turned on the American people as a whole.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong><em>“Finally, considering the right's success in capturing state houses, the ever-rightward tilt of Congress, SCOTUS' recent Hobby Lobby decisions regarding contraception, and their ruling on buffer zones, prochoice activists must feel like Roe is as vulnerable as a wildebeest at a watering hole. Indeed, the lions of the right would certainly like to devour it. Were that the case, then the religious right's ascendance would bring another tipping point not just for abortion, but for the very nature of governance in the United States.</em>”</strong> <em><strong>– </strong>Douglas Jamiel, July 22, 2014&nbsp;</em></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/March.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/March.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'>Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, during the March for Life. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite AP/Press Association Images</span></span></span></p><p>Thousands of people gathered yesterday in Washington, DC, as they have for 44 years, for what is known as the <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/01/27/511992534/demonstrators-descend-on-d-c-calling-for-end-to-legal-abortion">March for Life.</a> This anti-abortion protest takes place annually near the anniversary date of the 1973 passage of Roe v. Wade, the US Supreme Court’s landmark abortion rights decision.&nbsp; Yesterday’s marchers, whether they individually like Trump or not, were happy, hopeful, and enthusiastic in the knowledge that his administration is so clearly and explicitly “pro-life.”</p> <p>The March was a celebration of the right’s electoral victory, the result of decades of work that had almost nothing at all to do with Donald Trump or his personal goals and pathologies.&nbsp; His election has enabled the religious right’s movement, one that has coalesced around abortion rights for decades, to gain political power. This march, and not Trump’s inauguration, should be the focal point for understanding the new administration’s rejection of modernity, science and secularism, as well as its undemocratic policy objectives.</p> <p>This assertion might mystify people inclined to think, “The problems we face are so much more than about abortion.” The point isn’t abortion per se, but the model established by a right wing Christian ideology. It’s a model of strategies and tactics, arrayed against women’s rights during the past fifty years, now being applied more broadly. When public harm is going to be done, perpetrators usually practice first on women and children, to see what society will tolerate. This situation is no different.</p> <p>The conservative right’s pro-life agenda – anti-science, anti-secular, and anti-equality – has been a fertile practice ground for decades.&nbsp; Religious ideas infuse personhood for fetus theories, medical truths are ignored and overlooked, and the deleterious political and economic effects of compulsory pregnancy on women are trivialized.&nbsp;</p> <p>Additionally, the anti-abortion movement’s use of language and framing also presaged what we see today.&nbsp; In anti-abortion activism, “alternate facts” and “fake news” have long distorted public understanding with expressions such as “partial-birth abortions.”&nbsp; Verbal and visual slights of hand are the lingua franca of the movement.</p> <p>On a deeper level, however, the anti-abortion movement starkly illustrates the right’s authoritarian and anti-democratic core. Despite the intent of individual people, the political anti-abortion movement willfully subsumes women’s autonomy, privacy, dignity, bodily integrity and moral competence in religious beliefs about innocence, sin and the promised rewards or punishments of an afterlife.&nbsp; Hardline religious conservatives that dominate “pro-life” activism and politics fundamentally assume that women are to men as men are to god and, as such, that women are subject to male intervention and governance.&nbsp; In the same way that biblical notions of gender hierarchy, submission and guardianship was used to established the basis for racialized slavery, this treatment of women has been used to establish the basis for undermining broader and intersectional equality. &nbsp;</p> <p>Trump is vehicle food to the religious right, whose ideas about gender hierarchies and roles overlapped just sufficiently enough with his to justify the rank hypocrisy of purportedly religious people supporting a man who so thoroughly embodies the abject failure of the compassion, empathy, respect, dignity and love that they claim to hold so dear. The animating force in this relationship is hierarchies and status – first based on gender, because it operates intimately, then on everything else.</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/Pence.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Pence.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the March for Life. Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta AP/Press Association Images</span></span></span></p><p>Trump himself has, over the years, vacillated in his opinions about abortion, but his Vice President, Mike Pence, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan have been among the most vocal and rabid anti-choice advocates in US politics in decades.&nbsp; Under Pence’s governorship, Indiana enacted draconian laws criminalizing pregnant women in violation of their civil rights. Ryan, a believer in personhood for fertilized eggs, supported what came to be called the "<a href="https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr358">Let Women Die Bill</a>" and was recorded explaining that, after all, rape is simply another method of conception.&nbsp; Both men endorse practices that, despite what they might say or believe, perpetuate systemic racism and sexism. Both believe, fundamentally, that men govern and women nurture; men produce, women reproduce. Information to the contrary, information that challenges status, is rationalized out of existence.</p> <p>What is interesting in either case – &nbsp;the right using Trump or Trump using the right – is the degree to which winners are perceived in terms of dominant and powerful ‘masculine’ ideals, and losers in terms of defeated, submissive and weak ‘feminine’ ones.&nbsp; The “pro-life” movement is steeped in ideas about gender hierarchies and those hierarchies now define the corruption of democratic ideals.&nbsp;</p> <p>An understanding of gender as an ordinal frame of institutional life is important to parsing how it is that Trump and his administration can so cavalierly seem to ignore the constitution, a tradition of compromise, and ultimately violate our rights as citizens. &nbsp;</p> <p>Many people believe that women’s equality means giving us access to what men have historically had, need and want. But gender isn’t only a matter of individual expression or behavior, nor does the movement of women into traditionally male spheres erase sexism and bias. Ideas about gender, persistently stereotypical, infuse everything from the organization of labor in homes and at work to the language and metaphor that shape our thinking.&nbsp; These ideas, to our collective detriment, remain, overwhelmingly, binary and hierarchical: men and women; higher status and lower status; public and private; strong and weak; dominant and submissive; leaders and lead; protectors and nurturers; rational and emotional; public actors and privately acted upon. &nbsp;</p> <p>It is in this framework that Trump is treating the polity in the way that women, threats to their equality and their “issues”, have been treated.&nbsp; What women say, experience and need remains minimally consequential to men and the institutions that they dominate. This approach has been the standard political, public and media response to gross violations of women’s human and civil rights for decades – rights that have often been challenged by anti-abortion politicians. &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/535193/trumpsigns.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/trumpsigns.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="324" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Donald Trump signs anti-abortion executive order surrounded by men. Credit: CNP SIPA USA/PA Images</span></span></span></p><p>Men <a href="http://wmc.3cdn.net/3d96e35840d10fafd1_7wm6v3gy2.pdf">dominate coverage</a> of abortion and other reproductive rights issues in all media.&nbsp; They are also the majority of cited and sourced experts.&nbsp; On US cable programs, Catholic officials are six times more likely to appear as media experts to discuss abortion than gynecologists or obstetricians. The last to be consulted, in media or in legislatures, are women. Media also, for example, failed to explicitly call years of extremist abortion clinic attacks terrorism, hate crimes or direct challenges to women’s equality and citizenship. &nbsp;</p> <p>If, as the result of anti-abortion violence and laws, women’s rights were degraded, if women were criminalized for the outcomes of their pregnancies, if their dignity was routinely impugned, if their lives threatened, if their ability to support themselves and their families was reduced, and if their freedom of movement and choice were monitored and restricted, well, there are always more critical Section A issues.&nbsp; Media has, for years, failed to consult women and scientists in matters of women’s health and needs or to hold public office holders accountable to women as citizens. Media is, therefore, entirely complicit in cultivating a poor public understanding of abortion, one that hinges on the disingenuous pitting of a woman’s selfish wants against a “baby’s life.”&nbsp;</p> <p>This is the same sort of vacuous “tell both sides” false equivalence that feed widespread climate denial and the rejection, in the United States, of theories of evolution. The same standards had the destructive effect, in coverage of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s candidacies, of suggesting that they were equally potentially unfit or dangerous.&nbsp; If women’s rights were considered part of the fundamental scaffolding of democracy, instead of private matters or negotiable political bargaining chips, then our culture might not have been as primed to ignore the dangers represented by Trump’s candidacy or the ascendance of an authoritarian conservative white supremacist religious right in the White House. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>It is an interesting development that what can be perceived as multiple re-institutionalizations of women’s inequality may indeed be a symptom of just the opposite, in that men and women, to consider an unprecedented upside, can now be categorized under the universal generic, “women,” because that’s how this administration, an administration that puts white male aggrieved entitlement on display in spectacular and destructive ways, is going to treat everyone. Equally.&nbsp;</p> <p>If you are a man, and you find yourself thinking, “How is what is going on even possible?” congratulations, you are now a woman. If you are saying, “That makes no sense. It’s not true or accurate, not medically or scientifically sound,” welcome.&nbsp; If you are wondering why the media persists in framing critical issues “neutrally” by employing dangerous false equivalences, it’s nice to have you.&nbsp; If you wonder how anyone can take senseless language seriously, happy to talk. If you are enraged that your rights, needs and experiences are being ignored, or worse, still, if you are being told that others know better what is good for you, get in line.&nbsp;</p> <p>We are all women now.</p> <p>When Donald Trump outlives his usefulness and popularity, the conservative leadership of the Republican Party will do their best to make light work of him, leaving Mike Pence and Paul Ryan to fill offices they could never have been elected to. Along the way, and via techniques well honed in the battle against women’s rights and access to safe and legal abortion, great damage will be done to women, LGTBQ communities, racial, religious and ethnic minorities, immigrants, the economy and the environment.&nbsp; In other words, less palatable words, heterosexual white male supremacy will have politically exerted itself.&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/sanam-naraghi-anderlini/trump-s-slap-in-face-of-lady-liberty">Trump&#039;s slap in the face of Lady Liberty</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/soraya-chemaly/under-trump-we-are-all-women">Under Trump, we are all women </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sashalynillo/storming-capitol">Women storm the capitol</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/sound-trumpet">Sound the Trumpet </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/after-london-womens-march-what-now">After the Women&#039;s March on London: what now? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lisa-davis-yifat-susskind/standing-our-ground-at-un-commission-on-status-of-women-csw">Standing our ground at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)</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-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 World Forum for Democracy 2017 Understanding the rise of Trump 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy gender bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Soraya Chemaly Sat, 28 Jan 2017 13:52:04 +0000 Soraya Chemaly 108418 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Washington March: Historic communion of women https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/linda-tugurian/washington-march-historic-communion-of-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="MsoNormal">The women’s march brought many first-timers on to the streets. A first-timer writes about why the election of Donald Trump spurred her to travel from North Carolina to Washington DC to take part.<em></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal">I don’t consider myself a political activist.&nbsp; But, from the first moment I heard about the Women’s March on Washington, I felt drawn toward action.&nbsp; I felt the pull of something happening that was bigger than me, bigger than my own small sphere of influence, bigger than the recent U.S. election.&nbsp; I felt the pull of a historic communion of women, coming together to convey a powerful message:&nbsp; love is stronger than hate.</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562517/DC march1_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562517/DC march1_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Washington DC March 21 January 2017 Credit: Linda Tugurian</span></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal">As I’ve talked with friends, family, and colleagues in the aftermath of the recent US election, I’ve often reflected on the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who spoke with great foresight to an audience at the National Cathedral in 1968 about a great revolution in weaponry, technology, and human rights taking place in America at that time.</p><p class="MsoNormal">He said, “...time is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively. And I am sorry to say this morning that I am absolutely convinced that the forces of ill will in our nation, the extreme rightists of our nation—the people on the wrong side—have used time much more effectively than the forces of goodwill. And it may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, "<a href="https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/">Wait on time.</a>"</p><p class="MsoNormal">“Wait on time.”&nbsp; I have heard echoes of these deceptive words in the suggestions of several friends who have attempted to reassure me in the days since November 8, 2016.&nbsp; “Wait and see,” they recommend. “Give him a chance, you may be surprised.”&nbsp; But, as the inauguration approached, I became increasingly uncomfortable with waiting on time.&nbsp; The feeling churned inside, gnawing at my conscience, until one day I opened up Facebook to see a photo of a friend in a group of women wearing pink knit hats, preparing for a Women’s March on Washington.</p><p class="MsoNormal">This surely was better than waiting on time.</p><p class="MsoNormal">This was something I could do.</p><p class="MsoNormal">I picked up my cell and within minutes the tension in my gut began to ease.&nbsp; Almost immediately I was supported by a cadre of women:&nbsp; one offered to drive, another offered lodging, another knit me a pussy hat of my own.&nbsp; Women who could not go encouraged me and strengthened my resolve.&nbsp; It felt so good to finally be acting, to be moving forward.&nbsp; I’d felt immobilised after the election, sickened by the words of a President-elect who, through words of bigotry and hate had legitimised the moral fringes of American society.&nbsp; I was worried about the loss of decency in our leaders.&nbsp; For me, the Women’s March on Washington offered a chance to emerge from the stupor and say, “enough is enough.”</p><p class="MsoNormal">What I didn’t count on was the powerful healing that I would find in the midst of some 500,000 people also in need of an outlet for their frustration with having had to accept Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States.&nbsp; I didn’t imagine the way the crowd would celebrate and embrace diversity, people of all colours and ages carrying signs about issues ranging from equal pay to immigration to global climate change to nuclear disarmament.&nbsp; I had no understanding of what it would feel like to be a part of a nonviolent march where there was such a tremendous experience of unity and welcoming.&nbsp; I listened with wonder as the waves of spontaneous applause and shouting swelled in the crowd, sweeping across the National Mall like a gentle breeze.&nbsp; I chanted with all those around me as we walked side-by-side past the Washington Monument and on toward the White House.&nbsp; I fought back tears as I felt what this meant to all of us, just to be there together, finally able to give voice to our collective concern and find healing in the experience of being together.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Here are some of my favourite memories of the March:</p><p class="MsoNormal">Driving toward the National Mall, on our way into D.C. the morning of the march, only to realise we were going to have to walk the rest of the way, nearly five miles. &nbsp;By the time we reached the National Cathedral, we knew something special was happening.&nbsp; Buses were lined up around the block of the cathedral and the sidewalks were filled with people walking to the National Mall carrying signs and wearing pink pussy hats.</p><p class="MsoNormal">The humour and sophistication of the signs and slogans.&nbsp; In the current political climate, where populism has outpaced intellectualism, it was joyful to laugh out loud at the sophisticated, intellectual puns and word play found in the signs we encountered.&nbsp; Among my favourites:&nbsp; “#freeMelania,” “let’s talk about the elephant in the womb,” “No Country for Dirty Old Men,” “We shall overcomb,” and “I know signs. I make the best signs. They’re great. Everyone agrees.”</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562517/DC march3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562517/DC march3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Washington DC March 21 January 2017 Credit: Linda Tugurian</span></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal">Strong women, without fear, expressing themselves, “I am stronger than you think I am.&nbsp; I will not be dismissed.&nbsp; I will not be treated as a sex object.”</p><p class="MsoNormal">Men proudly wearing pussy hats.&nbsp; I saw numerous men marching in support of their wives, daughters, and mothers.&nbsp; Many marched for themselves or for their partners.&nbsp; Many, many of these men proudly donned pink pussy hats.&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal">A <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWIgQ9uDVLo">three-minute speech</a> by six-year-old Sophie Cruz, which she delivered in English and in Spanish.&nbsp; She proclaimed, “We are here together making a chain of love to protect our families.&nbsp; Let us fight with love, faith and courage so that our families will not be destroyed.”&nbsp; As an educator, I’ve always believed that children have an uncanny ability to speak great and simple truths.&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562517/DC march2_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562517/DC march2_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="520" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Washington DC March 21 January 2017 Credit: Linda Tugurian</span></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal">The palpable feeling of support and love in the air.&nbsp; The entire time I was at the March, I heard no words of malice toward anyone in the crowd.&nbsp; At one point, we were literally shoulder-to-shoulder moving forward as what can only be described as a single mass of humanity.&nbsp; My shoestring came untied and I had visions of falling and being swallowed up by the sea of people moving around me.&nbsp; But, when I stopped finally to tie my shoe, a circle of strangers enveloped me to protect me until I could get my shoe re-tied.&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal">When I was leaving D.C. on the Metro on Sunday morning, I sat down beside a stranger, an African American man, who noticed the poster I was carrying with me.&nbsp; He said, “When I woke up this morning, I saw it on the news.&nbsp; You guys really did something special yesterday.”&nbsp; “Yes,” I said, “It was a once-in-a-lifetime special.&nbsp; It’s the first time I’ve felt hopeful since the election.”</p><p class="MsoNormal">I don’t knows what comes next.&nbsp; But I do know that I will act.&nbsp; I will act on behalf of all those who marched, as well as those who didn't, in the hope that there are still actions that can renew hope and faith in the world around us.&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/soraya-chemaly/under-trump-we-are-all-women">Under Trump, we are all women </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sanam-naraghi-anderlini/trump-s-slap-in-face-of-lady-liberty">Trump&#039;s slap in the face of Lady Liberty</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/sound-trumpet">Sound the Trumpet </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> </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 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter everyday feminism feminism gender justice women's movements young feminists Linda Tugurian Tue, 24 Jan 2017 16:55:20 +0000 Linda Tugurian 108331 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Women storm the capitol https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sashalynillo/storming-capitol <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Drawing from the ground, SASHALYNILLO captures the raw energy of the Women's March on Washington.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RealCapitolRightSize_0.jpg" alt=" SASHALYNILLO" width="620px" /></p><p>Approximately four million people marched around the United States the day after President Donald Trump's inauguration on Saturday, January 21st, 2016. More than 590,000 were in Washington DC, having travelled across the world to make their voices heard at the very centre of American power.&nbsp;<strong>SASHALYNILLO,&nbsp;</strong>a Latin American visual artist, was one of them, having travelled from her home in the Bronx, NY, to draw the march from the ground.&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/535193/CapitolBuilding_WomensMarch_in_DC.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/CapitolBuilding_WomensMarch_in_DC.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="244" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><em><strong>SASHALYNILLO</strong>&nbsp;is a Latin American visual artist from the Bronx, NY, known for her illustrations, gallery paintings and street art. Her art has been displayed at Amber Rose’s SlutWalk Art Gallery Show in Los Angeles, the First Election Presidential Debate at Hofstra University and The White House SXSW Festival, and she has been accepted in the Reportager Award 2015 Exhibition in the United Kingdom.</em></p><div><em><br /></em></div><div><em><br /></em></div><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/soraya-chemaly/under-trump-we-are-all-women">Under Trump, we are all women </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sanam-naraghi-anderlini/trump-s-slap-in-face-of-lady-liberty">Trump&#039;s slap in the face of Lady Liberty</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/after-london-womens-march-what-now">After the Women&#039;s March on London: what now? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/sound-trumpet">Sound the Trumpet </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> </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 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter feminism gender gender justice patriarchy women and power young feminists SASHALYNILLO Mon, 23 Jan 2017 08:20:08 +0000 SASHALYNILLO 108263 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is the Indian law on domestic violence fit for purpose? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/prita-jha/is-indian-law-on-domestic-violence-fit-for-purpose <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the first of this three part series, we examine the effectiveness of one of the major planks of the domestic violence law in India: the post of Protection Officers.</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/535193/2014-06-13 16.19.42 (2).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/2014-06-13 16.19.42 (2).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'>Group discussions during training on women's rights legislation. Credit: Peace and Equality Cell </span></span></span></p><p>As women’s groups in India celebrate the 10th anniversary of a historic and monumental achievement in India – the coming into force in 2006 of a comprehensive law on domestic violence, the Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act (<a href="http://ncw.nic.in/acts/TheProtectionofWomenfromDomesticViolenceAct2005.pdf">PWDVA</a>) – we reflect on the roadblocks encountered in three key areas: functioning of protection officers; provision of shelters and counselling; and the workings of the lower Judiciary. The passing of the Act was the culmination of a long campaign by the women’s movement, starting in the 1990s, demanding a civil law to address the multiple forms of violence affecting women in their homes. The first bill was drawn up by the <a href="http://www.lawyerscollective.org">Lawyers Collective</a> (LC) in 1992 and widely disseminated and discussed in public forums for 13 years. When UPA (United Progressive Alliance) came to power in 2005, it put the bill before the legislature and the PWDVA was passed.</p> <p>PWDVA is a mixture of civil and criminal law aiming to secure a range of remedies quickly for women suffering domestic violence from one court, as opposed to having to run to various different courts and importantly without having to file criminal cases against husbands or other close family members. Women needed civil remedies such as protection orders and residence orders that gave them some scope to renegotiate the extremely unequal and often abusive terms of the relationship, so that they could continue to live either without violence in their homes or live separately with assurance of safety and financial security provided by maintenance orders.</p> <p>PWDVA remains a ground breaking piece of legislation for many reasons: &nbsp;</p> <p>It recognises that domestic violence impacts women on a number of fronts; it<strong> requires </strong>a coordinated multi-agency approach to provide effective remedies to survivors in the long and short-term. &nbsp;An important feature of this law is the way it <strong>imagines </strong>connectivity, communication and involvement of district, state and national level nodal departments: Women and Child (overall implementation); Home department (Police); Social welfare/ Social defence department (responsible for recruitment and training of Protection officers;&nbsp; registration of service providers) and Health (Counselling and provision of medical facilities) and, of course, the judiciary and NGOs to raise awareness, provide training, monitoring and specific services.</p> <p>For the first time, it clearly defines domestic violence in terms that are not limited to physical violence and cruelty but extended to include mental, sexual and economic abuse. Unlike previous laws which were limited to married women, it covers live-in relationships and any women living in a shared household in a domestic relationship, not just wives. “Preytna”, a tribal woman from Madya Pradesh who sought the assistance of <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Peace-and-Equality-Cell-634646713314333/">Peace and Equality Cell</a>, an NGO which I run, and who, as per tribal culture, was cohabiting but had no documents, proof or date as to the day she started living with her husband, was able to apply for a protection order successfully under PWDVA.</p> <p>Daughters, daughters-in-law, mothers, mothers-in-law, sisters and sisters-in-law can also use this law to escape domestic violence. Lawyers can now successfully negotiate suitable settlements for daughters facing threats and violence to coerce them to get married. In 18- year-old “Tanya’s” case, violence was used to force Tanya to discontinue her education.&nbsp; Peace and Equality Cell negotiated with Tanya’s family, using the possibility of filing a case under PWDVA as a last resort to stop her family from doing so.</p> <p>The law also creates the post of protection officers who are supposed to be the first port of call for women facing domestic violence: their role is not only to provide guidance and information on the available range of options but importantly to ensure that women can access courts, shelters and counselling services. It is their job to interview survivors of violence, investigate and write a Domestic Incident Report (DIR) to inform the court of the ground realities facing the survivor, details of the violence and the remedies sought. </p> <p>The law allows aggrieved women themselves, protection officers or service providers to file Domestic Violence (DV) cases – since there is a huge variance in the way in which the states are implementing the DV act, we have no idea how many cases are being filed by women themselves or through private advocates, how many by protection officers and service providers. &nbsp;This information is necessary to build an overall picture so that resources, training and capacity-building efforts can be directed towards those who are primarily responsible for helping women.</p> <p>But, thanks to the persistent efforts of LC to assess the functioning of the DV act, we have some amazingly useful data, research and information in various published evaluation reports. I rely chiefly on their reports, and the functioning of the DV act in Gujarat where I am based. The case study of Gujarat (see below) and the evaluation of LC concur on the main issue. There are not sufficient qualified and trained protection officers with the required three years security of tenure to do their multiple tasks efficiently.</p> <p>It was six years after the PWDVA came in to operation that I and my justice team were very perplexed to find that the very purpose of this woman-centric law was being subverted – women were facing a barrage of obstacles in securing access to a protection officer! Take the case of “Pragna” who was seeking protection, residence and maintenance orders both on an interim basis (till court proceedings were finalised) and also as final remedies. She was told by the protection officer in Ahmedabad to come back after three months as they were simply too busy to handle cases within a few days as stipulated under the PWDVA rules. We encouraged women in similar situations to Pragna to approach the newspapers who took up the issue which led eventually to the Gujarat High court ordering the state to appoint more protection officers. </p> <p>The Gujarat High Court concluded that the delay that survivors were experiencing in accessing emergency remedies was due to a shortage of protection officers. Additionally, the working conditions of protection officers left a lot to be desired as their contracts were temporary, insecure and they were not being provided with the basic amenities and facilities to be able to fulfil their multiple obligations under the Act. The High Court judgement stipulated that the Act should not be rendered toothless by starving the system of the required number of protection officers and the lack of facilities to fulfil their <a href="https://indiankanoon.org/doc/181356847">mandate</a>. The state was asked to put its house in order within eight weeks and it was directed to set up systems for monitoring the manpower needs of each district separately to enable effective implementation in the long term. To date there is no report publicly available of any system set up in compliance with this order, but after some delay a number of protection officers were appointed. However, we have no information regarding their caseload or performance.</p> <p>Since the local context varies district by district and state by state, any effective monitoring system has to be set up by the state itself and that requires political will backed up by action and resources. Sadly that appears to be missing as demonstrated by the lack of collection of data. At present, there is no national level data available from all states so we don’t know how many DV cases were filed from 2006 through to 2015. We don’t know in any detailed way, how the key stakeholders are functioning year by year in each state. The NCRB (National Criminal Record Bureau) data captures only criminal cases which include section 498A (cruelty) of the Indian Penal Code, dowry death and rape cases. &nbsp;If it were not for the monitoring carried out by the LC we would have to rely purely on anecdotal evidence. There is lack of coordination and monitoring systems at state level demonstrating a clear lack of priority in preventing violence against women.&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em>See here for the second piece in the series: "<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/prita-jha/jail-not-shelter-women-s-refuges-in-india">A jail not a shelter: women's refuges in India.</a>"&nbsp;</em></strong></p><p><strong><em>Part three is here: "<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/indian-judiciary-are-paper-tigers">The Indian judiciary are paper tigers.</a>"</em></strong></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-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 India Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy violence against women Sexual violence patriarchy gender justice feminism bodily autonomy Prita Jha Fri, 13 Jan 2017 12:32:30 +0000 Prita Jha 108085 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Sharia debate in the UK: who will listen to our voices? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/pragna-patel/sharia-debate-who-will-listen-to-us <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Over 300 abused women have signed a statement opposing Sharia courts and religious bodies, warning of the growing threat to their rights and to their collective struggles for security and independence.</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/SBS-Statement-by-abused-BME-women-2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/SBS-Statement-by-abused-BME-women-2.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="263" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>We are women who have experienced abuse and violence in our personal lives. Most of us come from Muslim backgrounds, but some of us come from other minority faiths. </p> <p>We are compelled to voice our alarm about the growing power of religious bodies such as Sharia Councils and their bid for control over our lives. We oppose any religious body - whether presided over by men or women - that seeks to rule over us: because they do not have any authority to speak or make decisions on our behalf and because they are not committed to women’s rights and social justice. Whether we are women of Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or Christian faiths or of no faith, we have much in common with each other in the face of cruelty, tyranny and discrimination in our families, in our communities, and in the wider society. Many of us are deeply religious, but for us religion is in our hearts: a private matter between us and our God. Religion is not – and must not be – something that can be used to deny us our freedom or the little pieces of happiness that we find by mixing and borrowing from many different traditions and cultures which give meaning to our otherwise difficult existence. </p> <p>We know from personal experiences that many religious bodies such as Sharia Councils are presided over by hard line or fundamentalist clerics who are intolerant of the very idea that women should be in control of their own bodies and minds. These clerics claim to be acting according to the word of God: but they are often corrupt, primarily interested in making money and abuse their positions of power by shaming and slandering those of us who reject those aspects of our religions and cultures that we find oppressive. We pay a huge price for not submitting to domestic violence, rape, polygamy and child abuse and other kinds of harm. For this reason alone, we are fearful of religious laws and rulings from such bodies. Our experience in our countries of origin and in our communities tells us that they are deeply discriminatory and divisive. They will weaken our collective struggles for security and independence. </p> <p>We struggle to fit into this country and to educate our children, especially our daughters, and to protect them and give them a better life. We struggle to have our experiences of violence and abuse addressed properly in accordance with the principles of equality and justice for all. We do not wish to be judged by reference to fundamentalist codes that go against our core values of compassion, tolerance and humanity. We do not want to go backwards or to be delivered back into the hands of our abusers and those who shield them. </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/SBS-Statement-by-abused-BME-women-3.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/SBS-Statement-by-abused-BME-women-3.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="299" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Many of us have not made public comments on this issue, because we are afraid of the consequences of doing so openly. All of us have faced abuse and we are desperately trying to rebuild our lives in the face of constant and continuing threats and trauma. Some of us have used only our first names to support this statement, but we feel strongly enough about this matter to do so. </p> <p>We do not want Sharia Councils or other religious bodies to rule our lives. We demand the right to be valued as human beings and as equals before one law for all. We demand the right to follow our own desires and aspirations. </p><p><strong>Signed by the following:</strong> </p> <p>Bekhal Mahmod, Sister of victim of honour killing and survivor of honour killing. User of Southall Black Services (SBS) services</p> <p>Afsana Lachaux, Survivor of domestic violence and Sharia Court abuses. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Kiranjit Ahluwalia,Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Ravinder Kaur, Sister of victim of honour killing. User of SBS services</p> <p>Swinder Singh, Sister of victim of honour killing. User of SBS services</p> <p>Geeta Nazmi, Sister of victim of honour killing. User of SBS services</p> <p>"Nina Ather", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"H. Ahmed", Survivor of domestic violence and honour based violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Yasmin Hussein, Survivor of forced marriage. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Sabah, Survivor of domestic violence and abandonment.&nbsp; User of SBS Services</p> <p>Yasmin Aijaz, Survivor of domestic violence and honour based violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Ayesha, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Tayiba Shah, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Madiha Shah, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Namra Khan, Survivor of domestic violence and honour based violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Fateha Ali, Survivor of domestic violence and Sharia Court abuses.User of SBS Services</p> <p>Nimo Abdulahi, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Syeda Akbar, Survivor of domestic violence, honour based violence, Sharia Court abuses and victim of a fatwa issued by an Imam. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Salina Akter Ali Bebum, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Shabana Chaudhary, Survivor of domestic violence and sexual grooming. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Tracy", Survivor of domestic violence and Sharia Court abuses. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Hiba Akhtar, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Sadia Khan, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Joelle Pott, Survivor of domestic and sexual violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Munir Ibrahim, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Rubia", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Rubina", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Farah Wyne, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Ayesha Asghar, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Jane Doe", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Shamsi Bokharisaz Hagiahghei, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS&nbsp;&nbsp; Services</p> <p>"Nabila", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Sara H", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Hiba N", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Soraya Arian, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Faith Pink, Survivor of domestic violence, forced marriage and honour based violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Aneesa K", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Anaya Jamal, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Yousra Abdulla, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Fatima Rafeek, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Asgari Ebrahim, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Madihah Ebraim, Witness to domestic violence. User at SBS Services</p> <p>Amirah Ebrahim, Witness to domestic violence. User at SBS Services</p> <p>"Leila H.", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"M. H.", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"D.H", Witness to domestic violence. User at SBS Services</p> <p>"Nadia Khan", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Refat Begum, Survivor of domestic violence and Sharia Court abuses. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Iram Shah Nawaz, Survivor of domestic violence and forced marriage. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Shamim Akhtar", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"N. Karim", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Nosheen Anwar, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Ayesha Rahman, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Amber", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Munira Quraish, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Malaika M", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Suhilla Ahmed,&nbsp; Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Rabia G", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"N.J", Witness to domestic violence. User at SBS Services</p> <p>Amina Fajal, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Anjumben Virani, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Amal Jamac, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Sara Malik", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Falak Khan", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Shahida Iqbal, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Kulsoom Riaz, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Rekha Kumar", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Gihan Dessouky, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Zaynub Hasina", Witness to domestic violence. User at SBS Services</p> <p>"Saima", Survivor of domestic violence and abandonment</p> <p>"Neelam", Survivor of domestic violence and abandonment</p> <p>"Rukhshana", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Mehnaz Ali, Survivor of domestic and sexual violence and Sharia Court abuses. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Mubeen S.", Survivor of domestic violence, forced marriage and abandonment.&nbsp; User of SBS Services</p> <p>Suraya Ahmed, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Jannat", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Zartasha Azeem, Survivor of domestic volence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Ayesha, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Hena Zaman, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Saida, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Nadia F, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Syeda Neshat Jahan, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Shazia", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Maida Mansoor, Survivor of domestic and sexual violence.&nbsp; User of SBS services.&nbsp; </p> <p>"Ameena Mohammed", survivor of domestic violence and forced marriage.&nbsp; User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Muneera Shaam", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Shahrukh Hussain, Witness to domestic violence and sexual, emotional and financial abuse</p> <p>Salma Emara Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Laboni Khondokar", Survivor of domestic violence and Sharia Court abuses. User of Nari Diganta services</p> <p>"Shirin Islam", Survivor of domestic violence and Sharia Court abuses. User of Nari Diganta Services</p> <p>"Sanjida Ahmed", Survivor of domestic violence. User of Nari Diganta Services </p> <p>"Nazmoon Nahar", Survivor of honour based violence.&nbsp; User of Nari Diganta Services</p> <p>Kully Malhi, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Alice Vahdat, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Halina Marasinghe, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Ms D", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services </p> <p>Helena Kamra, Witness to domestic violence. User at SBS Services</p> <p>Maria Laurenco, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Ms Lola", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Patricia Waterkemper, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Tina Tanna, Witness to domestic violence. </p> <p>Mamta Anand, Witness to domestic violence. </p> <p>Dorothy Udealor, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Annabella Ferreira, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Genevieve Lobo, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Alicia John, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Keisha Douglas, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Helen T", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Lauren Robeson, Survivor of domestic and sexual violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Elena Villarreal, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Jollie Joyce", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Ronell Jacobs, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Elsie Blake, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Shemika Joseph, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Delrosa Williams, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Marlene Folson, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Mithula Mariyathas, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Tina Hos", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Nikova Webb, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Jasmine", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Grace Wilson, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Jennifer, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Aisha Habib, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Rebecca N, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Violet Antuan, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Agnes, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Razia, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Niru Prajapati, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Sonia Devshi, Witness to domestic violence. </p> <p>Avni Maisuria, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Renu Khosla, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Jasmin Dhirajlal, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Vaibhavi Szyszka, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Kohilarani Kulalayagam, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Amritpal Kaur, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Shveta M.", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Vibha, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Nabila Mujassam, Maan Witness to domestic violence, honour based violence and Sharia Court abuses. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Sehur Chowdhary, Witness to domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Rehana Zaman, Witness to domestic violence</p> <p>Mayuraben R Patel, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Anjali Makwana, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Rekha Manani, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Jalpaben Pandya, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Ganga Karki, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Sunny Chhetri, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Zaynub McMurran, Witness to domestic violence. User at SBS Services</p> <p>"P. Josh", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Alpa Patel, Survivor of domestic violence and forced marriage. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Teena Gupta, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Rani V. Papi", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Ruja Thapa ,Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Kirti,Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Jo",&nbsp; Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Sonam Madhaan, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>S. Devi, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Christine", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"R.K", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"R.S", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Seema Banga, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Saima", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Nisha F", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Resham", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Madhu, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Shantini Chettiar, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Balbir Kaur Hans, Witness to domestic violence. User at SBS Services</p> <p>Rupinder Kaur, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Gurdeep Jaggi, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Rupseshwar Kaur, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Manjeet Kaur, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Savita Parmar, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Maninder Kaur, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Jane", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Deepika", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"April Kaur", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Kiranpreet Kaur, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"May Kaur", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Jagkit Kaur", Survivor of domestic violence, harassment and stalking. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Sudharshan Daffu, Survivor of domestic violence and criminal damages. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Navjot Kaur, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Harpreet Kaur, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Kanwaljeet Kaur", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Sonia Singh", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Navdeep Rana, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"M.B", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Navjot Kaur, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Anita Anita, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Noori Kaur", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Suman Sund, Survivor of domestic violence. Ex-user of SBS Services</p> <p>"Baljit Kaur", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Baljeet Kaur, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Parveen Aujal, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Sukhwinder Kaur, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Kiranjit Talwar, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Darshan Kaur", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Rose", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Harjeet Dhillon", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Rajwinder Kaur, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Sawinder Das, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Raminder Kaur, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Kamalpreet Kaur, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Manpreet Kaur, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Jasmin Kaur, Witness to domestic violence. User at SBS Services</p> <p>Tavnish Bajwa, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Aman", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Rupinder Kaur, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Jaswinder Kaur Kansall, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Sabrina, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Ruby Ali, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Hind Elhinnawy, Survivor of domestic violence and financial abuse. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Nasima Chowdhury", Survivor of domestic violence and honour based violence. User of Nari Diganta services</p> <p>“Razia Begum”, Survivor of domestic violence, polygamy and Sharia Court abuses. User of Nari Diganta services</p> <p>"Rhea Ali", Survivor of Polygamy and Sharia Court abuses. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>"Mrs Jabeen", Survivor of polygamy and Sharia Court abuses. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>"Mrs Farhat Khan", Survivor of polygamy and domestic violence. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>"Ms Nadia Sadiq", Survivor of Sharia Court abuses.&nbsp; User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>"Mrs Soffina Rind", Survivor of Sharia Court abuses. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>"Mrs Sajida Choudhury”, Survivor of ‘triple talaq’ (unilateral divorce) and Sharia Court abuses. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>"Habiba Jaan", Witness to polygamous marriage and survivor of domestic violence. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>Mrs Shabnam Khan, Witness to domestic violence and polygamy. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>Mrs T Khan, Witness to polygamy. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>Mrs Samina Javed, Survivor of domestic violence and polygamy. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>Mrs Kanwal Hussain, Witness to polygamy. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>Mrs Parveen Khan, Witness to polygamy and ‘triple talaq’. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>Miss Komal Iqbal, Witness to polygamy and ‘triple talaq’. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>Miss Tanya Mahmood, Witness to polygamy and ‘triple talaq’. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>Miss Alisha Iqbal, Witness to polygamy. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>Mrs Mehvish, Witness of polygamy. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>Four Choudary sisters, Witness to polygamy, ‘triple talaq’ and Sharia Court abuses. Users of One Law for All Services</p> <p>Mrs Saeeda Choudary, Survivor of polygamy. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>Mrs Zohra Haq, Witness to polygamy. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>Tabassum Begum, Witness to polygamy and Islamic divorce in Sharia Courts. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>Bajis Neighbour, Witness to ‘triple talaq’ and polygamy. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>Mrs Kiran Dhanjal, Witness to polygamy. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>Nighat Hussain, Witness to polygamy and ‘triple talaq’ and domestic violence. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>Mrs Selina Khan, Witness to polygamy and ‘triple talaq’. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>Einas Bassim, Survivor of domestic violence. User of Safety4Sisters services</p> <p>"Shazia T", Asylum seeker and survivor of domestic violence. User of Safety4Sisters services</p> <p>"Naz", Asylum seeker and survivor of domestic violence and. User of Safety4Sisters services</p> <p>"Amina", Survivor of domestic violence. Volunteer at Safety4Sisters</p> <p>"Dorcas", Survivor of domestic violence. User of Safety4Sisters services </p> <p>"Diane Pokua", Survivor of domestic violence. User of Safety4Sisters services </p> <p>"Sadia K", Survivor of domestic violence and asylum seeker. User of Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST) services.</p> <p>"Fahret Khan", Founder of WAST, survivor of domestic violence.</p> <p>"Rutendo", Survivor of domestic violence. User of WAST Safety4Sisters services </p> <p>"Roze Lea", Survivor of domestic violence. User of WAST services</p> <p>Maimuna Ibrahim, Survivor of domestic violence. User of WAST services</p> <p>"Malvina B", Survivor of domestic violence. User of Safety4Sisters services</p> <p>"Angela", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Yegana Mammadova, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Neha Naghar, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Kamaldeep Dhesi, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Beverley Hoskins", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Julie Zhang, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Deepa", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Shahana Shanu, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Casherral Beltran, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Gabriella Aman", Survivor of domestic violence and trafficking. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Nurjahan Ali, Survivor of forced marriage. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"A.M", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Vanessa Tigenoah, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>"Archie", Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Rosana Ikeji, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Susan M., Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Shaban Afzal, Witness to polygamy and ‘triple talaq’. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>Shazia Hobbs, Survivor of polygamy. User of One Law for All Services</p> <p>Maryam, Survivor of domestic violence and abandonment. User of SBS services</p> <p>"Merita S", Survivor of domestic violence. User of WAST services</p> <p>Syeda Jahan, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS services</p> <p>"Sarah", Survivor of forced marriage, domestic violence and financial abuse. User of SBS services</p> <p>Blessing, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Mamie Malundama, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Theresa Osei, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Ravendro Lall, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Fatima Akbar, Witness to domestic violence. User of SBS Services&nbsp; </p> <p>Evelyn Yaghoubi, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>“Samina”, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>“Ash”, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Nergiz Bekam, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Ashima Arora, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Parmjit Soor, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Anam Azam, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>“Simi”, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>“Mahnoor”, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Hema Joshi, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Inderjit Kaur, Witness to domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Rajwant Virdee, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>“Anna”, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Maliha, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>“Sarah”, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>“Laila”, Survivor of forced marriage and domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>“Georgina T”, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Selamawit Tadesse, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Nazia Shabbir, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Stella Appana, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Farnaz Moghanchi, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Ranjeet, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Shama Haram, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Gurvinder Kaur, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p>Tahia, Survivor of domestic violence. User of SBS Services</p> <p><strong>Supported by:</strong></p> <p>Mr Imran Khan, Witness to polygamy. User of One Law for All services.</p> <p>Mr K Khan, Witness to Sharia Court abuses. User of One Law for All services.</p> <p>Mr Zaid Hussain, Witness to polygamy. User of One Law for All services.</p> <p>Mr R Tahir, Survivor of polygamous family and witness to Sharia Court abuses. User of One Law for All services.</p> <p>Mr Hader Mahmood, Father of three daughters who wishes to protect them from polygamy and ‘triple talaq’. User of One Law for All services.</p> <p>Mr Dawood Azhar, Against practice of polygamy and ‘triple talaq’. User of One Law for All services.</p> <p>Mr G. Choudary, Father of 4 daughters who wishes to protect them from practice of polygamy and ‘triple talaq’ and witness to Sharia Court abuses. User of One Law for All services.</p> <p>Dr Shaaz Hussian, Father of daughters - against practice of polygamy and ‘triple talaq’. User of One Law for All services.</p> <p>Dr Amer Mukhtar, Father of daughter - against practice of polygamy and ‘triple talaq’. User of One Law for All services.</p><p><em><br /></em></p><p><em>This article is published in conjunction with a piece in Comment is Free entitled</em>: <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/14/sharia-courts-family-law-women">Sharia courts have no place in UK family law. Listen to women who know. </a></p><p><em>Read more than 70 articles in openDemocracy's series on<strong> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-frontline-voices-against-muslim-fundamentalism">Frontline Voices Against Fundamentalism </a></strong><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/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 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/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 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/rahila-gupta/feminism-and-soul-of-secularism">Feminism and the soul of secularism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 odd"> <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 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/rahila-gupta/faith-know-thy-place">Faith: know thy place</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/5050/hannana-siddiqui/lasting-change-to-end-honour-based-violen">What will it take to end honour based violence in the UK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/gita-sahgal/secular-space-bridging-religious-secular-divide">Secular space: bridging the religious-secular divide?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 even"> <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 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/shirin-ebadi/shirin-ebadi-who-defines-islam">Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti-gita-sahgal/soft-law-and-hard-choices-conversation-with-gita-sahgal">&#039;Soft law&#039; and hard choices: a conversation with Gita Sahgal</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/deepa-shankaran/right-to-have-rights-resisting-fundamentalist-orders">The right to have rights: resisting fundamentalist orders</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/musawah-solidarity-in-diversity">Musawah: solidarity in diversity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/email/musawah-there-cannot-be-justice-without-equality">Musawah: there cannot be justice without equality </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/yasmin-rehman/death-in-woolwich-case-of-d%C3%A9j%C3%A0-vu">Death in Woolwich: a case of déjà vu?</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 Frontline voices against fundamentalism Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change 50.50 newsletter bodily autonomy feminism fundamentalisms gender justice violence against women women's human rights young feminists Pragna Patel Wed, 14 Dec 2016 08:03:27 +0000 Pragna Patel 107566 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Are we all beheaded Copts? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mariz-tadros/are-we-all-beheaded-copts-outrage-in-libya-0 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Is the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians by ISIS in Libya associated with a broader political project of cleansing the region of religious minorities? Would this not deserve demonstrations of solidarity?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The beheading of 21 Coptic Christian Egyptians by ISIS on February 15 has triggered widespread international official condemnation. Human Rights Watch has <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/02/16/libyaegypt-murder-egyptians-war-crime">condemned</a> this atrocity as a war crime. However, the language is sufficiently opaque&nbsp; as to leave room for missing the point of who these civilians were and why they were targeted: “Egyptians – particularly those of Coptic faith and truck drivers carrying goods back and forth from Egypt – have been targeted for abduction or killing in Libya around a dozen times since late 2013”. Invoking Copts and truck drivers (even if non-Copt) implicitly suggests that they are both vulnerable to abduction and killing. Is this framing informed by an absence of knowledge of what is happening in Libya, or strategic - intended to underplay the explicit targeting of civilians on religious grounds?&nbsp; </p><p>An audit of the incidents of kidnappings that were announced in the Egyptian press since 2013, most of which were confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, gives an unambiguous picture of what is going on. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/INfoTAble.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/INfoTAble.png" alt="Table of data" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Compiled by Akram Habib</span></span></span>Libya has for many decades been a country which has received hundreds of thousands of Egyptian migrants in search of livelihoods. While not all Egyptian residents in Libya are low income earners, it is likely that the majority are. Certainly, the twenty one beheaded Egyptian Christians fit that category. They came from a remote village in Minya, one of the Upper Egyptian Governorates with a low human development profile and high levels of poverty. Many Egyptians, Copts included, have often held low paid menial jobs in Libya, whether as day labourers or street vendors, with their poverty increasing their vulnerability. However, even when they are not in economically vulnerable situations (such as the doctor and his family who were murdered, see table above), they have still been targeted. </p><p>From the table above it is clear that of the 1,125 cases of kidnapping, only the Christian have been killed (though there may be more who were taken hostages, the whereabouts of which are unknown, undocumented in the media). This comparison of the predicament of captured Egyptians suggests that there is a pre-meditated plan of eliminating those who happen to be Copts on the basis&nbsp; of religion. The selective killing of the Copts, and the release of the others can&nbsp; only be explained by the will of the assailants. The BBC for example, reports that <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/arabic/middleeast/2015/01/150104_egypt_warning_travelling_libya">eyewitness accounts</a> in one incident of kidnapping involved the armed group which dashed into a house full of Egyptian workers and asked whether there were any Christians among them, seized them, and left the rest. </p> <p>In view of the long history of Egyptian Christian migrant labour to Libya, why are they being targeted now? Writer Salwa El Zoghby provides an <a href="http://www.elwatannews.com/news/details/665044">astute analysis</a> of the main drivers of the religiously-mediated targeting.&nbsp; She suggests that these attacks have taken place predominantly in the centre and east of Libya which are areas characterized by the near absence of state authorities,&nbsp; prevailing chaos, absence of rule of law and widespread circulation of weapons. It is in these areas that Islamist militias have established strongholds, and found the conditions that have empowered them to target Christians on ideological grounds. She also points that these Islamist jihadi groups have been responsive to the announcement by <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ansar_al-Sharia_%28Libya%29">Ansar Al Sharia</a> ( Libya) in February 2014 of an economic reward for anyone who clears Benghazi of any Christian presence. There is also a performative dimension to how ISIS has captured the beheading of the Copts on video, in line with its other videoed assassinations in Iraq and Syria. By beheading Egyptian Christians, as opposed to their Muslim counterparts, ISIS assumes (wrongly) that it is not alienating Muslims and is only enforcing their message of zero-tolerance policy towards those whom it believes to be infidels. </p> <p>Certainly all of Libya has suffered as a consequence of the disintegration of any functional state, the country now being the centre of geopolitical power struggles between different contenders: the US, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Italy - and the list goes on. </p> <p>There is also a vendetta between the Egyptian leadership and the Islamist movements which has its roots in the overthrow of President Morsi through a popular uprising that was followed by military intervention. There are a number of concentric circles which are underpinned by complex <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/alison-pargeter/libya%E2%80%99s-downward-spiral">historical and contextual power dynamics</a> that have spill over effects on socio-political relations on the ground. </p> <p>However, to reduce the transparent targeting of Copts on religious grounds to an unfortunate fallout of a messy and chaotic situation is to deny the diffusion of an ideologically driven political project which is intended to clear the middle east of its religious minorities, and liquidate religious pluralism. Christians, being the largest religious minority in the middle east, become an obvious target, though not the only ones. There are strong resonances in the modalities of religious cleansing deployed by varied Islamist militant groups and ISIS in Iraq, Libya and Syria. The kidnappings, imposition of ransoms, the ultimatums of conversion to Islam or death in Syria and Iraq, have amounted to religious and ethnic cleansing according to the UN. A recently released <a href="http://in.reuters.com/article/2015/02/04/mideast-crisis-children-idINKBN0L828E20150204">UN report</a> produced by the UN body responsible for reviewing Iraq's record for the first time since 1998, denounced "the systematic killing of children belonging to religious and ethnic minorities by the so-called ISIL, including several cases of mass executions of boys, as well as reports of beheadings, crucifixions of children and burying children alive". </p> <p>So where does this leave us? In speaking with some progressive academics, social justice advocates, human rights activists, I have sometimes noted a certain reluctance to recognize this phenomenon as ideologically driven, or to analyse the particular modalities of violence identified above as associated with religious targeting of non-Muslim groups in the Arab world. This is not due to lack of evidence (UN, Amnesty International and others have released reports, UN officials have already spoken of a genocide in Iraq), but to the invisibility of the nature of these outrages in our debates. I do not claim to understand why, but here are some propositions. </p> <p>First, many proponents of post-colonialism have repeatedly reminded us that colonial powers have used the “religious minority card” in order to divide and rule. Moreover, in some instances the entanglement of missionary movements with the imperial powers’ political agendas, and their privileged position in society, has left a rather infamous legacy of Muslim-non-Muslim relations. However, this history has left a number of unfortunate imprints on contemporary discourses around religious minority matters in Muslim majority contexts in the middle east. The first is that it generates the false assumption that the middle eastern Christians are all remnants of the missionary movement, rather than ancient denominations founded in the first four centuries AD. like the Copts, predating missionaries by millennia. Second, it <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mariz-tadros/religious-minority-women-of-iraq-time-to-speak-up">ignores</a> the very ancient non-Abrahamic religions whose ancestry goes back thousands of years and who are also at risk of extinction (the Zorastrians and Yazidis being cases in point). Could this past generate a reluctance to raise issues of religious diversity in case they smack of support of neo-colonialism?&nbsp; </p> <p>Second, many progressive western activists and thinkers are rightly conscious of their positionality - namely how they are perceived in the Arab world. There is a fear among some that appearing to be defending religious pluralism in the middle east would be equated with the American hegemonic project, often perceived to be strongly aligned with right wing Christian lobby groups. However, it is precisely the role of the US in aligning, supporting and nurturing militant groups in Libya, Iraq and Syria as a catalyst for the current existential threat to religious diversity in the region that we need to bring to the forefront. There is no longer a “western us” versus the “Muslim rest” – the entanglements of the US in deals and manoeuvrings with Islamist militants, not least in Libya, Syria and Iraq cannot be overlooked. </p> <p>Finally, our dread of&nbsp; Islamophobia at a time when right-wing political parties with racist overtones are on the rise in Europe, should not allow us to be cowed into the avoidance of anything to do with the&nbsp; “Islamic zone” in the name of political correctness. This reluctance to differentiate between the followers of the faith, and those who mobilize violently in the name of religion, may be a basis for exercising self censorship. It is what Bassam Tibi has termed Islamophilia: refraining from criticizing political Islamist groups so as not to offend. One classic example of this is raised by Professor Elizabeth Prodromou, who argues that there is a reluctance to talk about the contemporary political project of the instatement of an Islamic Caliphate. She <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-elizabeth-h-prodromou/a-basketball-guide-to-mid_b_5507894.html">argues</a> that skeptics from the middle east have been concerned understandably that the subject of ISIS formation of a new Islamic Caliphate “is freighted with neo-Orientalist attitudes and neo-imperialist designs, and critics in the US scholar-practitioner community have worried justifiably about the neo-conservative and neo-liberal ideological posturing and policy blowback embedded in the topic. However, considered skepticism and principled criticism need not foreclose historically-informed analysis and prudent policy planning”. </p> <p>We need the courage to reflect, discuss and debate how we can carve a space that would allow us to engage with religious pluralism issues in the middle east head on, without equivocation, and without falling into the traps of easy stereotypes and reductionistic explanations. </p> <p><strong><em>This article was first published in February 2015 with the title: Are we all beheaded copts?: Outrage in Libya</em></strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/religious-minority-women-of-iraq-time-to-speak-up">Religious minority women of Iraq: time to speak up </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lindsey-hilsum/desolation-and-despair-in-libya-murder-of-salwa-bugaighis">Desolation and despair in Libya: the murder of Salwa Bugaighis </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/alison-pargeter/libya-hard-road-ahead">Libya: a hard road ahead </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/alison-pargeter/libya-tests-of-renewal">Libya: tests of renewal </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lindsey-hilsum/is-that-what-we-fought-for-gaddafis-legacy-for-libyan-women">Is that what we fought for? Gaddafi&#039;s legacy for Libyan 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"> Libya </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> 50.50 50.50 North-Africa West-Asia Libya Civil society Conflict 50.50 Women, Peace & Security 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick patriarchy fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Mariz Tadros Mon, 12 Dec 2016 08:27:33 +0000 Mariz Tadros 90646 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A 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 50.50 newsletter 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 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 World Forum for Democracy 2017 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 newsletter 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 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 50.50 newsletter 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 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 women's human rights violence against women gender justice fundamentalisms feminism 50.50 newsletter Rahila Gupta Maryam Namazie Mon, 07 Nov 2016 00:03:27 +0000 Maryam Namazie and Rahila Gupta 106523 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 Resurgent Sikh fundamentalism in the UK: time to act? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sukhwant-dhaliwal/resurgent-sikh-fundamentalism-in-uk-time-to-act <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Growing confidence among resurgent Sikh fundamentalist networks in the UK was evident in recent protests against inter-faith marriage. A desire to control Sikh women’s relationship choices is a key focal point for their mobilisation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Image 2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Image 2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Masked men disrupt an inter-faith marriage at Leamington and Warwick gurdwara, UK. Photo: Independent. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p> <p>On Sunday 11th September 2016, as world attention focused on the 15th anniversary of Islamist attacks on the Twin Towers, local press attention momentarily shifted to the arrest of <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-37332307">55 members of Sikh Youth UK </a>at the Leamington and Warwick <em>gurdwara</em> (place of worship for Sikhs). The group claimed that this was a <a href="http://sikhpa.com/sikh-youth-uk-statement-on-leamington-gurdwara-protest/">‘peaceful protest’</a> against the scheduled Anand Karaj (Sikh wedding ceremony) between a Sikh bride and non-Sikh groom. They also claimed that they are not opposed to interfaith marriage per se – stating that Sikh and non-Sikh couples can have a civil marriage and also receive a <em>gurdwara</em> blessing – but that the <a href="http://www.gurunanakdarbar.net/sikhrehatmaryada.pdf">Rehat Maryada</a>, a code of conduct developed in the 1930s, reserves the Anand Karaj for Sikhs exclusively. This prohibition was re-iterated in an August 2015 <a href="http://sikhcounciluk.org/anand-karaj-resolution-clarification-flowchart-declaration/">agreement</a> reached by 300 Sikh organisations. </p> <p>There are problems with these claims. The protest was clearly intended to intimidate. Protestors turned up with heads and faces covered and some were carrying kirpans. Although they claimed that kirpans are ceremonial daggers and that these had been misrepresented by the media as ‘blades’ and ‘weapons’, religious references were used to obfuscate the blindingly obvious. It’s true that kirpans are usually only carried by a small minority of baptised Sikhs but there is also a history in the UK of kirpans, and Sikh martial arts weapons, being used during violent in-fighting within <em>gurdwaras</em> and especially by Sikh fundamentalist factions. Moreover, this particular incident followed other aggressive interventions at <em>gurdwaras</em> in <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/wedding-between-sikh-bride-and-non-sikh-groom-stopped-by-thugs-at-london-temple-10450476.html">Southall</a>, <a href="http://www.itv.com/news/central/2015-10-15/inter-faith-couple-forced-to-wed-in-secret-describe-heartbreak-caused-by-protests-against-their-union/">Birmingham</a>, <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-21721519">Coventry</a> and <a href="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/vadodara/Hardliners-stop-interfaith-marriage-in-gurdwara-spark-off-debate-on-multi-culturism-in-UK/articleshow/14716384.cms">Swindon</a>. </p> <p>As with these other episodes, the protestors filmed the incident and circulated the film footage in a move to publicly shame families already pushing against deeply conservative proscriptions. The <a href="https://www.facebook.com/gurcharan.singh.9237244/posts/10208332570324649">film footage</a> shows protestors referring to interfaith marriage (not just the Anand Karaj) as ‘messed up’, stating that ‘Leamington is finished when we’ve got elders saying it’s alright to marry white people, black people’. Jagraj Singh has been one of the main spokespeople defending the protests. One need look no further than the youtube videos of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/user/basicsofsikhi">Basics of Sikhi</a> to see him opposing interfaith relationships. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VojEymbI51k">In one such clip</a>, he states ‘relationships or dating are not part of Sikhi, marriage is part of Sikhi’. Relationships outside the conjugal union are presented as uncontrolled lust and marriage is clearly seen as something that only takes place between two Sikhs. </p> <p>The <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikh_Rehat_Maryada">Rehat</a> is highly gendered and presents a problem for minority Sikhs who do not subscribe to the Khalsa version of the religion. The section on marriage states ‘a Sikh’s daughter must be married to a Sikh’ and tells Sikh women to treat their (Sikh) husbands with ‘deferential solicitude’. Fortunately, more liberal Sikhs have spoken out about the hypocrisy of protestors who selectively focus on one section of a man made code of conduct that has itself been amended three times while turning a blind eye to serious issues like familial sexual abuse. <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/if-young-sikhs-opposing-interfaith-marriage-are-just-asserting-their-religious-identity-here-are-the-a7296631.html">Herpreet Kaur Grewal</a> noted that the focus is always on Sikh girls marrying out while there is relative silence and inaction on caste discrimination and female foeticide. Throughout the 1980s and the 1990s, the prohibition on mixed relationships manifested itself in regular reprisals between Sikh and Muslim gangs for targeting ‘their’ women. The question is, why has this resurfaced now? Why has a rule invented in the 1930s gained renewed significance in the last few years? The Leamington incident has given rise to some intense theological debates but one needs to focus, instead, on the political context of these events to comprehend their dynamics. </p> <p><strong>Resurgent Sikh fundamentalist forces in the UK</strong> </p> <p>In the past decade, but particularly since the 2012 <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Ipledgeorangeofficial">I Pledge Orange</a> campaign for a stay of execution of <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-17532832">Balwant Singh Rajoana</a>&nbsp; (one of four Sikh fundamentalist activists responsible for the suicide bomb that in 1995 killed the Chief Minister of Punjab and 17 other people) there has been an exponential rise in the numbers and confidence of Sikh fundamentalist forces in the UK. This growing momentum is particularly visible at the annual commemoration in London of <a href="http://www.caravanmagazine.in/reportage/shattered-dome">Operation Bluestar</a>, the name given to the Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi’s assault on the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar in June 1984. </p> <p>Importantly, a number of Sikh fundamentalist activists had fled to the US, Canada and Europe in anticipation of Indira Gandhi’s crackdown on Sikh militancy. Two organisations behind the annual June 1984 commemoration events – Dal Khalsa and Sikh Federation UK – are the main Sikh fundamentalist organisations in England. The <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dal_Khalsa_(International)">Dal Khalsa</a> is a right wing political party that emerged as a cover for <a href="http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/india/a-community-led-by-dunces">Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale</a>’s electoral ambitions so that he could present himself as an orthodox protector of the religion. The group have been implicated in the murder of members of minority sects and its primary objective is to establish a Sikh theocratic state otherwise known as Khalistan. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Image 1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Image 1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sikhs rally in Trafalgar Square, 2011, to mark the attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984. Photo: BBC</span></span></span></p> <p>&nbsp;The Sikh Federation UK are a large Sikh political party (conventions numbering 10,000 delegates) but it’s leadership are <a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/news/mayor/kens-adviser-is-linked-to-terror-group-6640438.html">almost entirely former</a> members of the organisation International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF). ISYF was established by Bhindranwale’s nephew Jasbir Singh Rode and others living in Walsall in order to mobilise international support for secession from India. ISYF was banned in Britain in 2001 under anti-terror laws because its members had been <a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/news/mayor/kens-adviser-is-linked-to-terror-group-6640438.html">responsible for</a> assassinations, bombings and kidnappings. Along with the Babbar Khalsa International, they were implicated in the 1985 bombing of the Air India flight 182 from London to Montreal which killed 329 people and also the attempted bombing of the Air India flight 301. But key members of the ISYF founded the Sikh Federation UK. The ISYF and the Sikh Federation UK have the same objectives but through their seemingly ‘reasonable’ and ‘civilised’ lobbying tactics, Sikh Federation have successfully garnered support among key politicians leading to their success in lifting the UK’s ban on ISYF. </p> <p>The annual commemoration in London of Operation Bluestar has become a space where many of the nodes in the constellation of Sikh fundamentalist networks in the UK become highly visible. Sikh organisations that otherwise pass as moderate welfare providers or civil rights groups reveal their ideological leanings at these events. Moreover, the organisers are actively involved in reconstructing collective memory as the terror instilled by Bhindranwale and his men is overlooked or forgotten and Sikh fundamentalist claims are sanitised. Every major political party now sends an MP to address the rally in Trafalgar Square. These demonstrations have grown from a hundred or so fairly marginal student groups, to tens of thousands of participants of varied ages from around the country. The demand for Khalistan and the pressure to live by the rules of a very narrow version of Sikhism have been intensely invigorated. Sikh fundamentalism now has many foot soldiers who have become a major thorn in the side of gurdwara committees up and down the country, organising talks at gurdwaras and bussing people in to impose their world view. </p> <p><strong>Policing Sikh mores: women in the firing line </strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Within the last couple of years, Sikh fundamentalists discovered the political mileage of public policy attention to child sexual exploitation. Following a series of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/apr/08/rochdale-grooming-case-10-men-sentenced-to-up-to-25-years-in-jail">headline cases</a> in which networks of predominantly Pakistani men were convicted of sexually exploiting white British girls, Sikh fundamentalists claimed that girls from their communities had also been targeted by Muslim men. In September 2013, the BBC’s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcK1KTPDOt0">Inside Out</a> documentary series publicly applauded the ‘services’ of Mohan Singh of the <a href="http://www.sasorg.co.uk/">Sikh Awareness Society</a> (SAS). Twitter activity after the Inside Out documentary was very telling – while outraged Sikh women said they would never trust Mohan Singh and his men to assist them with any difficulties, Sikh men felt vindicated by a programme that validated their own communal anxieties. </p> <p>In the last three or four years, Mohan Singh has become something of a celebrity and a regular speaker at <em>gurdwaras</em> and Sikh student societies up and down the country, whipping up anxieties about women’s relationships and the activities of young people. At one of his talks at a <em>gurdwara</em> in east London, which I attended with a friend, there was deafening silence as he told a packed audience – men, women, young people and small children - that their daughters and sisters were being raped by Muslim men. A series of pictures of Asian men convicted of sexual offences against children were referred to as a ‘long list of Muslim perpetrators’. These images ran seamlessly into paintings of Moghul warriors beheading and suffocating Sikh leaders during the 1500s in order to make the argument that Muslims represent an historical threat to the ‘Sikh nation’ or ‘Qaum’. Flagging a crisis among Sikhs, Mohan Singh admonished the liberalism of Sikh parents with respect to alcohol consumption and allowing their children to choose their own partners. &nbsp;No mention was made of the fact that violence and abuse is still far more likely to take place within the home, nor were there words of condemnation for familial sexual abuse perpetrated by Sikhs themselves. </p> <p>It is no coincidence that inter-faith marriages have become a growing concern during the same period. Nor that the Birmingham based Sikh Awareness Society has grown in popularity, as has the Wolverhampton based Sikh Federation UK. Young men from the Midlands are bussed into areas around the country to stop inter faith marriages from taking place. Indeed Sikh Youth UK, the group claiming responsibility for the incident on 11th September, is also speaking at <em>gurdwaras</em> and Sikh student societies. Their topic of choice is, unsurprisingly, sexual exploitation and proscriptions on drug and alcohol consumption. Mohan Singh called for Sikhs to establish a national network to ‘protect’ their women and children – Sikh Youth UK are just one of a number of groups that appear to have heeded that call. </p> <p>In 2014, Mohan Sigh’s growing popularity and his tour of the UK’s <em>gurdwaras</em> translated into a new section of a draft Sikh Manifesto- entitled ‘action against perpetrators of grooming and forced conversions’-&nbsp; by the Sikh Federation UK, Sikh Council and Sikh Network. The document was used to lobby MPs in the run up to the 2015 General Election to meet specific ‘Sikh demands’. The document reveals skills among Sikh fundamentalists for working through the spaces of governance and power. The Manifesto was endorsed by all the main political parties, an irony indeed for the Sikh Labour councillors in Leamington Spa who are currently under attack by the same Sikh fundamentalist forces. </p> <p>Both the Dal Khalsa and Sikh Federation UK were quick to defend the Sikh Youth UK’s protest at Leamington and Warwick <em>gurdwara</em>. While the Dal Khalsa picketed the police station where 55 protestors were held, the Sikh Federation were quick to go on the media offensive. They issued a <a href="https://www.facebook.com/UKSINGH/posts/10154558329963092">press release</a> and gained sympathetic press coverage from <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-3784604/All-one-weapons-seized-police-Sikh-temple-believed-ceremonial.html">the tabloids</a>. While claiming to represent ‘the Sikh community’, SFUK defended ‘the justifiable objection’ of Sikhs to interfaith marriage, they applied pressure on the police to apologise for their ‘over reaction’, and demanded a ‘more sensitive’ response to future protests. Moreover, by stating they would raise media coverage of this issue at a government meeting on hate crime they sought to equate opposition to fundamentalist mobilisations and conservative codes of conduct with hate crime! The press release claims that ‘virtually all gurdwaras’ have been implementing an agreement reached in August 2015 but they fail to mention that this agreement was meant to be voluntary but is, in fact, being imposed through force; this so called ‘agreement’ came about after an assault on an inter faith marriage in Southall in August 2015 and after pressure on that <em>gurdwara</em> to heed the most right wing Sikh voices. Surrounded by the rising tide of fundamentalism, Leamington and Warwick gurdwara committee’s defiance on inter-faith marriage must be applauded and supported. It is a much needed breath of fresh air. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sukhwant-dhaliwal-chitra-nagarajan-rashmi-varma/feminist-dissent-why-new-journal-on-gender-and-">Feminist Dissent: why a new journal on gender and fundamentalism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/pragna-patel-gita-sahgal/whitewashing-sharia-councils-in-uk">Whitewashing Sharia councils in the UK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/no-exceptions-one-law-for-all">No exceptions: one law for all</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nira-yuvaldavis-sukhwant-dhaliwal/25-years-women-working-against-fundamentalism-in-uk">25 years: women working against fundamentalism in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/gita-sahgal/sharia-law-apostasy-and-secularism">Sharia law, apostasy and secularism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/radha-bhatt/university-challenge-secular-neutrality-or-religious-privilege">University Challenge: secular neutrality or religious privilege? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/feminism-and-soul-of-secularism">Feminism and the soul of secularism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/not-church-not-state-gender-equality-in-crossfire">Not the Church, Not the State? Gender equality in the crossfire</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/double-bind-tied-up-in-knots-on-left">Double Bind: tied up in knots on the left </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/fundamentalism-and-education">Fundamentalism and education</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/pragna-patel/%27shariafication-by-stealth%27-in-uk">&#039;Shariafication by stealth&#039; in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yasmin-rehman/refusing-to-recognise-polygamy-in-west-solution-or-soundbite">Refusing to recognise polygamy in the West: a solution or a soundbite?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/faith-know-thy-place">Faith: know thy place</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 UK Civil society Equality World Forum for Democracy 2017 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Voices for Change women's movements women and power gender justice fundamentalisms feminism bodily autonomy Sukhwant Dhaliwal Tue, 18 Oct 2016 23:33:27 +0000 Sukhwant Dhaliwal 105955 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Repeal the Eighth: putting intersectionality into practice https://www.opendemocracy.net/harriet-burgess/repeal-eighth-putting-intersectionality-into-practice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A long-established conservative media frames the terms of abortion politics in Ireland. The pro-choice activism challenges dominant discourses with the inclusivity and diversity of the movement demonstrating intersectionality in practice. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/14600926_943966689082439_5386067744164356872_n.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/14600926_943966689082439_5386067744164356872_n.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>March for abortion rights. Image: Abortion Rights Campaign/Facebook. </span></span></span></p> <p><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-theory/wp/2015/09/24/why-intersectionality-cant-wait/?utm_term=.95b42d61109d">“The better we understand how identities and power work together from one context to another, the less likely our movements for change are to fracture”.</a> </p> <p>On Saturday the 24th of September, an estimated 20,000 people took to the streets of Dublin to protest against Ireland’s oppressive abortion laws. This represents a near ten-fold increase in attendee numbers since 2012. Who exactly marched for choice that Saturday? Are their views reflective of that of the general Irish body politik? Or are they the <a href="https://twitter.com/betaburns/status/780723276779782144/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5etfw">‘usual suspects’</a>, as some might say -‘liberal students from Dublin universities’, ‘Trotskyites’? </p> <p>‘Hey hey, mister mister, get your laws off my sister!’ ‘Not the Church, not the state, women must decide their fate!’, ‘Get your rosaries off my ovaries!’ </p> <p>The media has painted a picture of pro-choice campaigners as, quoting, a “<a href="http://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/why-my-fellow-repealers-cant-face-the-facts-around-abortion-35039115.html">Shrill Repeal Sisterhood</a>”. Representatives of the Church have also implied that reform is only wanted by a <em>particular</em> section of society. Describing Ireland’s stance on abortion (found in the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution) as ‘<a href="http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/eighth-amendment-precious-and-wonderful-says-archbishop-1.2814077">precious and wonderful’</a>, Catholic Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin set out that the Church ‘would wonder if this is really the big issue that people on the doorsteps of Ireland want to talk about.’ </p> <p>Comments such as the above ignore the lengthy trajectory of reproductive rights activism in Ireland: members of the Church, journalists and politicians continue to shirk away from acknowledging this movement’s ever-growing momentum. <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ie/cases/IESC/1973/2.html">The McGee case</a> marked a key moment for Irish women’s reproductive rights, when in 1973, a challenge was successfully brought against legislation that criminalised the use of contraceptives. Mrs McGee was a mother of four, living on a small income in a mobile home with her husband and four children. Facing a considerable risk of death were she to become pregnant again, she sought to import contraceptives from the UK, which were seized by the Irish immigration authorities. The Supreme Court <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ie/cases/IESC/1973/2.html">held</a> that the legislation violated her right to marital privacy, </p> <p class="blockquote-new">“by frustrating and making criminal any efforts by her to effectuate the decision her husband and herself made responsibly […] on medical advice, to avail themselves of a particular contraceptive method so as to ensure her life and health as well as the integrity, security and well-being of her marriage and family”. </p> <p>The decision generated national debate, and it took six years before contraception was legislated for. Even then, the Health (Family Planning) Act<em> </em>1979 only allowed for contraception on prescription, and only for ‘bona fide’ family planning purposes. The import of this was that only married couples were legally able to access contraception. It was famously described by then Minister for Health Charles Haughey as <em>an Irish solution to an Irish problem: </em>a compromise between dominant Catholic conservatism and emerging liberal ideals. It was <a href="https://www.ifpa.ie/Media-Info/History-of-Sexual-Health-in-Ireland">only in 1994</a> that contraception became freely available in Ireland, 21 years after Mrs McGee successfully brought her claim. </p> <p>Abortion remains illegal in Ireland, save where the continuance of a pregnancy poses “a real and substantial risk” to the life of the woman. Access to abortion under these circumstances was legalised under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act&nbsp;2013, following the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died whilst undergoing a miscarriage at Galway University Hospital. However, in the absence of any <a href="https://www.imo.ie/news-media/news-press-releases/2014/protection-of-life-during/">supporting guidelines</a> accompanying the legislation, it’s unclear how many, if any women can in reality get an abortion in Ireland. A woman would have to undergo a minimum of three medical assessments, from two psychiatrists and one obstetrician, in order to ‘certify’ that she meets the requirements for a lawful abortion in Ireland. Often, politicians frame arguments in terms of morality, rather than acknowledge the healthcare and medical aspects of legislating for abortion: <a href="http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/existing-abortion-laws-are-too-restrictive-says-leo-varadkar-1.2040072"><em>“I consider myself to be pro-life in that I accept that the unborn child is a human life with rights. I cannot therefore accept the view that it is simply a matter of choice</em></a><em>”. </em>Irish political cowardice has resulted in half-baked legislation that is practically unworkable. Dominant discourses continue to cloud real issues in the abortion debate, in 2016 much the same as in 1973. </p> <p>A challenge to such conservatism can be found in the diverse and dialogic narrative of the pro-choice movement. The terms of the abortion debate are shifting from moral arguments of (male) politicians to the personal accounts of all those uniquely affected by Ireland’s abortion laws: Repeal the Eighth makes for an example of what a true intersectional movement looks like. Intersectionality is a theory about how oppression operates in multiple, overlapping ways. Crenshaw’s theorisation of the particular position of black women proved that a single axis framework analysis focusing on race, gender or class in isolation limits inquiries into complex phenomena, by erasing the experiences of those who exist at the intersections of interlocking systems of oppression. Repeal the Eighth as a movement deploys intersectionality, by drawing attention to the diversity of the Irish population that is calling for change. Following reductionist portrayals of pro-choice campaigners as ‘militant feminists’, the twitter hashtag, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/knowyourrepealers?src=hash">#KnowYourRepealers</a> gained traction:&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>" Proud dad. Lost one child and nearly mum during a pregnancy. Doctors should be making healthcare decisions, not solicitors".</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>" 44yr old mam of 2 teen boys, youngest ASD. Divorced. Live in close knit farming community. Self-employed. Floating voter".</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>" 43, mam of 2 boys and Sadhbh who wasn't for this world. Health care professional. No political leanings".</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>" Born in 1978. Adopted in 1981. Met biological mother who couldn't keep me. Still 100% pro #repealthe8th. I trust women". </em></p><p>The current phase of the movement highlights the multiple ways in which Ireland’s abortion laws oppress, across different sections of society. Examples were voiced at the march, one speaker discussing how as a disabled Irish woman she is affected by the Eighth Amendment: </p> <p class="blockquote-new">“When you are physically disabled you have to make very specific choices your entire life. So if I become pregnant, I want to know that the medical support I’ve had for all my life wasn’t for nothing. My body is my body and I don’t want that to change just because I’ve moved from the orthopaedic ward down to the maternity ward.” </p> <p>Representatives from the Asylum Seeker Movement spoke at the march, highlighting how abortion laws disproportionately impact refugee women living in Ireland. Direct Provision is a state-run welfare system to house asylum seekers and their families waiting on asylum application decisions. Asylum seekers receive 19.10 euro a week, and until recently, were barred from working. Travelling to the UK to access abortion becomes a monetary impossibility under such circumstances. The Y case concerned a young migrant woman who had been raped in her home country. She repeatedly requested an abortion in an Irish hospital, expressing suicidal thoughts to doctors. She was ultimately subject to an <a href="http://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/they-said-they-could-not-do-an-abortion-i-said-you-can-leave-me-now-to-die-i-don-t-want-to-live-in-this-world-anymore-1.1901258">order of forced hydration and birth by caesarean section.</a> </p> <p class="blockquote-new">“It was very difficult for me. I cried. I said I am not capable of going through with this. I said I could die because of this... They said to me abortion was not legal here, but people like me are sent to England&nbsp;for abortions . . . I asked to go and they said they would have to arrange the documents and that could take six weeks.” </p> <p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jc_PrjNWEQE">These voices</a> show that Ireland’s stance on abortion is a race and class issue. Women caught between state systems – of asylum-seeker welfare provisions and abortion legislation – experience a unique form of racism and patriarchy. The Y case reportedly occurred after the enactment of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act&nbsp;2013, demonstrating just how shamefully unworkable the current legislation is.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/163454_146_news_hub_145259_677x251.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/163454_146_news_hub_145259_677x251.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="171" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Amnesty International Campaign in support of repealing the Eighth.Image:Amnesty International.</span></span></span></p><p>By opening the door up for a diverse dialogue, cohesion has been created across this movement. An alliance of organisations marched in solidarity on Saturday the 24th of September: Akidwa, Anti-Austerity Alliance, Anti-Racism Network, Doctors for Choice, Asylum Seekers Ireland, HUN Real Issues, Sex-Workers Alliance Ireland, Outhouse Ireland, National Traveller’s Women Forum, Lawyer’s for Choice, Transgender Equality Network Ireland, Rape Crisis Network Ireland, People Before Profit Alliance, DziewuchyDziewuchom. Further protests were held on Tuesday, October 3rd, outside the Polish consulate in Dublin to strike in solidarity with the <a href="https://twitter.com/Dublinheadshot/status/783045821180809216">#CzarnyProtest.</a></p> <p>Feminists theory describes a ‘butterfly effect’ – where a movement brings about positive, unimagined consequences. Repeal the Eighth has the potential to bring about change in Ireland that perhaps the earliest campaigners could not have foreseen. The current phase of campaigning highlights the multiple ways in which repressive abortion laws are felt across the Irish community, making the problems they pose for each of us individually easier to understand. This movement has created an intersectional space where different ideas have converged and new alliances have been forged. <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Discursive-Politics-Gender-Equality-Policy-Making-ebook/dp/B002BU24WY">“Politics is the action of taking risks in a future that is unknowable because it is being codetermined with all the other actors with whom one must necessarily struggle”</a>. Though the future is ‘unknowable’, these new alliances may allow the pro-choice community to more effectively challenge Ireland’s oppressive abortion laws that affect us all. Acknowledging difference has enriched our political action, and strengthened the momentum for change. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/beatrix-campbell/abortion-ireland%27s-reckoning-with-amendment-8">Abortion: Ireland&#039;s reckoning with Amendment 8</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ramya-ramaswami/why-migrant-mothers-die-in-childbirth-in-uk">Why migrant mothers die in childbirth in the UK </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson-marisa-viana/our-bodies-as-battlegrounds">Our bodies as battlegrounds</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/why-relentless-assault-on-abortion-in-united-states">Why the relentless assault on abortion in the United States?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/liz-cooper/liberty-train-because-i-decide">The Liberty Train: &quot;Because I Decide&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ann-rossiter/abortion-in-ireland-small-step-forward">Abortion in Ireland - a small step forward</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alda-facio-cristina-hardaga/handmaid%27s-tale-of-el-salvador">The Handmaid&#039;s Tale of El Salvador </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/agnieszka-mrozik/polands-politics-of-abortion">Poland&#039;s politics of abortion</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ireland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Ireland Civil society 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 newsletter bodily autonomy feminism fundamentalisms gender gendered migration violence against women women's health women's human rights Harriet Burgess Mon, 17 Oct 2016 07:45:27 +0000 Harriet Burgess 105987 at https://www.opendemocracy.net