16 Days, 2007-8 https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/8593/all cached version 19/02/2019 00:09:33 en A message from Lebanon https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/message-from-lebanon <p> Zoya Rouhana writes from Beirut: </p> <p> Dear friends,</p><p>Women in the Arab countries have been desperately striving to achieve gender equality and overcome the results of hundreds of years of oppression. However, this struggle is rendered obsolete in the face of the escalating violence that some countries have been witnessing, particularly Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon.</p><p>Women's fight to achieve gender equality becomes futile when women's lives and the lives of their children and families are threatened, when their basic rights, the right to live, to be secure and to have access to the basic living needs, food, medication, and housing is violated.</p><p>It is very urgent for the global feminist movement which believes in eradicating all kinds of violence against women to take action and to exert pressure on all governments to force Israel to end the collective punishment, the massacres and the large scale violence and destruction that it is inflicting on the Palestinian population, especially in Gaza.</p><p>It is time for the human rights movement in general, and the women's movement in particular, to call for the immediate implementation of the UN resolutions related to finding a just and peaceful solution for the Palestinian people, especially those that call upon Israel to end its occupation of the Arab territories and give all the Palestinians their right in self-determination</p> <p>Zoya Rouhana</p> <p>Director, KAFA (enough) Violence &amp; Exploitation</p><p>Beirut, Lebanon </p> 50.50 50.50 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 16 Days, 2007-8 women's movements violence against women gender justice gender 5050 Creative Commons normal Wed, 31 Dec 2008 16:15:29 +0000 openDemocracy 47089 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A message for World Aids Day https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/message-for-world-aids-day <div class="entry-summary"><p> The criminal prosecution of people with HIV is accelerating insidiously around the world. This article charts developments since Alice Welbourn&#39;s openDemocracy <a href="/article/5050/international_womens_day/hiv_aids">report</a> on this ‘war on women&#39; for International Women&#39;s Day 2008. </p></div> <p> It&#39;s a real challenge, this AIDS business: you can&#39;t take your eye off the ball for one minute and you are in constant danger of being hit by a bludger. Two to three years ago, we thought we&#39;d won the battle over whether we people with HIV could take our drugs <em>responsibly</em> or not - we thought <em>that</em> particular prejudice had receded. At last, life-saving treatment started to be rolled out across Africa and beyond, creating more people like me - I have now been healthy, living <em>and working</em> with HIV for 20 years, eight of them on anti-retroviral drugs. Hospitals, formerly over-flowing with the sick and dying have emptied. If we are given consistent access to drugs in good time, we now have long life-expectancy. Thanks to this Lazarus effect, whole economies and work-forces - individual lives and families - have been able to get going again. Nonetheless, only around 3 million out of the 9 million of us who need these drugs <em>now </em>are currently able to get them. We are still a long way from the ‘Universal Access by 2010&#39; commitments endorsed again this week by International Development Minister, Ivan Lewis. So that battle isn&#39;t over yet: but we have hope<br /> </p> <p> Then a year or two ago, we realised the <em>new</em> battle ground was to ensure that treatment access was being properly rolled out to <em>women</em>, <em>not</em> just for a few months while we were pregnant and gave birth to our children, but for <em>all</em> our lives and whether we are mothers or not. WHO and UNAIDS reports cryptically <a href="http://viewer.zmags.com/showmag.php?mid=wwfwwq#/page132/">state</a> that more ‘women&#39; than ‘men&#39; are accessing anti-retroviral drugs. This is being economical with the truth. In reality, what swells the first figure is not women in their own right, but ‘women-who-are-being-used-as-vessels-to-give-drugs-to-unborn-children&#39;. Pregnant women are targeted for ‘voluntary and confidential&#39; testing - translated by health ministries and their staff around the world into mandatory and public testing. They are given drugs until the child is born, so that a box can be ticked to fulfil US government ‘Pepfar&#39; funding commitments to ‘save the unborn child&#39;. Then mother and child are released from health centre ‘care&#39; - only to find that their child succumbs to HIV through breastfeeding because they can&#39;t afford an alternative, aren&#39;t alert to the need for one, or can&#39;t hide an alternative feeding process from their curious neighbours. To rub salt in our wounds, as my previous article for openDemocracy explained, women with HIV are now being criminalised for transmitting HIV to our children, without any regard for the chronic social, economic and medical <a href="http://www.stratshope.org/d-audio.htm">complexities</a> of this virus. </p> <p> <span class="pullquote_new"><strong>Alice Welbourn</strong> is an international activist and campaigner on women&#39;s rights and HIV/Aids, and former international chair of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (<a href="http://www.icw.org/node/224">ICW</a>)</span>During the last year, the entire global AIDS community has been brought to the chilling realisation that whilst these and many other important <a href="http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR53/001/2008/en">battles</a> were - and still are - being fought, a major <a href="http://www.ippf.org/NR/rdonlyres/D858DFB2-19CD-4483-AEC9-1B1C5EBAF48A/0/VerdictOnAVirus.pdf">war</a> on <em>all of us </em>with HIV has quietly been breaking out worldwide. This war is called <a href="http://bjc.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/citation/48/5/688">criminalisation</a> and its perpetrators are governments we naively looked to to <em>protect</em> our rights. </p> <p> Personally I don&#39;t like warfare. I even find competitive games hard work. I am someone who believes strongly in the power of positive language to create energy and vision and new ways of seeing the world and acting in it. I far prefer to seek mediation and reconciliation, and not to use the language and metaphors of aggression and violence so over-subscribed to by the world&#39;s powers-that-be. But in this business of AIDS I often despair of finding the positive language that we need to convey the enormity and urgency of what is going on here, which is why I have had recourse to this militant language. It terrifies me to see how these punitive new measures are being rolled out with such crushing alacrity, unravelling years of quiet, careful, committed and compassionate work. </p> <p> Prominent human rights lawyer, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, speaking at the <a href="http://www.sophiaforum.net/">Sophia Forum</a> inaugural lecture in London last week, compared this criminalisation of people with HIV to that other imposition of punitive and restrictive legislation, which has curbed <em>all</em> our human rights, in response to terrorism over the last few years. She described how hysteria and fear of the ‘other&#39; has encouraged governments to ‘reach for the law&#39; in a vain attempt to ‘control&#39; the spread of HIV, along similar lines to their &#39;war on terror&#39;. She also highlighted how prosecutions for HIV transmission in the UK have unevenly targeted men who were refugees or asylum seekers. To take her analogy further, and to quote from her book, <em><a href="http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/catalog/book.htm?command=Search&amp;db=main.txt&amp;eqisbndata=0099458330">Just Law</a></em>, ‘the flames of public fear are fanned by government rhetoric and behaviour&#39;. </p> <p> Will we never learn from history that the law is a blunt instrument in relation to public health concerns? The experience of American <a href="http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=441">prohibition</a> springs to mind, as does the case of <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/typhoid/mary.html">Typhoid Mary</a>. Baroness Kennedy chose to recall the response to the arrival of ‘Grandgor&#39;s distemper&#39; in <a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=K7UdTdHwpgkC&amp;pg=PA130&amp;lpg=PA130&amp;dq=%221497+Edinburgh+disease%22&amp;source=web&amp;ots=u2ejIUOh1e&amp;sig=Akx7soQaUTJQ20pKulnDvZ0da3M&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;oi=book_result&amp;resnum=7&amp;ct=result#PPA130,M1">Edinburgh in 1497</a>. She described how King James decreed that all those with this new condition, probably syphilis, must either be banished to an off-shore island or branded with an iron on the cheek to let all know of their condition. Kennedy continued, quoting Justice <a href="http://www.lawfoundation.net.au/ljf/app/&amp;id=E916CEB7E3CF905ECA2571A8007FC70E">Michael Kirby</a> of Australia: ‘Panic. Alarm. Banishment. Cruelty. Public stigmatisation. Law. These are the melancholy companions of disease and epidemics. The question .... is whether, in the five hundred years since King James IV issued his Proclamation against Grandgor we have advanced in our appreciation of the limits and opportunities of law in the face of a public health crisis&#39;. </p> <p> The answer is, tragically, no: this very week we learn that parliamentarians in Indonesian <a href="http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/JAK380784.htm">Papua</a> are planning a new bye-law to insert micro-chips into people with HIV who are sexually active. Next month <a href="http://www.plusnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=81636">Uganda</a>, once the beacon of good practice in relation to a compassionate AIDS response - and now a major recipient of US government funding - plans to introduce legislation making couple-disclosure compulsory, despite three women being killed by their husbands this year alone because of their HIV status. ‘Wilful transmission&#39; will henceforth be punishable by death. These are just the latest in a long line of moves around the world to criminalise, isolate and alienate all of us with HIV in ways which are unjust, unworkable - and terrifying. </p> <p> To complicate matters, various women&#39;s rights groups around the world - including some well-intentioned positive women - have promoted these punitive laws, imagining that they would curb the spread of HIV from men to their multiple female sexual partners who are fearful of negotiating condom use. </p> <p> Too late, several women activists have now realised that these laws are dangerous for them also, who are the first to be tested - in ante-natal clinics - and who often therefore bear the brunt of the shock and blame. Such laws are generated by powerful patriarchal hegemonies like our own in Britain, where male establishment heterosexuality and women&#39;s subordination are <a href="http://www.helenakennedy.co.uk/writing.html#eve">institutionalised</a>. Thus it is women - and others who are least able to defend themselves, including, gay men, asylum seekers, injecting drug users, migrant workers and people in prison - who are most likely to be targeted by the introduction and use of such legislation. In truth, there are very few women - or men - in the world who are really hell-bent on spreading this virus. It is fear of rejection that smothers disclosure. Yet these laws, like the virus itself, take no heed of the social, economic or other circumstances of those on whom they are unleashed. Criminalisation only serves to exacerbate fear - in all of us, positive, negative or not knowing our status. </p> <p> This year we have also learnt much about the effectiveness of care, treatment and respect for people with HIV. Recent medical <a href="http://www.aids2008.org/Pag/ppt/FRPLO102.ppt">studies</a> have confirmed that people with HIV who are given love and support are more likely to take their drugs regularly, cope with side-effects and maintain the high level of adherence needed to enable the drugs to work. People whose drugs are working well and who have an ‘undetectable viral load&#39; and no other sexually transmitted infection <a href="http://www.saez.ch/pdf_f/2008/2008-05/2008-05-089.PDF">can have</a> unprotected sex with someone else with negligible chance of transmitting HIV to them. Moreover, pregnant women with HIV, with an undetectable viral load, <a href="http://www.i-base.info/htb/v9/htb9-3-4/Very.html">can give</a> normal birth to a child with 99.9% chance of the child being HIV-free. </p> <p> This World AIDS Day, on the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, can we send out a concerted message to parliamentarians worldwide, calling on them, as Helena Kennedy did so powerfully, to put the human rights of all, including people with HIV, first in whatever they do to curb the spread of this pernicious virus? Punitive laws should be consigned to the dustbin of history. Parliamentarians, law enforcers, health workers, the media - and we the public at large - should be learning about the power of compassion in healing both bodies and minds. We must between us keep up the pressure to roll out universal treatment, and recognise with humility how HIV may affect each and every one of us. One day these laws may terrorise your family too - I hope they never do. </p> 50.50 50.50 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 16 Days, 2007-8 women's health violence against women gender Alice Welbourn 5050 Fri, 28 Nov 2008 14:09:57 +0000 Alice Welbourn 46911 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Reclaim the Night - Win the Day https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/reclaim-night-win-day <p> <em>A photo-essay by Nick Eastlake</em> </p> <p> The wind whistles, dogs howl. This might all be in your head but when you&rsquo;re heading out on a windswept autumn evening it does not take much to get you scared. Especially if you see a shadow in the opposite entrance of the park you need to cross to get to your tube station. Still, lurking, male. </p> <p> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/01.jpg" alt="" width="400" height="300" align="bottom" /><em> Spot the Danger</em> </p> <div align="left"> <br /></div> <p> To combat that fear of dark streets and some of the dangers they contain a legion of women heeds the call of the London Feminist Network (<a href="http://www.reclaimthenight.org/">LFN</a>) and comes out one late November night in London&rsquo;s West End for the 5th incarnation of the Reclaim the Night march. The event&rsquo;s <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Take_Back_the_Night">history </a>goes back to 1977 when the Yorkshire Ripper was terrorising the north of England and the police were advising that, to avoid attack, women should stay inside after dark. </p> <p> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/02.jpg" alt="" width="400" height="300" align="bottom" /><em><br /> What do we want? &ndash; Safe streets! When do we want them? &ndash; Now!</em><br /><br /> Such a curfew was contested then and is contested now. Many of the protestors feel that an unholy alliance of inconsiderate policing, laissez-faire laws, and the media from lad&rsquo;s mags to women&rsquo;s glossies conspires to turn them into sexual objects only asking to be hunted down on a Saturday night such as this. They will have none of that. </p> <p> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/03.jpg" alt="" width="400" height="300" align="bottom" /><em> Why we are marching </em><br /><br /> Tourists with digital cameras take snaps of the marchers with their hundreds of placards reading &lsquo;End Violence Against Women&rsquo;. Locals use their mobile phones. Some lager lads think it is a carnival, put on their empty takeaway boxes as silly hats, and hoot and holler. The manager of a famous lap dancing venue en route parks his beamer on the other side of the road and keeps a close eye on this precious money-spinner as the women march by. He needn&rsquo;t have worried. The police are en garde. </p> <p> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/04.jpg" alt="" width="400" height="300" align="bottom" /><em><br /> Hey hey &ndash; Ho ho Sexual violence got to go</em><br /><br /> Many organizations involved in managing the fallout from assorted forms of male sexual aggression join the rally at Friend&rsquo;s House following the march. Aravinda Kosaraju from the Coalition for the Removal of Pimping (<a href="/www.crop1.org.uk">CROP</a>) speaks out against sophisticated networks grooming girls as young as 11 and calls for a change of law similar to that recently introduced in Norway. Jane Gregory from Bradford <a href="/www.rapecrisis.org.uk">Rape Crisis Centre</a> looks across the border to Scotland where these important refuges for women are annually corefunded with &pound;50k each. The decline of funding is a constant theme, not least in <a href="/www.imkaaan.org.uk">Imkaan</a>&rsquo;s Gita Patel&rsquo;s moving fairy tale that asks the audience to make a Happy End possible by signing a petition on their website. There are many others organizations who send a speaker or set up information stands to rally support for the women in their care. <br /></p> <p> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/05.jpg" alt="" width="400" height="300" align="bottom" /><em>See you in the frontline </em><br /><br /> A standing ovation is reserved for Finn Mackay, the LFN&rsquo;s founder. In her speech she truly rallies the audience against our society&rsquo;s sexualization of the young, objectification of women in magazines, ads and TV shows, all of which combine into one big brainwash: according to her, women currently spend more than &pound;1 billion every year on plastic surgery and more teens would like to become glamour girls than doctors. She notes that an interest in pole dancing would at least get them into P.E. In the past, she reminds her audience, women had to fight for everything, be it the right to vote or equal pay: she promises to keep on fighting. At stake is the mindset of both men and women. <br /></p> <p> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/06.jpg" alt="" width="400" height="300" align="bottom" /><em>Zorro will steal your heart </em> </p> <p> One young marcher I talk to is not comfortable with the policing of the march. &lsquo;How are women in charge of the street chaperoned like this?&rsquo; Of course, the statistics are shocking: each day there are more than 100 rapes, the same amount of attempted rapes, and nearly 1,000 sexual assaults. Yet the conviction rate is only 5.3%. (British Crime Survey, 2001). But, she suggests, women shouldn&rsquo;t become counted victims in the first place. Women have to learn to defend themselves and each other. </p> <p> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/07.jpg" alt="" width="400" height="300" align="bottom" /><br /><em>I feel more threatened by police than men </em><br /><br /> Martial arts might be a better bet than pole dancing. To quote Finn Mackay one more time: &lsquo;We know it&rsquo;s always safer to resist.&rsquo; For a karate black belt, even that lurking figure in the park on the way home seems less of a threat. On close inspection, this time, it is made of metal and advertises a Trim Trail. &lsquo;Exercise is good for your general health&hellip;&rsquo; &hellip; But it might have been different.<br /></p> <p> <br /><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/08.jpg" alt="" width="400" height="300" align="bottom" /><em>Make my day</em> </p> <p> <em>More pics on <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/opendemocracy/sets/72157610340892862/show/">flickr</a> or join the <a href="http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5839296893168096674&amp;hl=en">march</a>. </em> </p> 50.50 50.50 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 16 Days, 2007-8 violence against women gender justice gender feminism 5050 Fri, 28 Nov 2008 13:05:47 +0000 openDemocracy 46896 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'Deviant victims' and 'deficient men' https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/deviant-victims-and-deficient-men <div class="entry-summary"><p> Dr Azza Baydoun has analysed every ‘honour killing&#39; in Lebanon that has gone before the courts since 1999 and found that behind the plea of offended honour lies the crime of femicide. She describes the patriarchal concepts of ‘deviant women&#39; and ‘deficient men&#39; in her research. Here she outlines some of her findings. </p> <p> This article is part of 50.50&#39;s coverage of <a href="/editorial_tags/16_days">16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence</a> from 25 November to 10 December 2008 </p></div> <p> An analysis of the sixty six &quot;honour killings&quot; tried before the Lebanese courts between 1999 and 2007 provides an exceptional lens for viewing the horror prevailing in the families, where one or more of the male members resorted to fatal violence against a female member. It is exceptional because the family in Lebanon is exempted from any kind of examination by the unwritten law of its strict inviolability.<span class="pullquote_new">Dr Azza Baydoun&#39;s research is part of the movement behind the introduction of Lebanon&#39;s first ever law to protect women against violence. The draft Family Violence Bill is now being considered by the government and the campaign to have it passed into law is being run by <a href="http://protect.kafa.org.lb/?q=about-family-violence-bill">KAFA.<br /> <br /> </a>Professor Azza Baydoun teaches at the Lebanese University in Beirut. She is the author of a number of books including ‘Manhood and the Change in women&#39;s State of Affairs&#39;. Annahar Publishing House (2007) and ‘Women and Associations: The Lebanese women between doing justice to themselves and serving others&#39;. Annahar Publishing House, Beirut. (2002). </span> </p> <p> A salient finding of my research is that the gender order within these families had been disrupted, rendering the power relation between the female victim and the defendant &quot;abnormal&quot; by patriarchal standards.  </p> <p> A close look at the documents of the 66 court proceedings shows that the killer was as much responsible for the disruption as the victim: both failed to live up to the expectations of the roles prescribed for them within the patriarchal gender order; for as much as the female victim was &quot;deviant&quot; from the norm, the defendant was equally a &quot;deficient&quot; man&quot;. </p> <p> <strong>The &quot;Deviant&quot; Victim </strong> </p> <p> As portrayed by witnesses and other trial actors in excerpts from the trial proceedings, the victim was neither weak nor submissive to her &quot;feminine&quot; fate. She was in most cases confrontational, promiscuous and unwilling to abide by the rules and regulations dictated by her partner or male kin ‘authority&#39; figures of her family. </p> <br /> <p> <em>The defendant says his life with his wife Claudette lacked harmony and their sexual life was unsatisfactory. She left the house without permission to unspecified destinations. She was a spendthrift and neglected her children. She did not cook his meals as she was busy visiting around. She cheated on him with other men so the &quot;devil whispered maliciously in his ear&quot; to set fire to their apartment. She was burnt to death together with their two children </em> </p> <br /> <p> Claudette was killed by her husband for &quot;trivial&quot; reasons, but Rola was killed for a more &quot;serious&quot; one: </p> <br /> <p> <em>Rola did not wait for the divorce court verdict, and was meeting with her lover in one of the mountain cottages. Her husband ambushed them and shot them both dead.</em> </p> <br /> <p> Blood relatives, immediate or further ones, were similarly provoked by the victim&#39;s behavior: </p> <br /> <p> <em>In spite of the frequent attempts her uncle made to persuade Ahlam not to divorce her husband, the victim did not give up the idea, but was bold enough to bring her lover to her parents&#39; residence at which point her uncle shot both of them dead.</em> </p> <br /> <p> Most of these female victims did not stop confronting their killers until their last breath, which angered the defendants and rendered them- allegedly- in an uncontrollable emotional state: </p> <br /> <p> <em>The father of thirty years old Mona told the judge he did not mean to kill her. He only meant to threaten her with the knife. &quot;I asked her are you pregnant? She shouted back: how long do you expect me to wait (for a man to propose to me) before I can have a child of my own?&quot;</em> </p> <br /> <p> <strong>&quot;Deficient&quot; Men </strong> </p> <p> These &quot;deviant&quot; victims are complemented by &quot;deficient&quot; men.  The manhood of the defendant is deficient because he fails to live up to the prescription of the masculine stereotype: to be the provider of his family and the controller of &quot;his&quot; woman&#39;s sexual behavior if he is a blood relative, or to satisfy her sexual needs if he is her partner. </p> <p> Excerpts from the trial proceedings: </p> <br /> <p> <em>Ilyas rushed to kill his ex-wife and her lover in church because rumors circulated about his sexual impotence in spite of the fact that he was known to be a ferocious militia fighter (during the Lebanese civil wars.</em> </p> <br /> <p> Men are equally provoked by blood relative women&#39;s out of wedlock sexual activity: </p> <br /> <p> <em>Fadi knew that his aunt&#39;s husband divorced her because he caught her in a &quot;state of fornication&quot;. When she returned to her natal village Fadi killed her because her behavior was an &quot;offence to our family&#39;s honor&quot;.</em> </p> <br /> <p> The second pillar of men&#39;s patriarchal masculinity is their ability to provide for their families and to occupy a legitimate salient position in their immediate circle. Preponderant among the defendants are unemployed men or men socially marginalised by drug or alcohol addiction, or by being ex-militia fighters whose income was substantially diminished after the cessation of  military activities of the Lebanese civil wars.   </p> <br /> <p> <em>Ali tried incessantly to find a job in Germany but was deported to Lebanon with his family and was currently provided for by his brother. His wife was constantly belittling him on account of his condition and for his inability to control his daughter&#39;s unruly sexual behavior so he shot both of them.</em> </p> <br /> <p> These excerpts from the trial transcripts (the trial documents provide numerous similar ones) identify and define &quot;deficient&quot; men defendants and &quot;deviant&quot; victims. By being a subject who actively pursues her desires, the victim deviates acutely from the feminine stereotype. By challenging her male protégé (partner or kin), she furthermore undermines the privileges given to him by the unwritten patriarchal law:  to be the keeper of &quot;his&quot; women&#39;s sexuality. The &quot;deficiency&quot; of these men is thus exacerbated by &quot;their&quot; woman&#39;s behavior, revealing to the world at large their failure to fulfill the basics of their manhood and making them undeserving of the authority and privileges bestowed upon them by virtue of their biological sex. </p> <p> The circumstances surrounding women killings in Lebanon reveal that they are the final and desperate acts that men resorted to, in an attempt to exercise their poorly founded authority and to maintain unwarranted privileges within the sanctuary of their inviolable household.  It is a tragic attempt at restoring - to a presumed &quot;normal&quot;- the power relations within the gender order by resorting to violence against &quot;their deviant women&quot; - a culturally condoned behavior - and to what the killer presumed to be legally sanctified means:  the physical &quot;elimination&quot; of the female disruptor of the gender order. </p> <p> *** </p> <p> Dr Azza Sharara Baydoun&#39;s book ‘Crimes of Femicide before the Lebanese Judiciary&#39; (2008)  <strong>جرائم قتل النساء أمام القضاء اللبناني  </strong>is published by <a href="http://protect.kafa.org.lb/">KAFA (Enough Violence and Exploitation)</a> Beirut. </p> 50.50 50.50 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 16 Days, 2007-8 Arab Region: The Dignity of Women women's human rights violence against women patriarchy gender justice gender feminism bodily autonomy Azza Baydoun Creative Commons normal Tue, 25 Nov 2008 19:25:19 +0000 Azza Baydoun 46872 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The changing face of war https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/changing-face-of-war 1. &quot;The bad news&quot; <p> My lightening visit to the Wilton Park conference on &quot;Women Targeted by Armed Conflict: What Role for Military Peacekeepers?&quot; last Wednesday was a real eye-opener. Since this trip was sandwiched between <a href="http://www.un.org/depts/dhl/peacekeepers/">International Peacekeeping Day</a> on Thursday and Tuesday&#39;s release of a new <a href="http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/en/54_5706.htm">report by Save the Children UK</a> showing that girls and boys in conflict-affected countries such as Sudan, the Ivory Coast and Haiti fail to report sexual exploitation and abuse by some humanitarian aid workers and UN peacekeeping troops through fear, you might expect this revelation to contain further information about abusive peacekeepers. Actually, the eye-opener was about the nature of war today. </p> <p> The hall and flanking sitting rooms were crammed with high-level military commanders, tacticians and academics with experience of peacekeeping operations; policy-makers from major troop contributing countries (TCCs) and those affected by armed conflict; police commanders, representatives from regional security organisations, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (<a href="http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/dpko/">DPKO</a>) and other high level UN representation. They were all there to address the uncomfortable fact that today, as Patrick Commaert, a Major General recently retired from the Netherlands Armed Forces, put it: &quot;It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in armed conflicts.&quot; </p> <p> This is because of the changing nature of warfare, as a result of which civilians are increasingly not just random, incidental victims of conflict - collateral damage - but targets of it. Captive male combatants are also subjected to sexual torture and terror, but women and girls are the majority of civilians targeted for this particular form of atrocity, on a frightful scale: three out of four women in parts of the Eastern Kivus in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); 90% of all females above the age of three in parts of Liberia; up to 50% of women and girls in Sierra Leone. This sexual violence against women is not confined to rape. International law now encompasses within this definition forced prostitution; sexual slavery; forced impregnation; forced maternity; forced termination of pregnancy; enforced sterilization; indecent assault; trafficking; inappropriate medical examinations and strip searches. These acts amount to a method of warfare when they are used systematically to torture, injure, extract information, degrade, threaten, intimidate or punish in relation to an armed conflict. </p> <p> For millennia, sexual violence and rape have been attributed to the opportunistic behaviour of renegade combatants preying on female civilians during the fog of war. After the experiences of the Second World War, the 1949 Geneva Conventions included explicit reference to rape, calling for women to be &quot;especially protected against any attack on their honour, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution, or any form of indecent assault.&quot; It is interesting to see that this talk of &quot;honour&quot; has been subsequently interpreted by judicial bodies as an attack against the psychological and physical integrity of the victim as an individual, rather than as a community symbol - since it is precisely social, political and religious norms identifying women and girls as the property of men that has turned them into such potent tools of war, when violence against women constitutes a direct attack on the values or &quot;honour&quot; of the enemy community. </p> <p> But now there is gathering evidence of commanders &#39;turning a blind eye&#39; towards mass actions, as well as explicit command leading to sexual violence and humiliation. It was the sheer scale and magnitude of sexual violence in the Balkans and Rwanda that made this impossible for the world to ignore. Today, this is a recognised characteristic of recent conflicts on the Security Council&#39;s agenda in Bosnia, Rwanda, Sudan, Haiti, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Somalia, Chad - the list continues. There are of course problems with gathering evidence. In particular in the case of women who have been raped, atrocities go unreported because the community&#39;s reaction is often to stigmatise the victim rather than prosecute the perpetrator. Only 2% of the perpetrators of reported cases of rape in the DRC province of South Kivu were taken to court. Even if a perpetrator was arrested, he will be released when an agreement is reached outside court with the family of the victim. Meanwhile, a study conducted there suggested that 45% of raped women were subsequently rejected by their husbands. </p> <p> There is a new understanding among peacekeepers as well of the spiral of descent that can grip these conflict zones. Peacekeepers make a key distinction between &#39;widespread and systematic&#39; sexual violence and that which is &#39;widespread and opportunistic&#39;. The former is a crime against humanity - an organised campaign directed against the civilian population contrary to international law. The conference press briefing contained a thought-provoking definition: this is &#39;rape as a sexual manifestation of aggression, rather than an aggressive manifestation of sexuality.&#39; &#39;Widespread and opportunistic&#39; sexual violence however describes something very different. When rape is perpetrated on a massive scale with apparent impunity by armed actors, state and non-state alike, ordinary citizens may feel they too can get away with it, and they do. Rape becomes socially normalised and generalised. </p> <p> This happens in traumatised post-conflict societies, where demobilised militias flood back into communities awash with small arms and light weapons, &quot;without the requisite psychological debrief for reintegration into civilian life and standards.&quot; Peacekeepers find that this sort of social breakdown makes a mockery of efforts to reassert the rule of law, and profoundly undermines community recovery and the long-term sustainability of any peace efforts. It also poses massive tactical challenges to peacekeepers because of the vast range of contexts in which it occurs, in homes, streets, fields or woods. </p> <p> The current climate of impunity in most post conflict contexts allows the many forms of gender-based violence, including sexual violence, to flourish. In a climate of impunity, sexual violence can be safely committed without perpetrators risking arrest, prosecution or punishment. When this happens, there is a risk that sexual violence will degenerate into a widespread and systematic crime. Often the political will to end the vicious cycle of impunity does not exist. In the DRC, for example, all armed groups involved in the conflict have perpetrated sexual violence against women and girls, and Government security forces have become the largest violator of human rights. It is in such degenerated contexts as those in the DRC, Liberia and Haiti, that a minority of UN personnel and other international actors have also been implicated in perpetrating sexual violence. In Wilton Park, military peacekeepers were gathered to discuss not just the implied leadership problem behind infringements by their own personnel and the growing call for a revival of a dedicated unit to deal with it - but the much wider challenge of what to do about this new form of conflict. It is a carnage that the military has been slow simply to see - and to acknowledge as the major security issue that it is. </p> <p> <strong>Women targeted by armed conflict </strong> </p> <p> Read the four reports from the conference </p> <p> <a href="/blog/rosemary-bechler/2008/06/03/the-changing-face-of-war">The changing face of war</a> </p> <p> <a href="/blog/rosemary-bechler/2008/06/03/part-two">Protecting women and girls in conflict</a> </p> <p> <a href="/blog/rosemary-bechler/2008/06/05/sexual-violence-not-just-a-gender-issue">Sexual Violence not just a gender issue</a> </p> <p> <a href="/blog/rosemary_bechler/pray_the_devil_back_to_hell">Pray the devil back to hell</a> </p> <p> <a href="http://www.stoprapenow.org/index.html">Stop rape now</a>: UN action against sexual violence in conflict </p> <p> Also on openDemocracy: Anne-Marie Goetz, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/war_sexual_violence">War and sexual violence: an issue of security</a>&quot; plus an <a href="/audio/5050/16_days/john_holmes">interview with John Holmes</a>, UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs </p> <p> &nbsp; </p> <p> &nbsp; </p> 50.50 50.50 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 16 Days, 2007-8 women's human rights violence against women patriarchy gender justice gender feminism Rosemary Bechler Women Making a Difference Pathways Of Women's Empowerment 5050 Tue, 03 Jun 2008 12:01:31 +0000 Rosemary Bechler 44856 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The dark side of micro-credit https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/dark-side-of-micro-credit <div class="entry-summary"><p> Bangladesh<em>&#39;s pioneering micro-finance revolution is also helping to fuel the twin abuses of dowry and domestic violence. Santi Rozario investigates </em></p></div> <p> Over the last two to three decades rural Bangladeshi society has experienced a complex range of developments. Among these, NGOs, <a href="http://www.grameen-info.org/mcredit/">micro-finance institutions</a> and garment industries have become the major agents of change in the lives of rural Bangladeshi women. Women&#39;s increased access to independent sources of finance, through participation in outside paid employment or through micro-credit, is usually taken as one of the main indicators of the improvement of women&#39;s status and of women&#39;s empowerment. </p> <p> However, a puzzle remains: if these positive changes have resulted in women&#39;s &quot;empowerment&quot;, why has there not been the kind of improvements in women&#39;s position that might be expected, such as the reduction or abolition of dowry payments, or a reduction in domestic violence? Indeed, if anything these tend to be going in the opposite direction. Dowry amounts continue to rise, as does the associated <a href="http://sar.sagepub.com/cgi/content/refs/26/3/249">violence against women</a>. </p> <p class="pullquote_new"> Also on micro-finance in Bangladesh: <br /> <br /> Farida Khan, &quot;<a href="/globalization-institutions_government/yunus_4030.jsp">Muhammad Yunus: an economics for peace</a>&quot; </p> <p> It is true that individual women, <a href="http://www.wecanendvaw.org/view-bangladesh.htm">women&#39;s organisations</a> and other <a href="http://www.carebd.org/">NGOs</a> continue to struggle against these problems. Yet, despite all this effort, women continue to be subject to demands for large amounts of dowry as a condition for acceptance by their groom&#39;s family. Married women are also frequently subjected to physical and psychological violence by their husbands and in-laws if they cannot keep bringing in more and more dowry, especially within the first few years of their marriage. </p> <p> <strong>Understanding dowry</strong> </p> <p> To understand the seemingly intractable problem of dowry, we need to understand the rationale behind the practice. <a href="http://banglapedia.search.com.bd/HT/D_0273.htm">Dowry practices</a> in Bangladesh (the demand or <em>dabi </em>from grooms&#39; families) are a relatively new phenomenon. Their rise is linked to the capitalist transformation of the Bangladeshi economy since the late 1960s and the resultant disjunction between the demands of the economy and the system of values in <a href="http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0039-3665%28198111%2912%3A11%3C394%3AIFWOCM%3E2.0.CO%3B2-8">Bangladeshi society</a>. </p> <p> This has led to a valorization of men and devalorization of women, legitimated both by a socially created surplus of marriageable women compared to men, and also by the threat posed to ideas of women&#39;s purity and honour by women&#39;s increasing physical mobility. All this in turn has made it possible for dowry to become a critical source of capital for families with sons, who are an increasingly prized commodity<strong>.</strong> </p> <p> These new negative developments in relation to women and dowry can be understood better by appreciating that in Bangladeshi culture marriage and dependence upon your husband is thought essential for women. By &#39;dependence&#39; I mean both perceived and real economic dependency as well as the moral or cultural dependency of all women on one or another adult man of their family. The necessity for all women to be married, along with the perceived &#39;risks&#39; posed by an unmarried woman to her family&#39;s honour, means that families feel pressured to marry off their daughters as soon as possible after puberty. This lowers the marriage age for women, so creating a perceived surplus of women in relation to men, who are not under the same pressure to marry and so generally marry later in life. This again leads to further inflation of dowries and to the further devaluing of women - economically, culturally and morally - in relation to men. </p> <p> <span class="pullquote_new">Also in <strong>openDemocracy</strong> on the 16 Days theme, part of our overall 50.50 coverage, a <a href="/blog/5050" target="_blank">multi-voiced blog </a>with contributions from women and men around the world<br /> <br /> Other articles in the 16 Days series include:<br /> <br /> Roja Bandari, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/one_million_signatures" target="_blank">Iran&#39;s women: listen now!</a>&quot; <br /> <br /> Rahila Gupta, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/enslaved" target="_blank">The UK&#39;s modern slavery shame</a>&quot; <br /> <br /> Takyiwaa Manuh, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/ghana_domestic_violence" target="_blank">African women and domestic violence</a>&quot;<br /> <br /> Anne-Marie Goetz and Joanne Sandler &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/war_sexual_violence">War and sexual violence</a>&quot; <br /> <br /> Rebecca Barlow, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/countering_master_narrative">Women and conflict</a>&quot;<br /> <br /> Jameen Kaur, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/maternal_mortality">India&#39;s silent tragedy</a></span> </p> <p> <strong>Beyond the law</strong> </p> <p> Dowry was <a href="http://www.hurights.or.jp/asia-pacific/040/02.htm">declared illegal</a> in Bangladesh in 1980. However, like many other laws in Bangladesh this has had <a href="http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/research/publications/index_e.htm?docid=120&amp;cid=0&amp;sec=CH04">little or no impact</a>. When faced with demands for large dowries, families are reluctant to take legal action for fear of losing suitable grooms. Thus villagers will say that if one family takes legal action, no other potential grooms will come forward to ask to marry a girl from that village in future. While there are para-legal staff in some rural villages, poor people only seek their assistance when a woman has been divorced after repeated demands for more and more dowry, combined with extensive violence. Families never report cases when dowry is demanded during marital negotiations. </p> <p> When I asked several groups of poor women what was their biggest problem during some recent research for <a href="http://www.carebd.org/">CARE Bangladesh</a>, their almost unanimous answer was &quot;dowry&quot;. When I asked about violence, I heard numerous stories about how most of the violence against women was related to their parents&#39; inability to meet the demands of husbands and their families for more and more money or other goods<strong>. </strong> </p> <p> Dowry has come to be one of the most critical sources of capital for all families. It is not only practiced as a one-off payment during marriage, but many families continue to use their newly-married incoming wives as an ongoing source of capital, by sending them back to their natal home again and again to bring back more capital. If the wives&#39; families cannot oblige, the wives are subjected to violence, or even divorce. </p> <p> One such woman I spoke to, Ruksana, is the second of four sisters from a poor family. She was married to her cousin Ataul, and her parents paid 80,000 <a href="http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;ct=res&amp;cd=1&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FBangladeshi_taka&amp;ei=HutWR_i9J5340ASl1KjiCg&amp;usg=AFQjCNEI3atohPAisbg7GJYmsNEXaleCSA&amp;sig2=Qxl-sIYfKC6np-pLKJPJKw">Bangladeshi Taka</a> as dowry. After the marriage her mother-in-law mistreated her and demanded a bicycle, some jewellery and additional Tk30,000. Ruksana&#39;s mother took a Tk7000 loan from <a href="http://www.grameen-info.org/">Grameen Bank</a>, bought a cycle and made some ear-rings in the hope that the mother-in-law (her own brother&#39;s wife) would treat her daughter better, but Ruksana was pressured for more money. Ruksana did not want to tell her parents since they were already struggling to keep up payments on the first loan and could not afford enough food. Her mother-in-law then tricked her into signing divorce papers (she was told the papers were to obtain another loan), forced her to return to her parents&#39; house, and arranged a new marriage for Ataul. </p> <p> <strong>The dark side of micro-credit </strong> </p> <p> This is where micro-credit has contributed to the escalation of dowry. While micro-credit has benefited large sections of the rural population in many ways, it has also worked against women&#39;s solidarity and contributed heavily to the inflation of dowry. Grooms&#39; families are aware that money is available to brides&#39; families more easily now, through <a href="http://www.grameen-info.org/">Grameen Bank</a>, the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (<a href="http://www.brac.net/index2.htm">BRAC</a>) or other NGOs. I have often heard of women being sent home to persuade their parents to borrow money from an NGO for their husbands to invest in business, including buying items such as rickshaws, vans, grocery shops or irrigation pumps. </p> <p> Although in theory micro-finance institutions do not lend money for the purposes of dowry payment, in practice it is common knowledge among the <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/199512/grameen-bank">barefoot bankers</a> (micro-finance institution employees distributing and collecting loans among village people) that most village families depend on micro-credit to meet dowry demands. </p> <p> It is because of such near universal dependence of men on their wives&#39; families for capital that dowry has come to be perceived by women&#39;s organisations as intractable and as &#39;too political&#39; a problem to tackle directly. </p> <p> <strong>Dismantling the hierarchy</strong> </p> <p> Notwithstanding certain structural constraints, I still believe there are ways to arrest the problem of dowry, and in my work for <a href="http://www.carebd.org/">CARE</a> I made a number of recommendations. They include; collaboration between institutions working for women&#39;s rights to campaign on dowry, inheritance rights and domestic violence; development of a large-scale rural legal aid service following the model already developed by Ain o Salish Kendra (<a href="http://www.askbd.org/index.php">ASK</a>) and the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (<a href="http://www.brac.net/index2.htm">BRAC</a>); working with religious authorities; use of media, education and role models to contest village stereotypes of women. </p> <p> Another key point to consider is that the perpetuation of dowry and violence against women cannot only be blamed on men, particularly poor men. It is actually the middle-class families, who keep their women relatively sheltered in order to protect their purity and honour, and compete most heavily for status hierarchy through dowry displays, who are most responsible for perpetuating both dowry practices and gender domination. </p> <p> Middle-class women too gain from this <a href="http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/global-etiquette/bangladesh.html">status hierarchy</a>. They demand dowry for their sons, are relatively able to pay large dowry for their daughters, and play active roles in maintaining their superior status in relation to less well-off women. As a result, they are often the people least willing to reject the dowry system. It is hard to see how things will change for poor village families when they are taken for granted by the rural and urban middle classes, who act as moral arbiters for the society as a whole. </p> <p> In tackling the problem of middle class attitudes, a piecemeal approach may work. In the shorter term, the younger middle class generation, who might have studied abroad and returned to Bangladesh, and do not necessarily share the same values to their parents, could be targeted. They are more often prepared to challenge familial values, for instance by marrying someone of their own choice without involvement of dowries. </p> <p> There also needs to be a dialogue between the women&#39;s organisations - especially legal ones such as Ask and the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers&#39; Association (<a href="http://www.samren.org/Civil_Society_Initiatives/bangladesh/Bangladesh-5.htm">BNWLA</a>) - and religious leaders. I believe if there is the political will on the part of the government, women&#39;s organisations, religious leaders, large NGOs and civil society in general, religious leaders can be used quite effectively in addressing the problem of dowry and violence against women. There is some precedence for this; in recent years religious leaders have been used very successfully in motivating large sections of the village people into <a href="http://banglapedia.search.com.bd/HT/C_0343.htm">accepting contraceptives</a> within a relatively short space of time. </p> <p> Finally, education is frequently recommended as a solution to all sorts of problems in Bangladeshi society. I would recommend the same, but with less emphasis on rote learning and more on educating the young so they begin to question gender and other structural hierarchies very early in life. </p> 50.50 50.50 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 16 Days, 2007-8 Pathways of Women's Empowerment women's human rights violence against women gendered poverty gender justice gender women's work Santi Rozario Creative Commons normal Mon, 10 Dec 2007 16:23:13 +0000 Santi Rozario 35350 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Educating for women's rights in Turkey https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/educating-for-womens-rights-in-turkey <div class="entry-summary"><p>Provided with the necessary knowledge and awareness, every woman has the capacity to help stop violence against women. Evre Kaynak of Turkey&#39;s Human Rights Education Programme says participatory projects are the key to success.</p></div> <p> Over the past 10 years, Turkey has witnessed major reforms in the sphere of women&#39;s human rights and the prevention of violence against women, largely due to the successful advocacy efforts of the women&#39;s movement, spearheaded by women&#39;s NGOs. The first breakthrough was the adoption of the 1998 <a href="http://www.wwhr.org/law_no_4320.php">law on the protection of the family</a> aimed at preventing domestic violence, followed by reform of the <a href="http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-10052314_ITM">Civil Code in 2001</a>, and most recently reform of the <a href="http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2004/09/913fafcb-3efe-495e-927b-3136e7d6cc23.html">Turkish Penal Code in 2004</a>. Through these reforms, women have attained the legal basis to exercise their human rights. </p> <p> However, field surveys carried out by Women for Women&#39;s Human Rights (<a href="http://www.wwhr.org/law_no_4320.php">WWHR</a>) in 1993 and 1997, conducted through interviews with 754 women living in Ankara, Istanbul, East Anatolia and South-East Anatolia found that women living in Turkey were not aware of their human rights guaranteed through national and international laws. Furthermore, the number of independent women&#39;s organisations in Turkey was very limited. Women&#39;s daily lives were being shaped by patriarchal customs and traditions, the so called &quot;verbal laws&quot;(LINK). The alarming gap between women&#39;s legal human rights and the reality of their everyday lives exposed the need for a comprehensive grassroots training programme, to increase women&#39;s knowledge and awareness of their rights, and to develop skills for realizing those rights. </p> <p> <strong>Education is key </strong> </p> <p> The subsequent Human Rights Education Programme (<a href="http://www.wwhr.org/hrep.php">HREP</a>), developed by WWHR is a 16 module program covering: constitutional and civil rights, violence against women and domestic violence, strategies against violence, women&#39;s economic rights, communication skills, gender sensitive parenting and the rights of the child, women and sexuality, reproductive rights, women and politics, feminism and the women&#39;s movement, and women&#39;s grassroots organising. Implemented in 1998 in cooperation with the General Directorate of Social Services (LINK), a government institution, the program has reached more than 5000 women in 36 different provinces throughout Turkey. HREP is the most widespread and sustainable human rights education program in Turkey, and the region. </p> <p> HREP is also helping to reduce the gap that exists between legislation and implementation of laws, by initiating independent women&#39;s organisation at the grassroots levels as well as acting as a driving force for the involvement of women from the grassroots levels in advocacy efforts. </p> <p> The education programme has been further developed and implemented as an interdependent process of training, activism, networking and cooperation for the promotion and protection of women&#39;s human rights. </p> <p> <span class="pullquote_new">Also in <strong>openDemocracy</strong> on the 16 Days theme, part of our overall 50.50 coverage, a <a href="/blog/5050" target="_blank">multi-voiced blog </a>with contributions from women and men around the world<br /> <br /> Other articles in the 16 Days series include:<br /> <br /> Roja Bandari, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/one_million_signatures" target="_blank">Iran&#39;s women: listen now!</a>&quot; <br /> <br /> Rahila Gupta, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/enslaved" target="_blank">The UK&#39;s modern slavery shame</a>&quot; <br /> <br /> Takyiwaa Manuh, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/ghana_domestic_violence" target="_blank">African women and domestic violence</a>&quot;<br /> <br /> Santi Rozario, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/dowry_microcredit">The dark side of micro-credit</a>&quot;<br /> <br /> Anne-Marie Goetz and Joanne Sandler &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/war_sexual_violence">War and sexual violence</a>&quot; <br /> <br /> Rebecca Barlow, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/countering_master_narrative">Women and conflict</a>&quot;<br /> <br /> Jameen Kaur, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/maternal_mortality">India&#39;s silent tragedy</a></span> </p> <p> <strong>The process </strong> </p> <p> It begins with the needs, expectations and experiences of participating women. By sharing their individual experiences and learning from each others&#39; experiences, a common understanding on women&#39;s human rights in the framework of various socio-political and cultural dimensions besides specific individual cases, leads to the development of a solidarity network. </p> <p> Sharing the issues that matter to us as women in our private and daily lives, in our relationships with our family and friends; getting to know about the common problems we encounter as women such as violence against women, speaks to the experiences of women outside the training group. Enhanced self-awareness, solidarity within the group, and networking among different HREP groups is followed by practical steps taken by individual participants and groups collectively. </p> <p> With an enhanced knowledge and awareness of their human rights and improved skills such as making use of the laws through attorneys or Bar Associations (LINK), communication with family members or the perpetrators of violence, participants are encouraged by HREP social workers to employ their own strategies for the prevention and/or elimination of violence. </p> <p> By learning their rights and teaching them to others, women develop their capacities to pass on the necessary information and skills to their families, communities, and future generations about how to resolve problems without resorting violence. </p> <p> <strong>Measuring success</strong> </p> <p> In the course of 12 years (1995 to 2007), 15 grassroots women&#39;s organisations have emerged from HREP. These organisations have become active agents in their communities on women&#39;s human rights, and become allies of the women&#39;s movement nationally and globally. </p> <p> In Canakkale (western Turkey), HREP participants founded the Women&#39;s Counselling and Solidarity Centre in 2003, a hugely successful centre working on violence against women in Turkey. In Van (Eastern Turkey), HREP participants established the first independent women&#39;s in the region, the Van Women&#39;s Association (VAKAD). VAKAD is one of the most active women&#39;s human rights organisations in the country, and established a women&#39;s shelter in cooperation with the local government in 2005. </p> <p> An external evaluation in 2003 found sustainable qualitative and quantitative measures of improvement on various aspects of women&#39;s daily lives: 63% of the participants had the domestic physical violence they were facing stopped, while 22% reduced it; 54% returned to their schooling; 29% joined the labour force outside their home, and 89% became resource persons in their families and their communities. </p> <p> <strong>Reasons for success</strong> </p> <p> Violence against women is one of the most destructive common outcomes of gender inequality and unequal power relations between men and women. HREP acknowledges that each case of violence against women has got its own dimensions and that it is not possible to suggest only one way for the prevention and elimination of violence against women. Each case requires a particular strategy. On the other hand we believe that the holistic approach adopted by this education programme is a tool which can provide women with the necessary knowledge and skills to empower them assert their rights and stop violence. </p> <p> Participatory approaches that provide the space for women to develop their own strategies to work on women&#39;s human rights violations are key to make the transition from individual to collective, local to global levels. These complementary approaches to content and methods of human rights education are the main factors that lead to sustainable outcomes for the prevention and elimination of violence against women worldwide. </p> 50.50 50.50 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 16 Days, 2007-8 women's human rights violence against women secularism gender justice gender feminism Evre Kaynak Creative Commons normal Mon, 10 Dec 2007 15:56:34 +0000 Evre Kaynak 35358 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Empowering women in the middle east https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/empowering-women-in-middle-east <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Hibaaq Osman on dignity and violence in the middle east. Plus: <a href="http://opendemocracy.net/blog/5050/">blogging 16 days</a> </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Hibaaq Osman is the founder of <a href="http://www.vday.org/contents/vday/vcampaigns/amea/karama">Karama</a>, ('dignity' in Arabic) - a network of women activists working in nine countries in the middle east and north Africa to end violence against women on their own terms. Tired of attending international conferences where Arab women were being discussed as victims, and reading reports which excluded their views and experiences, she started the organisation both to empower women to confront the violence within their own societies, and to provide accurate information to the international community.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/audio/HIBAAQ%20FINAL_0.mp3"><img alt="Download &amp; Listen" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/download-n-listen.png" /></a></p> <p>Karama's approach to tackling violence against women goes beyond drawing attention to the impact it has on women physically and emotionally. The network takes into account the root causes and social consequences of the violence by highlighting the impact it has on different sectors of society - political, economic, health, education, religion and media.</p> <p>As Hibaaq says "We do not have the luxury of choosing which subject - female genital mutilation or 'honour killing' - we'll focus on each week, the violence against women is at the core of society and affects us all".</p> <p>This podcast is part of openDemocracy's '16 days' series covering the annual 16 days against gender violence. Related podcasts include the UN's <a href="/audio/5050/16_days/john_holmes">John Holmes</a> on confronting sexual violence worldwide, <a href="/audio/5050/ghana_faustina">Faustina Fynn Nyame</a> on halting the 'preventable pandemic' in Ghana, <a href="/audio/5050/16_days/takyiwaa_manuh">Takyiwaa Manuh</a> on domestic violence in Africa and <a href="/audio/5050/16_days/afaf_jabiri">Afaf Jabiri</a> on taking on the Jordanian government.</p> <p>Download or listen now to all the podcasts <a href="/columns/podcast.jsp">here</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div class="field field-mp3-file"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <div class="filefield-file"><img class="filefield-icon field-icon-audio-mpeg" alt="audio/mpeg icon" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/sites/all/modules/filefield/icons/audio-x-generic.png" /><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/audio/HIBAAQ%20FINAL_0.mp3" type="audio/mpeg; length=8388607">HIBAAQ FINAL_0.mp3</a></div> </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Podcasts 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 16 Days, 2007-8 Arab Region: The Dignity of Women women's movements women's human rights women and power violence against women patriarchy gender justice gender Mon, 10 Dec 2007 07:31:06 +0000 openDemocracy 35345 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Working for women's rights in Jordan https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/working-for-womens-rights-in-jordan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Afaf Jabiri talks about taking on the Jordanian government over women's rights. Plus: <a href="http://opendemocracy.net/blog/5050/">blogging 16 days</a> </p> </div> </div> </div> <p> Afaf Jabiri is regional coordinator of <a href="http://www.vday.org/contents/vday/vcampaigns/amea/karama">Karama</a> ('dignity' in Arabic) - a network of women activists working to end violence against women in the Middle East and North Africa. Groups in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon work together to develop country specific strategies for ending violence against women on their own terms. </p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/audio/AFAF%20FINAL.mp3"><img alt="Download &amp; Listen" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/download-n-listen.png" /></a></p> <p> Karama's approach to tackling violence against women goes beyond drawing attention to the impact it has on women physically and emotionally. The network takes into account the root causes and social consequences of the violence by highlighting the impact it has on different sectors of society - political, economic, health, education, religious and media. </p> <p> This podcast is part of openDemocracy's '16 days' series covering the annual 16 days against gender violence. Related podcasts include the UN's <a href="/audio/5050/16_days/john_holmes">John Holmes</a> on confronting sexual violence worldwide, <a href="/audio/5050/ghana_faustina">Faustina Fynn Nyame</a> on halting the 'preventable pandemic' in Ghana and <a href="/audio/5050/16_days/takyiwaa_manuh">Takyiwaa Manuh</a> on domestic violence in Africa. </p> <p> Download or listen now to all the podcasts <a href="/columns/podcast.jsp">here</a>. </p> <div class="field field-mp3-file"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <div class="filefield-file"><img class="filefield-icon field-icon-audio-mpeg" alt="audio/mpeg icon" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/sites/all/modules/filefield/icons/audio-x-generic.png" /><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/audio/AFAF%20FINAL.mp3" type="audio/mpeg; length=8388607">AFAF FINAL.mp3</a></div> </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Podcasts 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 16 Days, 2007-8 Arab Region: The Dignity of Women women's movements women's human rights patriarchy gender justice gender Thu, 06 Dec 2007 12:48:21 +0000 openDemocracy 35275 at https://www.opendemocracy.net India's silent tragedy https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/indias-silent-tragedy <div class="entry-summary"><p> A shockingly high maternal mortality rate reveals government inaction on halting preventable deaths. Jameen Kaur asks, where is the delivery of rights for India&#39;s &quot;invisible women&quot;? </p></div> <p> India&#39;s most famous monument, the <a href="http://www.agrahub.com/taj-mahal-agra/history-of-the-tajmahal.html">Taj Mahal</a>, is recognised the world over. Built by Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan in 1631 in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, it represents a particular poignancy, as Mumtaz Mahal died giving birth. </p> <p> Today, India suffers the world&#39;s <a href="http://www.unfpa.org/mothers/facts.htm">highest toll</a> of maternal mortality deaths - 117,000 - amounting to 20 percent of the global maternal death toll of 535,000 each year. People all over India continue to grieve for the avoidable deaths of countless Mumtaz Mahal&#39;s who die each day. Why does the world turn its back on their stories? Where are their monuments? Where is the ‘human dignity&#39; for the Indian woman? </p> <p> <strong>A right to health</strong> </p> <p> Looking at past documents with reference to protective declarations, conventions and action programmes signed by states to protect the rights of the human, there are two words that stand out over and over; ‘human dignity&#39;. So, if this is our starting point, where is the protection for the human dignity of women who risk death to give life? </p> <p> This article is part of a series on <strong>openDemocracy</strong> marking the &quot;<a href="/editorial_tags/16_days" target="_blank">16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence</a>&quot; from 25 November - 10 December, an annual mobilisation aimed at heightening global awareness of violence against women <br /> <br /> <span class="pullquote_new"> Also in <strong>openDemocracy</strong> on the 16 Days theme, part of our overall 50.50 coverage, a <a href="/blog/5050" target="_blank">multi-voiced blog</a> where women around the world contribute <br /> <br /> Roja Bandari, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/one_million_signatures" target="_blank">Iran&#39;s women: listen now!</a>&quot; <br /> <br /> Rahila Gupta, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/enslaved" target="_blank">The UK&#39;s modern slavery shame</a>&quot; <br /> <br /> Takyiwaa Manuh, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/ghana_domestic_violence" target="_blank">African women and domestic violence</a>&quot;<br /> <br /> Anne-Marie Goetz and Joanne Sandler &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/war_sexual_violence">War and sexual violence</a>&quot; <br /> <br /> Rebecca Barlow, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/countering_master_narrative">Women and conflict</a>&quot;</span>According to the <a href="http://www.who.int/reproductive-health/MNBH/index.htm">World Health Organisation</a> maternal mortality is defined as &quot;the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes.&quot; (<a href="http://www.who.int/reproductive-health/publications/maternal_mortality_2005/mme_2005.pdf">Maternal Mortality 2005</a>, pdf) The <a href="http://www.unfpa.org/mothers/index.htm">United Nations Population Fund</a> reports that there are five direct causes which account for 80 percent of the world&#39;s maternal deaths, namely; haemorrhaging during delivery - which can be related to the lack of adequate services available and the lack of blood transfusion and resources - leading to women bleeding to death, sepsis, unsafe abortion, obstructed labour, and hypertensive disease of pregnancy (which includes associated indirect conditions such as malaria, anaemia and heart disease representing 25 percent of deaths). </p> <p> Despite the evidence of a huge paper trail that cites and reiterates over and over the importance of the right to health, over <a href="http://www.who.int/reproductive-health/publications/maternal_mortality_2005/mme_2005.pdf">half a million women</a> continue to die around the world each year. One woman each minute of the day suffers an easily avoidable pregnancy-related death. Why is there not an international outcry that families, communities and societies are being robbed by the deaths of whole generations of women?. </p> <p> <strong>Invisible women</strong> </p> <p> Like many other human rights violations, it is the poor and the most vulnerable sectors of our communities, who are paying the heaviest price; <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=24282&amp;Cr=health&amp;Cr1">99 percent</a> of all maternal deaths take place in the developing world. </p> <p> The denial of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights and entitlements restricts and isolates women from fully claiming their basic human rights. The denial of basic amenities such as access to the right to water, the right to food, and the right to adequate housing are all interrelated, and fuel the feminisation of poverty. Women now make up <a href="http://www.whiteband.org/GcapSpecials/iwd-march08/stand-up-speak-out-70-poor-are-women">70 percent</a> of the poorest of the world&#39;s poor. The effect is to further imprison and silence women, disempowering them from participating in the discussions and decision-making processes which most affect and impact on them personally. </p> <p class="pullquote_new"> Also on <strong>openDemocracy</strong> on maternal mortality, Jessica Reed blogs the <a href="/blog/jessica_reed/women_deliver">Women Deliver conference</a>, October 2007 </p> <p> In India, it is no coincidence that women are viewed as most invisible, when it comes to the state implementing practical measures which will reduce the maternal death toll of the sub continent. The state acknowledges women when it comes to implementing measures of population control, yet they are ghosts when it comes to ensuring access to the most basic of rights. </p> <p> India, along with 156 other states around the world signed and ratified the <a href="http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu6/2/fs16.htm">International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights</a>, Article 12 of which states; &quot;everyone has the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health&quot;. It further states that the right to health extends not only to timely and appropriate healthcare but also to the underlying determinants of health, such as access to safe and portable water and adequate sanitation, an adequate supply of safe food, nutrition and housing, healthy occupational and environmental conditions and access to health-related education and information, including on <a href="http://www.who.int/reproductive-health/MNBH/index.htm">sexual and reproductive health</a>. </p> <p> Statistics released by the International <a href="http://www.womendeliver.org/index.htm">Women Deliver conference</a> in October 2007 indicate that maternal mortality worldwide could be cut by nearly three-quarters by improving women&#39;s access to comprehensive reproductive health services, including family planning. These services should be offered within the broader context of efforts to promote human rights, poverty reduction and gender equality. </p> <p> Sri Lanka and Vietnam are cited as success stories, having substantially reduced maternal mortality despite gross national incomes equal to other countries with high maternal mortality rates. Egypt, Honduras, Malaysia and Thailand have all halved their maternal mortality ratios over the last several decades. So why not India? </p> <p> <strong>Delivering rights</strong> </p> <p> The right to health is <em>the</em> fundamental human right, which so many other rights and freedoms spring from, and is directly linked to the enjoyments of all other human rights. The right to health for a woman begins with the right to control her own reproductive health rights; the right to determine how many children she will have, when she will have them, and if she wants them. These rights can be delivered through the access of many practical measures, which will directly reduce material mortality ratios and deaths not just in India but worldwide. The right to control her reproductive health is a vital tool in a woman&#39;s chances of survival. </p> <p> There are many challenges which face the women of India and worldwide in making this right a reality. As International Human Rights lawyer <a href="http://www.law.utoronto.ca/faculty_content.asp?itemPath=1/3/4/0/0&amp;profile=14&amp;cType=facMembers">Rebecca Cook</a> has stated &quot;If international human rights law fails to address women&#39;s susceptibility to suffer discrimination and oppression through their inability to control the very functions that differentiate women biologically, such law fails to address half of humanity and mocks any pretensions to universality.&quot; </p> <p> <strong>Beyond numbers </strong> </p> <p> At a deeper level, what do maternal mortality figures truly tell us? What do they indicate about the value placed upon women as human beings? </p> <p> To examine states&#39; pledges with reference to their commitment to truly protect and advance societies one must look at the treatment of the most vulnerable in our societies, namely women and girls, and how they are (un)able to access rights. If in 2007, women are still dying in their millions with so much legislation in place, what does that tell us about state-level integrity? It is an act of violence in itself, that women are suffering avoidable deaths due to negligence and failure of state parties to respect, fulfil and protect the duties they have signed up to. Where is the delivery of rights for women? For women in India, and worldwide, the saying if ‘you don&#39;t have your health you don&#39;t have anything&#39; literally means life or death. </p> 50.50 50.50 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 16 Days, 2007-8 women's human rights women's health violence against women gender justice gender feminism Jameen Kaur Creative Commons normal Wed, 05 Dec 2007 15:15:01 +0000 Jameen Kaur 35262 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Women and conflict https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/women-and-conflict <p> In May 2007 I attended the First International Conference of the <a href="http://www.nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women&#39;s Initiative</a> (NWI) <em>Women Redefining Peace in the Middle East and Beyond</em> as a <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.opendemocracy.net/" target="_blank">rapporteur</a>. Women from more than 40 different countries came together to discuss and exchange strategies to improve women&#39;s conditions. On the first day of the conference, it became clear that the event would expose what Hilde Lindemann Nelson might call &#39;counter stories&#39;: narratives that resist oppressive stereotypes and attempt to replace them with axes of identity that demand respect (<a href="http://www.msu.edu/%7Ehypatia/reviews/Nelson.htm" target="_blank"><em>Damaged Identities, Narrative Repair</em></a>, 2001). Counter stories challenge what Nelson calls master narratives: those stories &quot;found lying about in our culture&quot; that become accepted as summaries of human experience. In this sense, the conference was motivated by the recognition that women are not exclusively &#39;victims&#39; of conflict. Rather, confronted with a spiralling course of violence in the middle east, women have demonstrated positive responses of resilience. </p> <p> This reality contrasts with a deeply gendered <a href="http://www.bridgetochange.com/handbook/chapterthree.shtml" target="_blank">master narrative</a> of war and conflict. Almost universally throughout history men have been presented as heroes of war and protectors of the state. Conversely, women have been construed exclusively as victims in need of protection. This translates to political maladies on the ground. In their exclusive position as those who fight and die for society and the state, men come to be regarded as full citizens with automatic citizenship rights. In the logic of the master narrative, it follows that men should determine the direction of society and the state in the post-conflict climate. Women&#39;s non-participation in the physical defence of the state means that they do not have the same citizenship status as men. It correlates that women do not have the same right - or indeed capabilities - to participate in decision-making structures and post-conflict negotiations. </p> <p class="pullquote_new"> This article is part of a series on <strong>openDemocracy</strong> marking the &quot;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/editorial_tags/16_days" target="_blank">16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence</a>&quot; from 25 November - 10 December, an annual mobilisation aimed at heightening global awareness of violence against women <br /> <br /> Also in <strong>openDemocracy</strong> on the 16 Days theme, part of our overall 50.50 coverage, a <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/5050" target="_blank">multi-voiced blog</a> where women around the world contribute <br /> <br /> Roja Bandari, &quot;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/5050/16_days/one_million_signatures" target="_blank">Iran&#39;s women: listen now!</a>&quot; <br /> <br /> Rahila Gupta, &quot;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/5050/16_days/enslaved" target="_blank">The UK&#39;s modern slavery shame</a>&quot; <br /> <br /> Takyiwaa Manuh, &quot;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/5050/ghana_domestic_violence" target="_blank">African women and domestic violence</a>&quot; </p> <p> This not only represents an extreme injustice to women; it is also anathema to possibilities of human security at large. According to Noeleen Heyzer, peace agreements and post-conflict governance &quot;do better when women are involved&quot; (<a href="http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/sc8858.doc.htm" target="_blank">UN Security Council</a>, October 2006). Heyzer highlighted the fact that women know well the cost of war, including what it means to be displaced not only from one&#39;s home, but also excluded from public life. Consequently, women tend to adopt more inclusive approaches to peace and security than men, and address social and economic issues that might otherwise be ignored. </p> <p> <strong>Women and conflict - protecting rights</strong> </p> <p> Post-Saddam Iraq offers a striking example in this respect. On the first day of the conference, a leading Iraqi feminist, <a href="http://www.whrnet.org/docs/interview-mohammed-0410.html" target="_blank">Yanar Mohammed</a>,<sup> </sup>critiqued the US-led (re)construction of the Iraqi government.<sup> </sup>She pointed out that at the dawn of the US occupation of Iraq, there were over 400 women&#39;s NGOs registered with the government, whereas now there are only three or four. According to Mohammed, over 70 percent of television programs in post-Saddam Iraq have a conservative Islamist agenda. The Iraqi constitution has been formulated under the guidance of the Washington administration along sectarian lines, but as she pointed out, &quot;you cannot have women&#39;s rights without a secular constitution.&quot; </p> <p> Mohammed asked, &quot;What does this say about the United States&#39; democracy-promotion project?&quot; The agenda of the Bush administration does not include women&#39;s rights beyond the parameters of rhetoric. Therefore, who will support Iraqi women as they attempt to sustain their families and communities in the context of what is now widely understood to be a civil war? Her conclusion was that women-led initiatives &quot;are the only way&quot; to protect women&#39;s rights in Iraq and other conflict/post-conflict societies. </p> <p> <strong>Women and war: heroes and victims</strong> </p> <p> In fact, there is some debate within the feminist community regarding how best to deal with the marginalisation of women from decision-making processes. Whereas some support the equal participation of women in the military (including active battle), others emphasize the need to &quot;work towards destabilizing the entire notion of armed conflict as an acceptable form of foreign policy&quot; (<a href="http://www.springerlink.com/content/mmg266208v226022/" target="_blank">Lorraine Dowler, <em>GeoJournal</em></a> [2002], 161). As a participant in every session of the NWI conference, it is my understanding that the women present collectively supported the latter agenda. </p> <p> <span class="pullquote_new">A version of this article will be published in <a href="http://inscribe.iupress.org/loi/mew" target="_blank"><em>Journal of Middle East Women&#39;s Studies</em></a> 4:1 (Winter 2008)</span> </p> <p> Feminist support for women&#39;s equal participation in the armed forces stems from the perception that as long as women are denied the right to defend the state on the battlefield, they will never be considered equal in citizenship status to men. Thus, women should be allowed the opportunity to demonstrate their bravery alongside men, rather than remain at home as victims of the economic and social ramifications of events transpiring on the frontline. This argument rests on constricted notions of what might be considered the ‘frontline&#39; of war and defence of the state, as well as constrained understandings of what it is to be ‘brave&#39; on the one hand, and a ‘victim&#39; on the other. </p> <p> Nobel Laureate <a href="http://www.springerlink.com/content/mmg266208v226022/" target="_blank">Shirin Ebadi</a> addressed this issue. She argued that whereas war can mean the end of suffering for men, it often means the beginning of suffering for women. When a man dies in battle, the end of his life signifies the end of his plight. Women who survive the war have no choice but to face the struggle of post-conflict reconstruction. Why then do we not consider women who survive wars ‘heroes&#39;? Why aren&#39;t the women who attend to the economic burdens of society and child-rearing responsibilities in the absence of men, both during and after conflict, praised for their bravery? Why aren&#39;t men who are often involuntarily sent to fight and die on the ‘frontlines&#39; considered to be the primary ‘victims&#39; of war? </p> <p> Feminists have offered expanded interpretations of the frontline as &quot;places of change and transformation&quot; and are &quot;reclaiming the frontline as a frontier rather than a border&quot; (Dowler 2002). Women at the conference exemplified these revolutionary ideas. Their suggestions do not negate the fact that countless men have demonstrated extreme bravery during war and conflict, nor the fact that these actions merit deep reflection and respect. What was being highlighted is the conceptual ease with which the master narrative of conflict and state citizenship can be turned on its head. </p> <p> Ebadi suggested a way in which local communities might begin to pay the same respect to women who survive wars as they currently do to men who fight and die in wars. That is, the construction of a statue in all capital cities of the world to honour women as survivors of conflict. There are monuments to male soldiers in virtually every major city of the world, and typically communities are called upon annually to pay formal homage to these soldiers. Why don&#39;t we do the same for women who have carried the social and economic weight of their societies through these wars? The mental images that are most often conjured up when we observe existing war memorials tend to include weapons of warfare and death. The statues proposed by Ebadi to honour women might do better to elicit images of human sustenance and peace. <br /> <br /> <strong>A window of opportunity</strong> </p> <p> The incredible psychological endurance of women in conflict/post-conflict societies was a resounding theme. Numerous participants recounted experiences in which the outbreak of conflict revealed women&#39;s agency and innovative approaches to survival in the face of extreme hardship. </p> <p> <a href="http://www.huntalternatives.org/pages/7209_jane_odwong_akwero.cfm" target="_blank">Jane Odwong Akwero</a>, a representative from Uganda, explained that before the outbreak of violence in the late 1990s she was a &quot;shy housewife, unable to talk to more than five people at once, and even then I would whisper!&quot; In response to the tragedy that enveloped her society as a result of the rebel movement, Jane decided to take charge. She is now one of Uganda&#39;s leading peace activists, and founder of the Concerned Women&#39;s Organization for Peace and Development. Jane concluded from her experiences that women possess every capacity to lead their communities toward sustainable peace - the problem is that their voices remain marginalised in patriarchal systems of governance. She implored governments to &quot;just give women the window of opportunity, and they will do the rest.&quot; </p> <p> The counter stories imparted by Jane and other participants revealed the profound assertiveness, dynamism, and non-violent resistance of women in the face of war and conflict. It is incumbent on the international community to follow the lead of the Nobel Women&#39;s Initiative by replacing stereotypes imposed upon women by political master narratives with women&#39;s own self-perceptions and lived experiences. If I could emphasise one resounding lesson from my participation in the conference, it is that the development and maintenance of human security across the middle east, and elsewhere, will not be possible unless women&#39;s voices are prioritised. </p> 50.50 50.50 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 16 Days, 2007-8 women's movements women's human rights violence against women gender justice gender Rebecca Barlow Creative Commons normal Tue, 04 Dec 2007 14:53:26 +0000 Rebecca Barlow 35241 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A war that can be won https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jane-gabriel/war-that-can-be-won <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><object data="http://www.opendemocracy.net/modules/audio/players/1pixelout.swf" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" height="24" width="240"> </object> <br /> The UN's John Holmes on confronting sexual violence worldwide<br /> Plus: <a href="http://opendemocracy.net/blog/5050/">blogging 16 days</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p> At the <a href="http://statusofwomen.wordpress.com/">Commission on the Status of Women</a> in February 2007 the United Nations launched an agency wide campaign to &#39;<a href="http://www.stoprapenow.org/">Stop Rape Now</a>&#39;. John Holmes was then in his first week as Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and declared that tackling sexual violence against women in conflict was a &quot;war that could be won&quot;. </p> <p> Ten months into the job, having met women who have been mutilated by sexual violence in conflict, he told Jane Gabriel that he is a &#39;marked man&#39;: his commitment to reducing the violence against women through the work of the United Nations is increased, but the limitations of what the UN can do remain enormous. </p> <div class="field field-mp3-file"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <div class="filefield-file"><img class="filefield-icon field-icon-audio-mpeg" alt="audio/mpeg icon" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/sites/all/modules/filefield/icons/audio-x-generic.png" /><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/audio/John%20Holmes.mp3" type="audio/mpeg; length=8388607">John Holmes.mp3</a></div> </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Podcasts Continuum of Violence 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 16 Days, 2007-8 women's movements women's human rights violence against women gender justice gender Sexual violence Jane Gabriel Mon, 03 Dec 2007 17:12:21 +0000 Jane Gabriel 35226 at https://www.opendemocracy.net War and sexual violence: an issue of security https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/war-and-sexual-violence-issue-of-security <div class="entry-summary"><p>The organised abuse of women is not a by-product of many conflicts but is becoming a core military tactic. A vital United Nations Security Council resolution acknowledges this, but much more needs to be done to ensure that it is used to prevent women&#39;s suffering and to engage them in resolving conflict, say Anne Marie Goetz &amp; Joanne Sandler.</p></div> <p> United Nations Security Council resolution 1325, passed in October 2000, represents a watershed recognition by the world&#39;s paramount international-security institution of three core realities: </p> <p> ▪ that women and men experience conflict differently </p> <p> ▪ that women and girls need protection from gender-specific forms of violence </p> <p> ▪ that women must participate in peace-building in the interests of sustainable peace. </p> <p> <span class="pullquote_new">This article is part of a series on <strong>openDemocracy</strong> marking the &quot;<a href="/editorial_tags/16_days">16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence</a>&quot; from 25 November - 10 December, an annual mobilisation aimed at heightening global awareness of violence against women <br /> <br /> Also in <strong>openDemocracy</strong> on the 16 Days theme, part of our overall 50.50 coverage, a <a href="/blog/5050">multi-voiced blog</a> where women around the world contribute <br /> <br /> Other articles in the series: <br /> <br /> Roja Bandari, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/one_million_signatures">Iran&#39;s women: listen now!</a>&quot; <br /> <br /> Rahila Gupta, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/enslaved">The UK&#39;s modern slavery shame</a>&quot;<br /> <br /> Takyiwaa Manuh, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/ghana_domestic_violence">African women and domestic violence</a>&quot;<a href="/article/5050/ghana_domestic_violence"><br /> <br /> </a>Sarah Campbell, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/rape_conviction_uk">&#39;She was probably glad of the attention&#39;: tackling rape in the UK</a>&quot;</span> </p> <p> The resolution was the culmination of an enormous cooperative effort by a great number of women&#39;s and peace organisations (of which the <a href="http://www.unifem.org/">United Nations Development Fund for Women</a> [Unifem] was one), whose advocacy, research and consultations helped build a case for the Security Council to take up gender and security issues. Few other UN resolutions have embodied the commitment of such a passionate and active constituency, in ways that have continued to evolve in subsequent years </p> <p> It is striking now to recall the degree to which women&#39;s distinctive experiences of and perspectives on conflict, violence and peace were - less than a decade ago - seen as an alien subject for an international-security institution. In 1999, a representative from one of the council&#39;s permanent members had this advice to us during a discussion on the prospects of a resolution on women, peace and security: &quot;Don&#39;t even go there. The Security Council only deals with issues of national and international security. This issue will never, never make its way to the Security Council, because women&#39;s human rights is not an issue of international security.&quot; Yet seven years after the passage of <a href="http://www.peacewomen.org/un/sc/1325.html">resolution 1325</a>, there is greater understanding than ever that systematic and widespread sexual violence is indeed a national and international security matter. </p> <p> The work of Unifem in a range of contemporary conflict-zones - among them the southern Caucasus, the <a href="http://pacific.unifem.org/index.php?cat=10">Pacific</a>, east Africa, the western Balkans, and Latin America - has been an invaluable firsthand lesson in the importance of 1325 to women across the world. These are women who for years formed peace networks unnoticed; who for years waited in the margins of peace negotiations to make their voices heard; who had little hope that rapists and others that violated their rights would ever be brought to justice, but who put their own tragedies aside to counsel and support women who, like themselves, had been raped. These are the women who are the constituency for 1325. <br /> <br /> But there is also a shared recognition that our pledge to this constituency is not being kept. This was evident in the Security Council&#39;s open debate on 23 October 2007, which heard <a href="http://www.peacewomen.org/un/7thAnniversary/7thAnniversaryindex.html">contributions </a>from UN experts, spokespersons from fifty-two member-states and secretary-general Ban Ki-moon himself. Their resounding statements made clear that implementation of 1325 is grossly inadequate, and demanded a range of measures to ensure this: from a greater focus on national action plans to women&#39;s participation in peace negotiations. <a href="http://www.peacewomen.org/un/7thAnniversary/7thAnniversaryindex.html"><br /> <br /> </a>The resolution has a broad constituency; UN member-states are passionate about the topic in statements to the council; and many UN entities such as Unifem support its implementation. Why, then, has so little happened? Why are there still so few women at peace-tables, and so many - from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (<a href="/node/35229/edit">DRC</a>) to Somalia, Burma to Colombia - bearing the brunt of violence and displacement? from UN experts, spokespersons from fifty-two member-states and secretary-general Ban Ki-moon himself. </p> <p> <strong>The litmus-test</strong> </p> <p> <span class="pullquote_new">Also on openDemocracy:<br /> <br /> Zohra Moosa on <a href="/blog/zohra_moosa/when_the_state_rapes">rape as a weapon of war</a></span>A close study of the evidence suggests that at root, poor <a href="http://www.peacewomen.org/un/UN1325/1325whoswho.html">implementation</a> stems from a lack of conviction at the highest level that the issue of women, peace and security is consistent with the fundamental purpose of security institutions. Article 1 of the Security Council charter states its purpose to be &quot;to take collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to peace&quot;. Yet council members continue to debate whether strengthening the council&#39;s action on resolution 1325 is an important path toward fulfilling this purpose. The persistence and worsening incidence of sexual violence in conflict presents a trenchant argument for stronger council action on 1325. <br /> <br /> A litmus-test of effective implementation of 1325 is effective prevention of sexual violence and other atrocities against women in conflict. Yet recent reports of sexual mutilation, sexual slavery, and forced pregnancy in a series of conflicts - most prominently <a href="http://www.newint.org/features/2007/06/01/violence_against_women/">Darfur</a> and North Kivu in the DR Congo - leave no doubt that sexual violence has become a military <a href="http://viol-tactique-de-guerre.net/en/">tactic</a> of choice. Use of this tactic is hardly new. But by 2007, with seven years of resolution 1325 in place, it is reasonable to expect a significant difference in the international community&#39;s response to sexual violence. The fact is, however, that sexual violence is not seen as a threat to peace and as a trigger for responses by national armies, regional security actors, or international ones. <br /> <br /> Violence against women, and particularly sexual violence, has special characteristics that have kept it off the radar of national, regional and international-security institutions. It challenges conventional notions of what constitutes a security threat. Sexual violence can be a tactic designed to transmit messages to male leaders via women&#39;s bodies, in violent acts that happen mostly off the battlefield. It has a remarkably destabilising effect on community integrity and security - signalling a community&#39;s failure to protect its women and children, and therefore undermining its identity as an integral whole. For security institutions, it is not clear how to address this attack; the assaults happen in private spaces - in homes and compounds, in fields and forests. How can so much private space be policed effectively? <br /> <br /> Sexual violence has been identified as a tactic of modern warfare in several conflicts. It is also identified as a war crime, a crime against humanity and a form of genocide. But recognition has not been a very effective deterrent. This form of atrocity continues, and if anything is intensifying in brutality and frequency. There is growing evidence that while the worst of this sexual violence is deliberately perpetrated by military actors (including state agents), in some contexts it is becoming socially normalised, taken up as a regular practice by ordinary citizens. The legacy of impunity for wartime rape is peacetime rape. </p> <p class="pullquote_new"> <strong>Anne Marie Goetz</strong> is Unifem&#39;s adviser on governance, peace and security. She is also a political scientist and <a href="http://www.sussex.ac.uk/ids/profile1023.html">senior fellow</a> of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex. Among her books are (as co-author) <em><a href="http://www.ntd.co.uk/idsbookshop/details.asp?id=907">Reinventing Accountability: Making Democracy Work for Human Development </a></em>(IDS, 2006) and (as editor) <a href="http://www.zedbooks.co.uk/book.asp?bookdetail=3710"><em>Getting Institutions Right for Women in Development</em><em> </em></a>(Zed Books, 1997)<br /> <strong><br /> Joanne Sandler</strong> is acting executive director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (<a href="http://www.unifem.org/">Unifem</a>) </p> <p> Why is this a security problem nationally and internationally? Some argue that high levels of rape - perpetrated by criminal gangs, for instance - have no meaningful impact on national and international security. But if it is not seen as a security matter, sexual violence is left in the realm of remedial responses from humanitarian actors, who in the end can do no more than only patch up a minority of the survivors. The standard definition of war-level conflict- intensity - at least 1,000 battle-related deaths in a year - does not record the off-battlefield tortures represented by organised rape - and the death of the family, the community, and a woman&#39;s spirit that it is designed to achieve. </p> <p> <strong>A global impunity</strong> </p> <p> Against this systematic neglect, the argument that rape on a widespread and systematic scale is a national and international security issue is strengthening. There are five grounds on which this case rests: </p> <p> ▪ as a remarkably efficient means of severing family/community bonds, organised rape undermines public order. Rape perpetrated in public for maximum humiliation and in front of loved ones who will never be able to look each other in the eye again rips families apart and prevents communities from recovering </p> <p> ▪ sexual violence prolongs conflict - rape and pillage is often the only incentive arms-bearers have to continue fighting. The take-up of the habit by non-combatants heightens community insecurity and terror </p> <p> ▪ sexual violence undermines chances for an inclusive, sustainable peace because it precludes women&#39;s participation through intimidation </p> <p> ▪ if perpetrators are not prosecuted (and they rarely are because of inadequate response to sexual violence in national and international transitional-justice systems) it is harder to rebuild these systems and respect for the rule of law. Impunity for perpetrators means that known human-rights abusers go free, often to assume positions of national and local leadership; this signals and fosters contempt for the law </p> <p> ▪ rampant sexual violence increases the spread of HIV/Aids, which the Security Council has recognised as a threat to international security. <br /> <br /> In light of these compelling arguments, strong military and security-sector responses are needed from the apex global-security institution - the UN Security Council - as well as from regional and national-security institutions. It is true that it is extremely difficult to find effective military and security responses to sexual violence, as it is embedded in social relationships not immediately amenable to military tactics. However there is no doubt that there are some ways in which police and military could help in prevention, and certainly in apprehension of perpetrators and support for prosecutions. This needs to become standard practice. The deployment of a unit of women police in Liberia by the Indian government, and a stronger focus on encouraging the participation of women police by troop-contributing countries, are positive signs. <br /> <br /> The Security Council and other security institutions also need urgently to take steps to reverse a global culture of impunity for sexual violence. While sexual violence, particularly rape, is a crime in every legal system in the world, it is <em>de facto</em> tolerated - through under-prosecution - in most countries and cultures. Indeed, impunity for sexual violence is not restricted to conflict countries. In the United Kingdom, writes Joanna Bourke, &quot;the legal system has failed adequately to deal with the scourge of sexual violence...only 5% of rapes reported to the police ever end in a conviction...Furthermore, attrition rates are getting worse. In 1977, 33% of reported rapes resulted in a conviction...&quot; (see &quot; <a href="http://www.stoprapenow.org/">Women, men and rape</a>&quot;, 19 October 2007). </p> <p> The prospects of redress for women in conflict countries where a functioning justice system is rare are often even slimmer. Yet the post-conflict context can provide a window of opportunity to address atrocities against women via transitional-justice mechanisms such as war-crimes tribunals, truth-and-reconciliation measures, and much in between. Strong and consistent indictments, hearings, and sentencing that brook no tolerance for perpetrators of sexual violence would do a great deal to address impunity and rebuild women&#39;s sense of community belonging and public engagement. However, very few transitional-justice processes have made this a real priority. This failure stems in part from a lack of attention to the issue in their mandates, which in turn can be traced to peace-table discussions at which women were not present or able to voice their own demands for justice. Security actors can ensure women&#39;s participation in peace talks, and support war-crimes tribunals to pursue investigations and indictments on sexual violence with much more alacrity. <br /> <br /> <strong>An action agenda</strong><br /> <br /> The time for debating whether or not the subject of sexual violence and the broader women, peace and security agenda belongs on the Security Council&#39;s agenda is over. At the UN debate on <a href="http://www.peacewomen.org/un/7thAnniversary/7thAnniversaryindex.html">23 October 2007</a>, the United Kingdom&#39;s statement was emphatic: &quot;The cruelty of the sexual violence inflicted upon women and children, in particular as a weapon of war, is unspeakable. This is not a debate about the institutional niceties of whether the subject does or does not belong on the Council&#39;s agenda. (....) Violence against women is a crime in itself. It is an obstacle to long-term peace and security.&quot; <br /> <br /> Unifem would add that the systematic absence of women from peace negotiations and the inadequacy of measures to ensure that women are able to participate equally in post-conflict governance institutions - all provided for in Security Council resolution 1325 - are threats to long-term peace. Some would still dispute this. But how much more evidence is needed to demonstrate that sexual violence threatens countries and communities whose inability to protect women and children is the surest sign of their vulnerability to armed conflict, and whose inability to reconstitute themselves too often leads to children re-enacting the ghastly traumas they have witnessed? </p> <p> Sexual violence is not only a human-rights issue - it is a security issue. Even when the guns fall silent, sexual violence as a political strategy means that to live in the body of a woman or girl is to live in terror. The war and the threats to security are not over until the rapes stop. It is an important leap forward that this issue is now a topic of discussion in Security Council debates. The true test of <a href="http://www.unifem.org/gender_issues/violence_against_women/at_a_glance.php">commitment</a>, however, is whether Security Council action enhances the safety of the growing numbers who are at risk by taking collective measures for the prevention and removal of this pervasive threat to peace. </p> <p> As one of many efforts to engender this commitment from decision-makers in international security institutions, Unifem co-founded a joint initiative - UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict - with twelve UN entities. The objective is to improve coordination of efforts within the UN to prevent sexual violence in conflict, protect women, and respond to the needs of survivors. A great deal needs to be done to address this issue. Recognising sexual violence as a threat to security is an important step. </p> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Continuum of Violence 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 16 Days, 2007-8 women's human rights violence against women gender justice gender Sexual violence women's movements Anne Marie Goetz Joanne Sandler Creative Commons normal Mon, 03 Dec 2007 14:21:29 +0000 Anne Marie Goetz and Joanne Sandler 35229 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Thinking positive https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/thinking-positive <div class="entry-summary"><p> It is only by listening to those most affected, that we can bring about real change. Ahead of World Aids Day, Luisa Orza and Jennifer Gatsi Mallet report on a groundbreaking project bringing together parliamentarians and HIV positive women in Namibia. </p></div> <p> The newly-formed Namibia Women&#39;s Health Network (NWHN) is remarkable in many ways. With a focus on health issues, and HIV in particular, twelve of the thirteen coordinating members are young women living with HIV. For HIV positive women in Namibia, meaningful political participation is, in many cases, an inaccessible goal. For young women - who traditionally defer to older women in matters of personal and political decision-making - living with HIV, the political arena is even harder to enter. Yet members of the NWHN have already had personal meetings with the Deputy Minister for Health, as well as other parliamentarians. </p> <p> <strong>The personal to political</strong> </p> <p> Networks can function as a bridge from the personal to the political, and the Namibia Women&#39;s Health Network provides a perfect illustration of this. Practically, the coordinating committee, based in Windhoek, plans to engage with women in each of the twelve other regions of the country to represent local health issues affecting women and girls. The thirteen members of this central committee will have monthly meetings with parliamentarians at which they can also put the other regions&#39; issues on the table to be discussed. Personally, the women involved in the network report feeling a sense of solidarity and comfort from the other women; a freedom to talk about what are often considered taboo issues; a safe space to openly discuss their HIV positive status; and a sense of being valued for who they are. These are just some of the testimonies from NWHN members<strong>*</strong>: </p> <p> &quot;Meeting positive women, it&#39;s meant a lot. It&#39;s good to be in same situation, all being positive and living positively and fighting to a positive goal rather than just thinking about oneself.&quot;<em> - Jane</em> </p> <p> &quot;It is something informal - social, share experiences. How are people doing? We have real life situations - you are supposed to be an activist but you are failing somewhere in your own personal relationships.&quot; - <em>Veronica</em> </p> <p> &quot;When I was sick Jeni and two group members came and brought me fruit. And it really made me feel good. Even with family it is hard to ask people even to go and buy you apples.&quot; - <em>Agnes</em> </p> <p> &quot;Being part of the committee and working with other positive women - it has made me realise that I am not alone and there are other people like me. It has been given me the courage to move on with life. I&#39;ve made friends and I know who to go to if I have a problem. I am no longer shy and locked up in my own worlds and trying to suppress myself and my ideas. I am now open. It has released that inner person ... I am no longer that stressed and oppressed.&quot; <em>- Gloria</em> </p> <p> <span class="pullquote_new"> This article is part of a series on <strong>openDemocracy</strong> marking the &quot;<a href="/editorial_tags/16_days">16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence</a>&quot; from 25 November - 10 December, an annual mobilisation aimed at heightening global awareness of violence against women <br /> <br /> Also in <strong>openDemocracy</strong> on the 16 Days theme, part of our overall 50.50 coverage, a <a href="/blog/5050">multi-voiced blog</a> where women around the world contribute <br /> <br /> Other articles in the series: <br /> <br /> Roja Bandari, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/one_million_signatures">Iran&#39;s women: listen now!</a>&quot; <br /> <br /> Rahila Gupta, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/enslaved">The UK&#39;s modern slavery shame</a>&quot;<br /> <br /> Takyiwaa Manuh, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/ghana_domestic_violence">African women and domestic violence</a>&quot;<a href="/article/5050/ghana_domestic_violence"><br /> <br /> </a>Sarah Campbell, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/rape_conviction_uk">&#39;She was probably glad of the attention&#39;: tackling rape in the UK</a>&quot;</span> </p> <p> Organising as a group rather than as individuals has opened up opportunities for training and capacity building, which has enhanced the women&#39;s ability to analyse their personal experiences through a political rights framework: </p> <p> &quot;Really it changed me a lot as a woman living with HIV. I came up to know my rights and when someone violated me.&quot; <em>- Christina</em> </p> <p> &quot;I learnt a lot of new stuff - especially how laws in Namibia are made ... I go to hospital they have to treat me because the law says everyone has the right to treatment. I have the right to say I want to have children or I do not want to have children. It has opened my mind up - I have all these rights.&quot; <em>- Elizabeth</em> </p> <p> &quot;I was one of those people that succumbed to men culturally that I was taught. Now I know that my body is my mine and I can make decisions about it whenever I want to.&quot; - <em>Gloria</em> </p> <p> And finally, these women have been able to take their collective, politicised experiences to an audience which has the power to create legislative change. Meeting with MPs has had an impact on two levels. Personally it has had an enormous effect on the women&#39;s self esteem and sense of self worth, to feel that they were being listened to and had something to &quot;teach&quot; the parliamentarians. It also enabled them to frame their concerns as political issues, and have this reinforced by being taken seriously on the political level: </p> <p> &quot;We had a meeting last week with parliamentarians, with the Deputy Health Minister. We just went to say what we are doing and she has given us her support 100%.&quot; <em>- Jane</em> </p> <p> &quot;...MPs are very busy people and we are privileged to have an hour with them ... We are putting the issue straight on the table.&quot; <em>- Veronica</em> </p> <p> &quot;Meeting the Deputy Minister was very good for me because this time I got to see the minister face to face - I never met with the minister in my life. And she is listening to us and supporting us and encouraging us.&quot; <em>- Christina</em> </p> <p> <strong>A positive example</strong> </p> <p> The Namibia Women&#39;s Health Network has sprung out of a ground-breaking dialogue-building programme, the <a href="http://www.womens-healthcare.org/">Parliamentarians for Women&#39;s Health</a> (PWH) project, that the <a href="http://www.icw.org/">International Community of Women Living with HIV and AIDS</a> (ICW) and partners have been implementing over the last three years to link parliamentarians to communities, to enable them to learn from those most affected at ground level about the impact that HIV is having on women&#39;s health. </p> <p> In Namibia, a committed group of MPs have benefited from the programme in terms of having their eyes opened to the reality of what it means for an entire community, especially the women in that community, to be affected by HIV and AIDS, as well as other health issues. They are now ready to represent some of those issues in parliament, and in influencing policy and budgets: </p> <p> &quot;I saw the extreme suffering of the women, they have no shelter and no food, they have to hunt in the bush. The experience has made me promise myself: I will do something, I must do something.&quot;<em> - Honourable Ida Hoffman</em> </p> <p> &quot;I promised to put forward a motion on the insurance industry, which is still discriminating against people with HIV, and I did this and 30 people in the house have responded to it.&quot; <em>- Honourable Elma Dienda</em> </p> <p> &quot;Now when there is a debate on the Ministry of Health budget, I can say where we should scale up and where we shouldn&#39;t ... and now this comes from real knowledge I have and isn&#39;t just from second-hand things I&#39;ve heard.&quot;<em> - Honourable Peya Mushalenga</em> </p> <p> <strong><em>A </em></strong><strong>right to participate</strong> </p> <p> Political participation is often touted as a right; an integral aspect of citizenship. In recent years, the involvement of people living with HIV (or other affected groups, in other kinds of development work) has been adopted as an obligation, a means of acquiring funding. Far less often is it viewed as a necessity by policy- and decision-makers, that without the participation of the people most affected, those creating programmes or policy to bring about change cannot <em>possibly</em> know how to do it most effectively. Even in NGO circles where participation and inclusion are buzz words, the involvement of women living with HIV is still more often than not treated as a &quot;must do&quot; from a political / rights perspective, rather than a genuine acknowledgement of the fact that women living with HIV bring a huge - and unique -wealth of experience and knowledge. </p> <p> When it occurs, &quot;participation&quot; is offered like a treat, a bonus or a meal ticket - an all-expenses paid trip to New York, what more could a (poor, uneducated, marginalised, HIV-infected, female) person ask for? Rarely, if ever, do those creating the policy, holding the meeting, developing the programme, ask: what are <em>your</em> priorities? Where do <em>you</em> think we should start? What are the biggest challenges facing <em>you</em> at home? What do <em>you</em> think this is all about?.<strong> </strong>It was therefore a small but significant step for a group of Namibian parliamentarians to accompany ICW Project Officer Jeni Gatsi, a woman living with HIV, when she went to communities and met with groups of women, both living with HIV and not knowingly living with HIV, to ask these very questions. The MPs&#39; reactions were telling: </p> <p> &quot;The woman who said &#39;I know who here slept with my husband last night&#39; - she was speaking in her language, and the translator didn&#39;t translate it for us because of embarrassment, but I understood and that really struck me. This is how HIV spreads, and everyone in the community knows about it, so education on HIV must not go through enough.&quot;<em> - Honourable Elma Dienda</em> </p> <p> &quot;The health situation was much worse when you saw it on the ground than the Ministry of Health figures we had would imply, because those do not fully reflect reality.&quot; <em>- Honourable Elma Dienda</em> </p> <p> &quot;The assessments I attended exposed me to the real needs of people on the ground; I had read the statistics but I hadn&#39;t been in touch with the real human feeling surrounding it beforehand.&quot;<em> - Honourable Peya Mushelenga</em> </p> <p> <em> &quot;</em>We always misjudge the knowledge of women and communities; they actually have excellent ideas for how to heal themselves, whereas we always assume they have to go to the hospitals. They have an amazing capacity to take care of themselves.<em>&quot; - Honourable Ida Hoffman </em> </p> <p> Initiatives like this have a galvanising effect: these same parliamentarians are now expressing a desire that the dialogue continue; the Namibia Women&#39;s Health Network receives invitations to meet with the parliamentary committee on health; women&#39;s voices are now actively sought. Belonging to the committee has made a big difference to the lives of the women who run the network. If it survives, it will signify a small but real change for women living with HIV. Yet the work must go on. The PWH programme is drawing to a close, but the Namibia Women&#39;s Health Network represents the future of the productive engagement between positive women and parliamentarians. </p> <p> <strong>* </strong><em>All names of NWHN members have been changed</em> </p> 50.50 50.50 'term-id:[26644]' 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 16 Days, 2007-8 women's human rights women's health violence against women gender justice gender feminism Jennifer Gatsi Mallet Luisa Orza Creative Commons normal Fri, 30 Nov 2007 17:45:42 +0000 Jennifer Gatsi Mallet and Luisa Orza 35196 at https://www.opendemocracy.net "She was probably glad of the attention": tackling rape in the UK https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/she-was-probably-glad-of-attention-tackling-rape-in-uk <div class="entry-summary"><p> The debate about how and why rape happens goes to the heart of cultural gender and power dynamics, writes Sarah Campbell </p></div> <p> Globally, the prosecution of rape is given a low priority by criminal justice agencies, and across most of Europe the rape conviction rate has <a href="http://www.rcne.com/downloads/RepsPubs/Attritn.pdf">fallen continuously</a> in the last thirty years. In the UK, in 1977 33.3% of all rapes reported to the police led to a conviction. In 2007, this figure has fallen to 5.7%. The shockingly low rate of conviction for rape has made headlines numerous times in the intervening years, most recently as the government announced <a href="http://www.epolitix.com/EN/News/200711/5ecff6de-d1b2-4869-8c96-d2ce4366eed9.htm">reforms</a> to rape trials this week. </p> <p> Although the vast majority of rapes in the UK<strong> </strong>are still not reported to the police, there has been a marked <a href="http://inspectorates.homeoffice.gov.uk/hmic/inspections/thematic/wc-thematic/">increase in reportage</a> in recent years. With more women coming forward, the police have been handed an opportunity to pursue more cases and to see more rapists convicted. But this opportunity to tackle violence against women has largely not been taken. There are complex reasons for this failure, but popular misconceptions of how and why rape occurs are central to the problem. </p> <p> <strong>&quot;Know your limits&quot;</strong> </p> <p> Beliefs still prevail that women are raped because they expose themselves to danger or even ‘<a href="http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/david_cox/2007/09/feminisms_rape_fallacy.html">imply consent</a>&#39; by being too promiscuous, too flirtatious, drinking too much, wearing short skirts or walking alone at night in dangerous areas. One third of people believe that a woman is partially or totally responsible for being raped if she ‘<a href="http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=16618">flirted</a>&#39; with a man who later raped her. </p> <p> <span class="pullquote_new">This article is the fourth in a series on <strong>openDemocracy</strong> marking the &quot;<a href="/editorial_tags/16_days">16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence</a>&quot; from 25 November - 10 December, an annual mobilisation aimed at heightening global awareness of violence against women <br /> <br /> Also in <strong>openDemocracy</strong> on the 16 Days theme, part of our overall 50.50 coverage, a <a href="/blog/5050">multi-voiced blog</a> where women around the world contribute <br /> <br /> Roja Bandari, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/one_million_signatures">Iran&#39;s women: listen now!</a>&quot; <br /> <br /> Rahila Gupta, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/16_days/enslaved">The UK&#39;s modern slavery shame</a>&quot;<br /> <br /> Takyiwaa Manuh, &quot;<a href="/article/5050/ghana_domestic_violence">African women and domestic violence</a></span>Such statistics reflect the disturbingly common idea that the sexual coercion of women in certain circumstances does not count as rape, and that rape is somehow inevitable in contexts in which women are seen to ‘make themselves available&#39; sexually in some way by participating in what is, in reality, normal social life. Meanwhile, <a href="http://www.knowyourlimits.gov.uk/index.html">Home Office campaigns</a> caution women to avoid the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, drink-spiking and illegal taxi cabs, implicitly supporting the notion that it is women&#39;s ‘risk taking behaviour&#39;, rather than the perpetration of sexual violence itself, which is the real problem. </p> <p> <strong>The uncomfortable truth</strong> </p> <p> Stereotypes about what kinds of women ‘attract&#39; rape are reflective of dominant notions about what kinds of men commit rape and why. Rapists are commonly figured as loners who attack women as they walk down dark alleys, men who are starved of sex and driven by ‘uncontrollable&#39; sexual urges. Conversely, it is often assumed that cases of acquaintance rape, where the stereotype of the knife-wielding stranger does not apply, are the result of a misunderstanding or women&#39;s ‘<a href="http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/david_cox/2007/09/feminisms_rape_fallacy.html">misinterpreting&#39; of events</a>, rather than violent impositions of power. In other words, the normal, decent man involved was not aware that he was committing a rape, and simply got ‘carried away&#39;, or was led to believe a woman consented by her ‘flirtatious&#39; behaviour. </p> <p> In fact, the majority of rapists are <a href="http://inspectorates.homeoffice.gov.uk/hmic/inspections/thematic/wc-thematic/">known to their victim</a>, and about 50% of rapes in the UK occur in the home of the woman or the perpetrator. Most rapes do not involve violence beyond the act of <a href="http://bjc.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/43/3/583">rape itself</a>, and rapists are predominantly ‘normal&#39; men who have steady jobs, nice homes and established relationships. The uncomfortable truth is that rape is much closer to home than many people would like to admit. </p> <p> Rapists are often pathologised and viewed as a small minority of deviants, and yet studies show that rape and sexual coercion are in fact widespread. <a href="http://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/documents/YouthpollPR.doc">Four in ten</a> young people know girls whose boyfriends have coerced or pressurised them to have sex, while significant proportions think it is acceptable for a boy to expect to have sex with a girl if she has been ‘very flirtatious&#39;, if sexual activity has been initiated, or if he has spent a lot of time and money on her. This is not just a UK phenomenon; <a href="http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content%7Econtent=a741405961%7Edb=all%7Ejumptype=rss">studies in the US</a> have found that one in four men reported having forced women to have sex despite their visible distress, and a third of male college students reported that they would rape a woman if they knew that they would not be caught or punished as a result. </p> <p> These statistics reveal both the widespread practice of sexual coercion by men, and the high level of public acceptance of such behaviour. In an astonishing variety of circumstances, it is seen as understandable that a man should presume that a woman is sexually available to him. There is a naturalisation of the idea that men can&#39;t, or shouldn&#39;t, be expected to control their sexual urges in the company of an attractive, ‘flirtatious&#39; or intoxicated woman who they view as sexually available, and that women are to blame if they do not understand and obey these unwritten sexual rules. In this way, sexual coercion is normalised and women are denied any real choice regarding the degree to which they can engage in a social life or in relationships without effectively losing their rights to safety. </p> <p> <strong>Deconstructing the myth</strong> </p> <p> Prevalent public attitudes about rape also have a clear influence on the investigation and prosecution of rape cases and at court, and contribute to the low rape<strong> </strong>conviction rate. Police, prosecutors, judges and, perhaps most importantly, jurors are as likely as any other members of the public to internalise common attitudes about rape, and misconceptions about who are ‘real&#39; rapists and victims. </p> <p> The stereotype of stranger rape continues to create obstacles to prosecuting the majority of rapes, which are committed by acquaintances, partners or ex-partners. It is only since 1991 that there has been a precedent in English law for prosecuting rape within marriage. Even today, the police are still less likely to prosecute cases where, for example, the victim was willingly <a href="http://bjc.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/43/3/583">within the home</a> of the perpetrator, and sentences for marital rape continue to be lower than average rape sentences. Women are often viewed as partly responsible for the state of their relationship or partner&#39;s behaviour where rape takes place within a marriage, and the links between rape by partners and domestic abuse are not always recognised. It is often presumed that rape within marriage is less violent and traumatic, although psychological studies and accounts by victims of marital rape <a href="http://www.sentencing-guidelines.gov.uk/docs/research.pdf">contradict this assumption</a> (pdf). </p> <p> <span class="pullquote_new">In the New Year, the <a href="http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk" target="_blank">Fawcett Society</a> will be launching a campaign on rape, and putting pressure on all the political parties to make rape a priority issue. For more information, contact <a href="mailto:sarah.campbell@fawcettsociety.org.uk">Sarah Campbell</a> </span>Judgements about the credibility of charges of rape are often influenced by impressions of the woman&#39;s attractiveness, demeanour, dress and alcohol consumption which are in fact irrelevant to the real issue of consent and the perpetrator&#39;s culpability. Defence lawyers realise this, and often cynically attempt to <a href="http://endviolenceagainstwomen.blogspot.com/2007/05/barrister-gang-rape-girl-was-glad-of.html">use juries&#39; misconceptions</a> to their advantage. For example, earlier this year, the defence barrister in a trial concerning the alleged gang rape of a sixteen year old girl notoriously made the argument that the girl had ‘slimmed down a lot&#39; since the attack and that at the time &quot;she was 12st 6lb - not quite the swan she may turn into - she may well have been glad of the attention&quot;. </p> <p> Similarly, when women have been drinking before an alleged rape, even if the amount they drank was small, or their drink was spiked, this is seen to cast doubt on their testimony. A recent <a href="http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/ViewAwardPage.aspx?AwardId=3932">study</a> found that when a woman had her drink spiked, juries were reluctant to convict unless they were convinced that the drink had been spiked with the specific intention of sexual assault, as opposed to ‘loosening up&#39; a reluctant partner. Similarly, jurors were less inclined to equate ‘taking advantage&#39; of a drunken women with rape in situations in which the woman&#39;s normal behaviour was to drink heavily in the company of men. This shows the extent to which spiking a drink to encourage a woman to have sex is viewed as acceptable male behaviour, and women who drink regularly are seen not to qualify as real victims. </p> <p> <strong>Creating change </strong> </p> <p> The prevalence of disturbing public attitudes to rape, and their relationship to criminal justice failure, point to a need re-examine ideas about how and why rape happens. The UK Government needs to do more to ensure that problematic attitudes amongst staff in criminal justice agencies are addressed through training, that further investment is made in specialist rape investigation and prosecution services, and that all rape is properly investigated by police from the outset. A greater focus should be put on interrogating the behaviour of the <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/200704160015">perpetrators</a> of rape, rather than dissecting the character of victims. </p> <p> However, the extent to which sexual coercion is a common and socially accepted fact points to a need for a wider debate on this issue, and a re-imagining of our understandings of masculinity, femininity and sexuality. We need to ask questions about how sexual coercion is tied up with current ideals of masculinity which are defined in terms of assertiveness, virility and sexual conquest. At the same time, its necessary to interrogate assumptions about women&#39;s sexual passivity and the lessons which women are being taught about having reduced rights to safety if they are seen to make themselves sexually available by engaging in relationships, drinking, flirting or walking alone at night. </p> <p> Amongst the reforms announced by the UK government this week was a plan to provide juries in rape trials with <a href="http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/article2943263.ece">information packs</a> compiled by experts, which would dispel myths around rape victims&#39; behaviour. These proposals are a start, but if there is to be real change, what is needed is a much deeper questioning of what children are taught both in school and daily life about gender and power dynamics, choice and coercion in sexual relationships. </p> 50.50 50.50 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 16 Days, 2007-8 women's human rights violence against women gender justice gender feminism Sexual violence Sarah Campbell Creative Commons normal Wed, 28 Nov 2007 23:22:04 +0000 Sarah Campbell 35177 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran’s women: listen now! https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/iran%E2%80%99s-women-listen-now <div class="entry-summary"><p> The courageous voices of the women of Iran's One Million Signatures campaign demand to be heard. Roja Bandari tells their story. </p></div> <p> I could write about gender violence in Iran; about stoning, wife-killings, or a wife's legal responsibility in marriage through the law of Obligatory Sexual Obedience, or<em> Tamkin</em>. But apart from offering our solidarity, you and I might not be able to do much about these problems from far away<strong>. </strong>So instead, I would like to write about the people who can and are doing something about it; about my sisters in Iran who can tell you about what is happening to Iranian women, why it's happening, and what should be done to fix it. </p> <p> These women are part of a movement called the <a href="http://www.we4change.info/english/">One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality</a>, which aims to change discriminatory laws in Iran many of which facilitate and condone gender violence. So far several of these <a href="http://kosoof.com/archive/356.php">activists have been arrested</a> and released on absurdly high bail, many have received prison sentences, and some are currently in custody and unable to speak to their families. </p> <p> <strong>Ronak's story</strong> </p> <p> "If anything happens to my daughter, I'll stop the world and I will dedicate my whole life to Ronak and her goals." This is what Ronak Saffarzadeh's mother said in an interview with the Campaign for Equality <a href="http://www.we4change.info/english/spip.php?article152">website</a>. She was recently assaulted by court security when she tried to inquire about Ronak's situation and the location where she is being held. </p> <p> Ronak is only 21. She is an activist in the One Million Signatures Campaign and part of the Azarmehr Kurdish Women's Group. She lives in Kurdistan, a province that has long suffered ethnic and religious discrimination by various Iranian governments. It is where tradition rules the lives of women, and gender violence is abundant. Social or even cultural activism in this region often carries a risk of deadly accusations of treason by the government. Despite all of this, there are many enlightened Kurdish men and women who work to make their society better. </p> <p> Ronak's monthly salary as a secretary and a graphic designer was about $60 and her friends say that she spent much of it on buying books for village libraries. She worked mainly in villages near her hometown of <a href="http://www.kurdonline.com/city/">Sanandaj</a>, helping to teach reading and writing classes. She helped set up a mobile library for the villages and held discussion sessions at the local mosques where women could speak out about their everyday issues. Ronak also worked to educate women about <a href="http://www.irinnews.org/InDepthMain.aspx?InDepthId=15&amp;ReportId=62474&amp;Country=Yes">female circumcision</a>, and woman-killings. </p> <p> On 9<sup>th</sup> October 2007, nine men raided Ronak's house, took her computer and some of her educational pamphlets and <a href="http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/1188">arrested her with no official charges</a>. Ronak's mother went to the court almost every day to ask to see her daughter, but no contact with Ronak was allowed and instead her mother was called names and beaten by the court security. Eighteen days after her arrest, without any news of her condition, the court told her family that they will keep her for another month. Ronak is still in jail and her family has not been able to speak to her. </p> <p> <strong>Delaram, Hana, and Maryam</strong> </p> <p> <a href="http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/11/10/iran17302.htm"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/delaram.JPG" border="2" alt="" hspace="4" vspace="4" width="260" height="240" align="left" />Delaram Ali</a> is 24, and was one of the first members of the One Million Signatures Campaign. Delaram is a social worker and has mainly worked with women and children in abusive conditions. Since her first year in college in 2002, she has worked for organisations like the <a href="http://www.sparcpk.org/">Society for Protection of Children's Rights</a>, the <a href="http://www.ibc.org.tr/eng.asp">International Blue Crescent</a>, and the Cultural Centre for Child Labor. When a catastrophic earthquake hit the <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2003/dec/28/iran.naturaldisasters">city of Bam</a> in December 2003, Delaram, then only 20, traveled over 600 miles to provide relief to the children of Bam and worked with them for over a year. </p> <p> Due to a lack of access to public media, Iranian women's rights activists use many different legal methods to raise awareness about women's rights. Public gatherings are one of these methods and are explicitly permitted in the Iranian constitution. On 12<sup>th</sup> June 2006, Delaram along with hundreds of other activists participated in <a href="http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/02/27/iran15416.htm">a peaceful gathering</a> in the Hafte-Tir Square in Tehran in order to express Iranian women's demand for legal equality. They were sitting on the ground and singing songs<strong>.</strong> Unfortunately the government does not respect the demands of women and tries to suppress them even at the expense of undermining the constitution. The female police reacted violently, kicking and punching the participants and beating them with nightsticks. </p> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/delaram_assault.jpg" border="2" alt="" hspace="5" vspace="4" width="500" height="289" align="middle" /><p> Delaram Ali with child (top), and on the ground (above), being dragged by female police officers. *<em>Ph</em><em>otos by <a href="http://kosoof.com/">Arash Ashoorinia</a>, reproduced with kind permission</em> </p> <p> Delaram was pushed by one of the security forces and broke her arm. She was then dragged to the police car and kept at the station overnight with no medical care but an ice-pack. Delaram and her lawyer, <a href="http://www.shirinebadi.ir/">Shirin Ebadi</a>, filed a claim against the police. The court exonerated the police and instead <a href="http://www.voanews.com/uspolicy/2007-07-16-voa2.cfm">sentenced Delaram</a> to 10 lashes and 34 months in prison on charges of "actions against national security<em>"</em> and "advertising against the government<em>"</em>. Last month, the appeals court ordered that Delaram must report to the court to start her sentence by 10<sup>th</sup> November 2007. Through relentless campaigning by her friends and pleas to legal authorities, Delaram's sentence was postponed for two weeks. At the time of writing, Delaram and her husband of four months, Payam, are still waiting for news. </p> <p> These pressures on the activists are on the rise and will not simply go away on their own. The latest arrests are those of <a href="http://www.we4change.info/english/spip.php?article166">Hana Abdi</a>, one of Ronak's friends, and <a href="http://www.payvand.com/news/07/nov/1154.html">Maryam Hosseinkhah</a>, a young journalist who wrote about women's issues including the condition of female inmates in Evin prison. </p> <p> <strong>Breaking the silence</strong> </p> <p> <span class="pullquote_new"> This article is the third in a series on <strong>openDemocracy</strong> marking the "<a href="/editorial_tags/16_days">16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence</a>" from 25 November - 10 December, an annual mobilisation aimed at heightening global awareness of violence against women <br /><br /> Also in <strong>openDemocracy</strong> on the 16 Days theme, part of our overall 50.50 coverage, a <a href="/blog/5050">multi-voiced blog</a> where women around the world contribute</span>Despite the charges of "actions against national security" and "advertising against the government", the harsh retaliation against the activists has nothing to do with national security. These women are not trying to overthrow or oppose the government of Iran or break the law in any form. This is not about political activities or challenging religion. This is about challenging patriarchy; about women gaining knowledge and confidence, talking to each other, and sharing their stories. Patriarchy demands silence in the face of violence and discrimination and the objective here is to force women's rights defenders to be silent by intimidation, arrests, heavy sentences, probation, and lashing<strong><em>.</em></strong> </p> <p> In a recent article, another campaign member, <a href="http://www.newint.org/features/2007/03/01/womens_rights/">Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani</a>, writes, </p> <p> "<em>The unpleasant stench of war is everywhere. Once again the powerful in the world, the governments, have decided to ruin the lives of their people so one can stay in power a while longer and the other can expand its current power. [...] They tell us to stop our independent, peaceful, equality-seeking and real work and instead pick a side between the two abstract and artificial fronts made up by the powers. [...] Once again, we are being sacrificed in the violent game between the governments, without having any role in starting this deadly game." </em>(Translation of article published in the online magazine <a href="http://herlandmag.info/">Zanestan</a>, recently taken down by the government.) </p> <p> Noushin's words tell us that the looming threat of war with the US is marginalising activists in Iran as wars so often do to peaceful movements. In the international community, the media landscape is dominated by discussions about the Iranian nuclear program and war, thus further marginalising the voices of these women. There is simply not a lot of interest by the foreign media in reflecting human rights issues or women's rights conditions in Iran. </p> <p> Sitting at my desk, I try to think about these events from different angles, but no matter how I look at it I come to the same conclusion; these are my sisters and my friends, and I have no choice; I cannot let this happen. I have to amplify their voices and tell their stories for all to hear. Forget your war and nuclear talks; this is <em>our</em> priority, this is what <em>we</em> are talking about! Listen! </p> 50.50 50.50 democracy & iran democracy & power 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 16 Days, 2007-8 women's movements women's human rights violence against women gender justice gender fundamentalisms Roja Bandari Creative Commons normal Mon, 26 Nov 2007 23:59:20 +0000 Roja Bandari 35157 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The UK's modern slavery shame https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/uks-modern-slavery-shame <div class="entry-summary"><p> Women's exploitation lies at the heart of a modern-day underclass that keeps the machinery of civilised Britain well-oiled, writes Rahila Gupta. </p></div> <p> In the UK, we are coming to the end of a year stuffed full with events commemorating the bicentenary of the <a href="http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/slavery/index.htm">abolition of the slave trade</a>. Only a few of these events have acknowledged the hollowness of these commemorations when slavery continues to thrive and affects more people today than during the historic transatlantic trade. As usual, it is women who bear the brunt of this inhuman trade. Although the hidden nature of modern slavery makes the statistics unreliable, there is no doubt that more women than men are trafficked. </p> <p> Women are disproportionately affected by poverty and are over-represented among those trafficked into the UK for sexual exploitation, for domestic work and for labour in the care sector. A 2004 <a href="http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2004/">US State Department report</a> records that 70 percent of the approximately 800,000 people trafficked across international borders each year are women. The majority of these victims are forced into the commercial sex trade. Non-sexual forced labour is made up of 44 percent men and boys, and 56 percent women and girls (<a href="http://www.ilo.org/dyn/declaris/DECLARATIONWEB.GLOBALREPORTDETAILS?var_language=EN&amp;var_PublicationsID=5282&amp;var_ReportType=Report">International Organisation of Labour</a><em>,</em> 2005). </p> <p> <strong>21st century slavery</strong> </p> <p> <span class="pullquote_new"> This article is the second in a series on <strong>openDemocracy</strong> marking the "<a href="/editorial_tags/16_days">16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence</a>" from 25 November - 10 December, an annual mobilisation aimed at heightening global awareness of violence against women <br /> <br /> Also in <strong>openDemocracy</strong> on the 16 Days theme, part of our overall 50.50 coverage, a <a href="/blog/5050">multi-voiced blog</a> where women around the world contribute</span>While researching my book <em><a href="http://www.portobellobooks.com/books/enslaved.html">Enslaved: The New British Slavery</a></em>, I had no pre-conceived ideas about the gender balance in the five stories I would choose to tell. I ended up with two women, two girls and a man, a proportion which is roughly representative of those enslaved here. Farhia Nur, a devout Somali woman, was caught up in the civil war, raped and forcibly married to her rapist. She escaped to Britain, lost her application for asylum, went underground, had no money and was forced into prostitution; Natasha, a Russian girl was trafficked to Britain at the age of 17, raped and assaulted by her pimps, and prostituted; Amber, an Asian woman was forced into a marriage, imprisoned, starved and sexually assaulted by her husband and in-laws; Naomi, an illiterate street child from Sierra Leone was brought to London at the age of 15 to work as a domestic slave, ran away, was picked up by a man who prostituted her, ran away again and discovered that she was pregnant<strong>.</strong> Finally, Liu Bao Ren, a Chinese man was smuggled in by <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/china/story/0,7369,1143151,00.html">the snakeheads</a> (Chinese trafficking gangs), whose brother died in the <a href="http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_20000621/ai_n14304873">Dover 58 tragedy</a> - in which 58 Chinese illegal immigrants died in a lorry entering the UK - and worked long hours for little or no pay in the construction industry under terrible health and safety conditions. </p> <p> They all had one thing in common: their immigration status was uncertain. An individual is powerless while her/his passport is in the hands of somebody else whether it is an ‘employer', a ‘spouse', an ‘agent', a ‘trafficker', or indeed the government as in the case of failed asylum seekers. The defining feature of modern slavery is entrapment - physical, psychological and financial - often sustained through violence. While no human being legally owns another human being today, men, women and children continue to be bought and sold. <a href="http://www.england-legislation.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2002/20020041.htm">Current immigration legislation</a> plays a central role in keeping people trapped in slavery. </p> <p> Apart from the stories in the book, there are thousands of others who are enslaved in the production of our food, in the running of our homes, the care of our elderly and disabled and scandalously, in keeping our sex industry alive. The government argues that more draconian immigration controls will stop the people smugglers and traffickers. In fact, this strategy has failed. Perhaps it suits the government to tighten controls: it creates a larger pool of easily exploited ‘illegal' workers whose presence drives wages down. The more I investigated this issue, the more I became convinced that only the <a href="http://www.noii.org.uk/">abolition of immigration controls</a> will lift a large chunk of people out of slavery in Britain. Each time controls are part-liberalised in a piecemeal fashion (and that's not often) they create further nooks and crannies in which injustice and slavery flourish. </p> <p> <strong>An open solution</strong> </p> <p> The debate around immigration is so hysterical that to raise the issue of open borders is to invite ridicule. It is a widely held belief that Britain will be inundated. However, this is not borne out by the trends. In general, migration follows jobs. If the UK economy is attracting migrants, it is because its economy is booming. We already have <a href="http://www.workpermit.com/news/2007-11-21/uk/home-office-eastern-european-union-immigration-statistics-third-quarter.htm">open borders with Europe</a>, with a total population of half a billion people, and we have not been swamped. Despite headlines in the popular press about the numbers of Polish people who have arrived, most of them have been soaked up by a labour hungry market. Even when there is a humanitarian crisis, most people flee to the next town or just across the closest border. Despite the horrendous living conditions created by the US and UK <a href="/conflicts/middle_east/refugees_missing_benchmark">invasion of Iraq</a>, only 8000 Iraqis have sought asylum in Britain (only 20 per cent of whom have been allowed to stay) as compared to 1 million in Syria and 800,000 in Jordan. </p> <p> Most mainstream debate on UK immigration concentrates on the needs of the British economy, whether the migrants coming in to the country match the needs of the economy and whether the walls that have been put up to keep out ‘undesirables' are solid enough. Broader questions which impact on immigration have not really been raised: British multi-nationals, for example, displace communities in developing countries in the process of building dams or mining for minerals and generate refugees and economic migrants, some of whom may turn up on our doorstep. As far as I am aware, no one has attempted to draw up a balance sheet which measures the number of jobs generated and taxes paid by these companies to the treasury against the immigrants who arrive on British shores. Ditto with the defence industry which is worth billions of pounds and where sales of arms are often made to <a href="http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,,1504698,00.html">countries in conflict</a>. We see the direct consequences of that policy in the number of refugees claiming asylum. </p> <p> We need the equivalent of a <a href="http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/Independent_Reviews/stern_review_economics_climate_change/sternreview_index.cfm">Stern review on climate change</a> to explore these broader questions and to examine the benefits and drawbacks of immigration because the movement of peoples is an irresistible fact of globalisation. It is estimated that Britain will need 500,000 new workers entering the economy every year in order to sustain the current pensions system. We need to add into the equation the number of migrants who contribute to pensions and then do not stick around to receive the benefits, the subsidies made by the third world in terms of providing qualified migrants to the first world and the fact that <a href="http://www.remittances.eu/">remittances by migrants</a> is double British aid (an estimated £8 billion to £3.8 billion in international aid) - to drag this highly poisoned debate a little closer to the centre ground. </p> <p> While open borders may not completely eradicate slavery, it remains a crucial weapon in the fight against slavery in Britain. When <a href="http://www.eu2005.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&amp;c=Page&amp;cid=1113058721089">Lithuania joined the EU</a>, for example, the number of women being trafficked into the sex trade increased. However, unlike other slaves, Lithuanian women are now in no danger of deportation and have the right to full protection of the state once they are rescued or run away. We also need to <a href="http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=325AEDC16BC532014C310C8F8F7B5963.tomcat1?fromPage=online&amp;aid=82371">criminalise the buying of sexual services</a> to make a dent in the number of women trafficked to Britain as happened in Sweden and tighten employment laws so that employers who exploit workers are penalised. </p> <p> As the fourth richest country in the world which prides itself on its respect for human rights, we can no longer ignore the human rights of an underclass that keeps the machinery of civilised Britain well-oiled. </p> 50.50 50.50 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 16 Days, 2007-8 women's human rights violence against women gendered migration gendered poverty gender justice gender feminism women's work Rahila Gupta Creative Commons normal Mon, 26 Nov 2007 23:55:49 +0000 Rahila Gupta 35149 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The preventable pandemic: one woman's story https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/preventable-pandemic-one-womans-story <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Faustina Fynn Nyame talks about returning to her native Ghana to campaign for womens' right to safe abortion.&nbsp; Plus: <a href="http://opendemocracy.net/blog/5050/">blogging 16 days</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>An estimated 20 million unsafe abortions are performed worldwide each year. Over 68,000 women die from complications associated, all preventable.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/audio/Faustina.mp3"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/download-n-listen.png" alt="Download &amp; Listen" /></a></p> <p>Faustina Fynn Nyame was working as a midwife in a London hospital, when a young woman from her native Ghana came in for a routine scan. The shocking discovery she made that day changed her life. Listen to Faustina speaking to <strong>openDemocracy'</strong>s Jane Gabriel about her decision to return to Ghana to campaign for womens' right to safe abortion, the shocking lack of access to reproductive health services, and the change she hopes to bring about.</p> <div class="field field-mp3-file"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <div class="filefield-file"><img class="filefield-icon field-icon-audio-mpeg" alt="audio/mpeg icon" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/sites/all/modules/filefield/icons/audio-x-generic.png" /><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/audio/Faustina.mp3" type="audio/mpeg; length=8388607">Faustina.mp3</a></div> </div> </div> </div> 50.50 Podcasts 'term-id:[26644]' 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 16 Days, 2007-8 women's movements women's human rights women's health violence against women gender justice gender Mon, 26 Nov 2007 18:06:40 +0000 openDemocracy 35141 at https://www.opendemocracy.net African women and domestic violence https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/african-women-and-domestic-violence <div class="entry-summary"><p>The experience of using law to address the issue of domestic violence in Africa contains both positive and negative lessons for gender-equality campaigners, says Takyiwaa Manuh.</p></div> <p style="clear:left">The annual mobilisation of women around the world around the theme of &quot;16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence&quot; from <a href="http://www.cwgl.rutgers.edu/16days/about.html">25 November - 10 December 2007</a> represents a tremendous global effort to increase awareness of violence against women in all its forms. In light of the 2007 theme - demanding implementation, challenging obstacles - this article looks at the issue of domestic violence from the perspective of African experience, and examines the impact of attempts to address it by legal means. It poses three questions:</p> <p class="pullquote_new">This article is the first in a series on <strong>openDemocracy</strong> marking the &quot;<a href="http://www.cwgl.rutgers.edu/16days/about.html">16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence</a>&quot; from 25 November - 10 December, an annual mobilisation aimed at heightening global awareness of violence against women<br /> <br /> Also in <strong>openDemocracy</strong> on the 16 Days theme, part of our overall 50:50 coverage, a <a href="/blog/5050">multi-voiced blog</a> where women around the world contribute</p> <p>* what are the similarities and differences in the experiences of African countries that have attempted to pass domestic-violence legislation?</p> <p>* what lessons have been learned in the process?</p> <p>* how do attempts to pass such laws connect to the lived realities of ordinary women?</p> <p><strong>A new agenda </strong></p> <p>The past two decades have witnessed heightened activity by women's organisations and movements in several African countries to promote women's rights by redressing a range of discriminatory practices against women and unequal gender relations in public and domestic life, which work to prevent women from exercising their full rights as citizens. The link between the public and domestic arenas is important here, for (as Amina Salihu and her colleagues noted in a 2002 memorandum on women's citizenship rights in Nigeria), women's experience of citizenship is multilayered and interconnected: what happens at the level of the domestic arena is in turn carried over to what is generally called the public space.</p> <p>The phenomenon of violence is only one aspect of the discriminatory practices and unequal relations women in Africa face, but it is a significant and widespread one. This is most shockingly on display in conditions of war, where (as in the current conflict in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example) women have been subjected to systematic <a href="http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=74767">assault</a> and abuse. It is also apparent in more &quot;normal&quot; circumstances, such as the campaign for the presidential elections in Kenya in December 2007, where several women candidates have been targeted in an effort to prevent their campaigns from penetratating the largely male spaces of decision-making and national life.</p> <p class="pullquote_new">Also on <strong>openDemocracy</strong>, <a href="/audio/5050/ghana_faustina">listen to a podcast interview</a> with Faustina Fynn Nyame, a midwife carrying out inspiring work in Ghana to help women gain access to safe abortion.</p> <p>The African Platform for Action (Dakar declaration) of 1994 was a <a href="http://www.uneca.org/fr/acgd/en/1024x768/en_gender/en_tool/en_9411_apa1.htm">landmark document</a> in highlighting the problem of violence against women on the continent. Before and since, however, such violence has often gone unreported, and until recently there were across Africa few supporting pieces of legislation or official practice that could be used to challenge it. True, several states had signed and/or ratified international conventions and treaties such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (<a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/cedaw.htm">Cedaw</a>) of 1979 or the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, but these had not been incorporated into domestic law.</p> <p>The protocol to the <a href="http://www.achpr.org/english/_info/women_en.html">African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa</a> was ratified by the required fifteen member-states, and came into force on 26 November 2005. It places an obligation on state-parties to take measures to address not only violence against women but also other aspects of women's rights: in public or private life, in peacetime and during periods of war or conflict. It also explicitly <a href="http://www.equalitynow.org/english/campaigns/african-protocol/african-protocol_en.html">includes</a> marital rape and other forms of forced or unwanted sex.</p> <p class="pullquote_new">Also on men, women and power in <strong>openDemocracy:<br /> <br /> </strong><br /> Rosemary Bechler,<strong> </strong>&quot;<a href="/arts-Film/article_2071.jsp">Rape and redemption in the west: Pedro Almod&oacute;var's <em>Talk</em> <em>to</em> <em>Her</em></a>&quot; (2 September 2004)<br /> <br /> Zainab Mahmood &amp; Maryam Maruf, &quot;<a href="http://zainab%20mahmood%20and%20maryam%20maruf/">Shazia Khalid and the fight for justice in Pakistan</a>&quot; (26 September 2005)<br /> <br /> Nicola Dahrendorf, &quot;<a href="/democracy-resolution_1325/congo_2964.jsp">Mirror images in the Congo: sexual violence and conflict</a>&quot; (27 October 2005)<br /> <br /> Tim Symonds, &quot;<a href="/article/globalisation/5050/men_for_women">Men for women</a>?&quot; (1 October 2007)<br /> <br /> Joanna Bourke, &quot;<a href="/article/democracy_power/5050/tackling_rape">Women, men and rape</a>&quot; (19 October 2007)<br /> <br /> and...<br /> <br /> the many essays, articles and blogs in our material on UN <a href="/democracy-resolution_1325/issue.jsp">Resolution 1325</a> and <a href="/democracy-resolution_1325/cedaw2_2986.jsp">Cedaw</a></p> <p>Women activists have been emboldened by these developments to push states as far apart as Mauritania and Rwanda to enact legislation addressing gender-based violence; Sierra Leone is the latest country to have successfully enacted legislation (although the practice of female genital mutilation has not yet been outlawed). Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana have also attempted to pass domestic-violence laws; here, however, the experience has been disparate.</p> <p><strong>Four countries, four experiences</strong></p> <p>In Nigeria, a draft domestic-violence bill prepared by the Legislative Advocacy Coalition on Violence against Women has been lodged in the house of representatives (the lower house of parliament) since 2003, but has not even been listed in the order paper for hearing. The provision on marital rape, which some view as &quot;western&quot; and &quot;against the culture of Nigeria&quot; has been invoked to explain the slow progress of the bill; settling it would, it is claimed, allow the bill to be passed into law. The contradiction here is that Nigeria has already ratified the protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, which prohibits marital rape without any reservations.</p> <p>The Kenyan experience highlights a different face of misogyny. A sexual-offences bill that seeks harsher penalties for perpetrators of sexual violence became mired in controversy when a legislator (male, as were 204 of the 222 expected to vote on the bill) alleged that some provisions would criminalise men's advances towards women. Civil-society groups demanded that their votes should be transparent; when gun-toting policemen blocked activists from entering parliament to press this demand, they chanted anti-rape songs and chanted at the police: &quot;Kill us today so that we do not get raped tomorrow!&quot;</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.dfid.gov.uk/casestudies/files/africa/uganda-domestic-violence.asp">Ugandan situation</a> represents a further interesting contrast. In December 2003, a domestic-relations bill was tabled before parliament, containing a host of provisions to deal with discriminatory laws and practices in marriage, divorce, inheritance, property ownership, and violence and equality within marriage and the family. Sylvia Tamale charts what happened next: the bill reached the committee stage in early 2005, only to generate massive controversy that stretched beyond parliament to the media and the streets (see &quot;The Right to Culture and the Culture of Rights: A Critical Perspective on Sexual Rights in Africa&quot;, <a href="http://www.springer.com/west/home/law?SGWID=4-10017-70-35758180-0"><em>Feminist Legal Studies</em></a> [forthcoming]). A scathing attack on the bill's contents by the legal and parliamentary affairs committee was echoed in a demonstration on 29 March 2005 by hundreds of women (the majority of them wearing the <em>hijab</em>) in the streets of Kampala. They described the bill as a &quot;coup against family decency&quot;, and swore to oppose its passage. A few weeks later, parliament shelved the bill for &quot;more extensive consultations.&quot; When President Yoweri Museveni declared during the election campaign in February 2006 that &quot;it (the domestic-relations bill) was not urgently needed&quot;, the debate was effectively closed. It was a severe setback for Uganda's women's movement.</p> <p>A more positive legislative outcome was witnessed in Ghana. Here, a domestic-violence bill was subject to more than three years of extensive national consultations led by the government ministry of women's and children's affairs; the Domestic Violence Coalition, formed to support the passage of the bill, also played a key role in the <a href="http://www.peacewomen.org/news/Ghana/May05/Violence.html">process</a>. There was early resistance from a surprising source, the then minister of women's affairs (who argued that the law would &quot;destroy families&quot;); and the coalition's demand for the repeal of S42(g) of the criminal code (the so-called &quot;marital-rape exemption&quot; also caused bitter acrimony. Those opposed to the bill portrayed it and its gender-activist supporters as purveying &quot;foreign&quot; ideas that threatened Ghanaian cultural beliefs and practices - in particular, the sanctity of marriage and men's rights within it.</p> <p>This reaction highlighted the lack of understanding of gender-based violence as an equality issue that surrounded the debate over the proposed legislation in Ghana. Even within the state and among the general public, fixed and regressive attitudes remained prevalent - that women in social life and within marriage had an inferior status, and that women were to blame for provoking acts of violence by the way they dressed or for being unfaithful.</p> <p>In the event, the Domestic Violence Act was <a href="http://www.thestatesmanonline.com/pages/news_detail.php?newsid=3314&amp;section=1">passed</a> on 21 February 2007, without the express repeal of S42(g), although with the provision that &quot;(the) use of violence in the domestic setting is not justified on the basis of consent.&quot; However, within a few weeks of the passage of the law, the statute law commissioner, acting on his own initiative, removed the offending S42(g) from the statute-book.</p> <p>This new legislation has been hailed as a triumph, but much work remains to be done to ensure that it is fully implemented. This will require - so activists and human-rights advocates in Ghana argue - a comprehensive, nationwide domestic action plan and the provision of necessary human and budgetary resources (partly in light of the fact governments have in practice relied on donors to fund gender work in Ghana). Some aspects of the social environment - in which most Ghanaian women still live in poverty, depend on men, and are surrounded by attitudes and codes that tolerate oppressive behaviour or allow serious violations of women's rights to be &quot;settled&quot; without justice or accountability - reinforce the argument that implementation mechanisms are vital.</p> <p><strong>The next stage</strong></p> <p>Violence, including domestic violence, deprives women of their ability to achieve their full potential by threatening their safety, freedom and autonomy. This variety of African experiences shows that the formulation of laws is an important instrument in countering this threat; but it is not enough to eliminate gender-based violence or (as in the Ugandan case) to ensure its general acceptability, even among women. Rather, multiple strategies and approaches are needed that recognise the differing interests, lived realities and contradictions among women of different class, religious and cultural backgrounds; and to find ways to express proposed changes in language and practices that better approximate women's lived realities and experiences.</p> <p style="background-color:#e3f2f9;margin:15px 0px; padding: 5px "><strong>Related interview</strong> Takyiwaa Manuh speaks to openDemocracy's Jane Gabriel about the importance of links between academics and activists in working towards women's empowerment in Ghana. <a href="/audio/5050/16_days/takyiwaa_manuh">Listen here</a></p> 50.50 50.50 Pathways of Women's Empowerment, 2007 - 2010 democracy & power Africa 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 16 Days, 2007-8 Takyiwaa Manuh Creative Commons normal Mon, 26 Nov 2007 13:47:49 +0000 Takyiwaa Manuh 35142 at https://www.opendemocracy.net