England’s vicious assault on women awaiting trial

Around the world, people suffer the overuse of pre-trial detention. Too many people are kept for too long, often in violation of national Constitutions and laws. Second, too many people are kept in prison lock-ups, which are not equipped to handle diverse populations. This often means children are held with adults; men and women are held in the same space; remand prisoners and convicted prisoners are held together, and the list goes on. It’s a global crisis, and it’s getting worse by the day.

In England and Wales, this presumption of guilt has particular gendered aspects:

In England and Wales, about a third of men and half of women remanded to pretrial detention are poor enough to receive council housing benefits. … In England and Wales, half of men and two-thirds of women who were employed at the time of arrest lost their jobs as a result of their pretrial detention.”

While the ratios may not be shocking, they bear reflection. How does the so-called criminal justice system, and the State of which it is an ever-growing part, address the gender imbalance? How does the State respond to half of the women being in need of assistance and two-thirds of the women workers losing their jobs as a result of pre-trial detention?

A 2009 report noted that, in the preceding decade, the number of women in English and Welsh prisons had increased by 60%, compared to 28% for men. Much of this rise was due to revised sentencing rules, or better, the intersection of the State will-to-incarcerate and the political economic war on women. Here’s what that looks like.

Between 1997 and 2007, there was a 40% increase in the number of women in prison awaiting trial. In the same period, men prisoners awaiting trial decreased by 11%. More than 40% of women prisoners awaiting trial have attempted suicide at some point in their lives; for men that number is a little over 25%. Nearly two-thirds of women remand prisoners suffer from depression, a figure far higher than that of sentenced women prisoners. Half of all women on remand receive no visits from their family (for men, that number is 25%).

An earlier report by the Inspectorate of Prisons for England and Wales noted that, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, 65% of women had lost their jobs because of detention, and only 11% expected to have a job on release. This compared with 51% of men losing their jobs and 18% expecting to have a job upon release. Between 2000 and 2009, the numbers for women only worsened.

For decades, British public policy has wreaked havoc on women’s lives by eliminating mental health assistance, severely limiting housing and other forms of assistance, and increasing and intensifying “opportunities for arrest”. More women are arrested, held, receive little to no proper attention, receive little to no preparation for trial, lose their jobs, communities, support network, and, often, lives, and for what? Who has benefited from this decades long vicious assault on women’s lives? When innocence is gutted, who profits?

Jamila Bibi and the high price of compassion

On Tuesday, September 16, Jamila Bibi was deported from Canada to Pakistan. The story is straightforward, and then again it’s not. Jamila Bibi is 65 years old. In 2007, Bibi fled her home. She says she was accused, falsely, of adultery. If convicted, Jamila Bibi could face death by stoning. Bibi went to Canada and applied for asylum.

In 2009, her asylum case was heard. Negar Azmudeh, who presided over the case, concluded that Jamila Bibi was a credible witness, that there was ample evidence that she had been unjustly accused of adultery, and that if convicted she would face death by stoning. However, Azmudeh reasoned that since Jamila Bibi’s husband had not filed for divorce, she was not only still married but under the protection of her husband. It was her husband’s uncle who had filed the adultery charges. And so Jamila Bibi was denied asylum. She did not have enough money for a lawyer, and so did not immediately appeal the decision.

Three months after the 2009 hearing, Bibi’s husband filed for and received a divorce. That action did not change the decision. Bibi has been working in Saskatoon as a cook. She reported dutifully every week. She made friends, some very dear, such as her employer Sahana Yeasmin.

In 2012, Bibi had enough money set aside to approach a lawyer, who immediately appealed the case. Again, Bibi reported every week. Two weeks ago, on her regular visit, she was informed she was to be deported. She was immediately taken into custody. Less than a week later, she was deported to Pakistan. According to Sahana Yeasmin, Bibi, now in Pakistan, fears for her life and is in hiding. Yeasmin reports that Bibi is thankful for the support and remains hopeful that she will be able to return to Canada and to her life in Saskatoon.

Jamila Bibi’s story, up to now, is painful and terrible, but Canada’s story, in many ways, is far worse. How is it that an adjudicator can say that despite credible and ample evidence, a woman accused of adultery is safe because her husband has not divorced her? How is that no one applied compassionate grounds to keep Jamila Bibi in Canada? Where exactly is the intersection of the rule of law and the exercise of compassion, in particular in asylum cases? Surely, these are the exceptional cases that test and prove the rule.

As Nida Shahzeb wrote, “What evidence are they talking about? Did they expect Jamila Bibi to pull some strings even though they know she does not come from privilege back in her village? Or do they expect her accusers to now shower her with petals at the airport? What makes this action of the Canadian government different from the numerous acts of brutality in Pakistan? Is Canada to be held accountable if Jamila Bibi is killed in Pakistan, a country which has a continuing history of honour killings?”

Why did Canada ship Jamila Bibi back to Pakistan, perhaps to a slow and painful death? Because she wasn’t worth keeping. As a woman, a woman of color, an older woman, a woman worker of meager means, she simply didn’t have enough value for the State to be bothered. In the global asylum and refugee marketplace, the price of compassion for such women has become prohibitively high.

Aurora Anaya-Cerda, Isabel Martínez and the Casa Azul-ULAMP book drive

Around the world, women understand that caring is both personal and individual, on one hand, a global, on the other. They understand that there must be person-to-person caring, intimate relationships that are also connected, intimately, to large issues and larger campaigns for justice and well being. Meet Aurora Anaya-Cerda and Isabel Martínez, two women who refused to be haunted and insist that a better world is possible, right here, right now.

Aurora Anaya-Cerda is the founder and owner of La Casa Azul Bookstore, in East Harlem, open as a brick and mortar enterprise since 2012. Here’s how Anaya-Cerda describes the project: “In the height of the economic meltdown of 2008, Aurora Anaya-Cerda founded La Casa Azul Bookstore, an online resource promoting children’s literature, educational programing and literature by Latino writers. In the Fall of 2011, Aurora ran the ’40K in 40 days’ campaign and successfully crowdfunded for La Casa Azul Bookstore. With the financial backing of 500 funders – La Casa Azul Bookstore opened in El Barrio on June 1, 2012.”

When Anaya-Cerda heard and read about the child migrants coming into the United States, and way too often into detention centers, she immediately leapt into action. She contacted her close friend, Isabel Martínez, who teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and runs the Unaccompanied Latin American Minor Project, U-LAMP: “U-LAMP (Unaccompanied Latin American Minor Project) focuses on providing academic support to recently arrived immigrant minors, or newcomers, who are presently in deportation proceedings. Working in conjunction with Safe Passage Project, U-LAMP interns (all CUNY students) work with the youth and their families to assist with finding proper educational programs in New York City including traditional and alternative educational services as well as social support.”

Anaya-Cerda and Martínez decided that one thing the children newcomers would both want and need would be age- and language-appropriate books. Along with age and language, the two paid close attention to situation and context. Children in immigration detention don’t necessarily want books about being migrants and being in detention. To the contrary, they want books about being and becoming. They want the same books all children their age, across the country, want.

And so they have organized a book drive for the kids. They set a goal for how many books they hoped to send, and that goal was far exceeded. They set a goal for how much money they hoped to raise to ship the books, and that goal was far exceeded. Each book has a project name plate, so that each child knows the book is hers. Each book is accompanied by a personal note from someone somewhere, someone touched by the situation of these 90,000 children and by the project. Those cards came out of community education forums organized by Anaya-Cerda and Martínez.

This is neither a big nor a little story. It’s not about the scale, it’s about the doing, the making it happen. As Anaya-Cerda explained, “That’s what you do. It’s really part of what you do. Our resources, collectively, is what made it happen.” Part of what you do is who you are. As Martínez notes, “My grandmother was a 15-year-old pregnant teenager when she crossed in 1918, and if she hadn’t crossed, I wouldn’t be here. This is part of the story of the United States.”

Violence is violence……

When a woman is knocked out by her partner, fiancé, or spouse and her assault is caught on camera, is there something to be done at the time of that assault instead of waiting for a tabloid media to use it to make profit?

In “For real equality between women and men,” recently passed in France, violence against women appeared as a component that keeps women dominated. The telephone “grand danger” was part of the tools used to address the immediate crisis and to guarantee the woman who is threatened that she won’t stand alone. In the case of Janay Rice, the “surveillance” camera of an elevator in a casino was not there to protect the woman.

Whether both were drunk is not the issue, the issue is violence and what should be done about it.

Now the video of the assault on Janay Rice is shown everywhere, many have commented and nothing is done to exit from this violence. The woman is re victimized, she is accused of many things from having married the man after the assault to having angered her fiancé and thereby triggering the attack. Meanwhile the main issue for women experiencing this violence is that they don’t have a space to speak.

In this case, Ray Rice, the perpetrator, is punished by the corporate sport organization, the NFL. The sport itself is a spectacle that uses violence to attract viewers. Some studies have suggested that the numerous injuries, mainly cranial injuries, have been overlooked. In a racialized way, the Bread and Circus of the Roman Empire is still a concept in men’s sport. Capitalist ventures in sport demand return on investment, and an organization like the NFL acts as if protecting its logo is more important than reducing the impact of violence on women’s lives. At the same time, players’ injuries may have a role in transporting violence from the playing fields to the everyday life of players. Although it is just one factor, it speaks volumes about the organization and what women who are with the players have to deal with as if it were their designated role.

Meanwhile, the statistics on domestic violence are staggering. In the United States and elsewhere, many don’t report their assaults for fear of repercussions, which take various forms but always affect women gravely, socially and physically.

Celebrity cases are unfortunately not about violence against women. Instead, they contribute to the overall normalization of violence. Many should learn from the women of Mariposas de Alas Nuevas Construyendo Futuro who received the UN Nansen price on September 12, 2014 for helping and caring for victims of domestic violence in Bonaventura, a place where violence is rampant. As Mery Medina, a member of the group, declared, “The fight is to fight indifference. One way of protesting is not to keep our mouths shut.” It is the only way to form solutions to exit from the violence.

Amid the Stench of Human Feces, Ugandan Prisoners Earn Diplomas and Assist Peers

With 42,000 prisoners and an official capacity of 16,000, Ugandan prisons are the most congested in East Africa and the 9th most overcrowded in the world, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies. These prisons are not only severely over-capacitated, but also have poor infrastructure and sanitation. Inmates are often denied a mattress or bedding, running water, electricity, adequate meals, and health care. As of last week, 40 prisons in Uganda still use the “bucket system,” which requires inmates to relieve themselves in a bucket during the night. The combination of stagnant urine and fecal matter in an overcrowded cell causes unhygienic conditions and a breeding ground for disease.

Many blame the country’s inefficient criminal justice system that fails to process cases in a timely manner, causing a severe backlog of cases. According to Human Rights Watch, “It’s clear that overcrowding and pretrial detention are interlinked.” In Uganda, 55% of inmates are on remand, meaning they are arrested and detained without having a trial. Many have never been convicted of an offense or sentenced to serve prison time. Some wait years or even decades in custody for their cases to be heard in court.

Uganda’s former Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki stated, “There is no doubt that [the case backlog] violates the right to a fair and timely trial, especially for the poor and marginalized, who spend their hard-earned resources [on legal support] only to be told that their cases cannot be heard.” More than 90% of prisoners have no legal representation and must defend themselves, despite the fact that the Ugandan constitution guarantees every citizen the right to a state attorney.

Yet, Susan Kigula and two other inmates at Luzira Maximum security prison in Kampala are now qualified to help their fellow prisoners navigate the Ugandan legal system. The three inmates were the first ever in the country to earn a Diploma in Common Law from the University of London while incarcerated, studying through a correspondence course supported by the African Prisons Project. Kigula intends to use her degree to provide legal counseling and assistance to her peers.

A survey of Ugandans found that only 0.3% were aware that they had the right to a fair and speedy trial. While Kigula and her fellow graduates now possess the knowledge to raise awareness about basic human rights in prison, more needs to be done. Today, there are 23,000 people held in pre-trial detention in Uganda’s prisons. They cannot demand a timely trial or a state attorney if they do not know that they deserve one.

I was raised in a world around the fire

I was raised in a world around the fire. Where every waking minute was learning. There was no TV. No newspapers. No phones. No electricity. No running water except from streams and waterfalls. With the locked in aura of apartheid we barely ever left the farm, and then the village.

Besides, grandma always said kids who run around in other people’s places get food poisoning or get sick from other people’s dirt. How this reconciled with the “You must know every corner, every hole in your village. Know everything about your neighbours. When they are hungry. When they are sad. When they are happy. You must know everything about the plants that like growing there.”

The language of the forest. The seasons of the river… eluded me really. The thing about how we were taught in the school around the fire is the capacity for alertness. You had to listen. Observe. Interpret. Work out the meaning of things. There was no “moral of the story” discussion at the end of a story.

You discussed why the rabbit didn’t run this or that way. Why the wolf took so long to outwit the fox. Why the aunt was so mean to her brother’s kids. Why the boy was so stupid and didn’t follow his sister. Why the old people didn’t trust the girl until she killed the monster. Why the people thought the woman was a witch even though they never saw her kill anyone. Why the visitors were so ungrateful and mean even though the village people were so nice and welcoming. Why we didn’t have nwelezelanga’s, mlenzanamnye’s or Nompunzi’s magic powers…but the rest you made meaning of yourself. For that reason, you learnt to be alert, fast, your mind learnt to keep every detail – that thing they call photographic memory.

Well, a combination of that and books was powerful. But an erosion of that and filling it with television…not so great. Even though in the absence of a library with more than 5 books I learnt most of my English from TV. Thank goodness for those comrades who later came from South Africa (we lived in Ciskei not SA thina mos) bringing subversive books i couldn’t read but tried desperately and those subversive teachers who gave us the books we had to hide behind the school toilets or leave at home when uMhloli came. And then the half-torn hand-me-down books from the Maritz’s my mother looked after in the town.

Yes, and thanks to whomever it was that thought to do school TV. It did so much to supplement for the science experiments where I could learn how you make that fart – like smelly thing called sulphuric acid. But I did lose my alertness. My photographic memory. And the other nice things like the fearlessness to explore “every corner of your village”, which for a long time of course has been the city with too many walls and ever diminishing space and foggy skies and people who try hard to not to know their neighbours.

In Colombia, the Butterflies’ bravery beyond words

In 2010, in the Colombian Pacific port city and environs of Buenaventura, a small group of women decided that enough was too much. Too many women were suffering violence at the hands of too many armed groups. Too many children were being assaulted. Too much violence was becoming the air and water of everyday life in Buenaventura. And so they set out to create a space of healing. The started a group, a movement really, called “Red Mariposas de Alas Nuevas Construyendo Futuro”. The Network of Butterflies With New Wings Building the Future.

Today, they number around 120. One hundred twenty women go out each day and meet with women and child survivors and organize. They mobilize as they empower, yes empower, the women to, first, resist the violence, both internal and external, and then to turn the swords into ploughshares. This movement began with just a few women, like Gloria Amparo Arboleda and Mery Medina. Today, it includes women organizers and leaders such as Maritza Asprilla Cruz, Fabiola Rodríguez Salazar, Loira Cecilia Rosero, and many others.

Today, the United Nations recognized the Butterflies with the Nansen Refugee Award. In awarding the prize, the UN representative said, “Their bravery goes beyond words.” Yes and no. Their bravery is in words and deeds. As Gloria Amparo Arboleda explained, “Denouncing violence here is a risky business. But somebody has to. Besides, here you risk losing your life whether you put up a fight or not. It’s better to die fighting.”

Here’s how the Butterflies describe themselves: “We are a network of women and organizations that work to defend the rights and quality of life for women in Buenaventura, bringing tools for the eradication of all forms of violence against women. The `Butterflies with New Wings Building the Future’ envisions a Pacific region free of all forms of violence against women, contributing to the formulation of public policy, the formation, investigation and intervention for the visibility and eradication of this problem in the entire zone of Buenaventura.”

The Butterfly women work towards complete transformation. They intend to do more than heal individual women and children, although that would be accomplishment enough, and they have already worked closely with 1000 families in their short four-year history. They aim to transform Buenaventura, Colombia’s new horror capital, into a place of peace that will inform the rest of the country, the national government, every single household in the country, and the world.

Their work is precisely not bravery beyond words. Their work is the work of ordinary women everywhere, who address the violence and, first, say no more, and then work, every day, to heal, to create peace, to build the future … today.

Michigan Women’s Prison: “Ripe for Abuse”

News broke this week that Michigan’s only women’s prison, Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility, is under investigation from the ACLU, Michigan Department of Corrections, and US Department of Justice for alleged human rights abuses against mentally ill female inmates.

Inmates are being hog tied naked, with their feet and hands cuffed together behind their backs, for two hours or more as a form of punishment if they do not “learn to behave,” witnesses claim. Prisoners have also been denied food and water. According to Kary Moss, executive director of ACLU of Michigan, the water was shut off in solitary confinement and guards failed to provide any to inmates for hours or even days. Some women are left standing, sitting, or lying in their own feces or urine for days on end, denied showers, and often controlled by the use of tasers.

For one mentally ill inmate at the Valley, poor sanitation, lack of food and water, and other forms of continuous abuse ended her life as she knew it. Last month she was found non-responsive in her cell. She was transferred to an outside hospital where she was pronounced brain dead. She is not the only the only casualty to come out of WHVC. There have been several prisoners who have died from both suicide and medical neglect in the past few years alone. Is this the intended function of our criminal justice system? What is the role of corrections in America today? Is it to punish mentally ill women until they are pronounced brain dead?

Luckily, women prisoners in Michigan have some advocates on the outside. Carol Jacobsen has been working for years to expose the conditions inside the prison. Jacobsen is a professor at University of Michigan and director of the Michigan Women’s Justice & Clemency Project. While she has done many interviews with inmates throughout the years, she has found that civilian access to living quarters inside the prison is nearly impossible. Jacobson stated, “As long as it’s such a closed system, it’s ripe for abuse.” Why the secrecy? According to Jacobson, “Abu Ghraib has nothing on Huron Valley or Michigan prisons. Our prisons in Michigan have torture going on every day.”

Prisoners themselves are speaking out against what they see as intolerable conditions. In February, three inmates wrote formal grievances to the MDOC describing how four women were housed together in a 96-square foot chemical caustic closet repurposed into a cell. Inmate Karen Felton wrote, “The cell I’m in is inadequately small for myself and three others, and there are not enough lockers, no privacy, inadequate desks and chairs, and there is no ventilation.”

The three women’s grievances, however, did not change their living conditions. As a matter of procedure, when more than one complaint is submitted regarding a given issue, all duplicates are rejected by the grievance coordinator. Therefore, only one of the three grievances, submitted by a prisoner named Robin Sutton, was investigated. The MDOC responded: “All prisoners housed in Dickinson unit have been treated humanely and with dignity in matters of health care, personal safety and general living conditions.”

The use of hog-ties, denial of food and water, unsanitary conditions, excessive use of tasers, and forcing four women to live in a chemical closet is considered humane? All inmates, including the mentally ill, deserve more dignity than this.

Siphokazi Mdlankomo challenges perceptions of domestic workers in South Africa

Siphokazi Mdlankomo, a domestic worker from Newlands, South Africa, is garnering international attention – and she’s using her new celebrity to call for the equal treatment of domestic workers. Mdlankomo debuted as a contestant on the popular show “MasterChef South Africa” last month and quickly became a fan favorite. The show’s contestants compete against each other in cooking challenges in the hopes of securing a future as a professional chef.

But becoming a chef is not Mdlankomo’s only goal. As noted in her biography for the show and reported last week, she also aims to use her time in the limelight to challenge global perceptions of domestic work and prove that domestic workers are not “second-class citizens.” “People, not only in South Africa, but all over the world should start taking domestic workers much more seriously,” she said. “People need to start thinking of domestic work as any other profession … it’s not just cleaning and cooking, there is far more talent in domestic workers.”

That Mdlankomo lives and works in South Africa is noteworthy. There are approximately 1.15 million domestic workers in the country. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), more than three-quarters of domestic workers in South Africa are female, and their racial breakdown is highly imbalanced. Ninety-one percent of the country’s domestic workers are classified as “African/black” and the remaining nine percent are “Coloured.” Domestic worker employers, however, span all races.

In many ways, South Africa has been a leader in establishing legal protections for domestic workers. The country set requirements for minimum wages and formal employment contracts for domestic workers in 2002 and 2003, and it provides domestic workers with unemployment insurance, skills development opportunities and other resources. It was also one of the first countries to ratify the standards set by the ILO’s Domestic Workers Convention.

Despite these advances, abuse and exploitation of domestic workers is still an issue in the country. Some argue that this is due to a lack of enforcement of the laws. Wages remain low, 70 percent of domestic workers in the country work without a contract, and there are still reports of abuse, disrespect, segregation and racism. Researchers from the Community Agency for Social Enquiry found that many South African domestic workers think their employers view them as inferior and discriminate against them based on their race.

The recent actions of two South African university students exemplify the racism and objectification that still surround domestic work and the women who perform it. Soon after Mdlankomo’s debut, two white University of Pretoria students posted photos of themselves dressed up as domestic workers online, with their faces smeared with brown paint and pillows shoved in their skirts. The photos are a stark reminder of domestic worker stereotypes and the country’s racial history, and they make clear that legal protections do not generate social and cultural change overnight.

The university immediately condemned the students’ behavior, and there was much criticism from South Africans through social media. These reactions suggest awareness among South Africans that racism and ridiculing domestic workers are intolerable, at least in public – and therein lies a big part of the problem. Even though domestic worker employers might know that the mistreatment of domestic workers is socially unacceptable, they may not recognize more subtle forms of exploitation, and what happens in their own homes is ultimately private and hidden behind closed doors.

That’s what makes the reaction to Mdlankomo’s message, her popularity, and her efforts significant. Her presence on the hit show and commitment to using it as a platform to call for respect for domestic workers is helping to make domestic workers more visible to a popular audience. Scholars worldwide have well documented the legal, economic, physical and social forces that contribute to the invisibility and isolation of domestic workers. Pushing domestic workers’ stories, talents and struggles into the public sphere might help counter harmful and dangerous representations that appear all too common, even among a younger generation of university students.

As we noted previously, scholars have long studied media’s impact on public understanding and opinion. For this reason, groups like Migrant Rights have criticized the way media portrayals of domestic workers perpetuate degrading stereotypes that contribute to the mistreatment and abuse of workers. From this perspective, Mdlankomo and her message offer a positive alternative depiction.

News media coverage of Mdlankomo has so far framed her comments as “causing a stir,” “striking a nerve” and “heating up the black servants’ debate.” The fact that her common sense message is controversial and discomforting makes clear that it is necessary. Whether it will have a major impact remains to be seen. In the meantime, Mdlankomo is challenging South Africans’ understanding of domestic workers and confronting them with the need for equal treatment, and that has the potential to generate important and valuable conversations within households and beyond.

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem fighting racism and sexism in France for real equality

Not long ago, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, then the French Minister of Women’s Rights, introduced and successfully defended a bill entitled “For Real Equality Between Women and Men.” This bill supported the normalization of parity. After the recent reshuffle of the government, Vallaud-Belkacem has become France’s Education Minister. This position is the fourth most important in the ranking of ministers in France. She is also the first woman to hold this major ministry.

Her nomination could have been a sign that something was working toward real parity in the highest political representation in France, but alas no. Immediately after her nomination, Vallaud-Belkacacem was targeted in right wing magazines by sexist and xenophobic attacks. These attacks used her dual Moroccan and French citizenship, her Muslim origin, her youth (she is 36), her sex, her support for same sex marriage, her support for the inclusion of gender theory in regular primary and secondary education, and, finally, her active feminist support for women’s rights.

Valeurs Actuelles, a magazine that the former president Nicolas Sarkozy uses regularly to make statements about his eventual return to politics, staged her as “the Ayatollah” on its front page, with an edited photo that accentuates the darkness of her eyes, making the portrait loaded with negative representations of Islam. The subtitle uses play on words to suggest that she is going redesign the National Education system. The title of another magazine “Minute” does the rest: “A Moroccan Muslim at the National Education, the Najat Vallaud Belkacem provocation.”

None of these displays of hatred is new. The latest was Christiane Taubira, the Minister of Justice, whose origins and skin color sparked off racist and sexist slurs. Both women epitomize the fight against all inequality, including gender, ethnic and social inequality. Christiane Taubira reacted and wrote to her colleague in a tweet, “They must have nothing in their heads, be empty in their heart, and have hardened souls. Najat, you’re flying high with our ambitions for schools. Thanks.”

Meanwhile, the line between right and extreme right becomes increasingly blurred. In a tweet by a right wing city counselor of Neuilly sur Seine, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem was accused of using her femininity, also called “skirt promotion”, to access this position. The counselor, of course, added a suggestive picture. Another right wing enclase, the city of Puteaux, in a charity effort to support families with children returning to school, distributed strong blue backpacks to boys and strong pink one to girls, making clear the separation in colors and roles of girls and boys in a binary society.

“Najat Vallaud-Belkacem is the ideal target for all those who would like to distill the idea that an immigrant woman could not legitimately be part of a government” says SOS Racism, an association that denounces all sorts of racism. These attacks go beyond that. They exploit the old demon of colonial countries to block advances in women’s rights and human rights and to achieve various goals: controlling the population at large, curtail all debates, policing the whole of the neoliberal environment.

When Najat Vallaud-Belkacem was Minister of Women’s Rights, she declared that we needed to be politically proactive to address gender inequalities. She was right about that. When she said that gender, class, ethnicity are the bases of inequality and that hatred is the way “to emptied hearts and hardened souls” where inequalities grow, she was right again.