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.

The scale of India’s “one small incident of rape”

According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, in 2013, there were, nationally, 33,707 rape cases, up precipitously from 24, 923 in 2012. New Delhi suffered the highest incident of rape, accounting for 1,636 cases in 2013. That’s up from 706 in 2012. Mumbai, Jaipur and Pune, the next three cities with the highest reported incidents of rape, together had 754 rape cases in 2013. In 2013, in 13,304 of the reported cases, the victim was a minor. In 2012, that number was 9,082. Finally, in 94% of the cases, the offender was “familiar to the accused”: a parent, neighbor, relative other than parent, or someone else. 94%.

These numbers are beyond disturbing.

Last month, India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley raised a storm of protest when he reflected, “One small incident of rape in Delhi advertised world over is enough to cost us millions of dollars in terms of lower tourism.” The “one small incident” was the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a young woman, now known as the Nirbhaya case. Nirbhaya means fearless.

When protests exploded all around him, the Finance Minister regretted his words, and, of course, the ways in which they had been “misconstrued”. As witness to his recantation, the formal, published version of the Finance Minister’s talk removed the word “small.”

While the diminishment of a terrible event of violence against a woman, and of violence against women, was horrible, and according to many of the responses and critiques much worse, the reduction of sexual violence to an economic equation is equally problematic and wrong. If the `one small incident of rape’ only cost, say, a thousand dollars, would it then be fine? Would it then not be a matter of concern for India’s Finance Minister? Is finance exclusively and only a matter of hard, cold cash, and curiously that of other nations?

There are calls – from the victim’s family, from women’s groups, and from the general citizenry – for the Finance Minister to resign. It’s not enough. Words of repentance and regret are fine, but they do not suffice. Arun Jaitley is part of State power. He has been for years, both in the opposition and now in Cabinet. Let him and his colleagues say less and do more. If they feel they must talk, let them say, publically, that as members of State they take full responsibility for the 33,707 women and girls.

But the place to show real remorse is in the national budget. Invest in those organisations in India that are sisters to organisations such as Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust in South Africa, organisations made up of women and men, made up of individuals and communities, hard at work at the coalface of sexual violence. Incidents of reported rape rose 35% in one year. Raise the budget for prevention of sexual violence and for care for survivors of sexual violence by 70%. Don’t talk about the millions of dollars lost to “one small incident of rape.” Instead, invest in stopping violence against women. Be fearless.

 

(This is part of a collaboration between Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust and Women In and Beyond the Global. The original, in a different version, can be found here. Thanks to the staff and volunteers at Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust for their great and urgent work.)

Mary Hounga’s victory is a victory for all women workers everywhere

At the end of July, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom handed down its judgment in the case of Hounga (Appellant) v Allen and another (Respondents), In their unanimous decision, the Court decided to protect and strengthen the rights of women workers, and in particular of migrant and immigrant women workers, irrespective of legal status. It’s a great decision and an important victory for women everywhere.

Lord Nicholas Wilson, Justice of the Supreme Court, explained the case and the Court decision as follows. On 28 January 2007, “Mrs. Allen” brought “Miss Hounga”, aged around 14, into the United Kingdom on a visitor’s visa. Miss Hounga is described as illiterate. She had lived with Mrs. Allen’s brother in Lagos. Miss Hounga was brought into the United Kingdom under two false claims. First, her age was listed as 20. Second, she was claimed as the granddaughter of Mrs. Allen’s mother. Miss Hounga was “aware” of the false pretense. She knew that she could only stay for six months and that she could not legally work for pay.

Miss Hounga, illiterate and 14 years old, “entered into a contract” with Mrs. Allen to help with Mrs. Allen’s children. Miss Hounga never received any pay, nor was she ever allowed to attend school. Further, Mrs. Allen verbally, emotionally, and physically abused Miss Hounga, and repeatedly threatened her with prison, explaining that since she was “illegal”, if she were caught on the streets, she would go to jail. Miss Hounga lived under these conditions for a year.

On 17 July 2008, Mrs. Allen pushed Miss Hounga out of the house, locked the door, and that was that. Miss Hounga was found by someone, who took her to Social Services.

Miss Hounga sued Mrs. Allen for discrimination, since she was brutally mistreated because of her Nigerian nationality and her unlawful immigration status. The Employment Tribunal agreed with Miss Hounga and demanded that Mrs. Allen pay compensation. Mrs. Allen appealed the case, claiming “the defense of illegality.” That is, Mrs. Allen claimed that since Miss Hounga was working illegally, she could not sue. The Court of Appeals agreed with Mrs. Allen.

The Supreme Court unanimously reinstated the Employment Tribunal’s decision. For two of the Justices, “the defense of illegality” did not hold, and so that alone sufficed to throw the appeal out. For the remaining three, the more compelling argument was that Miss Hounga had been trafficked. They argued that the public policy of maintaining the integrity of the legal process was secondary to the public policy of opposing trafficking and protecting the rights, if not the well being, of vulnerable people. To accept Mrs. Allen’s claim of “defense of illegality” and to refuse Miss Hounga’s appeal would be, in the words of Justice Wilson, “an affront.”

Anti-trafficking activists and others have hailed this decision as an important step forward. The immigration status of a worker has no bearing on the labor rights of that worker, including the right to sue the employer in court. In the United States, women understand that courts matter. In South Africa, women understand as well that judges matter. And in this decision, in the United Kingdom, Mary Hounga, who as a child labored in virtual slavery in someone’s house, has demonstrated that courts matter, judges matter, justice matters, women and girls matter. All women. All girls. Always.

From Paris to Washington, all women need easy access to real help in times of crisis

Recently, former President of George Washington University, Stephen Joel Trachtenberg suggested that violence against women on university campuses in the United States could be reduced if only women were trained not to drink in excess. He added that we need to educate “our daughters and our children” who drink too much.

At least, with these recommendations, women will remain sober while being subjected to violence? This type of comment is too often accepted in public spaces, such as NPR where it was expressed. As long as discriminatory comments and acts are still presented as primitive solutions, violence against women will persist.

Women need easy access to real help in times of crisis. Women also need society as a whole to stop discriminating against them, making us ever more susceptible to acts of violence.

In France, a recent bill, For a Real Equality Between Women and Men, takes on violence against women in its multifaceted approach to create conditions for more equality. The bill offers other methods to address this issue. Some are for immediate relief for women. Others offer a long-term approach to make violence against women clearly and unequivocally unacceptable.

The distribution of the free personal cell telephone “grand danger” (emergency phone) to women who are at risk of domestic violence is inscribed in the new law. This measure has been initiated by Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who presented the bill to Parliament in coordination with Christiane Taubira (Minister of Justice) and Bernard Cazeneuve (Minister of the Interior in charge of police).

The cell phone is connected to a call center where trained people may activate a police intervention, which should be effective within ten minutes, according to Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. A woman who feels threatened presses three times on the bottom of the phone to be connected to the call center. Other numbers are pre-registered in the phone to give access to associations that provide psychological support to women who may just need to talk.

The phone is given for six months, renewable, to women whose former companions have been issued a no contact order by the court. With the phone comes psychological support to reduce the feeling of isolation that domestic threat produces.

This system is already widely used in Spain.

After four years of trial in various areas in France, the phone “grand danger”, according to Christiane Taubira, has been a clear success. It has saved lives and has helped women to break the cycle of violence and isolation. In fact, the phone seems to give women a sense of security. According to the Public Prosecutor of the Republic of Paris, the great majority of women call just to make sure that the phone is working; only 10% of the calls are for actual emergencies.

This method is now part of a national plan of action to reduce violence against women and will be accessible to women in the entire French territories including the DOM TOM (French overseas departments and territories). However, as Christiane Tuabira made clear, it is not a gadget. It is there to stop the cycle of sexual and domestic violence and provide preventative and timely assistance to women who are the victims of such violence. This device is part of a larger set of actions. The goa,l said Christiane Taubira and Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, is to reduce the level of acceptability of violence against women in society in order have fewer “grand danger” phones.

Let’s extend this goal to the United States and stand up against comments, such as those of Stephen Joel Trachenberg, that show the pervasiveness in ordinary language of discrimination against women, making us more vulnerable to violence. There’s a petition that offers one of the numerous actions to change the level of discussion. You can find it, and sign it, here.

Please sign and share the petition. Every effort counts!