The F-word: The vicious cycle for women in prison

A report following an unannounced inspection of Styal women’s prison by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick has made serious criticisms of the prison’s provision for women with mental health problems.

…the jail’s Keller Unit, which looks after vulnerable inmates, is still ‘wholly unsuitable. He said prison officers often had to use force to remove ligatures from the necks of women intent on harming themselves. And he said the plight of the women in the unit was ‘more shocking and distressing than anything I have yet seen on an inspection’. … there were too many women serving very short prison sentences, and mental health services were stretched.

Many of the difficulties experienced by prisoners are exacerbated by the excessive use of jail terms as sentences for people whose needs would be better served – and who would be less likely to re-offend – if, instead, better services were offered to them in the community.

It’s a vicious cycle: inadequate welfare provision pushes the prison population up, which makes it harder for prisons to cope, which worsens the problems that prisoners continue to face after they are released – a dynamic heartbreakingly exemplified in the awful story of Neil Carpenter, sent to prison by magistrates to “get [him] over the hardest part of winter”.

It’s a strange kind of fiscal austerity in which the enormous expense of jail terms has come to be positioned as any kind of alternative to proper social services.

Custodial sentences are especially unsuitable in the particular circumstances faced by many foreign national women, who form a seventh of the prison population in England and Wales and whose experiences are discussed in a recent briefing by Hibiscus and the Prison Reform Trust. These women are disproportionately sentenced to short prison sentences for non-violent, non-sexual and non-robbery offences:

Foreign national women are far less likely than UK nationals to have committed serious violent or sexual offences or robbery. Only 15% of foreign nationals are serving sentences for serious crimes compared to 41% of UK nationals. A disproportionate number of foreign national women are in prison for drug or immigration related offences. The briefing’s findings reveal that the average length of sentence given in 2009 for drug offences was six years, with findings of guilt after entering not guilty pleas resulting in sentences of up to 15 years. The average sentence for false documentation was eight months and for deception 12 months.

The briefing points out that too little is done to effectively ascertain whether offending by foreign national women is connected to trafficking or coercion, and to rethink sentencing accordingly:

Worrying cases are also uncovered where the woman has been smuggled into the country to escape persecution or has entered the country on debt bondage or other forms of people trafficking and for whom survival has necessitated accepting work in illegal activities or use of fake documents to survive. …

Despite the fact that the UK government has ratified the European Convention on Trafficking, with its emphasis on victim protection, there is little attention given by their legal representatives to identifying evidence of exploitation or persecution, or women acting under duress, and the standard advice given is that there is no option but to plead guilty on the immigration related charges.

These women are therefore sentenced, with the assumption of deportation, before they can disclose the necessary information to be assessed as victims or genuine asylum seekers. Failure to get appropriate legal advice on immigration issues in the early stages of court appearances thus prejudices any chance of a positive asylum or residency outcome, as they are slotted into the category of “foreign criminals”.

Jolene Tan

This was first published at The F-Word, here:  http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2012/01/women_in_prison_2. Thanks to Jolene Tan and all the people at The F-Word for this collaboration.

Sawt Al Niswa: Collectively Pushing the Patriarchal Elephant Through the Door

Sometimes it takes a collective of feminists to spot the patriarchal elephant in the room (and to show it to the door). 

Battling patriarchy is difficult, particularly when you try to do it alone. If anything was learned from the Jan 14 March, solidarity is both empowering and inspiring. Change will only come if we work together to identify problems and construct positive solutions.

On Thursday 19 January 2012, Nasawiya member Sarah Abou Raad posted an image. It was of the ‘Parental Consent Sheet’ for the Beit el-Taibat (women’s dorms) at the University of Balamand. On this form the parent’s were asked what ‘level of freedom they would like to grant their daughter’. The options were ‘Full Freedom’, ‘Partial Freedom’, or ‘No Freedom’. Outraged, Sarah posted an image of the form with the caption ‘That’s how education is supposed to free our minds!! Im indignant!! I cant believe it!!’

Roughly an hour later, another Nasawiya member, Christine Lindner, saw Sarah’s post. Being an Assistant Professor at the University of Balamand, Christine was immediately frustrated by the image that she saw. During the past few months, Christine, with the help of many dedicated students, has helped start the debate about gender discrimination on campus. Farah from the Adventures of Salwa led a great discussion, while the student newspaper covered a number of important topics related to sexual harassment. Christine met with the Dean of Students to revise sexual harassment policies and felt a general interest for change. However, this form, it is language of ‘no freedom’ for female students was a huge step in the wrong direction.

An interesting exchange took place between Sarah and Christine that night, over the implications of the application and its wording. As a result, Christine sent an email to the Dean of Student Affairs asking questions about the application, which she posted to the Nasawiya wall. Other members posted responses to the image’s comment thread. Some mentioned that similar forms are used at dorms for other universities. This needs to be researched further and pursued for change.

Christine met with the Dean of Student Affairs and the university counselor on Monday 23 January 2012. Both positively received the complaint, stating that it was only when Christine had identified the strong language of the form that they realized how counterproductive it was to their goals of empowering the students. As such, a replacement form was created emphasizing not the disempowerment of the female students, but the level of supervision that the university would play, upon the request of the parents (many of whom live abroad). It was also agreed that this form would be signed by the parents of students resident at both the women’s and men’s dorms. The updated version can be found at

http://www.balamand.edu.lb/english/OSA.asp?id=2705&fid=160

So while this does not mark the erasure of patriarchy at the University of Balamand, it does mark a small victory, while illuminating a few important lessons:

Firstly, a variety of tactics are needed to bring down patriarchal systems. At times, large protest marches are needed. In other times, it is a stern email from a member of faculty asking questions about a problematic practice. Others, it is the threat of images going viral on the internet. Sometimes, all three. Patriarchy and social injustice manifest themselves in all facets of life. We need to keep all tools ready, harnessing the appropriate tool for the specific situation and specific audience.

Secondly, identifying and challenging patriarchy is a collective effort. Sarah’s posting of the image prompted Christine to write the letter, which illuminated the problem to the Dean, so that the form was changed and the discriminatory practice equalized. This is the collective at work. This is its strength. This is why it works. We cannot stand alone, for the elephant is too big sometimes to even see, let alone push out the door. And if one project fails, we are there to catch each other, provide an umbrella when it rains, or a tissue for the tears. This is the strength of the collective and this is why it will succeed.

Nasawiya (North)

This first appeared at Sawt Al Niswa (Voice of the Women): http://www.sawtalniswa.com/2012/01/collective-push-of-the-elephant/. Thanks to Sawt Al Niswa and to its sister organization Nasawiya for this collaboration.

Kubatana: Circles of Women

Kubatana: Circles of Women

Sheltered beneath cool thatch
surrounded by green lawns and fig trees

a circle of Zimbabwean women sit passing a stone
sewing beads onto a red velvet cloth as each one spoke

women’s work

they cross three generations
mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, grandmothers
facilitators, lawyers, counselors, activists

What is it, we asked, that we celebrate about being women?
‘Our ability to love,
to take responsibility for our children, our families
to take responsibility for the food, and the schooling
our ability to hold serious jobs
to talk about our feelings
to share the load’

And what is difficult about being  women here, at this time?

‘Being disrespected
often abused,
by the men with whom we live
sexual harassment
political rape and violence’

It was a story of attrition and overwhelming responsibility

One of the elders spoke
of the infidelities of her husband
of the pain it had cause her young soul
as she watched over her small children

and of the growing strength of realization
that she was the one

she would not seek what was impossible
she would take the responsibility
and do the work
and love her children
because she had the courage and strength to do it

of the power and satisfaction her life had brought her
of the wonderful children she had grown into the world
of the circles of women she shared her life with

They spoke of strong, enduring, loving mothers
of the father who had supported one young woman’s journey
allowed her the freedom to make her own choices
of her gratitude for this trust in her abilities

They spoke of the ‘enemy within’
their own jealousies
of women’s part in infidelities
the insecurity they carried

And then they looked at what they could change
and of holding circles with men

It is the first conversation of many, many conversations

everything changes

Bev Reeler

Bev Reeler is a Zimbabwean poet and feminist, who writes, among other places, at Kubatana.net, where this poem first appeared: http://www.kubatanablogs.net/kubatana/?p=7784 Thanks to Bev Reeler and to Kubatana for this collaboration.

Haunts: Women do not haunt the State. They occupy it.

Around the world, women are taking to the streets in great numbers, to protest, to take charge, to transform. In the past couple weeks, women have led and populated mass protests and marches in Malawi, Uganda, Lebanon, Argentina, Romania, Chile, Haiti. Women have occupied Wall Street, Nigeria, and beyond.

Women have been the bearers, in every sense, of Spring … in Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain. Today, January 25, women are returning to Tahrir Square … and to every square in Egypt. This is nothing new for northern Africa. Women, such as Aminatou Haidar, have born `spring’ in Western Sahara now for decades.

For women, the street does not end at the sidewalk. It runs, often directly, into the State offices.

Women are everywhere on the move, changing the face and form of State.

In Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner returned to her office today, after a 21-day health related absence, to resume her activities as President. On Thursday, January 5, Portia Simpson Miller was inaugurated, for the second time, as Prime Minister of Jamaica. On Monday, January 16, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was inaugurated to her second term, of six years, as President of Liberia.

These are precisely not historic stories or events, and that’s the point. Women in positions of State power are women in positions of State power. Not novelties nor exotic nor, most importantly, exceptions. That is the hope.

But for now, that struggle continues.

In Colombia, women, such as Esmeralda Arboleda, helped organize the Union of Colombian Women, fought for women’s rights and power, and was the first woman elected as a Senator to the national Congress. That was July, 1958. Fifty or so years later, in January 2012, women in Chile launched “Mas mujeres al poder”, “More women in power”.  In tactics, strategies and cultural actions, Mas mujeres al poder builds on the work of student activists in the streets. Women are saying enough, women are saying the time is now, and women are pushing their way through the electoral process, with or without the political parties, into the provincial and national legislatures.

Meanwhile, in Bolivia, Gabriela Montaño was named President of the Senate and Rebeca Delgado was named President of the House of Representatives. Women are everywhere … and on the move.

On Tuesday, January 10, voters in Minnesota, in the United States, elected Susan Allen to the state legislature. Allen is the first American Indian woman to serve in that body. She is a single mother, and she is lesbian. Many firsts accrue to her election.

Across Europe, Black women are struggling and entering into legislative bodies with greater and greater success: Manuela Ramin-Osmundsen, originally from Martinique,  in Norway; Nyamko Sabuni, originally from the DRC, in Sweden; Mercedes Lourdes Frias, originally from the Dominican Republic, in Italy. The struggle continues … into the national and regional legislatures, into the political structures, into the cultures of power as well as recognition.

Across the African continent, women are on the move. In Kenya, women, such as Charity Ngilu, are set to make their marks in the upcoming elections … and beyond. Meanwhile, South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is running, hard, for the Chairpersonship of the African Union Commission. She would be the first woman in that post, and some say she would be the most powerful woman in Africa.

And in South Korea, four women, Park Geun-hye, Han Myeong-sook, Lee Jung-hee and Sim Sang-jung lead the three major political parties. Together, their three parties control 262 seats of the National Assembly’s 299.

This barely covers the news from the past three weeks. Everywhere, women are cracking patriarchy’s hold on and of power, in the streets, in the State legislatures, in the political structures. Today, and tomorrow, women do not haunt the State. They occupy it.

Dan Moshenberg, dmoshenberg@gmail.com

Haunts: Malawian women said today, “The future starts now!”

The Maravi Post headline pretty much says it all, “DON’T MESS WITH MALAWI WOMEN!

But actually, today, the women of Malawi said it, and sang it, and prayed it, and danced it, and shouted it, and did it better, much better, than any headline could claim.

The story, in brief, is a familiar one, around the world. Women are attacked in a public place, allegedly for wearing `provocative’ or `untraditional’ clothes. In this instance, vendors, or `vendors’, in the two major cities of Malawi – Lilongwe and Blantyre – attacked and stripped women, ostensibly for wearing pants and mini-skirts.

Bad move. Very bad.

The news media described the incidents largely as `trouser stripping.’ The women understood otherwise. They understood the actions as violence, as violence against women, and as violence against democracy.

First, women were beaten. How do you think a crowd of men forcibly undresses a woman … especially in public? By invitation?

Second, the women know that Malawi has a history of “indecency” laws. Eighteen years ago, the so-called indecency in dress laws were repealed, partly because they were an offense to women, largely because they were part and parcel of the dictatorship of Hastings Kamuzu Banda. An attack on women, an attack on women’s clothes, is an attack on democracy. Anywhere. Even in a `conservative’ country. Just because it’s conservative doesn’t mean women give up on their democratic rights.

Instantly, women started organizing, organizing boycotts of the vendors, demands and campaigns. One such campaign is called Lelo N’kugule, Mawa Undivule? Today I buy from you, tomorrow you undress me? Others call it Venda, Ndikugule, Undibvulenso??? Vendor, I buy from you and you strip me naked?

Good question. A very good question.

Today, Friday, the women of Malawi filled the streets of Blantyre. They brought some men with them, too. Some wore t-shirts emblazoned with “PEACE”, others wore all white. Many wore trousers, some wore mini-skirts … whatever those are.

Women of Malawi today did what they have always done. They organized. They organized for autonomous spaces. Autonomous doesn’t mean separate. It means spaces in which women’s autonomy is more than respected. They spoke of democracy. They expressed outrage, not only for themselves but for the ambitions of the nation. They said, “We are all Sophie Munthali”, one of the women who was beaten and stripped.

Someone asked `the question’, that question that always gets asked in moments of mass assaults on women: “Isn’t this really about economic hardship, about difficult times?” Women’s rights activist Seodi White answered directly, “In times of instability, women are targeted.” She then went on to explain that [a] instability is no excuse, [b] violence against women is an outrage, [c] violence against women is violence against democracy.

Repeatedly, the women invoked dignity and democracy. Don’t mess with Malawi women. That’s the news story, or should be. Malawian women said today, “The future starts now!”

Dan Moshenberg, dmoshenberg@gmail.com

Feminism and Love: We Love as Individuals

“This is her home
this thin edge of
barbwire.” –Gloria Anzaldúa

“Love, excruciating love, let that be the first step”
-Mahasweta Devi

Love introduces us to each other and to ourselves. I love because when I speak to another person, or read or hear her or his story, that other person speaks to something within me and no other word seems to fit. In that moment of connection and introduction, love teaches us about mystery and the limits of our own knowledge, and, in doing so, creates our understanding of the world and of ourselves and leads us forward in motion.

Love locates me to myself as an individual, an individual with a swooping feeling in my stomach and an ache in my chest, a smile on my face and tears in my eyes, an individual who sometimes laughs at unexpected times and inexplicably cries. The gift of feeling my own individuality is also innately political, as it directly contradicts assumptions of infallibility.

To be individual is to be fallible, to take up a limited amount of space and to have been touched by a limited number of lived experiences, to be beautifully distinct from a concept of ideal or intangible forms. To be individual is to be shortsighted and misguided, and to have the will to keep moving. Nowhere is this fallibility more clear than in love.

In the all-consuming sharing of oneself, love teaches us what it means to be delineated and outward- looking as finite individuals. To embrace that individuality is to embrace mobility, to refuse the comfort of a universal in order to draw closer to one other.

Through these introductions, we learn that we cannot tell one another’s stories. I have my own stories to tell. Yours are so precious in your voice that I must not appropriate or replicate them through my own narrative. To hear a story – shaped by complexities of structure and influence, memories of love and pain, and experiences of personal and community identity – is to not understand it fully. When I cannot find understanding, I search for love, which serves as a testament to my commitment to the story—the real story, not just the parts that I can grasp.

As feminists, we are not only called to stand for the ideals of equality and opportunity. We are called to commit to one another’s stories and our common struggle. The struggle for justice, grounded in love and guided by our diverse narratives, confronts borders through the immediacy of our lived experiences. It fills the abstractions of equality with the promise of our stories.

It is that embrace of the interplay of stories that defines love as political will. In the realization of these stories’ complexity and the refusal to fragment or simplify them, love becomes an inspiration, a challenge, a comfort, a meeting space, a hope of autonomy and an understanding of injustice. Love teaches us to meet each other, to refuse to be satisfied with a half-hearted appropriation of anyone’s story, including our own.

Anne Schwartz, anneschwartz91@gmail.com

Haunts: Haiti, deux ans déjà

“It is time the stone made an effort to flower”

It’s two years already since the earth in Haiti burst open, and a world collapsed. That moment of rift is unspeakable and absolute. It does not allow for discovery or discussion. This is not about the event of January 12, 2010. This is about what follows.

What follows, what has followed, is called re-construction, but it’s an inapt term. There is no re-construction. There is construction anew.

For two years, now, people of Haiti, in the thousands, have been living in `camps’, in `informal settlements’ and `precarious circumstances’. In unacceptable, degrading conditions. For women, like Therese Charlemagne, it’s `simple’: “This place is ours, it’s our land. I didn’t buy this land. I built on it; I have a job. What else could I want? A house. A home.”

It’s simple … isn’t it?

Build houses. Clear the rubble. Clear the camps. Too often, clearing the camps has meant treating the residents as if they were the rubble. The Haitian government and the international funders and agencies that support it have consistently refused to enter into real consultation with the `camp dwellers’.

They have particularly refused to talk with the women and the girls.

The women and the girls in the camps in Haiti describe a culture of sexual violence. Rape is rampant, as are all forms of violence against women. The camps present row after row of despair.

But that is only half of the story. It is the half that concentrates only on the absence of homes, only on the presence of violence, only on the despair.

People in despair do not march, do not protest, do not organize. Organizing comes from hope. Women know this.

Women like Colette Lespinasse, director of Le Groupe d’Appui aux Rapatriés et Réfugiés, or Support Group for Repatriates and Refugees, know that building housing must mean building community. To build houses without deep and extended discussions with the people who will live in them is to deprive the future residents of homes. They get roofs, walls, floors … but they don’t get homes.

The women who are organizing in the camps, organizing against sexual violence, women like Jocie Philistin and Earamithe Delva, the women of KOFAVIV, Komisyon Fanm Viktim pou Viktim, the Commission of Women Victims for Victims, live that lesson out every second of every day. Ending violence against women must mean building community, communities of women and girls first, then larger and larger communities. It must.

Camp residents are described as`frustrated’. Although they certainly live with frustration, they are, more importantly, women, children, men, who are working, organizing, building a world, building homes and communities, building cultures and a culture to be cherished.

As Michaëlle Jean noted today, January 12, 2012 it’s two years already, it’s already two years. It is time.

It is time the stone made an effort to flower.”

More than fifty years ago, Paul Celan wrote those words out of his experience of and experiences in the German death camps:

“It is time the stone made an effort to flower.
time unrest had a beating heart.
It is time it were time.”

It is time.

It is time `reconstruction’ took on the beating heart.

In her poem “Stones don’t bleed,” Michèle Voltaire Marcelin transports and translates Celan to Haiti:

“It is time the stone made an effort to flower
said Celan 

It is time it bled red I say 

And love 

And love 

And love 

flowed out of its wound 

for ever and ever 

Amen …”

It is time to understand that the women struggling for houses are organizing communities and entire worlds. It is time to understand that the women organizing to end violence against women and girls are organizing peace, are organizing love.

It is time for houses, and it is time for roses. It is time to be guided by a song of hope, the song that Haitian mothers have sung to their daughters, the song that Haitian mothers sing to their daughters today.

Dan Moshenberg, dmoshenberg@gmail.com

Haunts: In Lahore, in Johannesburg, there was no stampede

In the past two days, four women have died in what the press has called `stampedes.’

There was a concert Monday in Lahore, Pakistan. It was organized by a private college. The crowd was mostly young people, college students. At some point after the concert, something happened, the crowd tried to leave, there was only one door and even less organization, and … three young women—Farah Nawaz, Maheen Naseem Abbas, 17 years old, and Sadia Batool—were crushed to death. It’s a common enough occurrence, around the world.

On Tuesday, in South Africa, universities registered students who, for whatever reasons, had missed the earlier registration dates. Often the reason is students come from historically disenfranchised communities where there’s little or no expectation of their successfully pursuing further education. That too is a common enough situation, around the world.

As in past years, the lines were endlessly long, but the number of available slots were finite. Painfully, tragically so. Excitement, tension, anticipation, apprehension, were high. When the gates opened at the University of Johannesburg, the people rushed forward. In the rush, people were injured, and one woman, the mother of a prospective student, was killed. There were many mothers in the crowd, assisting their children. Many mothers, many children were injured. At least 22 are counted as injured, but those are only the visible injuries.

Both incidents, and especially the South African incident, have been widely, even universally, described as stampedes.

What exactly is a `stampede’, and how does a crowd of people, of human beings, morph into a stampede? And why is it the case that women and girls are more often than not those who suffer the violence of so-called stampedes?

Stampede is a relatively new word, and it seems to be a North American invention, another gift the United States has bestowed upon the world. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was coined early in the 1800s. Cowboys in the United States borrowed the Mexican word, estampido, which means crash, explosion, or report of a firearm, and estampida, which means a stampede of cattle or horses. It was an early example of transnational vaquero cowboy culture.

Stampede, or stompado, was a “sudden rush and flight of a body of panic-stricken cattle” or horses. Later, stampede came to mean a “sudden or unreasoning rush or flight of persons in a body or mass”.

At its inception, stampede meant a thundering, powerful, dangerous herd of animals. Today, when referring to people, it means a mass of people who are threatened and in flight. At the beginning, a stampede was about virility, big roaring animals and big riding cowboys.

When people stampeded, that was panic. In fact, the Spanish translation of human stampede is pánico. Panic. Sudden, wild, unreasoning, excessive, at a loss and out of control. And the term for mass panic is hysteria, the women’s condition: “Women being much more liable than men to this disorder, it was originally thought to be due to a disturbance of the uterus and its functions”.  Hysteric: “belonging to the womb, suffering in the womb”.

It doesn’t matter who is trampled in the event called a stampede. What began as an articulation of masculinity, the enraged capacity to destroy all in its path, has become the helpless, or `feminine’, implosion of self. What began as a roar has become somehow a whimper. When you read that a group was in a stampede, know this. Stampede is not a neutral word. Stampede is gendered, and the gender is woman.

There was no stampede in Lahore, there was no stampede in Johannesburg. Words matter. In both instances, educational institutions failed … and women died … again.

Dan Moshenberg, dmoshenberg@gmail.com

The women of Mali: “Indignons-nous!”

On December 2, 2011, the Malian parliament passed a Family Code, which threatens to set back women’s rights in Mali quite considerably. In 2009 the Parliament had passed a fairly progressive law, which didn’t quite bring women and men to equal status, but was a major step in that direction. Conservative, mostly religious, forces swung into action. The President quickly rejected the law, and sent it back to Parliament, where it has sat for two years. The new bill declares women’s legal obligation to obey and serve their husbands, as well as the husbands’ singular leadership, or dominion, over the household and all within it. Many argue that such terms violate the national Constitution, specifically in the articles where it codifies the meaning of Malian nationhood as an independent, democratic, sovereign, secular republic.

Women of Mali were immediately, and continue to be, indignant. More than indignant, they are indignées. They are organizing the Malian Spring.

The `world’ knows and often recognizes the labor and leadership of Malian women. Women like singer-songwriter Fatoumata Diawara, currently setting the world ablaze, and the even-better known singer Mariam Doumbia, who with her partner Amadou Bagayoko, continue to welcome the world to Mali and to set the dance floors on fire.

Militant and feminist women singers like Oumou Sangaré join younger defiant women singers such as Khaira Arby. Fiercely feminist women writers such as Oumou Ahmar Cissé have been writing, and organizing, for the rights and autonomous spaces of women and girls, while visual artists, like photographer Fatoumata Diabaté, continue to document and interpret the worlds of social relations, and in so doing awaken the art world to a new kid on the block.

Meanwhile, women like Fatoumata Dembel Diarra, First Vice-President of the International Criminal Court; and Cissé Mariam Kaidama Sidibé, current Prime Minister of Mali and the first woman PM of the country, have kept on keeping on, breaking new ground, shattering old glass ceilings.

This a short list, an incomplete list, of Malian women who have been identified, in the last year, as `women to watch’, women to follow. And they are on the move.

Some twenty organizations started a petition, NON AU NOUVEAU CODE DES PERSONNES ET DE LA FAMILLE DU MALI  ADOPTÉ LE 2 DÉCEMBRE 2011! It begins: “Indignons-nous face au nouveau Code des personnes et de la famille, qui vient d’être adopté en seconde lecture par l’Assemblée Nationale, le 2 décembre 2011.” That opening has two senses. First, we are indignant, or outraged, at the new Code. Second, and more to the point, we are the indignants, les indignées, and we are fomenting indignation.

Women’s organizations like WILDAF Mali, Women in Law and Development in Africa, have been pulling women, and men, together into various formations to inform and to organize. On December 31, they pulled together representatives from over twenty organizations to think through the intricacies of the new bill and of the new moment, to strategize and to begin to implement counter-strategies. And they are on the move.

This is what Malian women do. They organize. They don’t wait. Some have suggested, “For more than 10 years, women in Mali have been waiting for the adoption of a Family law to protect their fundamental rights.”

The women of Mali have not been waiting. They have been organizing, and now … they are les indignées du Mali, and their battle cry is direct: “Indignons-nous!” That phrase means Spring is coming to Mali. Indignons-nous!

 

(Photo Credit: JeuneAfrique.com

Haunts: Jakadrien Turner: there was no mistake

Jakadrien Turner is a United States citizen. She is fifteen years old. She speaks no Spanish. She is African American. Last year, she responded to the death of her grandfather and the divorce of her parents by running away from her home in Dallas. Her grandmother immediately started to search for her.

At some point, Jakadrien Turner was picked up by police in Houston, apparently for theft of some sort. She gave police a false name. Remember, Jakadrien was fourteen years old at the time. The name she gave turned out to be that of a Colombian undocumented resident.

And so, Jakadrien Turner, at the age of fourteen, speaking no Spanish and with no contacts in Colombia, was deported. Yes, she was.

Today, finally, Jakadrien Turner was returned to the United States and to her grandmother, Lorene Turner’s, custody.

The news media and the blogs all agree that Jakadrien Turner was “mistakenly deported”. From Colorlines to Feministing to CNN to local Texas media, they all say the same thing. Mistakenly deported.

There was no mistake.

A system that puts children in prison for life, a system that deports unaccompanied minors, a system that treats women and girls of color as just so much opportunity for private-prison profit and for abuse, that system always was designed to deport Jakadrien Turner.

This is the immigration system, which imprisons and deports thousands of United States citizens, and does so ferociously. There was no mistake. The immigration system did what it does, what it is designed to do. It deported a fourteen-year-old African American girl, this time named Jakadrien Turner, who spoke no Spanish, who had no contacts, who was unaccompanied, and is and was a United States citizen.

Deal with it. Occupy the immigration prison system. There was no mistake.

Dan Moshenberg, dmoshenberg@gmail.com