In Namibia, the women say, “Non negotiable: my body, my womb, my rights”

In 2009, three Namibian women sued the State. They claimed they had been forcibly sterilized and that they had been sterilized because they were HIV positive, and so were victims of discrimination. This week, the High Court of Namibia decided the case. Judge Elton Hoff ruled in the plaintiff’s favor in the first claim and dismissed the second, due to insufficient evidence. The case is widely viewed as a landmark case.

Three separate women, ranging in age from 20s to 40s, at the height of labor, were presented with the sterilization `option’. In one case, the woman had been in labor for over four days and was in severe pain. She was led to believe that her caesarean could only take place if she signed the form. In such circumstances, what is the gender of informed consent?

In a decision that took Judge Hoff two hours to read, the Judge said there was no informed consent. He further noted that the women were Oshiwambo-speaking and that none of the health staff spoke Oshiwambo. He also noted that the forms the women signed were filled with acronyms no one, other than a specialist, could be expected to understand. Finally, in all three cases, the women only discovered the meaning of “BTL”, bilateral tubal ligation, long after they had undergone the surgery.

As the judge said: “There could not have been counselling in those circumstances.” When Judge Hoff looked up from his papers, he saw a courtroom, packed with women in black t-shirts that read, “Non negotiable: my body, my womb, my rights”.

This is a story, on one side, about how women at their most vulnerable are treated. Violently. It’s equally a story about how women organize and turn men’s swords into women’s ploughshares.

The three women are members of the Namibian Women’s Health Network. During a routine inspection of post-treatment papers, Network members started noticing BTL on members’ treatment cards. When the women were asked about it, no one knew what BTL was, and absolutely no one knew that this had happened to them. The women then hooked up with the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, and in particular with Priti Patel, deputy director and HIV program manager, who managed the case.

Though mixed, the decision is a step forward, and it’s a step that women Namibian women took, as they are doing in South Africa, in Kenya, in Swaziland, in Zambia. In South Africa, for example, Promise Mthembu went through a similar torture. At 22, she discovered she was HIV positive. She went to hospital and was told she had to sign a paper and undergo sterilization if she wanted treatment. And so she signed. Now, 16 years later, she says she is `haunted’ by having signed that form.

In response, Promise Mthembu has organized, among other groups, Her Rights Initiative, HRI: “Her Rights Initiative (HRI) was formed in 2009 by a group of feminist South African women. The Initiative is building from the knowledge and experience of its founding members who all identified the gap between HIV/AIDS policies and HIV positive women’s experiences and the potential HIV positive women represent in improving existing policies or recommending new ones to ensure women living with HIV/AIDS are able to access their sexual and reproductive rights in South Africa with a potential for improvement for all women.”

Last year, HRI researchers, feminist researchers, produced `I Feel Like Half a Woman All the Time. The researchers interviewed HIV positive women in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. They found cases, and not just a few, of explicitly coerced sterilization and other cases of sterilization performed without informed consent. More to the point, they listened closely and intently to what the women were saying. It’s what feminist researchers and activists do.

Feminist South African women, feminist Namibian women, feminist African women are moving the State and the continent.  It’s non negotiable.

(Photo Credit: classic105.com)

Haunts: Voter ID laws are a poll tax on women

In the United States, 10 states have recently passed so-called voter ID laws, laws that require not only photo IDs but official state-issued photo IDs. The Brennan Center issued a report today, The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification. Much of the report confirms what you already knew. The voter ID laws have a disproportionate effect on low- and no-income individuals and communities, on individuals and communities of color, and on rural individuals and populations.

But the voter ID laws go even further than the run-of-the-mill exclusionary practices. They target … married women. Voter ID laws are a poll tax on married women: “More than 1 million eligible voters in these states fall below the federal poverty line and live more than 10 miles from their nearest ID-issuing office open more than two days a week. These voters may be particularly affected by the significant costs of the documentation required to obtain a photo ID. Birth certificates can cost between $8 and $25. Marriage licenses, required            for married women whose birth certificates include a maiden name, can cost between $8 and $20. By comparison, the notorious poll tax — outlawed during the civil rights era — cost $10.64 in current dollars. The result is plain: Voter ID laws will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of poor Americans to vote….

“Married women who have changed their surname face an additional burden: They may need to present a marriage license with their current name to obtain a photo ID. Only 48 percent of voting-age American women who have ready access to their birth certificate have their current name on it. Fees for official copies of            marriage licenses range from $5 to $40. Thus, a married woman            who does not have a certified copy of her birth certificate and marriage license could easily spend $30 to $70 acquiring the documents necessary to obtain a photo ID.”

And that is the tip of the iceberg. Passports cost money, birth certificates cost money. The costs for those born without proper birth certificates, for whatever reason, are astronomical. Every aspect of the restrictive voter ID laws addresses and attacks women. Women of color. Low- and no-income women. Rural women. Women who are naturalized citizens. And yes, married women. It’s the triumph of patriarchal capitalism.

Dan Moshenberg, dmoshenberg@gmail.com

Thinking Through Lesbian Rape: The silence is deafening, crippling and deadly!

June 2012: raped, mutilated, shot, killed and murdered

Phumeza Nkolozi

Thapelo Makhutle

Sasha Lee Gordon

Sana Supa

Hendrieeta Thapelo Morifi

May 2012 Geneva

Navi Pillay spoke loudly against Hate Crimes in South Africa and Africa.

February 2012 Present on Hate Crimes in South Africa at CSW55

Minister  of Women, children and people with disabilities Ms.Lulu Xingwana

Minister of Correctional Services Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Ngakula

Minister of Social Development Ms Bathabile Dlamini

Deputy Minister of Police Ms Maggie Sotyu

2011 stoned, stabbed and murdered Noxolo Magwaza

2010 raped, murdered and raped again: Nontsikelelo Tyatyeka;

2010-raped, strangled and living Milicent Gaika

2009 beaten to a pulp and later died Girly Nkosi

2008 raped, stabbed and murdered

Eudy Simelane…list continues…

 

Why are our Women leaders silent…when children are being killed like animals in South Africa?

As I write this article, the silence of women, mothers, and women ministers is deafening.  I feel crippled and my bones are no longer strong to stand and I ask for mothers of South Africa and women to stand and fight now to end this massacre.

The list above is nothing to celebrate after Youth Day events on June 16th -celebrating the memories and strength of resisting oppression that lead to the Sharpeville massacre. The above list of youth who have lost lives in the same month we celebrate many youngsters, by year and women we are counting on to take this agenda on and stop killing your children and you to be here and fight for lives of women you know and do not event know.

How could we have celebrated Youth Day when there is again a massacre! Where are the  women loving women, lesbians and gay men in my country to stand and stop this gendercide?  Who is writing about us and telling the world we are being killed? We need to take stock and action as see fit to be the ones to make a change. Our sisters, mothers, aunts, lovers and women are being raped, murdered, raped again and savagely cut under the gaze of the world.

Ms. Lulu Xingwana in February 2012 she presented at CSW55 on taking action on LGBTI issues of hate crime. Three months later we have bodies of LGBTI people-killed brutally- and No word Ms Minister! The time isnow!

What has happened to women leaders in our country who have not shed a tear or been seen or heard to condemn these crimes? As many mothers cry for their murdered and watch brutally severed bodies- that are not even recognizable many appear to console and give sympathies.

So we wait for the next one and then the next and go for after tears drinks and wait for the next.

It that how we are living, by the gun so to speak?

How many lesbians, women who love women and gender-free people are in line? What are we doing? This is a war declared on our bodies and we Must Stand together and there is not time to shine as individuals. We work together or divided we are falling. Fast into the dust.

Just this past Sunday, we marched in Paris with many women who had the opportunity to be in France from South Africa, at that time bodies were found, women shot, raped and I fear that the silence of our women leaders is serving our deaths. We are in danger with no choice to life.

We marched in solidarity with the world and all people who know of humanity-mothers, fathers, and brothers. Muholi  also remarked that the march was for all  LGBTI individuals who can’t because of homophobia, lesbophobia, queerphobia, transphobia, xenophobia… all the phobia that are there to be. We made a mark and our presence was clearly heartfelt by those who were there and yet the reality back home is just too scary to imagine, she said.

Muholi said, “Rape has made us powerless, though we threw our hands in the air and said ‘Amandla’ it is a pity that power we supposed to claim is imaginary as we continue to lose our LGBT people along the way”. Muholi, who brought her all women football team Thokozani to participate the Foot for Love Games said she was feeling destroyed inside at the silence of women ministers in particular, those stood in at the Commission on the Status of Women to protect our rights to life. We are worthy women too!

“They read newspapers and none of them have said a word. It is disheartening and I feel crashed at the thought of families who are going through this pain”, she said. And yes we all hear it and it is time that we stand and speak to our mothers and save lives that are falling so fast to dust as we weep and mourn for another life lost.

Mothers, mothers who is protecting your children when they  are being attacked and raped and no voice speak to say enough! The men, who are allowed to rape, kill and rape at will -as they please at their pleasure. Is this the freedom we talk about?

We cannot be silenced any longer and those in power that we all vested for you to represent us Stand Up! I am standing! Are you?

This is not JUST to brutally take lives as though they are free for taking! We will not be silenced and-if you choose to remain silent and unheard- then you have blood on your hands! Justice must prevail for all and I call you, you and you to end violence.

Glenda Muzenda

This post first appeared here: http://www.blacklooks.org/2012/07/thinking-through-lesbian-rape-the-silence-is-deafening-crippling-and-deadly/. Thanks to Glenda and to Sokari Ekine for this collaboration.

Resistances: La République et la jupe

Les français se pensent-ils libérés avec ce nouveau couple présidentiel hors des institutions du mariage?  La république permissive a pourtant une vue particulière sur les tenues vestimentaires des résidentes de ce pays. Nous avons tous suivi les débats sur le foulard, le hijab, puis le jilbab, mais qu’en est il de la jupe ? Autrefois seule tenue autorisée dans les lieux d’études, elle est devenue taboue.

Lors de la journée de la femme, le 8 mars dernier, le scandale est apparu dans un collège d’une petite bourgade de l’Ain. Le magazine Marianne a même été saisi de l’affaire. Les faits : une trentaine de filles décident d’enfiler une jupe pour, comme elles dirent : « honorer la féminité ».  Le film la journée de la jupe avec Isabelle Adjani avait été leur inspiration. Puis, dès leur arrivée au collège, elles ont été remarquées par des professeurs et par voie de conséquence par le principal adjoint présent au collège ce jour-là. Aussitôt les gamines sont les cibles de quelques insultes : « journée de la jupe, journée de la pute » et surtout la cible des autorités. Elles doivent être mises à l’écart, car elles ont enfreint la loi, mais quelle loi ? Car comme l’affirme le principal, la jupe n’est pas interdite au collège. De même, ce collège est loin des banlieues des grandes villes où, comme le dit la journaliste de Marianne, Marie Huret: « la jupe est réputée échauffer les hormones », ce qui peut être interprété comme une bonne raison pour se couvrir des pieds a la tête si la jeune fille ne veut pas d’ennuis. En effet, comme l’avait signalé Simone de Beauvoir, les filles grandissent dans une autorité virile qui décide, entre autres, de leur apparence acceptable pour la république comme pour la religion, c’est à dire pour l’autorité patriarcale. Il faudra donc qu’elles se soumettent.

Revenons à notre affaire de jupes, après cette journée fatale, il y a eu réunion entre les parents et le principal de l’établissement. Celui-ci n’a pas voulu revenir sur les décisions prises ce jour là. Quand les parents ont demandé des excuses, il n’en était pas question, car il ne faut pas remettre en cause l’autorité.  En cause, un nouveau pouvoir ou bien devrait-on parler du pouvoir qui s’inscrit dans la biopolitique décrite par Michel Foucault qui ne demande pas seulement une domination hiérarchisée, centralisée, et fondée sur la discipline, mais une abnégation et une acceptation au plus profond de soi qui mimique la liberté du choix. Michel Foucault avait omis de rapporter cette description, fort juste par ailleurs, au control du corps de la femme.

Heureusement, les jeunes filles ont trouvé soutien parmi les enseignants, car leur seule demande de reconnaissance et de droit n’aurait pas suffit. L’un d’entre eux explique à la journaliste de Marianne que « cette affaire doit nous permettre d’ouvrir une réflexion collective. Pour l’heure, la priorité c’est de remettre les enfants au travail. » Voilà qui est dit, revenons aux bonnes valeurs, de travail, et pourquoi pas de servitude et celle ci se doit volontaire comme le décrivait déjà La Boétie dans son ouvrage rédigé en 1549.

Effectivement il y a du chemin a faire ou a refaire, car malgré les efforts  comme la parité gouvernementale pour montrer que la condition des femmes est prise en compte, les actes qui touchent de la vie quotidienne des filles, jeunes filles et femmes leur rappellent qu’elles sont a la merci de l’autorité masculine.

Brigitte Marti, bridgemarti@gmail.com