Search Results for: DSK

In France, sex and power go to trial, and DSK takes a walk

Last weekend in Lille, in northern France, a media sensitive trial ended. The trial came after 4 years of investigation by trial judges. Thirteen people faced charges of “aggravated procuring.” The accused were the usual suspects, pimps, cops, notables, businessmen, and Dominique Strauss Kahn aka DSK.

The trial is now finished; convictions and sentencing will be made public in June. While the pimp and his entourage will certainly be convicted, DSK left the court assured of being cleared, at least from the legal point of view.

The trial incriminated the managers of the Carlton Hotel in Lille who organized business reward sex orgies with the help of pimps, from Belgium, the local bourgeoisie and business men. They admitted that the raison d’être for these parties was DSK, knowing that it was a good way to create a friendly bond with this powerful man. DSK also opened his apartments to these orgies in Paris and in Washington when he was at the IMF.

The civil suit was composed of two former prostitutes, referred to as M and Jade. They sued for the violence they underwent, though the official charge was based on the orgies being paid for. Another former prostitute did not join the civil party although the same story happened to her. She was shipped to Washington in 2010 to please DSK. She was visibly scared and never joined the civil suit.

In France, prostitution is not forbidden but the notion of prostitution is legally blurred, and the status of the prostitute or sex worker is not legally well defined. Procuring is a crime (possible sentence up to five years) as is soliciting passively and actively (possible sentence up to 2 months). Having sex for money with a minor or a qualified “vulnerable” person, such as handicapped people, is forbidden. There is a notion of contract between the client and the prostitute that is tacitly accepted as long as the prostitute is not subordinated as the law says.

These shadowy laws have underserved the women. In Belgium, brothels are permitted. Since Lille is near Brussels, the prostitutes came from a brothel near Brussels run by one of the accused and his wife. The trial exposed the elusive character of the laws in France as well as the hypocritical situation in Belgium and how the accused took advantage of both legislations to plot these parties with minimum legal risks.

While DSK and his friends presented themselves as modern libertines with all the prerogatives that they should enjoy due to their social rank, the pimps were ready to take the brunt for their friend DSK. DSK claimed he had no idea that the women he mistreated were prostitutes. Nobody believed him, and the women said that they knew he knew.

Six prostitutes testified. The preliminary investigation established their degrading conditions of life in the brothel close to Brussels and used the term “carnage” to describe the type of sex that DSK and his friends would demand. The arrogance of DSK and his companions was exemplified by the words they used to describe their activities; they commonly talked about pleasure, pleasant détente, festive parties, and great massages. Their text messages, made public for the trial, alluded to the sex workers as livestock or equipment.

The women told a different story. They talked about their shameful work conditions and the violence that entailed suffering, pain and tears. Jade declared that there is no price that justifies imposing such suffering. She also reflected on how women enter this unwanted “job,” “The common point I observed among all of my companions in misfortune is that they all have been mistreated…. This body has been mistreated as a result we keep this stigma about ourselves…then we come to prostitute ourselves.” The notion of forceful mistreatment was at the center of their testimonies. All of them explained even if they were forced to accept these practices, they still accepted them, which made the case for rape legally feeble.

DSK’s lawyers asserted that their client was a victim of, voyeurism and moral lynching. In their closing arguments, they attacked those in the civil suit, accused them of being manipulated and of reinventing the facts. They trivialized the use of violent sex as part of the libertine life. One defense lawyers described the pain inflicted on his client. He even saw some tears!

At the end the prosecutor, who overtly opposed the work of the trial judges since the beginning, transformed his indictment of DSK into a speech for his defense, thanks to DSK’s large circle of influence.

After three weeks of trial, the Sofitel affair in New York became clearer to many and voices of support for Nafissatou Diallo, the Sofitel Maid who accused DSK of rape, grew louder.

The trial also shed light on the collusion between finance/power and sex.

In Sexus Economicus, the historian Yvonnick Denoel delineates the relationship among politics, business and prostitution/sex around the globalized world. He reveals the code of silence that accompanies financial manipulations of the profit driven market covers up the use of women as business and political contracts’ bonus. Their treatment and well being are the least of everyone’s concerns.

Meanwhile, some from DSK’s political party declared that they should erect a statue to Nafissatou Diallo for her strength and determination. Thanks to her, he did not become President, while she used his money to do good, opening a restaurant where she welcomes immigrants and workers.

From New York, Washington, Paris to Lille, the DSK saga magnifies the story of violence against women that epitomizes the power of patriarchal capitalism over women’s bodies.

 

(Image Credit: Benoît Peyrucq. AFP / Libération)

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In India, school girls go on strike for education and respect … and win!

On May 10, 86 school girls decided to upset the sleep of the “sleepy hamlet” of Gothra Tappa Dahina in the Rewari district of the Haryana state, in India. Fed up with administrators and parents who thought less than nothing of the sexual harassment the girls endured every day on their way to and from school, the girls decided to go on strike, with 13 of them going on hunger strike. A week later, the administration gave in to the girls’ principal demands. Since then, other school girls have started similar strikes. As with the school girls in Malawi, the school girls of Rewari know that they deserve a decent education, and that that includes the trip to and from school. With that knowledge, they may have started a school girls’ movement that will do more than disrupt the sleep of many. It may be an awakening.

The story is straightforward. The local school stops at 10th grade. That means for 11th and 12th grades, the girls must walk about 3 kilometers to the next village. According to the girls, they complained about the abuse they received on their walk to and from school. They petitioned the administration to upgrade their local school to include 11th and 12th grades. They received no response. They urged their parents to push for upgrading the local school. Some told the girls it’s better to be quiet; sexual harassment of girls and women has been going on forever. Others were more supportive but couldn’t offer much else. And so, the girls took action. As Sheetal, one of the hunger strikes, explained, “Almost every day, we face eve teasing. Should we stop studying? Should we stop dreaming? Are only rich people and their children allowed to dream? The government should protect us or open a higher-secondary school in our village.” Parents joined the strike, laying down their work tools and protesting outside the school. On May 17, 10 of the hunger strikers were sent to hospital, as the Haryana state government agreed to upgrade the school.

In the subsequent days, this big win for the Rewari girls has been followed by similar strikes by school girls in Gurugram and Palwal districts, both in Haryana state. Sapna Kumari, one of striking students in Gurugram, explained, “Some girls have to drop out after Class 10th because their parents do not want to send them to school afar, fearing their safety. Those who manage to convince them face problems of eve-teasing everyday. Be it buses, autos, the problem does not end.” Her school is 4 kilometers away. Anjali, one of the striking students in Palwal district, asked, “How can daughters study when there was no government school up to senior secondary level in their village?”

These school girls know the meaning of education, and they know they deserve it. Period. They know that a state that creates unsafe conditions for girls on their way to and from school has no commitment to girls’ education. They also know that they have the power to move the State and change the world, and now the school girls of Haryana are teaching that lesson to the rest of the world.

 

(Photo Credit 1: Hindustan Times) (Photo Credit 2: Times of India)

Where Have All Trump’s Victims Gone?

 


It is barely two weeks since Trump won the election and suddenly the media attention on the women who came forward about being sexually assaulted by him has vanished. The networks are now intent on normalizing Trump and are not touching the questions: How did we elect a sexual predator as President? How come the women who came forward with their stories have now disappeared? Will our judicial system throw out cases brought forward by women who have experienced rape? Will students in fraternities be emboldened to rape with impunity on the basis of the precedent set by Trump?

At a recent National Organization of Women’s New York convention. Jane Manning and Emma Slane, prosecuting attorneys for two women who were raped after being drugged unconscious spoke about their cases. They described their cases as difficult particularly because they had to prove that because the victims were unconscious they had no memory. They won their cases because the victims had used the rape kit, and the attorneys were able to use techniques such as the hair test, where the DNA matched the hair sample from the attacker.

In Trump’s case, the women not only remember being assaulted by him, but they had told their close friends about it; therefore, we also have credible testimonies. So isn’t it bizarre that at a time when prosecuting attorneys are able to win difficult cases, Trump’s victims have vanished into the woodwork? What’s more, in New York the statute of limitations has been lifted, a victory that should make some of Trump’s victims press charges more easily.

The woman who said she was raped by Trump when she was 13 has now withdrawn her charge on account of receiving death threats from Trump’s supporters. Does this mean women will be more afraid now to bring cases against attackers who are powerful, because they will be threatened by a society that sees the victim as the “problem,” not the rapist? So, what is the difference between this current crisis and of sexual assault that goes unpunished in countries like Pakistan that we are quick to criticize for the same problem?

Remember Dominique Strauss Kahn who assaulted a maid in a New York hotel? His trial lasted 4 years and it prevented him from running for the Presidency in France. It is indeed deplorable that Trump who is more powerful is not held accountable. And the media’s silence is deafening.

And why aren’t we taking any action, even if major women’s organizations like NOW have devoted much of their energy to fight sexual violence and bring perpetrators to justice? Why aren’t millions marching outside Trump Tower so a sexual predator is not elected President? How come millions are marching in South Korea to impeach their President for her criminal offences while we who believe ourselves to be a superpower are laboring under a pall of silence about this horrendous double crime—that of sexual assault and the crime of electing a perpetrator?

Just when we thought we are finally able to fight against hegemonies such as economic class and status of perpetrators of sexual violence, we are now encountering someone who indeed believes, along with a puppet media, that he is immune from the law.

 

(Photo Credit: Cisternyard)

He cannot be President. He cannot be my friends’ President.

In the United States this past Wednesday the relationship between politics and business based on sex, racism, xenophobia, ignorance, etc, became the rule of the master. I have been writing for Women In and Beyond the Global for some time to denounce, inform and reflect on many issues that are threats to human and women’s dignity in many places.

I wrote about Dominique Strauss Kahn aka DSK, the former director of the IMF and pretender to presidential election in France, who used his power to attack and humiliate women for sex. His scandalous behavior was disparaged worldwide, especially after his arrest in New York City for abusing a woman of color in the hotel where he was a client and where she was a maid. Even his own political party in France declared that they should erect a statue to Nafissatou Diallo for her strength and determination. I concluded : “From New York, Washington, Paris to Lille, the DSK saga magnifies the story of violence against women that epitomizes the power of patriarchal capitalism over women’s bodies.”

What did we witness last Wednesday? Donald Trump has done all this and was able to get the votes that he needed to become the President of the United States.

Then, about the massive displacement of people escaping war zones created by the US and its allies’ politics, which triggered a remilitarization of the borders, I wrote: “The indifference to the ordeal of millions in the Global South is a racial issue that is used to promote and allow an absurd, but for a few profitable, bio-economic order that needs racism to impose so-called free trade markets and their dehumanization through militaristic means.” Indifference to dehumanization is now going to be United States public policy.

While NAFTA guarantees the “free” circulation of capital, people, especially people from the southern border of the United States, have been impoverished by this treaty and dismissed if not eliminated. The border with Mexico has two sides, as I reported in 2014: “On the US – Mexico border, US border patrols are under investigation for having recently killed more people than ever before. An independent review, leaked to the Los Angeles Times, considered 67 shootings by US Border patrols at the Mexican border between January 2010 and October 2012. These resulted in 19 civilian deaths.” I added the story of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, a 16 year-old boy who was on his way home when he was killed by US officers, from the other side of the fence. The officers on the US side shot him 10 times. He was killed with two bullets in his head and then butchered with eight more bullets in his back.”

The billionaire candidate Trump has had the most demeaning words to an entire population, normalizing hatred.

In one of the numerous articles that Women In and Beyond the Global published about sexual and reproductive rights, I wrote: “How the `life’ of the unborn has toppled the life of a woman is no mystery: a great dose of political cynicism serves vested interest and neoliberal economics to create a geography of increasing discrimination and vulnerability.”

Now, in terms of sexual reproductive rights the next move is not going to be to repeal the Hyde Amendment that was once hoped, but rather to overturn Roe v Wade! That is only going to be one aspect of it. The other part goes with the incarceration of women, “the deviant women.” The torture will continue!

Many have compared this election with Brexit. We should remember Jo Cox, the MP woman who was assassinated by the hand of hatred just few days before the election day, but she is not the only one to have died from patriarchal violence. In Egypt on January 24th, in Cairo, Egypt, Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, a 32 years old secular socialist activist, was assassinated by the police along with 20 other demonstrators. I remarked: “In this harsh neoliberal order, accents of totalitarianism emerge to “Shut up all voices” and crackdown on dissent with no shame. Women are often the target of these acts of violence and political intimidation.”

The countless attacks on women particularly women of color since the election are violent political intimidation.

Finally, the reality of the not so natural disasters that are looming over us somehow prompted some important reaction of solidarity last year at the Cop 21 in Paris. I wrote then in the introduction to the interview with Sascha Gabizon, one of the co-facilitators of the Women Gender Constituency, a large coalition of feminists and women’s movements: “Climate disasters target women. As Sascha recalled, in the 1991 floods in Bangladesh 90% of the casualties were women. As climate disasters occur regularly, as in the Philippines, they impact in majority women, mainly because of gendered distribution of labor and roles. As a result, we see all kinds of radicalization against women with the widespread expansion of brutal practices against women, in their home, in their everyday life, in prisons and jails, as well as the erosion of women’s rights especially sexual and reproductive rights in an increasing number of countries.”

This is more than a sad time it is a time of unleashed global violence with enormous consequences. This neoliberal world that has treated economic and outrageous policy makers as priests has accepted a ruthless billionaire as a prophet! He cannot be a president and not my friends’ president.

 

(Photo Credit: Vocative / Ryan Beckler)

On BBC News, amnesia passes for history, and the refugees are doomed

Young girl returning from the store with a pot of soup and a bottle of milk, Lodz

On BBC News today, Dariusz Rosiak from Polish National Radio concludes an interview with an afterthought, “You also have to understand that there is a cultural gap which is important and it has to be taken into consideration … Poland is a one-religion, one-ethnic country, and has been like that for the last 50 years. People, they have to understand the necessity to accept people of different color, of different creed, of different culture. You can’t expect them to be able to do it just like that.” And the interview ends.

For the last 50 years.

My father’s family came from Piotrków Trybunalski, near Łódź, and, apart from my father, they were all killed during the German occupation. My father, Charles Moshenberg, was born in 1926, in the midst of the Second Polish Republic, which ended with the September 1939 invasion of Poland. My own family’s history and that of Second Polish Republic haunt Rosiak’s comments as well as his historical amnesia.

When the Germans and their Soviet allies invaded Poland, the country was a patchwork of national minorities. While the 1921 Polish census listed 30.8 percent of the population as “national minorities”, the 1931 Polish census put that figure at 31.1 percent. During this period, Poland was also undergoing intense urbanization.

Who were the national minorities? Ukrainians, Jews, Belarusians, Germans followed by much smaller communities of Lithuanians, Czechs, Armenians, Russians, and Roma. Along with Jews, Poland also boasted, or not, an array of religions, from Roman Catholics to Greek Orthodox to Protestant.

By 1931, Poland had the second largest national Jewish population in the world: “At the time of the population census of December 9, 1931, there were about 3,136,000 Jews in Poland, i.e. 9.8% of the population, making them the second largest Jewish community in the world. In 1931 more than a fifth of all Jews lived in Poland.” At the time of the 1939 invasion, the number of Jews who claimed Polish as their first language was rising, as it had been for the past decade.

And then they were gone: the Jews, the Roma, the “national minorities”, the others, dead in the ghettoes and camps or fled.

Fairly quickly, Poland became used to the story of being one religion, one ethne. By letting the story stand, unquestioned, the BBC colluded in this myth making. Interwar Poland was not a model of diversity, but it was a thriving, growing multinational, multiethnic, multi-religious nation-State. The loss of that multi haunts more than Poland. Now more than ever, that history should be invoked. Rather than circulating naturalizing alibis for murderous inaction, open the doors to the refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants, around the world.

 

 

(Photo Credit: Roman Vishniac Collection, International Center of Photography)

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