Patriarchy never fails women; patriarchy always assaults women. #PatriarchyMustFall

 


In the news this week: in Cambodia rape victims have been “failed” by the so-called justice system; South Africa’s justice system is “failing” women; the United Kingdom “fails” women who suffer from domestic violence; and the United States’ program of mass incarceration fails all women, particularly women of color. The only problem with these “failures” is that they are successes. They are part and parcel of the public policy of patriarchy-as-nation-State. The State does not fail women; the State assaults women.

One of every twenty women in the world lives in the United States. One of every three women prisoners in the world is currently in a United States prison or jail, and that figure does not include immigrant detention centers. Globally, the 25 jurisdictions with the highest rate of female incarceration are 24 individual states and the District of Columbia. West Virginia tops that list, imprisoning 273 out of 100,000 women. There is no failure here. There is a decades long campaign to cage and otherwise brutalize women, and particularly women of color, all in the name of `protecting’ not only Society but also the women themselves.

In Cambodia, LICADHO, the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, released a report yesterday that documented the massive “failure” of the State to address rape: “LICADHO’s monitors report that it is usually the result of a failure by police to respond to reports by victims, and in some cases, of suspects being tipped off by police that a claim has been made against them … This report brings to light the immense failure of the Cambodian justice system to properly investigate and punish cases of sexual violence against women and children. The reasons for this failure are many: corruption, discriminatory attitudes towards women and girls, misinterpretation of the law, and lack of resources all combine to perpetuate and entrench a system in which impunity prevails.

“The report has focused on the failures of the justice system rather than on the experience of individual victims; it must not be forgotten that at the centre of all the cases discussed there were women and children who had experienced a terrifying and violent attack resulting in psychological and often physical trauma. The failure of the criminal justice system to punish their attackers compounds their experience of abuse and perpetuates the harm they suffer. Moreover, every failure to punish reinforces existing public mistrust of the Cambodian justice system and conveys the message that rape is not an offence that will be treated seriously; it not only lets down the victims concerned but reduces the likelihood that future victims will take the risk of reporting the crimes committed against them.”

There is no failure in Cambodia. Police refuse to respond. The State refuses to put women and children at the center. We hear similar reports from South Africa, where the justice system fails “to adequately address gender based violence since the impunity of men as rapists is tacitly accepted.” Likewise, in the United Kingdom, when the State proposes to cut or almost eliminate domestic violence services, we are told, “The current government is failing women.”

There is no failure here. The State seeks to reduce women’s autonomy and dignity, and thereby extract ever more value, all of which accrues to men’s power, stature, wealth and pleasure. None of this is new. It’s the oldest play in patriarchy’s rulebook. Stop calling structural violence against women “failure.” Call it violence against women, and stop it. #PatriarchyMustFall

 

(Photo Credit: EPA / Kim Ludbrook / Daily Maverick)

In Greece, the presidents, the austerity measures, and the resistance of women

Women's Solidarity House banner

No women alone during the crisis!

While President Francois Hollande was visiting the Greek political elite in Athens and asking the Greek people, whom he would not meet, to make more efforts, the women of the Women’s Solidarity House in Thessaloniki told us what it means to live with making these efforts demanded by the politics of austerity.

They lost their jobs, their pensions, electricity, their way of life, and then they were asked for more money in taxes than they actually received. Meanwhile the Troika refused to tax companies at 12.5% while the VAT was raised to 23%. None of this is Mr. Hollande’s concern. He came to Greece with four ministers, especially his Minister of Finance, and a corporate escort. Entrepreneurial France is the fourth largest investor in Greece, after Germany, Luxembourg and The Netherlands.

The third memorandum accepted by Alexis Tsipras required the creation of a privatization fund of 50 Billion Euros. Francois Hollande presented himself as a friend of Greece. As a return on “political” investments, he brought a team to collect the last bargains on the market of privatization of public services and buildings. The politics of friendship can be brutal.

Alexis Tsipras was elected on the promise of opposing the power of the members of the Troika formed by three non-elected entities (the EU Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank), and their prescriptions that have already led to catastrophic recession and the destruction of the social structures of the country. In 2012, the Troika required the elimination of the Greek social housing program as well as housing support programs for low-income families in exchange for additional financial credit to pay the interests of an already odious debt. During the first mandate of Alexis Tsipras the head of the Hellenic parliament, Zoe Konstantopoulou, mandated The Debt Truth Committee, which has audited the debt with the support of the CADTM. The preliminary report’s results were edifying. This was embarrassing for the European commission that serves creditors. It could have derailed the perfect plan that they had in store for Greece. The coup was the dissolution of the assembly and the reelection of Mr. Tsipras on September 20th. He formed a new government with a new assembly then cleared out “the irritating” branch of his party that had demanded and supported the audit of the public debt.

At the Women’s Solidarity House no one is fooled. One morning, a woman stopped to say hello. To make ends meet, she is now reduced to selling lighters. She is from Veria, known for its cotton and clothing factories. At the end of the 80s with the advent of neoliberal policies of delocalization, the factories were moved to cheaper labor Bulgaria. Then, the debt crisis completed the desolation and now, she said, there is nothing.

At the Women’s Solidarity House women have organized a strong resistance to the austerity measures. As their banner states, “No women alone during the crisis.” Now that the third memorandum, probably the harshest of the three, is going to be implemented, the women’s belief that solidarity is their best weapon has grown even stronger.

Clearly, Mr Hollande did not wander the streets of Athens. He did not want to meet women such as those of the Women’s Solidarity House of Thessaloniki. In response to this financial deterritorialization that brought precarity, these women created a space where collaboration, solidarity, friendship, comfort and joy nourishes their determination to fight against austerity policies and the dictated unacceptable elimination of their rights.

We must challenge the purpose of the debt system that serves a minority and imposes on population the speculative exploitation of all sorts of corruptions and financial games and as a result disassembles social rights gained in the past decades without bringing any economic stability of course. Too bad that Mr. Hollande forgot to invite “experts” on women rights and human rights instead of investors!

Women's Solidarity House meeting

Women’s Solidarity House meeting

 

(Photo Credit: Marie-Hélène Le Ny)

Radio WIBG: Lauren Tooker on student debt and women bearing the brunt

At the CADTM Summer University, the workshop on private debt and resistance broached the system of private debt as debt that is forced on people as public debt is forced on States. The workshop covered micro lending in Morocco, mortgage loan based eviction in Spain, financialization processes in Eastern Europe, and student loans in the UK.

Lauren Tooker talked to us about the student loan crisis in the UK. In 2012 a reform swept the universities in the UK introducing an important increase in education fees. This reform came with a system of loans specially designed to create a source of profit at the expense of equality in education. With a student debt system, women and minorities are losing space and rights.

The United Kingdom is the first European Country that has followed the path of the United States in the direction of for-profit education. As the scandal of the student unfair loan system in the United States is becoming more visible, finally hitting the news, the UK students have decided to organize and take action. Lauren came to the CADTM to link their struggle to the anti debt movement in general.

Resistance comes with conscientization, building spaces and organizing. Listen to Lauren Tooker.

(Recording by Brigitte Marti) (Debt Strike image: The Guardian)

OXI! Greek women say NO to the Dictatorship of the Debt

For the last five years, Women In and Beyond the Global has maintained a series on Greek women, and women in Greece, during the ongoing `crisis’. These pieces have been written by Brigitte Marti, Sonia Mitralia, Dan Moshenberg. We’ve also provided translation for a video, Canaries in the Coalmine.

Given the weekend’s referendum, we thought it would be a good idea to put those pieces that focus exclusively on Greece together. The struggle continues!

Asylum-seeker Mandana Daneshnia and her daughter haunt democracy. Dan Moshenberg. October 24, 2010. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=710

We are all canaries in the coal mine. Brigitte Marti. December 4, 2013. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=6613

Deprivation in Greece … just an emotional issue??? Brigitte Marti. December 30, 2013. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=6670

Violence Against Women as a strategic weapon in a time of class war in Greece. Sonia Mitralia. January 3, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=6676

Women’s rights, labor rights did not cause the Greek mess. Brigitte Marti. February 2, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=7989

The urgency of an independent women’s movement against debt and austerity measures. Sonia Mitralia. February 4, 2014 http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=8146

In Greece, from debt to prison to death. Brigitte Marti. March 30, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=11293

In Athens, women cleaners reject austerity’s mess. Brigitte Marti. April 6, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=11785

The people do not celebrate Greece’s return to the debt market. Brigitte Marti. April 21, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=12642

Greek cleaning women demand an end to austerity. Dan Moshenberg. June 14 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=15727

Solidarity with Greek women cleaners against austerity! Brigitte Marti. July 7, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=15768

In Greece, austerity builds its own gulag. Dan Moshenberg. July 8, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=15772

Cleaners: A handful of women show the way! Sonia Mitralia. August 6, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=15831

The experiment continues, and we are all still canaries in the coal mine. Brigitte Marti. November 19, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=16064

A new beginning for Greece and for Europe starts today! Brigitte Marti. February 18, 2014. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=18325

Appeal to support the resisting Greek people and its Truth Commission on Public Debt. Sonia Mitralia. May 27, 2015 http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=18751

Across Europe women campaign against the Dictatorship of the Debt. Brigitte Marti. June 15, 2015. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=18866

In Greece, the women cleaners show the way! Brigitte Marti. June 25, 2015. http://www.womeninandbeyond.org/?p=18914

#OXI! #GreeceIsTheWord!

 

(Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andreas Solaro) (Photo Credit: Getty Images / Christopher Furlong)

In Greece, the women cleaners show the way!

Ministry of Finance laid-off women cleaners react as they watch the new Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis announcing that the government will re-hire them, in Athens, on January 28, 2015

In Athens, the women cleaners of the Ministry of Finance knew that what was thrown in the trash was to be disappeared. When the Troika ordered that women like them be replaced by contracted workers in order to save Greece, they knew that their lives were supposed to end up in the trash cans. The women cleaners knew that the structural adjustment programs imposed on Greece with ice cold effrontery were as those that had been imposed catastrophically on many other emergent countries. The Preliminary Report of the Truth Committee on Public Debt has established enough elements to assert the dual role of the Troika: bail out the foreign banks; continue the destruction of public services.

The Troika was formed to extend and legitimize the neoliberal project of transferring private debt onto the public sector.

The public sector means us, and, among us, women are the most affected. The women cleaners knew that the crisis of the public debt was a way to bring ordinary people to their knees. They knew that corruption and fraud were being rewarded and aggravated with the memoranda of the Troika. They knew about the corporate media campaign to “portray the population as deservers of their own wrongdoing.”

Their action in front of the minister lasted until the election of Syriza, and epitomizes the resistance to the looting of Greece by this political system of debt. They already discovered the fictitious contracts with Siemens, German French and US banks and speculators. Thanks to bribes from armaments corporations like Thales, Greece boasted the highest expenditure on armaments of the EU countries, proportionate to the size of its economy. The State bought Leopard tanks without contracts and even bought F16 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin … without the engines.

The Olympic games of 2004 were overbilled using outrageous interest rates. Siemens “loaned” its security system, which never worked, and the list of fraudulent and deceitful contracts is long.

The Preliminary Report also describes the falsification of public deficit and public debt using financial techniques to inflate public debt in 2009. The illegal private contracts disappeared from view, and what was left was that people of Greece had to be punished for this dubious public debt. Déjà vu!

The preliminary report defines four types of debt: illegitimate, illegal, odious, and unsustainable. It concluded that Greece’s public debt was an assembly of the four. It infringed on the fundamental human rights of the Greek population. The Preliminary Report clearly established the impact of the measures, especially for women and migrants: “The crisis hit disproportionately women and migrants increasing involuntary part time work and unfair dismissals due to pregnancy.” The Troika made the world believe that it was moral to cut hospital and health care spending to honor military contracts; that it was moral to send people to their death for an economic shell game. The list of negative impacts of the “bail out” program on human rights is equally long.

The women cleaners knew that all along! They fought with courage to re humanize their lives along with the lives of many, our lives!

Let’s remind the creditor-embezzlers represented by the Troika that we are not fooled and they cannot deceive the civil population anymore, although they are still trying. The Truth Committee on Public Debt is an important process, which can only succeed with popular mobilization. The women cleaners of the Ministry of Finance showed the way.

Across Europe women campaign against the Dictatorship of the Debt

In March the European Forum for Alternatives met. With austerity measures imposed over the populations of Europe under the fabricated argument of the need to repay a fictitious public debt, the solidarity among Europeans is growing more organized, especially with the rise of major feminist and feminine voices in Greece and Spain.

Among the many speakers, Zoe Konstantopoulou, recently elected Speaker of the Vouli (Greek Parliament), presented the stakes for Europe as her country has been the theater of the most odious experimentation of European Structural Adjustment Programs, symbolized by austerity. As she said, the neoliberal order reigns in the EU and has created its own destructive weapon with the Troika. It wants to neutralize all opposition and diffuse its power based on debt anxiety.

The forum’s many workshops brought the voices of women who have fought for their rights, including Giorgia Ekonomou, one of the Greek Finance Ministry cleaners; the representatives of the hair cutters of the 57 bvd Sebastopol in Paris; and the hotel chambermaids who won recognition for their workers’ rights.

In her speech about the audit of the Greek debt, a true European issue, Zoe Konstantopoulou acknowledged these feminist battles as well as the brutal destruction of human rights that came as the result of the Troika memoranda. The battle against austerity measures is also a transnational feminist battle.

Regrettably, Zoe Konstantopoulou is the only woman that has a prominent position in Greece since the election of Syriza. Still, as Yorgos Mitralias of the Greek Committee Against the Debt told me, she was not supposed to exist and so is a gift fallen from heaven. She is the voice of reason for many. She wants to shatter corruption, especially financial corruption, while not losing the purpose of political representation as the means of defending the civil society with all its members. “In Greece, we have a systematic infringement on human rights, social rights, worker’s rights on democratic rule of law, on the welfare state,” declared Zoe Konstantopoulou when she was first elected to the parliament in 2012.

Last April in Rome, Zoe Konstantopoulou was keynote speaker at the conference of the European Union parliaments. She began by questioning the title of the session, “A discussion about the Continent of Fundamental Rights. A Europe of Freedom, Solidarity, and Security.” She said, “Is it a discussion about the past, the present, or the future? Is it a discussion about Europe as it used to be, as it is or as it should be? Is it a discussion about the whole of Europe or about part of it?” She remarked that Europe as expressed by its executives, banking and financial sectors, seems to have lost its way during the five last years. She questioned the emphasis on numerical and economic estimation that have been proven to be gross miscalculations, and she ranked competitiveness way below human rights in the European hierarchy.

Her speech addressed the dictatorship of debt: she explained that State debt, as a new European epidemic, is being used as a pretext but also as a tool to retreat the State from its responsibility vis-à-vis human rights and democratic rights. She sees State debt as an extortion mechanism and reminded her audience of the extraordinary trail of misery and death that austerity policies provoked.

Konstantopoulou also reaffirmed the importance of an uncorrupt parliament, a place where no forceful interventions should occur. Since 2005 the Greek parliament has been the theater of all kinds of violence with 800 pages of laws pushed by the Troika, targeting basic human rights, public services, and shielding financial crimes and tax evasion. Just recently a stand off with the Minister of the Interior Panoussis took place with the intrusion of police forces in the parliament that she condemned.

With her anticorruption stand, Zoe Konstantopoulou has become the target of all sorts of attacks including from members of her own government. According to Yorgos Mitralia, But the campaign against her is reaching a new level punctuated with sexist slurs. So far the support to Syriza and Alexis Tsipras’ government is strong with 65-70% approval rate. Although it is a critical moment with the audit of the debt in progress and the hard negotiations with the Eurogroup, Zoe’s initiatives are well supported by the people of Greece and even beyond Greece’s borders

Meawhile, in Spain, three prominent political positions have been won by progressive women in the last elections with the success of Manuela Carmena, the new mayor of Madrid, of Ada Colau in Barcelona, and of Monica Oltra in the Valencia region. All three got their votes for their strong stand against financial corruption, and for defending social consciousness, the only way to reduce the impact of neoliberal totalitarian austerity promises, begetting inequalities, the plague of women’s lives. The movement is growing and a new solidarity is forming in which women are playing a key role.

Zoe Konstantopoulou addresses the European Forum for Alternatives

 

(Lead Photo Credit: http://kaosenlared.net) (Photo Credit: http://www.european-left.org)

Life & Times of Ms K

 

Ms K is dead. Her death was exemplary. A woman enters prison for the first time, a troublesome woman, and within weeks is found hanging in her cell. Here’s her story, as recounted in Learning from PPO Investigations: self-inflicted deaths of prisoners – 2013/14, the most recent report from the Prison and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales:

Ms K had a history of mental ill health. After a long period of stability she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after a number of attempts to kill herself.

She was discharged to the care of the community team but was arrested almost immediately, when she threatened to kill her former partner.

She was remanded to prison after a doctor decided she would not benefit from further hospital treatment. It was her first time in prison.

A nurse immediately began ACCT procedures and recommended constant supervision. However, prison staff set four observations an hour.

She tried to hang herself twice in the first evening, and was moved to a safer cell and constantly supervised. Nearly two weeks after arriving in prison she was referred to a psychiatrist, who did not believe she should be in prison and immediately began to organise a transfer back to hospital. Tragically, Ms K died before this could take place.

Frequent ACCT case reviews were held and most were multi-disciplinary. However, there were several occasions when prison managers chose not to follow, and sometimes not to ask, the advice of clinical staff. Clinicians said that their opinion was not listened to, which was particularly troubling for a prisoner with such severe mental health problems.

Ms K was difficult to manage and her moods were unpredictable, extreme and liable to change quickly. She made a number of serious and determined attempts to hang herself.

An enhanced case review process could have helped ensure more consistency in the staff involved in her care, and made sure all input was given sufficient weight.

For the Ombudsman researchers, Ms K’s case is “one example” of the “failure” to “consider enhanced case review process” when a prisoner’s history suggests “wide ranging and deep seated problems.” Ms K’s death was, and is, exemplary.

Last year, prison suicides in England and Wales reached a seven-year high. The majority of prisoners who engaged in suicide were White men. For men and women of all group, hanging was the preferred method of dying. Ms K’s death was, and is, exemplary.

There is no tragedy here, and, despite the Ombudsman’s best intentions, there is nothing to learn. Ms K’s death is a miniscule part of a global assembly line at which employees dutifully stand and wait for the next body to ignore. The prisons of England and Wales, with their mounting piles of prisoners’ corpses, are a tiny part of the global work of necropower: “I have put forward the notion of necropolitics and necropower to account for the various ways in which, in our contemporary world, weapons are deployed in the interest of maximum destruction of persons and the creation of death-worlds, new and unique forms of social existence in which vast populations are subjected to conditions of life conferring upon them the status of living dead … Under conditions of necropower, the lines between resistance and suicide, sacrifice and redemption, martyrdom and freedom are blurred.”

Ms K is dead. Her death is an example. Nothing more.

 

(Image Credit: Open Democracy / National Offender Management Service)

Why the number of prisoners committing suicide rose so sharply last year

 

Last year, prison suicides in England and Wales reached a seven-year high, according to the Howard League for Penal Reform, the Prison and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales, and the House of Commons Justice Committee. For all three, this dubious accomplishment parallels cuts in prison staff, harsher prison regimes, and various `efficiencies’ imposed across the so-called justice system. Add to that cuts in public health and housing services. Austerity kills.

The Ombudsman’s most recent report, Learning from PPO Investigations: self-inflicted deaths of prisoners – 2013/14, found a 64% increase in self-inflicted deaths in custody over the previous year. While that number captured a bit of attention, here’s a paragraph that many overlooked: “There were self-inflicted deaths at 53 different prisons, 56% more than the previous year. This included prisons where there had not been self-inflicted deaths for many years, sometimes ever.” Under austerity measures, the Empire of Prison Suicides has expanded rapidly and hungrily.

The Empire has expanded both geographically and demographically. Who are the ones who perished `at their own hands’? “In 2013/14, the prisoners who died were significantly less likely to have been convicted or charged with violent and sexual offences. There was also a significant increase in deaths among those serving short sentences of less than six months.”

Most of the prisoners who committed suicide were in their first month of custody. More had spent less than two hours out of their cell in the days before their deaths. Not `hardened’ nor `violent’ nor `in for long’. In other words, more or less ordinary people.

Frances Cook, Executive Director of the Howard League, noted, “No one should be so desperate whilst they are in the care of the state that they take their own life. The numbers hide the true extent of misery inside prisons and for families. It is particularly tragic that teenagers and other young people have died by their own hand in our prisons and we should all be ashamed that this happened.”

The tragedy is in the deaths, not the ages, and we should indeed all be ashamed. The State is not ashamed. As a Justice Committee report last week noted, “The prison system in England and Wales has one of the highest incarceration levels in Europe, standing at 149 per 100,000 people.” The report noted that when Justice Secretary Grayling was presented with the rising tide of suicide, his response was to blame society. On the question of suicides, the Justice Committee report concluded, “The Ministry told us they had looked hard for evidence of factors which could be causing an increase in suicide rates, self-harm and levels of assault in prisons. Worryingly, they had not managed to arrive at any hypothesis as to why this has taken place. In our view it is not possible to avoid the conclusion that the confluence of estate modernisation and re-configuration, efficiency savings, staffing shortages, and changes in operational policy, including to the Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme, have made a significant contribution to the deterioration in safety.”

We should all be ashamed, and we should all be worried, worried about States that have looked and refuse to see, refuse to see unavoidable conclusions and, even more, refuse to see the humanity in each of us. Global leaders of incarceration, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, have gained their ascendancy by stuffing more and more people into prisons and jails, and then expressing shock and dismay when the conditions of confinement push prisoners to self-harm and suicide. A war on crime turns whole populations into `a problem’ and entire neighborhoods into lands belonging to no one. It’s a kind of genocide by erasure.

In the United Kingdom last year, almost all those prisoners who killed themselves did so by hanging. They turned the belittling spectacle of their erasure into one last spectacle of sacrifice. While the State spokespeople express dismay, and the State accountants chalk it up as another efficiency, the various gods of justice and humanity look on and weep.

 

(Image Credit: rs21.org.uk)

The experiment continues, and we are all still canaries in the coal mine

When Greek public debt exploded in 2010 some started asking, “Why Greece why now?”

The documentary “Les canaries dans la mine” (the Canaries in the Coal Mine), initially released in French in 2013, incorporates many voices from unionists, community health center managers, students, to journalists and politicians and more. They all conclude that what happened to Greece is an experiment to dismantle public services and democratic ideals. As Zoe says in the documentary: “Greece is a laboratory for those who think that human rights, human existence can be subjected to experiments.”

I recently talked with Sophia Tzitzikou on the occasion of the release of the documentary in English (with English subtitles). She runs a health community center in Athens and was interviewed in the documentary. I asked how the situation has evolved since the filming of the documentary: “It is worse.” As a result of the inhuman austerity measures that have destroyed public services and employment, poverty in on the rise. “There are no policies in favor of the poor, and public hospitals continue to be shut down.” The situation is especially dire for psychiatric hospitals: “Three of them were recently closed in Athens. The patients were simply sent to the streets.”

As a member of Greece’s UNICEF delegation, Sophia emphasized, “36% off Greek children now live in poverty, with 340 000 of them in conditions of social exclusion.” Her tone expressed her anger, as she added that the abortion rate has never been so high. Sophia explained, “Women simply don’t want to bring life into this misery.” Not to forget that in Greece giving birth used to be covered within a decent public health care system that has been taken apart by austerity measures imposed by The Troika, the financiers of Europe.

Even these numbers hardly describe the new reality. As Sophia said, “We have the feeling that our lives don’t belong to us anymore. Human rights are violated everyday, rights to work, rights to health, rights to have children, rights to live. We are now removed from all of that.”

The experiment continues. Puerto Rico is one of the last casualties of this neoliberal attack on the public and its services. This time, the order to enforce austerity measures on the US territory came directly from Wall Street with no shame. The credit-rating agencies like Standard & Poor set the tone as they “downgraded” the territory. Then, using the same tools as the Troika did in Greece, the remedy was made self-evident: cut public budgets, close public schools and reduce public services. The US financial markets have their grip on the island. Again, unions have been equally targeted. We see the same tools being used to discard public services over and over.

Watch the Canaries in the Coal Mine, it will inform you about these neoliberal attacks on workers, women and the public at large…us. We are all still canaries in the coal mine.

 

(Video Credit: YouTube/Yannick Bovy)

Convergence, tous et toutes ensemble, resistons, all together we can resist

La Maternite des Lilas

On September 23d, an important demonstration was organized in front of the Minister of Health in Paris. The demonstration was organized by the movement Convergences of the hospitals fighting against Hosterity (Convergences des hopitaux en lutte contre l’Hosterity), which gathers together personnel from public hospitals associated with numerous associations defending women’s reproductive rights. They coined the term hosterity to indicate the strong correlation between the disassembling of the public hospital and the austerity measures that have shattered public services throughout Europe.

The neoliberal grip on the European population through the implementation of austerity measures has opened the way to uncontrollable privatization of hospitals and health care services. In Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, France and beyond, public hospitals are sold to private firms or health care systems. In particular, the French health care service, once praised for its efficiency and quality, has been the target of a series of neoliberal restructurations.

In 2012, the Chairman of the European Bank, Mario Draghi stated that the European Social Model was gone. What he meant was that under the aegis of neoliberal ideologues the rhetoric of needed reforms was going to force a drastic change for the public and its services. The immediate target has been the reproductive health sector, followed by other health care services.

The story of the maternity hospital of les Lilas epitomizes the gendered techniques employed to disassemble a solidarity system and the need for an active and political convergence of resisting forces. And so the Convergence movement was created.

On September 23d the women of the maternity hospital arrived with their now famous banderole that says, “La maternité des Lilas vivra”. The Maternity hospital of Les Lilas will live. The determination of its personnel is remarkable. They know first hand the accounting manipulations that have strangled their department and have denounced this attack on public health care. Giving birth is free of charge by national law, and so the way to attack this principle was to create administrative constraints and force many local maternity departments to close down and send women to maternity “factories” with fewer and fewer midwives and ob-gyn.

I talked with head of the department Marie Laure Brival and the midwives and the nurses, and the members of the supporting collective. In 2009, said Marie Laure Brisal, the budget for the necessary renovations was agreed on by the experts and signed by the Minister of Health. Then, under the same government, the restructuration of the health administration created the conditions through this new health plan for a retroactive review of this budget. The goal was to create big health structures in which ob-gyn departments had to be rearranged in factory-like structures with fewer personnel, and more deliveries and other reproductive services. In France, maternity hospitals take care of delivering babies as well as contraception and abortion services since both are what women need.

The maternity hospital les Lilas is located in a populous suburb of Paris and provides personal non-threatening service to women. The dedication of the staff to the comfort of women has been a model for many.

“Our fight has been going on for the past four years and has taken a national dimension, we receive support from everywhere. They even come from beyond the French borders from all over Europe” said Marie Laure, adding, “They fought with obstinacy and elegance.” When candidate to the presidency of France, Francois Hollande gave his support to the fight and promised that Les Lilas would remain open. “Unfortunately,” said Maris Laure Brival, “Political statements do not last long.”

The midwives told me that they were exhausted. Besides providing an excellent and peaceful environment, they have to organize and continue the actions in every way possible. I talked with women who have been patients there and all explained that it was a memorable experience.

Having just won a battle with the guarantee that they will not be absorbed by a bigger structure, they still have to obtain the complete funds to continue to put women first in a maternity hospital.

The bureaucratic structure Regional Health Authority have been operating since April 1 2010, Although they were presented as a necessary tool to enhance the health care system efficiency, their real function was to rationalize in a financial/accounting manner the delivery of care, in other words reduce social expenditures.

The American for-profit health care system is becoming the norm. The most universal systems are being transformed with the usual neoliberal tools that have the capacity of turning social responsibility into a violent arithmetic of profitability and deficits reduction. With this logic, the rhetoric of competitive enterprise and dehumanized factory production is applied to places of care.

In this context the struggle of the maternity hospital des Lilas is emblematic of the fight of women against the impoverishment of their lives with an overall continuously contested reproductive rights and health. Women are enormously affected by austerity measures or hosterity. First, they fill the ranks of poor workers, an expanding category. Women are overwhelmingly employed in care facilities, 49.8% of the public sector employment in France. In addition, when public care services are curtailed, women become unpaid care providers with all the consequences that implies. Finally, the restructuration of the reproductive health structures that are being pushed with this Hosterity represents an enormous set back for the entire health care system.

Last week, the demonstrators reaffirmed that health and social protection are not for sale. The convergence is broad. Other movements were represented from the struggle against austerity measures in Greece to the Spanish struggle for reproductive and health rights. Solidarities are being formed against the fragmentation of the civil society that characterizes the neoliberal order with its rhetoric of competition. Marie Laure Brival took the microphone and ended her speech with Tous ensemble resistons (all together we can resist) and the crowd repeated it several times. We are not competing we are cooperating against the neoliberal order!