Generation Cry: Taitu Kai Goodwin was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in Anguilla

Taitu Kai Goodwin

There is something unsettling in having the world’s eyes turned toward your community. My community. The world temporarily turned its focus toward the latest victims of the climate crisis in The Bahamas and rekindled sweeping debates about the human costs of environmental degradation. This is the reality of the Caribbean community during the hurricane season. We are tired and frustrated, but, as Kamau Brathwaite notes, the hurricane does not roar in pentameters.  Our grief cannot be measured. I watched the video clips from a Bahamian acquaintance of homes being inundated by storm surges. Facebook itself became flooded with posts by other folks from the Caribbean and its diaspora. It is Facebook that constitutes one of the lenses through which I frequently see and engage this community while I study in the United States capital. The United States capital; that place where the decision to refuse Bahamians temporary protected status was made. Facebook is also one of the main platforms on which I navigate global narratives about climate change, race relations, gender, and their intersections. The timeline comes alive. The world speaks. I listen. Everyone is committed to expressing the requisite amount of anguish, sorrow, and compassion. I’m pretty sure a lot of it is genuine. However, soon enough, posts about The Bahamas peter out, as most trending topics, no matter how grave, are wont to on these platforms. 

A few days pass and I find myself walking through the streets of downtown Manhattan after one in the morning. The reason doesn’t matter. I am alone and wary. I’m suddenly overcome with the fear that I could be attacked and so I quicken my pace and phone a friend, a St. Lucian, also studying in the US, to keep me company until I arrive at my destination. I make it home in one piece. I am safe…but home and safe are not synonymous. I eventually make my way back to DC and soon enough I fall back into the rhythm of my daily routine: I log onto Facebook. The timeline is flooded with eulogies for someone I attended high school with in Antigua over a decade ago. Her name was Taitu Kai Goodwin and she was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in Anguilla. Taitu Kai Goodwin. Taitu. Daughter of the Soil. Antigua Girls’ High School Alumna. Former Ambassador’s daughter. Miss Anguilla. Someone I knew. Taitu. Her murder is preceded by the killing of another woman in a domestic dispute, Carissa Chandler, in Antigua earlier this year. Carissa’s death is preceded by another. Taitu’s death is followed by another. And another, and another. I do not know all of their names. Life in Leggings and Walking into Walls will tell you. Taitu. Someone I knew was a victim of gender-based violence. I remember Taitu very well. I recall her bubbly personality and incandescent grins. Some classmates even joked at the time that we could pass for twins. I am shocked and overcome. Verklempt. Taitu.

Facebook is flooded with an outpouring of grief from Antiguans and Anguillans. This time it isn’t the global, or rather, the regional gaze that unsettles me but the way that Facebook prompts us to give shape to dialogues around violence and death. For a given person there is an earnest post about the tragedy of her death and of the scourge that is violence against women. In five minutes, something else has caught that person’s attention: a meme, another social issue, a life experience. But Taitu. While someone’s posting habits are hardly an indicator of how they feel internally, and while I cannot presume to tell anyone how to grieve, or how to express that grief, there is something disconcerting about the patterns of discourse on social media in times of tragedy. The Lorde, Audre that is, reminds us that we do not live single-issue lives. However, in stepping back to scrutinize these patterns, it is clear that, like the devastation in The Bahamas, violence against women is often reduced to a trending topic. For a few days we lament the prevalence of domestic and gender-based violence as a group. At the individual level, we are quickly compelled to move on and shelve violence against women for another day. For another tragedy. For another Taitu. In  “Generation Why”, Zadie Smith says that “when a human being becomes a set of data on a website like Facebook, he or she is reduced. Everyone shrinks…one nation under a format”. Not only are the complexities of character reduced, but our attention and range of empathy. And while Facebook does not necessarily create the conditions whereby we are reduced, it acts as a conduit that amplifies. Reduction squared. We can only care if we knew her. If we knew her, we can only be sad for so long. It’s time to move on to something else. But I wanted time to stop. I wanted that moment, the focus on Taitu, and on violence against women, to freeze. I wanted that moment to swell with the rage of women across the Caribbean until it spilled over and drowned the misogyny that keeps killing us. But it was not to be. The posts are petering out again. It’s something else now.

(Photo Credit: The Antigua Daily Observer)

The English of Domestic Violence, and The Domestic Violence of English

The English of Domestic Violence, and The Domestic Violence of English

We split infinitives
We split the atom
We split a skull

What wonderful beings
we are (we men)
we who are superior
to all things

We crack a walnut
We crack a joke
We crack a (spare) rib

We blow out a candle
We blow into our hands for warmth
Those same hands that 
strike a blow

We strike a match
We go on strike – 
and come home to strike
a woman and (girl) child
(in the quiet and dark 
of family life away
from the glare of the public)

We build confidence
We build houses (albeit matchbox ones)
We build relationships, which we
then break down like they are
our matchbox houses

We march, against apartheid
(of the statute book and the mind)
Sometimes we even march against 
capitalism and woman and child abuse

We name our children
We name hurricanes
We call women names

We take up burning issues
and bride-burning continues

We arrange our furniture
and we arrange marriages

What wonderful beings
we are (we men)
we who are superior
to all things

(Penned Saturday, October 08, 2005)

Photo Credit: Silindelo Masikane / enca)

Disinterring Women’s Words (Mots Ecrits)

In France, on August 12, she was the 88th or maybe the 89th victim. She was 71 years old. There is no age limit to being killed by your partner, husband or ex. There are now 101 women victims of feminicide since January and the death toll will continue to grow. The epidemic is worldwide and almost permanently active. In France the government declared its intention to organize a conference in September to address the issue widely but failed to announce more funding. Compared to the 200 million euros Spain devoted for a national pact against domestic violence that is also called machismo terrorism, France scores poorly with its promised 79 million euros. It is time to face the reality of feminicide in France, and elsewhere.

The theatrical project Mots Ecrits, conceptualized by the actress Sophie Bourel from a collection of archives on women’s lives, makes visible invisibilized violence against women. Bourel decided that the first part of her project will concern the issue of feminicides, an issue that brings the everlasting danger for women of being killed as well as a sense of urgency.  For Mots Ecrits, Bourel collects a corpus of archives on feminicides and creates a theatrical performance based on these written words. With a wide variety of documents, what she calls “de la matière” (raw material), she is able to give life to the words to make the performance live fully and independently.

Sophie Bourel feels that she has an enormous responsibility since feminicide still ravages society. When we met her one morning, she was all excited because she received documents from the archives of a French department. She welcomed us with “Hello I am so happy,” as if she had found a treasure. In fact, for her it was a treasure, since finding anything about women including about their assassination by partners, lovers etc. is so difficult. The invisibility of women is multifaceted and the invisibility of their elimination is at the source of their absence in public space. The files she received that morning concerned a crime that occurred January 16, 1975 in a French town on the Loire river. The woman killed that day first appeared in police records in July 1968. She went to the police station to report violence in her home and her son had a head injury; her neighbor also testified. This ended up in a murder attempt in June 1975, when the perpetrator raped and locked her up. She filed a complaint and got an apartment to which she moved with her children. But she was not safe. At the end of 1975, he visited her. She went to the police station to say that she was scared. On January 16, 1976, he waited outside her apartment building, grabbed her, dragged her to the riverbank and shot her twice.

Sophie Bourel doesn’t see this as an isolated case. She created a list of 78 and then 80 graves. She says, “If I look at my list, I am going to find a woman who has been killed in a similar way: 2 pistol or gun shots! I am going to put the two women in contact with one another to create a sort of echo, the one who died 50 years ago with the one who died in 2019. Killed in the same manner. It is as if one opened her casket to welcome the newly killed.” She adds that it is also a way to fight because we must fight, for if we don’t, nothing will happen to save women. Men should be afraid of killing women.

Within the archive she received, there was also a petition sent to Francoise Giroud, Secretary of State in charge of the condition of women from 1974 to 1976, the first ever ministry established in France that concerned women’s issues The text said:

Reasons for the choice of this type of petition:

The Judicial procedures and the possibilities of intervention of the bodies in charge of people’s safety seem to be able to work only after the crime has been committed. This procedure has the inconvenience of requiring the death of the person first before being able to activate the wheels of law. On the other hand, it has the advantage of not forcing the judges to make preventative decisions (that can be traumatic for the perpetrators).

This petition clearly shows the objectification of women and sadly points to the State as engendering such a view. Representation of human beings in the State means visibility and therefore the opportunity to be heard and seen. It means conferring the person or group with an identity, or a face. If a human being is not recognized by the State, that person is an object and can be killed. As Hannah Arendt points out, when people are objectified, they can be eliminated. Objectification of humans or the environment is the precondition to destruction. Conscience or ethical responsibility is tossed. 

When Pramila’s mother, disabled and sick, was threatened by a family member, she had to get the help of police and lawyers. In one instance, the police said that she could be left alone with the violent family member. When Pramila objected that her mother is in danger of being hurt or even killed, the police responded, “Then we can bring a case against the perpetrator. No problem.” She was aghast. To even suggest that an old, ill and disabled woman should be killed in order to bring her perpetrator to justice is unconscionable.

When Nirbhaya’s rape, known as the Delhi rape case in 2012 led to mass movement for justice for women, a British journalist interviewed the rapists for the BBC. Recounting the incident in which Nirbhaya was sexually assaulted, one of the rapists, Singh, said “While being raped, she shouldn’t have fought back. She should have remained silent and allowed the rape.”  We know that passivity would not have saved Nirbhaya’s life. 

Worse yet is the law’s weakness when it comes to justice for women. Nirbhaya had to die after the gruesome mauling of her body in order for her case to go to the fast-track court! Alive, she had no protection against her assaulters. 

French law has evolved very slowly, and has repeatedly failed to protect women. In March 1994, France introduced a series of laws against violence (in general), but it is only in 2003 that domestic violence is seen as an aggravating circumstance by the law. Since then, almost every year, a new amendment was passed in the desperate attempt to tackle the number of women killed by their partners and exes, but to no avail (articles 221-4222-12 and 222-13 of the French criminal code). 

In comparison, in 2004 Spain reformed its criminal court system to bring down domestic violence, creating 106 specialized courts and an adapted prosecution bringing the rate of Spanish women killed by their husbands from 71 to 43. In Canada, because of the nature of the harm of domestic violence, the judges can provide for release conditions such as “no contact” until the trial or appeal even where no offence has been committed. Yet, where personal injury or damage is feared, courts can also order “peace bonds or recognizances.” The French Criminal laws also contain a number of special provisions that serve to protect victims, but these means are almost never used by the judges and the police. 

How many women have to die in order to change the mentality about the role and rights of women? How many women have to show the scars, the badges of abuse, in order to be heard, and in order for the law to be comprehensively enforced? Laws regarding “national” security are immediately carried out and enforced! The urgency of the situation should have forced us to act a long time ago. Meanwhile, in France, 93 women have died since January 1st. Every week, 3 women are killed by their respective partners. For 3000 years women have been abused by men. In many countries, our laws have been written by men and (un)enforced by men. This is not acceptable.

(Photo Credit 1: France Culture / Denis Meyer / Hans Lucas / AFP)

In France, women demand an end to femicide now, without delay!

On Saturday, the French women’s organization Féminicides par compagnons ou ex reported a woman in Perpignan had been killed by her partner on Friday, July 5. That murder raised the number of women killed by partners this year in France to 74. Thanks to the work of various women’s organizations, for the past few days French media have been filled with articles concerning women killed by current and ex-partners, femicide, and the complete inaction of the State. On Saturday, tens of thousands of women and supporters protested in the streets of Paris. According to Nous Toutes, on Saturday, over 60,000 women and supporters across France protested and demanded action on Saturday. Today, the French press reported that, on Saturday, July 6, a woman in Yvelines, not far from Paris, was killed by her partner, raising the death toll to 75. The French government responded that they would start doing something in September. Why wait until September? Because August is vacation. Nous Toutes replied, “Monsieur le Président, les violences ne prennent pas de vacances. Nous ne pouvons pas attendre le 3 septembre. Des mesures peuvent être prises avant l’été pour faire cesser les féminicides.” Violence does not take a vacation. 

Tomorrow, women will go to the police to file complaints that will be refused.” 

In 2016, 123 women in France were killed by their current or former partners. Their complaints were refused. In 2017, 130 women in France were killed by their partners or ex partners. Their complaints were refused. Prominent women and women unknown to the public agree, “It’s a massacre.” Their assessment is refused. According to Féminicides par compagnons ou ex, last week alone, four women were killed by their current or former partners. Their complaints were refused. Gülçin Kaplan lodged five formal complaints against her former husband. Police did nothing, and in doing nothing refused those complaints. In January, Gülçin Kaplan was stabbed to death by her former husband. That was January. 

The women are killed by their current or former partners. The murderers are covered, embraced, supported and protected by the State. This happens everywhere. In England, rape survivors are disbelieved and viciously, intrusively cross examinedIn Indonesia, a woman provides damning evidence of her employer’s sexual harassment, and she’s sentenced to six months in jail. And that’s just from today’s news. Women are assaulted with impunity by their partners because their partners have been given immunity by the State. While France is not exceptional, the mobilization by women in France remains noteworthy.

Across France, women are saying, first, that femicide exists in France and that it must be included in French law. As of now, femicide is considered a “sociological” phenomenon, not a legal or criminal oneWomen are saying that femicide exists in France, and the State must stop claiming it never imagined such things could happen “at home”Across France, women are saying that words are fine, but concrete and immediate actions are demanded, and they point to Spain’s recent engagements with femicide, engagements in concrete policy implementationsAcross France, women are saying, “Never again!” and “Stop the massacre!” Across France, women are demanding an emergency plan that recognizes the urgency of the massacre, of the threat to women’s daily lives and futuresAcross France, women are demanding to know what exactly is the value of a woman’s life.

Across France, women are demanding action now. September is too late to start a “national debate”. In fact, July is too late for that debate. The time for action is now, because tomorrow, a woman will go to the police files complaints that will be refused.

(Photo Credit 1: France Culture / Denis Meyer / Hans Lucas / AFP)

(Photo Credit 2: Panorama)

India strips millions of women in Assam of their citizenship. Call it femicide

The documents these women presented were deemed invalid.

What’s it called when, with one sweep of a pen or publication of a report, millions of people `lose’ their citizenship. Today, India dropped over four million people living in the resource-rich state of Assam, in northeast India, from the citizenship lists. Poof. Gone. Four million. In one state. And, to no one’s surprise, the majority of the four million are women. Even if women weren’t overrepresented in the rollcall of the suddenly disappeared, the impact on women, individually and collectively, is particularly deep and vicious, and is particular to policy formation in patriarchal states and societies.

Today, the Indian government published the final draft of the National Register of Citizens, NRC, for Assam. Assam has been experiencing a considerable population growth over the last decade. About two-thirds of the state is Hindu, and one third is Muslim. For over seventy years, Indigenous Assamese, in particular the Bodo, and Bengali Muslims have opposed each other, often violently.

Those dropped from today’s citizenship lists are largely, almost exclusively, Bengali Muslims. Many view this as part of the national government’s saffron policies, turning secular multicultural India into Hindu India. Whatever the reasons, the NRC predictably targets, and eliminates, Bengali Muslim women. Shorbhanu Nessa’s story is typical of many Bengali Muslim women in Assam … and typical of many women across India and beyond.

Shorbhanu Nessa married before she was 18. She is surrounded by nevers that result in her elimination from the NRC: never went to school, never owned property, never had a bank account, never thought she needed to. She is the mother of five adult children. As far as Shorbhanu Nessa knew, being married to her husband was sufficient. Not any longer.

Shorbhanu Nessa’s son, Hussain Ahmad Madani, explains, “Because she never voted in her maiden home, she had no way to prove now that she was her father’s daughter. Her father’s legacy data is there, but she has no document to establish her linkage to him. There is no school certificate which would have mentioned his name. Her family settled in this char (a sand bar by a river in Assamese) when she was one-and-a-half years old after their char (Majarlega Char) was swallowed by the Brahmaputra. She was married off to my father in this same char. Though her father passed away, everyone in the neighbourhood knew whose daughter she was; trouble began when documentary evidence was sought by the NRC authorities to prove who her father was.”

Everyone knew, but this particular category of everyone doesn’t count.

Many of those who were dropped from the rolls are women. Almost all of them are Muslim. Most, if not all, are married. As of yet, there’s not an exact gender breakdown of the disappeared, but the stories are everywhere, repeating one another.

No matter how one cuts it, the design for the data collection for the NCR predictably attacked Muslim individuals and communities, who, for various reasons, would not have the documentary evidence to prove what everyone in the neighborhood knew and had known for years, decades and generations. What is it called when millions of people are stripped of their citizenship? Genocide.

But there’s something else here. The NRC structures specifically targeted Bengali Muslim women of Shorbhanu Nessa’s generation. In 1988, the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18. Bengali Muslim women, like Shorbhanu Nessa, were `encouraged’ to marry before they turned 18. Thus, they never voted using their birth, or maiden, names, and so now they can’t prove they are, and were, who they are, and were, precisely because they were dutiful daughters. None of this is surprising. It’s part of publicly and widely known culture in Assam, and it’s equally part of the NRC plan. The way the data was collected meant Bengali Muslim women would be disappeared, in large numbers, and that was perfectly fine with both Assamese officials and those in the national government. What’s it called when millions of women are disappeared in a single day? Femicide. In this world, citizenship is life. In one fell swoop, India created the single largest stateless population ever, and at the heart of that effort is the nation-State assault on women.

 

 

(Photo Credit: The Wire / Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty)

Every day in Latin America, 12 women are killed. Seven of them are killed in Mexico.

In 1993, a group of women shocked Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, with the news that dozens of girls and women had been murdered and dumped, like garbage, around the city during the year. As the numbers of murders grew over the years, and as the police forces proved unable and unwilling to find the perpetrators, the protestors became activists. They called the violence and consequent impunity for the crimes `femicide,’ and they demanded that the Mexican government, at the local, state, and federal levels, stop the violence and prosecute the murderers.”

In 1993, the murder of women, and the refusal of the State, in this instance the Mexican state, to do anything, was shocking. In an interview today, Luis Raúl González Pérez, President of Mexico’s National Commission for Human Rights, said that, across Latin America, 12 women are murdered every day. Seven women are killed every day in Mexico. In Mexico, this is called feminicidio. In English, it’s both femicide and feminicide. Whatever it’s called, it’s an atrocity, one that’s been created by successive Mexican governments, governments north and south, east and west of Mexico, multinational corporations, and more. Mexican femicide is the nation’s, and the world’s, cost of doing business. That’s why the hotspots of femicide in Mexico have moved from the southern border to the northern. Ever increasing mounds of women’s cadavers is not even collateral damage in the national, regional and global development scheme, and those mounds are piling up at an ever-increasing rate.

A recent report on household relations, from the National Institute for Statistics and Geography, suggests that in Mexico 7 out of every 10 women has experienced violence, most of which is sexual and emotional. Ten areas exceed the national average. In Mexico City, for example, eight of ten women have suffered violence.

Right now, 12 areas in Mexico have been issued a “femicide alert” by the Commission. Another five been under the alert for almost six months. When these alerts are issued, the locale often sees it as a hassle and an embarrassment. As González Pérez explained, “Local governments must see that this alert is a tool that does not seek to harm, but to contribute to the solution of the problem. [Some consider it a political coup] because it is misunderstood. It feels like it’s  reproaching them for the past, but it’s actually a proposal to move towards the future.” In what world do governments see femicide as a misplaced garbage dump, as bad for business, and nothing more? In our world.

Since that day in 1993, women have been protesting, organizing, militating against femicide. Mexican women have reached across borders and across oceans for support and for models of anti-femicide activism and policy. Since January 2016, Maria Salguero, a geophysical engineer, has designed and maintained an interactive femicide map. Guadalupe García Álvarez, a member of the Mazahua indigenous nation, suffered violence at home and then, at the age of 13, was sent to Mexico City to work as a maid. She decided enough was enough, and left. She went to university, completed her studies, and then returned home, where she founded, MULYD, Mujeres Lucha y Derechos Para Todas. Women’s Struggle and Rights for All (Women and Girls). Poets, such as Mijail Lamas, have invented new kinds of poetry, documentary poetry, to do more than “draw attention” to femicide and to violence against women. Lamas, and other poets, are insisting that the assault on women is an assault on language, on communication, on the soul and spirit of each and every human being, and not only in Mexico.

Every day, seven women in Mexico are murdered. That arithmetic is described as a crisis. It is. The crisis is violence, the violence committed by men in relationships, by men in corporations and investment agencies and banks, and by men in charge of governments, and not only the government of Mexico. Where is the global outrage at a contemporary witch hunt that threatens, as they always have, every woman?

 

(Photo credit: SDP Noticias / Claroscuro)

Mexico City: The femicide of earthquake and the feminism of recovery

On September 19, 2017, Mexico City was upturned by a powerful earthquake. Reports suggest that the quake killed 330 people nationwide. In Mexico City, 198 people lost their lives. Of the 198, 127 were women, 71 were men. This is the altogether predictable and planned mathematics of earthquakes, and of “natural disasters”. As with human stampedes, earthquakes have a morbid gender ratio, during the event and after.

Who are the women who died? The earthquake struck at 1:14 in the afternoon. Thirty-four buildings collapsed. Many of them were apartment buildings. According to Mexican sociologist Patricio Solis, the reason for the preponderance of women among the dead is straightforward: “the segregation of women and of gender roles.” First, many apartments were destroyed, and in the early afternoon, the residents were housewives and domestic workers. Second, a major garment sweatshop building collapsed, and its workers were almost all women. Third, a school collapsed, and its workers were predominantly women.

None of this is new. In the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, textile “factories” collapsed, and women workers perished. The factory building that collapsed this time had survived the 1985 earthquake. It was one of the few. It was well known to the authorities. It was well known that hundreds of women, many of them undocumented, worked for criminally low wages there. It was well known that the passageways and stairs were too narrow to accommodate everyone, should the need arise. One newspaper called the collapse and deaths “industrial homicide” and “state crime”. They should have included “industrial femicide” among the charges. Thus far, the government has remained silent.

None of this is new. A study published in 2007 considered “natural disasters” in 141 countries from 1981 to 2002: “We find, first, that natural disasters lower the life expectancy of women more than that of men. In other words, natural disasters (and their subsequent impact) on average kill more women than men or kill women at an earlier age than men … Second, the stronger the disaster (as approximated by the number of people killed relative to population size), the stronger this effect on the gender gap in life expectancy. That is, major calamities lead to more severe impacts on female life expectancy (relative to that of males) than do smaller disasters. Third, the higher women’s socioeconomic status, the weaker is this effect on the gender gap in life expectancy. Taken together our results show that it is the socially constructed gender-specific vulnerability of females built into everyday socioeconomic patterns that lead to the relatively higher female disaster mortality rates compared to men.”

In 2000, the Pan American Health Organization studied the increased and mass produced vulnerability of women and its toll in natural disasters and disaster relief. In 2002, the World Health Organization did as well. In 2005, Oxfam reported on the tsunami’s impact on women. And the list goes on. There is no surprise in the gender of earthquake mortality rates. We were told for over a decade, and we did nothing. We did less than nothing. We built more unsafe workspaces, and we segregated the working day ever more fiercely. We wear the dead in the filaments of our clothing.

After the buildings collapsed, women from across Mexico rushed to the streets of Mexico City and, in many parts, led the rescue efforts, searching for loved ones and strangers in the rubble. Self-described feminist brigades rushed to the factory in the Colonia Obrera. As Mar Cruz explained, “The people in this factory are women, and they are immigrant women in a country where they are very much discriminated against, in a country that doesn’t care much about them. Knowing the treatment that they face in the factories, it was up to us as feminists. We are women defending women. We have demanded our right to defend our female comrades and their human rights.” Dominique Draco added, “We are here as feminists because we are fed up with being murdered. Femicide is one way of killing us, but this is also a way of killing us: in a collapsed building that doesn’t have proper working conditions.”

 

 

(Photo Credit: Animal Politico/Manu Ureste)

Bondita Acharya and Micaela Garcia refuse to let women be crushed

In case we needed any reminder, this week has already demonstrated that rape culture is expanding, intensifying and globalizing. Yesterday, across Argentina, thousands marched and protested violence against women, femicide, and rape. They marched under the banner of Ni Una Menos and Justicia Para Micaela. Micaela Garcia was a 21-year-old feminist activist who dedicated her life to the struggle to end femicide and violence against women. Last week, she was raped and murdered. In India, human rights activist Bondita Acharya criticized the arrests of three people for the crime of possessing beef. Very quickly after Bondita Acharya expressed her views, she was threatened with acid attacks, rape, and death. According to Bondita Acharya, “They threatened me with death, rape, acid attacks, and also hurled sexually explicit abuse to defame me … I also feel the anger was directed at me because I am a Brahmin and a woman.”  And in South Africa, yesterday, a prominent cartoonist decided to make his point by graphically describing the gang “rape” of South Africa. The nation was drawn as a Black South African woman, held down by three men.

Women have responded forcibly and directly to each and all of these atrocities. In Argentina, women mobilized by the thousands. As Marta Dillon, of Ni Una Menos, explained, “It is a day of mourning, but we know how to turn pain into power.” Nina Brugo added, “We are going to take revenge for Micaela by getting organized.” In India, Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression strongly condemned the persecution and harassment of Bondita Acharya, and are pushing the State to take action. Others have joined in the cause. In South Africa, women have led the charge against the abuse of their bodies and lives. Kathleen Dey, Director of Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust, capturing the feelings of many, wrote, “The impact of rape on survivors is severe, many will lie awake at night and are not be able to sleep or eat properly for days because of the powerful emotions they feel. Feelings of fear, anxiety and vulnerability in particular provide the kind of undermining emotional preoccupation that often prevents women from working, studying or parenting effectively. Reliving rape is easily triggered. It disturbs and disrupts everything rape survivors do and distresses the people close to them who feel helpless to do anything to mitigate these powerful feelings. The fact that these same women often face the stigma of being socially disgraced when they speak out about being raped is another example of rape culture. Challenging rape culture in South Africa and asking ourselves what a culture of consent might look like and how we would build that culture instead would be a worthy subject for the media.”

It would be a worthy subject indeed. In 1986, feminist political economist Maria Mies wrote, “It is a peculiar experience of many women that they are engaged in various struggles and actions, the deeper historical significance of which they themselves are often not able to grasp. Thus, they do in fact bring about certain changes, but they do not ‘understand’ that the changes they are aiming at are much more far-reaching and radical than they dare to dream. Take the example of the worldwide anti-rape campaign. By focussing on the male violence against women, coming to the surface in rape, and by trying to make this a public issue, feminists have unwittingly touched one of the taboos of civilized society, namely that this is a ‘peaceful society’. Although most women were mainly concerned with helping the victims or with bringing about legal reforms, the very fact that rape has now become a public issue has helped to tear the veil from the facade of so-called civilized society and has laid bare its hidden, brutal, violent foundations. Many women when they begin to understand the depth and breadth of the feminist revolution, are afraid of their own courage and close their eyes to what they have seen because they feel powerless vis-à-vis [the] task of overthrowing several thousand years of patriarchy. Yet the issues remain. Whether we – women and men – are ready or not to respond to the historic questions raised, they will remain on the agenda of history. And we have to find answers to them which make sense and which will help us to restructure social relations in such a way that our ‘human nature’ is furthered and not crushed.”

Thirty-one years later, rape remains on the agenda of history but too often not on the agendas of nation-States nor organizations nor the media. We still await that revolution.

 

(Photo Credit: José Granata / EFE / El Pais)

Watch where you walk

Watch where you walk

Watch where you walk
we are advised
by folks in the know

don’t do a midnight
or an early hours one

(boyfriends bury
their girlfriends
in backyards)

don’t frequent the hotspots
police cannot be everywhere

behind closed doors
in gated mansions
in ivory towers
be-suited in committees

(you know dangerous areas
places like home like school
like the workplace like)

Watch where you walk
twin knifes mom and sister
famine on the horizon
for millions of children
(what way our grant fiasco)

femicide is the order
women besieged
sexual assault the daily custom
(in the broad light of day)

(a woman or girl raped
every 25 seconds down here)

Watch where you walk
International Women’s Day
and our 16 days anti-abuse campaign
has long since passed us by

Watch where you walk

‘Watch where you walk’ – cops (People’s Post Athlone, 14 March 2017). “Boyfriends bury their girlfriends in backyards” (Cape Times, January 31 2017), “Twin ‘knifes’ mom, sister” (Cape Times, February 6 2017); and “Millions of children are facing famine” (Sunday Argus, January 29 2017)

(Image Credit: 702)

#NiUnaMenos: In Argentina, women declare a general strike against all violence against women

For the past two years, women in Argentina, and elsewhere, have been organizing and mobilizing to end violence against women, gathering under the banner, Ni Una Menos. Not One Woman Less. Today, Wednesday, October 19, 2016, they are organizing a general strike to address and end violence against women, from sexual to cultural to economic violence. The torture and murder of Lucía Pérez is the most recent spark, but the flame has been ongoing and growing. In the streets, alleys, and rooms of Argentina, women dressed in black have declared today is Black Wednesday, #MiércolesNegro: “In your office, school, hospital, law court, newsroom, shop, factory, or wherever you are working, stop for an hour to demand ‘no more machista violence’.” As Ingrid Beck of Ni Una Menos explained, “We’re calling it Black Wednesday because we’re in mourning for all of the dead women, all of the women killed simply for being women.”

Florencia Minici, also of Ni Una Menos, added, “With our rage at the femicide of Lucía in Mar del Plata, at the hatred of the mother who murdered her lesbian daughter, at the stabbing of teenagers in La Boca and with our anger at the repression of the National Congress of Women in Rosario, we call on everyone to come out from our workplaces and our homes … to make visible the femicide and the precarization of women’s lives.”

A communiqué from Ni Una Menos further noted, “Behind the rise and viciousness of the femicidal violence lies an economic plot. The lack of women’s autonomy leaves us more unprotected when we say no and so leaves us as easy targets for trafficking networks or as `cheap’ bodies for both the drug and the retail markets … While the average unemployment in Argentina is 9.3 percent, for women it is 10.5.”

The women of Argentina know and are signaling that violence against women is part of the current government’s neoliberal economic structural adjustment `development’ program. Leaving women without a say is as vulnerable to economic exploitation as to physical violence. Both are part of a political economic program of spectacular death for women. That’s why today’s mobilization is called a work stoppage and is thought of as a general strike, “the first national women’s strike in the country’s history.”

Two weeks ago, on October 4, the women of Poland, dressed in Black, filled the streets. Today, October 19, the women of Argentina are doing the same. For women around the world, Black is the new Black.

#NiUnaMenos #VivasLasQueremos #MiercolesNegro

 

(Image Credit 1: Le Monde) (Image Credit 2: Twitter / @NiUnaMenos)