Will France choose to follow the U.S. and build and overcrowd more prisons?

Adeline Hazan
Last week, with media in tow, Manuel Valls
accompanied Minister of Justice Jean Jacques Urvoas, who replaced Christiane Taubira, to Nimes prison, one of many overcrowded French prisons. Located in southeast France, Nimes prison is designed to receive 192 prisoners but currently holds 406 prisoners. Nationally, the number of detainees has reached record levels. Since 2010 the number of convicted prisoners went from 45 583 to 49 340 in 2016, but more significantly the number of remand detainees has moved from 15 395 in 2010 to 20 035 in 2016.

The previous president Nicolas Sarkozy instituted a martial discourse of intimidating governance based on penal populism and social ostracizing of social and racial minorities. He envisioned building new prisons to “accommodate” 80 000 more inmates.

Urvoa’s predecessor, Christiane Taubira tried to reverse this trend with her reform, passed in August 2014, to make incarceration the last result. Focusing on restorative rather than punitive justice, Taubira’s reform created penal counselors for reintegration as well as alternative sentences. The reform passed, but implementation has been to slow to none, thanks to a justice system that has followed the global trend of imprisonment as a social and governing instrument in a time of global violence. Recruitment of the counselors has been slow and underfunded while alternative sentencing has been ignored by a hardened justice system that has responded positively to the populist call for a repressive justice. The number of liberations under the control of the counselors has been reduced by 20% in one year. A Union representative declared that, instead of emptying prisons, the reform has filled them because the magistrates don’t play fair.

At the end of their visit to the Nimes prison, the head of government and his minister of justice declared that they would come up with a “specific, concrete and financed plan” to remedy the problem. They announced the building of more prisons to add 6000 beds, still largely inferior to what the right and extreme right political elite is demanding. Despite the few good moves such as the opening of “observatoire de la récidive et de la désistance” (Observatory of repeating offense and crime exit), as well as Jean Jacques Urvoas’ stated commitment to enforce the sentencing reduction bill, the funds have not been allocated.

In a climate of fear in which the “radicalization” of Muslim youth in France is offered as a source of violence that has to be fought in the most brutal manner, the political elite has given a radical and superficial picture of the situation in order to impose prison as the immediate and natural solution to all problems.

Meanwhile, a regime of urban marginality is reinforced with increased incarceration, making prisons and jails the instruments of violent isolation and ostracism. The over representation of populations of Muslim descent in prison mirrors the over representation of minorities in US prisons, with some differences of course. Will French elite choose to follow the American model of building and overcrowding more prisons?

In response, Adeline Hazan, the “contrôleure général des lieux de privation de liberté” (an independent body that monitors all places where people are deprived of liberty, and checks that fundamental rights of people in these places are respected) insisted “the more prisons we build, p the more we will fill them.” She added that carceral inflation year after year is not the solution and lamented that the law of 2014 has not been applied properly, and case-by-case sentencing, which was the heart of the Taubira’s bill, has not been implemented.

In a public radio program Hazan explained that according to French law, prison should remain the last result. The quantum leap in the number of short sentences demonstrates the opposite. The prison suicide rate is also rising with 90 attempts a month. Most of the attempts occur during the first days in prison. The suicide rate in French prisons has increased from 4 to 19 between 1945 and 2010, seven times more than outside of prison. The number of pretrial detainees is also on the rise. The state of emergency and its violent policing of demonstrations has sent many to pretrial detention.

Adeline Hazan remarked that women, who are only 3.8% of the detainees, have seen the degradation of their conditions of detention as a consequence of the over populated male prisons. She added that it is like a double sentence for women. The institution that she presides has produced numerous reports to alert the authorities about these situations. She noted that it is hard to be heard in this context of hard line security propaganda. Nonetheless, she acknowledged one of their recent victories in the elimination of incarceration of pregnant women.

In 2017, France will hold presidential elections. In France’s pre election climate of fear of terrorist attacks, the tough on crime approach seems to be the main message used by the political elite while neoliberal budget restrictions of public services increase and aggravate the inequality and abuse of those left behind in French society. In his most recent book Achille Mbembe has called this the “politics of enmity”. Prisons are places of enmity and gender racial discrimination: we don’t need more of them.

(Photo Credit: Liberation / Jacques Demarthon / AFP)

Radio WIBG: In France, in Saint Denis, Ghada Hatem opens a Women’s House

With Ghada Hatem holding, Inna Modja cuts the ribbon

With Ghada Hatem holding, Inna Modja cuts the ribbon

Two years ago Ghada Hatem, head of OBGYN at the Delafontaine Hospital, in Saint Denis, envisioned a Women’s House in Saint Denis, in the heart of the suburb of Paris that symbolizes immigration tensions and social precarity in France. Last Friday, the Women’s House was formally inaugurated.

Born in Lebanon, Ghada Hatem was fifteen when the civil war started in 1975: “It is probably what gave rise to a medical and social vocation in me.” She came to France to study medicine and choosing OBGYN as a specialty came naturally. She has always imagined exercising her “art” within a team.

Thanks to extraordinary teamwork, the Women’s House project went to completion. The day of the inauguration, a passionate and committed crowd was present along with some officials, all of them inspired by the project.

The Malian/French artist and singer Inna Modja has decided to be the benefactress of the Women’s House of Saint Denis. In her commitment to social justice, she has used her artistic expression to denounce female cutting, linking it to her engagement to end violence against women in general. As she explained, after she was cut in Mali when she was 5 against the will of her parents, “I fought to heal myself,” she remembered, first through surgery and then “step by step, I found the energy to become a woman again.”

Ghada and her colleagues received the surgical training to “repair” women who have been cut but as Ghada explains the repair is both physical and psychological and it is never a full restitution, the “scar” remains.

The House will offer many ways to address the trauma including support groups with the collaboration of Inna Modja.

While located within the hospital compound, the House has an independent entrance open to the street. Its role is to allow a free, intimate access to women who have already experienced all sorts of violence and humiliations: a place for them and with them. The need is enormous. The OBGYN department receives about 120 different nationalities and amid the 4500 births and 1000 abortions every year, and about 14% of the women had been cut. The medical system is not enough to help these women to recover their dignity.

This house should serve as a model to be reproduced everywhere it is needed.

Let’s listen to Ghada Hatem’s interview.

Ghada Hatem

Ghada Hatem

 

(Interview and photos by Brigitte Marti)

Women say NO! to the new labor laws in France and across Europe that attack women

Once more, labor laws and work conditions are under attack in Europe, this time in France. The labor code of France, a heavy book, probably needed some cleaning up as laws had piled up and sometimes were redundant. With the encouragement of the Medef (the union of employers), the current government has undertaken to reshuffle all the principles of labor protection. Using a rare executive order (Article 49-3 of the Constitution), the French President passed a bill that was once opposed by the same Francois Hollande, who then called it undemocratic. Since his action, a movement to remind the government of its democratic responsibility has grown, and demonstrations and strikes succeed each other daily.

The Medef has argued that to create jobs employers must be able to fire more easily with fewer constraints that guarantee employees’ rights. So the French government offered a new labor law that has the potential to erase the type of labor protection that is the basis of labor rights. The bill was largely inspired by other labor bills passed in other European Countries under the aegis of austerity measures. Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Greece, Spain have passed bills to feed the exploitative neoliberal system with precarious labor contracts, called zero hour contract in one place and one-euro jobs in the next. In Greece, despite all the critics, the Troika imposed its memoranda making firing very easy. The minimum wage is now at its lowest level (511Euros for those under 25) and the social security system, which was efficient and inexpensive, is now close to being totally destroyed. Additionally, the dismantling of labor rights is very handy in making migration another source of marketization.

In France, the opposition to the bill first came from the students, who are fairly well unionized in high schools and universities. They immediately organized, understanding that this law would create a transitional system to precariousness for the youth, either for intellectual work or blue-collar jobs. Soon after many unions joined, including the CGT (Confédération Générale du Travail), CGC (Confédération générale des cadres), and FO (Force Ouvrière). Meanwhile, Nuit Debout (Night Standing Up), a rather spontaneous movement, gathered in public squares in various French cities, including Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux, and beyond.

Like other European labor bills, the French labor law is a double sentence for women. The bill ignores women’s rights while asserting its respect for the principle of equality. The bill’s language actually razes all means to attain this infamous gender equality. Flexibility supersedes gender equality. The law will limit the bargaining power of unions and fragment their negotiating power; it will aggravate the asymmetrical relationship between the employers associated with the financial oligarchy and the employees or the labor force in general. The obligations of employers toward their employees will be reduced tremendously. It will reduce the number of days off and possibilities for days off that made the leave of absence system a model for labor organizations.

The notion of flexibility has been used as a mythical term for progress while it’s real meaning for working class and particularly for women is increased precarity. In France, women make 80% of the part time labor force. Women also perform 80% of unpaid domestic work. The employers union never discusses this reality. Flexibility means lowering additional pay for extra hours, reducing delay for notices, and easing the firing process. This assault on workers’ time is a double assault on women workers.

The bill will also weaken the occupational medical system that has provided strong medical protection for employees. The risk in feminized professions of lowering the standard of protection is more than real.

Across France, mobilization is high. Feminists have been in the forefront, sending petitions and organizing demonstrations. The movement is also picking up in Belgium, for the same reasons. To understand what is at stake today, we should reread Emile Zola on the disastrous condition of the working class during the industrial revolution and especially women’s conditions. The struggle continues.

 

(Photo Credit 1: 20minutes) (Photo Credit 2: France24)

Solidarity with the women prisoners of Fleury-Mérogis!

In Fleury-Mérogis, France’s biggest prison and one of its worst, women detainees have been organizing against new conditions of detention arranged by the new software GENESIS (Gestion nationale des personnes écrouées pour le suivi individualisé et la sécurité, National management of imprisoned people for individualized monitoring and security), an acronym that blurs its material reality for women incarcerated in Fleury-Mérogis. The software was sold under the aegis of efficiency and harmonization between the men’s quarters and the women’s quarters. In practice, this harmonization meant worsening the conditions of detention: reduction of the number of promenades, limitation of access to the gym and cultural activities, and reduction of visiting room sessions.

In December 2002, France ratified the United Nations’ resolution, Optional Protocol to the Convention Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). As a result of that ratification, in 2007 the French parliament passed a law creating an independent public body “contrôleur général des lieux de privation de liberté” in charge of monitoring all places and institutions where people are locked up.

This independent body released a report in January 2016 concerning the conditions of detention of women, which includes women in jails, prisons, administrative (immigration) detention, and psychiatric detention.

Women prisoners represent 3.2% of the prisoners in France with 5 to 6% of women prisoners in administrative detention. Juvenile delinquents may be locked up in educational centers, which resemble a prison anyway. Girls make up 6 % of incarcerated minors. Proportionately, women in psychiatric hospital are in greater number; 38.21% of those committed to psychiatric detention are women. Historically, women have been the targets of psychiatric control.

The report points out that women are more susceptible to suffer from separation from family circles, and especially from their children, than men. Although by law women are entitled to the same rights as men, the gap between them is even wider in prisons and jails.

With the consolidation of detention centers, women have been sent further away from home. This situation is well known in the United States but is relatively new in France. The report insists on the inherent injustice of this situation since about 75% of the incarcerated women are mothers. The law demands that women’s incarceration respects their familial responsibilities. Further, most of the women are incarcerated for minor offenses. Among the 188 detention centers and prisons in France only 43 may receive women. Often the women’s side in a prison is simply very basic compared to the men’s side.

The report stresses the lack of services for women detainees and disparities among the various prisons and jails receiving women; these services go from health services to judicial services such as parole and day parole. The carceral administration justifies the inequality by claiming that there are too few women to merit more equipments or services.

The report recommends adding services, improving the conditions of detention, implementing the required access to school and other activities, all in the respect of the principle of equality.

Despite this detailed and clear report that demanded actions for revising the conditions of incarceration for women, Fleury-Mérogis’s administration launched GENESIS March 3d.

Immediately, the Basque women political prisoners incarcerated in Fleury-Mérogis organized women prisoners against this injustice. A support group has also been organized. Citizens outside the prison have written letters to the prison administration. Signs of solidarity with the women inside are key when women are locked up and may feel isolated. So each rally outside has to be heard inside.

The women prisoners’ demand is simple: “We call for dignified living conditions, they talk about rules. We talk about mutual assistance and sharing, they talk about logistics and “traffic.” We talk about humanity, they talk about laws. We talk about communicating and coming together, they answer with security and solitary confinement.” The response of the prison’s management has been harsh, 4 women have been sent to solitary confinement. Since May 10th, 5 men and 2 women have been on hunger strike in solidarity with the women in isolation.

This is a struggle against the logics of over incarceration producing a carceral and societal aberration that started in early 2000. It is a fight against a higher degree of materialistic dehumanization of prison conditions, another step toward a harmonization with the United States’ penitentiary hell. Solidarity with women prisoners is required, today in Fleury-Mérogis, tomorrow …

(Photo Credit: L’Envolée) (Image credit: Paris-Luttes.info)

In prisons, jails and detention centers, the bodies pile up: Who cares?

Harmondsworth, 2006

According to a report released today, 2015 recorded “the highest number of executions … in more than 25 years (since 1989).” Along with the `highest number of executions”, many jails, prisons and immigrant detention centers are experiencing the highest number and the highest rates of suicide. Once more into the global work of necropower: “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.” Welcome to the necropolis.

In the United Kingdom, the number of suicide attempts in “immigration removal” centers is at an all-time high. In 2015, there were 393 attempted suicides recorded. Harmondsworth topped the list at 105. Yarl’s Wood came in second at 64. In 2014, there were 353 attempted suicides. Harmondsworth led again with 68, and, again, Yarl’s Wood came in second with 61. In 2015, 2,957 detainees were on suicide watch during 2015. Of that number, 11 are children.

Meanwhile, in 2014, prison suicides in England and Wales reached a seven-year high. The Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales found a 64% increase in self-inflicted deaths in custody over the previous year. There is no surprise in either the seven-year high in prisons in England and Wales, nor in the all-time high in immigrant detention centers.

In the United States, during the Obama administration, there have been 56 deaths in ICE custody. These include six suicides and at least one death after an attempted suicide. Eloy Detention Center, in Eloy, Arizona, holds pride of place in this race to the bottom. As of July 2015, 9 percent of detention deaths nationwide since 2003 occurred at Eloy, where 14 of the 152 total deaths occurred. In 2013, women prisoners in Eloy went on hunger strike to protest the conditions. As Thesla Zenaida, an Eloy hunger striker, explained: “Look, a girl hanged herself. A girl was hanged here. [After] she was hanged, they didn’t want to take her body down. And for the same reason—because they treat us poorly. A guard treated her poorly, and that guard is still working here.” And now, three years later, people still ask, “Why so many suicides?

Meanwhile, in 2015, the Arizona prison system recorded close to 500 attempts at self-harm and suicide, another record broken.

In Illinois, in the Kane County jail, the suicide rate is three times the national average, and no one on staff seems to care. In August 2013, Terry Ann Hart hung herself in the Kane County jail. Now, almost three years later, her daughter is taking the county and the sheriff to court. In a little over a year, Kane County had three suicides and one attempt, while nearby larger jails had no suicides from 2011 to 2015. Terry Ann Hart’s daughter wants to know how it’s possible for so many people to kill themselves and for no one to be held accountable and for nothing whatsoever to change inside the jail.

The family of Wakiesha Wilson, who died in the Los Angeles County Jail last month, has similar questions. How did their loved one die, and why did the State take so long to inform them? From Harmondsworth and Yarl’s Wood to Eloy Detention and Kane County and Los Angeles, and beyond, women are dropping like flies, and their families ask, “Why?” and “Who cares?

In France, due to two recent high profile prison suicides, people are asking why the rate of suicide in French prisons is so high. Coincidentally, a report released this week notes, “Suicide rates in French prisons are higher than in the general population – seven times as high … According to the French government, there were 113 suicides in French prisons in 2015 … Female prisoners with psychosocial disabilities face particularly harsh conditions in French prisons. Women in general, who are a minority in prison, are more restricted in their movements than men and have less access to treatment for mental health conditions than their male counterparts. Women detained in a prison with separate quarters for female and male prisoners described … how, unlike the men in the same facility, they had to be escorted in all their movements. Besides making them feel isolated, this gives women the sense that they are treated more harshly only because they are women. Female prisoners also face discrimination in their access to mental healthcare: while 26 Regional Medico Psychological Services (SMPR) in French prisons provide mental healthcare during the day and beds for the night, only one of them has beds for women.”

From executions to prison suicides, these numbers are the census of the death-world, where now what is blurred is the line between the living dead and the dead dead. Record-breaking numbers of suicides occur, and nobody knows? How much higher must the piles of women’s corpses rise before the `discoveries’ end and the work of justice begins? Look, a girl hanged herself. A girl was hanged here. ¡Ni una mas! Not one more!

 

(Photo Credit: Institute of Race Relations)

What woman has the right to travel safely to escape violence, with or without a passport?

When 17-year-old Aminata fled Guinea Conakry, she did not have a passport. One of her teachers helped her to break free from a cycle of constant domestic rape and sexual assault. The helping hand handed her to a smuggler, who was also her torturer. He raped her and, once in Paris, stole her ID documents. This is how she landed in France with only her school card in her pocket. In 2012, Aminata applied for asylum.

She joined the cohort of vulnerable and isolated migrants targeted by Afro Beauty salon owners and managers in search of cheap and vulnerable workers in the “Château d’eau” area of Paris. The conditions of work were unspeakable and their wages not paid.

After 11 months of struggle supported by the CGT union, the workers finally managed to receive their salary and proper documentation. Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve promised Aminata that she would receive her “titre de sejour,” her temporary work permit necessary to stabilize her situation, now that she finally holds a regular job.

The day she was supposed to receive her permit, she was arrested and detained for 3 days.

She was accused of having provided a false passport. Aminata could not have a passport without returning to Guinea where she would have been in danger, and so she authorized a relative to secure her passport. Aminata never had any control over the process and is now accused of not providing a valid passport.

Who is going to bring to court the ones who have created this situation in the first place?

The CGT Union, who defended her and her colleagues last year against the “chateau d’eau” mafia, is now organizing to defend her rights to keep working in France, simply to have access to a decent life without sexual assault or work abuse. A petition is circulating to demand that the victim does not become the accused.

Having a passport or traveling documents is the biggest challenge for the most vulnerable populations like Aminata, especially those, mostly women, who are escaping violence. The differential of rights is growing as much as financial inequalities are rising, making violence more acceptable than rights. Who is going to defend the dignity of “the wretched of the earth”? Who has the right to travel safely to escape violence, with or without a passport?

 

(Photo Credit: l’Humanité)

The global patriarchal market and violence against women

Being a woman today is marked by violence.

On New Year’s Eve in Cologne, on a square between the cathedral and the train station, about 200 women were sexually assaulted and robbed after about thousand men circled them to isolate them from the rest of the crowd. This type of assault has been reported else where in Europe: Helsinki, Zurich, and others. It has also occurred in Cairo and Tunis.

On Tahrir Square in Egypt, in 2013, during demonstrations against the government, women who were present wielding their right to be in public spaces would be circled by hundreds of men and then undressed and raped. These attacks were constant. Women and men organized and formed groups wearing fluorescent yellow jackets and helmets, to liberate the women under attack. They knew that they could not rely on the authorities or the police. The military government also used violence against women.

The same occurred in Tunisia when women took to the streets of Tunis in support of a positive transformation of the society. Since then, they have been organizing and fighting to defend their rights to public spaces.

This violence belongs to a trend that has been ignored for too long. In Cologne, the police did not intervene right away despite the system of video surveillance that is part of the globalized economies with their security market. The assaults were publicly reported only five or six days after the fact.

The fact that in Cologne most of the aggressors were North Africans and/or asylum seekers blurred the big picture and fueled resentment against immigrants and refugees, thereby encouraging racist violence. German feminists have responded: no excuse for sexual predators or for racists. Other European feminists have simplistically associated this event with the rise of fundamentalist Islam.

That presentation is limited and ignores the globalized neoliberal economy’s reliance on various strains of neo-conservatism and religious fundamentalism including Islamic fundamentalism to increase its hold on society.

One could remember, how in 1936, the phalanges, Franco supporters, whose slogan was “viva la muerte” dispersed their cruelty against women and men. They violently commanded women to stay away from public spaces, to reproduce and take care of the household. All of that was supported and encouraged by capitalists.

Clearly, women’s emancipation is one of the biggest stakes of an oppressive society.

Today, the European militarization of its borders along with austerity measures within the context of fear of “terrorism” opens the temptation of a constant state of emergency. The ordeal of women in migration facing infinite sexual violence and death during their journey is rendered invisible. What is left is the growing rhetoric for more policing and more appearance-based prejudices, which allow security markets to develop. The current paradoxical protective and aggressive discourse of the authorities puts some women under surveillance, hidden behind security forces and at the same time normalizes the position of other women as victims of sexual violence, according to race and geographical locations and conflicts.

Similarly women’s reproductive bodies, again racially defined, are under surveillance in the United States, with the incarceration of women for miscarrying or having an abortion where it is more and more difficult to get one. These signs of patriarchal essence that justifies violence against women correlate with the expansion of the neoliberal economic order that disadvantages women and minorities and throws them into precarious situations, again rendered largely invisible.

The code of silence that covers the attacks against women in Europe is troubling. In France, a recent study on sexual harassment in public transportation revealed that 100% of the women’s answers indicated various levels of harassment. Generally in Europe sexual assaults have been reported around football games, and other public events. In Cologne few days ago, a journalist of the Belgian RTBF was reporting on the beginning of Carnival and the security measures to protect women participants, when a group of white men sexually assaulted her, all this in front of the cameras.

Without a broader transnational understanding of the causes for the regression of women’s social and political right to be in public spaces, the prospect for better women’s social and political equality with men are slim.

A large transnational solidarity movement, beyond judgment, must be the force against the current trend of violence against women, the basis of all violence that is fueled by the devastating unfettered market forces that consume bodies.

 

(Image Credit 1: Osez le féminisme 69) (Image Credit 2: Osez le féminisme)

In France, Christiane Taubira steps up by stepping down


Wednesday January 27th, instead of going to Parliament to defend reforms to the Constitution, France’s Minister of Justice, Christiane Taubira, tendered her resignation to President Francois Hollande. She was immediately replaced by a man in line with Prime Minister Manuel Valls’ ideas. The bill under discussion contains many questionable articles, but the one that will allow deprivation of nationality for French born citizens with dual citizenship convicted of act of terrorism is emblematic of the current trend personified by Prime Minister Valls, to curtail rights in the name of security.

This is the trend that Christiane Taubira has opposed particularly since the first attacks in Paris in January 2015. Her approach was to understand why some young French were attracted by DAESH and violent actions, while for Manuel Valls to find explanation to terrorist acts “is already an attempt to excuse them.” He takes an opposite direction: no explanation or understanding needed, just security measures.

Since her nomination in 2012, Christiane Taubira has committed herself to induce a turn toward restorative justice in France, a real shift from the Sarkozy years of repression and development of the prison industrial complex. She tried to instill a change in mentalities, from crude punishment to create means for rehabilitation and reinsertion, beginning by revoking mandatory minimum sentencing. Her unfinished project is the reform of the juvenile justice system and the elimination of the correctional juvenile courts. Many legal scholars and even magistrates supported her action and expressed their concerns after her departure. For many, she represented a change with her approach and her discourse from the previous administration. The latter endlessly tried to reduce the role of the judiciary to favor harsh policing and blind punishment for civil society, encouraging profiling and at the same time discouraging the judiciary from investigating financial arrangements of the elite.

Nonetheless, Taubira’s initiatives were often at odd with and even opposed by many in her own government, notably the Minister of the Interior and Manuel Valls. She was the target of racial and gendered attacks from an unfettered right and extreme right, especially at the time she defended equal rights for LGBT with the Marriage For All bill. Not to forget that one of the last cases of loss of citizenship was a gay man who married in the Netherlands in 2007. Now he can be French again thanks to Taubira’s bill on gay marriage.

Christiane Taubira’s departure is another blow for those who have cautioned against the excess of state violence and policing that this reform of the Constitution may produce. Last weekend many demonstrations were organized to oppose the reform of the Constitution. Taubira has described these articles as “absolutely pathetic inefficiency.” She is not isolated, Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, has declared on Radio France that what infuriated her was national politics especially the issue of loss of nationality and précised that it makes her fly off the handle. She concluded, “It is time to change radically the logic of politics in France.” Similar opinions and support have been expressed by former members of the government as well as many from the center to the left.

Despite heavy rains, thousands of people went to the streets, responding to the call of 123 civil associations and 19 unions, to oppose these reforms, the prolongation of the state of emergency, to demand justice, to defend rights for all including the more vulnerable rendered even more vulnerable at the time of increased economic gaps between classes and ethnicities, and to affirm that a just world is possible!

In the wake of the attacks a certain consensus appeared among various sectors of the society. This consensus against these security measures has upheld, with the president of the Observatory of the “Laicity” signing along with many Muslim organizations, women’s rights organizations, the collective against islamophobia, a declaration released in the newspaper Liberation.

Still Manuel Valls railed against this consensus, accusing some to be irresponsible and others to be undemocratic. In resigning, Taubira has shown her support for this consensus. Her method is to listen, to understand the struggle of the second generation French youth in “les cités”, in the suburbs.

In the United States, we have seen the effect of the ‘tough on crime’ approach linked to security measures in the so-called Patriot Act. The two curtail rights and bring impoverishment and violence. Maybe this is the real purpose of these measures. For Taubira to resist is to give “the last word to ethics and rights”. Let’s have the last word!

Meanwhile, in the past few days, Christiane Taubira wrote a book, “Murmures à la Jeunesse”, explaining her position. It was published today.

(Photo Credit: Slate / AFP / Alain Jocard)

Christiane Taubira: “Parfois résister c’est rester, parfois résister c’est partir”

Christiane Taubira

Christiane Taubira, France’s Minister of Justice, resigned today. As she explained, “Sometimes staying is resisting, sometimes leaving is resisting”. We’ll have something on Christiane Taubira in the next couple days. For the last four years, Brigitte Marti has written regularly, at Women In and Beyond the Global, about Christiane Taubira’s struggles to reform the French penal system, to restore justice to so-called criminal justice, all the while combating racist sexist attacks on her and her policies. Christiane Taubira may be leaving the government, but she is not leaving the struggle for women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, workers’ rights, prisoners’ rights, gay rights, minority rights and more, all in the context of a vision of a realizable just world. A just world is possible!

Christiane Taubira explains prison

Here’s a partial list of Brigitte Marti’s pieces that, from June 2012 to last year, profiled Taubira’s varied engagements and interventions:

Resistances, les femmes, le pouvoir et l’élection (June 18, 2012)

From Paris to Baltimore, our prisons are full but empty of sense (November 21, 2012)

In France, mandatory minimum sentences kill (June 27, 2013)

Scandal in France! Prison as a last resort! (August 19, 2013)

Evolution of a scandal in France (August 29, 2013)

Must punishment mean prison? Why are you asking? (September 21, 2013)

These racist attacks assault the heart of the Republic (November 13, 2013)

It is the responsibility of the State to defend reproductive rights and health (November 21, 2013)

French prison guards strike for global incarceration and dehumanization (May 13, 2014)

The false case against Christiane Taubira (May 24, 2014)

Can Christiane Taubira move France from repressive to restorative justice? (June 2, 2014)

France’s twisted road to restorative justice (July 22, 2014)

From Paris to Washington, all women need easy access to real help in times of crisis (August 29, 2014)

In France, isolation is not the answer to anything! (July 22, 2015)

 

(Photo Credit: Women In and Beyond the Global)

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)