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)

Feminicide, misogynist terrorism and extraordinary courts: France tackles women’s murder by men

For the last few weeks, French newspapers have started using the word «feminicide» to address the killing of women and girls. In France, every 2.5 days, a woman is murdered by her partner. 77 women have been killed between January 1st and July 15th 2019. Voices everywhere in the country have demanded change. They point to the inefficiency of the French government in its attempt to protect women against men’s violence. While some feminist organizations ask for legal recognition of feminicide as a gender hate crime, with the creation of a special court, an approach adopted in Spain 15 years ago,others prefer to stick to «ordinary law» to effectively prosecute and punish those crimes. They argue that the already comprehensive criminal apparatus would be efficient enough to tackle violence against women, if it were used correctly. The public opinion questions its criminal legal system, wondering what is the best judicial forum to prosecute, judge and repair the crime of feminicide? How to prevent those crimes? What legal apparatus will later fully grant reparation to the victims and victims’ family?

From the European witch-hunting in the 15th 16th and 17th centuries to the Chinese traditional biases against women combined with the strict “one-child” policy leading to the almost systematic abortion of female fetuses, to the dowry crimes of girls in India, to domestic violence resulting in the mass murder of women by male partners, feminicide is a phenomenon as old as patriarchy. It was first used by the women’s rights activist Diana E. H. Russel, in «Femicide: The Politics of Woman Killing », to explain the misogynist killing of women by men. Jill Radford thenbegan using the term in her classes during the eighties at the University of Teeside, defining feminicide as the misogynous killing of women by men. Today, misogyny, stigmatization of women and the belief that women’s bodies are disposable are seen as serving to justify killing women. 

The two most commonly cited examples of feminicide occurred in Mexico and Canada. In Mexico, in Ciudad Juarez,  since 1993 approximately 500 women and girls have been murdered; the large majority of these crimes remain unsolved). In Canada, on December 6th 1989 Marc Lépine stormed into the School of Engineering of the University of Montréal, separated women from men, and opened fire on the women, shouting “You’re all fucking feminists.”

UN Women France is currently working on an advocacy campaign aiming to change the French criminal law by introducing the crime of feminicide that would be judged in a special court, with a distinctive prosecution, special prosecutors and judges following the model of the judicial system of Latin America and Spain. The philosophy behind this campaign is that when the «ordinary law » and ordinary courts have failed to effectively prosecute crimes, when the feeling of impunity has risen, the State must create an «extraordinary juridiction» to tackle those crimes. A special court is necessary when the State has failed to effectively prosecute a crime, and therefore has created a feeling of impunity. 

To support this philosophy, some describe feminicide as «misogynist terrorism», taking into account the extreme violence of the crimes and the hateful ideological discourses that support them. Whether it is a husband murdering his wife attempting to escape from his control or Alek Minassian, a man who believed that women unjustly denied sex to him and plowed a rental van through a Toronto sidewalk, killing 10 women, in every case, those men believe that women owe them obedience and that women are inferior to men.  This is the core of misogynist hateful violent ideology.  As terrorism is considered by the society and the legal system as an «extraordinary crime» which needs to be prosecuted in front of an extraordinary court, prosecuted feminicide should follow the same procedure.

In 2004 Spain reformed its criminal court system to bring down domestic violence; it created 106 specialized courts and a distinctive prosecution. As a result, from 2003 to 2018, the rate of Spanish women killed by their husband annually has dropped from 71 to 43. In addition to legal measures, the Spanish law targets victim support (emergency telephone numbers, social centres for assistance of victims and their children, free specialized juridical assistance, special financial assistance and employment help), administrative measures (specialized corps of the Local police and the “Guardia Civil” with agents trained for dealing with domestic violence cases, a national observatory of the violence against women in charge of the statistical follow up, in order to analyse the effect of the new laws on Spanish society) and the education of the Spanish society. In recent years, France has developed a similar but incomplete  approach. Incomplete in that these means are rarely used by police, judges, or prosecutors and therefore become inadequate. In the last case of feminicide in France, the woman went to the police the night before, fearing for her life, did not get the assistance needed and required by law: and was murdered the following day.

The judicial system cannot transform societal behavior by itself: it is neither its role, nor is it in its power. The role of the criminal judge is to judge, nothing more. It can contribute to repair prejudice against victims, protect society and rehabilitate the criminal who served his sentence. The law and the administration of justice cannot guarantee the establishment of societal peace, nor can it carry by itself the responsibility of transforming the mentality of the society. It can, however, give a framework for people to maintain respect in society, to provide moral redress to victims, restore their personal dignity and allow them to be recognized as victims by the rest of society. In that regard, the full recognition of feminicide will contribute to righting and writing the narrative of women killed by men. Women’s lives matter. 

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

El caso de la “Manada” en España … No es abuso, es violación!

La sentencia que se acaba de hacer pública sobre el caso de la “manada” en España (la violación de cinco jóvenes a una chica de 18 años en los San Fermines de 2016 en Pamplona) ha puesto sobre la mesa importantes y alarmantes cuestiones convirtiéndose en un tema de debate a nivel nacional, que está traspasando nuestras fronteras para desembocar en un NECESARIO debate a nivel internacional.

El código penal vigente en España hasta la fecha “exige” la resistencia CLARA de la víctima para que una violación sea tipificada como tal, manteniendo vivos los más rancios mitos machistas y falsas creencias sobre la violación y la forma en la que es juzgada la conducta de las victimas antes, durante y después de la violación, que han alimentado el inconsciente colectivo de nuestra sociedad durante generaciones. De tal modo que se sigue haciendo recaer sobre la víctima la carga de la prueba “exigiendo” que quede documentada su clara negativa a la conducta pretendida y finalmente ejecutada, asumiendo que si la mujer no expresa un explícito “no” dio así su consentimiento implícito, cuando el único mensaje que todo hombre debería aprender desde la cuna -y los jueces juzgar siguiendo esta premisa-, es que solo cuando una mujer dice “si” explícitamente está otorgando su consentimiento, todo lo demás es un rotundo “no”, ya que de no ser así sería un consentimiento siempre viciado por la explícita o implícita intimidación que posibilita el desequilibrio de poder entre hombres y mujeres en una sociedad patriarcal y machista como la española.

En el comportamiento de la víctima de la “manada” -analizado en base a los 96 segundos de los videos que los violadores compartieron para alardear de su comportamiento con sus “amigos” en clave misógina y que fueron mostrados en la sala del juicio- los jueces concluyen que no se aprecia “violencia o intimidación” de una víctima que se muestra durante todo el tiempo paralizada y manejada por los cinco agresores. Una “intimidación” que los jueces no aprecian y que “necesariamente” ha de estar presente para que los actos fueran catalogados como agresión sexual (violación) y se impusiera la pena de 22 años solicitados por la fiscalía. Siendo finalmente tipificados los comportamientos juzgados como “abuso” (con el voto particular de uno de los jueces defendiendo la absolución de los cinco agresores) y rebajada así la condena a 9 años de prisión a cada uno de los imputados (de los cuales ya han cumplido casi dos años en prisión preventiva y una vez cumplida ¾ partes del tiempo de condena podrán beneficiarse de su incorporación al tercer grado penitenciario, que les permitirá estar hasta 16 horas por día fuera de la prisión en un régimen de semilibertad).

Las reflexiones que se derivan de esta sentencia arengan como nunca hasta ahora la necesidad de una urgente reforma de nuestro código penal, que el Ministro de Justicia ya se ha adelantado a proponer, y ya se ha nombrado la comisión encargada de hacerla efectiva, una comisión que está formada por 20 HOMBRES juristas. Sin duda una decisión muy desafortunada, no solo porque incumple el propio ordenamiento jurídico vigente en este caso la Ley de Igualdad de 2007 que exige la paridad en todas las comisiones y órganos de gobierno, sino porque una vez más muestra como el patriarcado sigue ejerciendo con mano de hierro el poder DE DECISIÓN y de forma específica sobre asuntos que apelan de forma tan sensible al bienestar y la libertad de las mujeres.

Esta sentencia muestra además indiscutiblemente el absoluto desconocimiento de los jueces de la “manada”  (dos hombres y una mujer) y previsiblemente de la mayor parte de la judicatura quienes no reciben formación específica sobre estos temas ni antes ni durante el ejercicio de sus responsabilidades como jueces, de cómo opera el “cuerpo” y la “mente” de una persona ante una situación que amenaza su integridad física, por descontado la psíquica, cuando se siente acorralada por cinco jóvenes en el rincón de un portal, envalentonados por la superioridad numérica y liderados por el que llevando tatuado en su cuerpo “la fuerza del lobo reside en la manada” ejerce de macho alfa indiscutible de la violación múltiple. No nos engañemos la violación no es un acto sexual, es un acto de violencia e intimidación con la que se busca el sometimiento y humillación de las víctimas a través del que el/los agresores obtienen el “placer” de sentirse superiores y poderosos.

Por tanto la violencia contra las mujeres en general y la violencia sexual en  particular nos habla del desequilibrio de poder entre hombres y mujeres en sociedades patriarcales y misóginas en las que las mujeres son relegadas al “segundo sexo” en palabras de Simone de Beauvoir, y cosificadas y objetivizadas para el uso y disfrute del placer masculino. Y mientras las sociedades en su conjunto no se comprometan con una rotunda transformación de su modelo de valores y creencias a través de una verdadera coeducación en la igualdad en la que los contenidos sobre sexualidad y genero estén incorporados a los planes de estudio desde la educación infantil, y siguiendo esta estela toda la sociedad se haga cómplice de este cambio, las mujeres seguiremos siendo víctimas de violaciones y en los juzgados las mujeres serán una vez más revictimizadas, cuestionándose y juzgándose nuestros comportamientos mientras nuestros agresores seguirán sin ser condenados.

La sentencia de la “manada” está desatando una ola de indignación y protestas que han llenado las calles en España de mujeres y también hombres (que ejercen un modelo de masculinidad que trasciende el modelo heternormativo tradicional), para decir alto y claro: “ESTO NO ES ABUSO, ES VIOLACION”. Una indignación que ha venido alimentada por el hartazgo de las mujeres españolas con la violencia machista y las desigualdades que en sus formas más hostiles, pero cada vez más en sus expresiones más sutiles, compromete el bienestar y la vida de todas las mujeres y en mayor medida de aquellas en las que se entrecruzan otras categorías (relativas a la raza, etnicidad, orientación sexual o clase social).

Un hartazgo que se hizo patente en las masivas manifestaciones feministas del pasado 8 de marzo, sin precedentes en la historia española. Y la onda expansiva de esta indignación está traspasando nuestras fronteras. Desde la Comunidad Europea como desde Naciones Unidas se han sumado las críticas y preocupación por una sentencia que no protege adecuadamente a las víctimas de la violencia sexual que sufren las mujeres y que sigue apuntalando el status quode una sociedad patriarcal y profundamente sexista, y las mujeres españolas están enarbolando la bandera de un enérgico BASTA YA.


(Photo Credit 1: El País / Jose Jordán) (Photo Credit 2: Público / EFE / Chema Moya)

Helena Maleno Garzón refuses to let all that is human drown in the Mediterranean

Helena Maleno Garzón at a workshop

The year ends with the surface of the Mediterranean concealing thousands of humans lost, sinking into the sea bottom as it reveals the sinking of our own collective humanity. Last year, over 5000 women, children and men drowned in the Mediterranean. The year before close to 4000, and the year before that, a little over 3000. This year, the reported death toll hovers just over 3000. That “success” is largely due to draconian measures that have sent refugees back to slave markets and brutal prisons in Libya and life-in-death in Morocco. Spain has replaced Italy as the preferred port of entry for those seeking a life, be they called migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers. Such is today’s morbid mathematics that over 3000 innocents drowned in one body of water in one year is touted as “success”. This is who we are … or not. Helena Maleno Garzón is a Spanish activist and journalist based in Tangiers. Working with Caminando Fronteras, a human rights group founded in 2002 that monitors and reports on the Spanish – Moroccan borders, Helena Maleno Garzón has spent the last years documenting, working with, rescuing and insisting on the dignity of migrant, refugees and asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean into Europe. Helena Maleno Garzón refuses to let all that is human drown in the Mediterranean, and for that refusal, she is described as a criminal by both Morocco and Spain.

Two Spanish cities – Ceuta and Mellila – sit on Morocco’s coast. In 2015, Helena Maleno Garzón described the two enclaves as “the most heavily guarded borders in the EU to keep out African migrants.” Two years ago, Helena Maleno Garzón described a scene of mounting violence, excessive and illegal use of force, and preventable tragedies, such as the massacre of 15 African migrants on February 6, 2014, at the El Tarajal beach, in Ceuta. As a Liberian woman refugee explained, “We are subjected to ongoing institutional violence when we reach the border. This can range from denial of access to basic rights, to torture, physical abuse, and even sexual violence. What you see on the Melilla fence is only a fraction of what we suffer in transit.” In the intervening years, that fraction has grown as it has intensified. After 15 years of engagement in the area, Helena Maleno Garzón and her colleagues at Caminando Fronteras have declared that the area is now a war zone.

And so, the Moroccan government, at the behest of the Spanish government, has charged Helena Maleno Garzón with smuggling and human trafficking. The Spanish government tried the same trick a few years ago, but had to withdraw the charges earlier this year. Earlier this week, the Moroccan court postponed Helena Maleno Garzón’s trial until January 10 of next year. In Morocco and in Spain, many are rising to Helena Maleno Garzón’s defense. Across Spanish social media, #DefendiendoAMaleno appears next to #NoEsDelito. The defense of Helena Maleno Garzón rejects the criminalization of assisting others in need.

Helena Maleno Garzón stands trial for asking which is the greater crime, to cross a border, to assist crossing a border or to maintain that border with lethal force?  Spanish policy mirrors European policy, and “what you see on the Melilla fence is only a fraction of what we suffer.” Look into the mirror. Let us move closer to the water’s edge, grasp one another’s hands, encircle the Mediterranean, and speak the names of every child, woman, and man who died in the sea or at the hands of border guards while trying to find haven. Let us do so for the sake of humanity.


(Photo Credit: El Pais / Caminando Borders)

In Spain, three women win a battle for workers’ dignity everywhere

Workers in the October 12 Hospital in Madrid

Workers in the October 12 Hospital in Madrid

Florentina Martínez Andrés, María Elena Pérez López, and Ana de Diego Porras did not know each other, but are linked in a struggle for workers’ dignity. All three worked for years on temporary replacement contracts. After years of working for the same employer, each woman was dismissed and informed that, under the law, she was not entitled to any compensation at all, because she was “temporary.” Florentina Martínez Andrés had worked full time for the same employer for two years. María Elena Pérez López had worked full time for the same employer for four years. Ana de Diego Porras had worked full-time for the same employer for nine years. But each was temporary and so … And so, each woman took their employers and the State to court, and last month, they all won, and so did Spanish workers generally.

Spanish labor law creates a formal three-tier structure: permanent workers, fixed term workers, and temporary workers. At termination of contract, permanent workers receive 20 days’ salary per year of service; fixed term workers receive 12 days salary; and temporary workers receive nothing. Ana de Diego Porras worked as an administrative secretary for Spain’s Ministry of Defense; Florentina Martínez Andrés worked as an administrative secretary for Osakidetza, the public health service of the Basque Country; María Elena Pérez López worked as a nurse for SERMAS, Madrid’s public health service. All three argued that workers received compensation upon termination of contract because they earned it through their labor, and that the hierarchical categories constituted a shell game used to divide workers and thereby to steal from some. In late September, the European Court of Justice, in three separate and linked opinions, agreed with the women workers.

Close to 4,000,000 workers in Spain are formally “temporary” workers, and so these decisions will have immediately significant impact. Additionally, the decisions suggest that the different between “full time” and “fixed term” will also have to be reconsidered. For example, 40% of doctors in public health institutions currently don’t have permanent positions. The lawyers representing María Elena Pérez López already have over 400 cases ready to go.

Taken together, the three judgments deliver a direct and frontal assault on public and private employer abuses and a labor system in which some workers are protected and others are abandoned. Further, the judgments undermine the common sense of precarious labor, which says that workers must be satisfied with living contingently, with zero security and zero dignity. Florentina Martínez Andrés, María Elena Pérez López, and Ana de Diego Porras said “No to the Zero!” … and they won! Actually, we all won.


(Photo Credit: Periódico Diagonal / David Fernández)

Women are attacked in the mirror of reproduction, and where is the outrage?


I often hear women in France wondering how it is possible that women’s access to abortion or to safe delivery is so outrageously compromised and mostly a source of revenue rather than inalienable rights in the United States. The current political landscape might help them, and us, understand.

Once again women and their bodies occupy the center stage of the presidential elections in the United States. While the last attempt to defund Planned Parenthood failed to pass, there were still too many votes in favor. The issue continues to obsess the GOP candidates and allows them to stigmatize women. They used the usual recipe to fabricate a scandal, this time targeting Planned Parenthood. They made deceptive images in order to emotionally manipulate a large portion of the population, brush aside the truth and reality, and focus on the anti women’s reproductive rights credo. The videos were assembled to manufacture false images of the use of “for-money tissues” coming from aborted embryos; ironically these accusations came from the candidates who defend profiteering at any cost. Actually, women who had had an abortion donated tissues for research on diseases such as Parkinson, Alzheimer, or orphan diseases, but does it really matter? The press was reluctant to explain the scam.

Planned Parenthood provides health care to women. One out of five have had recourse to their services because nothing exists for them in a for-profit medical system. This is not only about abortion. Across the United States, pregnant women are also mistreated: sent to prison, denied basic rights, and having no labor protection and no legally supported maternity leave.

It seems that nothing can impede the United States Republican candidates from bawling out injurious slurs toward minorities and women, while keeping silent about the reality of the violence of their economic views. But this time the farce is grotesque as well as threatening. As witnessed by the first GOP debate, the current US conservative battle for the primaries sheds light on the debacle of “democratic” debates in the cradle of neoliberal conservatism.

I asked in France what if the shocking Sarkozy or the heinous Le Pen had said something similar to launch their campaigns. Most said that this would not be accepted, not that there is no anti immigration sentiments. They said it would have triggered more mockery as well as indignation. Additionally, the response coming from the numerous associations that work on immigration rights and immigrant women’s rights would have been strong and irrefutable and accompanied with legal actions.

The question of reproductive rights is also shaped differently as deliveries and abortions are free, and pregnant women’s labor rights are still guaranteed in France as well as in many other countries, and the commitment to these rights, in France and across Europe, is robust, and again a vast range of associations is watching.

For example, when the conservative Spanish Prime Minister attempted to reduce reproductive rights in Spain, women and men from all over Europe went to the streets in support of Spanish women’s rights, thanks to these very associations, and forced the withdrawal of the bill.

However, women’s rights have been threatened in relation to the restructuring of the European Union, as we saw in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Germany, and France. This signifies another form of violence against women’s bodies, taking the oppressed body, the migrant’s body, hostage.

In the United States, the threat of these attacks against women persists in a distractive form. As Ruth Wilson Gilmore has explained, energy is going to be spent fighting each scandalous initiative while the source of the problem will be kept blurred. The debt economy that works with violence, stigmatizing women and people of color and/or lower social status, is forgotten in these debates.

Women are particularly targeted. Many women in the United States, including in my own family, have struggled during pregnancy to keep employment, to have pregnancy health particularities respected, to keep 100 % of their salary, or to pay for delivery.

Where is the outrage? Where are the images of the united colors of precarity, of women living precariously?

The neoliberal order bathes in this spectacle, and the reality of life disappears. Let’s keep in mind that the state of the status of women and women’s reproductive rights mirrors the fate of most of the population.



(Photo Credit 1: Javier Barbancho / Reuters / Landov / AlJazeera)

(Photo Credit 2: Marlon Headen of Headen Photography / RH Reality Check)

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)

In Spain women indignadas bring spring to Spain and cities everywhere


Spanish cities voted, and now two feminist, progressive, anti-austerity, anti-eviction, lifelong activist women are set to become mayors of Barcelona and Madrid: Ada Colau and Manuela Carmena. “It’s the victory of David over Goliath”, said Ada Colau, although this time it’s the victory of Deborah over Goliath. Before the elections, Ada Colau and Manuela Carmena may have been symbols of change, but the people’s vote changed all that. Now they are not only the embodiments of a Spanish Spring of Change, they are the harbingers of a global Urban Spring. Indignons-nous!

After casting her vote in Madrid, Manuela Carmena said, “Each one of us has an enormous potential for change; each one of us can decide the fate of our city. We can change the world.” And she should know. 71 years old, Manuela Carmena has been fighting the good fight for years. A former member of the Communist Party, she fought for human rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights and prisoners’ rights during the Fascist regime. Manuela Carmena served as a judge, and was widely recognized as a leading progressive and anti-corruption jurist. She was a founder of Jueces para la Democracia, Judges for Democracy. When called upon by the Ahora Madrid coalition to come out of retirement to run for office, she immediately agreed. Her platform focused on guaranteeing basic utilities, such as water and electricity, to all households; guaranteeing universal access to healthcare services; and developing an emergency job creation plan for the young and long-term unemployed. At the heart of her campaign was the human heart, the recognition of the centrality of the people, the individuals and communities that comprise Madrid.

Likewise, Ada Colau is well known as the founder and face of the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca, PAH, the Platform for People Affected By Mortgages. She began the anti-eviction organization and movement in 2009, in response to a spike in evictions. Immediately, Colau saw that the evictions had nothing to do with the so-called real estate market crash. Instead, they resulted from mortgage clauses, organized by realtors and banks, that virtually ensured mass evictions, sooner or later. In 2008, later came sooner, and in 2009, Ada Colau roared onto the scene, organizing local and mass anti-eviction direct actions, stopping evictions; restoring individuals, families, and communities to decent housing; and addressing the collusion of local municipal agencies, in this case in Barcelona. Colau highlighted the individual and mass evictions as part of Barcelona’s program for `urban redevelopment’. Sound familiar?

What may be unfamiliar is Colau’s vision of urban development: “Barcelona could become a world reference as a democratic and socially just city. Barcelona has the resources, the money and the skills. The only thing that has been missing to date has been the political will.”

What may be even more unfamiliar is this: victory! Ada Colau, of Barcelona en Comú, and Manuela Carmena, of Ahora Madrid, won. They won because they organized and people responded to their campaigns. They won because they courageously rejected the logic, and the violence, of austerity, exclusion, expulsion, and “urban redevelopment”. They not only said another city is possible, they lived it. Now they are set to become mayors of Barcelona and Madrid, respectively.

As the commercial says, “What’s in your wallet?” What’s in your city’s wallet? How much violence are we, in our various municipalities, willing to countenance in the name of “urban redevelopment”? In Spain, women indignadas have had more than enough. They have organized, and are organizing, and are calling for a Spanish Spring, and a Global Urban Spring. Podemos. We can do it.


(Photo Credit: Publico)

Alert: No time to rest. Women’s rights are still not rights!

In the 21st century, women are still disembodied bodies.The US Supreme Court just ruled against a buffer zone around medical/abortion centers that could have made the trip for women to reproductive care services devoid of abuses and threatening slurs. In addition in many states (such as Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota) access to abortion services is technically rendered impossible. Then, the Hyde Amendment still undermines the promise of Roe v Wade. In addition, even pregnant women may feel that their fetuses come first, as politicians don’t hesitate to declare that women are just host bodies.

In Spain, The Organic Law for the Protection of the life of the conceived and the rights of the pregnant women, first adopted by the Spanish government in December 2013, still threatens women’s rights. In January, this decision immediately triggered European opposition with thousands demonstrating in the streets of European cities and across Spain.

Who thought that the Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy and his ultraconservative government would have withdrawn their bill meant to send back women’s reproductive health to fascist time? They want to have it passed in the parliament in July, counting on the summer distractions.

With this bill, women will lose their right to make decisions about their bodies. 86% of Spanish people oppose this bill. The bill betrays the government’s mandate to not curtail women’s rights, which includes the right to life, dignity and auto-determination as inscribed in the Spanish constitution. These points are what the Politica Feminista Forum, an association of Spanish feminists, are pressing along with the incompatibility of this bill with Resolution 1607 of the European Council, with CEDAW’s recommendation 24 article 31c, with the International Conference on Population and Development and simply with EU laws that stipulates members state should provide safe access to abortion.

Now the attack on women’s reproductive rights is more than a trend. It goes with the doctrine of austerity to curtail public services, with growing inequalities affecting women first, not to forget criminalization of petty offences matched by the increase of police power within countries and at the borders.

One should wonder if reproduction should work like factories, since the same power is attacking labor rights. That must be a dream for neo liberal elite theorists!

Women and men in Spain, and elsewhere, are watching and acting. For Spain a petition has been circulating.

Active solidarity is needed to support resisting people in Spain, in the United States and anywhere women’s rights are compromised on the ground of morality that in fact defends financial profitability for the elite. That is not what a human society should be.

Please consider some possible actions:





(Photo Credit: http://www.forumpoliticafeminista.org)

In Spain millions march for dignity

Belèn Calvo

“I came because I have dignity.”

As many as two million demonstrators converged on Madrid this weekend to reject austerity and support individual and collective dignity. For the past month, eight columns have been on the move, and Saturday, they met, as the Marches for Dignity flooded the streets and captured the imagination of the Spanish people.

Marchers and supporters have demanded no more payment of the debt; no more cuts; no more Troika; and bread, work, shelter (and roses) for all. While they have specific policy demands, such as a law establishing a basic income and an end to all evictions, the heart of the mobilization has been to demand an end to State terror and a concerted effort to build dignity. To march, and to work, for dignity is to reject the politics of fear and terror.

The marchers’ manifesto demanded equal rights for women, migrants, people of color, members of LGBTIQ communities, elders, the poor, workers, dissidents, and more. More to the point, they have demanded an end to the assaults and a beginning to real democracy and real dignity.

Women have been prominent across the sectors. Women have led the anti-eviction movement, and they have led and populated all other movements as well, from mining communities to farm communities to urban communities, from factories to schools to clinics. Women like anti-eviction activist Mamen Ruiz argued that women had been pushed to the brink, and beyond, and that now is the time. Women like Virginia, a government employee, marched to protest the astronomically rising tax rates and the new, stringent anti-abortion laws. Women like teacher Belén Calvo came because, in her words, “I have dignity.”

Women marched to secure an end to sexual violence and exploitation. They argued that women had long struggled with and organized to secure the right to live without male violence and the right to family planning. Under the Troika’s constant assault on women, and almost everyone, violence against women has intensified. Violence has intensified against women of color, immigrant and migrant women, women workers, women students, women seeking medical assistance, and the list goes on.

Outside of Spain and the usual suspects, the Western media has barely covered the largest protest in recent Spanish history, except to note that they ended with some clashes between police and a very small number of demonstrators. Whether police or protesters began those clashes remains debatable. What is clear is that the only `news fit to print’ is violence, however incidental.

For the international news media, austerity is the new normal. Meanwhile, anti-austerity resistance is gaining ground in Greece, Cyprus, Ireland, Portugal, Spain. Much of the prison resistance organizing in the United Kingdom, United States and Australia is anti-austerity at its core. Much of the protests about public service in South Africa are as much about the State’s austerity development program as the shoddy service. In each instance, women are at the core of organizing. In each instance, women echo Belén Calvo: “I come because I have dignity.”

The message is clear. End the reign of terror and torture that passes for austerity. Remember, we each and all came because we have dignity.


(Photo Credit: El Pais / J.J.G.)