In the land of the “free,” “free” is only awarded to certain people

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has dominated the social and political landscape in the U.S. and across the world. In June, the UN voted to denounce the Court’s decision and when the Court released its ruling, Democratic politicians did not hesitate to reach out to their base through fundraising emails and texts. Additionally, many have expressed concerns about what this means regarding fundamental rights realized in the last 50 years. While these responses to the decision are important, it is time to also acknowledge the misogyny rampant in America.

Simply put, America hates women. The loss of the right to safe legal abortions threatens the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Recent headlines about a ten-year old girl seeking an out-of state abortion for a pregnancy as a result of a rape is just one extreme but not unique example of the great dangers that many of us may face in the not so distant future. It is a gross story of forced reproduction and pregnancy without considering the physical and emotional toll a pregnancy may have on an adult let alone a ten-year old girl.

Additionally, people have been similarly forced into carrying pregnancy; being held unfairly and unjustly responsible for pregnancy outcomes. For example, Purvi Patel, an Indian-American woman, was imprisoned and convicted to 20 years in prison for her pregnancy loss. She was charged with felony child neglect and feticide – charges that value the humanity and life of the fetus over that of the individual carrying the pregnancy. These stories of loss, loss of autonomy and life, point to a devaluation and dehumanization that grounds the misogyny in America.

Outside of reproductive rights, perhaps another poignant example of misogyny could be viewed through the legal battle between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. The issue was domestic violence, a reality many  know all too well, but this serious concern was almost second to the social media reactions to the case. As the trial was publicly consumed and followed for six weeks, it became clear who was favored and who was not. In fact, Heard was met with mockery and vilification for sharing her story; it was as if the crime of defaming an apparently beloved actor (Depp) was more horrendous than the allegations of violence and abuse. Regardless of how one may feel about the case, it was objectively troubling to see the lack of empathy, to see how easily people mocked someone’s story of abuse.

In the land of the “free,” these stories demonstrate that “free” is only awarded to certain people. “Free” to live as we choose, “free” to speak your truth in the hopes of being heard are not realized by all. It is unclear where to move forward from here, but acknowledging this reality is the best first step.

(By Michelle Nguyen)

(Photo Credit: Christine Garlough / UW-Madison Libraries)

I did not need to watch the trial

I did not need to watch the Depp/Heard trial. The endless documentation around it and its live feed are meaningless. Even if the libel defendant were destroyed, aggressive, confused and/or totally without credibility, it would not change my opinion.

In my opinion, the person with gender privilege, more money, more symbolic power and more fame, not to mention more physical torque, is far more at liberty to walk away from a conflict than a person who has less of these things and is dealing with gendered ideology — a thing that lives in the minds of many femmes people, particularly cis-het women, reminding forever that femmes or childbearing bodies can be and are frequently trafficked, femmes minds are not valued; bank accounts not owned by men are precarious (as in evidence in the case of Britney Spears), and that displeased het-men have a social history of violence. Any invocation of the witch trials reminds that those bodies historically described as “women” are constructed as disposable.

Though in many contexts, these fears may be much less relevant, the true lovers of femmes people will understand that this internal siege exists and help us feel safe. Since the “Depp is innocent” campaign, that internal dreamscape has become a more, not less, dangerous place. Now that he has won his case, the dangers of that dreamscape will pierce the membrane into reality with the help of that repository called the internet.

The non-imperial gender and less powerful person in a relationship is far more likely to be stripped of other forms of material and social power if they are the one to choose to leave. Though I have little interest, fascination or even patience for a ‘Hollywood set’ of huge means, this relatively ‘less’ is of great importance when we are talking about ‘the union between a man and woman’ in the spectacle. Because it’s here in cis-hetero-ville that patriarchy finds itself and simmers its eggs against any social or structural change. When the imperially gendered famous person can pay an entire media machine to produce its slogans and re-frame events, his ex-wife has every reason to be and to have been terrified. Breakups for the person with less social power can be exponentially more frightening; they carry with them more potential for exile and violence. With the femmes gender having a history of being property, the gender who has been permitted to feel entitled to that property may construct being left as a form of being expropriated.

At the scale Heard will face here, where one can be certain that such an actress will face an entire regime of misogynistic death threats from other similarly entitled/sex privilege expropriated people, and with the more powerful actor most assuredly knowing that such harassment exists, it’s hard not to assume that his abuses continue.

Since I’m a reader, not a watcher, the bits I have caught pertain to some jocular death threats issued by Johnny Depp for whom the Stanford Experiments defense is suddenly deemed relevant. “Burn the witch” is not only misogynistic, it’s an elemental and originary form of misogyny. It represents a fundamentalist dogma of hate towards life-bearing bodies and a reference to a ‘first cause’ of a gendered regime change that brutalized bodies with vaginas. Team Depp argues that the context for him writing these texts was terrible, and so he became terrible. But why does this line of reasoning not work for Amber Heard? Was the context not also somehow terrible for her?

Indeed, what must a woman do to save her life? Sometimes the material manifestations of such decisions are surprising as, for instance, when Lucy DeCoutere gave Jian Ghomeshi flowers. That she did this was also used to prove Ghomeshi’s innocence in Canada. Fear does a lot of things to people: it can make them hyper-conciliatory, or it can make them enraged. But one thing is certain: the double standard has been holding in case after case.

It doesn’t matter to me that Winona Ryder (an actress I am a fan of as much as I can “like” any of these people) or Kate Moss didn’t experience violence with Depp. Sometimes a rapist abuser has a pattern that is obviously visible among his exes, and sometimes he doesn’t. While the pattern could serve as evidence, it’s not a foregone conclusion that if no one else comes forward, then he must be “innocent.” Perhaps Depp has categories of people he abuses, and categories he doesn’t. Perhaps he felt he could get away with exploring his violent side with Heard in particular; perhaps he was drunk. The reason doesn’t much matter. In any scenario, it still would have been much easier for him to walk away and shut the door than it would have been for her because the world doesn’t punish men, and particularly famous White, powerful men, the way it punishes every other identity at every social level.

Whatever Heard is or isn’t, she isn’t lying when she says that the judgment of this case hurts everyone. The judgement that proclaims Depp as “innocent” hurts abuse victims by making them more afraid to come forward, and it hurts abusers by declaring their innocence and thereby “finishing” the episode in what appears to be their favor. While it may look like a win, it actually deprives the abuser of self-reflection and the possibility of change and growth. More crucially, it deprives all of us because it re-installs the rigidity of gendered roles in marriage, men permitted to be controlling and women expected not to fight back and/or stay silent about what they endure; or that women’s roles remain circumscribed, though perhaps prescribed in kind by the whims of a particular era. Such a judgment reifies patriarchy at the center of the internet tabloid sphere, making a serious matter into a fluff piece about a woman’s derangement. So long as we live like this, there will be more Putins, Trumps, Enrons and all the forms of social destabilization created by excess greed, and a class of mostly White-man-people who are judged immune from ethics.

The raison d’etre of libel cases has often pertained to missed job opportunities. In this case, the consequence of Depp not issuing a libel accusation against Heard might have meant that he no longer would be allowed to make more pirate movies. But he would have assuredly not starved because of this, and indeed, it might be time for a new actor to benefit from such an opportunity. That blockbusters require a star in order to maintain their dominion over what adults and children watch is also problematic, normalizing, exclusionary and controlling.

If Depp were ethical, he would have written a well-considered op-ed back to Heard’s, supporting the social movements of femmes bodily autonomy namely the right to live without abuse and rape. He could have corrected where he thought she was wrong or talked about trying to understand how certain acts could, at least, have been read, understood or felt by her as they were in the context of his own predicament. He, like any other imperial identity in his position, could use such a moment to evolve the conversation, to avow his acts of cruelty or callousness, to read and learn about gender violence and support all of us in the travails and discomforts of what it means to truly and respectfully love the other and co-exist and co-create the world with them.

An onslaught of “Johnny Depp is innocent” is an abuse of the entire systemic socius for his petty battle. It ignores what the power of these signs do and which engines they feed. Maybe Depp did or did not abuse Amber Heard, but the accusation and judgment that supports libel abuses all of us. On that alone, Depp is an abuser.

 

(by Dora Bleu)

(Image credit 1: “Bleeding House Somewhere in Miami-5”, by Marko Mäetamm / The Cotton Factory)

(Image credit 2: “Bleeding House – 10”, by Marko Mäetamm / The Cotton Factory)

In Turkey, women refuse to go back: ‘It is women who will win this war’

Around the world, the past year has seen astronomical increases in the incidence of domestic violence. According to United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, “Since the outbreak of Covid-19, emerging data and reports have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified in what we have called the Shadow Pandemic.” While the explosion of violence against women and girls may be a shadow, around the world – from the Americas to Asia and Africa to Europe and beyond – women are refusing to be rendered shadows or specters, are organizing, militating, demonstrating and protesting, and demanding a just and better world. Women are the story. Remember that.

In Turkey, women have always organized against violence against women and girls, femicide, and silence. When women discovered that the Turkish government didn’t think the murder of women important enough to record, they set up their own platform, We Will Stop Femicide. Last summer, when yet another woman was brutally tortured to death, in this instance by her ex-boyfriend, women organized, insisting on justice for Pınar Gültekin, which justice would include contextualizing her death among the large number of women attacked, murdered, intimidated, harassed: “We are here Pınar, we will hold them accountable”. They used every means available, including famously Instagram, asking, “What is happening to women in Turkey? (and what is the Istanbul Convention?)”.

The Istanbul Convention is the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Last July, in the midst of rising and intensifying violence against women and girls, in Turkey as elsewhere, Turkey’s President Erdogan began making noises that he wanted to leave the Istanbul Convention, because leaving the one structure that actually addresses violence against women and girls seemed the most reasonable State response, given the Shadow Pandemic. 

Friday night, at midnight, the Turkish government issued a decree claiming to withdraw its membership in the Istanbul Convention. While the announcement was “a surprise”, it wasn’t surprising. Recall that last year, in May, Hungary’s Parliament refused to sign the Istanbul Convention, and then, in July, Poland threatened to pull out. While the move was “a surprise”, it wasn’t creative or original or clever. If anything, it was both predictable and trite. Poland passes more and more draconian laws outlawing and criminalizing abortion and reproductive rights more generally, Hungary goes after its LGBTIQ+ communities and individuals, and Turkey promotes violence against women. The pogrom is alive and well in Europe.

While the media largely focuses on the so-called Big Men, the real story here is that of the women of Turkey, mobilizing, organizing, militating as ever. The moment the decree appeared,  at midnight, women organized. Individual women and women’s organizations responded immediately. Feminist attorney Hülya Gülbahar was among many who noted, “It is not possible to withdraw from an international convention with a Presidential decree. You withdraw from a convention in the same way you became a party to it. The İstanbul Convention was unanimously approved at the Parliament. We call on the Parliament to reclaim its own will, the people’s will. Parliament to duty, to lay claim to İstanbul Convention”. Canan Güllü, the chair of the Federation of Women’s Associations of Turkey, added, “This is a consequence of the one-man regime. They put women on the table of politics. This means “Rape women, beat women, abuse children.” The next day, in demonstrations across the country, women chanted, “İstanbul Convention saves lives” and “We don’t recognize the one man’s decision”. Others chanted, “We are not scared, we are not afraid. We shall not obey.” One placard said it all, “It is women who will win this war.”

1956, South Africa, in response to State violence, the women chanted, ”Wathint’ abafazi, Strijdom! wathint’ abafazi,wathint’ imbokodo,uza kufa!” “Now you have touched the women you have struck a rock: you have dislodged a boulder: you will be crushed.” 2019, Chile, in response to State violence, the women pointed to the Supreme Court and chanted, “El violador eres tú!” “The rapist is you!” 2021, Turkey, in response to State violence, the women say, “It is women who will win this war!” Women are the center of this center.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: Bianet / Evrim Kepenek & Ayşegül Özbek)

Current mass movements protest violence against women

There is always a day assigned for us to think about the troubles of our world. November 25th was the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women. In the spirit of the moment of uprising to demand respect, women and men took to the streets on Saturday, November 23rd , holding signs to express important messages and demands. Some signs read: “the end of violence against women,” “the end of patriarchy,” “neither women nor the earth are territories for conquest”, “the cup is full” accompanied by a picture of a cup full of blood, “educate children to respect women and girls,” and “feminism never killed anyone, machismo does.”

In France, this year, at the initiative of Nous Toutes (All of Us Women Movement), a large crowd of about 49,000 people hit the streets of Paris versus 12,000 last year, and about 150,000 demonstrated all over France that day. The demonstration was well planned, as the outrage was growing in France. With 138 women killed by their partner or ex at the time of the demonstration, France has seen a notorious increase of femicides this year, despite all the good intentions expressed by the authorities. Many organizations rallied with Nous Toutes, including UN Women France, Femen, the women of the Americas of Argentina and Mexico, Women in Solidarity, Amnesty International, and the National Union of Feminicide Families.

The demonstration started at 2pm, and at 4pm the tail of the demonstration had not moved yet. Men, along with many high school boys, joined the procession of demonstrators. Clearly a sign that something is budging—from merely women rallying to support each other to people rallying to support women.

The demonstrators’ signs and chants addressed the basic social injustice that violence against women and the impunity of the patriarchal system create. The experience of being swept up by this mass protest seemed dreamlike, but an anecdote brought us back to the reality that there is still a long way to go to deconstruct centuries of domination. As we were taking pictures of the demonstration from the sidewalk, two men in their forties who were just there to watch, asked us, “Is patriarchy a new word that has just been invented?” Then, they asked if we could explain to them what patriarchy actually is.

A similar demonstration took place in Madrid, where tens of thousands of people marched in the street chanting, “for those who aren’t with us” and “we demand Justice.” At the end, the 44 names of the women killed within the past twelve months in Madrid were read. 

In six European countries, including Belgium, feminists demanded that an official data collection of femicide be put in place. 

Mass demonstrations to make violence against women visible have been cropping up worldwide. Last weekend, large protests erupted all over India, stemming from Hyderabad, demanding the end of rape and murder of women and the need for justice in fast-track courts. The Nirbhaya protest in New Delhi, the largest of its kind in 2012, is now followed with the protest against the gang rape and murder of a 27-year-old veterinarian. 

Why is violence against women a genocide that continues to be invisible globally? The unavailability of data feeds a supposedly gender-neutral approach to the law, which in turn works in connection with invisibility of the crimes against women, thereby enhancing the objectification and invisibility of women and their ordeal. This constitutes a denial of women’s rights and a normalization of this denial. 

By the same token, women have been objectified as their bodies have become weapons of war in many conflicts in the Global South. The international community has had the hardest time addressing the impunity with which this system has developed. The latest veto of the United States, last June, on the UN resolution 2467, that would have provided medical assistance to women survivors, is just one example of the lack of respect granted for the dignity of over half the world population

The keyword is violence. Violence is the foundation of the patriarchal system as it has developed in economics, medicine, politics, justifying colonization, invasions with never-ending destructive conflicts. Inequality is, as never before, affecting women’s emancipation and rights. It has continued to fragment the social fabric, making precarity a common feature that touches women first. The French government is supporting a series of measures to help individually the victims of violence and at the same time pushing a reform of the retirement programs that will continue to gravely disadvantage women. The Indian government acts with fast-track courts for one high profile victim at a time, without addressing violence against women as a whole.

Women and men globally are conscious of patriarchal domination, but this consciousness has yet to reach the layers of the social fabric and shake up our institutions that still follow outmoded processes. So, the answer is larger solidarity movements, vociferous protests, and voluble writings. Only a solidarity movement will hold the promise to create conditions for a transformational change.

The United Nations refusal to address women’s safety is another casualty of war

The heartless who initiated the heartbeat bills being passed across the United State have also worked hard to dehumanize women victims of sexual crimes in wars.  UN Resolution 2467 introduced in the Security Council on ending sexual violence in war has been passed, stripped of its most important parts. The original rationale was to protect victims of sexual war crimes, but, thanks to a threatened US veto, the final passed resolution is a shadow if its original intent. The entire health section, which included reproductive and sexual services, was stripped out because it implied right to abortion.  Language, such as “the establishment of a formal mechanism to monitor and report atrocities…”, was also removed. These disastrous changes of language occurred after afew days of stalemate between the US, China and Russia. 

The most effective opponent of a resolution that would have added useful tools to protect women in war came from Trump’s ambassador, Jonathan Cohen. The Trump administration is attempting to wrest control from vulnerable women’s bodies in war and is instead waging war against women in the United Nations. The feeling of impunity of the most powerful state-members in the United Nations is notorious, and the United States is no exception. Although the United States has been involved in the building of international treaties against torture, violence, or discrimination, it has failed to fully ratify them. For instance, The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ICCPR, which asserts fundamental political and civil rights, was never fully ratified. The ICCPR treaty comprises the formation of a group of experts for monitoring governments’ implementation of the treaty. Under a treaty entitled The Optional Protocol of the ICCPR, the Human Rights Committee may receive complaints from individuals. Individuals from the United States cannot have access to this body. Similarly, the United States is not fully bound to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment. Furthermore, the United States never ratified the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, CEDAW. 

The debates concerning Resolution 2467 involved about 90 delegates, numerous dignitaries, two 2018 recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Iraqi Yazidi Nadia Murad with her legal councilor, Amal Clooney, and the Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege. They were outraged and decried the international community’s failure to act. The Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres emphasized that despite two precedent resolutions and work on the ground, the situation has not improved: “Advocacy groups have demonstrated beyond a doubt that sexual violence is deliberately used as a tactic of war, to terrorize people, dehumanize communities and destabilize societies, so that they struggle to recover for years or even decades.” Pramila Patten, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict had these strong words: “Wars are still being fought on and over the bodies of women and girls.” Everyone hoped that the resolution would bring some momentum to actions to stop this cycle of violence and give victims a way to become again full human beings. 

Although the international community seemed to have realized the gravity of the situation, the lack of protection and help for the victims and the lack of implementation of accountability mechanisms have remained the main issue. It seemed that the issue was doomed from the get-go. This resolution will become yet another political tool in words and not deeds, and yet another frustratingly futile attempt at rectifying a clear injustice.

At this time of mounting far right intolerance, there is a discrepancy between the political reality of the lives of these women and the level of actions by the leaders of the most economically powerful and largest countries.

That the heartless were at war with justice was anticipated by many in the field. Celine Bardet, founder of “We are weapons of war”, didn’t make the trip to New York. She declared that what happened to the resolution reflects the overall US policy. Since assuming office, Trump has imposed the strongest version ever implemented of the Global Gag Rule, with its dreadful consequences for the most precarious women of the global South. Meanwhile, the ongoing battle against women’s health, reproductive and sexual health in the United States has reached new levels of cruelty. 

Some expressed outrage, for example the UN French Ambassador: “It is intolerable and incomprehensible that the Security Council is incapable of acknowledging that women and girls who suffered from sexual violence in conflict — and who obviously didn’t choose to become pregnant — should have the right to terminate their pregnancy.”

Noting that today victims have no access to medical services, Celine Bardet argued that nobody should have voted for this resolution since it was stripped of its most important content. Bardet believes money should be directed to victims on the ground; helping victims to reclaim their dignity is the only way to make a difference, as survivors, unlike the international political community, will not give up. 

The lack of will to protect women victims of sexual war crimes is a political issue ingrained in the heart of the patriarchal capitalist/neoliberal system.  Wars open up a cornucopia of markets, such as the security market, the rebuilding market, “the global smart weapons” market; the list goes on. Control over women’s reproductive bodies must be understood as the elimination of women’s political bodies. When the global gag rule makes women’s lives precarious, so does a UN resolution that has no ability to protect women from sexual war crimes. These political instruments render women’s racialized and gendered bodies invisible, and this is what mainstream feminism sometimes has difficulty understanding. 

While these heartless policies are currently being enacted against women, on the ground other voices are surfacing to uphold women’s rights and the right to live on a planet without fear of climate catastrophes and war. These voices are rising up in the younger generation in the U.S. Congress, in the current run up to the European Commission election, in the fringe parties in India, in the counter protests in Venezuela, and so on. As, worldwide, far right voices are trending, this is the time to keep our ears to the ground. 

 

(Image Credit: CICC Global Justice)

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)

Namibia: Tell Jerry Ekandjo that violence against women and girls is not a joke!

Jerry Ekandjo is Namibia’s Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport, and National Service. On Wednesday Jerry Ekandjo rose in Parliament and told the members that Namibia should respond to the high rates of teenage pregnancy by “reintroducing” the practice of taking pregnant teenagers, binding them in grass, and setting them alight. This would serve as a warning to other girls and young women. Namibian social media exploded in protest. On Thursday, Jerry Ekandjo tried to explain: “I made a joke that in the past, those who fell pregnant before they were married were rolled in grass and set on fire, leading to the name ‘oshikumbu’, to set an example to others. Is that something worth publishing in the newspaper. I was just joking. I did not mean that people must be burned in reality for falling pregnant. I am a joking person.” Whether Jerry Ekandjo is, or is not, a joking person is irrelevant. Violence against girls and women is not a joke.

In his various recent studies of young Namibians’ perceptions of sex, sexuality, HIV and AIDS, Pempelani Mufune, former head of the Department of Sociology at the University of Namibia, noted that young people today use“oshikumbu” as “slut” and “bitch”, a derogatory name for a never-married-woman-with-children. Under the smoke screen of tradition, Jerry Ekandjo appeals to violence against women as acceptable in the service of the nation.

Jerry Ekandjo made his statement in response Elma Dienda, a member of Parliament and a teacher, who urged her colleagues to rethink policies on teenage pregnancy. Dienda called for real sex and reproductive health education in schools and she called for an end to denying pregnant students the opportunity to sit for exams. Ekandjo’s response was, first, that pregnant students must be punished more harshly, and then he launched into his Oshikumbu Manifesto.

In 2000, Jerry Ekandjo was Namibia’s Home Minister. In an address to 700 new graduates of the police academy, Jerry Ekandjo to the new officers that they should “eliminate” gay and lesbian people “from the face of Namibia.” As this week, activists and many in Parliament then were also enraged.

On the same day Jerry Ekandjo “explained” his statement, Pakistani activist writer Rafia Zakaria explained women’s empowerment: “The term was introduced into the development lexicon in the mid-1980s by feminists from the Global South. Those women understood `empowerment’ as the task of `transforming gender subordination’ and the breakdown of `other oppressive structures’ and collective `political mobilization.’”

Elma Dienda understands that women’s empowerment means transforming gender subordination, and that it’s no joke. Keeping women and girls out of school is no joke. Threatening violence against women and girls is no joke. According to Namibia’s Ministry of Education, in 2015, 1843 girls left school because of pregnancy; in 2016, that number more than doubled, reaching 4000. That is no joke.

In November, SWAPO, the majority party in Namibia, will hold its congress. Most people think that Jerry Ekandjo will run for SWAPO President. If he wins, he would almost certainly become the next President of Namibia, and that is no joke. Tell Jerry Ekandjo, and all the leaders of the world, that violence against women and girls is not a joke!

(Image Credit: Namibian)

Gentle Justice

 

Gentle Justice

justice
awaits
victims wait
for some

whilst Special Ones
and the blindly faithful
get their way
and get away

Gentle Justice
an escape
from the glare
of the public

Gentle Justice
is what you get
when you are

well-known
well-resourced
well-connected
(pockets well-lined too)

(this in spite of our
Constitution lauded
and our Bill of Rights
and the like
on paper)

Gentle Justice
a higher-up gets
during Women’s Month

his just reward
for knowing
his place

(no shoot first or
fight fire
with fire)

justice awaits
and victims wait

A legal NGO’s spokesperson on morning SAFM radio has it that our Rainbow Nation’s night-clubbing higher-up deputy-male has gotten himself “gentle justice”.

(Photo Credit: Joseph Chirume / GroundUp)

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)

Violence is violence……

Gloria Amparo Arboleda, Maritza Asprilla, Mary Medina of the Mariposas Network

Gloria Amparo Arboleda, Maritza Asprilla, Mary Medina of the Mariposas Network

When a woman is knocked out by her partner, fiancé, or spouse and her assault is caught on camera, is there something to be done at the time of that assault instead of waiting for a tabloid media to use it to make profit?

In “For real equality between women and men,” recently passed in France, violence against women appeared as a component that keeps women dominated. The telephone “grand danger” was part of the tools used to address the immediate crisis and to guarantee the woman who is threatened that she won’t stand alone. In the case of Janay Rice, the “surveillance” camera of an elevator in a casino was not there to protect the woman.

Whether both were drunk is not the issue, the issue is violence and what should be done about it.

Now the video of the assault on Janay Rice is shown everywhere, many have commented and nothing is done to exit from this violence. The woman is re victimized, she is accused of many things from having married the man after the assault to having angered her fiancé and thereby triggering the attack. Meanwhile the main issue for women experiencing this violence is that they don’t have a space to speak.

In this case, Ray Rice, the perpetrator, is punished by the corporate sport organization, the NFL. The sport itself is a spectacle that uses violence to attract viewers. Some studies have suggested that the numerous injuries, mainly cranial injuries, have been overlooked. In a racialized way, the Bread and Circus of the Roman Empire is still a concept in men’s sport. Capitalist ventures in sport demand return on investment, and an organization like the NFL acts as if protecting its logo is more important than reducing the impact of violence on women’s lives. At the same time, players’ injuries may have a role in transporting violence from the playing fields to the everyday life of players. Although it is just one factor, it speaks volumes about the organization and what women who are with the players have to deal with as if it were their designated role.

Meanwhile, the statistics on domestic violence are staggering. In the United States and elsewhere, many don’t report their assaults for fear of repercussions, which take various forms but always affect women gravely, socially and physically.

Celebrity cases are unfortunately not about violence against women. Instead, they contribute to the overall normalization of violence. Many should learn from the women of Mariposas de Alas Nuevas Construyendo Futuro who received the UN Nansen prize on September 12, 2014 for helping and caring for victims of domestic violence in Bonaventura, a place where violence is rampant. As Mery Medina, a member of the group, declared, “The fight is to fight indifference. One way of protesting is not to keep our mouths shut.” It is the only way to form solutions to exit from the violence.

 

(Photo Credit: Radio Nacional de Colombia / EFE / Raquel Castán)