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)

From Paris to Washington, all women need easy access to real help in times of crisis

Recently, former President of George Washington University, Stephen Joel Trachtenberg suggested that violence against women on university campuses in the United States could be reduced if only women were trained not to drink in excess. He added that we need to educate “our daughters and our children” who drink too much.

At least, with these recommendations, women will remain sober while being subjected to violence? This type of comment is too often accepted in public spaces, such as NPR where it was expressed. As long as discriminatory comments and acts are still presented as primitive solutions, violence against women will persist.

Women need easy access to real help in times of crisis. Women also need society as a whole to stop discriminating against them, making us ever more susceptible to acts of violence.

In France, a recent bill, For a Real Equality Between Women and Men, takes on violence against women in its multifaceted approach to create conditions for more equality. The bill offers other methods to address this issue. Some are for immediate relief for women. Others offer a long-term approach to make violence against women clearly and unequivocally unacceptable.

The distribution of the free personal cell telephone “grand danger” (emergency phone) to women who are at risk of domestic violence is inscribed in the new law. This measure has been initiated by Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who presented the bill to Parliament in coordination with Christiane Taubira (Minister of Justice) and Bernard Cazeneuve (Minister of the Interior in charge of police).

The cell phone is connected to a call center where trained people may activate a police intervention, which should be effective within ten minutes, according to Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. A woman who feels threatened presses three times on the bottom of the phone to be connected to the call center. Other numbers are pre-registered in the phone to give access to associations that provide psychological support to women who may just need to talk.

The phone is given for six months, renewable, to women whose former companions have been issued a no contact order by the court. With the phone comes psychological support to reduce the feeling of isolation that domestic threat produces.

This system is already widely used in Spain.

After four years of trial in various areas in France, the phone “grand danger”, according to Christiane Taubira, has been a clear success. It has saved lives and has helped women to break the cycle of violence and isolation. In fact, the phone seems to give women a sense of security. According to the Public Prosecutor of the Republic of Paris, the great majority of women call just to make sure that the phone is working; only 10% of the calls are for actual emergencies.

This method is now part of a national plan of action to reduce violence against women and will be accessible to women in the entire French territories including the DOM TOM (French overseas departments and territories). However, as Christiane Tuabira made clear, it is not a gadget. It is there to stop the cycle of sexual and domestic violence and provide preventative and timely assistance to women who are the victims of such violence. This device is part of a larger set of actions. The goal, said Christiane Taubira and Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, is to reduce the level of acceptability of violence against women in society in order have fewer “grand danger” phones.

Let’s extend this goal to the United States and stand up against comments, such as those of Stephen Joel Trachenberg, that show the pervasiveness in ordinary language of discrimination against women, making us more vulnerable to violence. There’s a petition that offers one of the numerous actions to change the level of discussion. You can find it, and sign it, here.

Please sign and share the petition. Every effort counts!

 

(Image Credit: Najat Vallaud-Belkacem)

The violence visited on homeless and unstably housed women

Released last week, “Recent Violence in a Community-Based Sample of Homeless and Unstably Housed Women With High Levels of Psychiatric Comorbidity” confirms common sense and lived experience as it adds some new twists … and leaves some out. The study looked at 300 homeless and unstably housed women in San Francisco.

Common sense and lived experience confirmed: “Violence against homeless women (i.e., women who sleep in a shelter or public place) and women who are unstably housed (i.e., those who are displaced or move often and women who sleep at homes of friends, family, associates, or strangers because they have no other shelter) is disproportionately common.”

Not terribly surprising: Almost all the women “met criteria” for at least one psychiatric condition, one mental health disorder, and one substance-related disorder. “Most study participants experienced comorbidity”, meaning they live with two or more chronic disorders.

60% of the women had experienced some type of violence prior to being interviewed. And here’s where some twists begin: “Violence was disproportionately perpetrated by non-primary partners.” Half of the women experienced emotional violence from a non-primary partner. Almost twice as many experienced physical violence from a non-primary partner as from a primary; and more than three times as many experienced sexual violence from a non-primary partner as from a primary partner.

According to the researchers, the odds of non-primary partner violence increased with a greater number of psychiatric diagnoses; a higher level of social connection; being White; having unmet subsistence needs. Being HIV positive decreased the odds of non-primary partner violence.

Violence from primary partners increased with age, being White, multiple psychiatric diagnoses, and a higher level of social connection.

While some of the social markers surprised the researchers, what really got their attention was the social connection link. It suggests that, for homeless and unstably housed women, social isolation makes sense. The less socially connected a woman is, the less likely she is to be hurt.

While the authors of the study don’t invoke “intersectionality”, they rely on it, to the extent that they insist that violence against homeless and unstably housed women must include emotional, physical and sexual violence.

The study misses economic violence, which is structural, and so misses prison. Given the privatization of streets and the criminalization of those who live on the streets, women with multiple disorders struggle with violence on the streets and are shunted off to jail and prison, where they receive less than no help, and then are dumped back onto the streets, where the cycle accelerates and intensifies.

The report concludes: “The high level of violence in this population exceeds reports from many previous studies because of its inclusion of emotional violence, perpetrators who were not primary or domestic partners, and a sensitive screening instrument. Comprehensive screening for violence against impoverished women in health care settings is needed, and these data suggest that this is especially true for mental health and drug treatment providers caring for impoverished women with high levels of psychiatric comorbidity. Referrals for care, counseling, and safety plans should prioritize basic subsistence needs (housing, food, clothing, and hygiene needs), psychiatric assessment, and care. Finally, providers must understand that rather than a negative predictor of health and safety, social isolation may be an effective means for some impoverished women to extricate themselves from a potentially dangerous environment in the absence of other options.”

The absence of other options is prison. High and excessive levels of violence against women and high levels of incarceration of women are part of the global story of severely reduced to eliminated mental health and all public services, of severely reduced to eliminated affordable housing, of severely reduced to eliminated jobs, of severely reduced to eliminated safe public spaces for women, and of astronomically expanded police forces and prisons.

 

(Photo Credit: Juan Pardo / www.sfexaminer.com)

Columbia’s Thin Line of Masculinities

Responding to complaints about Columbia University’s failure to take sexual assault seriously, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger recently announced plans to make his campus safer for students and staff. As a member of the Columbia community, I wasn’t surprised to read that the culture of impunity which surrounds sexual violence is alive and well on my campus. Only a few weeks ago, one of my friends experienced this first hand. Someone, the same person, no less than three times in one of our library’s reading rooms, assaulted her. The day of Bollinger’s announcement, she left Columbia’s office for gender-based and sexual misconduct a voicemail message. Three weeks later, she had not heard a word. Nothing. On the other hand, she encounters the perpetrator at least three times a week.

While the topic of sexual violence receives increasing attention in many political and media arenas, many popular misconceptions, inactions and silences haunt this global epidemic. While prime responsibility to bring this violence to an end rests with political and institutional leadership, as public educators, media have a responsibility too. First, they could do a much better job framing sexual violence for what it is, namely a news worthy crime and a grave human rights violation. Second, they should also make perpetrators more visible. All too often we read about sexual violence as something that ‘overcomes’ women, as if this evil keeps happening without any actors.

The simple fact that sexual violence, as perpetrated by men doesn’t spare any class, nation or community, suggests that, rather rooted in culture or social class, the violence is entrenched in dominant meanings of manhood, also known as masculinities.

Masculinities lie at the very core of sexual violence, and yet the concept of masculinities is curiously and disturbingly under discussed in the media. To be sure, masculinities are complex and so not easy to cover. They take various shapes and forms in different contexts, and are embedded in the particular context in which a man makes sense of himself, his role models, his future and how he perceives the worth, role and place of women.  One community’s nerd might be another one’s hero. Hence, the performances and manifestations of masculinities, including treatment of women, take different forms. But what underlies them all is an oppressive relationship to women. That is true everywhere, including the elite Ivy Leagues. That much is clear.

What seems less clear but is in desperate need of attention is how thin is the line between violent performances of masculinity and ostensibly innocent and typical ‘male behavior’. This silence keeps the culture of impunity around sexual violence intact. By affirming stereotypical ideas of dominant men and submissive women, and leaving unchallenged and undiscussed how ‘typical male traits’ relate to devastating violence against women, the media help fuel the violence.

This silence excuses men from critically rethinking their own masculinity and the role they play in condoning problematic masculine performances around them. As a result, the conversation around sexual violence is often reduced to one with ‘bad guys’ and ‘good guys’, in which the good guys are able to distance themselves from the verbal or physical misogyny of the ‘bad ones’, while hailing ‘girl power’ and gender equality.  Such hollow equality rhetoric, however, does little for illuminating, critically examining and challenging how fellow men condone, perform, fuel or normalize the masculine ideas that are rooted in the same patriarchal structure as the physical assaults.

“Typical male behavior” is covered in such a thick guise of “common sense normality”, that it is often defended as innocent, unworthy of serious analytical scrutiny and not related to “serious” power issues nor to misogyny. The innocent little slights and the big physical violence share a foundation of patriarchy and male entitlement. It’s when he gets offended by being called gay; when he gently slaps a colleague on her butt; when he insists on getting her that tequila, even though she declined; when he expects her to clean up; when he assumes he will be the leader in his team of female students; when he laughingly takes her no for a yes in the bedroom; when he tells her to put a smile on her pretty face, even though their passing each other in traffic is the first time they ever met (It’s a compliment entitlement!).

In challenging problematic masculinities, the media have a vital role to play.

The prime responsibility to tackle sexual violence, however, lies with the institutions and leaders who should prosecute and punish the perpetrators. In the context of college campuses, President Obama recently, and correctly, pointed out that university presidents ought to take responsibility here. With regards to Columbia, it looks like the students will hold their President to account. With placards across campus restrooms, Columbia’s No Red Tape Community is currently calling on Bollinger to follow up on his promises and provide clarity about the town hall meetings. With regards to my friend, not too long after Bollinger’s announcement, the office for gender-based and sexual misconduct finally called her back. Efforts are under way to track the perpetrator. While this is a positive signal, only time will tell whether Columbia will strengthen their work in a structural way.

 

(Photo Credit: Erin Vaughn / Instagram / ProPublica)

#YakiriLibre: Tod@s somos Yaki, tod@s merecemos justicia

The case of Yakiri Rubio is a celebrated case in Mexico, which has received practically no attention in the United States or in the Anglophone press worldwide. That’s a shame, because Yakiri’s case articulates with cases in the United State, and with the more general situation of women’s safety and wellbeing.

In December, 20-year-old Yakiri was seized by two men, brothers, and taken to a hotel, where she was raped. Yakiri picked up a knife and struggled with her attackers. She struck one of the attackers in the neck, and he subsequently died of his injury. Clothes ripped, bleeding and bruised, Yakiri fled the hotel, found a police officer, and described what happened. She was taken to the police station. No one believed her. That night in the police station, she received no gynecological examination or any medical attention. No medication, no treatment, no nothing. Then Yakiri was booked for first-degree homicide. The only eyewitness to testify against her is the other brother, also involved in the rape.

Yakiri has been in one prison after another for three months. Her family organized a major campaign. Women’s groups, civil and human rights organizations, and others have mobilized their forces. Yesterday, finally, a judge reviewed the case and decided to downgrade the charge from first-degree murder to self-defense with excessive force. While this downgrade did not absolve Yakiri, it did make her release on bail possible. She was supposed to be released yesterday but, thanks to bureaucratic foot dragging, as of noon today, people were still awaiting her release. Her lawyer, Ana Katiria Suárez, felt pretty confident that Yakiri Rubí Rubio would walk out of prison today, not a free woman, not an exonerated woman, but at least no longer behind bars and caged.

On line and on lampposts and walls, Free Yakiri posters have proclaimed: “#YakiriLibre: La violencia machista es un crimen, que te encarcelen por defenderse tambien”: “#FreeYakiri: Male violence against women is a crime, and they put in jail for defending yourself against it.” In Mexico, women and men understand that Yakiri defended herself against both an immediate physical assault and ongoing structural, cultural, political, economic and societal violence against her as a woman and against all women.

Yesterday, the State announced it will review the cases of women currently behind bars, in the light of Yakiri’s case. There will be others like Yakiri.

This is a Mexican case that speaks to cases worldwide. In Florida, Marissa Alexander shoots a warning shot to stop a murderously abusive partner, and is not only charged but also persecuted by the State. In California, Patricia Norma Esparza was 20 years old when she was raped and then struggled with and killed her rapist. In a preliminary hearing last week, the police argued that Esparza “consented to” being raped, and so it’s all on her.

In each case, the woman was offered a deal, and in each case, the woman turned it down and demanded either a trial or to be let free. From the formal rule of law – the police, the Courts, the prison – to the informal everywhere else, women reject the compromised position and status that is offered to them as a `gift.’ They know: When it comes to ending sexual violence, when it comes to establishing a material world of peace and safety for all, there are no deals. As one demonstrator’s sign read, “#YakiriLibre: Tod@s somos Yaki, tod@s merecemos justicia”. We are all Yaki, we all deserve justice.

 

(Image Credit: https://mediosindependientes.wordpress.com)