Category Archives: 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence

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Nigeria: Chibok, A Living Nightmare, Find our Daughters

Relatives of Kidnapped Girls [Source: TheGuardian.com]
Relatives of Kidnapped Girls [Source: TheGuardian.com]
 Women across Nigeria are protesting the abduction of 234 schoolgirls from Chibok, in north east Nigeria, which took place on Monday April
the 14th. Starting from Wednesday the 30th of April, protests and rallies are planned in Abuja, Ibadan, Maiduguri, Kano, Lagos, Kaduna,
Benin.

A Living Nightmare, Find our Daughters – Statement by Women of Peace And Justice

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Since Monday 14th April 2014 when over 200 young female students from the Government Girls Secondary School Chibok, Borno State were abducted by heavily armed men, millions around the world have been unable to come to terms with the loss and the implications of this loss. Today, millions of Nigerian women and men call on the Federal Government and the security agencies to find and bring back these girls currently living in captivity.

These young girls are daughters, sisters, nieces; tomorrow’s women and mothers. Those directly affected grieve, and we as Nigerians and human beings, join them in their anguish and distress. We want them back. Safe in their homes where they belong.

The trend of conflicting information about the exact number of girls who are still missing and even the operations are regrettable. The fact that as yet, no credible claim of responsibility for the abduction of these girls has been made is equally disturbing. This makes it an imperative for all Nigerians to amplify and demand of those with the responsibility for the safety of all Nigerians to ACT and CONSTRUCTIVELY engage to find and return these girls to their parents.

As citizens it is our right and responsibility to ask the following questions which have been on the lips and on the minds of millions around the world. This is even as we wait, with baited breath, to be informed about the fate of these young girls whose only crime is striving for an education:

How is it possible in the age of drones, Google Maps, and aerial surveillance that over 200 girls will vanish without a trace? Is this suggestive of the weaknesses of security operations covering soft targets such as schools even after clear indications of their vulnerability?
Why was protection for our children in schools in the N.E not intensified even after the devastation and pain of the 59 innocent children murdered in FGC Buni Yadi on February 25 2014?
How is it that security is not upgraded around institutions even when warnings of potential threat or imminent aggressions are issued? The warning after Buni Yadi that girls would be targeted or that Giwa Baracks in Madiguri are two cases in point.
What is the rational explanation that in a location (Borno State) under a state of emergency; 4 trucks and numerous motor bikes can deploy, move in convoy, unleash terror on the school at Chibok and then flee with over 200 girls to a location yet to be determined by Nigeria’s security institutions?
Where are or what has happened to the much mentioned assistance to the Federal Government or collaboration with friendly governments ?
Why, despite the massive increase in security spending, (up to N1trillion in 2013 and N845 Billion in 2014), are Nigerians not safer; while our security and military personnel are said to be under equipped and ill prepared to face the ever growing security challenges confronting Nigeria?
What support plans are being made to cater for the emotional needs and management of the trauma the parents of these girls must be going through?
The Chibok incidence is CRITICAL as well as a stark reality of the vulnerability of all Nigerians but most especially innocent children seeking to actualize their right to education towards a potential improvement of quality life. There is a need to scale up security efforts and sustain vigilance until ALL the girls are found. They cannot be abandoned and all Nigerians must share in their agony and in the anguish of their immediate families. The media must step up its act especially in reporting and constructive investigative journalism.

We recognize the complexities and dangers in security and military operations, however it is our firm belief that these institutions hold in high esteem the value of Nigerian lives as well our sovereignty being their primary mandate. The reading from Chibok is WE, ALL, including the military and security personnel are at great RISK of being consumed by the aggression of those in ambush of our peace and prosperity. Extra measures that remain within the legal limits of operations and counter insurgency/terrorism must be employed. Citizens must remain vigilant and supportive of the institutions of security at all times.

We speak out today and will do so every day until these girls are ALL accounted for. As mothers, fathers and siblings we call for the urgent and complete end to the politicization of the insecurity in Nigeria. OUR pain and solution are collective.

Updates on twitter at #BringBackOur Girls and #FreeOurGirls

Maleshwane Emely Radebe : Born 25.08.1977, Died 7.12.2013

While South Africa and the world were mourning the death of Madiba, a young lesbian was murdered in Ratanda, Johannesburg. Maleshwane Emely Radebe was murdered on the 7th December 2013 aged 32. She was stabbed  to death alongside her girlfriend who managed to escape and survived with stab wounds to her face, arm and thigh.  Maleshwane was buried on the 14th December.

She is Survived by her mother, 3 nieces and 2 children born by the nieces. She also has uncles, aunts, and many friends who loved her dearly.

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Continue on Inkanyiso….

Jaywalking the Freeway from Fear

From Center for Women’s Global Leadership by Bernedette Muthien, South Africa

In 1993, the year of the germinal UN conference in Vienna, the first President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, affirmed that all freedoms (and hence oppressions) are interdependent. This speaks critically to intersectionality, the study of the interactions of multiple systems of oppression, and its intersections with privilege. Intersectionality influenced South Africa’s groundbreaking Constitutional equality clause, which guarantees the rights of all peoples.

Vienna was a groundbreaking intersectional moment too, affirming human rights as a universal standard and emphasising the indivisible, interdependent nature of human rights, specifically in response to the historic divide between civil and political rights on the one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights on the other hand.

Intersectionality shows how categories such as gender, race, class, ability, sexuality and other forms of identity interact in myriad ways, contributing to systematic societal inequity. Classic conceptions of oppression in society, such as racism, sexism and homophobia interrelate, creating a web of subjugation.

While we are familiar with victims suffering violence, we often forget that witnesses suffer vicarious trauma, and that most perpetrators are themselves survivors of violence, including gender-based violence, that violence and discrimination often stems from insecurity and fear, rather than a lustful nature, no mirth intended.

Of less concern are the labels or issues we are still forced to deal with, like widespread gender-based violence that has not diminished over decades of feminist activisms and progressive legislation and policies. Of greater import are the approaches taken, the imperialist or colonial gaze, how we conceptualise issues, how these lenses shape/d activisms.

This includes the narrow LGBTQQI discourse, European letters completely ignorant of and sidestepping ancient same sex practices on all continents, including woman to woman marriage across Africa. Ifi Amadiume and the late Audre Lorde famously argued whether these women had romantic-sexual relations, Audre’s argument, or whether it was entirely about property relations and ensuring succession, Ifi’s contention. This ancient practice was almost entirely eradicated by colonial Christianity, yet it still persists, especially in rural areas, across East, Central and West Africa.

Of equal concern is the classification, led by the global North, of the rape of lesbians, ostensibly due to their sexuality, as a “hate crime”. This divorces so-called “curative” or “corrective” rape from its rootedness in gender-based violence and an analysis and challenge of Patriarchy, effectively deradicalising a revolutionary moment.

The presumption by feminist scholars and activists, especially those entrenched and aptly rewarded in euro-formed discourses, of the primordialism of patriarchy is another point of vexation to those of us from ancient indigenous societies that still remain matrilineal and women-centred, despite centuries of colonial and capitalist depredations. Matrilineal societies, still existing across the continents of the world, tend to be socially and gender egalitarian, with deep-rooted conflict resolution practices and hence less violent. The matriarchal Iroquois of North America’s precolonial Great Peace of the Haudenosee are said to have gifted the United States with the foundations of their Constitution. What can we learn from these nonviolent egalitarian peoples, their complex histories and ways of being? In as much as we study the League of Nations and the social welfarism of Scandinavia. Even as we smartly don the business suits, modern offspring of military uniforms, so necessary for our advocacy and scholarly endeavours, do we hear Audre Lorde’s admonishment of the complexities of employing the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house?

The silofication of our discourse and struggle speaks to a weakness of the global imagination. We need to indigenise our struggles. We need to use language that is familiar to local peoples the world over, so that tyrannical patriarchal leaders cannot say our practices are un-African or un-Russian, because they are indeed indigenous and we have been doing it since time began. With indigenous knowledge we can more effectively resist the flood of fundamentalist Christians from North America and Europe recolonizing our continents, aided by despots more interested in scapegoating marginalised communities than in addressing issues of socio-economic justice.

We need to note that violences are structural-cultural, and due to Patriarchy, women are at the centre of this war on our bodies and minds. While we focus on choice, autonomy, desire and pleasure, we need to remember that we need socio-economic-cultural rights to be truly free.

As the founder of the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa, brutally slain by Apartheid securocrats during the 1970s said in a speech in my Mother City of Cape Town: “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” And we all know Bob Marley’s song, “none but ourselves can free our minds…”

Bernedette Muthien, scholar, a poet, and an activist. She co-founded and directs Engender, an NGO which works in the intersectional areas of genders, human rights, justice and peace. Over 20 years, on all six continents, she produced 170 publications and conference presentations, some of which have been translated from English into other languages, including Dutch, Flemish, French, German, and Italian. Follow her @BerneMuthien

Queercide: Campaign Against Violence Against Women – Why We Must Document

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In 2012 there were 10 murders of black lesbians, gays and transgender people in South Africa. In Uganda, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which includes the death penalty and makes LGBTI people and anyone or organisation that supports or helps them, into illegal citizens, has once again been tabled in Parliament and once again delayed – all in the space of a month. There is no guarantee that it will not resurface in 2013. In Nigeria, the “Prohibition of Same Sex Marriage Bill” has been passed unchallenged by both Houses and is awaiting a final reading in the House Chamber.

In South Africa, Queercide, like other social phenomena is being driven by a set of social conditions in this case, homophobia, religious fundamentalism, government inaction and community silence. In Uganda and Nigeria, religious fundamentalism and a weak and disinterested civil society are the driving and enabling forces respectfully. These expressions of the logic of domination are the punishment for daring to digress from arbitrary norms.

It is in this context that Zanele Muholi’s Faces and Phases exhibition opened at the Goethe Institute in Johannesburg on 27th November, 2012. Faces and Phases is an ongoing body of work which began in 2007 with the intention of creating an archive of Black lesbian lives and ensuring black queer visibilities. Faces expresses the person and Phases signifies the stages of those expressions. It is a personal experience and journey for Muholi as a visual activist and the people she photographs.

What I love about Zanele’s work is the strength of performance, the way the faces breathe. The portraits are in different poses. One can hear the voices of those who look directly into the camera. But still, there remains an untold story behind each portrait. Visible yet partially invisible. Invisible yet partially visible. I like that. Photographs capture a moment in history. W.J.T. Mitchell wrote a book “What Do Pictures Want?” I think we should ask this question when we look at the photos in Faces and Phases. People and places are layered and I would prefer it, if we could take the time to unpack the layers instead of diving in and ripping everything apart. Read my story and create your own through your imagination. The same goes for Zanele’s photographs.

From the beginning the impetus for Muholi’s work has been on the one hand, to disrupt sexual and gender norms whilst also highlighting the intersectionality of gender, sexual orientation, race and class both in homophobic acts of violence and the response to these acts of violence. Faces and Phases III consists of 60 black and white portraits and as Muholi points out there is a reason ‘there are no smiling faces here’ – their visibility has become a dangerous one. One that has lead to rape, torture and murder including some of Muholi’s collaborators. The constitutional right to be who you are and choose visibility over the closet, becomes a symptom of vulnerability. Homophobia, hate and inertia become the destructive powers that ridicule the protection of the constitution.

In her exhibition Isilumo Siyaluma* Zanele uses her own menstrual blood as a way to begin to articulate and bridge the pain and lost felt as a witness to the pain of ‘curative rapes’ suffered by many young black lesbians in Zanele’s own community. The first piece is a thumb print thereby establishing her truth and her presence as part of her community. Other photo montages are a ‘mothers cry’, ‘the judge’, and the ‘defendants in the dock’. We are all witnesses and we must make our own judgements on how to respond
Zanele’s work has been exhibited outside South Africa and the continent and this too has implications of meaning in terms of black bodies and bodies which may have been violated being exposed in white colonial spaces. Queer black bodies under the gaze of closeted racism loaded with notions of black sexuality and desire -always we return to Zanele’s question “What do you see when you look at me? ……?????????

Campaign against violence against women highlighted by Zanele in this video

Sneha Subra: A Drink or Two With the Intrepid Educator.

Today, four of the infamous Delhi rapists have been sentenced to die. Millions of people around the world are thrilled and millions around the world are infuriated, both by the much-anticipated verdict. These cases are in every society and sexual desire is clearly something the world must socialize its earthlings to better cope with, especially when it reaches as far as murderous rape. As I write this, elated crowds are on the streets of Delhi celebrating the verdict. But what do you, dear reader, have to say about it?

Perhaps that segues into my column about desirability especially since I am speaking to a woman currently living in India. This week I continue my column about desirability in the workplace. Sneha Subra is not just a friend of mine but my essential rock, and ours is a truly romantic story of friendship. I am privileged to have trudged through teenage-hood side-by-side with such a dynamic intelligent friend and now to be walking through adulthood still together with her in loyal friendship. She is an educator and writer currently based in India. She is a graduate of Knox College in Illinois and Azim Premji University in Karnataka, India.I recently spoke with her about her experience as a woman in education. “Chinchilla” is an inside joke. Enjoy!

DM: My dear chinchilla, do you see yourself as a woman in education or an educator who is a woman?

SS: Well, I have a very broad scope in terms of my work because I see what I do not only as a profession but as a calling. I am an educator. In the narrow sense that means I design curricula, observe, analyze and attempt to improve school practices through research, theory and development. From the larger picture, though, I think I’m here to help people and make their lives better, as a professional, yes, but first and foremost as a human being.

DM: I ask that question because somehow men are usually just called “writer” or “educator” but when it comes to women there is always the lopsided need to place “female” before those words.

SS: Exactly!

DM: Tell us, is education a male-dominated field in your experience?

SS: Education? No, on the contrary I would say that the field has been feminized and, as a result, continues to suffer from a low status. Most teachers are female. However, in terms of who decides educational policy- that ultimately governs the entire education system- yes, I would say decision makers are predominantly male.

DM: Right. As you know my column discusses how “desirable” one has to be in their professional life. In the past we have heard about sexualized images as a necessity to get ahead in the workplace to get ahead. Could you speak to that a little bit?

SS: I think, for a woman, the image enters all domains of life. A good looking teacher or professor is likely to garner more initial interest from learners and so, perhaps, it becomes important to tap in on this appeal to get learners thinking. In the long run, however, it is the human connection and content that overrides image. On the other hand, while working with different communities and attempting to implement policy or conduct workshops, the image can make a crucial difference. For the woman to be accepted as a leader and someone who wields power, a traditional attire goes a long way in asserting authority and experience. The idea of the working woman is convoluted in the image- not only with regards to sex appeal but also in temrs of what values this woman embodies. The antiquated virgin/whore dichotomy as the basis for perceiving the woman is, very sadly, something I see living and thriving in contemporary society.

DM: Tell me though, chinchilla, can this image of appeal be harmful to pedagogy?

SS: Well, like I said, chinchilla, I think appeal can be used as an initial trigger to reel in the learner.

DM: Right.

SS: Also by conforming to standards of beauty and appeal at times, and not conforming at others through one’s physical manifestation one can probe into critical thinking to ask learners to start thinking about the image an the woman and how they go hand in hand. not only in our everyday but in film to we must analyze the image of the female and desirability – through our own experiences and ideas of the male and female gaze. So if one is aware, it can be helpful but mostly with people who haven’t reflected and thought about how they fit into the scheme of womanhood and how it fits into their identity, it can be harmful. And this reflection is not one reached by intellect but by exposure.

DM: How does one expose oneself to that reflection? Is it socialization or a more individual quest?

SS: I think it’s a bit of both. But definitely socialization comes first, otherwise the question of that quest may not come into the picture. The thing is that being a strong woman is not just about defying stereotypes. It is not about playing sports or being a business tycoon, it is about fully knowing yourself and experiencing your independence as a matter of course that you will fight for if need be. No course can really teach this because it is so very personal. This is my conception of being a woman, anyway, and I find many people getting lost in the trappings of stereotypes and losing out on questioning the ideological influence of being the Second Sex, as Simone de Beauvoir said.

DM: Fascinating. I love it. Let us, at this juncture, shift the focus to male colleagues now. Do male colleagues also have the capacity to use desire to lure the learner or is the appeal different?

SS: I think they definitely do but the appeal there probably comes from the fact that they are so unconscious of their image. I find this very attractive but I’m a bit of a sapiosexual, especially when in a classroom scenario

DM: You said before that you were not the “good” woman in how you spoke freely about sex etc when you first came to Delhi.Tell us a little bit more about your unorthodox behavior as a woman in that setting.

SS: Haha. Oh, chinchilla! Haha!

DM: Not like that, you chinchilla!

SS: Hmm, okay. I don’t consider myself unorthodox although many people see me that way. It is a simple question of have the social and mental freedoms to make my own decisons and live my own lifestyle and be a good human being for me. That is what informs my day to day. I don’t have a bee in my bonnet about how I am being perceived at every turn as long as I can live my my own ideals.

DM: Are you able to be yourself as a happy feminist woman despite the male gaze?

SS: I think I am conscientious of the trappings of the male gaze and deliberately ensure I do not fall prey to it. For me, my understanding of men, women, sex and human beings comes out in my conversations. I am not afraid to talk about gender discrepancies that are ailing society from any lens -whether that means talking about sex or whether that means leading a highly independent lifestyle and making choices and exhibiting behaviors that are not traditionally thought of as “correct” for the female. I strive to be fearlessly myself in terms of my mind’s articulations and actions. I do not know if that is desirable or not for the other, but it is for me.

DM: Thank you, chinchilla, for your time.

SS: Chinchilla, stop saying thank you. It’s me, man!sneha pic

 

Battle Between the Stone & the Tree: Sharia & Women in Nigeria

From Women’s E News, an excerpt from  “Your Fatwa Doesn’t Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism by Karima Bennoune.  In this excerpt Bennoune explains how externally imposed economic policies  have fueled fundamentalism and the use of Sharia law which is often applied selectively in gendered and class inequalities.

Ayesha Imam and the women she worked with for years in the Nigerian organization BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights possess those very traits. The group, founded in 1996, fights to protect women’s rights in the maze of the Nigerian legal system, with its overlapping religious, secular and customary laws and courts.

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Imam tells me they use tools from whichever system can “recuperate rights,” believing it is often possible to arrive at similar conclusions by working through Muslim discourses or international human rights. “My issue,” she underscores, “is not where you come from, but where you arrive at.”

With her colleagues, she tried to “deconstruct what is Sharia (Muslim laws). How does it get to be Sharia? Is it divine or is it merely religious?” In the ’80s and early ’90s, some of the Sharia courts in Nigeria had come up with “what we may call progressive” interpretations, “as opposed to following somebody’s idea of how it should have worked in 13th-century Arabia.” Imam’s efforts to support women living under these Muslim laws brought her, inevitably, to work on fundamentalism.

“Fundamentalism hit us in Nigeria so it was absolutely necessary, because otherwise fundamentalism was going to close us all down, close all the dreams down, close all the hope down,” she says.

The backdrop for this, a resurgence of communalism, was sparked in part by the harsh impact of structural adjustment and ensuing battles for resources. Structural adjustment–economic reforms imposed on Nigeria by international financial institutions–also meant there were many unemployed, uneducated young men looking for something to do. For them, “this was an opportunity to have power and assert themselves,” as Imam sees it. “They told women in taxis and buses that they had to sit in the back seats.” There was “general intimidation.”

Mixed Response

This in turn led to greater emphasis on Sharia in Muslim majority segments of the population in the late ’90s in the north of Nigeria, and then to enactment of new legislation in the early 2000s. “The reaction among the Muslim community was really mixed. Human rights workers and those who identify strongly as democrats argued that we need secular law. The laws being brought in under the guise of Muslim laws are conservative, and detract from human rights.” Even some religious conservatives opposed Sharianization, Imam recalls, on the grounds that you could not have Sharia before you have economic development so that people can actually live good lives.

According to their worldview, “You can’t cut off people’s hands for theft if they have no other means of gaining a livelihood.”

Any such opponents, however, became targets of “vigilante responses.” Death threats, beatings, threats of being burned. In one state where the governor delayed enacting a Sharia Act and set up a committee to study the matter, there were even threats to his family. Imam recalls attending a meeting in Abuja with the governor who started Sharianization. Young men throughout the hall were telling women where they could and could not sit. “Every time a woman got up to speak, they were yelling and drowning her out. It didn’t matter if you were wearing a hijab or not.” This was new, Imam underlines. When she was a younger feminist, “You didn’t get shouted down. You were not in fear of being physically attacked, or being burned or harassed. You’d go to public meetings and people would get up and argue with you and they might laugh.”

As fundamentalism began to transform Nigerian lives, Imam and BAOBAB became involved in the cases of women who were facing sentences of stoning. One of the first, that of Fatima Usman, ensued when the woman’s father took the man who fathered her baby to court to get child support. “He had no idea he was going to set up his own daughter for the possibility of being stoned to death.” (Today Usman remains technically out on bail, as the case has never been finally resolved. Nor, thankfully, has the sentence been carried out.) Most such cases began with vigilante groups forcing the police to prosecute and ended in “lots of people convicted of Zina [unlawful sexual relations] and whipped because they were not married.” If people do not appeal, they are taken out and whipped right away, Imam laments. “It was really important to establish the principle that you can appeal. It’s your right.

“It’s not anti-God to appeal.”

Continue reading “Fighting Back” on Women’s E News

 

Queer interventions – When victories in America’s culture wars become imperial policy

It is nearly  two months since the Nigerian Senate passed the Same Sex Marriage Bill [SSMB 2013]  yet the Bill is still awaiting presidential approval.  It’s not clear why Goodluck Jonathan is dithering over a decision but possibly because of pressure from the European Union, Britain and the US or maybe  its just not a priority.  Maybe the fracas  over the constitutional amendment to remove the  section 29 clauses 4(b) which states that” any woman that is married in Nigeria is of full age” which would include underage girl children who have been forcibly married at age 13.

Thus in Nigeria the forced marriage and rape of children is legal and socially acceptable whilst consensual loving relationships between two adults of the same sex is illegal and morally unacceptable.   Unfortunately the noise on social media on the former has yet to make the connection with the latter.  There are no threats of withdrawing AID over child marriage, no loud noises from Mr Cameron or President Obama or Madam Clinton.   No international lobby against rape of children -well there is an international against violence against women but there too there is silence despite statements of protest by a consortium of  Nigerian women’s groups, The Gender and Constitution Reform Network (GECORN)

Recently the US appointed it’s first ‘openly gay’ ambassador to the Dominican Republic [one of five gay recent appointees] a country used to American interventions.  There has been some protest from the usual suspects – the church and the political right but the DR is a small island nation and like its island neighbour Haiti,  has little realistic autonomy.     In ‘Freedom Gained or Freedom Imposed?’ Emma Rosenberg and Mario Alejandro Ariza consider what happens when a civil victory in the US becomes an interventionist policy underpinned by unequal imperial relationships.  I began to wonder what would happen if the US or the UK, Nigeria’s former ? colonial power intervened by appointing an openly gay, lesbian or transgender person as ambassador.  How would the government and the people respond.  I am sure there would be outrage with screams of cultural and sexual imperialism. Probably the nation would galvanize and millions would march on the streets quoting biblical texts and engage in the burning of flags and effigies of western leaders.  Unlike the DR, same sex relationships are illegal in Nigeria even without the passage of the SSMB, but an ambassador has diplomatic immunity so she or he could not be arrested.

Of course such an appointment would never happen and even though I would be personally conflicted between Nigeria’s right as an independent nation state to self-determination and the rights of LGBTIQ  to full citizenship, it would at least force a public debate which hopefully would include the rights of children not to be forced into marriage.

 

Another brutal murder of a lesbian

From inkanyiso – Another young black lesbian murdered. Duduzile Zozo, a 26 year old from Thokoza, East of Johannesburg was murdered on 30th June, 2013.

Daily Sun, a local tabloid newspaper reported that, “The 26-year-old’s half-naked body was found in her kasi in Thokoza, Ekurhuleni yesterday morning (30 June 2013).”

The newspaper further stated that, “a toilet brush was rammed into the deceased vagina.”

Captain Godfrey Maditsi who was also interviewed by the paper, confirmed the news and told daily sun that “A murder case has been opened and we ask the community to come forward with any information that could help put those responsible behind bars.”

However, Maditsi said that, “the cops couldn’t confirm whether Duduzile Zozo was raped or not. They could only confirm that a toilet brush was rammed into her vagina as they found it still inside.”

Her mother, Thuziwe Zozo, told the paper that she suspected that her daughter was killed because of her sexuality: “She was a lesbian but never had any problems before. People loved and appreciated her.”

The case of Duduzile Zozo, like many other lesbian cases caught the attention of the media, as most of local and international media ran with the story.

Since reports of the gruesome murder made headlines locally and internationally, we have since seen political parties and other civil society organisations releasing statements condemning the brutal murder of the young lesbian.

COSATU’s Patrick Craven said in a statement, “COSATU is outraged at the continuing high level of violence against women and girls, and demands that no effort be spared to arrest whoever was responsible for this despicable murder, and that the courts impose an exemplary sentence.”

The Democratic Alliance Shadow Deputy Minister of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities (DWYCPD), Helen Lamoela also released a statement expressing The DA’s is shock and sadness by reports of the brutal rape and murder of Duduzile Zozo.

DA stated that, “Government is not doing nearly enough to eradicate the scourge of violence against women and children in South Africa.”

The DA went further on to criticize the progress of the National Council Against Gender-Based Violence based within the DWYCPD formed over six months ago and the silence of the LGBTI National Task Team which was formed two years ago by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.

Helen Lamoela said, “DA will submit parliamentary questions to the Department of Justice to query the progress of this task team. We will also request that the National Council Against Gender-Based Violence be summoned to Parliament to present progress made on its plans and programmes to curb violence against women and children in South Africa.”

The murder of Duduzile happens just a week after Amnesty International released a report called ‘Making Love a Crime: Criminalisation of Same-sex conduct in Sub Saharan Africa’.

The report highlighting violence, homophobia and laws targeting LGBTI people in Sub Saharan Africa, with particular focus on Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon and South Africa.

Amnesty International reported on the plight of black lesbians in South Africa.

The report stated that, “Taunts, insults and threats are a constant reality and are in fact so common that many LGBTI people do not even recognize them as a form of violence. Sexual assault and other physical attacks against LGBTI people are also all too common. Lesbians, and LGBTI people who do not conform to culturally approved models of femininity and masculinity live in fear of being assaulted, raped and murdered by men”.

Amnesty International over the past few months have partnered with Ekhuruleni Pride Organising Committee (EPOC) an LGBTI organization based in Ekhuruleni, a township which now known to the lesbian community as a hot spot for lesbian rape and murder.

Both organisations have been working together in making sure that the case of Noxolo Nogwaza, a 24 year old lesbian activist who was brutally murdered in Kwa-Thema two years ago, is investigated and perpetrators brought to book.

According to Bontle Khalo of EPOC, “Amnesty International has been campaigning to ensure that Noxolo’s murder is investigated thoroughly and effectively, so that those found to be responsible may be brought to justice.”

Furthermore, Amnesty International has been running a campaign locally and internationally calling for Justice for Noxolo. These campaigns have been running since May 2012, and they have targeted local and provincial police authorities, as well as the Gauteng Premier.

In recent developments of the campaign, Amnesty International has been lobbying for legislation to combat hate crime, legislations that would compel the police to compile statistics of lesbian and gay murders and rapes.

“Hate-crime laws would improve the policing and judicial response to such crimes and help develop effective mechanisms to monitor such crimes”, stated the report.

The case of Noxolo Magwaza that Amnesty International is working on is one of many murder cases that have been under-investigated in Ekhuruleni.

There’s the case of Girly Nkosi who was murdered in 2009, Nokuthula Radebe murdered in 2011, and Patricia Mashigo murdered 2013 and many others which were not reported or are unknown to me.

The aforementioned cases, represent only those murdered in Ekhuruleni alone, South Africa has many more neglected cases of LGBTI people who were murdered for being homosexuals.

The fraction of statistic mentioned shows how little the police authorities are working on making sure that the cases are diligently investigated and perpetrators arrested.

It took the South African Justice System six years and 30 court appearances, for 19 year old Zoliswa Nkonyana’s 2006 murder case to be concluded and her killers sentenced.

The brutal killing of vulnerable LGBTI individuals is extreme, merely releasing a statement condemning the act is not enough; the LGBTI community needs actions, Interventions, and legislations to be put in place in order to combat these barbaric acts.

There is an urgent need for educational programmes and awareness campaigns to address the attitudes and biases that lead to these hateful crimes.

South African townships are no longer safe for lesbians, every day a black lesbian wonders if they are NEXT?.

Sentencing of the Oxford rapists: – Women protest both rape and racism

Police and social workers also trashed victims — will they be prosecuted?

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Old Bailey, London, 26 June 2013, 10-12 noon
Women Against Rape

Seven men will be sentenced for 43 offences — ranging from rape and conspiracy to rape to supplying Class A drugs to using an instrument to procure a miscarriage — against six underage girls. But what about the police officers and social workers whose refusal to act enabled these rapes? Will they be prosecuted for aiding and abetting rape? Were they involved in other ways? Is that why they didn’t act against rape? Or is it their bias against working class children and against rape victims generally?

For 8 years police and social services allowed girls between the ages of 11 and 15 to be systematically raped. They even threatened to arrest some of the girls when they reported. As with Savile, with the care homes in Jersey and Wales, with Rochdale and many other cases, those responsible for the children’s protection refused to ensure their safety and welfare, and protected the children’s’ rapists instead. They blamed the children, even labeling child victims ‘trash’ and the rapes they were suffering a ‘lifestyle choice’. That is just what the rapists did. How are they different?

But because the men in the Oxford and Rochdale cases are Muslim and the girls we know about so far are white, media racism has let the authorities off the hook, calling rape a “cultural problem”. Instead of pressing the authorities for an answer, much of the media is feeding the EDL and other racists looking for excuses to attack people of colour, women and men. Yet we know, and the Deputy Children’s Commissioner Kate Berelowitz has emphasized, that teenagers all over the UK are being raped by adult men who are mostly white. Her 2012 report said: “The evidence is clear that perpetrators come from all ethnic groups and so do their victims — contrary to what some may wish to believe.” The report also suggested that the proportion of Asian perpetrators in the official figures may be higher because the police were targeting non-whites. In other words, white rapists are even more likely to get away with it.

Reported facts in the Oxford case — do they not amount to criminal neglect by the authorities?

v Girl C’s adoptive mother begged Oxford social services for help in 2004. She contacted them a further 80 times.

v Victims contacted Thames Valley Police at least six times but investigations were halted when they withdrew. One was even threatened with arrest for wasting police time over her repeated absences from a children’s home.

v Girl A reported to police in 2006 being held against her will and forced to snort cocaine, leaving her unconscious. No charges followed.

v Later in 2006, Girl B called police to report rape. When they attended she was in a house with 11 men, having run away from a children’s home. No charges followed.

v A few months later, Girl A’s rape report was investigated. A man was questioned but denied it. No charges followed. He abused girls for another five years.

v Police were called by a guest at the Nanford Guest House who heard crying and responses to pain in a nearby room. No charges followed.

v Girl D reported Karrar twice, in 2005 and 2007. No charges followed.

v Karrar and the two Dogar brothers were arrested in 2006. No charges followed.

v One of the girls in care went missing 126 times, and it was the “general consensus” among staff at the home that she was being sexually groomed by older men in 2007-2008. They reported this to police. No charges followed.

v In 2011 a determined police investigation into sexual abuse of children finally began, and a number of men were eventually charged and some of them prosecuted.

v Two of the children’s homes were closed down. Three successive Ofsted inspections in the year ending May 2008 had found them lacking a safety strategy.

v When Girls A and B returned to the home in a taxi, a care home manager refused to pay the fare and the driver took Girl A, aged 14, back to Oxford where she was raped again the next day. The carer was later sacked and the privately run home where girls were placed by Oxford County Council was closed down.

v Girl C was resuscitated by an ambulance man who told her she had had a massive overdose of heroine.

v The mother of one victim said the authorities had treated her daughter like “white trash”.

v The six girls were further tortured in court during the trial. One girl was aggressively cross-examined by seven barristers over three weeks. They were called liars, had their integrity and lifestyle questioned, and were branded “naughty girls” and unreliable witnesses.

In Rochdale and in Oxford, girls from working class backgrounds were raped for years despite repeatedly reporting to police and social services. Police claimed they didn’t arrest the men because they were worried they would be accused of racism. Yet they have no qualms carrying out thousands of stop and search on men of colour who haven’t been accused of anything. Police are 28 times more likely to stop men of colour than white people; 10 times more likely to stop Asian Britons than white people. (Equality & Human Rights Commission, Vikram Dodd, Guardian 12 June 2012)

The chief constable of Thames Valley Police, Sara Thornton, and the chief executive of Oxfordshire county council, Joanna Simons, said they would stay in their posts despite criticism over the scandal.

The head of Rochdale Council resigned without facing charges. A damning independent report found that the council’s former chief executive Roger Ellis “did not appear to be interested in children’s social care issues” and said there was no evidence that he had any intention of investigating the events that led to the jailing of nine men in May last year for offences including trafficking, rape and sexual assault.

Karin Ward, one of Jimmy Savile’s victims and a former resident at Duncroft school for girls, where Savile was allowed to roam, said that she sensed, “That’s what we were for.” (Panorama 22 October 2012) Duncroft’s retired head Margaret Jones dismissed the claims of her former pupils as “wild allegations by well-known delinquents”.

Years of ignoring reports of child abuse from Jersey to North Wales prove that the priority was not to stop rape, but to shield the criminal and in some cases their connections in high places so as not to disturb the status quo. None of the wealthy chauffeur-driven regular visitors to North Wales children’s homes or other big shots have been prosecuted.

A whistleblower revealed that police spied on Stephen Lawrence’s family to get ‘dirt’ on them so they could undermine their campaign for justice. Rape victims are routinely undermined by police who seem more anxious to discredit us than to arrest the men who have raped us. In the Oxford case child victims were blamed for what violent adults did to them. Other rape victims have even been prosecuted: Gail Sherwood, a mother of three, and Layla Ibrahim, a pregnant young woman, were both jailed while their rapists are still at large.

We now know that working class children with the least social power are treated by police and social services as sexually available and disposable. The government shows no interest that their cuts undermine women’s and children’s ability to escape rape. Is that part of the austerity policy’s attraction? With the welfare cap and cuts limiting child benefits, and thousands of families being moved out of London, many more women and children are already experiencing destitution, lack of food for their children, loss of safety and support networks making it impossible to leave violent relationships. More children will be taken into care or foster homes and become rape victims. Legal aid cuts are limiting even further our access to justice and protection. Only the rich can afford to use the law.

Getting justice for victims and stopping cuts that increase our vulnerability could begin to stop this rape cancer. It would encourage those police and social workers who want to act against rape rather than those who cover up for rapists.

The only way “lessons will be learnt” is if those in power who rape or collaborate with rapists are arrested, prosecuted and convicted. Without justice the only lesson ever learnt is how to get away with rape, of children and adults.

Black Women’s Rape Action Project & Women Against Rape - Tel 020 7482 2496

 

Reducing rape to everyday speech

From Feminists SA – Rape as slang - or a banal misogyny

 

Almost everyday, I hear something that disturbs me; the use of rape casually, as a slang, mostly by males, on social media and in conversations.

“Rape” is used either negatively to represent damage (“That chemistry exam raped me”) or positively, representing triumph (“Yeah, I raped that chemistry exam”,  “Did you watch the game last night?”, “Did you see how that football team got raped?”).  Also, the term “frape” (Facebook rape) when a friend accesses your Facebook account and posts stuff without your permission, because it’s totally comparable to sexual assault. The casual use of “rape” undermines the seriousness of sexual assault. And when I point it out, I’m seen as being too serious or “not getting the joke.” Really, a joke about rape!

Therefore, the way the usage of “rape” as a casual term  is distressing and it disturbs and angers me because rape disturbs and angers me. Society has an inherent problem in dealing with rape and the rape culture, where violence against women is seemingly tolerated and treated indifferently. You see it in misogynist and violent Facebook and Twitter posts and images depicting sexual assault and violence gets thousands of likes, you see it when rapists do not get convicted and if they do, their sentences are lenient. Committing rape and equating it with winning, or something worth celebrating is disgusting.  Comparing “rape” to losing a sports game or failing test is equally as insensitive and damaging.

We need to be cautious about the words we use. My opinion is that language can alter perceptions and spread ideas, which become the basis of action, and using “rape” so casually trivializes the crime and contributes to the notion in society that rape is “not that bad.” Using “rape” as a slang is frivoulous and desensitizes the crime and reinforces the view that sexual assault is not an important crime and also makes light of the victims experience.

Even though rape is not the only word that people use casually in the context in exactly the same way. I also use words like kill (“My parents will kill me”). However, the use of murder is not as problematic because both rape and murder, although used in the same situation have completely different histories and meanings in society.

Murder is universally accepted and has always been considered as a horrible crime, it is reported and investigated and the fault lies with the murderer and not on the victim. We know that society’s view of rape is still murky when it comes to understanding and prosecution and it is somewhat supported in society, where the objectification of women is seen as male privilege. Even when rape is reported, it is often not investigated properly and the rapist has a greater chance of not being convicted. According to the One in Nine Campaign, in South Africa, 90% of rapes are not reported, and when the case is reported only 15% make it to trail and thereafter, only 5% are convicted. Also, the “fault” of rape is more often than not, portrayed as being the victims’………...Continue reading on Feminist SA

Haiti – Making it easier to prosecute rapists but will this make it easier to report rape?

From IPS, Haiti seeks to bring about  major legal reforms  to make it easier for victims of rape to prosecute their attackers.  Great news and in the past year there have been more successful prosecutions of rapists.  But still there are millions of Haitian women who fall completely outside the radar of the courts, the government, local and international NGOs and any other official body you can think of.   There also needs to be a recognition that sexual violence takes place beyond camps, in  established neighbourhoods such as Jalouzi and Cite Soleil.  And women are  more often too fearful to report sexual violence especially when the perpetrator is  someone they know – family member, neighbor, co-worker.  Legal reforms are needed and a step in the right direction particularly including marital rape but this has to be in addition to  education, rape centers in all the neighborhoods  - if women do not have access to support, then they the violators will remain free.

How well this will work remains to be seen particularly as like most other initiatives it requires the support of donor agencies.  Even then once the legal reforms are in place the next step is make it easier and safe for women to report rape and other forms of sexual violence.

 The amendments to the penal code would precisely define sexual assault in accordance with international law, legalise certain types of post-rape abortions, and criminalise marital rape.

The changes also mandate state-funded legal aid to victims who cannot pay for counsel. Discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” would be banned in limited circumstances, in a first for Haitian law.

When someone beats you, rapes you, and it’s all over – you just keep it inside you? That would make me crazy.

“I think it’s an exciting time,” Rashida Manjoo, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, said in February at a conference on the reforms. “It’s a small start with the penal code, but it’s a good start.”

Lawyers and activists at the conference pored over a three-page draft of the reforms. They’re optimistic that Haiti’s parliament will approve them within the year. Haiti’s prime minister and the ministry of justice have indicated they support the amendments.

But Manjoo warned that the law won’t be fully implemented or enforced without adequate funding from donors and participation by the public.

In the three years since the 2010 earthquake, the issue of sexual violence has gained an increasingly high profile. Foreign media reports referred to a “rape epidemic” in the tent camps scattered throughout Port-au-Prince.

A January 2012 study by a coalition of legal and women’s groups found that at least one member of 14 percent of all households displaced by the quake had been sexually assaulted.

Some experts, notably anthropologist and author Timothy Schwartz, cite a lack of independent data and question whether the prevalence of rape has been exaggerated by some of the advocacy organisations mentioned in this report.

But even Schwartz applauds the effort to reform the penal code by these same groups. He said it represents a welcome departure from the usual approach to structural problems in Haiti, where non-governmental organisations stage piecemeal interventions instead of bolstering the state….

Improvements at the grassroots

In the meantime, Haitian citizens, the police, and lawyers have attempted to address the violence at the grassroots.

In some tent camps, internally displaced Haitians formed brigades to safeguard against criminal threats, including rapists. A report by Poto Fanm+Fi found that these brigades, because of their strong community bonds, were usually more effective than patrols by United Nations peacekeeping troops at stopping sexual violence.

At police stations throughout the capital city, there are now officers trained to receive and assist female victims, Marie Gauthier, the Haitian National Police’s Coordinator for Women’s Affairs, told IPS.

“Carrefour, Fort National, Kenscoff, Port-au-Prince, Cite Soleil, Delmas, Croix de Bouquet. . .” Gauthier listed off the different stations in city districts. Still, “now we need vehicles,” she said, “to go quickly and arrest the perpetrator.”

Survivors of sexual violence often turn to KOFAVIV, a Haitian women’s group, for moral and humanitarian support. The quake destroyed the group’s headquarters, displacing its founders into a tent camp.

But the group secured funding from international donors, including the U.S. government, allowing it to move from the camp into a two-storey office and expand its programmes. Women come from every corner of Port-au-Prince for bi-weekly gatherings where survivors can bond and share information with one another.

In the courts, significantly more rape cases are going to trial, according to lawyers for Bureaus des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), a prominent Haitian law firm. Nearly a third of criminal trials during last summer’s court session in Port-au-Prince were for rape charges.

Thirteen convicted rapists were sentenced — a majority of those to maximum jail time. More prosecutions followed in the fall.

“It’s extremely significant, considering that a mere 10 years ago, barely any cases were being prosecuted,” Nicole Phillips, an attorney with the BAI, told IPS. She called the prosecutions and reforms to the penal code “a massive step forward.”

In the past, judges would demand victims present medical certificates obtained within 48 to 72 hours demonstrating they were raped. But it was difficult or impossible to get them, due to stigma, trauma, and prohibitive costs.

“The trials are getting more sophisticated,” Phillips said. The courts now rely more on expert witness testimony from medical professionals. She praised judges and the police in Port-au-Prince for taking rape accusations more seriously.

More work to be done

But Haiti’s progress in combating violence against women faced a high-profile test at the beginning of the year, and arguably failed.    Continue on IPS 

Haiti – Feminist Series 4, In conversation with Flaurantin Marie Enise

Looking up into Jalouzi

Jalouzi is a hillside neighborhood of about 200,000 people overlooking lower Petion-Ville.  It is accessible from two roads, one at the top and one below.  The view from the top is stunning. From here you can see  Port-au-Prince looking east to the sea and north to the mountains.  The only way to travel is by foot through a series of alley ways and narrow paths of gravel, stones or the occasional step, and for those like myself who are challenged by gravel and stones on sloppy paths, difficult to negotiate. Flaurantin lives midway where in addition to her home she has a small meeting room and clinic for dispensing over the counter medication.  She also runs a small kiosk on the lower Jalouzi road.  The following are excerpts from conversations over the past 6 weeks between myself and Flaurantin and which are published with her permission.   Originally from Jacmel she began her community work in 1990.

I started working in the community in 1990  working with women.  We had a small school and mobile clinic where we would offer support and medicines to families.  Sadly I had to leave to come to Port-au-Prince 15 years ago with my husband and children.  I would love to return to Jacmel and even now there are women waiting for me to return but unfortunately my house was destroyed so it is not possible.  The community of Jalouzi is extremely poor with some of the most vulnerable women and children.  In 1999 I  decided to start the organization Le Phare [meaning Light] so I could participate in my community by  providing support and education to women and children and yes everybody who needs my help.  [FME]

Flaurantin Marie Enise

Le Phare is now part of the SOPUDEP community and the micro-credit project, Fanm SOPUDEP en Aksyon [FASA].   FASA began in March 2010 after the earthquake.  Rea Dol of SOPUDEP had been using donations to buy and distribute food and supplies to women however she saw that this was just not sustainable.  The next money she received she called a meeting with a group of women and explained they had a choice. Buy food with the money or try something more long term and sustainable such as a micro-finance scheme.  Everyone agreed on the latter and FASA cooperative was born.  Le Phare then became part of the  SOPUDEP  and FASA family.  Flaurantin is the Jalouzi sector coordinator which has  75 active members.  It is also in Jalouzi that  FASA recently opened a store for the programme.  They buy food in bulk and each week the women collect supplies to sell in the market.  Recently police have been driving street traders off the streets of Petion-Ville where all of the Jalouzi women sell their market.

More than 20 of our members were affected by these raids. They lost all their market, everything.   If they cannot sell on the streets in Petion-Ville what are they supposed to do?   Now each day the women go on the streets to try and sell but it is hard as they have to hide all the time from the police. It is too much stress but there is no other way to feed themselves.

As well as the micro-credit programme we now have cooking and sewing classes for young women and we hope this will help the women find ways to generate income once they have completed their training. [FME]

Women of FACE

Jalouzi was miraculously not affected by the January 2010 earthquake but nonetheless the residents like in other PAP neighbourhoods, face major challenges such as lack of access to healthcare, food insecurity, unemployment, lack of water and gender based violence.  Although there are some 100 matwons [midwives] in the neighborhood, community leaders like Flaurantin find themselves attending to various health crisis, intervening and supporting victims of domestic and sexual violence and generally helping those living in extreme poverty.

I delivered a baby at the weekend and the mother did not even have anything to cover where she was sleeping, it was terrible.     The women prefer to deliver their babies at home  but there are often problems such as breech birth and  pre-eclampsia is a very big for the women as they cannot attend pre natal clinics so those with high blood pressure end up very ill.  They are the ones who need emergency treatment but the nearest emergency  [free] hospital is the MSF in Delmas 33 which is far from here. There are a lot of women with HIV and recently gonorrhea has become a problem, which if the woman is pregnant can also be passed to the child. [FME]

Whilst many of victims of gender based violence including rape,  in the the post earthquake camps, have benefited from interventions by local and international NGOs, neighbourhoods such as Cite Soleil and Jalouzi seem to be off the NGO radar and as Flaurantin remarked “The NGOs dont come here. We see them driving up and down in their cars but they never stop”.

We try to give the support for women who have been raped or beaten by their husbands but it is not easy as we do not have any resources only ourselves.   There is a lot of domestic violence but rape is not too much. The most difficult thing is getting women to make police reports even where children are the victims and this has happened in our community even recently.    We try to educate and it is important to give support and to participate [in the community] to know what is happening. That is all we can do keep talking about the problem.  Another problem more often than rape is forced sex in marriage and the women end up getting pregnant over and over which, with the poverty leads to women always being sick.   We do advise the women on birth control and there is ‘depo provera’ and one injection lasts for three months.  We also have female condoms but these are more expensive than male condoms. One of the forgotten groups of women is the elderly. Of course many are cared for by their families but many either have no family or their families are too poor to care for them.  These are probably the most vulnerable with street children –  many also live on the streets.  It is important that we include them in our work.   [FME]

The levels of poverty in neighbourhoods like Jalouzi are massive.  The people who live here  the cost and consequences of global capitalism and as Mahmood Mamdani states the actions of brutal regimes all over the global south break the backs of the poor in the interest of their imperial masters and capital.  And it is poor  women who are criminalized, disenfranchised further pushed to the margins of margins having to deal with multiple acts of violences.

Jalouzi sits next to the elite neighbourhood of Petion-Ville but the distance in the reality of lives is a thousand miles.  Whilst we celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day in all manner of ways,  its worth considering the question:  what we mean by  sisterhood, whether global or local.. what does it really mean?  In Haiti the media have gone, many of  the NGOs and UN agencies are gone and those remaining are scaling down.  For them the crisis is over, earthquakes and cholera, stories from yesterday.  Voices like Flaurantin’s, which speak to the many violences of poverty but also to the frontline work of women activists and their  commitment to movement building,  don’t get heard.

A last word from Flaurantin

The levels of poverty are so great [that] sometimes we cannot see our way out, we just survive.   But what is good about our organizing is though there is much misery, there is solidarity amongst us. [FME]

 

This article was supported in part by the International Reporting Project.

Gendercide

Ova the poetry of Bernedette Muthien
gendercide

it took a full week
of straitjacketing generations
of genocidal femicidal trauma
for the clay dam wall to explode
and flood me in torrents
of collective grief
a poet with no words
a lifelong activist struck dumb
i choke on love for the dead
thousands of beautiful women and children a year
i puke for my incested cancerous country
and gag grappling for compassion of
perpetrators and the morally blind
in this breathtaking country
so brutally drenched in the blood
of ordinary women and children
i discover anew
that i fail to
swim
my spiritual cadaver
is dragged under by the concrete limbs
of victims perpetrators witnesses
majority blinkered burdens
too busy scrabbling for survival
to fight for justice
as i contemplate the imminent refreshment
of my childhood starvation
my hunger for food agency adventure
leads me to stare the dragon in its ambered eyes
like a mirror of my ever-present shadows
Demon! Patriarchy…
how can I love you to death…?

15 feb 2013
bernedette muthien - www.engender.org.za

In Honor of Childhood-less Children/Adults.

My most visceral thoughts are right now with all the children who have been robbed of their childhoods by war and conflict. Oftentimes war and conflict can be in the home, in the family. Sometimes it is literally in war trenches. It is the time to speak out for the protection of the African child’s childhood where the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and other documents such as the African Charter on the Rights and Responsibilities, fall short. Heaven, bless the child to speak and be heard. Heaven, protect the child.

Outrage! & One Billion Rising, Whats the Point? Lessons from GBV movement building in Haiti

From Thought Leader – Talia Meer asks what is the point of  “1 billion Rising” and from Women and Beyond the Global – Wondering about Outrage! beyond personal gratification? Particularly when it is selective, ie where was the outrage when Rape Crisis centers were closed, or are are in the process of being closed?  Where was the outrage when our lesbian sisters and brothers were tortured, raped and murdered? .  The starting point is that for everyone who is outraged there is probably at least one person in their family or circle of friends who is a rapist, woman beater, or engages in  everyday sexual assault.  As Talia Meer states, rape and sexual violence takes place in the home, in the community, in the office, in the school, on the campus.  Sexual assault, misogyny and a great deal of rape take place in these public spaces not in secret.

Taking an hour off to dance is great, it brings the issue to the forefront and we will talk – a kind of banality in itself – then there will be silence until the next rape for which we will have no words other than expressing our outrage.  Stopping rape and ending misogyny can only happen if we are prepared to do the ground work in communities and schools with families and neighbours where these violent acts take place rather than engage in superficial pointless actions that may make us feel good but do little to end sexual violence.   Yes we need to shout about it but thats not where change will occur  unless the accompanying  outrage is channeled in meaningful ways and IS consistent.

Lessons can be learned from  the GBV / sexual violence movement in Haiti which has used a  multifaceted / multiagency approach  over the past two years in order to respond to the increase in rape and gender based violence in the post earthquake period.  Developing movement building with various sexual violence and GBV groups Haitian women were able to apply a range of strategies to address sexual and domestic violence:  outreach in the IDP camps, neighbourhoods and rural areas;  working with members and camp committees including providing “dignity kits” and counseling; forming and working with survivor led groups; advocacy campaigns; working with legal and rights groups; running workshops for police and MINUSTAH personnel; working with the various medical NGOs; assessing the impact of the disaster and crisis on women and girls.

Of course Haiti has it’s own contexts, historical, as well as the crisis of the post-earthquake period and ongoing cholera epidemic nonetheless there is much to be learned from these strategies. For more on this see “Beyond Shock: Charting the Landscape of Sexual Violence in post-quake Haiti” 2012 and “Rape in the Camps” by Amnesty International

From Slut Walk to One Billion Rising: Losing the protest plot

Following her wildly popular Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler, the American feminist playwright and activist, has a new campaign, a new activism, a new brand. One Billion Rising.

The concept is simple. Motivated by the popular consensus, that one woman in three worldwide – that is one billion – experiences some form of violence in her lifetime, Ensler hopes to reclaim February 14, as V-Day, vagina day. A day where women of every stripe and colour, hopefully one billion of them, take to the streets and … dance.

As Ensler puts it, she is encouraging women and men to “walk off their jobs, walk out of their schools, walk out of their homes and gather in fields, stadiums, churches, blocks, beaches and dance until the violence stops”.

Does this seem a little odd to you?

Let me be clear, gender-based violence (GBV) is the scourge of our society. We should do everything within our power to stop it. Also, I like dancing as much as anyone and I have great respect for the time-honoured tradition of street activism. From the civil-rights movement to the South African anti-apartheid movement, women and men have used protests, marches, toyi-toying to make their grievances known, to make demands, to make a point. And this is where things get a little confusing for me.

What is the point? What are the demands that we are making? Misogyny in our society is so pervasive, so deeply entrenched in the fabric of society, ingrained in our religious texts (or at least most interpretations of them), in literature, and popular culture, in our very record of history. Can we just dance it all away? Or dance it away just a little? We certainly cannot “dance until the violence stops”!

And given the absence of a clear, context- specific list of demands, what can the movement achieve? Who is its audience? It may raise the profile of GBV, however briefly, but what then? In South Africa for instance we already have very progressive GBV legislation in the form of the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Acts. So are we dancing for better law enforcement? Or are we dancing for better sex, gender and GBV education for our children? Are we just dancing because — like many others the world over — we want to be part of a flash-mob, a spectacle, a global trend? Or are we dancing because it’s a convenient, contained, dare I say ”fun” response to an issue few of us really want to confront?

Like the contentious Slut Walk, One Billion Rising runs the risk of sensationalising gender-based violence activism. It abstracts the on-going struggle of GBV organisations, individuals and survivors, to a brief, quirky and enjoyable moment. A walk in your knickers or a dance.

What happens afterward? By focusing on public spaces One Billion Rising obscures the fact that GBV happens in private spaces, in our homes, and our beds, and its sensational appeal suggests that its effects will be relatively short-lived. All of the walkers, or dancers, some women, some men, some survivors, will go home. Most will feel relieved that they had a moment, of catharsis, a moment, to feel supported, unconstrained and safe. Some will feel pious that they have done their bit. Most will continue with their daily routine, most will not talk to their sons and daughters about how masculinity, in fact the very idea of a man, is a social construct, a made up thing, one that they can remake, better. Most will not confront the impact of patriarchy, misogyny, able-ism or racism on their lives, how they intersect, and how the process of breaking them down is an on-going, difficult and terrifying battle….Continue on Thought Leader

Haunts: On outrage

I cannot write about Anene BooysenMany others are, and are doing so eloquently. But I do wonder about outrage. The national response to the horrible violence against Anene Booysen has been described as outrage. When does outrage occur?

How many women and girls must suffer violence and abuse to cross the threshold of outrage? How many men must engage in violence and abuse before the horizon of outrage is breached?

I ask this because I don’t recall outrage being expressed when both the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust and the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children faced imminent closure last year. Yes, there were individuals and groups who jumped and organized, but there was no great surge of outrage at what would surely follow the simultaneous closure of the two most successful and most important resources in the Western Cape for those seeking help, support, community in the midst of suffering violence.

Remember, Rape Crisis is the oldest center of its kind in South Africa. In a recent two-year period, it served over 5000 rape survivors. And when it served the survivors, it served their loved and loving ones, their friends, their communities, and their neighborhoods. It served the whole of South Africa, one healing empowering person at a time…..Continue on Women in and Beyond the Global

 

 

Adoption, Sexual Abuse and Aid

I read a recent post on Women In and Beyond the Global on the forced powerlessness of pregnant women which refers to a study on

two  sets of interrelated events: [1] the effort to pass laws that give a fetus the constitutional right of a person, thus far passed in 38 states; and [2] the increased number of arrests and incarceration of pregnant women.

The study looks at the arrest and incarceration of pregnant women on which the basis of arrest was to protect the fetus.   It’s not clear what happens once the babies are born – how long do they get to stay with their mothers, what happens afterwards, are they given up for adoption, taken into foster care? Or a mix of all of these?   Being pregnant then becomes part of the regime of punishment both for the mother and child!  This is incarceration and the concept of punishment at its lowest and most obsene. It does nothing but satisfy the need for that ‘pound of flesh’.    One example of the punishment of women and young girls dates to the 1940s  when  white teenage girls being used to fuel the adoption business and Black teenage mothers were punished by denying them public assistance.

“Beginning in the late 1940s, community and government authorities together developed a raft of strategies some quite coercive, to press white unwed mothers to relinquish their babies to deserving couples” (70). Those teenagers were presented as “mentally disturbed” because they failed to have a husband to protect them, “a proof of neurosis,” making them potential bad mothers. The same authorities singled out and removed unwed Black teenage mothers from any public assistance, intensifying their already precarious situation.

Reading this report, I was reminded of the raid on Haitian children in the immediate aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.  No one knows the number of  children, who were taken to the US and Europe for adoption.  In the initial period many adoptions took place without proper  background checks into prospective parents or  confirmations on the real status of the children.  There were thousands of orphans already living in orphanages at the time of the earthquake and in the first few months  5,000 of these children, were fast tracked to adoption in the US. Yet 6 months after the earthquake, families were still being reunited.

Under a sparingly used immigration program, called humanitarian parole, adoptions were expedited regardless of whether children were in peril, and without the screening required to make sure they had not been improperly separated from their relatives or placed in homes that could not adequately care for them.

Some Haitian orphanages were nearly emptied, even though they had not been affected by the quake or licensed to handle adoptions. Children were released without legal documents showing they were orphans and without regard for evidence suggesting fraud. In at least one case, two siblings were evacuated even though American authorities had determined through DNA tests that the man who had given them to an orphanage was not a relative.

Often the media would report from Haiti, Ethiopia, and Guatemala about stories  of mothers and fathers giving away their children for a ‘better life in the US’.   Stories like this one from Haiti where parents decided to give up their youngest also raise questions on whether ‘orphans’ are really orphans and how much coercion takes place.   People have to do what they need to do to survive and the morality in question here is the violence of poverty which forces them to make hurtful choices.  For example in this report from Ethiopia the father believes the ‘adoption’ is temporary and that his child will return. A  recent study  found that 4 out of 5 children in orphanges actually had one living parent but this is not surprising as running an orphanage or adoption agency whether in Haiti or in the west, is a lucrative business and in many cases they are nothing more than legal trafficking agencies buying and selling children.  Right now there are  over 2 million food insecure people in Haiti.  I agree with my host, community organizer and educator, Rea Dol who believes these figures are under estimated.    Families in crisis need support to keep their children but instead of struggling with the people, saviors  assault their dignity’.  Save the Children has much to say on this and it would be interesting to know what kind of support THEY are providing in Haiti or do they just write good reports?  Rea Dol who runs SOPUDEP, a free school for 700 children and located directly opposite Save the Children can tell you a great deal about the ‘real work of that NGO

As far as organizations that could have helped SOPUDEP, there is Save the Children who sponsored a lot of organizations. They’re located right next door to us and they never helped us at all. They had a cash for work program for rubble removal, but I had to pay out of pocket to arrange rubble removal. When they finally came six months after the quake, they asked how they could help us and said they could fix the roof and clean out the toilets. But we didn’t see these as problems. We had more urgent needs related to our classrooms, but that assistance wasn’t there.

The school had reopened in April under tarps surrounded by rubble  and collapsed walls.  They needed urgent supplies for the children but like hundreds of thousands of other Haitians the republic of NGOs was nowhere to be seen and even when they are they come with bags with their logos, some water treatment tablets, tarps, a few pencils and expect Haitians to sign so they can write fancy reports on how they helped this organisation and that camp – like missionaries and colonials handing out trinkets to the natives!  Arriving at SOPUDEP four months later after the school had broken up for holidays was an assault!

There were genuine adoptions both prior and post the earthquake  and the Haitian government is revising the laws.  However  laws on adoption don’t protect children in orphanages.   A number of orphanages in Haiti have been found guilty of sexually abusing the children under their care [see here and here and here and here] but these stories are just the tip of the iceberg.  There is no monitoring or  control over faith based organizations  and charities who can enter the country and establish themselves at will. In a matter of days they can set up an orphanage, a church, a mission, an NGO  - whatever they want whether in the town or in the rural areas.   There have also been repeated abuses by the UN occupying force in Haiti, MINUSTAH and in some instances officers have been removed but as far as I am aware none have been punished.  According to Save the Children  sexual abuse by aid workers is significant and underreported.  These actions are not taking place in secret – people know whats going on as many of the assaults take place with groups of abusers.  Its not one aid worker or one solider its a couple of aid workers or a couple of soldiers.

Our research suggests that significant levels of abuse of  boys and girls continue in emergencies, with much of it going unreported.The victims include orphans, children separated from their parents and families, and children in families dependent on humanitarian assistance.

Its also happening to children walking on the street, going to school, running errands, vendors and so on.  The report suggests that to limit the underreporting,  parents and children need to speak out .  But as  families are afraid to break the silence  due to stigma, fear of loosing aid/food, powerlessness, there needs to be another way  of monitoring those who work at ground level.   Haitian children are  especially vulnerable to sexual abuse as the country is awash with NGOs, missionaries, faith compounds and assorted people.    Women’s organisations such as those run by the SOPUDEP, Fanm Voudou Pou Ayiti and Kofaviv  work with women victims of sexual violence but much of their work is in the camps and with limited resources  it is impossible to undertake the necessary investigative work into what is happening in orphanages and within the aid sector.   Why are aid agencies not responding to sexual abuse by their staff?   Whether Sudan, Congo or Haiti – these are all highly militarized states and in the case of Haiti, under occupation and the NGOs and aid workers are part of the militarized structure and the violence it reaps.

 

Zero tolerance, zero rape

As the year turns yet again, reflections are the order of the days as the compliments flow and plans for the future move ahead, still remnant of the past follow like bee to honey. Never mind that the remnants are not always sweet but sour in some cases. The year ended with events that sparked world attention. It was the gang raping of a young woman in Delhi, India. The world was brought to their knees as the festivities of the holidays turned to panic for some and then prior to that the shootings in the US, whilst just healing from Sandy’s wrath left many feeling helpless.   These horrors of dominance, victimization and control left the world crumbling for safety.

The news of the young women in India who was gang-raped, in bus in the presence of several other people is not only shocking.  It is disgusting that such a crime can be so watched- without stopping the perpetrators.  The young woman died from injuries she sustained after being thrown off the bus. And then to add insult to injury the victim has since been called a culprit too the incident, who should have fought the five or six men according to Asaram Bapu. Bapu is a spiritual guru who is said to have remarked that the victim is as guilty as the perpetrators who gang-raped her. His remarks are sick, sexist, misogynistic and perverted. Bapu claims that the victim should have begged her ‘ brothers’ to stop-yes she could have used one hand to slap the men away. My guess is as good as yours! How do you slap or clap to rid a group of men who are threatening your life and convince them that they are your brothers and they need to stop gang raping her.

So as the end of the year drew close, rape across the world brought much talk of the safety of women, children- boys and girls alike. These heinous sexual violent crimes, and killing of women and children are becoming part of our ‘lives’ and to some extent a problem that is allowed and supported by many systems, political and socially to some extend. Most urgent and pivotal is to analyze why there is a growing “rape culture” in our midst.

Dehumanization and insertive role of rape

Whether rape is used as an instrument of male dominance and a method of bonding for those who violently penetrate, tear and rip the vagina and anus of victims, there is certainly dehumanization to both. This pervasive and ultra dehumanization of women and children through rape needs attention and so much so in distinguishing one type of rape from another -the point remains that it is a violent crime that aims to hold its victims in fear. Like the fear that gripped and terrorized the minds of people on the bus in Delhi- watched in some frozen state and for a moment that fear remains to silence victims and those in the moment- a real personal experience for me.

The perpetrators are men in our societies who desire to cause pain without reason on a body like that of a child or woman. The penetrative role of rape is to dehumanize women and children victimized. It is a way of making one remember how their body is terrorized over and over and violated to the brink of numbness to pain and that brings fear too.  The purpose of rape is a way of bringing order to those who do not conform. In considering the ‘acceptance’ of rape towards women, children and LGBTI is the level of outrage that is expressed by the community.  The outrage is often silenced by threats made towards those who speak out and condemn the perpetrators. The brutality of crimes of rape towards LGBTI persons is most severe and inhumane in nature- a guaranteed message. Rapists perverse the system that is encouraged though this kinship, a way of political alliance between men who bond through victimization of women. The patriarchal social order facilitates aggressive, heterosexual and dominant behavior with men on top as the winner for the prize and women, the prize.

The feminization of violence on women’s bodies is not a new phenomenon – and it should stopped- with hundred of years’ of activism and calling for an end to gender based violence- it has to stop. Starting with the DRC, the atrocious sexual violence that women and girls have to endure on a daily basis. The biggest scandals are the mechanisms that are not working for us nationally, regionally and internationally.  What are we doing? With so many resources it is disgusting that they are not being used to stop this violence. There is much contradiction particularly from the west who claim they are emancipated yet  continue looting of natural and human resources.

The realities are more horrendous than the highlighted incidents herein and a clear argument that there is a silence around violence against women and these atrocious crimes. The silence of the victims or survivors who fear reporting such crimes is problematic and deeply rooted and supported nationally within political alliances and patriarchy. Because of being abused, traumatized and in some cases raped by police, victims are afraid to speak out.  This is not just here in South Africa but everywhere – Rape and sexual violence remain stigmatized for the victim.

The “deliberate” failure to capture criminals who have committed such crimes makes me think there is a need to analyze the role rape plays in the methods of male bonding and dominance.  The  “deliberate” sabotage towards justice by police in responding to crimes,  collecting evidence with gross negligence, losing rape kits enables the accused to walk free. This is a growing trend that destabilizes the justice progress and process. It is necessary to understand why there is an increase these crimes in our communities in order to get to the root cause of ‘rape culture’ and its connectedness to male bonding- from a macro level as- can be witnessed globally.

The realities and sentiments coming out of India on the issue are not that far away to the realities in South Africa.  The so called ‘rape culture’ has had devastating effects on citizens with more than seven reported incidents one following the other in the months of June to September 2012.  Young black lesbians, one gay man, and transgender person were either raped, killed, raped, mutilated or all the forms of violent acts performed. The incidents called for a national outcry  but none was forthcoming.

Toxic masculinity and bonding

In South Africa it is necessary to consider “hegemonic masculinities”, a concept that probably can explain practices of men in our society according to positioning. “Hegemonic masculinity” in simple terms is the static behavior that a group of people in a society have, which entails making a pact, written or unwritten between those involved. The kind of actions expected in order to join these groups are acts of violence towards stranger in a the streets, cursing and using foul language and trashing or vandalizing property similar to  gangs that might terrorize a neighborhood. It is this connectedness that this method of male bonding  and homosocialization-can share women through gang raping. It is this act that allows them to carry out such acts and claim these as part of the ‘bonding’ process. This extends further to raping and gang-raping women and children to confirm and show solidarity. The power system is like the food chain, to work towards the top one has to show what they can do to be included in the circle. The more one shows prowess towards acts of violence the better they can reach the top and be trusted. As such the domination of women through rape continues and then children too become victims of this “culture”.

Rape whether it be during the war, marriage, raping to conform one’s sexuality or under the influence of date rape drugs —it is all rape. Yet, the growing “rape culture” cannot be presented as a blanket statement rather it is necessary to deconstruct the realities behind this “culture” that is raging war against women and their bodies. In South Africa, President Zuma is yet to say rape must be condemned for obvious reasons.  So for those males who flock together in this “culture” there is a kind of understanding of solidarity and coercion to how things are in regards to rape.

South Africa is an example of how hegemonic masculinities reign over females and that even the law is silent in the crimes committed by men and bringing them to justice. The reality is  that even when cases reach the courts the trials are sheer spectacle in our country. The dockets are ‘misplaced’, the convicted rapist(s) escape without a chase, and the prosecutor is not present on the date of hearing in court.  Most if not all cases the victims are women and the perpetrators men. Many rape victims report being taunted by men in their communities. Perpetrators are released on ridiculous bail conditions not befitting the crimes committed.

The whole system is slap in the face towards justice and equality for women who continue to suffer injustices under the rule of patriarchy and heterosexism. In South Africa there is clear structural support that encourages dominance of females and this need not be written on walls. South Africa has seen what prominence does to perpetrators and how the victims become exiled from their own homes for speaking out.  There is a chain  which links to high profile people in the system that are able to make things happen or disappear.  These unlabeled men who partake in these acts of violence answer to the big guy, who is top dog in that society. There is no need not explore events of the 2005 trial to understand what this entails. “Rape culture” remains in our midst with much fear to speak over deaths and raping of women and girls in South Africa.  Women in townships live their lives under lock and key for fear of being raped whilst the state turns a blind eye for justice to prevail.

Sinister justice, takes the opposite

Some time in the year 2012, women in Zimbabwe made headlines with accusations of  rape. Women who were the supposed rapists were arrested for having harvested semen from men whom they had purposely given a ride in their car. The men claimed to have been surprised at the women taking advantage of them and then continuing to rape them.  The women were arrested and flogged in public with pictures taken and shared with local tabloids in Zimbabwe. The time it took to pick these women up and the evidence found was a clear case of guilt- at least from readings and speculation.  At the same time other cases of rape of  women as victims take a long time to reach the courts.  I am not condemning the swiftness. I am merely wondering what delays the process if a man is not the victim.  Or if the victim breaks the silence by reporting a prominent man  she risks becoming  destitute and loses citizenship rights of protection and freedom. The fact that “hegemonic masculinity” or homosocialization is reflected in cases that affect the male prowess is a critical point that needs to be analyzed too.

The media plays a critical role in constructing the very expectations of hetero-patriarchy society in how they write. The remarks of Bapu towards the victim in India are full of  hetero-patriarchy ideals that again claim women ‘asked for it.’  Why she could not have fought with the other hand, perhaps she could have prayed for the rapists too.  Bapu, a (not so) respected spiritual leader plays right into the toxic masculine behavior and he clearly has lost the plot of humanity. And the many dangers of leaders like him saying such crap is that there are people who actually believe him. The reality is that world over —there are high incidents of sexual violence and rape and low conviction. Some of our leaders continue to take a blind eye and do not realize the damage done and being done to initiative such as ZERO.

Zero AIDS related, Zero Rape!

Young men, women and children need to know that they are protected and safe from RAPE!  As we zoom in to reach the Zero towards new infections, Zero AIDS related deaths and Zero discrimination of all isms, we need Zero Rape. We are faced with complications of a war brewing on the female body..

Mechanisms 

As regional and international bodies are talking about post MDG, UN’s CSW 57th Session is focusing on Violence Against Women (VAW) and children. It is with hopes that we are also planning ahead and hitting a home run rather than talking about VAW as though it has just happened. But there needs to be an expansion of the conversation directly to men and boys.   I remain deeply bothered by “rape culture” and this impunity in our communities. Is this to say that, we have become too complacent towards violence? It is becoming the norm and there is a sense that even those who abuse, rape, violate, and break the law are masters unto themselves- nothing happens to them-they are untouchable! From crimes of child abuse, sexual violence, child marriage and moral panics over youth sexuality and homophobia, increasingly to lesbian killings go unpunished in most regions.

When I last wrote an article of reflection on sexual violence- it was under the guise of respect and dignity for women and girls in my own country receiving sanitary pads. I questioned the ideals and agenda away from the small gestures that would enable young girls to attend school instead of staying at home to bleed during their days of menstruation. I was glad of the initiative and yet I still hoped to hear, and see action in my own country on how leadership takes the issues of sexual violence and rape-seriously for those who seek justice in addition to the sanitary pad. So what has happened to all that glitter with the sanitary pad? Have more girls been enrolled, attended classes and passed successfully sans textbooks?

Unbelievably, the woman body is a battleground and when war is declared on our bodies how are we going prevent the possibility of completely losing the battle on sexual violence stinking and spreading around the globe. What about our children’ pleasure to life?

So as many gather again just in time for to plan for the next 16 days of agony not activism because everyday a woman is raped. Until we can come in our numbers to demand justice and push the system for justice- we can start right now- we count bodies- mine, yours your daughters’, sisters’ mothers’ and brothers’ too. I can hear that little voice of anger growing and I hope you are angry too. Voices will be heard. Our vaginas are ours and zero in on that!  We are being attacked and at this rate we need to be innovative and find successful means to bring awareness and justice against all violence against women, girls and boys. We must work with men, boys, girls and women to succeed.

Bio:

Glenda is a gender justice and development researcher. She is still writing after her 15 month sabbatical with much reflection and returns to write and seek her own voice through many platforms like this one.  She is determined to work with for income and livelihood; therefore, she writes to earn and for change.

2013, The Year of the Child

I have been thinking a great deal about children lately [I use the term broadly, as a mother and aunt rather than in strictly terms of age] especially about them being killed, raped and harmed in so many ways. We know its true, that public, collective tears are not for everyone. I read recently that here in the US, in Chicago, 260 school children have been murdered in the past three years.

In 2010, nearly 700 Chicago school children were shot and 66 of them died. Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel attended a memorial for 260 school children who had been killed in just the previous three years. On several occasions in the past year, tens of people have been shot in a single weekend on the streets of the city. The worst three-day stretch saw 10 killed and 37 wounded in gun fire. But Google the term “Chicago weekend shootings” and the results are far too many deadly weekends to count.

But historically black death, people of colour death, Native American death has never been cause for mourning. On the contrary as Jessie Jackson pointed out after Katrina.. [the US]

..an amazing tolerance for black pain… a great tolerance for black suffering and black marginalization” [Monstrous Intimacies, Christina Sharp]

We witness this not only across cities in the US but well beyond. Technically Chicago is not a war zone – people who live there may feel otherwise, I dont know. But its not the DRC, Palestine or Yemen but still the children of Chicago are being killed and they are not white kids. The children in the DRC along with their mothers are murdered and raped and there are the thousands who are trafficked and forced into armies of war, or labour or sex slaves or all of these. Presidents sit by and deal in arms, African resources and money whilst shedding tears at home. The children in Yemen and Palestine are murdered by drones and missiles on the orders of Presidents, some of who shed tears for some children whilst killing others – it could even be in the same moment.

In an interview with Channel 4, Arundhati Roy is questioned about the gang rape on a bus which led to the death of a young Indian woman on Sunday.   We are told that in India a women  is raped every 20 minutes and that the chance of catching the rapists let alone bringing him to trial is near zero.   Many of those raped are young girls and small children.  But as Roy points out, the army and police routinely use rape as a weapon in places like Manipur and Kashmir and they do this under the protection of the law.  Some say its too much to think of all these children being killed and raped let alone shed tears. And what good are tears anyway? Well its a recognition of their humanity, that they are loved and their death is a suffering. Tears make the connection between your children and other peoples children and that all these children and women are being murdered and raped by guns and other war machines. The international arms trade is very closely connected to the domestic arms trade if not why are the NRA lobbying against the global arms trade treaty?

As Amy Goodman writes in the Guardian

The global treaty shouldn’t be controversial. By signing on, governments agree not to export weapons to countries that are under an arms embargo, or to export weapons that would facilitate “the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes” or other violations of international humanitarian law. Exports of arms are banned if they will facilitate “gender-based violence or violence against children” or be used for “transnational organized crime”.

The treaty deals with international exports of weapons and ammunition, not any nation’s internal, domestic laws that govern the sale or use of guns

Clearly small arms are being traded from the US, most probably from gun fairs where guns are bought and sold freely. Recently Keguro wrote an excellent blog post on Banal Misogyny in which he rightly states

Indeed, the misogyny we inhabit is so pervasive and so unrelenting, that, as I remarked to a friend, Audre Lorde’s essays from the 70s and 80s feel much too present, much too relevant. It is not simply that we are dealing with an ugly remnant that every so often reminds us of an even uglier time. Rather, it is that the ugliness of then, cloaked in masculine benevolence, is too much with us. And we seem to have lost the ability to recognize it, to name it, to respond to it.

I would add that there is a banality about racism and violence so much so that like misogyny, we no longer recognise it and even if we do, every effort is made to belittle the naming and silence our voices. From where I stand misogyny racism and violence are all twisted together by patriarchy .   Jake Appelbaum – founder of TOR and associate of Wikileaks delves further into the bowels of the US patriarchal militarist state as he helps us understand where  they are heading as the age of data retention marks the end of illusionary freedoms. So here’s one example of how it plays out.

The targeting information for the thousands of DRONE killings is fed to the CIA [NSA and all the other members of patriarchal military surveillance state] from surveillance listening points [One is being built in Utah at this moment with relay stations around the US and very possibly overseas in Uganda, Kenya and other AFRICOM friendly states.] and from intelligence factories. In short there is a direct relationship between survelliance and support of straight up murder…..The way the Drone killings are carried out is that the central committee that is those who gets to decide who lives or dies or Obama’s  assassination star chamber – this is just  hop or two away from surveillance. So when you support the surveillance state this is just a stop away from killing children.   [paraphrased]

Just in case readers are unsure that this impacts on their daily lives, Jake reminds us of the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill and I will add the Nigerian Same Sex Marriage  Prohibition Bill – both are wholly reliant on surveillance. Yes they may start with neighbours but sooner or later surveillance technologies will replace people and the reporting neighbour will themselves be under surveillance.  Just imagine London’s millions of CCTV are made available to monitor interactions and behaviour of people  living under the Ugandan or Nigerian AHBs?  Its also important to state that the oppressions Jake is speaking about may be new to white privilege but for Black folks well we have always been under the intimate gaze of the monster!  This is not a dismissal or excuse to do nothing – it is simply a statement of fact.

Because this is New Years Day in the calendar I live my life, I write this in memory of Darren Deslandes, 11th July 1975 — 1st January 2010 – Darren was murdered in the early hours of January 1st in his family pub in South London.  R.I.P. Darren, never forgotten!

“Find Your Own Voice”

Found this on Facebook – just in case you lost your voice or think you lost your voice – “Find your own voice” by Jayne Cortez

The Arrogance or Ignorance of Privilege

The 25th of November to the 10th of December marked the annual 16 days of activism against gender based violence, a period designated by the United Nations for continuous lobbying and advocacy, awareness raising and education to end gender based violence in all its forms including domestic violence, political rape, human trafficking, sexual slavery, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, widow inheritance and many others. Yet some people believe that enough has been said and done to improve women’s human rights, and to fight gender based violence, and  to realise the goal of gender equality characterised by equal chances for all,  equal access to these chances for all and equal respect among all. Could it be forgetfulness and dire ignorance or just an acute sense of arrogance of a privileged few to seriously ask, “What is it that women want?” especially if you are also a woman. But yes some men (and women) ask;

“What is it that women want?”“Don’t they have enough already?”“What more do they want?”“Do they now want us to live in their petticoats?” “Soon we shall be singing ‘majesty’ and curtseying to the end of the world for them, isn’t that where we are headed at this rate.”“If they have food on their tables and roofs over their heads, what more do they want?”“This women’s rights thing is destroying our moral fabric, our culture and our traditions; we have had enough!”

 Delta Milayo Ndou, a fellow blogger and gender activist, in her article “We are in Danger of forgetting”  said something quite striking when she said,

“There is a period between the worst of times and the best of times in which there is a lull…. The relief of having escaped a horrible circumstance tempts us to ease back for a while and eventually the memory of how bad things used to be fades. We start to convince ourselves that things are fine now because we use the worst circumstance as a reference point instead of using the best of circumstances as an aspirational goal to work towards.”

Are women really making unnecessary noise? Are women asking for too much? Should women be grateful for what they have achieved so far and not demand the ultimate desired and aspirational goal that Ndou talks of? What is it that women have achieved that would make some individuals think that they need not ask for more?

A week ago, a young girl was shot in the head in India because she had confronted a man for urinating in front of her gate. In Afghanistan a young girl of 15 had her throat slitbecause her family had refused an offer for marriage. About two months ago, MalalaYousafzai, a 14 year old Pakistani activist was shot in the head in an assassination attempt by the Taliban for demanding the right of every girl-child to an education.

But to bring it closer to home women and girls are raped each day in Zimbabwe.One in every 3 women will experience rape or some other form of sexual violence at least once in her lifetime; that is about 1 billion women and girls. Each day there are several reports of women and girls raped, battered and bruised through domestic violence. We read in the papers: Woman struck by her husband on the head with a brick for singing happy birthday to him while he was still in bedWoman raped by pastor;   Woman assaulted for dishing the wrong piece of chicken to her husband; and Popular radio DJ and theatre performer, Tinopona Katsande assaulted by her boyfriend Brian Munjodzi.and these are just few of many stories in Zimbabwe

The perpetrators, most of the time are not strangers. They are husbands, boyfriends, fiancés, fathers, brothers, uncles, and even some men that women consider to be friends. Yes the occasional stranger takes a chance, but the majority of abusers are close relatives, individuals that the victims trust; individuals that the victims never imagined would abuse them; individuals whose depravity is unimaginable.

Why would anyone ever ask what it is that women want? You either have to be a ‘blind’ fool, walking around with a pair of dark goggles over your eyes not to see the injustices that women face or you would have to be totally ‘deaf’ not to hear the cries that women and girls are constantly making.

In Zimbabwe, the thought of elections sends shivers down many women’s spines; chills of fear because elections symbolise a time of destruction and loss. Loss of women’s dignity as young men force themselves upon women old enough to be their mothers or grandmothers; loss of women’s control over their bodies as they are raped while sticks, butts of guns, ashes, chillies and all sorts of foreign harmful substances and objects are thrust down women’s genitalia; loss of women’s health as they are wilfully infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases; loss of women’s reproductive choices as they are made pregnant, have no access to safe abortions and are forced to give birth and take care of babies whose fathers they do not know.

A cursory look at the legal framework would make it seem as if everything is in order. There is a Domestic Violence Act that prohibits all forms of domestic violence including marital rape and supposedly affords women the opportunity to report their matters to the police. There are supposed to be Victim Friendly Units within the police stations, catering to the needs of victims and attending to their complaints with the requisite sensitivity. There are supposed to be Victim Friendly Courts that allow the victim to tell their story in a safe space without facing a trial as if they were the perpetrator.  There is a Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act that prohibits incest hence one would think a father or uncle would never want to have sex with, let alone force himself upon his daughter or niece or a brother upon his sister.

Yet the reality on the ground is no stranger than fiction. Fathers rape their daughters, brothers- sisters, uncles- nieces, soldiers-civilians.Is there a single soul out there, oblivious to the commission of these horrible atrocities?  If not, then why would anyone think women do not need any more protection than they already have?

But why would anything change when Zimbabwe has a constitution that tells its citizens it is OK to discriminate against women as long as the issues relate to customary law and personal matters such as marriages, custody and guardianship of children, in case of divorce, division of property acquired during marriage, inheritance, access to land and many other instances. Women want to be treated like equals because they are also human beings. Is this too much to ask?

Why would anything change when people still perceive rape as ‘illegitimate sex’-that a woman slept with another man who is not her husband and hence she gets blamed as if she wanted it?-Women want a situation where rape is recognised as a crime, they want perpetrators to be punished in accordance with the severity of their crimes, and not to get a fickle 5 years or to swagger around with total impunity for politically motivated crimes.

Why would anything change when the immediate thought that pops into people’s heads when a woman is battered is  what did she do to deserve it, rather than examining what is wrong with the man to do such a thing to a defenceless woman or often a child? Women want and need a society that recognises that no amount of provocation justifies the use of violence against any woman.

So let those sitting in their high horses of privilege- or maybe halos of ignorance- be they men or women understand that the struggle for women’s emancipation is far from over!