Archive for December 8th, 2010
The Montréal Massacre of December 6, 1989, in which 14 women students at the École Polytechnique were systematically killed and 13 other students wounded by a lone gunman, is indelibly imprinted on the minds of Quebeckers and others who struggled to comprehend the worst single-day massacre in Canadian history.
Since the beginning of Québec’s “Quiet Revolution” in the 1960s, women had been making increasing strides in non-traditional occupations and educational programs. In the 1970s and 1980s, growing numbers flocked to the École Polytechnique, the School of Engineering at the University of Montréal. While most men in Québec and elsewhere accepted and even welcomed these transformations, a minority felt themselves disadvantaged by attempts to encourage women’s new roles and opportunities.
One of these was Marc Lépine, a 25-year-old Quebecker and child-abuse survivor who, as an adult, was described by acquaintances as a moody loner. Lépine had sought to join the Canadian Armed Forces, but was rejected. He had also studied for admission to the École Polytechnique, but was not accepted — a decision he apparently blamed on “affirmative action” policies promoted by feminists and their sympathizers. In the suicide note he would leave on his body, Lépine provided some insights into the virulent mindset that fuelled his rage against women and feminists:
Please note that if I am committing suicide today … it is not for economic reasons … but for political reasons. For I have decided to send Ad Patres [Latin: “to the fathers”] the feminists who have ruined my life. … The feminists always have a talent for enraging me. They want to retain the advantages of being women … while trying to grab those of men. … They are so opportunistic that they neglect to profit from the knowledge accumulated by men throughout the ages. They always try to misrepresent them every time they can.
Attached to the letter was a list of 19 prominent Québec women in non-traditional occupations, including the province’s first woman firefighter and police captain. Beneath the list Lépine wrote: “[These women] nearly died today. The lack of time (because I started too late) has allowed these radical feminists to survive.” It was, instead, dozens of ordinary women at the École Polytechnique who would bear the brunt of his fury.
The act of gendercide
On the evening of December 6, 1989, shortly after 5 o’clock on the penultimate day of classes before the Christmas holidays, Lépine carried a concealed Sturm Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic rifle into the École Polytechnique. His first female victim, Maryse Laganiere, was killed in a corridor. He then proceeded to Room 303, a classroom which held 10 women students and 48 men, along with a male professor. Firing two shots into the ceiling and shouting, “I want the women. I hate feminists!,” Lépine enacted a gendercidal ritual that will be familiar to readers of other case-studies on this site (Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia) — only this time, the victims were female. Separating the men from the women, he expelled the men at gunpoint, lined up the remaining women students against the wall, and began to fire. Six women died; the others were injured, but survived.
“Then, Lépine went down to the first floor,” wrote Maclean’s (December 18, 1989). “Firing at diving, ducking students as he went, he entered the cafeteria, where he killed [Anne-Marie] Edward and two of her classmates. Still on the hunt, Lépine climbed back up to the third floor, where he strode into Room 311. Students, unaware of the unfolding tragedy, were delivering end-of-semester oral presentations. ‘At first, nobody did anything,’ recalled Eric Forget, 21. Then, the gunman opened fire, sending two professors and 26 students scrambling for cover beneath their desks. ‘We were trapped like rats,’ said Forget. ‘He was shooting all over the place.’ Other witnesses said that Lépine leaped onto several desks and shot at women cowering beneath them. Four more women were killed. Then, roughly 20 minutes after embarking on his rampage, Lépine took his own life.” By the time he blew off the back of his own head, fourteen women lay dead, and thirteen other students were injured (nine women, four men).
The murdered women were:
* Geneviève Bergeron, aged 21;
* Hélène Colgan, 23;
* Nathalie Croteau, 23;
* Barbara Daigneault, 22;
* Anne-Marie Edward, 21;
* Maud Haviernick, 29;
* Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31;
* Maryse Leclair, 23;
* Annie St.-Arneault, 23;
* Michèle Richard, 21;
* Maryse Laganière, 25;
* Anne-Marie Lemay, 22;
* Sonia Pelletier, 28; and
* Annie Turcotte, aged 21.
The aftermath — A shared responsibility?
In the wake of the horrific murders, Quebeckers and Canadians — along with many others around the world — rallied to commemorate the victims and denounce the anti-feminist wrath of their attacker. Many called Lépine a “madman,” but others rejected the term as downplaying the calculating nature of his hatred towards women and feminists. Indeed, Lépine himself had rejected it in his suicide note: “Even though the Mad Killer epithet will be attributed to me by the media, I consider myself a rational and erudite person that only the arrival of the Grim Reaper has forced to undertake extreme acts.” Declared Judy Rebick, who was spurred by the massacre to run for the leadership of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women: “If he’d killed 14 Jews, he’d have been seen as disturbed, but also anti-Semitic.”
Municipal and provincial authorities declared three days of mourning; the flag at the Canadian parliament flew at half-mast. Candlelight vigils were held across Canada, and on the Sunday following the massacre, tens of thousands of Québec residents and visitors queued in sub-zero temperatures outside the University of Montréal chapel to view the closed caskets of the murdered young women. One of them was Gendercide Watch executive director Adam Jones, who recalls: “I have never seen such a collective outpouring of grief. The murders united many Quebeckers across generational, ethnic, and gender lines; all turned out to pay their respects. Personally, it was a transforming experience. I had never seriously examined the gendering of violence in our society, and around the world, before those 14 women died.”
Since 1989, December 6 has been officially designated a national day of commemoration. Over the years, debate has raged (renewed for the tenth anniversary commemorations in 1999) as to whether the slaughter was an isolated act, or a symbol of male violence against women. It was certainly, as noted, an act of mass murder unprecedented in Canadian history. And the ritual, gendercidal separation of women from men — as also noted — usually leaves men dead and women still alive. Nonetheless, Lépine’s rampage had strong echoes in the numerous acts of domestic murder and abuse committed by men fearful that “their” women will assert greater independence and move beyond traditional female roles. (Lépine’s suicide also typified the pathological self-hatred and self-destructiveness which regularly features in such acts, and which makes it difficult to speak of a simple exercise of “patriarchal power.”)
Some carried the argument of generalized male responsibility further still. “Men kill women and children as a proprietary, vengeful and terrorist act,” wrote Montréal Men Against Sexism. “They do so with the support of a sexist society and judicial system. As pro-feminist men, we try to reveal and to end this continuing massacre, which will go on as along as we do not end sexism and sexist violence, along with all of men’s alibis for them.”
Thinking along similar lines, Toronto city councillor Jack Layton co-founded the White Ribbon Movement in 1991 to remember the victims of the massacre and protest against violence against women. “Until Montréal, most of the discussion was introspective,” Layton recalled in 1999. “Then the massacre happened, and it got us off our butts. My head exploded that year. ‘What must it be like for women?’ I thought. It was time to speak out and own up to this behaviour.” “Eight years later,” writes Hurst, “the cause has spread to a dozen countries around the world. Its comprehensive curriculum on gender violence — taught at public, junior high and senior high school levels — is used in 100 schools across Canada, 1,000 in the U.S.” The movement has also attracted criticism from those who believe it makes unwarranted generalizations about the attitudes and behaviour of men (see Jones, “Why I Won’t Wear A White Ribbon”).
In November 1996, the Canadian Women’s Internet Association founded the “Candlelight Vigil Across the Internet”, with the stated aim of “rais[ing] awareness of violence against women across Canada and throughout cyberspace.” Now in its third year, the response has “far surpassed expectations,” according to organizers.
The Montréal Massacre was also a key moment in the struggle for gun control in Canada. In the wake of the massacre — “it came right out of it,” she said — Wendy Cukier founded the Coalition for Gun Control. The Coalition “would go on to play a major part in lobbying Ottawa for laws, in 1991 and in 1998, that would ban all semi-automatic, military assault weapons and short-barrelled handguns, and require the registration of all firearms, starting in 2003, and strict screening for all owners.” Ontario and a number of other provinces mounted Supreme Court challenges to the legislation, but in December 1999 Cukier stated she was “confident the court will come through.” (See Lynda Hurst, “10 Years Later, How a Massacre Changed Us All,” Toronto Star, November 27, 1999.)
Lastly, if Lépine had sought to terrorize Canadian women into staying put in their traditional roles, his rampage may have had the opposite effect. Between 1989 and 1999, the proportion of women enrolled in Canadian engineering faculties rose from 13 to 19 percent. And in absolute numbers, it more than doubled, to nearly 9,000.
Read more at http://www.gendercide.org/case_montreal.html
Bullied by partners, relatives and other male contacts, some of the women succumb to the sexual advances of men, even when they knew they would be compromising their health, according to Ikhwezi Lokusa Wellness Centre’s programme director, Kazeka Somhlahlo.
She said some women were abused under the banner of cultural and traditional practices, being forced to have unprotected sex, sometimes in situations when they knew that multiple partners were involved. “That is where we come in with our psycho-social community responsibility programme,” she said.
Somhlahlo said her organisation provided care, support and treatment to close to 1900 patients in the province, some from as far as Aliwal North and Transkei.
The centre has full-time doctors, nurses, a pharmacy and other staff in East London, and also provides community outreach, social support and patient empowerment programmes to communities.
Established in 2002, Ikhwezi Lokusa caters for patients on anti- retrovirals (ARVs), and also works towards keeping those who have not started taking them healthy enough not to need them. “Because HIV, Aids and gender go together our role is not limited to the physical, but the social aspects of our patients as well.”
She said their role as facilitators in the well-being of people living with HIV and Aids became more pronounced during the ongoing international rally of 16 Days of Activism for no violence against women and children .
The campaign, recognised worldwide and commemorated between November 25 and December 10, is aimed at generating increased awareness about violence against women and children.
It also highlights the ways in which such violence manifests itself within the society, and the negative impact it has on vulnerable groups. “Women are reminded that they were ‘bought’ when the man paid lobola to their families, and they are left with no option but to give in to his demands against their better judgment,” said Somhlahlo.
She said some were raped, sometimes by people they knew.
“Then you have those in difficult housing situations, where too many people, both female and male, live together in a small shack.”
Describing such situations as “explosive”, she said indiscriminate sexual acts took place, and in some cases women are forced to provide sexual favours in order to have a place to live.
The disproportionate burden of HIV/Aids borne by women and girls in most developing countries requires urgent attention. At the heart of the problem is profound gender inequality and inequity, coupled with the systematic disempowerment of women, condoned by society for generations.
Although a global problem, it is particularly evident in developing countries and the HIV/Aids epidemic, therefore, is merely exposing the underlying failures of society.
Comprehensive sexual education for adolescent boys and girls is probably the single most important intervention in correcting gender stereotypes and imbalances and for preventing violence against women and the further spread of HIV.
Unfortunately, reproductive health services for women and girls in developing countries are universally not up to standard. Services that need urgent attention include family planning, antenatal, perinatal and postnatal care, diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, early diagnosis and treatment of cancer of the cervix and access to safe and legalised abortion. In fact, criminal abortion is rife and extremely dangerous in developing countries, accounting for about 12% of all maternal mortality.
Female condoms have also not been given a chance as an important female-controlled method of preventing HIV infection and unwanted pregnancy. When women are properly counselled and trained in the use of female condoms, there is a high acceptance and demand for their availability. The female condom is particularly effective in violent or non-consensual relationships. Much greater investment into its research and development needs to be made.
Much publicity has been given to the microbicide gel containing the antiretroviral drug tenofovir in the prevention of HIV infection. The fact that it appears to be 40% effective shows promise for the female-controlled method of prevention.
Comment by Dr Brian Brink, chief medical officer of Anglo American and the chair of the International Women’s Health Coalition
The World Health Organization (WHO) welcomed the relaxation of the Vatican’s stance against condom use.
Pope Benedict XVI said the use of condoms is acceptable to help prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.
“The Pope’s statement is in line with evidence that condoms are highly effective in preventing infection with the HIV virus. If used correctly and consistently, the male condom is the most efficient protection against the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections,” said WHO director for Western Pacific region Dr. Shin Young-soo.
Shin said the papal statement would help ease the reluctance of several sectors to use condoms. He acknowledged, however, that the pope was not endorsing the use of condoms as a means for birth control.
WHO records show that the prevalence of HIV in Asia Pacific had reached 20 percent among sex workers and up to 30 percent among men having sex with men.
“The truth is there for everyone to see. Unprotected sex is a central driver of the AIDS epidemic in Asia,” Shin said.
In a report of the Asia Commission on AIDS in 2008, it was estimated that some 75 million men in the region patronize sex from 10 million sex workers and, at the same time, have sex with 50 million regular or casual partners.
WHO had warned that in Western Pacific, HIV infection will continue to rise if countries will not focus on people with “risky lifestyles.”
WHO said 130,000 to 150,000 new infections related to high-risk lifestyle occur every year in the Western Pacific region.
These include infections through unprotected sex, sharing drug needles, and men having sex with men.
“While condom use remains the core strategy for preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections among sex workers, essential and affordable sexual and reproductive health services should also be made available to sex workers to address a host of other issues,” it said.
These services include voluntary HIV counseling and testing, STI diagnosis and treatment, cervical cancer prevention, prevention of parent-to-child transmission, contraception counseling, abortion and post-abortion care, as well as specialized support to the transgender community.
It is estimated that some 1.4 million people in Western Pacific were diagnosed with the AIDS virus. Ten years ago, the number of cases was 680,000.
Worldwide, some 33.4 million people are living with HIV.
House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman also welcomed the new papal statement on condom use, saying it supports his advocacy of family planning through the use of contraceptives.
“This is a very welcome development as it signals the liberalization of the stand of the Catholic Church when it comes to condom use to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS,” said Lagman, principal author of the highly contested Reproductive Health (RH) Bill.“The moderation of the Church’s position on condoms to prevent the spread of a deadly disease may ultimately evolve to include the use of condoms and other contraceptives to prevent high risk pregnancies,” he added.
Lagman then said the use of contraceptives is a lesser evil than committing abortion and having increased incidents of maternal death. “Family planning and contraception save lives by helping women avoid high risk pregnancies which often end in maternal and infant death or morbidity,” he said. Citing data from the National Statistics Office, he said maternal deaths in the Philippines account for one out of every seven deaths of women of reproductive age. He noted that a study by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Population Fund showed that one in three deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth could be prevented if women who want to use contraception are given access to it.
The study also showed that helping women plan their families can prevent one million infant and child deaths every year worldwide because closely spaced pregnancies threaten infant survival.
Lagman also cited another study showing that regular and proper use of contraceptives reduces the incidence of abortion by 85 percent.
“Clearly, a pregnancy that is planned and wanted will not be aborted. It is therefore only logical to conclude that the more women can avoid unintended and mistimed pregnancies through effective family planning, the less the incidence of abortion will be,” he said. Despite the endorsement from the Vatican, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) vows to continue opposing the RH bill “because that is our moral duty,” said Batangas Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, vice chair of the CBCB Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL). With Jess Diaz, Evelyn Macairan
World AIDS Day, observed December 1 each year, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. It is common to hold memorials to honor persons who have died from HIV/AIDS on this day. Government and health officials also observe the event, often with speeches or forums on the AIDS topics. Since 1995, the President of the United States has made an official proclamation on World AIDS Day. Governments of other nations have followed suit and issued similar announcements.
AIDS has killed more than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007, and an estimated 33.2 million people worldwide live with HIV as of 2007, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history. Despite recent, improved access to antiretroviral treatment and care in many regions of the world, the AIDS epidemic claimed an estimated 2 million lives in 2007, of which about 270,000 were children.
Read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_AIDS_Day
This is the result of a review by police following articles in a local paper that found a sharp drop in rapes in Baltimore – disproportionate to that of other cities – was a result of police too quickly dismissing complaints from women.
After the stories, city officials launched their own investigation and the results were revealed at a recent City Council hearing:
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the audit, along with other comprehensive changes in recent months, “has forever changed and improved the way sexual assault cases are investigated in Baltimore, ensuring that all victims of sexual assault have their complaints investigated fully and are treated with dignity and respect.”
Officials outlined a series of reforms, including barring beat officers from dismissing complaints without review, and police now work closely with rape crisis centers, even using counselors on interviews, to ease concerns of victims.
Legislators call for parliamentary inquiry as data shows a significant increase in sex crimes within families.
The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI) called on the government to create a national program for tackling the increasing levels of sexual violence in Israeli society, especially cases of incest and sexual molestation within the family.
Presenting to the Knesset its semiannual report, which showed a sharp increase in sexually violent crimes and rape, ARCCI executive director Michal Rozin declared that “it is time for everyone to join forces and build a national program, which will include all government ministries, to eradicate sexual violence in Israel completely.”
Rozin added that not only had sexual violence in the country increased, but “the scope and variety of the abuse and attacks has intensified, too.”
During the meeting, which included the Knesset committees for Labor, Welfare and Health; the Status of Women; and the Rights of the Child, legislators said they would call on Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin to establish a parliamentary inquiry to look into the growing cases of domestic violence and child molestation.
Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog said at the hearing that despite improvements in recent years in treating children and youth at risk, he would find a way to increase the budget for centers providing assistance and treatment to victims of rape and sexual assault.
According to the report, which reflects data collected by ARCCI’s rape crisis hot line and information reported by its affiliated centers around the country, during the first half of this year there was a rise of 13 percent in the number of new calls for help, going from 3,773 in 2009 to 4,245 so far this year.
Among the calls received by the hot line, 1,359 callers reported being victims of rape or attempted rape, a 13% increase from the previous year; 166 said they’d been subjected to a gang rape or a group sexual assault, a rise of 23% over the previous year; and there were 10 reports of statutory rape.
In addition, 254 people reported either ongoing sexual harassment at work or a one-time experience of sexual harassment, a 14.5% increase from 2009, while 275 said they had been victims of sexual assault.
Out of those who called the hot line, the group reported that 66.5% had been under the age of 18, and 40% of those reporting incest or sexual abuses in the family had been under 18.
Overall, sexual abuse within the family increased by 11% in the first half of 2010, with most of the reports involving incest perpetrated by fathers, brothers, uncles and other relatives. Mothers and sisters were also found to have committed these crimes, the report noted.
“Last year the media reported numerous cases of gang rape, incest, sexual abuse of minors by family members and sexual assault by teens against their own peers,” Rozin pointed out.
“These cases and many more unreported cases only serve to back up our data that there has been an alarming increase in the number of people reporting such crimes.”
Three years ago, the government, then under the leadership of Ehud Olmert, committed to investing some NIS 30 million to build a special program for victims of rape and other sexual attacks. However, ARCCI has pointed out that little has progressed since then, and today there are simply not enough services and treatment centers available to cope with this increase in cases.
At the meeting, Herzog said his ministry’s budget for treating victims of rape and sexual abuse was more than NIS 4.5m. a year for 10 centers and that he was committed to increasing that amount in the future.
More than one in three South African men questioned in a survey admitted to rape, the latest evidence in the country of a violent culture of patriarchy.
Researchers found that more than three in four men said they had perpetrated violence against women.
Nearly nine in 10 men believe that a woman should obey her husband – and almost six in 10 women also agreed with the statement.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world. Last year a survey by the Medical Research Council (MRC) found that 28% of men in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces said they had raped a woman or girl.
A new MRC study in Gauteng, the country’s wealthiest province, found that 37.4% of men admitted having committed a rape, while 25.3% of women said they had been raped.
The survey questioned 511 women and 487 men, of whom 90% were black and 10% white.
Rachel Jewkes of the MRC said: “We see a situation where the use of violence is so widespread that not only is it seen as being legitimate but I think quite often women forget it. They just see it as a normal effect.”
Jewkes cited her survey’s findings on gender attitudes. Although both largely agreed that “people should be treated the same whether they are male or female”, 86.7% of men and 57.9% of women also endorsed the statement that “a woman should obey her husband”.
Some 53.9% of men and 29.8% of women agreed that “a man should have the final say in all family matters”, while 37.3% of men and 23.2% of women supported the view that “a woman needs her husband’s permission to do paid work”.
Asked about sexual entitlement in marriage, only 55% of both men and women said they thought “it is possible for a woman to be raped by her husband”. Some 38.7% of men and 29.3% of women thought that “a woman cannot refuse to have sex with her husband” and 22.3% of men and 8.8% of women felt that “if a wife does something wrong, her husband has the right to punish her”.
The survey also found that 32% of men and women agreed that “in any rape case, one would have to question whether the victim is promiscuous”, while 20.1% of men and 15.6% of women said that “in some rape cases, women want it to happen”.
Jewkes said: “What we see here is a set of attitudes reflecting men’s views that they are legitimate in the use of violence against women, and women in many respects acquiescing to this.”
Chinese marriage law experts have called for legislation on domestic violence.
“National legislation to combat domestic violence is badly in need, because existing articles of law do not provide a sufficient legal basis for timely and effective judicial intervention,” Li Mingshun, deputy head of the marriage and family board of the China Law Society, said at a conference in Beijing marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
The conference was jointly hosted by the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF) and the United Nations in China.
“We have been receiving more and more complaints about domestic violence in recent years, despite 27 provincial-level governments having made considerable effort to enact local regulations against this problem,” said Meng Xiaosi, vice-president of the ACWF.
The ACWF has annually received 40,000 to 50,000 complaints about domestic violence since 2004.
According to research by the China Law Society, 85.4 percent of these cases involve husbands acting violently toward their wives.
These women suffer physical, psychological and sexual abuse an average of 7.4 times a year, according to data from women’s organization in Henan, Beijing, Jiangsu, Shandong, Hubei, Liaoning and Hebei.
The reasons for the abuse range from infertility, giving birth to a daughter and husbands engaging in excessive drinking.
“The main difficulty in suing a family member for abuse is producing the evidence,” said Jiang Yue, a professor of marriage and family law at Xiamen University.
To obtain a divorce for domestic violence in China, civil law requires a wife to be able to prove in court that her husband beat her, though any injuries that she may have sustained have usually healed by the time the hearing is held, Jiang pointed out.
“In some cases, a victim submits a certificate from a hospital confirming her injuries, but the husband is still able to argue that his wife was injured in another way,” she said.
Current laws and regulation are also unhelpful to women who do not want to divorce their husbands, said Xia Zhengfang, a judge who presides at the No 1 civil law court of the Jiangsu Provincial Higher People’s Court.
“For most women who suffer domestic violence, divorce is not their first choice, since they may lose financial resources or be forced to leave their children if the marriage breaks up,” Xia said. “So it is crucial to be able to restrain violence.”
However, the Regulations on Administrative Penalties for Public Security do not specify domestic violence, so the police are unable to act proactively to prevent abuse.
“As the law currently stands, national regulations on constraining domestic violence are contained in eight areas of the Marriage Law, the Law on the Protection of Minors and the Law on the Protection of Women and Children,” Li Mingshun said. “But only two of them are of practical help to victims.”
Thirteen law experts in China, including Li, drafted a proposal in June on the prevention and punishment of domestic violence, which covers areas like compelling an aggressor to submit to re-education at a public security facility for 30 to 90 days.
Graph of statistics http://news.asiaone.com/A1MEDIA/news/11Nov10/others/20101126.122506_domestic.jpg
Women fleeing domestic violence will be able to use shelters in the GTA without worry of being targeted by immigration officers, a Toronto activist group says.
The Greater Toronto Enforcement Centre, a branch of the Canada Border Services Agency, will issue a directive barring officers from entering or waiting outside facilities serving women surviving violence, says Fariah Chowdhury, a spokeswoman for NoOneIsIllegal.
Chowdhury said rape crisis centres, women’s shelters or any community organization helping survivors of violence will now be off limits.
“For us, this is one small step in part of a broader campaign to make the city safe for women and for people with precarious status,” said Chowdhury. “It’s a long overdue victory because immigration officers should never have been arresting, deporting or detaining women who are so vulnerable in the first place.”
Chowdhury added that the directive will be released Thursday, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
It comes after two years of grassroots campaigning from a coalition of more than 120 organizations demanding shelters be considered a “safe space.”
Feminists and activists were concerned earlier this year when enforcement officers entered the Beatrice House shelter in Toronto looking for a woman from Ghana, identified only as Jane.
Jane, who said she grew up in a “voodoo” home and was sexually abused before arriving in Canada, missed the arrest because she and her 3-year-old daughter had just moved to another shelter.
“We have received numerous reports of immigration officials going into women’s shelters in the middle of the night and taking women and children out,” said Chowdhury.
“More and more people became afraid to access the services.”
While the directive is a “step in the right direction,” much more work must be done for undocumented people who aren’t able to go to university, access welfare or subsidized housing, said Chowdhury.
“These are essential support services that are really required for people’s survival.”
She added that talks about whether the directive will be applied on a national level will take place in coming weeks.
A nationwide campaign against domestic violence dubbed “1 in 3” was launched Thursday by the Maldivian Network on Violence Against Women, a loose coalition of NGOs and individuals who came together to advocate for pioneering legislation on domestic violence (DV) currently before parliament.
The campaign title reflects the findings of a milestone 2007 study on Women’s Health and Life Experiences, which found that 1 in 3 women aged 15 to 49 experience either physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives, including childhood sexual abuse.
While a draft for domestic violence legislation had existed for several years, the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP’s) women’s wing announced the development of a bill to be submitted to parliament earlier this year.
The announcement was welcomed by President Mohamed Nasheed, who argued that a bipartisan effort to pass the legislation was more likely to succeed.
The DV bill, supported and facilitated by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), aims to “make DV illegal, to prevent DV from occurring in our society, to provide justice to survivors of domestic violence and abuse as well as to ensure state responsibility in providing services to address DV-related crimes in society,” reads a press statement by the NGO Network.
The network was formed in October when a group of 30 advocates came together in Bandos to plan support for the bill.
On November 22, the bill was accepted by MPs and sent to committee for further review.
In her keynote speech at the campaign launch, former DRP MP Aneesa Ahmed surveyed the history of government efforts against domestic violence.
As recently as the turn of the century, said Aneesa, domestic violence was a taboo subject in Maldivian society.
“It was not spoken about,” she said. “[People] didn’t want to speak about it. Perhaps because of the immensity of the problem, nobody wanted to talk about it; or because nobody wanted to believe how much it had spread in our society.”
She added that the hesitancy to openly acknowledge the problem was probably borne “out of fear.”
The former Women’s Minister revealed that a pilot survey planned by an NGO with support from the government was scuttled when it encountered resistance from societal attitudes, which held that the government should not “enter into family matters.”
“So we couldn’t carry out that survey,” she said. “The NGO I mentioned was very disappointed and we were very disappointed, but we did not give up.”
While the former government then attempted to foster public dialogue through workshops aimed at different groups of society, Aneesa said that she was “very encouraged” to see a campaign launched by a network of NGOs with high youth participation.
A video testimonial of a DV victim was also presented at the function, featuring a harrowing story of a woman who came to Male’ seeking a divorce but was refused by the judge who counseled reconciliation with her abusive spouse.
“I thought how am I going to make peace?” she asked. “I am finding it hard to endure. They didn’t consider in the least the abuse I was getting.”
The testimonial ended with a plea to MPs “to save women from abusive husbands.”
Aneesa said that while the passage of the DV bill, with recommendations from the NGO network, would be “a beginning” to tackling gender based violence, she cautioned that the campaign “will not be easy” as the small size of close-knit communities “could be an impediment.”
However, she urged the NGO network and its affiliated advocates not to become discouraged and to continue their efforts.
Aneesa is a founding member of the ‘Hope for Women’ NGO which aims to “eradicate sexual violence against women and girls.”
President Nasheed meanwhile dedicated his weekly radio address yesterday to the subject of domestic violence, noting that “some women don’t even speak about it with their closest friends and family members” and consequently do not report abuse to the authorities.
Men taking advantage of physical superiority to abuse or subjugate women “amounts to the rule of the jungle,” he said.
As women make up half the country’s population, said Nasheed, greater participation of women in the workforce and in national affairs was crucial to ensure economic development and progress.
He added that sexual harassment in the workplace, “even subtle forms of harassment that we may otherwise think are trivial, should be deplored,” adding that “such things should never happen in the workplace.”
President Nasheed expressed gratitude for members of the DRP involved in the drafting of the legislation and pledged the government’s full support for the bill.
Statistics from the Family Protection Unit (FPU) reveal that since 2006 the unit has attended to an average of 145 patients per year – 87 per cent of whom were women – with a noticeable upward trend in the number of cases reported each month.
While sexual abuse was the most common form of abuse suffered by FPU patients, in 83 per cent of cases the perpetrator was a friend or family member, and was known to the victim.
Half of abuse victims reported that the perpetrator was a boyfriend or husband.
The “1 in 3″ campaign – launched to coincide with the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, the beginning of the annual global event supported by the UN: ’16 Days of Activism Against Violence’ – aims to raise awareness of the issue through a sustained media campaign over the next two weeks.
At the ceremony, which was attended by Health Minister Aminath Jameel and UN Resident Coordinator Andrew Cox, the campaign was officially launched by Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Lieutenant Colonel Hamid Shafeeq with the unveiling of the campaign song “Geveshi Hiyaa”.
CEM-H is based in Honduras and is a partner organisation of UK based Central American Women’s Network.
To commenorate the International Day for The Elimination of Male Violence Against Women CEM-H have released the following statement to the international community.
November 25, International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women
Political Positioning Of Feminists In Resistance In Honduras
Center for Women’s Rights CDM
Center for Women’s Studies Honduras CEM-H
As feminist organizations concerned about the grave escalation of violence that envelops the country of Honduras, and the huge number of FEMICIDES, (violent murders of women motivated by gender discrimination) that now amount 285 cases from January to October 2010 and in commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women we make public to Hondurans and the international community the following:
We express our deepest concern for the grave escalation of violence that is ending the lives of thousands of persons, especially young men, young women, and children of both genders in numbers that exceed real war scenarios around the world and place the country at the top of the list of the most violent countries in the world, with as much as 20 victims a day.
Honduras has the highest rates of violence against women in Central America and as a whole in the Latin American region. The United Nations has coined the term the “triangle of violence” to refer to the three Central American countries with the highest rates of violence against women: Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The number of FEMICIDES occurring in Honduras from 2003 to 2010 reaches 1464 victims. 44% of the cases have involved young women between the ages of 15 and 29.
More than half of the FEMICIDES that occur at the national level (55%) take place in the most important cities of the country, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, the two most developed departments of the country, Cortés and Francisco Morazán, and where the maquiladora industry prospers.
Violence in all its manifestations in Honduras involves disproportionately men in their roles as aggressors in intimate, family, and community relations as well as perpetrators of organized public violence or organized crime. This includes hired murders, gang murders, or the crimes transnational networks of drug trafficking, human trafficking and others. Women’s bodies have become the battleground where men settle their scores, take revenge on each other, and demonstrate their power over women’s lives.
In an overwhelming number of cases, the women and girls that were victims of violence did not bring this violence onto themselves; the brutal aggressions against them and their deaths occurred while they were engaged in their daily activities, in their own homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, or walking down the streets in the main cities that have become the privileged sites of the femicides: 1 in 3 femicides took place in the house of the victim and 2 out 5 in the streets.
80% of the victims were murdered at gunfire, and femicides were the result of multiple crimes at least in 14 cases, with 2 to 4 women and girls killed each time, most of them in their own homes.
Women are killed because they are women; because men feel they have the power and the permission to exert violence over women, even the most extreme and lethal form of violence supported as they are by the impunity the state grants them and by the social tolerance of violence against women that protects them from punishment. Unsolved crimes accumulate as well as crimes that receive no application of justice by the law, and the victims of direct and indirect violence receive no attention nor compensation for the damage suffered. In all reported cases, 95% of them contain no information of the possible aggressor. Of 944 cases of violent deaths of women between 2008 and 2010 recorded by the Unit of Crimes against the Lives of Women of the office of the District Attorney for Women, only 61 court rulings were registered, that amounts to 6.4% of the cases.
Femicides are considered felonies, thus, the Honduran state is the main culprit for the situation of violence of women and the impunity of the crimes against them. We find ourselves today before a collapsed state with weakened, inefficient, and irresponsible institutions. The institutions of the state have demonstrated that they not only pay lip service, but that they have no real commitment to the law. They have no real intention to work to stop, prevent, and punish the violence against women.
As women and as feminists in resistance we call all women and men that believe in peace and justice, and all social and popular organizations and organized women of Honduras and the world to help us build a new Honduras in which rights, peace, equity, respect, and justice is guaranteed for all. Tegucigalpa, November 22 2010
CAMPAIGN FOR THE LIFE OF WOMEN: MY BODY IS NOT A BATTLEGROUND
STOP FEMICIDES: WOMEN ARE BEING MURDERED AND THE AUTHORITIES DON’T CARE
NO MORE IRRESPONSIBLE STATE FUNCTIONARIES AND POLITICIANS!
Please circulate the message to your contact and supporters of the struggle to end violence against women.