Archive for the ‘BME’ Category

A Canadian bill that would protect the divorce rights of aboriginal women is being delayed by the suspension of parliament during the Olympics. Some First Nations women’s advocates oppose the proposed law as infringing on their sovereignty.

Due to a gap in legislation over matrimonial property rights for couples living on First Nations reservations, some First Nations women find themselves homeless when their relationships break down.

Provincial and territorial laws relating to matrimonial property do not apply on reservations, which are governed under the Indian Act, a statute that regulates First Nations people. The Indian Act, however, is silent on the issue of matrimonial property rights.

“Similar rights and remedies are available to all other Canadians through provincial and territorial laws which currently can’t be applied on reserves, a fact our government finds unacceptable,” Nina Chiarelli, director of communications for the Minister of Indian Affairs, said in an e-mail.

Chiarelli said the government remains committed to resolving the issue, which is exclusive to First Nations people living on reservations. “First Nations people should have access to these protections just like everyone else,” she said.

The Ministry of Indian Affairs has drafted Bill C-8, which would set out provisional federal rules, such as ensuring the equal division of a couple’s matrimonial property on reservations, until various First Nations communities develop their own laws.

It was scheduled to be deliberated in parliament in January.

However, that bill, along with many others, has been delayed since Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper decided in late December to suspend parliament this month while the country hosts the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Williams, professor emeritus of indigenous studies at the Ontario-based Trent University and an Ojibwa and Odawa elder, said the bill would be particularly helpful for mothers fleeing domestic violence.

Such women, she said, can sometimes be forced, due to safety concerns, to leave their reservations–and their community and cultural connections.

Many women wind up at temporary women’s shelters and struggle to maintain custody of their children, said Williams, who has no children of her own but was temporarily a primary caregiver for two of her sister’s children. “I think a lot of women are afraid if they don’t find a place, their children will be taken away [by social services] because they can’t afford to all be together.”

The bill, however, has not won the favor of many First Nations groups, including the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the Assembly of First Nations and the Union of B.C. (British Columbia) Indian Chiefs. They have all objected to the government’s failure to consult First Nations communities affected by the bill, as well as its infringement on First Nations sovereignty. While the Ministry of Indian Affairs’ mandate is to help First Nations people develop healthier, more sustainable communities, it is not run by aboriginal groups.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Vancouver-based Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said First Nations communities have been at odds with the government for years over their right to self-determination, and Bill C-8 is yet another example of federal interference.

“Generally speaking, the Harper government has been very adversarial to the rights and interests of the indigenous people of this country,” Phillip said.

“There’s been a number of legislative initiatives that have been advanced by the government of Canada and they don’t really consult or attempt to consult the aboriginal community,” he said, noting Bill C-8 is no exception.

Phillip points to the Canadian government’s refusal to endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as evidence of its resistance to First Nations sovereignty. The declaration, which affirms the right of indigenous people to self-determination, was approved by an overwhelming majority of the U.N. National Assembly; Canada was 1 of only 4 countries to vote against it. Canada’s refusal, which the government said was based on a lack of practical guidance and “vague and ambiguous” text, has been lambasted by international rights organizations, including Amnesty International. Moreover, Phillip said, it has fueled the mistrust of First Nations groups.

Phillip, an outspoken activist against violence against women, added that he believed the problem of First Nations women being forced from their homes might be overstated.

“The suggestion that there is a mass exodus of women off the reserve that are left destitute, I haven’t witnessed,” he said, noting he has served more than 24 years as a band councilor and band chief.

Yet arguing against Bill C-8 is “very, very difficult because there’s a spirit and an intent that’s unassailable in terms of fair treatment and justice for women,” he said.

Other advocates for First Nations women acknowledge it is difficult to determine the extent of the problem, as many women are involved in common-law relationships. This makes it harder to tally the number of women forced from their homes when their unregistered relationships dissolve.

However, some argue the problem is too severe for inaction, since women who decide to leave their relationships face separation from their communities, which provide cultural support as well as access to social programs.

Williams said Bill C-8 needs to be enacted quickly. Its critics, she said, were too complacent with the status quo. “I think a lot of people are comfortable with what is there now because they’re afraid of change.”

When a woman has nowhere to go, “it’s urgent to find a place and find a home for your children,” she said.

Edited version of longer articles at

Jerusalem’s highly touted center for treating child victims of sexual abuse and rape is unable to offer assistance to the capital’s significant Arab-speaking population, unless they can communicate in Hebrew, The Jerusalem Post has discovered.

A spokeswoman for Shaare Zedek Hospital confirmed to the Post on Monday that a teenage boy from an east Jerusalem neighborhood had been treated at the hospital last week for severe sexual abuse, but after being referred to the rape crisis center, known as Beit Lynn, the boy was turned away due to the absence of Arabic-speaking professional staff.

“More than 100,000 Arab children live in Jerusalem and most of them, especially the younger ones, do not speak Hebrew,” wrote Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, executive director of the National Council for the Child, in a letter to Welfare and Social Services Ministry Deputy Director-General Motti Vinter last week.

“It does not seem possible, when there is such a large ethnic group, that a center such as Beit Lynn does not provide this service in Arabic,” he said.

Funded by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and supported by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, Beit Lynn is supposed to streamline the initial process that victims of rape and sexual abuse go through.

In the past, children suspected of being molested were forced to visit each office independently, usually being carted around by their parents from the hospital to the police station and on to social workers and lawyers. At Beit Lynn, in the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood, all the elements are brought together under one roof, with first responders sharing information and easing the trauma for the victim.

“This child was forced to go through the old fashioned process of having to go from place to place and answer the same humiliating questions over and over again,” commented Kadman, protesting what he called “discrimination” against the city’s Arab-speaking population.

“We see so much money being poured into other less important projects but something like this needs to be fixed,” he said.

While Shaare Zedek could not reveal further details about the case, the spokeswoman did confirm that the victim was 14 and hailed from east Jerusalem.

“The hospital’s social workers first called Beit Lynn to see if they could help him but were told that unless he spoke Hebrew there was nothing they could do for him,” she said.

“Then they contacted another rape crisis center in Jerusalem but were told it only works only with females,” she said, adding that the hospital sees five or six such cases each year.

In response, the Welfare and Social Services Ministry explained that such cases from east Jerusalem are typically referred to local social service offices in their neighborhoods.

“Child welfare officers visit [Arabic-speaking] children in their surroundings as part of the services provided by the department in their area,” said a spokeswoman.

However, lawyer Ali Haider, co-executive director of Sikkuy, the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, said that social workers in Arab Israeli neighborhoods were highly overworked, dealing with more than 165 welfare files at a time.

“This is much higher than in Jewish neighborhoods,” noted Haider, editor of the NGO’s Equality Index of Jewish and Arab Citizens in Israel.

“There is a huge increase in unemployment, violence, sexual abuse and more, but there are simply not enough resources for Arab-speaking social workers to deal with it,” he said.

Three decades ago, the relatives of an eleven-year-old Native girl in Minnesota forced her to have sex with a man in exchange for alcohol. The story was not front-page news. It was not the subject of a feature-length film with a happy ending. No one intervened. But when she turned eighteen, the police started paying attention. She was arrested and convicted over twenty times for prostitution. Her parents’ addiction became her own, and she entered treatment dozens of times.

At an early age, the girl became one of hundreds, maybe thousands, of Native American children and women forced into prostitution in Minnesota, falling under the radar of social services, the community, and the media.

“If it was a bunch of white, blonde hair, blue-eyed girls, believe me, there would be an end to this,” said Vednita Carter, executive director of Breaking Free, a St. Paul-based nonprofit serving women involved in prostitution.

In September, the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center became the first organization in the state to release a report about the widespread trafficking of Native women. The agency hopes its effort will draw attention and funding to Native victims of sexual exploitation.

Advocates say the report’s findings cast little doubt that the situation has already become a crisis. In a sample of 95 Native women seeking services from the resource center, 40 percent reported being the victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

Sixty percent of the women surveyed entered prostitution or pornography before the age of 18. And about one-fifth had been sexually exploited before their thirteenth birthday. When the girls become adults, the exploitation often continues. They remain in prostitution, but the law often no longer views them as victims, but as criminals.

The 126-page report, called Shattered Hearts, written by research scientist Alexandra Pierce, focuses on women who live outside of reservations. The report compiles statistics, identifies flaws in the legal system, draws parallels to the historic exploitation of Native people, and makes dozens of suggestions about how to address the problem. Pierce incorporated the Resource Center’s own studies, interviews with social service workers, and available government data.

“To me, it’s an emotional issue; it’s a financial issue; it’s a justice issue; it’s a human rights issue,” said Suzanne Koepplinger, the Resource Center’s executive director.

Although the legal system treats prostitution and trafficking differently, the report often uses the terms interchangeably, as many advocates believe that prostitution can never be considered fully consensual. The prostituted woman is the true victim of the crime, they argue.

“There’s a general acceptance that prostitution is a lifestyle choice, when it’s actually a federal crime against women,” Koepplinger said.

The report found that Native women have been disproportionally impacted by sexual exploitation. For example, Native American women make up about 25 percent of all women on probation in Hennepin County for prostitution-related offenses, according to data from 2007. But Native women represent only 2.2 percent of the county’s population.

Some of the reasons for the staggering numbers are clear. Native Americans have the state’s highest rates of homelessness, poverty, and alcoholism – what many call the legacy of hundreds of years of colonialism. But the report also argues that generational trauma plays a role. White settlers repeatedly raped, tortured, and murdered Native women over hundreds of years, treating their bodies as disposable and worthless.

In one account from the 1860s, a white rancher describes a government attack on the Cheyenne: “I heard one man say that he had cut out a woman’s private parts and had them for exhibition on a stick…I also heard of numerous instances in which men had cut out the private parts of females and stretched them over the saddle-bows and wore them over their hats while riding in the ranks.”

Other more recent practices, including the involuntary sterilization of Native women and the Indian Adoption Project (which removed Native children from their homes), added to the collective trauma, the report says.

“There’s been so much violence and destruction of families because of colonization,” said Nicole Matthews, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition.

In Minnesota, advocates say that Native women have been prostituted onto ships in the Duluth harbor for generations, although local law enforcement say that they have not noticed any trafficking since harbor security was ramped up after 9/11.

“Girls have conversations with their mothers about their time, when the mothers were working on the boats,” one advocate said during a round-table discussion conducted as part of the report. “Many of the girls were conceived out of working on the boats.”

These historical experiences leave Native women psychologically vulnerable to exploitation, the report says. Once women enter into prostitution, they are less likely to ask for help, as violence against women may seem normal.

Advocates say that many Native communities have also normalized sexual exploitation. Although data is limited, the fact that Native women are often exploited in childhood suggests that Native men play a significant role in their abuse. In many close-knit Native communities, women may have difficulty speaking out.

“It’s a very difficult issue because it’s a very painful issue,” Koepplinger said. “But not talking about it hasn’t helped us.”

An advocate who was interviewed anonymously as part of the report said that when she has tried to talk about sexual violence with members of her Native community, “Some of the elders don’t appreciate that.”

Another participants agreed, saying, “Oh, I know, I know. I was ‘that nasty girl who talks nasty.’”

If the girls don’t find help before they turn eighteen, the legal system takes over, often criminalizes their abuse, and fails to effectively stop sex trafficking, advocates say. But disagreement exists among both advocates and law enforcement about the best intervention methods.

“Police get a hold of them first,” said Linda Miller, executive director of Civil Society, a non-profit that provides legal and other assistance to trafficking victims. “They’ve declared that they’re not going to look beneath the surface.”

But St. Paul Police spokesperson Paul Schnell points to the federally funded Gerald D. Vick Human Trafficking Task Force, a police-led effort to coordinate services for victims of trafficking. The police department trains officers to recognize signs of human trafficking when they approach criminal situations.

However, many women are distrustful of law enforcement, and Schnell acknowledges that police officers frequently arrest women engaged in prostitution.

“In the moment, a case may become a case, “ he said. “But over the course of time and doing that investigation via prosecution or defense counsel, there are different places where there can be interventions to address the trafficking issues.”

Carter, of Breaking Free, said that St. Paul police officers have been increasingly receptive to treating prostitutes as victims. More police officers are bringing women directly to Breaking Free instead of jail, she said.

Nonetheless, arrests continue, and advocates say that a prostitution conviction – or even an arrest – can prevent a woman from ever having a decent job or housing.

“Not many women want to spend the rest of their lives saying that they engaged in prostitution,” Miller said.

Minnesota law does provide some additional legal protection to victims of sex trafficking. While the federal definition of trafficking requires that traffickers use “force, fraud, or coercion,” state laws say that a person can never consent to being sexually exploited. Under state law, anyone who had been prostituted by others is considered a trafficking victim.

Part of a longer article that you can read in full at

Canadian Member of Parliament John Rafferty (Thunder Bay – Rainy River) delivered a statement in the House last week calling for cooperation to end violence against Aboriginal women. “Aboriginal women continue to experience higher than average rates of sexualized violence in Canada,” said Rafferty. “It’s an injustice, pure and simple.”

Outside the House, Rafferty praised the work of initiatives like Sisters in Spirit by the Native Women’s Association of Canada and reiterated his call for MPs to work with Aboriginal women to end this violence. “Aboriginal women’s groups are already working hard to raise awareness about sexualized and racialized violence and are putting forward solutions. Parliament must work in cooperation with these groups and support their work with action, not just rhetoric.”

Here is a transcript of Rafferty’s Member’s Statement:

Mr. Speaker,

Since 1992, October has been marked as Women’s History Month in Canada. It is a time to celebrate women’s achievements and the advancement of women’s equality. But it is also a time to reflect on how much more work there is to be done.

For many women in Canada, Aboriginal women in particular, equality is still far off.

This month, many of my colleagues have spoken passionately about justice for murdered and missing Aboriginal women and in support of the invaluable work of the Sisters in Spirit initiative.

Today, I would like to draw attention to the sad and ongoing history of sexual exploitation and sexualized violence perpetrated against Aboriginal women in Canada. This violence is a grave injustice and it must stop.

With our Fairness for Women action plan, New Democrats are working to end violence against Aboriginal women. I urge all members of this House to join with us in this goal.

We must work together with Aboriginal women and their communities and take meaningful action to end this violence, and to move forward for Aboriginal women’s equality.

See also:
* Action plan urged for murdered women

From North Dakota to Arizona, strong, talented, accomplished Native American women are taking up the challenge of protecting themselves and their sisters, their mothers and aunts, their grandmothers and granddaughters, from the devastation of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The level of violence against women and children in the U.S. is appalling, and the numbers for Native American women and children are staggering. An estimated one in three Native American women will suffer a sexual assault in her lifetime, compared with one in six for the population as a whole, according to figures from the U.S. Justice Department.

“Crimes against Indian women and children strike at the very heart of tribal sovereignty,” reads the 2007 Senate Indian Affairs Committee concept paper on law and order that identified domestic violence and sexual assault as one of the five critical areas in which law enforcement in Indian country was failing.

Following the release of the paper in November 2007, the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2008 was introduced in the Senate and the House July 23, 2008. The last action on the bill was Sept. 18, 2008, when the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held hearings. The bill didn’t pass and was reintroduced in the 111th Congress April 2. The Senate held a hearing on the proposed legislation June 25. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., has scheduled another hearing for mid-September, and the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women is considering a Tribal Consultation Oct. 30 in Minneapolis.

Congress is expected to be absorbed in health care reform and climate-change legislation this fall.

But in North Dakota, Linda Thompson and her colleagues at the First Nations Women’s Alliance and its member organizations are organizing themselves to be more effective in supporting – and healing – the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault on the four North Dakota Indian reservations.

“It’s often thought that young black men are the most victimized in the U.S., but it is actually Native women,” said Thompson, paraphrasing a statement in the Justice Department report, “American Indians and Crime.”

The needs on reservations are many and include not enough law enforcement officers, making response times longer; a lack of education within Native American communities about domestic violence and sexual assault; a lack of knowledge in the wider community about the cultural and family values of Indian victims and perpetrators; and not enough attention to how these crimes affect a family, an extended family, a community, a child.

“Our people need help with both the criminal aspects of domestic violence and help to heal from their experiences,” Thompson said. “We have a lot of really good options for treatment; our goal is to empower and to heal. Our people have options, whatever their religion, Native or non-Native.

“All major crimes on our reservations go to federal law enforcement. The FBI makes the case and the U.S. Attorney decides whether or not to prosecute. Roughly 70 percent of the domestic violence/sexual assault cases in Indian country in North Dakota are declined. But just because they didn’t take the case doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”

What Thompson wants for her organization and for other Native American groups dealing with these crimes and their victims is simple: A seat at the table. “Our goal is to educate tribal leaders across the nation and to set up regular meetings with the U.S. Attorneys Offices and the FBI. We need government-to-government meetings, so we can have some input into what’s happening; we want to create a relationship.”

Thompson is optimistic about this moment and this administration. Then-Senator, now Vice President Joe Biden, she said, wrote the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, and was the one who ensured that Native Americans were specifically included in it.

“It’s a good time to be doing this work,” she said. “It’s the first time in history that we’ve had a White House interested in being involved. And President Obama made a commitment to getting to know Native American governments.”

The Hopi-Tewa Women’s Coalition to End Abuse, a non-governmental nonprofit incorporated this year, is working toward many of the same ends – to promote safety and support for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, to promote leadership for change in the community’s response to violence against women, to educate the public and make positive changes for the eradication of violence against women, explained Director Dorma Sahneyah.

The organization was first funded in 2008 by a grant from the DoJ’s Office on Violence Against Women. Those dollars were used to set up a board of directors, establish bylaws, and fill out and file incorporation papers. A Recovery Act grant won by the coalition will allow the organization to continue its work for the next two years.

“We’re focusing on collaborating with the Hopi Health Care Center to help them develop the forensic and medial capability to treat victims right here on Hopi. Otherwise victims have to go to Flagstaff [about 90 miles away]. We want to provide services for sexual assault victims here at home. We’re also planning to develop a Hopi Sexual Assault Response Manual for law enforcement and to host a reservation-wide conference for victims, government departments and law enforcement,” Sahneyah said.

Victims, she explained, often feel their experience is of little interest to law enforcement or the courts. “People have been upset about how the reports they make to law enforcement have been handled. The system is caught up in doing what it does, but not so much with the victims. They feel alone. That’s why we are using the victims center model. We can offer the support they need, and the help they need to go to court. Court can be very intimidating for people, and if the charges are filed in federal court, they must go all the way to Prescott or Phoenix.”

Sahneyah said there are six Hopi and Tewa women on the board and one to be voted on soon.

“I want to give credit to the women who are committed to this work on Hopi. They are very strong women, already seen as community leaders,” Sahneyah said. “They are learning their roles and responsibilities. They care. All of them are volunteers. The all have other jobs. They’re wonderful.”

The OVW administers 18 grant programs authorized by the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and other legislation.

Has the move toward online resources had an effect on source material for the study of black feminist theory? The last forty years have witnessed a critical mass of literary and theoretical writings on the black feminist movement. This article evaluates the coverage of writings by a select group of forty “second wave” (1963–75) and pre– “third wave” (1976–90) black feminists in twelve major electronic-literary and women’s-studies indexing and abstracting services. Most of the twelve resources studied provide materials on the black feminist movement; however, Gender Studies Database, Black Studies Center, and Periodical Index Online, respectively, were identified as offering the best overall coverage of black feminist writers. Each of the twelve databases studied are discussed in detail, offering some useful hints for black feminist studies researchers interested in finding the most comprehensive materials in the field. The survey investigates the breadth of coverage of writings authored by these black feminists and determines that there is a critical need to either update current thesauri or develop a new comprehensive tool for indexing and abstracting black feminist writings. Finally, the results of this study will assist libraries and librarians in making decisions about purchasing the most relevant resources for research on the writings of the feminist movement in general and black feminists in particular.

Since the mid-1990s, there has been an explosion of indexing and abstracting databases incorporating previously print-only resources with newer, more comprehensive, full-text services. Although there are a plethora of print indexes considered invaluable to researchers, the movement within the library field to replace print with electronic access to online databases has seen a marked increase. How has this move toward online resources affected access to source material for the study of black feminist theory? The last forty years have witnessed a critical mass of literary and theoretical writings on the black feminist movement. This article will evaluate the coverage of writings by a select group of “second wave” (1963–75) and pre–“third wave” (1976–90) black feminists in twelve indexing and abstracting services. Are the writings of these black feminists indexed in the major electronic literary and women’s studies database resources available for researchers? What services provide ease of use combined with multiple levels of search strategies that include searching by author, subject, title, and publication date simultaneously for retrieval of information? The survey will answer these questions and identify the availability of these writings as full text or abstracts. The survey investigates the breadth of coverage and determines that there is a critical need to develop a comprehensive tool for indexing and abstracting black feminist writings. The study will, more importantly, show what databases provide access to scholarly, peer-reviewed articles that legitimize a subject matter. Providing access to these resources encourages critical analysis of black feminist theory, thus furthering the diversity and scope of research. The results will assist researchers in choosing the most relevant resources for their research on the writings of the feminist movement in general and black feminists in particular. In this era of shrinking budgets, the data will provide guidance for librarians seeking to purchase electronic resources in the area of black women’s studies.

The black feminist writers chosen are consistently listed in major research about and writings on the feminist movement, including Patricia Hill Collins’s Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment; the voluminous Pioneer Feminists Project out of Harvard University and its first major publication, Feminists Who Changed America, edited by Barbara Love in 2006; Barbara Christian’s seminal 1985 work Black Feminist Criticism: Perspectives on Black Women Writers; and the more recent two-volume set, Encyclopedia of African American Women Writers, edited by Yolanda Williams Page in 2007. Two comprehensive websites were also consulted during formation of the list of black feminist writers in this survey: Sherri L. Barnes’s Black American Feminisms: A Multidisciplinary Bibliography from the University of California– Santa Barbaraand the University of Minnesota’s Voices from the Gaps.1

In searching library literature using the terms women, women’s studies, and indexing in a variety of combinations, five articles were retrieved: “Table of Contents Services: Retrieving Women’s Studies Periodical Literature” by Loretta P. Koch and Barbara G. Preece (1995); “Women’s Studies Periodical Indexes: An In-depth Comparison” by Linda A. Krikos (1994);“An Evaluation of Indexing Services for Women’s Studies Periodical Literature” by Deborah Mesplay and Loretta Koch; “Indexing Adequacy and Interdisciplinary Journals: The Case of Women’s Studies” by K. H. Gerhard et al. (1993); and “Indexing of Feminist Periodicals” by May Alice Sanguinetti (1984).2 The Koch and Preece article surveyed table of contents services and not the coverage of individual writers. The articles by Mesplay and Koch and by J. A. Gerhard surveyed the general coverage of women’s studies journal literature but not the writings of individual black women writers that represent an important subset of feminist writers in the United States. Mesplay and Koch concluded that “of the indexing and abstracting services examined, ‘Women Studies Abstracts’ provides the overall best coverage.”3 Krikos’s article was a follow-up to the Mesplay and Koch article with the inclusion of the “Women’s Studies Index.”

Although Krikos’s article also reviewed indexes rather than the coverage of individual writers, it is an important resource because of its comparison of the three major resources at that time, “Women’s Studies Index,” “Studies on Women Abstracts,” and “Women Studies Abstracts.” The article is also important for its development of the following standards for comparing indexes: scope; depth of indexing; currency, time-lag, and cost; publisher and editor; format and arrangement; and vocabulary and subject headings.4 Two of these standards will be used in this study: scope, which Krikos describes as “the number and type of materials indexed (meaning articles, book chapters, books, dissertations, pamphlets) and overlaps and gaps in coverage,” and format, defined as “considering the usefulness of the overall arrangement of the service and the content of the citations.”5 Krikos concluded that “‘Women’s Studies Index’ actually indexes the most comprehensive combination and greatest number of women’s studies journals.”6 Krikos also concluded that “Women Studies Abstracts” “is essential to research collections.”7

Sanguenetti’s article surveyed the coverage of women’s studies and feminist journals in the leading paper indexing services available at that time and, again, “Women Studies Abstracts” was found to offer the best coverage, albeit in paper format. Some of the indexes surveyed by Sanguenetti are included in this survey: “Alternative Press Index,” “Essay and General Literature,” and “Women Studies Abstracts” (now a part of the much larger Gender Studies Database). Although the articles mentioned did not survey coverage of individual writers, they provided a set of criteria to assist in reviewing the databases. This study will also test some of the conclusions of these earlier articles and determine whether “Women Studies Abstracts,” which was found to have the best coverage of women’s and gender studies in earlier reviews, offers the best coverage of black feminists writers.

The study covers forty black feminist writers: fifteen Second Wave (SW) and twenty-five pre–Third Wave (pTW). The SW arguably dates either from 1963–75, according to Barbara Love and Harvard’s Pioneer Feminists Project, or from 1965–75, according to Darlene Clark Hine, African American historian and scholar. Love states, “we honor changemakers in the Second Wave movement beginning in 1963, when Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique, was published and spurred countless women into action … some historians say the true Second Wave movement began in 1966 when the National Organization for Women was founded … 1963–1975 were the years of involvement by the greatest number of feminists.”8 All of the selected writers were known activists in the feminist movement. This SW period relates to the founding of the modern feminist movement that grew out of the larger civil rights era, a time when America was coming to grips with those people unwilling to be classified as “second class citizens.” The feminist movement saw the larger movement as not addressing issues of sexism, unequal pay, and the leadership role of women. Black women long involved in civil rights activism came to a similar conclusion, but the sensitive issue of women’s rights was often subsumed into the larger struggle of achieving equality as black people. With the achievement of some of the goals of the civil rights movement, such as the passing of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, black women felt it was time to turn their attention to the rampant sexism and chauvinistic tendencies in many of the black civil rights movement leaders. The Combahee River Collective, a group of black feminists that have met since 1974, state in their discussion of the genesis of contemporary black feminism that:

many of us were active in those movements (civil rights, Black nationalism, the Black Panthers), and all of our lives were greatly affected and changed by their ideology, their goals, and the tactics used… . It was our experience and disillusionment within these liberation movements … that led to the need to develop a politics that was antiracist, unlike those of white women, and antisexist, unlike those of Black and white men.9

Many within the black feminist movement viewed the early white feminist movement as focusing primarily on issues of gender equity while ignoring issues of racism and classism that were the everyday experience for women of color. Benita Roth, in Separate Roads to Feminism, sums up the feelings of many black feminists: “They were wary of joining white women’s liberation groups that paid insufficient attention to the links between gender, racial, and especially class oppression. Critical of the middle-class bias of liberation movements, Black and white, Black feminists therefore found themselves maneuvering in the interstices between the two.” 10

The writers in this study represent those who worked within and outside the women’s movement, and produced scholarship that reflected the issues and concerns of black women who faced discrimination that was both similar to and different from the discrimination faced by the women represented by the dominant white feminists’ movement. According to Joy James, the women chosen generated a wealth of materials to address these issues “not in an attempt to diminish feminist struggle but to enrich, to share in the work of making a liberatory ideology and liberatory movement.”11 The SW writers established an unprecedented body of scholarship, which is now being studied and analyzed by scholars the world over.

By Rebecca Hankins – Continues online at

Or download a pdf version

See also:
* Can we please stop talking about feminism as if it is mothers and daughters fighting about clothes? Second wave: you’re going out in that? Third wave: just drink your herbal tea and leave me alone! Media commentators love to reduce everything about women to catfights about sex, so it’s not surprising that this belittling and historically inaccurate way of looking at the women’s movement–angry prudes versus drunken sluts–has recently taken on new life, including among feminists.
* Blame it on globalization but does a saucy tattoo on the arm of a young Indian woman mean she is standing up for her rights and those of the sisterhood? Yes, say India’s New Age feminists, who see the tattoo as proof of rebellion against a society that insists women be demure. But it is a superficial badge for a superficial ideological struggle, laments Anuradha Marwah, who has written three novels on gender equations.”This new movement of pop feminism feeds into liberalism but unfortunately, is, itself contained by it. Just because a group of women feel empowered through tokens of fashion and sex, the world isn’t going to change at large”.

No? I didn’t think so (says Courtland Milloy in the Washington Post)

After all, who cares to tell sassy little Keisha that if she doesn’t stop mistaking sex for love, her next mistake could be her last. Of course, that wouldn’t be “age appropriate,” now, would it?

What about the Widow Jones? Since her husband passed, she has been dating again. Will somebody please tell her that her new dude is on the down low — surreptitiously having sex with men — then bringing it to bed with her?

Can’t do that, either. Why meddle in her business? After all, AIDS is only the fourth-leading cause of death for black women ages 45 to 54. Let the good sister have her fun — while it lasts.

You might have noticed that I’m focusing on women and AIDS. Speaking frankly, that’s because it’s up to women to save their own lives. When it comes to sexually transmitted diseases, too many men are not trying to protect you. Most of the time, they are just trying to have sex.

Quite frankly, you would have thought more women would have caught on by now.

In the District, the number of women living with AIDS increased by more than 76 percent in six years — nine out of 10 of them black women. The primary modes of transmission: heterosexual men who turned out to be IV drug users, ex-convicts who’d been having sex with men in prison, bisexual men posing as heterosexuals and outright dogs who make a sport of sexual conquest.

Here’s another reason I’m talking to women: The District accounts for 9 percent of all pediatric AIDS cases in the United States. Blame the man all you want, but it’s the mother and child who suffer most.

Despite two decades of advancement in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, “we’re still struggling with how to teach people not to get infected,” Don Blanchon, chief executive of the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, said Monday at a candlelight vigil marking the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day.

But how can we teach if we can’t talk frankly?

There’s certainly no shortage of public service announcements aimed at reducing infection rates among African Americans. But most consist of preachy platitudes, politically correct and “culturally sensitive” pablum: “Stay healthy.” “AIDS is preventable.”

The results should not be surprising.

“People know how to espouse what they heard, but for some reason it does not stick with them,” Barbara Chinn, director of Whitman Walker Clinic’s Max Robinson Center in Southeast Washington, told me recently. “They still look at prospective sex partners and say, ‘They don’t look infected.’ ”

Failure to tell it like it is — that’s what’s really killing us.

“When assessing the HIV risk factors associated with African Americans, one particularly difficult area of debate is that of sexual behavior,” said a recent report by Avert, an international AIDS charity. “For example, could the epidemic among African Americans be because, on average, they have more sex partners than Caucasians? Or because they have different, more risky, types of sex? Such questions may seem obvious, but trying to establish answers can be hard, especially when there is a danger that they could be interpreted as racist, or used in racist propaganda.”

So let’s just forget about the 2005 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found that black teenagers were more likely to have had four or more sex partners than whites and Hispanics by the time they graduated from high school (or should have graduated), and that African American girls were more likely to have had partners who were significantly older than them. African Americans are also more likely to have concurrent partners — that is, more than one partner at a time, which can make HIV transmission more likely to be passed on to more than one person, the study found.

If ever there was a case for unvarnished sex education in public schools, the ongoing AIDS epidemic in black America ought to be it. Instead of education, what we get more often than not is homophobic nonsense from the pulpits of our black churches.

The District has the highest rate of new reports of AIDS in the country, and the highest mortality rates to go along with it. But the horror of it all barely seeps into our collective conscience.

“While Africa is the global epicenter of HIV/AIDS infection,” Chinn told me, “the District is the epicenter in this country, with infection rates in some neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River rivaling those in sub-Saharan Africa.”

During a World AIDS Day interview with ABC News, President Bush called his international program to combat AIDS “one of the most important initiatives of my administration” and praised it as a success. More than 2 million people worldwide have received life-saving antiretroviral treatments since the initiative began in 2003, he said.

He made no mention of the AIDS epidemic raging in his own back yard.

Once again, mum’s the word. Perhaps in the absence of frank talk, we could at least help young girls such as Keisha by getting them to serve a few weeks at an AIDS hospice. Careless sex would likely lose its sheen once they realize that their lovers could be the Grim Reaper in disguise.


Other articles on this issue:
* This Era of Black Women and HIV/AIDS
* Black Women and HIV/AIDS – An Infidelity Expert Provides A Candid Look at How Ignorance Invites Infection

The federal government needs to do more to address the root causes of violence against aboriginal women, says the Indian Affairs critic for the federal Liberals.

“Aboriginal women experience higher rates of violence. If that burden is going to be lifted, the socio-economic conditions and prosperity gap between aboriginals and non-aboriginals will have to be addressed,” said Anita Neville in a release.

She spoke as the National Aboriginal Women’s Summit wrapped up in Yellowknife. About 150 women attended the summit, which focused in part on violence against women.

“In order to make aboriginal women’s lives safe and secure, the Conservative government must implement measures to address its root causes, such as poverty,” said Neville.

Before the summit, Beverley Jacobs, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, said the delegates would look at more than 140 recommendations on a wide range of issues – such as poverty, violence and justice – that came out of last year’s inaugural meeting in Cornerbrook, N.L.

Jacobs said she and other women are waiting to see whether the federal government’s apology for the impact of the residential school system was sincere.

After the summit, Neville agreed.

“On the heels of the residential schools apology, the Conservative government must commit to work with First Nations, Metis and Inuit women to end violence and achieve equality for all,” she said.

Jacobs also said she hoped the summit would provide a platform to gain the federal government’s attention on issues.

Neville said that earlier this month the Liberals joined with the Native women’s association to ask the federal government to host a First Ministers Meeting to discuss aboriginal issues and the renewal of the 2005 Kelowna Accord.

“There was enthusiasm and hope among aboriginal women’s groups when the Kelowna Accord agreement was reached because they were involved in the process, and it was the first time that they had a seat at the table,” said Neville.

30% of new cases among gay men are Black
40% of new cases among men in general are Black
70% of new cases among youth are Black

Besides the UNAIDS report, another report was released on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but this one deals with African Americans.

The report is entitled Left Behind – Black America, a Neglected Priority in the Global AIDS Epidemic. It comes from the Black AIDS Institute. The CEO of the institute, Phill Wilson, outlines the report’s findings.

“We see an epidemic that is growing in black America. A half a million black Americans are infected with HIV. And 50 percent of all new HIV diagnoses in the US are black. AIDS in America today, it can be argued, is a black disease. No matter how you look at it – through the lens of gender, sexual orientation, age, social-economic class, level of education, a region of the country where you live – black people bear the brunt of the AIDS epidemic. We are 30 percent of the new cases among gay men, 40 percent of the new cases among men in general, 60 percent of the new cases among women and 70 percent of the new cases among youth,” he says.

Wilson says while the United States has responded well to HIV/AIDS abroad, the record is less favorable at home. He says, “We are very concerned that the growing epidemic in America, which is largely an epidemic in black America, seems to be taken for granted or left behind in the United States. This report draws important parallels between the two epidemics, the global and the domestic. For example, infection rates in some communities in black America are as high as some parts of Africa. And more black Americans are infected with HIV than the total populations of people living with HIV in seven of the 15 countries served by PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). Yet, the US response to AIDS in black America stands in sharp contrast to our national response to the epidemic overseas.”

Dr. Helene Gayle, president of CARE, helped present the report’s findings. She says, “As in Africa, HIV in the US takes a tremendous toll on black women. African American women are 23 times more likely than white women to be diagnosed with AIDS…. Many black women in the United States are more vulnerable to HIV because of gender inequity. And black women can often not insist on abstinence or use of condoms because of fear of violence or other emotional trauma that occurs with trying to get their partners to reduce their risk of exposure to HIV.”

However, she says black young people and men are often more vulnerable as well.

See also In the United States AIDS is now the leading cause of death for black women ages 25 to 34

Corporate drive for profits is damaging girls, women and eroding healthy relationships

College-age women often come to Professor Gail Dines in tears after she lectures about how popular culture has become poisoned with a hyper sexuality that demands women offer themselves to any man who asks.

The young women feel isolated and alone because they refuse to degrade themselves in exchange for male companionship, said the professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College in Boston and founder of the Stop Porn Culture movement. It’s time to end a corporate-driven effort to promote “slut culture” in the United States, Professor Dines said.

The oppression and misuse of women is not new to America, or American culture, but many see a crisis of misogynistic and racist elements that are damaging the soul of the nation and hurting children, women and men in the process.

Black women, in particular, have historically been portrayed as sexual objects to justify slavery, rape, sexual abuse and denial of respect and opportunity, advocates and scholars say. Negative messages solely concerned with “hotness” and sex appeal are also being pushed on adolescents and younger girls in a dangerous way, advocates warn.

Adolescence is the time when girls form an identity based on messages from society, said Professor Dines. If the messages focus on physical attributes and access to men, the young girls are not growing in a healthy way, she said. Professor Dines will be featured at “The Sexualization of Childhood” symposium, June 13-14, at Point Park University in Pittsburgh.

The American Psychological Association, in a study released last year, reported that girls and young women suffered intellectual, psychological and physical problems as a result of messages that push sexualization, which is defined as a “person’s value coming only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics; a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy; a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making, and/or; sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.”

Researchers looked at a wide form of media—television, music videos, music lyrics, magazines, movies, video games and the internet as well as advertising campaigns and found messages in advertising, merchandising and products aimed at girls.

According to the research, the sexualization of girls and young women:
* undermined feelings of confidence and comfort with their own bodies, leading to emotional and self-image problems, such as shame and anxiety;
* was linked with three of the most common mental health problems diagnosed in girls and women—eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed mood;
* had negative consequences on girls’ ability to develop a healthy sexual self-image.

Marketing sex to children

“A lot of very sexual products are being marketed to very young kids,” said University of Iowa journalism professor Gigi Durham. “I’m criticizing the unhealthy and damaging representations of girls’ sexuality, and how the media present girls’ sexuality in a way that’s tied to their profit motives.”

“The body ideals presented in the media are virtually impossible to attain, but girls don’t always realize that, and they’ll buy an awful lot of products to try to achieve those bodies. There’s endless consumerism built around that,” she said.

When a teen TV sensation was pictured nearly nude in a Vanity Fair magazine controversy erupted. “Although Disney’s ‘Hannah Montana’ franchise was reportedly one of the most prolific in the industry, following Miley Cyrus’ recent photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz in which she is pictured with her bare back, covered only by a piece of fabric, looking sensually at the camera, audiences for the latest episode of the show dropped 14% from the previous fresh episode, which aired just under two months earlier, New York Daily News reported,” according to writer Chris Georg of The piece was headlined “Miley Covers Up As ‘Hannah Montana’ Ratings Drop.”

“Compared to the first original show of the year, which aired in January, viewership for Sunday’s show was down 26%. An estimated 3.1 million viewers tuned in for ‘Hannah’s’ 7 p.m. Sunday edition, which aired out of the network’s usual pattern for fresh episodes,” wrote Mr. Georg.

Others appear less worried about public opinion and more obsessed with profits from pushing adult-style products on children. According to Ms. Durham, Abercrombie & Fitch sold little girls thong underwear tagged with the phrases “eye candy” and “wink wink.” Young readers of the magazine Seventeen were offered “405 ways to look hot” like Paris Hilton.

The sexualization of ‘tween girls, girls between the ages of 8 and 12, is a growing problem fueled by marketers’ efforts to create cradle-to-grave consumers, Ms. Durham explained.

“The consequences of the sexualization of girls in media today are very real and are likely to be a negative influence on girls’ healthy development,” said Eileen L. Zurbriggen, PhD, chair of the American Psychological Association Task Force and associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“Years ago there used to be separate worlds for children. Now they are exposed to the same things adults experience. Today we have very young parents and we aren’t protecting our children. Popular psychology said that this was OK,” explained Dr. Tarshia Stanley, a Spelman College English professor.

“As a result, we have really high rates of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world, twice that of the U.K. and eight times that of Japan,” added Ms. Durham.

The increased sexualization of young girls coincides with the increase over time in teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and single parent households. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, Black women have the highest teen pregnancy rate (134 per 1,000 women aged 15-19), followed by Hispanics (131 per 1,000) and non-Hispanic whites (48 per 1,000). Although the pregnancy rate among Black teens has decreased 40 percent between 1990 and 2000, more than the overall U.S. teen pregnancy rate declined during the same period, it still remains the highest in the country.

A March report by the Centers for Disease Control found Black teenage girls had the highest prevalence of sexually transmitted disease at 48 percent compared to 20 percent among both Whites and Mexican Americans. “Moreover, one in four girls in this country have had a sexually transmitted disease. We are not doing it right; we are not giving these girls what they need,” said Dr. Stanley.

Oppression, racism and Black females

La Vida Davis, of the Chicago-based Asha Group, sees the use of sexual and harmful images as part of the historical degradation of Black women and oppression. Her group co-sponsored a Mother’s Day campaign in Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles that gave radio stations an approved playlist of alternative songs to counter corporate driven and sexually-oriented songs. She also quickly points out that music is only one part of the problem.

Historically women across all races have been seen as property, but Black women have been especially debased, she observed. During slavery, the Black woman’s value was connected to how many children she could bear and servicing the sexual needs of slave owners, Ms. Davis said. The current situation is consistent with America’s sad history and a White patriarchal society, she said.

Another problem is Black internalization of oppression, which is borne out in the “pimp and hoe” culture and even support for singer R. Kelly, who is accused of sexual crimes against a child, she said.

Singer Beyonce is talented, but her clothing line, which doesn’t show skin still sells lip gloss and grown folks clothes to children, Ms. Davis said. It’s unsettling that clothes are sold to children that look like clothes made for adults, she said.

“It says you are valuable for how you look,” said the activist and community organizer. Little girls are taught to trade their bodies for benefits and acceptance, Ms. Davis said. Their only value is what they can be used for and for boys the question is how many “hoes” do I have, she added.

“Boys as well as girls are put in boxes to play out this foolishness,” she said.

Professor Dines, of Wheelock College, believes the aggressive sexual culture and negative images of Black men promoted by White corporate execs is undermining Black male and female relationships. The Black community is the most besieged community in America and if you break down and undermine the relationships, just like Whites did in slavery, it allows for control of Blacks, she said.

The hyper sexual image of the Black woman was used to justify raping Black women in slavery, Professor Dines said. The self image of Black girls that traditionally rose during their teen years is being chipped away and all girls are engaging in more indiscriminate sex, she said.

“They are capitulating because they don’t know any alternative,” Professor Dines said.

Overall relationships are suffering as men find it difficult to have healthy relationships with women because of exposure to pornography, she added. These men are often very upset because they are experiencing real problems, Professor Dines added.

“While people protest the images they see on channels like BET, people are rewarded for these images. Girls see that the ones who do this get money, glamour, fame and power. The anti-BET message is just one in a whirlwind of thousands of messages about sex that girls receive,” said Dr. Stanley of Spelman College.

“Music is now all about sex. In order to groove to a beat, the body is moving, but what you are doing is the sex act standing up,” said the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, in a lecture at Mosque Maryam, where he talked about the value of women.

‘Let girls be girls’

In Ms. Durham’s new book, “The Lolita Effect,” she identifies the myths of sexuality that are believed by many in society. Sexual representations of children are getting younger with images of girls as young as 11 or 12, Ms. Durham said.

Chris Richburg, writing on took on Beyonce and ads for her new House of Dereon kids clothing line, Dereon Girls. “The ads apparently show seven-year-old girls wearing feather boas, leopard hats, full make-up and high heels as they pose in front of the camera. … I know you got to make that money, but having a bunch of mini-yous on display may not be the best way to go. Tone it down and let the girls be girls.”

Black men and women need healthier relationships that are not so focused on looks and appreciate individual gifts everyone has, said Ms. Davis.

Blacks must become conscious consumers and parents must communicate with children about messages in the media, music and society, she said. “We got talk about it, it’s not enough to say this bad and censor it,” she said.

Alternatives in music, books and movies and need to be supported, Ms. Davis continued. Teen actress Raven Symone, who also has a show on the Disney Channel, has had an amazing career, she said.

Issues like sexual assault and domestic violence must also be included into larger Black agendas and not seen as separate, Ms. Davis added. The subjugation of women and girls is connected to failing education, lack of jobs and other oppression, she said. “How sisters go goes the race,” Ms. Davis said.

by Richard Muhammad and Nisa Islam Muhammad (

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Hopscotch Asian Women’s Centre is a well established voluntary organisation that provides a range of services to South Asian families and children in Camden. Funded by Camden Council, Hopscotch plays a key role in the borough contributing to policy and service development in early years, family work, youth, training, employment and enterprise.

We are looking for an enthusiastic and committed individual with proven leadership and management skills to provide strategic direction to meet the aims and objectives of Hopscotch. Building on our achievements to date, you will have excellent communication and negotiation skills, the ability to work with a range of partners and funders and experience of project development, budget management and fundraising.

Knowledge and understanding of the South Asian community, particularly relating to women’s needs would be essential. Fluency in Bengali or Hindi would be an advantage.

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Hopscotch is committed to staff training and development and is an equal opportunities employer.

Travellers who have suffered domestic violence are being asked if they would prefer a women’s refuge in a caravan rather than a building, it emerged today.

A branch of the domestic violence charity Women’s Aid is looking at providing a trailer or chalet-style facility in the garden of an existing refuge to improve services for travellers and gypsies.

It has set up an online survey to gather travellers’ views about the proposals.

The survey is funded by the Supporting People initiative run by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The plan, revealed in the national traveller, gypsy and Roma magazine Travellers’ Times, is also examining whether more women from the community should be encouraged to work with groups like Women’s Aid.

One traveller who has suffered domestic violence, identified only as “Annie”, told the magazine: “If I’d never lived in a house in the first place, I would not want to go into a house refuge.”

The Women’s Aid survey asks: “Would you want to stay in a refuge that had a secure mobile home/caravan in the garden for a gypsy/traveller woman and her children?”

It adds: “This survey is for gypsy/traveller women that have experienced domestic violence and may have used support services. It has been created to try to address the fact that traveller women may not be getting the service that they require or which meets their cultural needs.”

The plan has been put forward by West Mercia’s branch of Women’s Aid. Spokeswoman Sharne Maher said: “On average a woman will go through 12 agencies before finding a refuge. A woman from an ethnic minority background will have to work her way through about 17. We worry that some women simply give up trying.”

Southall Black Sisters – Update on funding situation

Demonstration for 1st April 2008 CANCELLED: We have had to cancel this demonstration because at the last minute, (28 March 2008) Ealing Council decided to postpone its decision about funding for domestic violence services in Ealing until May 2008. The Council is unable to decide as to which organisation to award the funding to! Although it is extremely unlikely that the grant will be awarded to SBS (we have made it clear that we need the funds to continue to meet the needs of black and minority women in Ealing), it does show that your support is making a difference. It is making it difficult for the Council to take decisions! This means that there no decision will be made at the Council’s Cabinet Meeting on 1 April 2008 and SBS will be given an interim grant for a further two months.

At the end of May 2008, SBS will still be faced with the need to cut or severely reduce our services to black and minority women in Ealing. Your support is therefore still vital, especially as legal proceedings are still contemplated on the grounds that Ealing Council has acted unlawfully by not carrying out a proper race equality impact assessment.

We will now be planning a demonstration in May and will keep you posted about further developments including our legal challenge.

A big THANK YOU for all your support so far. Please continue your support.

(See original posting at

As many as 300 young women are believed to be coerced into marriage against their will annually in Scotland, with violence and even murder being the result in a small number of cases.

England is introducing new civil laws to ban the practice south of the border, but heads of the Islamic community in Scotland are pushing for new criminal sanctions.

As well as prosecuting husbands for rape, relatives involved in forced marriages could find themselves charged with aiding and abetting a crime.

Among those leading the campaign is Bashir Ahmad, a Nationalist MSP in Glasgow, who became aware of the extent of forced marriage while a councillor in the city.

He said: “If forced marriages were a criminal offence it would be a real deterrent and I will be bringing forward a Private Members Bill on this. Making it a civil offence might be a good first step but it may not go far enough.”

Osama Saeed, chairman of the Scottish-Islamic Foundation, said forced marriages were slowly on the decline, but added: “I cannot help but feel this would be speeded along by effective legislation in the area. Last year the Forced Marriages Act brought in civil measures to deal with the issue in England. This gives the courts more powers to step in to help victims, even before an actual wedding has taken place.”

But he said Westmisnter had “shied away” from creating a specific criminal offence. “This was because MPs took the view that it may stop victims coming forward to seek help if a parent would go to jail as a result. I don’t see why criminality can’t be an option, with it being left to the victim whether or not to press charges. I do wonder why offences such as rape have not been used to prosecute to date.

“Creating new legislation now though, to deal with the incidents of forced marriage that do exist, will send out a strong message that this violation of human rights will not be tolerated.”

Forced marriages – which are different from the accepted practice of arranged marriages – are still part of life in Britain’s Asian communities. In 1996, before becoming Britain’s first Muslim MP, Mohammad Sarwar travelled to Pakistan to bring back two Glasgow girls, Rifat Haq, 20, and sister Nazia, 13, who had been forced into marriage by their father.

Around 300 cases of forced marriage are reported to the UK Government’s Forced Marriage Unit every year although campaigners believe the true figure is much higher. More than 80% of victims of forced marriages are women, most between the ages of 15 and 24.

Last month, an English coroner concluded that 17-year-old Shafilea Ahmed had been unlawfully killed because she had resisted efforts to force her into an unwanted marriage.

The new civil legislation being introduced by Westminster will create a list of ‘third parties’, such as teachers, social workers, women’s rights groups and local councils, who would have the authority to go to court to try to prevent families from forcing their children into marriage in Britain.

Those served with a forced marriage protection order would be required to stop the marriage and stay away from the victim. A breach of the order would be classed as contempt of court and liable to a heavy fine or up to two years in jail.

Nuzrat Raza, who runs a refuge for women fleeing forced marriages in Glasgow, said: “The legislation in Scotland is not adequate and we need something that addresses the question of forced marriages directly. We need the English legislation at the very least. ”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it was looking at whether it should create civil legislation on forced marriage. “We will seek the views of the public, including those affected by forced marriage and the agencies providing support to them,” she said.

Saima doesn’t know which was the worst. The constant emotional pressure from her father to travel to Pakistan to marry a man she didn’t know or the beating by her younger brother, trying to intimidate her into bending to her father’s will.

Saima, not her real name, was just 18 when the nagging began in her Glasgow home. But with her mother having reluctantly fled to escape her abusive father, she decided to stay behind to protect her two younger sisters.

She said. “My father would just use this heavy, heavy emotional blackmail to try to get me to agree, saying: ‘It would make me so proud if you were to get married. It’s not like he dragged me out of the house and forced me on to a plane to Pakistan but just this constant pressure. It was hard resisting but I would rather have a hard life than an unhappy one. My mum had enough of that.”

Her fathers’ justification was that with three teenage daughters to look after, he needed them to be married off at a young age. His brother agreed and one night attacked Saima to try to get her to change her mind. “He beat me up,” she says simply. “But I was determined not to give in because I didn’t know what would happen to my sisters.”

Last year, with her youngest sister now living in England with her mother she and her other sister took the decision to also flee the family home. Saima and her sister sought help at a refuge for women who have been victims or potential victims of forced marriages. They now share a flat and have cut all contact.

“I have never spoken to my dad or my brother since we left. There is no justification at all for what they wanted me to do.”–

Support is still needed

A big ‘thank you’ to all those who have and are supporting us in our hour of need! We have been truly humbled by the tremendous support that we have received from around the country and even internationally!

At a full cabinet meeting on 26th February 2008, despite a lively protest involving users and supporters of SBS, Ealing Council went ahead with its decision to have only one service provider on domestic violence for the borough. The Council will now make a decision on 1 April 2008 as to who will get the funds. Although SBS has made a bid for the funds (£100,000 per year for 3 years), we are unlikely to succeed as we are insistent that without extra funding, it is impossible to provide a borough wide service without cutting services to black and minority women. On the other hand, a number of organizations including the national charity Refuge, has applied for the recycled funds that have previously been awarded to SBS to meet the needs of black and minority women.

Equality and Cohesion

It is of great concern to us that across the country, at the local and national level, a number of policies and initiatives are being instituted which will have a profound impact on projects such as ours. We are witness to a redefinition of the notion of equality in the delivery of services. Equality no longer appears to be linked to the needs of the most vulnerable and deprived, (traditionally this has included black and minority communities). Instead it is linked to the view that all services must reflect the needs of the majority community because it has been traditionally ‘excluded’ from regeneration policies. In other words, equality means providing the same services for everyone. Under this misguided ‘one size fits all’ approach, unequal structural relations based on class, gender and race are ignored. So, in our situation, due in part to budget constraints, Ealing Council has made full use of the backlash against multiculturalism and feminism to ‘restructure’ its services so that there is only one service provider of domestic violence. They argue that this will not have an adverse impact on black and minority women since they can access the service if they wish. Specialist services likes ours are needed not only for reasons to do with language and cultural differences but just as importantly because organisations like ours have considerable experience and expertise in providing advice and advocacy services in complex circumstances where legal aid is no longer easily available and where immigration difficulties make some people much more vulnerable than others.

At the same time, in a somewhat contradictory fashion, the implementation of ‘cohesion’ strategies in Ealing and around the country are resulting in the promotion of single faith (Muslim) based groups that are provided with funds to build capacity to address a range of social issues. For a number of reasons, this is an extremely worrying development. It also spells the death knell of secular groups like SBS. Our main concern is that social issues like domestic violence and forced marriage in faith based groups will be addressed from within a religious framework which will be disastrous for women’s rights within minority communities. It will close down the options that are available to the most vulnerable in our communities and will violate their fundamental human rights.


We are extremely disturbed to note that the organisation Refuge has decided to make a bid for the recycled funds that should be awarded to SBS. Refuge is a national domestic violence charity that has considerable resources at its disposal. In 2006/7 for instance, its total annual income was £9.4 million. Refuge has made a bid for the £100,000 to provide a domestic violence service in Ealing. Needless to say, this move undermines our struggle for funding and for our autonomy. By way of a gesture of support, Refuge wrote to Ealing Council requesting it to make reserve funds available for SBS following the bidding process! It is a matter of great disappointment to SBS that a well known, well resourced national organisation like Refuge is colluding in the closure of a vital specialist organisation. Given its annual income, its bid for the £100,000 represents a ‘drop in the ocean’, but the same funds will make all the difference to our work with black and minority women. Its attitude displays a patronising, unprincipled and indifferent approach to our struggles as black and minority women.

What you can do:
* For those of you who have not written to Ealing Council protesting against its decision to withdraw funding from SBS, there is still time. (Please see our letter requesting support on our website.) Please write to Jason Stacey: Leader of Ealing Council, Ealing Town Hall, Uxbridge Road, Ealing, W5 2BY, Don’t forget to send us copies.
* Please write to Sandra Horley at Refuge protesting against her decision – Please also write to Refuge patrons which include cherie Booth QC, Fiona Bruce and Refuge Trustee Dame Stella Rimington. Please let us have copies of any letters sent and replies received.
* Join the Facebook group in order to keep up to date with the campaign
* Write letters to national/local newspapers or other media raising this issue
* Lobby your MP to sign the Early Day Motion 1122 tabled by Ealing Southall MP Virendra Sharma. Find your MP here:
* Sign the online petition on the Downing Street website here:
* In the long term, in order to free ourselves from funding uncertainties, we wish to build an endowment fund. Donations small or large marked ‘SBS endowment fund’ will be gratefully accepted.
* Attend a demonstration on 1st April at 6pm outside Ealing Town Hall, Uxbridge Road, W5. Nearest tube: Ealing Broadway.

The group attended the Prime Minister’s Eid reception at Downing Street on on 31st January 2008.

NMWAG will be led by 19 Muslim women representing a wide spectrum of communities, professions and traditions. They will discuss issues and concerns that affect Muslim women, for example education, employment, access for women to mosques and their management committees and cultural barriers including issues around forced marriages.

NMWAG comprises of a group of women who are in positions of leadership or are working with communities. They will meet several times a year and are an independent informal group advising on issues to empower Muslim women and increase their participation in civic, economic and social life. NMWAG has been set up by Communities and Local Government as part of its work to prevent violent extremism.

The Government believes that we need to do more to help the voices of moderation in our communities be heard and listened to. This group will also help to encourage more women to engage with individuals at risk of being targeted by violent extremists.

The Prime Minister said:

“Muslim women have a huge role to play in helping us build a stronger, better society. That is why I am delighted today to mark the official launch of the National Muslim Women’s Advisory Group. From a range of different communities and traditions, and with careers including business, journalism, academia and public service, the group represents an extraordinary richness of experience and understanding. They will be role models, showing the breadth of Muslim women’s achievements, and ambassadors for the grass roots, speaking direct to the heart of Government on vital issues such as education and employment. I wish them every success in this important work.”

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said:

“I’m delighted to have a group of such talented women to advise us. Resilient communities can only exist where women are playing a full and active part. They have a unique viewpoint on the challenges faced by the communities they live in and as such have a unique role to play in advising us on a wide range of issues including issues around tackling the spread of violent extremism. That is why we are putting our work with them centre-stage – to give the silent majority a voice and make it easier for more empowered, confident women to play a part. The group have already begun to make a difference through their involvement in the recently published case studies document for Muslim women. The projects detailed in the guide are designed to highlight some of the work being carried out in communities and encourage local authorities to consider what more they can do to help Muslim women overcome barriers to greater empowerment.”

The group is made up of women who have first-hand knowledge of what is happening in our communities. They will report on the progress of existing projects, and they will suggest imaginative new ways to give Muslim women a real voice and the opportunity to play a bigger role in their community.

The specific remit of the group will be to:
* act as ambassadors for Muslim women at grass roots and represent their views and concerns to Government;
* provide leadership to communities and act as positive role models for Muslim women in society;
* empower Muslim women to engage more with the media on a wide range of issues and help dispel myths around the role of Muslim women in society;
* meet in the form of a round table to discuss issues and concerns that are affecting Muslim women eg. Access for women in Mosques.
* map out what work is currently taking place across the country to empower Muslim women and then draw up specific action plan for each region and work out where the gaps are.

A list of the women on the advisory group:

* Siddika Ahmed, Oldham
Siddika is a Director of PeaceMaker a voluntary organisation in Oldham, and she has led on work promoting cohesion since the 2001 disturbances.

* Fareena Alam, London
Fareena is the editor of the magazine Q-News, popular with Britain’s Muslim communities. It provides analysis of current affairs, culture, ideas and spirituality.

* Farkhanda Chaudhry, Glasgow
Farkhanda has worked in the voluntary sector for more than 20 years – in youth and community work, poverty and deprivation, and race equality development. She is a board and management committee member of a number of agencies such as the Muslim Women’s Resource Centre in Glasgow and the Scottish Interfaith Council.

* Rukaiya Jeraj, London
Rukaiya works for Muslim Youth Helpline and manages Muslim This is Britain’s first guidance and support channel for Muslim youth.

* Tasneem Mahmood, Leicester
Tasneem graduated in Political Science and Social policy and carried out research into second generation British Muslims. She is actively involved in the Muslim Youthwork Foundation – an organisation that creates a positive space for young people to have their voices heard.

* Adeeba Malik, Bradford
Adeeba is Deputy Chief Executive of Bradford-based charity QED (Quest for Economic Development) UK which aims to improve the economic, social and educational position of South Asian communities. She is also Chair of the Ethnic Minority Business Forum and was awarded an MBE in the 2004 Queen’s Birthday Honours list for her services to ethnic minority communities.

* Sabin Malik, London
Sabin is the principal community cohesion officer for the London Borough of Hounslow with substantial community and local authority experience leading local and national Government initiatives focused on community cohesion, community development and extremism. She is currently leading on a major study on far right extremism and religious fundamentalism.

* Sabira Murtaza Lakha, London
Sabira has a Masters in Law from the University of Warwick where she specialised in comparing the English and Sharia legal systems. Sabira is a volunteer with community groups in London and a keen promoter of civil and political participation for both faith based and ethnic communities.

* Batool Al Toma, Leicester
Batool Al-Toma is a research and education officer at the Islamic Foundation and has devised and facilitated a number of training seminars, conferences, and educational forums both on and offline. As coordinator of the New Muslims Project she has established a variety of services related to the overall support, education and continuing development of converts to Islam in the UK.

* Parvin Ali, Leicester
Parvin is the founder director of Forum for Advocacy, Training and Information in a Multicultural Area (FATIMA), which is a regional women’s network that supports the economic empowerment of all women, especially those from diverse or disadvantaged backgrounds.

* Shaista Gohir, Birmingham
Shaista is involved in a number of Birmingham based and national initiatives that aim to increase Muslim women’s participation in mainstream and community decision-making processes. She is Director of Muslim Voice UK (MVUK), the UK’s first Muslim opinion online polling organisation which she established in 2005.

* Shahien Taj, Cardiff
Shahien is founder and director of All Wales Saheli Association, a specialist user-led agency that works to advance the needs, concerns and aspirations of Asian and Muslim children and families. She is also Executive Director of the Henna Foundation, which provides advice for Asian women.

* Reedah El-Saie, London
Reedah is a qualified barrister and set up ArRum, the UK’s first club promoting Islamic art and culture based in Clerkenwell, London. She has planned events celebrating cultural diversity including debates, workshops, art exhibitions, film screenings, theatre, music, poetry and lectures dealing with current socio-political, economic and interfaith issues.

* Zulekha Dala, Nelson, Lancashire
Zulekha works for Lancashire County Council and has pioneered programmes around cohesion and developing models of social enterprise for ethnic communities. In addition she was one of the founding members of ‘Sahara’ a women’s organisation in West Lancashire in the 1980’s, which led the way on issues such as domestic violence.

* Rokshanna Fiaz, London
Rokhsana is the founding director of the Change Institute which specialises in public policy around race, faith, corporate affairs. She is leading work with the European Commission around extremism and de-radicalisation and has also been an ambassador for Muslim-Jewish dialogue and tackling discrimination.

* Samina Kauser, North West
Samina has led on engagement with young people since the 2001 disturbances working closely with Asian gangs and breaking down barriers for young women.

* Shahda Khan, Middlesbrough
Shahda is a Social Policy graduate who has worked at both Sunderland and Teesside Universities. She now works in partnership with key agencies within the private, community, voluntary and faith sector both locally and regionally to promote the social inclusion of hard to reach communities.

* Naheed Arshad-Mather MBE, Yorkshire and Humber
Naheed is self-employed working in Higher Education sector both at under-graduate and postgraduate levels. She is a member of Voice 4 Change England with expertise in the field of education, housing, criminal justice system and the third sector.

* Andleen Razaq, London
Andleen is a secondary school teacher and a trustee of City Circle, an organisation promoting the development of a distinct British Muslim identity. It seeks to promote community cohesion and integration by building alliances between Muslim and non-Muslim communities and by developing the skills and resources of Muslim professionals into practical projects at a community level.

News Releases:

See earlier posting about MWAG at:

See also information on “They Work for You” details of ” … which academics, theologians and leading Muslim women attended the two roundtable meetings in which women’s access to mosque life was discussed; and who attended the two wider stakeholders meetings … “

Local authority attempts to ‘decommission’ culturally specific refuges for victims of domestic violence will endanger the lives of abused women and children.

“Honour killings” has become a coded reference which instantly demonises certain communities. And while criminal justice experts detail gruesome stories and whip up moral panics based on “estimated numbers of cases”, the routes to safety for women facing violence are being closed off by the government’s own policies.

Policies introduced under the Supporting People (SP) housing programme are “decommissioning” black, Asian, minority ethnic and refugee (BAMER) women’s refuges, slashing the funds of others and abolishing outreach and advocacy services which are lifelines for the many women and children trapped in violent relationships.

This is happening against a background of cuts in legal aid, reductions in social housing, increasing inequality and an acute shortage of services for BAMER women facing domestic violence.

SP officials now frequently ask refuge staff, “Why, in this day and age, do you need Asian women’s refuges? Why don’t you merge with generic organisations?”

The answer, as refuge workers emphasise, is that BAMER women choose specialist support “for reasons of safety”, to counter the “total isolation from family and community networks”, and because the generic (essentially white) women’s refuges or other housing associations, which local authorities want them to go to, do not provide an atmosphere free of racism where deeply traumatised women and children can recover.

Nor do these organisations meet their cultural needs, such as the food which is familiar to their children and which their religion permits, or counselling in their mother tongue from a counsellor who understands culturally specific domestic violence issues.

SP and related policies are clearly rooted in New Labour’s adoption of American style neo-liberal welfare policies, heralding the transformation of a rights-based funding system into one where a single cash-limited pot is administered by local authorities and controlled by central government.

This control over funds has little concern for human rights – for example under the “no recourse to public funds” immigration rule, women with insecure immigration status who face violence and abuse in the context of marriage, domestic work and trafficking, are effectively barred from housing or financial support.

Ironically, community organisations which serve established community needs are being destroyed in the name of “community cohesion”. At the same time “mainstreaming” – the new buzzword – means that specialist areas are being lost and agencies without skilled staff or expertise are being given the impossible task of meeting the very different needs of a large number of diverse groups.

These are steps backwards which endanger the lives of women and are implicitly racist. That is why Imkaan is demanding an enquiry into SP policy, and campaigning to save BAMER service provision and ring fence funding to combat violence against women.

Amrit Wilson is chairperson of Imkaan, an organisation which provides support and training to a national network of black Asian minority ethnic and refugee women’s refuges.

See article about meeting organised by Imkaan : Threats from all directions

See also related posting Southall Black Sisters is under threat of closure

Awas aims to empower& maximize the quality of Asian women to take positive control of their lives, to promote their welfare and respond to their needs.

Mental Health Co-ordinator – Therapeutic Arts project for Young Asian Women, AWAS (Asian Female post)
Salary: (£32,112) – (9months contract)

We are looking for an experienced, highly motivated person with good management, administrative, IT skills. Excellent writing, communication skills are essential. Should be a qualified counsellor having a good understanding and knowledge of Asian cultural issues, Fluent in two South Asian languages, have experience of multi agency work.

These posts are advertised under section 7 (2) (E) of Employment Sex discrimination Act,and section 5 2d of the Race Relation Act 1976.

If you are interested in applying please send your C.V with a covering letter to:
AWAS, 161 Mare street, London E8-3RH
or call on 0208-533-5796
or email it on
by the 21st February 2008
Interviews to be held on the 26th Feb 2008.

Sessional Arts & Drama Therapists (Asian Female post)
Salary: £35 per hr. (4 hrs) – 9 months contract

We are looking for a qualified counsellors to run the Arts& Drama therapeutic sessions with Young Asian Women. Should have good communication skills, experience of group work is essential. Should have good understanding of cultural issues within the Asian communities. Fluent in two Asian languages and registered with Health Profession Council.

These posts are advertised under section 7 (2) (E) of Employment Sex discrimination Act,and section 5 2d of the Race Relation Act 1976.

If you are interested in applying please send your C.V with a covering letter to
AWAS, 161 Mare street, London E8-3RH
or call on 0208-533-5796
by the 21st February 2008
Interviews to be held on the 26th Feb 2008.

Registered Charity No: 1079114

Dear Friends

Southall Black Sisters is under threat of closure

We are writing to you to request support for our organisation. We are currently facing threat of closure as a result of our local authority’s (Ealing) decision to withdraw our funding as of April 2008.

Since the mid eighties our ‘core’ funding has been provided by Ealing. Over the years we have on average received £100,000 per annum from the local authority and this is utilised to provide advice, advocacy, counselling and support services to black and minority women in the borough who experience violence and abuse. The experience and insights gained through this work has led us to become a strategically important service, providing advice on policy and legal developments to government, and international, national and local organisations and professionals. The Ealing grant has, of course, had to be supplemented by funds raised elsewhere.

The local authority’s decision is based on the view that there is no need for specialist services for black and minority women and that services to abused women in the borough need to be streamlined. This view fails to take account of the unequal social, economic and cultural context which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for black and minority women to access outside help or seek information about their rights. In effect the council proposes to take away essential life saving services provided by SBS. Ealing council suggests that we either extend our service to cover the needs of all women in the borough or that we set up a consortium of groups to provide such a service for the same sum of money. The amount of funds available to the voluntary sector in Ealing has shrunk year in, year out, but the withdrawal of funds to SBS will have a number of far reaching consequences:

* The attempt to compel us to meet the needs of all women will mean that we will have to reduce our services to black and minority women across London and the country. Abused black and minority women, who already face considerable racism, discrimination and cultural pressures, will no longer have access to a specialist service. We have never denied our services to any woman who contacts SBS but our focus has out of necessity, and in recognition of the demographic composition of the area, been on meeting the needs of black and minority women who continue to be one of the most disempowered sections of our society. The suicide rates of Asian women for example, are already three times the national average and homicides – where abusive men and families kill their wives, daughters or daughters-in-law – are also high within some black and minority communities. In all likelihood, any reduction in our services will see a rise in suicide and homicide rates amongst black and minority women.

* We will no longer have the same national impact in terms of our input in policy and legal development in relation to black and minority women, which has been highly effective over the years. Our campaigns in such critical areas of work as forced marriage, honour killings, suicides and self harm, religious fundamentalism and immigration difficulties, especially the ‘no recourse to public funds’ issue, will have to be drastically cut back .

* A unique, specialist and experienced organisation (members of the staff and management committee have a combined experience of over 50 years) will lose its identity – an identity that has become synonymous with high quality service provision. We are seen as a ‘flagship’ organisation. Indeed Harriet Harman, the deputy prime minister in her speech at the House of Commons on 18 July 2007, made specific reference to SBS as exactly the kind of group that the State should support.

…we will work on the issue of empowering women in black and Asian communities. Women play a crucial role working together in their communities, whether they are working to reduce crime in their area, like Mothers Against Guns…, or whether they are Asian women, like Southall Black Sisters, working to support other Asian women. We want to do more to support and empower those women as they tackle problems within, and build bridges between, communities

This statement was made in the context of debates on cohesion in which she specifically identified groups like ours as key to building cohesion between and within communities. It is therefore of grave concern that at a time when all local authorities have a duty to promote cohesion, Ealing Council has chosen to undermine a group that has historically and effectively worked across religious and ethnic lines within black and minority communities precisely to bridge differences and build a sense of citizenship. Ironically, the Council is seeking to set up Muslim women only groups under its ‘cohesion’ strategy – the demand for which does not exist!

We also need to address the new challenges posed by immigration and asylum difficulties, growing racism and religious intolerance. But without adequate funding, SBS is now in danger of closing down.

Current Position

Following legal action, we have compelled Ealing Council to carry out a race equality impact assessment. This had not been undertaken prior to making a decision to withdraw our funding.

Although the Council has now undertaken such an assessment, it is only in relation to the new domestic violence policy. In other words it only assesses whether or not all women ‘may’ be able to access the new service. The Council maintains that withdrawing funding from SBS will have no adverse consequences for black and minority women! The assessment is also flawed since it does not consider the consequences for black and minority women if SBS services are cut or closed. We have submitted detailed representations pointing out the flaws in their assessment procedure with a view to taking further legal action if necessary, Over 50 users of our services have also written to the Council protesting at their high handed decision.

Your Support

The issues raised by the Council’s actions have wider ramifications for all black and minority women’s organisations. It is imperative that we act now. We ask you to write to the leader of Ealing Council, Jason Stacey whose details are to be found on the model letter that follows.

We would be grateful for any support that you can give us. If you do not have time to draft a letter, please contact Hannana Siddiqui or call 020 8571 9595 for more information. Please let us have a copy of any letter you send and any reply that you receive.

If you are able to support us in any other way please contact us. We look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely

Pragna Patel
Chair of Southall Black Sisters

Add: Southall Black Sisters, 21 Avenue Road, Southall, Middlesex UB1 3BL
Tel: 020 8571 9595
Fax: 020 8574 6781