Islamic Extremists Alarm Secular Women in Tunisia #Vaw #Womenrights


By Hajer Naili

WeNews correspondent

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tensions are rising between secular Tunisian women and political Islam. “There is no room for the opposition and women to participate in building the country we want,” says one critic.

Woman at a protest in Tunis, Tunisia.
Woman at a protest in Tunis, Tunisia.

 

Credit: Amine Ghrabi on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC 2.0).

(WOMENSENEWS)–“My body is mine, not somebody’s honor.”

Nineteen-year-old Tunisian feminist Amina Tyler wrote these words in Arabic across her breasts and stomach to defy growing Islamism in her country, and then posted topless pictures of herself on the Facebook page of the organization Femen Tunisia.

The images went viral on March 8, International Women’s Day, and unleashed a month of online debate and some calls by Islamic extremists for her to be stoned to death. Tyler went into retreat but last week broke her silence in an interview with the French magazine Marianne.

“My family accepts me, but not my action,” she is quoted as saying in the magazine. “I am tired, I am being given anti-depressants . . . I want to go back to school, I don’t feel free. I want to be free to call my friends again, to go on the Internet.”

Femen and other feminists called for April 4 to be “International Topless Jihad Day,” as it coincides with Tyler’s birthday, the French newspaper Liberation reported.

Tyler is an extreme example, but tensions between secular women and political Islam are growing inTunisia, the birthplace of the Arab uprisings.

On Feb. 6, the high-profile secular Tunisian politician Chokri Belaid was killed in what authorities said was an assassination by Salafi Islamist militants. The slaying collapsed the government of Hamadi Jebali, of the ruling moderate Islamist party Ennahda.

The new government, also led by Ennahda, expresses no outright intention to rule the country according to Sharia, or religious law. But its ability or willingness to control a minority of Salafists who want to impose Sharia and create an Islamic state by violent means if necessary is in doubt.

“There is a pressing problem of insecurity in Tunisia with the birth of militia and armed Salafists who attack people without hearing any reaction from the government,” said Saida Rached, secretary general of theTunisian Association of Democratic Women, a group that was banned under the ousted regime of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. “Tunisians are starting to suspect the current regime and especially the Ministry of Interior of complicity.”

Increased Fear

Because of the insecurity “women are afraid to go out,” Rached added, recalling a few incidents in which violent Salafists attacked people, including women, who disagreed with their ideas. Rached spoke withWomen’s eNews in March, on the sidelines of the U.N. annual meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women.

The attacks have given Salafists a violent reputation, but the majority of adherents seek to establish an Islamic state through legal means. One apolitical faction takes no interest in the modern state and devotes itself to living as much as possible as the prophet Muhammad and his followers did in the 7th century.

Although women have not lost any legal ground, Rached said they are suffering a “social regression” that began with the start of the global economic crisis in 2008 and worsened after the ousting of Ben Ali.

Islam was the religion of the state under the previous constitution adopted in 1959 and the draft version of the new constitution, now being written, reasserts that. Secularists now wonder whether the official religion will overtake state functions and international treaties that sometimes oppose the cultural norms of conservative Islam.

Last year, an article in a draft version of the constitution expressing the “complementarity” between men and women brought protesters into the streets. The word was eventually dropped and replaced by “equality.” In the latest draft of the constitution, wording about equality between the sexes appears in the preamble, Article 5, Article 7 and Article 37.

Rached draws little comfort from such concessions. “It is still the Islamist party that is in power and decides who should be ministers and how the country should be ruled,” she said “There is no room for the opposition and women to participate in building the country we want.”

On March 29 dozens of angry people in Tunis brandished shoes and demanded the resignation of Sihem Badi,the minister of women’s affairs, for her slack response to the rape of a 3-year-old girl at a nursery in a Tunis suburb. Badi said a member of the girl’s family was to blame and that no measures against the nursery were needed.

Yesterday, a no-confidence motion against Badi was submitted to the Tunisian Parliament. Seventy-eight lawmakers signed the document, exceeding the 73 signatures required for a motion to be discussed. The signatories are demanding the dismissal of Badi from the government.

Polygamy Rumors

Rumors of legalized polygamy recently spread online to the point where a lawmaker named Karima Souid felt compelled to reassure followers on her Facebook page that no such bill had been submitted to the assembly.

Public discussion of female genital mutilation is also on the rise. A few weeks ago, Habib Ellouze, an Ennahda member, sparked outrage after he stated in a newspaper interview that female genital mutilation is “an aesthetic surgery.” The president of the Islamist party Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi, expressed his disapproval for such a practice and was quoted in press accounts as saying that it “goes against Islam and that doesn’t belong to the Tunisian culture.”

There is no legal ban on female genital mutilation in Tunisia and the practice is uncommon. Article 17 in the draft of the constitution says “the state shall guarantee the physical and moral sanctity of the human self and shall prevent all forms of physical and/or moral torture.”

“Ellouze’s remarks on the excision are disgusting,” said Sophie Bessis, a research fellow at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations in Paris, in an email interview. “FGM has never really existed in North Africa. Ellouze wants to import a barbaric practice.”

Bessis, author of the 2007 book “Arabs, Women and Freedom,” added that “Tunisia has today a government dominated by conservatives and women are paying the price of it.”

She criticized the current draft of the constitution for continuing to affirm Islam as the official religion. “This might lead to abuses and in particular depending on the interpretation of Sharia,” Bessis said.

In January, Eric Goldstein, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in the Middle East and North Africa, sent a letter to assembly members saying the latest version of the constitution “is more respectful of the freedom of expression and women’s rights than the first draft.” However, he expressed concern about provisions such as judicial immunity for the head of state, lack of sufficient guarantees for the independence of the judiciary and ambiguous formulations that could threaten rights and freedoms.

Bessis said the current draft “is not good neither for women or democracy.”

Hajer Naili is a New York-based reporter for Women’s eNews. She has worked for several radio stations and publications in France and North Africa and specializes in Middle East and North Africa.

 

On a car ride with Mother Courage- Bhanwari Devi #Vaw #Sexualharassment


Independent journalist & radio anchor Vasanthi Hariprakash tells about her date with Rajastan’s firebrand Bhanwari Devi
bangalore Mirror

bhanwari devi

Posted On Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 09:19:45 PM

It is one thing to read about Bhanvari Devi in the papers; totally another to see her, and then realise she is smiling at you with every bit of her warmth even when you are just introduced to her. A woman about whose courage reams have been written, whose grit in the face of gang rape 21 years back by upper caste men in her village had eventually led to the landmark Visakha judgment on sexual harassment of women at the workplace, Bhanwari does justice to that line I had heard sometime, recited on stage as part of a poem: “Rajasthan ki naari hai, phool nahi, chingaari hai” (The English translation of that line would do no justice to the spirit in which it was written: The woman of Rajasthan; she is no flower, she is the spark of a fire.)

Firebrand Bhanwari certainly is, or why would the unlettered woman from the oppressed Kumhar caste have ventured about 30 years back to be a saathin (woman community worker) in her village in Rajasthan? Why would she agree to be a volunteer whose job, as part of the Women’s Development Programme (WDP), was to intervene in child marriages that would mean taking on unrelenting powerful patriarchs?

It was a job that was to cost her very dearly. The year was 1992, village Bhateri, about 60 km from the capital city of Jaipur. And in that part of the country where child marriages are rampant, an uppercaste Gujar household had been getting ready for a wedding. Or more aptly, getting ready for cradle-snatching. The bride was a nine-month-old baby girl; the ‘groom’ all of 1 year!

Bhanwari, who knew what it meant to be a child bride having been one herself, landed up at the house. She tried telling them gently, explaining to them why it was so wrong, “Mat karo chhoti bacchii ki shaadi, bhavishya kharab ho jaati hai ladki ki. (Do not get the child married now, her future will be ruined),” she pleaded.

But when all the Gujar men present there yelled at and taunted her, she revoked the power of being a saathin. “Collector saab has asked women like me to stop the marriage if the bride is a child,” she said. The party was over, even if only for that time — the child’s marriage is said to have taken place a few months down the line.

The male ego and the caste pride were hurt; the price extracted soon enough. One evening, when Bhanwari and her husband were working in their sparse little field, five Gujar men showed up. After picking a fight with him, they took turns to rape Bhanwari.

“Itne chhote chhote thhe yeh sab,” she tells me putting out her hand to describe how small her kids back at home were. The mother of two sons and two daughters decided it was no time to cry. How she then told her husband that she would not listen to him and would go ahead to file a police complaint, how the local primary health centre refused to examine her, how women cops at the local police station took away her ghaghra as evidence leaving her to travel to Jaipur by bus wrapped only in a thin bed sheet, how her first medical examination happened only 48 hours after her rape, and how it was the pressure of women’s organisations that brought the horrific crime to light – these are part of the Bhanwari story now well known, and well documented in newspapers, books as well as online articles.

Bhanwari’s incredible courage pushed her to be an unlikely hero. It won her awards, most famously the Neerja Bhanot award — named after the brave airhostess who died trying to resist a hijack attempt on a Pan Am flight in 1986. It took Bhanwari to international fora and women’s conferences in foreign lands. It also made her the mascot of victory over traumatic circumstances, but back in her own village, little or nothing changed for her, especially socially. Today, while she is the toast of woman power all over the country, to her own fellow villagers in Bhateri, Bhanwari with her family continues to be an ‘outcaste’.

The crippling social boycott that bans any link with her is a hurt she doesn’t express openly, but is evident when she says, “Aas paas ke gaon ki auratein salaah lene aatin hai, mere gaon se ek bhi nahi. (Women from all the nearby villages come to me asking for guidance, not one from my village.)”

Her rapists, meanwhile, were freed long back, after serving barely a year in jail.

Even the government has done little for the welfare of saathins like her, who travel village to village, carrying the word of government schemes for the poor, and risk their life and limbs while trying to intervene in cases of dowry demands, female foeticide and child marriage. “Women workers of Anganwadi, which came in much later after the WDP did, earn much more than we do. From Rs 300 decades back, today it’s barely 1,600.”

And since they are cleverly termed ‘volunteers’, these women retire with no pension, despite having been government servants all their lives. But that lament is only temporary. The positive power of Bhanwari’s persona kicks in, embracing every person she comes in touch with.

At a felicitation function organised on Saturday in her honour by the Kannada Lekhakiyara Sangha (Women writers’ association) in Bangalore’s Chamrajpet, the reed-thin Bhanwari deeply hugs a young girl whose own story of courage had earlier moved the audience to a thunderous applause. That long, deep hug is freely dispensed to every woman, every girl who wants Bhanwari to pose for a picture with her, mostly clicked on mobile phones. Even this writer, meeting her for the first time, is a beneficiary of that embrace.

From Chamrajpet, a couple of women are set to take Bhanwari to an activist’s home in Srirampura near Malleswaram for a simple lunch. Seeing that they are trying to hail an autorickshaw, I ask them if they want to come along in my car. They agree, and soon the middle aged woman in a bright Rajasthani saree, its ghunghat covering her head, is seated in the middle of the backseat next to me. On the other side is her daughter Rameshwari, who has accompanied her on this trip to Bangalore, and earlier Mangalore, where she addressed — and “energised” — a rally of around 4,000 people to mark International Women’s Day, to specially speak out against increasing moral policing in the coastal city.

Rameshwari, who translates Bhanwari’s Rajasthani dialect into Hindi for us, says her mother was thrilled to see so many women come together in the rally. She saw on TV all the “maar-peet” how they dragged girls out of a party, tore their clothes, pulled their hair…

Bhanwari speaks before her daughter can finish that line. “Kisi bhi aurat ke saath aisa hota hai, toh lagta hai mere shareer par atyachar ho raha ho. Bahut zyada dukhi hoti hoon. (Whenever a woman goes through that kind of ordeal, I feel I am violated. It makes me very sad.)”

That sadness, though, is not of the helpless kind. “Suryanelli ki ladki ko itni badi sazaa kyon?” she suddenly breathes fire. Referring to the church’s ban on the Kerala rape survivor, she says, “Why is she being punished? What is her crime? Why can’t all of us behenen (sisters) go there to show our support for her?”

Looking out of the car, Bhanwari lapses into memories of her own struggle, first to get even the complaint against her rapists registered, and then the battle in the courts. “Court mein koi bhi nahi hai garib ki sunne ke liye. Beizzati hoti hai, khilvaad karte hain mahilaaon ke saathh. (There is none in the courts to listen to the poor. There is only indignity and insult for women.)”

Talk then veers to the Delhi girl whose gang rape and death caused such national outrage. I mention the recent American award given in her honour, and Bhanwari retorts, “Puraskaar se pet kaun bhare? Hume puraskaar nahi, nyaay dijiye. (Can an award feed the stomach? Give us justice, not awards.)

Sunny, spirited, sharp and ready with repartees — just what’s the secret source of her mum’s spunk, I ask Rameshwari as the women get out of the car. “Bas, Maa aisi hi hain. Suru se hi. (Mother is always like this. Right from the start). A proud smile later, “Strong. Ekdumm majboot

 

Letters from Pussy Riot’s Prison blog #womenrights #womensday


The thoughts of a prisoner

Anastasia Kirilenko 8 March 2013

Today is International Women’s Day, a holiday in Russia, though possibly with few celebrations in the penal colonies where the Pussy Riot women are being held. Open Democracy Russia is proud to publish two letters from the prison blog of one of them, Maria (Masha) Alyokhina, to Anastasia Kirilenko.


The thoughts of a prisoner – they’re not free either. They keep returning to the same things.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich

‘Unfortunately, by the time you get this letter my thoughts will probably have changed completely; perhaps even my problems will have radically changed. Most importantly, I could be sent to another penal colony before the parole hearing.  So I will limit myself to talking about the present, and there’s quite a lot to say about that. As to what happens later on, we’ll see.

‘I’m still in solitary, but this absolutely doesn’t stop me thinking about how to change the system. Indeed, it’s impossible not to think about that here. The word “system” is itself a cliché, but even the phrase “improve the efficiency of prisons” is wrong, mainly because efficiency is a result. A result can be achieved by a combination of methods: here the method is a statute.  It is, of course, a very tall order to change things (lots of them) at the level of legislation, but I increasingly realise that the method/result is not at all what’s so upsetting.

‘There is a kind of objective reality in Putin’s policies whereby one can go to prison for nothing. Inside the prison one can also be punished for nothing, and prison, like any institution, is usually a mirror of the way things are.

‘When we try to change the state of affairs, be it at the micro (prison) or macro (politics) level, we become involved in a process. This is what gives me no peace: that process is enacted by live people, who are zealous, while at the same time hating their work (not quite the right word, it’s probably more that they’re sick of it and don’t really like it – we have to keep an eye on the censor!), but they nevertheless carry on meticulously contributing to that process.  It’s not days or months, but years and years…and what do they get for it? What are they doing it for? True, they have families and children, but the children carry on their work, they are the heirs, who have automatically absorbed it all. Time goes by and we see those children working zealously, sometimes wilful, at other times giving the commands.  Giving orders is the real thing, which is perhaps why our people are so unwilling to work.

‘When I arrived here and started to write to human rights campaigners, and then to complain, it was of course not because I had failed to understand the system and was relying on their honesty, but because I simply couldn’t do anything else. To behave differently would have meant contributing to something that no one actually likes. To this life of simply doing time. I think that it’s here, in the area of action (decision) that human will is the key.  An action carried out acquires a life of its own; it is the basis of an identity, perhaps not even the basis but something absolutely vital, the essence of what is right, a completely intuitive thing.

‘We women prisoners will get hold of shawls, we’ll work for 200 roubles a month and say nothing, we’ll wash in a dirty barn, 50 of us together hosing ourselves down from an old mayonnaise bucket (a very necessary commodity!), duck and weave, inform on people and play double games.  The same things go on in the world outside, but they’re called by different names there. Do you remember what Mandelstam wrote “We were decent people and have become scum”?  Though now I wonder if there were ever any decent people.’

Maria Alyokhina, one of the members of the controversial Pussy Riot group, is serving a two-year term of imprisonment. Photo: (cc) Demotix/ Anton Belitskiy

Kirilenko:  ‘Is Mandelstam your favourite poet?  What about his poem about Stalin, the one for which he was exiled? Did that poem mean anything to you?  Did it have any bearing on your part in the protests?’

Alyokhina:

‘Of course his poem has a resonance for me.  Once you have become acquainted with the life described in it, it couldn’t be any other way.

‘I am amazed by the people who put up barriers: this is art and that is modern art. Real art is always contemporary, because it’s on that astonishing boundary with time or outside it, while at the same time (☺) breaking down the barrier.  It’s a gesture from Freedom to eternity. An artist understands this, but a person looking at it from an ordinary, everyday point of view sees only the form.

‘One has the impression that 20th century philosophy in its entirety has passed us by, because people seem to have forgotten the values of things, despite the many years of work on conceptualisation put in by the existentialists.  Any action or assistance rendered in everyday life has to be regarded first and foremost as an attempt to come just a little nearer to each other to try and find an opportunity for dialogue.

‘The gloom inspired by the presidential representative [mechanical engineering assembly shop manager] Kholmanskikh or the ‘comrade deputies’ who languish inside the Duma is the result pure and simple of the failure of communication between people in Russia. It seems to me that we, as a society, or, if you like, a nation, have allowed this to happen and we are thus responsible.

‘[The philosopher Merab] Marmardashvili had the wonderful idea that all concepts –“freedom”, “honour” or, for instance, “democracy” – only have any meaning because for centuries people have given them substance with their blood and their bodies, but what are we doing?  One has only to listen to the words on the wind to understand.

‘Putin can spend a thousand hours on the air droning on about “sport-patriotism”.  Everyone will understand – or perhaps not everyone, just us?  In the Moscow pre-trial detention centre I actually went to talk to a priest, not at a service, just in an attempt to establish some kind of a dialogue.  It became apparent that for him there was no difference between the president and the tsar (seriously!) and that our society is held together by resignation (for resignation, read ignorance).  He then suggested I should kiss his hand! It’s both terrible and strange, but this kind of truth is very close to us.

‘I’m all right: I’m not taking tranquillisers any more – I only took them for a week, mainly for insomnia.

‘Everyone has seen our (mine, Katya’s and Nadya’s) faces, but I don’t want us to be just faces. It’s not just that I don’t want it, but that would be worse than anything else. I can only hope that with time the image of the revolutionary woman will be backed up by a serious narrative, rather than just emptiness.’

 

Today the Pussy Riot women in prison are being isolated from society to prevent them stirring up the Russian electorate with their political ideas. But even in Stalinist times the prisoner was entitled to correspondence. And progress doesn’t let the grass grow under its feet: the combination of internet technology and the postal service now means that the prisoner doesn’t need to disappear completely from the public eye.

Masha was a student of journalism at the Institute of Journalism and Creative Writing [former Maxim Gorky Institute, Moscow].  She wrote prose and verse, so I hope she will find writing a blog interesting too.  Since she’s been inside, she’s been trying to defend the rights of all the prisoners in the penal colony, which resulted in the ‘bitches’ (habitual criminals) being sent along to sort her out.

So now she’s in solitary confinement. Perhaps no bad thing. ‘In prison one cannot avoid thoughts about how to change the system.’ She continues to write poetry, but she regards herself as still a student, so her poetry is just for her close friends.

International Womens Day- Statement on alarming trends in Negotiations of UN Document


English: Emblem of the United Nations. Color i...

 

STATEMENT OF FEMINIST AND WOMEN’S ORGANISATIONS ON THE VERY ALARMING TRENDS IN THE NEGOTIATIONS OF OUTCOME DOCUMENT OF THE 57TH SESSION OF THE UN COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN

 

 

 

We, the undersigned organisations and individuals across the globe, are again alarmed and disappointed that the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is wavering in its commitment to advance women’s human rights as demonstrated in the constant negotiation of the language in the outcome document continues. On the occasion of celebrating the International Women’s Day we call on the states to reaffirm its commitment to agreed upon standards in promoting women’s human rights as articulated in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action as well as other international humanitarian and human rights law. We say NO to any re-opening of negotiations on the already established international agreements on women’s human rights and call on all governments to demonstrate their commitments to promote, protect and fulfill human rights and fundamental freedoms of women. It is alarming that states are continuing to negotiate established standards that they themselves have agreed to as we are witnessing in the last few days of negotiation. Considering the lack of an outcome document last year we hope that this is not the pattern when it comes to advancing women’s human rights agenda. Women’s human rights are not to be negotiated away. Similar to last year, we strongly hold the position that given the progressive development in the international era on standard setting there should no longer be any contention on any issues related to the definition and intersectionality of women and girls experiencing violence against women, including in relations to sexual and reproductive health and rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, harmful practices perpetuated in the context of negative culture and traditions, among others. We remind states that the CSW is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women with the sole aim of promoting women’s rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields. Its mandate is to ensure the full implementation of existing international agreements on women’s human rights and gender equality. We strongly demand all governments and the international community to reject any attempt to invoke traditional values or morals to infringe upon human rights guaranteed by international law, nor to limit their scope. Customs, tradition or religious considerations must not be tolerated to justify discrimination and violence against women and girls whether committed by State authorities or by non-state actors. Given the current global activism around violence against women it is imperative that member states take the lead is agreeing on a progressive outcome document that reaffirms its commitments to universal human rights standards. This is an important moment as we are planning the post 2015 process. The outcome document has to advance women’s human rights and not lower the bar for women’s human rights. Future international negotiations must move forward implementation of policies and programmes that secure the human rights of girls and women.
We call upon the member states of the UN and the various UN human rights and development entities to recognise and support the important role of women’s groups and organisations working at the forefront of challenging traditional values and practices that are intolerant to fundamental human rights norms, standards and principles.
Drafted by:
Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL)
International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific)
Endorsed by: Amnesty International ANIS – Institute of Bioethics, Human Rights and Gender – Brazil
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) Asia Safe Abortion Partnership Fiji Women’s Rights Movement Namibia Women’s Health Network Rutgers WPF, Netherland Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

International Women’s Day Past and Present- Anuradha Ghandy #mustead #mustshare


8 March 2001 is the 91st anniversary of the International Women’s Day (IWD), which was first declared in 1910. In that year, Clara Zetkin, inspired by the working class women’s movement in America, proposed to the Second International Conference of the Socialist Working Women that an annual celebration of women’s day be held. The Socialist International meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, established a Women’s Day, international in character, to honour the movement for women’s right and to assist in achieving universal suffrage for women. The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries. No fixed date was selected for the observance.

 

As a result of this decision, the first International Women’s Day was held on 19 March 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote, they demanded the right to work, to vocational training and an end to discrimination on the job. The date was chosen by Germany women as 19 March, because, on that date in 1848, the Prussian king, faced with an armed uprising, had promised many reforms, including an unfulfilled one of votes for women.

 

In 1913, the date for the IWD was changed to 8 March. This was to commemorate tow important events which occurred on that day. On 8 March 1857, women garment and textile workers in New York City had staged, for the first time, a protest against in-human working conditions, the 12-hour work day and low wages. The marchers were attacked and dispersed by the police. Two years later, again in March, these women formed their first union. Again on 8 March 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter working hours, better pay, voting rights and an end to child labour. They adopted the slogan‘Bread and Roses’; with bread symbolizing economic security and roses, a better quality of life. In May of that year, the Socialist Party of America designated the last Sunday in February for the observance of the National Women’s Day.

 

The first National Women’s Day was observed across the USA on 28 February 1909. Soon, women in Europe began celebrating Women’s Day on the last Sunday of February. It was in this background that Clara Zetkin put forward the proposal for an International Women’s Day at the 1910 Conference of the Women’s Socialist International. Within a week of the first celebrations in 1911, on 25 March 1911, over 140 working girls were killed in the tragic Triangle Fire in the USA. This event had a far reaching effect on labour legislation in the USA and gave the IWD a further impetus.

 

On the eve of World War I, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day in 1913. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies either to protest against the war or to express solidarity with oppressed women. The most famous International Working Women’s Day was the 8 March 1917 (24 February in the Russian style calendar) strike for ‘bread and peace’ led by the Russian women of St. Petersburg. Both Clara Zetkin and Alexandra Kollontai took part in this event. The IWD strike merges with the riots that had spread throughout the city between 8-12 March. The February Revolution, as it came to be known, forced the Czar to abdicate.

In the Soviet Union, 8 March was declared a national holiday and accompanied by a celebration of ‘the heroic women workers’.Since then, 8 March has grown in significance, and its celebrations throughout the world have marked a growing awareness of women’s rights. The great advances achieved in women’s rights in the Soviet Union, after the socialist revolution, were an inspiration to women throughout the world. The Chinese revolution in 1949 showed how, even in one of the most backward countries of the world, seeped in feudal values and patriarchal thinking, women can be aroused for change. The gigantic strides made by women in socialist China were a living example for women throughout the Third World. Particularly, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and its consistent attack on feudal Confucian thinking, acted as a great source for the further emancipation of women in China. Comrade Chiang Chiang was its living symbol.

 

The 1960s and early 1970s, which saw a strong democratic upsurge in the capitalist countries and powerful national liberation movements in the Third World, also witnessed a rejuvenation of the women’s liberation movement. The movement had such an enormous impact throughout the world that the imperialists sought to destroy it through co-option and diversion into acceptable channels. This resulted in large, corporate or state-funded NGOs vehemently attacking socialism, and putting for-ward a bourgeois form of feminism. The process of co-option culminated in the United Nations officially recognizing 8 March as the International Women’s Day in 1977. Since then, the most bourgeois and reactionary organizations have also come to ‘celebrate’ 8 March, depriving it of its revolutionary content and great history of struggle, through which it originated. This process was further catalysed with the reversal of socialism, first in the Soviet Union, and, later, in China. The first casualty of these reversals was the denial of some of the rights achieved by women under socialism.

Yet, the International Women’s Day continues to live on amongst the oppressed women of the world. The temporary setback of the communist movement and socialism, and the re-assertion of capitalism/imperialism, has hit women hard. Globalizations, and the crass consumerism associated with it, have witnessed the mass commodification of women, on a scale unheard of before. The cosmetic industry, tourism and bourgeois media have degraded the women’s body as never before, without any respect for their individuality. This, coupled with mass poverty, has led to entire populations turning to prostitution as witnessed in East Europe, East Asia, Nepal, etc. Coupled with this, the rise of religious fundamentalism and various sects throughout the world is pushing another section of women back to a status of the Dark Ages. Squeezed between these two extremes, women, today, more than ever before, feel the need for assertion, for self-respect and equality with their male counterparts. 8 March has, therefore, an even greater significance today.

 

The revisionists and bourgeois liberals seek to dampen the women’s spirit of freedom, displaying mock ‘concern,’ acting as condescending saviors, confining women to their home. They compromise with patriarchal values, feudal traditions and fear women’s emancipation and assertion. They, of course, also ‘celebrate’ women’s day, as a routine, issuing out the regular hypocritical statements.

 

It is the revolutionary forces throughout the world, and, more particularly, the Maoists, who have brought back a living vibrancy to the IWD, making it, once again, a day symbolizing the struggle of women for freedom, self-respect, equality and emancipation from all patriarchal values and exploitative practices. It is this revolutionary spirit that kindles a new hope in the future for the oppressed women of India, and the world.

 

From: Scripting the Change- Selected writings of Anuradha Ghandy- DAANISH BOOKS

 

Democracies Don’t Strip Their Women, India Does #Indiashame #womensday


| by Avinash Pandey*

 
( March 8, 2013, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka Guardian) The decision of going naked in protest to the oppression committed on them by POSCO and its supporters must not had come easily to the women of Govindpur village of Jagatsingpur district in Odisha. It cannot come easily to women of anywhere in country, however, much distressed they are. It is a country, after all, that still abides by essentially feudal codes of honour hinged, primarily, on their bodies and punishing those who stray with extreme, and extrajudicial, measures like honour killing with the law enforces looking away.
But then, this is exactly what the women of this POSCO-infested village (to borrow from the mainstream media that refers to all such areas as ‘infested’ by this or that dissenting group) have been forced into. The desperation betraying the decision is unmistakable. It can startle even those who deal with such stories of despair day in and day out. Last time one had seen such a protest taking place was in Manipur in July 2004. The situation, however, was a little different in that case. Manipur has always been a ‘disturbed’ area for the Indian state and condemned, therefore, to be reined in by brute force. Brute force in military parlance, in turn, has always included sexual assault as a weapon of shaming and controlling the enemy.
Elderly women of Manipur were aghast at that and decided for going that protest in sheer desperation. They were a people who had completely lost their faith in the nation that claimed to be their own but acted as an occupying force. It did never treat them, or their menfolk, as its own. Its security forces assaulted the men and raped the women at will and the state legitimised such dreadful practices by allowing the Assam Rifles deployed in Manipur to provide condoms as an integral part of the travel kit, to be used while on patrol duty. Having had enough of this, Manipuri women went to the headquarters of the Assam Rifles, disrobed and flung a banner reading “INDIAN ARMY RAPE US”.
Odisha is thousands of kilometers away from Manipur. It is not a ‘disturbed’ area with the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, a colonial relic very dear to Indian state, in force. Its women are not that alien to Indian state as Manipuri women are to it, despite all its claims on the contrary. Yet, the desperation and the progressive loss of any faith of the citizenry in the state are same. This is what explains the disarmingly simple and yet dangerous message that seeps out of the statement issued by the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS). “Left with no other option, women from the village have decided to get naked before the Policemen tomorrow” is all that it says. The pain and agony it would take to first decide for holding such a protest and then announcing it to the public is something lost on the state and the moral guardians it deploys to keep the pretension of being a democracy on.
     The message that the state is not ready to listen to peaceful voices of dissent is loud and clear. It has abandoned the citizenry for the reasons best known to it and had decided to side with the private interests even at the expense of rule of law. It has shifted the boundaries and pushed the citizens to the extremes. It is no more a struggle for justice that had become a distant dream, but a struggle for survival that starts with being heard and noticed.
The women have reached the decision because the state has abandoned them for POSCO, the multinational company that has been violating all their rights with impunity. They have reached the decision after getting many of their near and dear ones killed by the hired goons of the company. They have reached the decision for the state government sending in an armed-to-teeth police force for cracking down on the peaceful protesters and forcibly acquire the lands even when the environmental clearance that is mandatory for such projects stand cancelled by the statutory authorities.
The immediate provocation comes from the stubborn refusal of the police to lodge a formal First Information Report (FIR), a constitutional right of the people, against the perpetrators of a bomb attack on the nonviolent protesters that killed several of them. Despite unambiguous indications that the attack was carried out by the hired goons of POSCO, the police have obstinately maintained that the deceased were involved in bomb-making and perished when it exploded prematurely, all this without even a pretense of investigation.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the anti-POSCO movement has faced such violence or police apathy. On one hand, it has been a victim of ruthlessly violent attacks on its activists purportedly carried out at the behest of POSCO and on the other a systematic victimisation by the state by filing fabricated cases against them as exposed by a fact finding report titled “Captive Democracy”.
The message that the state is not ready to listen to peaceful voices of dissent is loud and clear. It has abandoned the citizenry for the reasons best known to it and had decided to side with the private interests even at the expense of rule of law. It has shifted the boundaries and pushed the citizens to the extremes. It is no more a struggle for justice that had become a distant dream, but a struggle for survival that starts with being heard and noticed. It is a struggle for asserting one’s existence against those who want to erase the poor and the downtrodden from nation’s conscience. It is, therefore, a struggle for reclaiming the citizenship in a democracy that is going truant.
The signs are not good for such struggles. The wretchedness hitherto reserved for those living on the peripheries of the nation has been slowly, but consistently, moving inwards. The country has already stripped thousands of its women naked underlining what Ms. Arundhati Roy calls a ‘rape culture’. It has looked away when the non-state actors, so to say, have done the same with other set of victims hounded along the fault lines of caste, kinship and religion. It had yet not reached a stage where its women have to get naked in front of the police, supposed to be law enforcers, unlike its atrocious armed forces for their legitimate rights. It would better not let that happen.

 

International Women’s day- We are One Woman: A Song #Video #Womensday


From China to Costa Rica, from Mali to Malaysia, acclaimed singers and musicians, women and men, have come together to spread a message of unity and solidarity: We are “One Woman“.

Launching on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2013, the song is a rallying cry that inspires listeners to join the drive for women’s rights and gender equality. “One Woman” was written for UN Women, the global champion for women and girls worldwide, to celebrate its mission and work to improve women’s lives around the world.

This year, International Women’s Day focuses on ending violence against women — a gross human rights violation that affects up to 7 in 10 women and a top priority for UN Women. As commemorations are underway in all corners of the globe, “One Woman” reminds us that together, we can overcome violence and discrimination: “We Shall Shine!” Join us to help spread the word and enjoy this musical celebration of women worldwide.

 

#India- Celebrating women’s solidarities! Resisting cultures of violence! #Vaw #Womenrights #womensday


We have all recently witnessed unprecedented response to a young woman’s brutal gang rape and eventual death. The public anger and mass grief it triggered finally pushed our government to take action. Such is the power of people’s resolve!

Yet, sexual assaults and violence continue unabated across the country, from everyday instances of sexual harassment like stalking, touching and staring to violence at home and at the work place. Sexual violence against women from Dalit and Adivasi communities, religious minorities and the differently abled, and people marginalised on the basis of gender and sexuality is being invisibilised. There is reluctance to recognise marital rape (committed by a “trusted” partner) as a crime. Sexual abuse and torture by security forces in Kashmir, North-East and Chhattisgarh (including custodial violence) enjoy state impunity.

The Justice Verma Committee introduced many critical recommendations like command responsibility for custodial rape. Many of these suggestions have been overlooked by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2013. One big lacuna is the proposed gender neutrality of the accused. Unlike in existing law where the accused is male, the new Bill makes it possible for women to be charged with these offences. In a culture known for its anti-women positions and acute gender inequalities, this clause makes a mockery of sexual violence (including rape) against women. We demand that this be changed immediately!

Public ferment against sexual violence is being projected as a call for death penalty. We strongly condemn any retributive justice practised by the state, and appeal that any form of punishment function within the ambit of human rights and justice. We call upon the Government of India to join the overwhelming majority of nation states that have abolished death penalty.

Sexual assaults are but a part of a wider spectrum of cultures of violence that entail discrimination against women. Honour crimes and killings, khap panchayat diktats, attacks on women’s autonomy, neglect of women’s health, women workers’ lack of social security, and neoliberal policies that oppress poor women in multiple ways are all the result of anti-women attitudes. Patriarchal institutions like religion and community lose no time in calling for curtailment of women’s freedoms in the public sphere in the name of safety. The “Din Hamara Raat Hamari Abhiyan” or Take Back the Night Campaign is a rejection of such moral policing that impinges on women’s right to full participation in society.

The International Women’s Day is an enduring symbol of women’s solidarities and struggles against injustices. On this occasion, we salute the fighting spirit of sisters from across the nation including Soni Sori in a Chhattisgarh jail, Irom Sharmila in a Manipur hospital, “Suryanelli” battling a 17-year old case in Kerala and many unnamed women challenging the capitalist-state nexus in Orissa and other parts of Central India. We raise our voices against all such violations.

We invite people from all walks of life to join us in remembrance, resistance and celebration of women’s extraordinary achievements. Let us collectively resolve to fight for women’s justice, dignity and autonomy.

Lend your voice and support to women’s movements that have been working in multiple directions: from consciousness raising to supporting women’s facing violence, from law reform to challenging traditional notions about women’s roles, opposing caste-communal violence to supporting women’s political participation and so on. Significant work continues to be done to challenge prejudices against women with disabilities and people of different genders and sexualities. Thanks to such efforts, women have achieved major strides in redefining family and inheritance, political participation, legal reform vis-à-vis domestic violence, dowry deaths, and adverse sex ratio.

Resolve to end injustice and violence against women!

Stand up for women’s rights!

Brief overview of the women’s movements in India

* 1848: Savitribai Phule started girls’ schools, defying threats by feudal forces (?)
* 1885: Rukhmabai chose prison over marriage as a child bride & studied to be a doctor
* 1940s: Telengana women part of militant struggles for land and freedom
* 1970s: anti-liquor, anti-price rise movements, issues of land alienation and wife-beating addressed in Shahada, Maharashtra
* 1977 onwards: Chhattisgarh Mines Shramik Sangh established; unequal wages, women’s retrenchment, sexual division of labour attacked
* 1970s: Custodial rape of Mathura (a young tribal girl); teachers challenged the Supreme Court judgement; state forced to recognise custodial rape as a crime
* 1980s: massive participation of women in Chipko and Appiko environmental movements
* 1992: woman activist gang raped in Rajasthan; Supreme Court framed Vishakha Guidelines, predecessor of  Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at the Workplace 2012
* 2009: Delhi High Court decriminalises consensual, adult same-sex relationships
History of the International Women’s Day

* 1857: thousands of women workers in the New York garment industry took to the streets against unfair wages, 12-hour work days and sexual harassment in the workplace
* 1910: Clara Zetkin’s gave a call in Copenhagen, Denmark to establish an “International Women’s Day
* 1911: on 19 March, more than a million women and men marched together
* 1911: On March 25, a fire in a sweatshop in New York killed 145 female garment workers. In solidarity, 80,000 workers marched to attend the mass funeral
* 1912: 14,000 textile workers went on strike with the slogan “Better to starve fighting than starve working”
* 1913-1914: the International Women’s Day also became a day for protesting against the First World War and for world peace.

 

 

One billion rising for Soni Sori and all women prisoners till they are Free #Vaw #1billionrising


SONISORIOBR

March 1, 2013

Kamayani Bali Mahabal

I am  rising for an incarcerated tribal teacher Soni Sori , a  woman who juggled several roles – a tribal journalist, activist, teacher, mother of three young kids. A woman who dared to speak against the interests of the Chhattisgarh State and mining companies. A woman who did not succumb to the emotional, physical, sexual harassment targeted at breaking her spirits in the jail. She, instead, knocked at the conscience of the world outside.

She  began her fight against injustice in October 2011, when she was arrested on the charges of being a maoist supporter and brutally, physically and sexually tortured in custody by the Chhattisgarh police.

The announcement of the President’s Police Medal for Gallantry on 63rdRepublic day of India in 2012 for Ankit Garg, the SP of Dantewada is a reflection of the sad state of the Indian Republic .. It was shocking to see that a police officer who was accused of brutalising and torturing the young Adivasi teacher, Soni Sori, was lauded by the State even after reports of perversity of the worst kind in the way he reportedly ordered the torture of Sori in police custody.

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE ONLINE

1)–Please sign a petition  to president of India to  take back his medal here

http://petitions.halabol.com/2013/01/21/take-back-president%E2%80%99s-police-medal-gallantry-awarded-ankit-garg

2—Endorse a letter to Sonia Gandhi for Soni Sori

Click here to endorse the letter

3)—Send soni sori a post card

Click here to see the details

4)- Light a candle for soni sori and all women prisoners

This is an online action created by Barduari Studios, an anonymous group, who thought it appropriate to develop something that anyone can use to reffirm their support to the Soni Sori Campaign.

Please light a candle for Soni Sori here: http://www.shareswf.com/game/29150/light-a-candle-for-soni-sori

And do change your facebook coverpage for atleast one day to the ‘light a candle before the Supreme Court‘ given in the banner album. You can also directly take it from our facebook page at www.facebook.com/onebillionrisingforsonisori

If you have blog webiste please embed below widget, its on sonis ori blog as well

Light a candle for soni sori you can embed a widget on your blog, copy and paste below, share widely

She fought back! She went on hunger strike in jail and protested against the human rights violations and the treatment by the Chhattisgarh Police; she wrote letters tot he court about the situation in prison and continues to speak out whenever she can.

Even after more than  a year, Soni has not received justice. Her struggle continues…

Soni Sori has become a symbol of mistreatment of all women prisoners .

Her fight for justice is not just for herself but also for others.

Her letters from Prison which spread like for fire for an International support on March 8th 2012

WE  Rise for Soni Sori because:

  1. Far from being an oppressed and downtrodden woman, as an outspoken critic of the state policies, the mining companies, and the Maoists, Soni Sori is being punished for exerting her democratic right to speak out indefence of her adivasi/ Indigenous  community and their traditional lands rather than for a crime she has not even been tried for.
  2. She is being punished by those who would not have the authority to mete out punishment even if she were guilty of a crime and the form of her punishments are not to be found in any penal code anywhere in the world.
  3. If the Indian government is not willing to protect women from the illegal actions of its own agents when in their custody, then what message is it sending out to Indian men – that women are fair game just for going out or speaking out?
  4. The Indian state not only seems to be failing to protect women from sexual and other types of violence, but is in fact sanctioning, indeed rewarding such crimes when they are committed by its employees and representatives to silence women who speak out in defence of human rights.

We Rise Because We Refuse To Support State Violence On Women.

We Rise Because Rape And Violence Against Women Under Any Circumstances is Unacceptable.

We Rise On This International Women’s Day To Demand Freedom for Soni Sori & Punishment For Her Perpetrators.

When: One Billion Rising on March 8th 2013.

Who: People of all gender with head, heart and a strong spine

Where: Here. There. Anywhere. Wherever we have such people.

What:  Organise your own ‘One Billion Rising’ action in your city, school, university, work place. Organise it any form you like. Or check the list of events on this page and join the one you can. Don’t worry If you are unable to make it to the streets, there are several online actions: petitions, letters to Indian government. But whatever you decide to do leave a message here so that others can join.

JOIN US ON FACEBOOK

https://www.facebook.com/OneBillionRisingforsonisori

CHECK EVENTS IN YOUR CITY, AND IF YOU DONT FIND ONE ADD , LETS STRIKE,AND PROTEST TOGETHER FOR SONI SORI

https://www.facebook.com/OneBillionRisingforsonisori/events

Make this post Viral : !!

#India- #Budget2013, Gender insensitive ,enforcing gender stereotypes #Womenrights


Budget 2013- Gender Gap yet again

Not only is budget gender-insensitive, it strengthens gender stereotyping and reinforces the invisibility of women from the economy
Ritu Dewan
First Published: Fri, Mar 01 2013. ,livemint.com
womenindia
What is even more cynical, if not insulting, is the `200 crore allocated for women “belonging to the most vulnerable groups, including single women and widows, (who) must be able to live with self-esteem and dignity”.
Budget 2013, unveiled 10 weeks after the Delhi gang-rape and 10 days before International Women’s Day, was preceded by hope among women that the promises and pledges made by the government to advance their cause would, for once, not remain mere platitudes but be articulated in the single-most important financial document of the year.
The hope was belied. Not only is Budget 2013 gender-insensitive, it in fact strengthens gender stereotyping and reinforces the invisibility of women from the economy in almost every sense of the term.
It is a well documented fact that both the agricultural and the rural sector are heavily feminized, providing a livelihood to four-fifths of all working women in India. Yet, nowhere is this recognized even though the 12th Plan emphatically states that schemes such as Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) will have a special women’s quota, and that single women can form collectives for group cultivation. The latter is an issue that some of us, as part of the Feminists Economists Committee for the 11th as well as 12th Plan have struggled hard for.
Similarly, hugely transformative programmes such as the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Rural Mission (JNNURM) and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) are all “gender-less”. As is the fundamentally democratic issue of gendering governance, what with Panchayati Raj institutions themselves being given such short shrift.
In fact, no economic agency is ascribed to women; they are the predictable, stereotyped, reproductive agents defined as usual in the syndrome of patriarchal semantics. So, therefore, increased allocations to women and their tag-ons both in societal and budgetary terms—children, nutrition and so on. The issue here is not to deny the crucial importance and desperate urgency of even higher funding for these sub-areas, but to give visibility to the independent economic, budgetary, fiscal and financial status of women.
Additionally, the imperative of gendered financial inclusion has been totally trivialized in the form of an all-women bank, which is easier to set up than to gender-sensitize existing banking procedures; it’s something that will marginalize women even more. Gendered financial inclusion can be greatly enhanced by introducing an equilibrium between financial and physical targets; this is especially important in the context of the fact that women generally take small loans, and the fact that while physical targets may be filled, financial disbursements constitute an insignificant amount. Similarly, what was hoped for were changes in other supplementary monetary instruments such as medical insurance policies which currently have different rules for single women and also men who are out of the marital patriarchal slot.
Additionally, individual taxation is preferred because the economic benefit of working depends on how much a woman earns and not the fact of her location in the patriarchal marital structure. The fiscal instrument of an additional tax exemption to women was expected to be re-introduced in order to increase her incentive to take up employment and shift her labour supply curve. Budget 2013 appears to have absolved the State of any responsibility whatsoever of incorporating employment in its current strategy by insisting that women undertake their own economic empowerment through “assisted” self-employment while men may do so by “skill” enhancement.
While it is good that social sector spending has not been negatively impacted by the Budget, already introduced cuts in subsidies on household maintenance commodities such as kerosene and cooking gas have directly affected the time use pattern of women and increased their time poverty. It thus increases the “reproductive” tax that the woman has to pay to the economy as a direct result of change in macroeconomic policies.
The budget asserts that “We have a collective responsibility to ensure the dignity and safety of women…for which Rs.1,000 crore are pledged…(to) the Nirbhaya Fund..,” so-called because Nirbhaya, or fearless, was the fictional name given by a newspaper to the Delhi gang-rape victim who died on 29 December in a Singapore hospital. Money was allocated but no measures were promised to promote the goal.
What is even more cynical, if not insulting, is the Rs.200 crore allocated for women “belonging to the most vulnerable groups, including single women and widows, (who) must be able to live with self-esteem and dignity”. This largesse works out to a humiliating Rs.74 and 07 paise even if this entire amount is spent solely for the benefit of the 27 million female-headed households in the country. This works to even less than that allocated for the setting up of a National Institute of Sports Coaching.
A budgetary gender critique, to be relevant and true, must be located within the context of the paradigm within which the budget is perceived. If the mantra is “higher growth leading to inclusive and sustainable development,” then we need to urgently re-examine all evidence that has points unequivocally to the fact that in the years when the Indian economy was growing at an 8% pace, there was less than 1% reduction in poverty.
The writer is professor and head, Centre for Gender Economics, Department of Economics, University of Mumbai

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