Sunday, April 29, 2018

CSW62 (2018) Agreed conclusions 4/10

20. The Commission reaffirms the right to education and stresses that equal access to high quality and inclusive education contributes to the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls including those in rural areas. It notes with concern the lack of progress in closing gender gaps in access to, retention in and completion of secondary and tertiary education and emphasizes the importance of technical and vocational training and lifelong learning opportunities. It recognizes that new technologies   are, inter alia, changing the structure of labour markets and provide new and different employment opportunities that require skills ranging from basic digital fluency to advanced technical skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and in information and communications technology, and in this regard, emphasizes the importance of all rural women and girls having the opportunity to acquire them. 

21. The Commission recognizes that, despite gains in providing access to education, rural girls are still more likely than rural boys, and urban girls and boys, to remain excluded from education, and recognizes also that among gender-specific barriers to girls’ equal enjoyment of their right to education are the feminization of poverty, child labour that girls undertake, child, early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation, early and repeat pregnancies, all forms of gender-based violence in and outside of school, including sexual violence and harassment on the way to and from and at school,  the lack of safe and adequate sanitation facilities, the disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work, and gender stereotypes and negative social norms that lead families and communities to place less value on the education of girls than boys.

22. The Commission reaffirms the right of every human being to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, without distinction of any kind, and recognizes that its full realization is vital for women’s and girls’ lives and well-being and for their ability to participate in public and private life, and is crucial for achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, including in rural areas. It recognizes that targeting and eliminating the root causes of gender inequality, discrimination, stigma and violence in health care services, including the unequal and limited access to public health services, is important for all women and girls, including in rural areas, especially those who are vulnerable or in vulnerable situations. 

23. The Commission emphasizes the need to accelerate progress towards the goal of universal health coverage that comprises universal and equitable access to gender-responsive, quality health services and quality, essential, affordable and effective medicines for all, including for rural women and girls, and that it is critical to promote physical and mental health and well-being, especially through primary health care, health services and social protection mechanisms, including through community outreach and private sector engagement, and with the support of the international community. It stresses the importance of strengthening health systems in terms of availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality in order to better respond to the needs of all women and girls, including in rural areas, and enabling rural women’s active participation in the design and implementation of health systems. 

24. The Commission expresses deep concern that as a result of lack or limited access to essential healthcare services and information and limited agency over their own lives, rural women experience significant disparities in health, including reproductive health outcomes, such as higher rates of maternal and infant mortality and morbidity, obstetric fistula and limited options for family planning, than women in urban areas. It expresses further concern that these disparities are exacerbated by multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.


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Friday, April 27, 2018

CSW62 (2018) Agreed conclusions 3/10

13. The Commission acknowledges that all rural women and girls often face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, and marginalization. It respects and values the diversity of rural women’s situations and conditions and recognizes that some women face particular barriers to their empowerment. It also stresses that while all women and girls have the same human rights, rural women and girls in different contexts have particular needs and priorities, requiring appropriate responses. 

14. The Commission expresses concern that 1.6 billion people still live in multidimensional poverty and that nearly 80 per cent of the extreme poor live in rural areas, and acknowledges that progress in the eradication of poverty has been uneven and that inequality has increased. It expresses concern that poverty is a serious impediment to the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, including those living in rural areas, and that the feminization of poverty persists. It emphasizes that the eradication of poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.  It acknowledges the mutually reinforcing links between the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls and the eradication of poverty. It stresses the importance of support for countries in their efforts to eradicate poverty in all its forms and dimensions. 

15. The Commission expresses concern that many rural women continue to be discriminated against, marginalized and economically and socially disadvantaged due to, inter alia, their limited or lack of access to economic resources and opportunities, decent work, social protection, quality education,  public health, including health-care services, justice, sustainable and time- and labour-saving infrastructure and technology, land, water and sanitation and other resources, as well as to financial services, credit, extension services and agricultural inputs as well as their limited financial inclusion.   
16. The Commission recognizes the important role and contribution of rural women as critical agents in poverty eradication, in enhancing sustainable agricultural and rural development as well as fisheries. It underlines that meaningful progress in these areas necessitates, inter alia, closing the gender gap, introducing appropriate gender-responsive policies, interventions and innovations, including in agriculture and fisheries, and women’s equal access to agricultural and fisheries technologies, technical assistance, productive resources, land tenure security and access to, ownership of and control over land, forests, water and marine resources, and to participation in local, regional and international markets.

17. The Commission reaffirms the right to food and recognizes the crucial contributions of rural women to local and national economies and to food production and to achieve food security and improved nutrition, in particular in poor and vulnerable households as well as to the well-being of their families and communities, including through work on family farms and women-headed farm enterprises. It expresses deep concern that, while women contribute significantly to the food produced worldwide, women and girls are disproportionately affected by hunger and food insecurity, in part as a result of gender inequality and discrimination. It recognizes women’s critical role in both short- and long-term responses to food insecurity, malnutrition, excessive price volatility and food crises in developing countries. 

18. The Commission stresses the importance of investing in gender-responsive and quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including in rural areas, inter alia, safe drinking water and sanitation, energy, transport, water for irrigation, and technology, including information and communications technology, and other physical infrastructure for accessible public services.

19. The Commission reiterates the importance of safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport and roads in facilitating transport linkages on domestic routes and promoting urban-rural connectivity to empower women and girls and to boost economic growth at the local and regional levels, promote interconnections among cities and villages, peoples and resources and facilitate intraregional and interregional trade.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

CSW62 (2018) Agreed conclusions 2/10

7. The Commission acknowledges the important role played by regional conventions, instruments and initiatives in their respective regions and countries, and their follow-up mechanisms, in the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, including those in rural areas. 

 8. The Commission emphasizes the mutually reinforcing relationship among achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, including those in rural areas, and the full, effective and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It acknowledges that gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls and women’s full and equal participation and leadership in the economy are essential for achieving sustainable development, promoting peaceful, just and inclusive societies, enhancing sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and productivity, ending poverty in all its forms and dimensions everywhere and ensuring the well-being of all.   

9. The Commission reaffirms that the promotion and protection of, and respect for, the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all women and girls, including the right to development, which are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, are crucial for women’s economic empowerment and should be mainstreamed into all policies and programmes aimed at the eradication of poverty and women’s economic empowerment, and also reaffirms the need to take measures to ensure that every person is entitled to participate in, contribute to and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, and that equal attention and urgent consideration should be given to the promotion, protection and full realization of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
10. The Commission recognizes that rural women’s equal economic rights, economic empowerment and independence are essential to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. It underlines the importance of undertaking legislative and other reforms to realize the equal rights of women and men, as well as girls and boys where applicable, to access economic and productive resources, including land and natural resources, property and inheritance rights, appropriate new and existing technology, financial products and services, including but not limited to microfinance, and women’s full and productive employment and decent work, and equal pay for equal work or work of equal value, in both agricultural and nonagricultural activities in rural areas.   

11. The Commission reiterates that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development needs to be implemented in a comprehensive manner, reflecting its universal, integrated and indivisible nature, taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting each country’s policy space and leadership while remaining consistent with relevant international rules and commitments, including by developing cohesive sustainable development strategies to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. The Commission affirms that Governments have the primary responsibility for the follow-up to and review of the 2030 Agenda at the national, regional and global levels with regard to progress made. 

12. The Commission recognizes that progress in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, in particular in rural areas, and the realization of their human rights has been held back owing to the persistence of historical and structural unequal power relations between women and men, poverty, inequalities and disadvantages in access to, ownership and control over resources, growing gaps in equality of opportunity and limited access to universal healthcare services and secondary and postsecondary education, gender-based violence, discriminatory laws and policies, negative social norms and gender stereotypes, and unequal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work. It stresses the urgency of eliminating these structural barriers to realize gender equality and empower rural women and girls.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls Agreed conclusions 1/10

Commission on the Status of Women Sixty-second session 12 – 23 March 2018

  1. The Commission on the Status of Women reaffirms the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the outcome documents of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly and the declarations adopted by the Commission on the occasion of the tenth, fifteenth and twentieth anniversaries of the Fourth World Conference on Women.    2. The Commission reiterates that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Optional Protocols thereto, as well as other relevant conventions and treaties, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, provide an international legal framework and a comprehensive set of measures for realizing gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls and the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all women and girls, including those living in rural areas, throughout their life cycle. 

3. The Commission reaffirms that the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome documents of its reviews, and the outcomes of relevant major United Nations conferences and summits and the follow-up to those conferences and summits, have laid a solid foundation for sustainable development and that the full, effective and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action will make a crucial contribution to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, including those living in rural areas. 

 4. The Commission reaffirms the commitments to gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls made at relevant United Nations summits and conferences, including the International Conference on Population and Development and its Programme of Action and the outcome documents of its reviews. It recognizes that the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and the New Urban Agenda contribute, inter alia, to the improvement of the situation of rural women and girls. The Commission also recalls the Paris Agreement adopted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.   
5. The Commission also recalls the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development and the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants.   

6. The Commission recognizes the importance of relevant International Labour Organization standards related to the realization of women’s right to work and rights at work that are critical for the economic empowerment of women, including those in rural areas, and recalls the decent work agenda of the International Labour Organization and the International Labour Organization Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, and notes the importance of their effective implementation, including in rural areas. 

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Saturday, April 21, 2018


On 5th of March, the Palestinian Government approved a number of legislative amendments and regulations that give women more rights. The new amendments allow Palestinian women to pass on their citizenship to their children, open bank accounts in their names and change schools for their children without permission from the father/legal guardian.
Furthermore, the cabinet recommended a series of legal amendments, to be approved by President Mahmoud Abbas, which include canceling or amending laws that allowed rapists to marry their victims in order to avoid punishment and prison as well as adopting new laws that prevent men who murder, assault or rape women to evade lengthy prison sentences.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said in a televised message that these changes “honor Palestinian women and that they are their rights and not a gift to them.” He vowed that more decisions advancing equality between women and men were planned.
In spite of these positive legislative changes Palestinian women face challenges on a daily basis such as access to health, education, employment, housing, political participation, gender-based violence and most importantly the ongoing challenges of the Israeli Occupation and their suppressive acts that violate human rights laws through illegal settlement activities and endless war crimes.
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Thursday, April 19, 2018


On February 14, the Moroccan parliament adopted a new law on violence against women that criminalizes harassment, aggression, sexual exploitation or ill treatment of women. In addition, the new law obligates public authorities to take preventive measures and provides new protection mechanisms for survivors.  The adoption of the law came after 5 years since it was first drafted in 2013, and was ratified by 112 votes. 
Under the new law, tougher penalties are imposed for some forms of violence in the penal code when committed within the family. The law criminalizes forced marriage with a penalty of six months to one year in prison and a fine of 10,000 to 30.000 dirhams, or one of these two penalties. Furthermore, it imposes penalties for sexual harassment in public spaces and cyber networks.  
The law includes positive provisions, such as a definition of violence against women “any act based on gender discrimination that entails physical, psychological, sexual, or economic harm to a woman” and it provides protection and safety orders for violence survivors. These orders can only be issued during a criminal prosecution or after a criminal conviction and they can be cancelled if spouses reconcile which will only add more pressure on women to drop such orders. 
Although the achievement is unfortunately far to be complete due to several shortcomings within the law, it’s still a positive step towards protection of women’s rights and curbing VAW in Morocco. Feminist concerns remain in regard to the law of violence against women, which is seen as not protecting women victims of violence and does not raise the question of prevention.  Furthermore, there is a critique that the proposals from the feminist movement have not been taken into consideration in the recent legislation, and no sufficient public debate has been engaged.
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Tuesday, April 17, 2018


On 27th of February, the Lower House’s Labour Committee submitted several amendments on the draft Labour Law to the Parliament to make it more gender sensitive. They included a two-day paternity leave for fathers, the presence of daycare centres at workplaces if the total number of worker’s children is 15 or more and the introduction of new laws that criminalize gender-based wage discrimination.
Social attitudes and legal barriers posed by the traditional roles of women in society, the lack of daycare centers and gender-based wage discrimination adversely affect women’s participation in labour market. Jordan was ranked 138 out of 144 countries in women’s economic participation and 142 out of 144 countries in labour force participation at the Global Gender Gap Index issued on November 2 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) for the year 2017. 
In spite of these important steps, there are still remaining obstacles that slow down the progress towards gender equality. We hope the new amendments will be ratified to help the increase of women’s labour participation, reduce gender inequalities, decrease pay and earning gaps and foster the idea of joint parental responsibility between women and men.
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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Euromed Feminist Initiative urges measures towards improving the status of gender equality in the Euro-Med region.

Euromed Feminist Initiative IFE-EFI welcomes the new law amendments and recommendations in Morocco, Palestine and Jordan and expresses its full solidarity with women’s rights, civil society and human rights organizations and movements and their continuous efforts to attain equal rights for women and to remove gender discrimination in law. The Gender Regional Platform, with policy recommendations to the decision makers that was developed during a one year process in the frame of the project “Gender Regional Platform” funded by the European Union and gathered over 1000 representatives from women’s rights CSOs, CBOs, gender experts, academics and researchers with decision makers and legislators, identified four priority areas of work among which ending discrimination and violence against women. Consequently, IFE-EFI appreciates the recent amendments as important steps to improve women’s rights status in the region and hope that these amendments will lead to annulling all discriminative articles in national legislations existing mainly in the Personal Status Laws and Penal Codes, such as the concept of guardianship in law, inheritance law and the current legal exceptions in the child marriage laws in Morocco, Palestine and Jordan, as well as legislation that exempts the rapist from sanctions if he marries his victim in Palestine. 

The  Gender Regional Platform underlines the necessity to strengthen the connection between legislations and actual implementation with follow up mechanisms.  Legislation is needed to challenge and change the deeply rooted gender-based discrimination against women but it must be translated in concrete actions. The Declaration of the Euro-Med Women’s Rights Civil Society Conference, which was handed to the Ministers in the Euro-Med Region during their 4th UfM Ministerial Meeting on women’s rights on 27th November 2017 in Cairo, urges and proposes concrete and tangible measures towards improving the status of gender equality in the Euro-Med region.
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Friday, April 13, 2018

Educating for Accountability 5/5

Adopting processes of accountability will require education. The International Rescue Committee (2013), for example, have developed a curriculum for educating men about accountability processes.  For them, accountability ‘is an active process where men listen to the needs of women and recognise when they act in a harmful manner, even unintentionally’ (page 14). They differentiate between personal accountability, where facilitators are required to monitor their attitudes, beliefs and practice, and relational accountability, where facilitators are expected to challenge power differences between men and women.

In terms of practical measures, Macomber (2014: 8) has five recommendations for integrating men as allies in anti-violence work that should form part of any curriculum on accountability: require newcomers to receive training and education before stepping into key activist roles; cap men’s speaking fees; link men’s organisations to women’s organisations and groups; institutionalise a process to address issues of privilege internally; and reconceptualise accountability to include an emphasis on building gender equity. 

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Forms of accountability 4/5

Barone (2007) distinguishes between three different kinds of accountability: symbolic accountability, practical accountability and structural accountability. Ideally, all three forms of accountability should be developed.
Symbolic accountability is where men let women know what they are doing and seek women’s feedback. Margaret (2010) talks about the importance of allies making their work transparent to those they are in alliance with.
Practical accountability is where men develop relationships with individual feminist women in their lives through ongoing conversations and alliances around particular projects. This involves making agreements with particular women about their aims and intentions and making a commitment to follow through on specific undertakings (Stoltenberg 2013).
At the international level, MenEngage (2014) have developed standards and guidelines on this practical level of accountability. For them, being accountable means:
• Being critically aware of one’s own power and privilege. 
• Being open to constructive criticism. 
• Being responsible for one’s actions. 
• Following through on what is said and done
•  Taking action to address behaviour or beliefs that go against MenEngage Principles, by individuals and groups both inside and outside the workplace. •  Openly acknowledging any harm caused, and developing and implementing solutions to make amends (page 4).
Structural accountability entails organisational relationships between the men’s programs and women’s services. One form of structural accountability would be for men‘s organisations to incorporate a women’s advisory group or a women’s caucus into the structure of their organisation. This would ensure that they are connected to the intended beneficiaries of their work (Macomber 2014).
MenEngage (2014) stress the importance of accountability as being proactive, whereby men take individual responsibility to behave in ways that are consistent with MenEngage Principles and Code of Conduct. Standards of accountability that relate specifically to relationships with women’s services require that MenEngage members:
•  Shall seek collaboration, open dialogue and constructive criticism from women’s rights organisations and other key stakeholders.
 •  Shall engage women’s rights groups and other key stakeholders to improve programs and initiatives on gender equality. 
•  Shall promote women’s leadership within the organisation, and/or include representatives from women’s rights organistaions on their boards or directors or similar governing bodies. (page 9).
When Men Against Sexual Assault (MASA) was formed in the 1990s, we developed formal accountability structures with Centres Against Sexual Assault in Melbourne. Before we organised a campaign against men’s violence, we consulted with CASAs about their views about such a campaign. When we ran workshops with men about men’s violence against women, we invited feminist women to observe our engagement with the men and give feedback and comments at the end of the workshop (Pease 1995).
It is important that profeminist organisations make their commitment to accountability to women’s services explicit on their external websites and materials. They should acknowledge the contribution and leadership of women in challenging men’s violence. They should also encourage local groups who are developing anti-violence projects to develop dialogue with women’s groups in their communities (Bojin 2012).
It is also important for organisations engaging men to develop processes within their workplaces to address male privilege and power (Macomber 2014). Work undertaken elsewhere on undoing privilege and advancing gender equality in public sector organisations (Flood and Pease 2005) is relevant here. Naming and critically interrogating men’s privilege in the context of an intersectional analysis provides a valuable framework for work towards gender equality within anti-violence organisations. Such an analysis provides a basis for designing training programs for men. These programs should include content that examines how men’s gender interests are socially constructed and psychically embedded, critique the routine accomplishment and reproduction of privilege and identify and encourage gender egalitarian orientations, identities and relations (Flood and Pease 2005: 134-135).

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Monday, April 9, 2018

The contested nature of accountability 3/5

One of the premises of accountability in campaigns against oppression is that groups who have been oppressed are in the best position to understand injustice because they are more able to understand the realities of oppression (Temasese et al. 1998). This is why they must be leaders in campaigns to address that oppression to ensure ally actions match the needs and desires of a marginalised population (La Caze 2008; Cohen 2012). 
While the concept of accountability is much talked about in the movement against men’s violence against women, it is a much misunderstood concept. Mudge (cited in Goldrick-Jones 2002) says that accountability is a complicated and contested process. Lack of clarity about the meaning of accountability, and lack of agreement about the importance of it, generates tensions between men’s anti-violence organisations and women’s services (Goldrick-Jones 2002; Funk 2008; Macomber 2014).

In the context of men’s violence against women, the most important dimension of accountability is that men involved in violence prevention should be accountable to women and should be guided by the leadership of women. This entails seeking feedback from women, hearing what they have to say and being receptive to their comments (Margaret 2010; Macomber 2014). To assist men in this regard, Funk (2008) poses the following questions:
• How do we keep the voices of women survivors in the work we do? • What does respecting women’s leadership really look like? How do men do it? •  What are the models that men have of other men truly respecting women’s leadership?   (Funk 2008, p. 166).
One way to frame accountability is to ask the questions: Who benefits from my work and who is potentially harmed by my work?  Part of the reason for accountability is to address the interests of women who are impacted by men’s violence.

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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Ceija Stojka a gypsy Holocaust survivor, writer, poet and self-taught artist

Ceija Stojka (1933-2013) was a Roma (Gypsy) Holocaust survivor, writer, poet and self-taught artist who raised awareness of the plight of Roma people under the Nazis and in Europe today. Her paintings are vibrant affirmations of life.

StojkaCeija was one of six children born to Roman Catholic Gypsy parents. The Stojka family wagon travelled with a caravan that spent winters in the Austrian capital of Vienna and summers in the countryside. The Stojkas belonged to a tribe of Gypsies called the Lowara Roma, who made their living as itinerant horse traders.

Hundreds of thousands of Roma were rounded up and killed during World War II. As a young girl, Ceija was interned in concentration camps from which only five members of her extended family of over 200 survived.

Ceija-Stojka(1)Aged 12 when she was liberated from Bergen-Belsen, she bore her identification number tattooed on her arm for the rest of her life. Returning to Austria with a brother and sister, she lived for many years selling carpets before taking up painting. Most of her work depicts the death camps, but there are also idyllic pictures of family life before the War.

Ceija’s autobiography, We Live in Seclusion (1988) drew international attention to the plight of the Roma in the past and present. She also features in the film documentary Forget Us Not, to be released in 2013, which recalls the persecution and deaths of the millions of non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust – from the Roma and Sinti people who were targeted for complete annihilation to hundreds of religious people killed for speaking out. These lesser known voices are brought to life through historical footage and the stories of survivors.

Ceija-Stojka(2)The Budapest-based European Roma Cultural Foundation, describing Stokja’s concentration-camp themed paintings as reflecting “entrenched sorrow in the bodies and spirit of the victims”, called her a key figure in the history, art and literature of Romani culture in Europe.

In 2010, after a spate of Roma hate-killings in Hungary, Ceija asked a gathering of Hungarian university and high-school students, “How is it possible at the beginning of the new century that the Roma population is still humiliated and maltreated – and sometimes killed – for the sole reason of being Roma? Let my grandchildren live!”

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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Obstacles to men becoming allies 2/5

There are important challenges to identity construction and obstacles facing members of privileged groups who become involved in solidarity campaigns (Macomber 2012). Being an ally involves a process of reconstituting one’s identity (Ferguson 1998). Whereas for oppressed groups, this involves a positive affirmation of who they are, for those in privileged groups, it means creating what can be experienced as a negative identity. Such a process involves a critical interrogation of the moral superiority embedded in privileged identities. 
It is not uncommon for men who speak out against men’s violence to be referred to as gender traitors. Rather than being experienced as a criticism, however, this could be embraced by male allies as a positive identity. That is, creating a traitorous identity (Bailey 1998; Ferguson 1998; Pease 2010) is a way in which men can challenge patriarchal manhood. Male gender traitors are those that refuse to reproduce their privilege and who challenge the world views that dominant groups are expected to adhere to.

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Thursday, April 5, 2018


           We, Bebaak Collective and concerned individuals who have been following the triple talaq judgement in various proportions and have been associated with various social movements, urge our fellow women’s groups and human rights groups to reflect on the role of conservative right wing forces in the aftermath of the triple talaq judgment of 22nd August 2017. The honorable Supreme Court of India invalidated the practice of instant one-sided triple talaq in its three–two division bench historic judgment implying that the Muslim couple continues to be wedded even when the man utters talaq arbitrarily. However, the standing government took a step ahead and introduced a Bill criminalizing the practice and bestows power in the hands any third party to complaint against the errant husband; this is a blatant move to criminalize the community without taking cognizance of the living struggles of Muslim women or questions of their social security. This Bill is introduced without going into any participatory process of consultation with women’s groups, or with expert committee. Besides, it is leaving no stone unturned to pass the Bill, and whoever critiques government’s move is being maligned.

            In the aftermath of this Bill, there is also serious backlash from various progressive voices and incessant mobilization of humongous numbers of Muslim women by conservative Muslim forces often led by AIMPLB (All India Muslim Personal Law Board) and other religious organizations, who are claiming the streets proclaiming 'Islam is in danger' and vociferously challenges the criminalizing Bill as is introduced by the government. These images of women occupying streets bring back the memory of Shah Bano’s times when Muslim men took out rallies demanding an overturn of the Shah Bano judgement of 1986. We strongly oppose the criminalization of Bill, but are not against interference in the Muslim Personal Law, which curbs women’s rights.

          While we unequivocally resist government’s move to criminalize the practice as we firmly believe that gender rights cannot be equated with criminalization of violence, we equally resist the role of conservative Muslim voices who are mobilizing women to defend the patriarchal practices and equating women’s rights with protection of the religion. Our engagement with AIMPLB has been for several years now, and it is astounding how they are mobilizing women now and did not occupy streets to protest beef ban or demand implementations of  Sachar Committee report that talks about educational, livelihood and economic condition of minority women. This framing of Muslim women within the context of marriage reinforces marriage institution as the sole contention of the women’s lives and marital crisis as the primary sites of violence going beyond the economic exploitation or other structural violence that disempowers her.

             We strongly believe that the right wing groups have united with various political parties and religious organizations to oppress the voices of all the progressive Muslim women who created democratic spaces for themselves, are talking differently and opposing the bill from a gender rights perspective, which is indeed away from the religious perspective and does not talk about taking pride in sharia. AIMPLB along with all other religious groups drew a conspiracy and mobilized Muslim women in the name of religion, by giving a call, Islam Khatre Mein Hai which is not just problematic but also propagandic as it sidelines the women’s issues and highlights the religious faith. Whenever women stepped and voiced their struggles, their issues have been forcibly shadowed by the arguments of ‘threat to religion’.  These groups have become successful in implementing their propaganda by mobilizing women to support the rallies and post photos of themselves saying ‘My Sharia My Pride’, who claim to be progressive and feminists. This is not just saddening but also threatening to the struggles of all Muslim Women who have been fighting against the patriarchal practices that occur under the blanket of religion by questioning the Personal Law and religious groups and also repressive praxis of state sponsored violence.

            We also believe that these majoritarian right wing groups feed the minoritarian right wings and give them strength to exhibit their tokenistic approach towards women’s rights by pushing away women’s voices in leadership/decision-making roles, in total. The role of AIMPLB, religious groups and political parties in the issues of Muslim women threatens the decades of Muslim Women Movement’s struggles and tries to further oppress Muslim women.

           In this conundrum, government’s equating of gender rights with retribution and AIMPLB’s face as the protector of Islam poses political impasses. The right wing government threatens criminalization which inadvertently makes Muslim women more vulnerable and treats them as the pawn in their larger Hindutva agenda, the conservative voices within the community move to protect religion, equating reforms in Personal Law with debilitation of faith and religion. While each of the stakeholders shows concern for gender rights and poses numerical strength to advocate its agenda, the history of women’s movement, which has imagined and re-imagined social realities of women, is getting muted. It is the connivance of the Hindu right wing forces and the conservatives of the community that mars the complexity of Muslim women's lived realities, discredits the female leadership of the community and also erodes the democratic spaces that have been created by them. We seek our fellow groups and concerned individuals to introspect the way things have unfolded and imagine newer ways in which gender justice can be articulated.

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The meaning of being an ally and being accountable 1/5

The premise of this paper is that it is inappropriate for men to take on leadership roles in violence prevention. Being an ally means having a supporting role in relation to campaigns under women’s leadership rather than as leaders or equal partners.  This is because of men’s dominance and privilege and the structural gender inequalities within which men’s violence takes place. 
Ayvazian (1995: 1) defines an ally as ‘a member of a dominant group in our society who works to dismantle any form of oppression from which she or he receives the benefit’.  Similarly, Borshuk (2004) defines ally activism as ‘outgroup activism’, where those involved are not direct beneficiaries. This is to differentiate allies from beneficiary activists, which is a term coined by Myers (2008) to describe people whose interests are directly impacted by social movements.
Margaret (2010) raises the question whether it is possible to proclaim yourself as an ally, as opposed to be defined as such by those you are in solidarity with. The Women of Color Caucus (cited in Messner et al. 2015) advise men that their ally badge runs out at the end of the day and that they have to give it back and strive to earn it again each day.  Thus I argue that it is more appropriate for men to refer to themselves as ‘aspiring allies’, as this is a state of ongoing political and personal development. However, even with aspiring allies, there are differing motivations and orientations.
Edwards (2006) differentiates between aspiring allies for self interest, aspiring allies for altruism and aspiring allies for social justice. Aspiring allies for self interest see themselves primarily as protectors of women, especially the women they have personal relationships with. Aspiring allies for altruism see themselves primarily as heroes and rescuers who are endeavouring to assuage their guilt for the privilege they have. Whereas, aspiring allies for social justice understand their privilege and complicity in the reproduction of oppression and work towards gender equality. Male allies should strive for the latter form of alliance with women.
In support of this more progressive form of ally activism, Macomber (2006) offers seven tips for allies:
•  Remember that your role is to support beneficiary activists, not call the shots. 
• Listen to beneficiary activists and learn from them about the key issues the movement is confronting. 
• Ally activists should be reflective about the privilege and power that they bring to activist spaces. 
•  If you are interested in taking on a key activist role in the movement, ask beneficiary activists what they think it should look like and who can best serve the movement. 
•  Create space to do ‘ally accountability work’ where beneficiary activists can hold you accountable and tell you about how your privilege ‘shows up’ in the movement.
• Be open and receptive to feedback and critique and resist the impulse to get defensive. 
•  Although it is important for beneficiary activists to be able to tell allies how their privilege shows up, it is important that beneficiary activists do not shoulder all of the responsibility for teaching allies about their privilege.
There are parallels between men becoming aspiring allies against men’s violence and white people becoming aspiring  anti-racist allies (Kessaris 2006; Green and Sonn 2006; Sonn and Green 2006). Anti-racist activists also talk about the ways in which white allies may unwittingly perpetuate racism and colonialism. They also emphasise the importance of allies critically interrogating their privilege as a necessary precondition to being allies. Similarly, in relation to gay politics, aspiring straight allies explore how to address their homophobia and heterosexual privilege as part of the process of becoming allies to GBLTI people (Berkowitz 2004; Eichlet 2007; Jip 2007).

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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Lacking historical understanding of violence against women and men’s complicity in it 9/9

Another concern that women have is that many men who become involved in violence prevention do not do their ‘homework’ and often do not know anything about the history of the women’s movement response to violence against women and have little knowledge about the structural causes of men’s violence (Macomber 2014). Consequently, even with good intentions, they may end up reproducing the gender inequalities which cause the violence they are working against.
Thus, it is necessary for dominant groups to educate themselves about their own privilege and power (Temasese et al. 1998; Pease 2010; Macomber 2014). Men need to understand their role in the reproduction of gender inequality and their shared responsibility for the continuation of the structural gender relations and the patriarchal culture which supports men’s violence against women (Pease 2015). Such an understanding is essential if men are to become allies to women and to implement principles and practices that ensure their accountability to women’s services.

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Sunday, April 1, 2018

Impacting on women’s space 8/9

It has been demonstrated that the presence of even a small number of men in women’s organisations and campaigns has an impact on group dynamics (Schacht and Ewing 2004). Castelino (2012) has explored the issue of how the role of the family violence sector changes when men become engaged in the prevention of violence against women. She is concerned with how men’s involvement influences the ways in which violence against women is understood and how it shapes strategies of violence prevention. She argues that men’s involvement shifts the focus from addressing structural analyses of violence against women to developing new forms of masculinity. Linder and Johnson (2015) also interviewed feminist women who were working with men in violence prevention programs. They found that many of the feminists they interviewed regarded many of the men as operating through a framework of ‘enlightened sexism’. In their view, many men in violence prevention programs perpetuated sexism through both their own behaviour and through their failure to challenge the sexist practices of other men.
It has been widely reported that the presence of men in mixed-gender activism leads women to be very careful about what they say (Baily 2012; Castelino 2012). Women report that they modify their speech and behaviour so that men won’t get upset. This reflects the gendered expectation that women should care about men’s feelings and avoid upsetting them (McMahon 1999). Phylis Frank (cited in Messner et al. 2015) sees women’s praise of men as part of the process of women’s socialisation into supporting men and making them feel good. It should also be noted that women are often strongly sanctioned if they do not support and affirm men.

There is evidence that when men get involved in feminist campaigns, they often dominate in meetings. Linder and Johnson (2015) refer to ‘micro-aggressions’ as the form of men’s dominating and abusive behaviours, where they talk over women in meetings, assume a sense of superiority in relation to strategies and campaigns and use their male privilege to further their views. Such concerns expressed by women activists include the following: interrupting women when they are talking, dominating discussions and taking up the majority of time in meetings, presuming to have more expertise and knowledge than they do, receiving more praise than women activists, gaining greater status and money for the work that they do and in some instances, sexually objectifying women colleagues (Macomber 2014). This is not an argument against mixed-sex groups organising against men’s violence. However, the concerns raised in this paper need to be addressed if the potential harms of aspiring allies are to be mitigated in such groups.
Further, women are sometimes challenged about why they want women only spaces when men are interested in being involved (Castelino 2012; Goldrick-Jones 2002; Ruby 2001). In the work of engaging men, it is important to support the continuation of women-only campaigns in challenging men’s violence.

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