Friday, January 29, 2021

Emily Bisharat

The contemporary feminist movement in Jordan owes a lot to Emily Bisharat, a pioneering philanthropist, political activist and the Kingdom's first female lawyer, according to women activists.

At a time when women activism was unfamiliar, Bisharat "carved in stone" her plight to achieve gender equity and women's suffrage rights, Suhair Tal, a writer and researcher who documented Bisharat's life, recently said.
Speaking at a session on Bisharat's life, held by the Sisterhood Is Global Institute (SIGI), Tal said Bisharat belonged to a family of three girls. Her father was the eldest of the extended family, originating from Salt in Balqa Governorate, 35km northwest of Amman.
She wanted to become a lawyer, but her father refused. Yet, she studied at Ramallah Friends School, and later went to the Syrian-Lebanese College to receive her education in the English language, which entitled her to work as a teacher in the 1930s.
"Girls at the time were not allowed to become anything more than teachers," Tal said, noting that girls then were also not allowed to inherit money or property, which meant that her father's fortune went to his male nephews, not his daughters.
After her father's death, Bisharat saved up money and obtained a law degree from London Metropolitan University. She practised law at home, and became a member of the Jordan Bar Association's (JBA) council twice.
Bisharat's thought and political awareness expanded with her life experiences, said Tal, who highlighted that the pioneering woman carried a democratic nationalistic communist ideology. 
"She was smart and knew that the society will not accept political activism from a woman, therefore she transformed her ideas into philanthropic programmes as a window for social acceptance and an opportunity to network with other women," Tal noted.
In 1945 Bisharat established the Arab Women's Union, which called for "equal rights and responsibilities, and pan-Arab unity". But the union was closed down in 1957.
The activist also delivered several lectures in the United States on the rights of the Palestinian people upon the 1948 Nakbah.
"The Palestinian issue was at the heart of her political activism," said Tal, noting that Bisharat believed in the equal mental capabilities of men and women and women's need to work for self-realisation and income generation.
She often wrote about these issues in Alraed magazine, and she sometimes published articles under the pseudonym Bin Al Urdon "Daughter of Jordan".
Bisharat was also a philanthropist, as she established an orphanage for Palestinian children in 1948, and opened the first nursing school in 1953.
Nonetheless, she experienced despair due to the rejection she faced from some people, as well as the repeated closure of unions. She expressed that by staying at her home most of the time, not participating in public life. 
Bisharat, who passed away in 2004, donated her fortune, valued at almost JD500,000, to charities and the church, said Tal.
SIGI Executive Director Asma Khader said Bisharat donated her library, sewing machine, printing machine and spectacles to SIGI.
She added that Bisharat was keen on attending the JBA's general assembly's meeting and participating in the association's elections until a late period of her life.
Haifa Bashir, another women rights activist, said Bisharat's history is so refined and that other Jordanian women learn a lot from her.

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Sunday, January 17, 2021


In late 2016 a feminist movement against problems of commercial sexual exploitation, especially issues of coerced pornography filming, arose in Japan. This article describes the history of this movement as it mobilized to combat human rights violations perpetrated by the country’s pornographers. The movement’s success came not spontaneously or haphazardly; in fact, it was orchestrated earlier over a full decade-and-a-half by activists who persevered in researching and highlighting pornography’s harms in a civil environment of hostility, isolation and social derision, even among progressive groups and individuals. The Anti-Pornography and Prostitution Research Group (APP) was particularly prominent in this history. Its members were inspired and instructed early on by the work of Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin in bringing to public attention victim accounts of pornography’s harms in the US from the 1980s, and they attempted to follow this example. The example of feminist anti-pornography activism described here is a case of unlikely political success achieved in an unexpected place, given that Japan ranks 110th-place in global gender equality league tables out of 150 countries, and it is offered as a real-world example of MacKinnon’s “butterfly” model of radical social change.

Direct Link to Full 26-Page Article in DIGNITY Publication:
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Sunday, January 10, 2021

Turkey: Gender-based violence

There has unfortunately been no setback and no development that could be considered positive in male violence against women in 2020. 260 women were killed within the first 11 months of 2020. At least 92 women were raped, while 136 women were harassed and 731 women were subjected to violence.

The conditions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic that left numerous individuals unemployed or enclosed at home have brought along much more severe conditions for women. Lockdowns in almost all countries around the world led to an escalation in sexual, economic and physical violence against women. Observation reports published in Turkey also point to a similar state of affairs for women. According to April and May 2020 reports4 published by the We Will End Femicide Platform, the rate of women who called the support lines increased by 55% and 78% in April and May respectively.

Many events planned for the 8 March International Women’s Day faced bans and interventions this year too. The 8 March Feminist Night March that has been held since 2003 but intervened into in 2019 was also banned by the İstanbul Governor’s Office in 2020.The police used tear gas and rubber bullets against women who assembled in Sıraselviler Street in İstanbul. At least 32 women were taken into police custody.

The police intervened into the protest held on 15 May 2020 in İstanbul, Kadıköy on the occasion of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia and took two persons into custody using physical violence.

The police also intervened into a sit-in staged in Batman’s Atatürk Park to protest the sexual assault of a young girl by a specialist sergeant in Batman and took 10 persons into custody including children.

The police intervened into a march following a press conference, to protest the murder of Pınar Gültekin by a man called Cemal Metin Avcı, held by Women Are Strong Together Platform in İzmir, Alsancak on 21 July 2020 while taking 12 persons into custody using physical force.

Moreover, in February 2020 at a meeting with AKP deputies and central executive board members, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated that the İstanbul Convention would be reviewed. In the disputes that followed, statements like “(the convention) disrupted the Turkish family structure” and “provided legal grounds for homosexuality” made the İstanbul Convention a target. The Council of

Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, a.k.a. the İstanbul Convention, which sets forth the basic standards for the prevention of and combat gender-based and domestic violence against women along with states’ responsibilities to this end, had been ratified by the GNAT on 24 November 2011. Numerous women staged mass protests stating that the standards against violence, which have already been implemented insufficiently, would be terminated in their entirety if Turkey withdraws its signature from this convention.

The police did not allow a forum on the İstanbul Convention scheduled to be held on 26 July 2020 in İstanbul, Beşiktaş Abbasağa Park by the Women Are Strong Together Collective on the grounds of a ban decision delivered by the governor’s office. The police took 8 persons into custody by using physical violence following the end of the forum.

The police intervened into a march organized by İzmir Women’s Platform demanding the implementation of the İstanbul Convention on 5 August 2020 in İzmir and took 16 persons into custody
using physical violence and rear-handcuffing the protestors. It was reported that following the sit-in staged for the release of those in custody, 5 more people were taken into custody.

The police intervened into a press conference held on 12 August 2020 by Ankara Women’s Platform
to protest Turkey’s withdrawal from the İstanbul Convention and took 33 persons into custody using physical violence.

The police did not allow a press conference and march scheduled by Women’s Committees on the occasion of 25 November International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in İstanbul,
Taksim. The police blockaded women who staged a sit-in before the police barricades for about 5 hours, then took 10 women into custody rear-handcuffing them and using physical violence. It was reported that a woman was wounded during the intervention.

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