I often talk about Women’s Rights, violence against women and girls, the struggles of women of color. I read a lot about it, I try to learn a lot about it. I share the information with my friends (female and male), whether it’s information that can educate us further or that can empower us.
I have no idea what it is that provokes certain men so much about women who try to end gender violence and/or empower women, who try to make a space for ourselves and each other. But I can’t even count the times that I’ve been called sexist and anti-male. It’s always “masked” under the pretense that they are indeed for gender equality – the problem is that women have taken up such a big space that we are now oppressing the men (even though males, especially white males, are the least oppressed throughout history). It reminds me of Debra Leigh’s list of 28 common racist attitudes and behaviors, where she quotes Rush Limbaugh:
“The civil rights movement, when it began, was appropriate, valuable, needed. But it’s gone to the extreme. The playing field is now level. Now the civil rights movement is no longer working for equality but for revenge.”
Leigh explains that his comments “are loaded with white people’s fear of people of color and what would happen if they gained “control.” Embedded here is also the assumption that to be “pro-black” (or any other color) is to be anti-white. (A similar illogical accusation is directed at women who work for an end to violence against women and girls. Women who work to better the lives of women are regularly accused of being “anti-male.”).”
Limbaugh’s comment is very similar to what these guys are doing – they often say that the feminist movement was a good idea when it began, because of course women should be allowed to vote!, but that now it’s mostly just about teaching each other to withhold sex from their men, or being sexually promiscuous (do you see the logic here, because it keeps eluding me?) …
That they present themselves as supportive of our cause, at the same time as they are bullying us and diminishing our efforts creeps me out. Violence against women and girls is becoming worse every day – all over the world. If this, in itself, isn’t enough proof that women are still discriminated against, then I don’t know what is. If this, instead of making you want to join us in ending this injustice, makes you want to discriminate us further, then that’s on you. But you are wrong, and YOU are on the side of the oppressor you claim that you are working against.
- Gender-based violence both reflects and reinforces inequities between men and women and compromises the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims. It encompasses a wide range of human rights violations, including sexual abuse of children, rape, domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, trafficking of women and girls and several harmful traditional practices. Any one of these abuses can leave deep psychological scars, damage the health of women and girls in general, including their reproductive and sexual health, and in some instances, results in death.
- Violence against women has been called “the most pervasive yet least recognized human rights abuse in the world.”
- Gender-based violence also serves – by intention or effect – to perpetuate male power and control. It is sustained by a culture of silence and denial of the seriousness of the health consequences of abuse. In addition to the harm they exact on the individual level, these consequences also exact a social toll and place a heavy and unnecessary burden on health services.
Mothers, Fathers, Brothers, Sisters, Daughters, Sons …
Old people, young people – children.
They were taken off the streets, from their homes, in public, in secret.
They were illegaly detained, imprisoned, physically and psychologically tortured, violated, murdered – disappeared…
And the fight for justice continues…
I’ve often gotten the question if Sweden really is paradise. There are a lot of things about Sweden that are great, that could make you think that this is as good as it gets. But everything isn’t great, or even good. One of the horrible things about Sweden is that a form of forced sterilization is still practiced:
There are at least four demands if you want to undergo a gender reassignment surgery in Sweden:
- You have to be over 18 years old
- You have to be a Swedish citizen
- You have to be unmarried (if you are married you’ll have to get a divorce and then re-marry)
- You have to undergo sterilization
Earlier this year, there was a move to scrap three of those demands (only keeping the age limit) – but the Christian Democrats managed to persuade the other parties of the right wing alliance to keep the sterilization-demand, because “it needs further investigation”. Why? I still haven’t found a source where the reasons behind this law are clarified. And that the Christian Democrats (who were the only party who still wanted this demand) managed to get their way without any other reason than “further investigation needed” because “it’s a complicated issue” scares me. Obviously, the rest of the alliance (with the leading party the Moderates) doesn’t find the question to be very important.
According to The Local, the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL), “criticized the decision, claiming that ‘government stability’ had been given priority over respect for human rights.”
Demanding sterilization is a human rights violation – it needs no further investigation, especially not when no logic arguments have been presented but rather the discussion has always been from an emotional viewpoint. People who are in need of gender reassignment surgery should not have to accept to be forcibly sterilized.
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has done great things for Argentina. The income gap between the country’s rich and poor has been reduced by nearly half, the torturers, kidnappers and murderers (generals, officers, etc) of the 70-80’s military junta are being brought to justice – and finally sentenced. She, and her late husband Nestor Kirchner, have done what few – if any – Argentine Presidents have succeeded to do since the Dirty War: start to get the country back on its feet and bring out the truth and justice that the military have done their very best to conceal.
It speaks volumes that several Latin American countries have done what neither the US nor most countries in Europe (my home country Sweden included) have done: elect female presidents. And these presidents often have to face struggles that their colleagues in Europe rarely have to. The question of women’s reproductive justice is one of them. I can only speculate in what President Fernández de Kirchner’s personal feelings are regarding these questions but, officialy at least, she is anti-abortion.
I admit that I’m not too involved in Argentine politics – I’ve never lived there, only visited to spend time with family – but the country will always have a special place in my heart. And that’s why it hurts me to know that the first elected female president isn’t doing all that’s in her power to stop women from dying from clandestine abortions. Not only is abortion illegal in Argentina, according to Human Rights Watch; “multiple barriers prevented women in Argentina from making independent decisions about their health and lives related to reproduction. These restrictions included inaccurate, incomplete or entirely absent information; domestic and sexual violence; and economic restraints that the government was not adequately addressing.” The study shows that not only is abortion not allowed unless it is a direct threath to the mother’s health or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, but there are no guarantees that you will be allowed to perform an abortion even in these cases. Furthermore, most women aren’t aware that they (might) have the right to an abortion in those cases, or even that they have a right to receive the contraceptive methods of their choice. The Catholic Church is of course one of the main reasons behind these very restricted abortion laws, but according to NY times, the stigmatization of abortion increased after President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner took over in 2007.
The President’s close ties with two of the most famous feminist groups in the world makes her stand in the question peculiar to me, to say the least. Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo and Las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo are the mothers of the young people who were disappeared and killed by the military junta during the Dirty War, and the grandmothers of the babies born in captivity, disappeared, and either killed or adopted by the military men and their families. They are both feminist groups who work with La Presidenta. Even though they may not have abortion on the top of their list, it is one of their issues since it is a women’s issue. Nora Cortiñas (Madres) says: “We are all women. We have doubts only on one issue; we don’t agree on it or haven’t discussed it widely: abortion. It’s a complex topic, you know; some of the women are Catholic, but they are beginning to understand that the issue is that poor women die while those who are well-off can have an abortion; they can decide and their health is protected. And these poor women cannot afford contraceptive methods. Furthermore, there isn’t any kind of sex education. But that took some time. At first, the topic of abortion produced uneasiness. Many said they didn’t want to get mixed up in that question because woman is a lifegiver….But you know, we’ve made progress in that field. For many years I have fought for the decriminalization and legalization of abortion, although I don’t support it. But I think every woman has a right to decide.”
(You can read Cortiñas’ full testimony in the book Women’s Activism in Latin America and the Caribbean: Engendering Social Justice, Democratizing Citizenship)
As Nora Cortiñas said, and as I’ve discussed elsewhere, wealthy women do have access to abortion, and studies have shown that most of them are adults, married with children – and catholic. So it’s the young and poor women who are, again, left to take care of and defend themselves the best they can…
Organizations working for women’s reproductive rights in Latin America and the Caribbean:
- Red de Salud de las Mujeres Latinoamericanas y del Caribe (RSFALC)
- Partida Argentina Feminista (PAF)
Read about the National Campaign for Legal, Safe, and Free Abortions in Argentina here