TRADITIONAL FORMS OF VIOLENCE
Women are vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse, often because their social circumstances enable or excuse such violence. Violence against women occurs both in private, in families and intimate relationships, and in public. It crosses assumed social, cultural and religious barriers.
Traditional forms of violence for example include female genital mutilation (also called "female circumcision), honour killings and early marriage. Some of these practices are considered necessary rituals for a woman to be an accepted member of society. In some communities, traditional forms of violence are not considered to be 'violence' at all. Early marriage, the exchange of a dowry, and female genital mutilation are all thought to be important ways to celebrate a women's transition into adulthood or marriage.
Female Genital Mutilation
In parts of the world, an operation is performed on female babies and children to remove parts of their genitalia. This operation, called female genital mutilation (FGM) is believed to promote hygiene and ensure "purity," and is sometimes performed to celebrate the transi¬tion into a woman. Sometimes, FGM is also believed to prevent women from having sexual desires that would make her unfaithful to her husband. But FGM is actually very damaging to the women's body. The procedure is often performed in unsanitary conditions and can result in infection. It can cause lifelong pain, difficulty in childbirth and may even cause sterility-the inability to have children. Women can die because of infections or difficulty during childbirth. According to the World Health Organization, between 85 and 115 million women had to undergo FGM and suffer from its damaging effects.
In many societies, women accused of engaging in illicit sex, or even women who have been raped, are murdered. These women are accused of damaging their family's honour by behaving shamefully; their deaths are believed to redeem their families' reputations. These murders are called "honour killings," because a woman's "purity" is linked to her family's honour.
For men domestic violence is a tool to undermine the independence and self-confidence of women. Discriminating attitudes which view domestic violence as a private matter, strengthen the atmosphere which degrades and abuses women.
- Estonia: 29% of 2.315 women aged 18-24 fear domestic violence, and the share rises with age, affecting 52% of
women 65 or older
- Poland: 60% of divorced women reported having been hit at least once by their ex-husbands; an additional 25%
reported repeated violence
- Tajikistan: 23% of 550 women aged 18-40 reported physical abuse
- Kyrgyzstan: 89% of 1.000 women had been abused by husbands, intimate partners, children or relatives
- Romania: 29% of women reported experience of spousal physical abuse
- Lithuania: 42% of married women reported that they have been victims of physical or sexual violence by their present
- Russia: every 4th family in Russia experiences domestic violence, with 82% committed by husbands - each year
about 14.000 women die at the hands of their husbands or intimate partners
'He beat me so hard that I lost my teeth. The beatings happened at least one time each month. He used his fists to beat me. He beat me most severely when I was pregnant...The first time he beat me, and I lost the baby. I was in the hospital. The sec¬ond time was only a few days before a baby was born, and my face was covered with bruises. He beat me and I went to my
parents. My father refused to take me to a doctor. He said, "What will I say, 'her husband beats her?'"'
Sharofat, 38, Uzbekistan, faced violence in her home for seventeen years until her husband took a second wife
Gender-based violence evolves in part from women's subordinate status in society. Many have beliefs, norms, and social institu¬tions that legitimize and therefore perpetuate violence against women. First women suffer at the hands of their partners, and than at the hands of the state. For some women the burden of abuse is so great that they take their own lives or try to do so, as for example the growing self-immolation by women in Afghanistan shows. When the U.S.-led coalition invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, one of the 'justifications' for the war was that it would liberate women from the rule of the Taliban. Over four years later the depressing reality is again masked.
Attempted female suicide through self-immolation is common in many parts of Afghanistan and throughout all of South Asia. An Afghan regional hospital in Herat recorded 160 cases of attempted suicide among women between the ages of 12 and 50 alone in 2004. There might be many other cases of women burning themsleves which never come to public attention.
Poverty, forced marriages, and lack of access to education are the main reasons for suicide among women in Herat. Domestic violence is also widespread.
SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN CONFLICTS
Sexual violence against women is aimed as a weapon in national and ethnic conflicts. Women and girls of each age are bru¬tally maltreated, seriously injured or mutilated as part of the war-strategy. Mass rapes and sexual torture was promoted in Burundi, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Haiti, Guatemala, Peru, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Kashmir, East-Timor and Chechenia. During the Balkan-conflict at least 20.000 women got raped. Women aged 12 to 60 where raped, penetrated with bottles and rifles, tortured and held in guarded building, where they where gang-raped every evening. In Rwanda estimates speak of 250.000 to 500.000 mass rapes during the genocide in 1994.
'I was at home with my eight-year-old son when drunken soldiers came in early February 2002. Three of them took me
into a separate room while others looted the house. They tore my dress. They asked me where the men were, they asked
me how long I had been without a husband. The soldiers then told me to undress, and when I fought them off they beat
me with the butts of their rifles, and raped me. I don't know how many of them raped me. I lost consciousness, when it
was happening. When I came to, they were pouring water on me … then they left.'
Aset Asimova, 43, Chechenia
Human Trafficking is often just viewed in relation to prostitution and sexual exploitation. In reality it includes all forms of forced labor and servitude, as sexual exploitation, domestic labor, farming, begging, child adoption, selling of organs .... Trafficking in Persons means the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, the abuse of power or a position of vulnerability for the purpose of exploitation. Human Trafficking affects men, women and children as 'victims'. Unfortunately because of the enduring inequality between men and women, women and children are prevalent among the 'victims'. While poverty and inequality are impor¬tant factors in making certain populations more vulnerable to being trafficked, they are not the only cause of trafficking. Among the many elements to take into account are also the feminization of poverty accompanied by the feminization of responsibility.
- I was locked in an apartment, and for a week, different men came to me. -
- We've been hiding in the sewers. I was near the border and they have planned to sell me, but I didn't know yet. -
- He was raping me telling me that I have to know what to show to my clients. -
- They advised me not to refuse to dance because I will do it after all, but with a gun at my head. You have to behave otherwise they kill you. -
- I was starved, beaten and threatened with a gun. -
- We realized that we had no escape. The police brought us back every time we tried to run away. -
RELIGION / STATE / ABORTION RIGHTS
Until today every year 20 million abortions are taking place world¬wide under illegalised and insecure conditions - the result is that at least 70.000 women die every year because of such an operation. Until today population programmes exist, which forbid or force the pregnancy of certain groups of women. While abortion is forbidden in over a hundred countries of the world, population politics with forced abortions or forced sterilizations are pulled through at the same time. At the expense of the right to self-determination for women.
BACKLASH IN CATHOLIC
In 1972 the Benedictine padre Paul Marx, ultra-right catholic funda¬mentalist, founded with the blessing of the pope a 'Human Life Center' at the St. John's University in Minnesota. From there arose Human Life International (HLI), according to their own statements the worlds largest 'Pro-Life-Organization'. Human Life International works against sex education, prevention of pregnancies, illegitimate (heterosexual) intercourse and abortion. In their ways and means Human Life International is not cautious. The 'Operation Rescue (O.R.)' which works closely with Marx and has the same goal to close down all abortion clinics, promotes the use of bombs against abor¬tion clinics and the murder of doctors who undertake abortions as a justifiable measure. Human Life International is an organization with at least 25.000 members worldwide and 4.000 trained activists. This concept is spreading since the last years over 15 European countries. A special note needs to go to Italy: there Human Life International already works in front of at least 40 hospitals. The European office of Human Life International is of course in Poland. The German-speaking office is based in catholic Switzerland. The Pro-Life-move¬ment works closely with racist groups such as the Ku-Klux-Klan in the US, fascist groups in Europe and militant anti-Semites. This eager hustle is internationally supported by the Roman Catholic authorities und even partly financed by clergy and church.
Every attempt, to restrict the self-determination of women is an attempt to oppress women.
DISCRIMINATION BASED UPON GENDER AND ETHNICITY
The collapse of communism and the transition to a market economy has brought particular hardship to Rromani communities. Rroma, long-term targets of discrimination in many countries of Central and Eastern Europe, suffer from high rates of unemployment and poverty as well as increasing hostility and violence from the majority population. The situation of the minority Rroma population in Eastern Europe is among the worst in all of Europe. They face discrimination in accessing health care, housing, education, the criminal justice system, and social assistance.
In parts of the Rromani communities there are also still cultural institutions, beliefs, and practices that undermine women's autonomy and contribute to gender-based violence. Patriarchal community structures, early arranged marriages and the central role of Rromani women in the care of children, main¬taining the household and upholding traditional cultural norms are dominant characteristics in the life of many Rromani women. A family's honour is often linked to the sexual 'purity' of the women until marriage. To secure the virginity, girls are taken from school as soon as they have their first men¬struation and are sometimes even married as early as twelve years old. It's important to recognize, that appeals to culture are often an excuse to jus¬tify practices oppressive to women.
Rromani women are further marginalized through the double burden of both gender and race discrimination. Just one example are the reproductive rights violations Rromani women suffer, including coerced and forced sterilization and other severe forms of discrimination in accessing reproductive health care.
'I was in terrible pain, but I was not given any pills, any injection. Later on, doctors came and brought me to the operating room (for a C-section)
and there they gave me anesthesia. When I was falling asleep, a nurse came and took my hand in hers and with it she signed something. I do not
know what it was. I could not check because I cannot read, I only know how to sign my name. When I was released from the hospital, I was only
told that I would not have any more children .... I was so healthy before, but now I have pain all the time. Lots of infections ....'
Agata, 28, from Svinia / Slovakia
'During my second delivery in 1995, when I was 21 years old, the doctor went against my wishes and inserted an intrauterine device (IUD) - a form
of long-term birth control. When I requested that it be removed, my request was denied and I was told, 'it is the law'.'
Natasa, 28, from Bystrany / Slovakia
'It was 11 p.m. when I went to the Krompachy hospital and the doctor was there and screamed at me, ,You fucking gypsy whore. How dare you deliv¬
er at 12 a.m.!' He then immediately took me upstairs, swearing continuously, and did a C-section on me without any other explanation When I
left, they said that I will have more children, but for six years I wait and nothing. Three years ago, I went to get fertility treatments, to reverse my sterilization, but the patients there were saying that horrible things are done to us. So I got scared and ran away. I was also scared because I saw
the doctor in the halls over there. When he saw me, he said, 'You stinky gypsy. God should punish you as you deserve!"
Michaela, 23, from Richnava / Slovakia
'Together with me there were other pregnant Romani women in the room at the maternity. They were treated like pigs, waiting to have their bellies cut. One of them gave birth on the floor of the room, because nobody came to help her. When the doctor saw it, he said, 'you are a pig, so you
should give birth like a pig." Woman from Jasov / Slovakia
'When my daughter had her first child she was very scared and was screaming. When she was on the table giving birth the nurse put a pillow on her
face to make her shut up.' Rromani woman from Ostrovany / Slovakia
DISCRIMINATION BASED UPON 'DISABILITY'
In many instances of discrimination against women it intersects with racism as well as negative perceptions of ethnicity, religion, language, culture, class, caste, sexual orientation, migrant or refugee status, or disability. This kind of intersectionality occurs when a woman from a minority group (class, caste, ethnicity, disability, age, religion, migrant, youth, displaced, refugees, asy¬lum seekers, health status, etc.) has to deal not only with one form of oppression, but with all the forms which link together to make a double, a triple, a multiple, a many layered blanket of oppression which impacts on her life. Ethnicity, gender, or class, are often seen as separate spheres of experience which determine social, economic and political dynamics of oppression. But to just look at it as a simple issue of dominance of one group over another, on the grounds of ethnic and cultural superiority, then the complex dynamics of discrimination will be ignored.
In many parts of Europe in the late 1700s, the treatment of individuals with mental 'disability' consisted of locking them away in large asylums and keeping them in chains. Of course psychiatry has changed through the centuries, but in many parts of the world, abuses in the name of treatment continue to endure. In central Europe, real cage beds with metal bars as well as net beds are still in use. Net beds for example, measure 2.08 m x 0.93 m, and are covered with a strong net, fixed on a tubular metal structure 1.26 m in height, an articulated opening with a padlock. The purpose and effect is exactly the same whether the con¬struction is of metal bars or netting: to keep a human being in a cage. Just to give an example on the use of cage beds in psy¬chiatric hospitals in the Czech Republic - In the Jihlava Psychiatric Hospital, 60 out of 600, or 10% of the total bed capacity are cage beds. In Kosmonosy Hospital 430 people were placed into cage beds in 2003. People are placed in these cage beds for hours, days, weeks, or sometimes months or years. Social care homes, psychiatry's and hospitals say that cage beds are mainly used for people who show 'difficult' behavior and are often aggressive or violent. This statement made by a former femal hospital patient in Slovakia on the 30th of April 2003 shows something different:
"It was about one week after I had my baby. I was in the hospital. I received sleeping pills. I don't know how long I slept. When I woke up I went to the lobby. I met a nurse there but I was confused and unable to tell her what I wanted. After that the nurse asked another nurse and an orderly to come over. They wanted to give me more sleeping pills but I refused. They wanted to give me an injection, which I also rejected. I jumped on the floor. After that, they gave me an injection and put me in a cage bed. When I woke up, I had to go to the bath¬room. They wouldn't allow me to go. I shouted for about 30 minutes. After that I had to do it in the cage bed like an animal. After that I had to stay in the cage bed and they didn't change the bedding or the mat even though it was dirty. They didn't want to let me out and
also refused to clean the mattress. They saw me but they didn't come. They didn't talk to me."
This kind of intervention - seclusion and restraint -, which is marked by force, coercion, and violence has been accepted for decades as legitimate in 'behavioral health settings' and derives from the incorrect belief that 'We must control the patients.'
A reflection is needed of all forms of discrimination based upon gender, ethnicity, religion, language, culture, class, caste, sexu¬al orientation, migrant or refugee status, 'disability' … as well as their social, economic and political dynamics and the institutions that create and feed them.
LESBIAN / GAY / BISEXUAL / TRANSGENDER COMMUNITIES AND REPRESSION
Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities continues in most parts of the world.
The climate of intolerance against LGBT communities is characterised by the banning of public events, openly homopho¬bic language used by politicians / media …, and homophobic hatred as well as murder for example by some right-wing groupings.
- In Mauritania, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates the death penalty is applied to anyone found to have committed a homosexual act.
- Extrajudicial killings of lesbians and gays continue in a number of countries.
- In many states penal laws still prohibit consenting homosexual activity.
- In most states LGBT communities face discrimination in laws dealing with inheritance, social insurance, medical insurance, housing, and immigration.
On November 15th 2005, the mayor of the city of Poznan / Poland, Ryszard Grobelny, banned a public event known as the Equality March which had been organized by a number of Polish feminist and LGBT organizations and was set to take place on November 19th. The mayor issued the banning order due to 'security concerns' and an alleged 'threat to the Poznan' residents, but was in reality dictated by intolerance. Despite the ban, a few hundred people gathered together on November 20th for a demonstration. They were reportedly harassed and intimidated by members of a right-wing grouping known as All Polish Youth. The police intervened towards the end of the march, reportedly roughly handling sev¬eral individuals, and arrested and interrogated over 65 people. This followed a series of bans including the Equality Parade in Warsaw, in May 2005. Lech Kaczynski, at this time mayor of Warsaw, justified the ban as follows: 'such an event would be sexually obscene and offensive to other people's religious feelings.' The parade still took place, gathering more than 2.500 participants.
Moscow Pride '06 - the First Russian International Gay & Lesbian Festival is planned to take place from 24th to 28th of May 2006 (http://gayrussia.ru) and the scale of moral panic and public threats is rising. Prejudices and discriminating attitudes towards LGBT communities often create a climate which results in violence by individuals, states or other insti¬tutions. The leader of Russia's Muslims Mufti Talgat Tajuddin called on February 14th for a 'violent mass protest' if gay leaders go ahead with Pride celebrations this spring. He said gays could be killed if they go ahead: 'Muslims' protests can be even worse than these notorious rallies abroad over the scandalous cartoons. The parade should not be allowed, and if they still come out into the streets, then they should be bashed.'
Patriarchy is a dominant reality in our world, so much that many people cannot imagine any other way of organizing human life. Gender and sexuality are major components of structured inequality and discrimination. Members of the devalued gender or sexual orientation have less power than those of the valued one. Lesbian, gay men, bisexual and transgender people all over the world suffer from persecution and violence simply for being who they are.
ROMANCE, FRIENDSHIP, FAMILY
The dominant forms of socialization keep people at an emotional distance from other people. As such it creates also some intense forms of loneliness and separation, often viewed to be resolved in terms of romance. Nevertheless it permeates other realms of relationships as well, from families to friendships.
The dominant course in the current society constructs loneliness and separation in terms of lack-of-romance, rather than as lack of mutual connection to others in gen¬eral. It is put forward that romance (and/or sex) is something that human beings ought to have, whereas other sorts of close emotional relationships people might have with others aren't valued as much. As a consequence relationships with friends may not feel the same as a romantic relationship, creating as well a sense of belong¬ing, ownership, security and power (to be misused in many cases).
The discrepancy between theory and practice, between alleged advocacy of equali-tarianism and actually more conventional behaviour is a battle that is still being fought today, not just in conventional society, but in the personal and even political lives of anarchists and libertarians.
- To which extent is individual autonomy possible in a relationship that involves not only living together but the inevitable compromises of family life?
- Is it possible to maintain individuality within the confines of family obligations?
- Can autonomy be maintained if either the woman or the man is financially dependent?
- How do traditional gender roles work regarding romance, love and sex?
- What sort of alternatives to traditional gender roles do we hope to create?
Anarcha Feminist Erinyen Collective Berlin 2007
Last update : 28-09-2007 01:15