Recent Resources for Feminists
and NSW State Govts, the Victorian Labor Govt (supported by The Greens) stands committed to fully implement & fund
Sunday 4 November 2018
'We've only just started': How the parties stack up on family violence
By Miki Perkins
Rosie Batty's story had a painful circularity.
Her audience, a packed room of domestic violence experts and workers, gathered to hear from the politicians responsible for tackling family violence.
: Family violence campaigner Rosie Batty. (Alex Ellinghausen)
And Batty, the guest speaker, spoke with anguish about children who had been murdered by their fathers.
It wasn't only her beloved Luke she talked about, killed at the age of 11 by his father Greg Anderson almost five years ago. Batty also told the silent audience of a phone call she got on her mobile a few weeks ago.
Uncharacteristically - it was an unknown number - Batty answered the call. At the other end of the line was another Australian woman. It was the mother of two teenagers, both shot by their father in Sydney four months ago, before he turned the gun on himself.
"What is her future now going to be? I did not have the words," she told the audience. "I can't say to her it will be okay. I can't say to her that you will get over this. I can't say to her that every single day when you wake up the first thing you think about is your child that has been murdered."
Batty implored the politicians present at the forum - the Minister for Family Violence, Natalie Hutchins, Liberal spokesperson for family violence Georgie Crozier, and Greens spokesperson Huong Truong - not to back away from the challenges.
"We have invested here. It's unprecedented anywhere else [in the world] because we have the evidence from the royal commission," she said. "Let's get this straight, it has only just started."
The wicked problem
In any election, concrete promises draw attention. New train lines, schools, roads. But the invisible infrastructure is also crucial; the laws that shape our response to thorny social issues.
Family violence remains the primary "law and order" issue in Victoria: police are called to an incident in this state every seven minutes, according to Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton.
Through a forensic process, the 2015 royal commission produced an exhaustive set of recommendations to tackle the "wicked" problem (as Commissioner Marcia Neave described it).
But cultural change unfolds over years, decades even. The political attention span is much shorter.
But political parties have begun to wake up to the importance of the issues that matter most to women voters, especially those aged between 35 and 49, who have proved prepared to switch their vote on these burning social issues: domestic violence and mental health.
The biggest sticking point
The most significant difference between the two major parties is their approach to the royal commission's recommendations.
Premier Daniel Andrews and the late Minister for Women Fiona Richardson announce the terms of reference for the Royal Commission, alongside Fiona McCormack, CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria.(Emma Morgan)
Labor has said, explicitly, it will support and fund them. This government has committed $2.6 billion dollars to family violence (more than any other state or territory, or the federal government). So far, 90 of the recommendations are complete or underway. The Greens also support implementing all the recommendations.
But Liberal family violence spokesperson Georgie Crozier has said they might be a "financial imposte" and she would look for "efficiencies that could be realised".
Asked explicitly at the forum if she would back them, Ms Crozier said she would "work through the detail" if elected, with a focus on safety and supporting victims.
It's a position that frustrates many in the family violence sector, including Domestic Violence Victoria head Fiona McCormack.
"We need to move away from a new approach every term of government. We won't address those family-violence related murders that way," Ms McCormack says.
Liberal MP, shadow minister for women Georgie Crozier (Jason South)
Both parties have pledged to introduce mandatory sentencing to tackle violent crime.
The Liberals will extend these to family violence - offenders who contravene a family violence order would face a minimum term of two years, and those who persistently breach an order would be locked up for a minimum of three years.
Everyone agrees perpetrators should be held to account, but the Law Council of Australia has consistently opposed mandatory sentencing, saying it places restrictions on judicial discretion, and there is no evidence that it reduces crime.
The risk of women being murdered dramatically increases if their partner or former partner attempts to strangle them. One study found the odds jumped by 800 per cent.
The Liberals have backed a call from Victoria Police to create a new strangulation offense for family violence and sexual offenders, with perpetrators to get a six-year minimum jail term.
Labor hasn't condemned the idea. A spokesperson for Minister Hutchins said the government would have more to say in the coming months.
Queensland has introduced an offense for strangulation, with more than 700 persecutions last year. But it's too early to tell if it has made a substantial difference to the safety of women.
The Liberals are backing a police push for powers to serve intervention orders on the spot when called to a family violence incident.
But this raises the issue of misidentification, says Women's Legal Service senior policy lawyer Marianne Jago. Police unfamiliar with the dynamics of family violence can mistake victims who defend themselves as the primary aggressor.
When it reviewed recent files, the Women's Legal Service found almost 60 per cent of clients who were named as the respondents to police intervention orders had been incorrectly identified as the perpetrator.
Lara (not her real name) feels lucky to be alive after 20 years of marriage with a psychologically and physically abusive husband. She left the pre-election forum feeling disappointment and frustration.
All parties should commit to the royal commission's recommendations, Lara says. There is no other place in the world where family violence has been investigated in a similar way so thoroughly.
"Our hope is that people in the community see there are some issues that are so significant that parties come together and politics is put aside."
Miki Perkins is the Social Affairs Editor, and moderated the Unite Against Violence pre-election forum.
2 November 2018
Four years on, it's impossible to hear Rosie and not want to do something
By Jane Gilmore
Rosie Batty has been talking about men's violence against women for a long time now but time has not diminished her ability to bring a packed room to tears.
Her grief is still palpable, eviscerating, real. So is her determination. Despite the achingly slow changes, despite too many women and children killed and damaged by male violence, she refuses to give up.
She spoke recently at a Unite Against Family Violence forum for politicians with family violence portfolios, saying: "Every day for 5 years I have spoken to someone, advocating for the end of family violence so Luke will not have died in vain."
Rosie Batty, 2015 Australian of the Year, continues to raise awareness of the problem of domestic violence in Australia.(AP)
It's impossible to listen to her and not be moved and inspired to act. But inspiration is not enough. We need change, real change, in governments, bureaucracies, police forces, courts, schools, universities, sports clubs, media, backyards and dinner tables.
In other words, we need change that happens across the whole of our community. Not just mission statements and diversity training. Real, systemic deep-rooted change that will not come from short-term quick fixes.
At the moment, Victoria is leading the way on the anti-violence-against-women scene in Australia. The Royal Commission into Family Violence was ground-breaking.
It was by no means the first inquiry into family violence, but it was one of the most wide-ranging, and more importantly it was followed up the State's commitment to fulling funding and implementing every one of the commission's 227 recommendations.
Fiona McCormack, CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria, has written about the importance of sticking to the 10 year plan laid down by the Royal Commission and not wasting all the time, effort and expertise that went into the commissions findings.
All Australian state and federal governments have plans and funding for prevention and response to men's violence against women, but none of them come close to matching Victoria's commitment.
The NSW Domestic and Family Violence Blueprint for Reform is funded for $300 million over the next four years. While it might not match the $1.9 billion promised by the Victorian government, it's certainly a huge step further than the minuscule $18.2 from the Federal government.
Money isn't everything, but especially in politics it is an indication of how seriously governments take particular issues. As for example, the federal government allocating $50 million (two and a half times as much as their family violence package) to a memorial for Captain Cook.
Even Victoria cannot guarantee long term commitment to the world class work the state has done so far. The Liberal Opposition wants to "explore efficiencies" in funding the royal commission's recommendations if they win government in November and replace them with polices like Clare's Law and mandatory sentencing, despite both these policies running counter to the royal commission's recommendations.
The NSW Government is also trialling a Clare's Law program and has committed to continuing it for the foreseeable future. Clare's Law is a UK initiative named after Clare Wood, who was strangled and set on fire by her ex-partner, allows people to ask police for information about their partner's previous domestic violence history.
There's no evidence Clare's Law does anything to reduce violence, if anything it can increase pressure on victims and even give abusers further reason to make false allegations against their victims.
We've already seen 57 women killed by violence this year. That's four more than the whole of last year and there's still two months of the year to go. Anger, frustration and fear are rising.
Now is not the time to back away from a cohesive, well-funded, community wide response to men's violence against women.
We need funding for programs that learn from the royal commission and takes an integrated approach. Family violence is not just about crime and police, it also involves heath, education, community services as well as the entire justice system.
We can't arrest our way out of this problem we need to change it at the source as well as at the result, and we need governments and the public to jointly understand and commit to making this a reality.
For every woman and child killed, there are hundreds of thousands still in danger, still suffering abuse and terror.
Party politics, the likes of which was seen at the forum when Victoria's Shadow Minister for Prevention of Family Violence refused to commit to continuing the work of the royal commission, should never get in the way of keeping women and children safe.
As Rosie Batty said at the forum last week, "cut out the word 'family', cut out the word 'domestic' - this is just violence. And let's call it what it is. It's terrorism."
Violence used by one section of the community to intimidate, oppress and control another section is terrorism. It's time Australia responded to the terrorism from inside our community the same way we respond to terrorism from outside it - with full force and absolute commitment to keep everyone safe.
The Women's AtlasBy Joni Seager
Available October 25 2018 £14.99
Buy via Myriad Publishing or HERE
An invaluable feminist resource, hip cultural conversation about feminism, and example of cutting-edge data visualization, this beautifully designed new edition of Seager's award-winning atlas matches the mood of the moment with bold, vivid infographics to illustrate the status of women worldwide and the diversity of their experiences.
Joni Seager's visually stunning survey of up-to-the-minute global data redefines what is meant by an atlas. Comprehensive and accessible, her incisive prose combined with the creative use of illustration, charts and infographics portray as never before how women are living across continents and cultures, the advances that have been made, and the distances still to be travelled.
The result is the most up-to-date global analysis of key issues facing women today: gender equality, literacy and information technology, feminism, the culture of beauty, work and the global economy, changing households, domestic violence, LGBTQ rights, government and power, motherhood, and more.
* In 2018 Iceland was the first country to make the Gender Pay Gap illegal
* 58% of young adults newly infected with HIV are women
* In the last three years, four countries have removed criminal laws against gays and lesbians: Mozambique, Seychelles, Nauru and Belize
* 40% of women in South Africa will be raped in their lifetime
* Feminist ‘right to pee' movements are challenging the lack of public toilets for women in many countries
* A woman is murdered by her intimate partner every 3 days in France and Japan, and every 30 hours in Argentina
A life-saver and page-turner… This will add to everyone's knowledge and power. Nobody should be without this book. Gloria Steinem
Not only offers a global view of the lives of women, it also shows their desires to effect revolutionary change. - Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, President of Iceland 1980–1996
This one-of-a-kind book brings women's lives out of the shadows. Every page lights up injustices and makes clear the work that remains to be done - Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Laureate and Liberian peace activist
NI 516 - November, 2018
Keeping women in their place As 25 November marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Joni Seager maps the stark reality faced by women in every corner of the world - from Belarus to Brazil.
Women are 'kept in their place' in myriad ways - by economic discrimination, by legal structures that treat women as lesser beings, by denying them reproductive rights. However, it is violence, or the credible threat of it, that is by far the bluntest instrument deployed by men to control women.
Murder is the extreme culmination of the ubiquitous violence that women face every day in every part of the world. Despite its shocking ordinariness, the murder of women by men also has distinctive manifestations: femicide clusters in Argentina, Mexico, South Africa and Russia; dowry murders in India and Pakistan; 'honour' killings in Syria and Afghanistan. Indigenous women are at particular risk in Canada and Australia; sex workers are more vulnerable to all types of violence; and in the US, a society saturated with guns, women are 16 times more likely to be killed with a gun than in other high-income countries.
Margaret Atwood is widely credited for the wry observation that 'men are afraid that women will laugh at them; women are afraid that men will kill them'. So, while men are murdered too, often in greater numbers, women are killed because they are women.
For millions of women, violence starts at home. Far from being a place of safety, the family is often a cradle of violence. Domestic violence is the most ubiquitous constant in women's lives around the world. Violence from a partner often escalates if a woman tries to leave the relationship - which is when men are most likely to turn to murder.
Statistics on domestic violence are notoriously unreliable. To some extent that's because violence against women is often ignored or even condoned by the state on the grounds that it is a 'private' matter. However, a rough global estimate from the World Health Organization indicates that about one in three women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. For the majority of women, the abuse is repetitive. This may build up over time to murder. Typically, fewer than half of women who experience violence seek help, and only a small proportion of those seek help from police or through 'official' channels.
Anti-violence and feminist human rights activists are slowly shifting the structures and institutions of law, policy and government that have for centuries enabled male violence. Legal protections for women, legal sanctions against violent men, networks of women's shelters and safe houses, Take Back the Night rallies, and a stubborn insistence in calling out violence and talking about it in public have brought violence out of the shadows. But for the hundreds of thousands of women killed each year, these are insufficient defences against systemic misogyny.
Joni Seager is Professor of Global Studies at Bentley University in Boston, a geographer and global policy expert. She is consultant to the UN on gender and environmental policy. Her latest title, (Myriad).
Monday October 15, 2018
Helping the invisible hands of agriculture Seema Bathla and Ravi Kiran
With the ‘feminisation of agriculture’ picking up pace, the challenges women farmers face can no longer be ignored
October 15 is observed, respectively, as International Day of Rural Women by the United Nations, and National Women’s Farmer’s Day (Rashtriya Mahila Kisan Diwas) in India. In 2016, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare decided to take the lead in celebrating the event, duly recognising the multidimensional role of women at every stage in agriculture from sowing to planting, drainage, irrigation, fertilizer, plant protection, harvesting, weeding, and storage.
This year, the Ministry has proposed deliberations to discuss the challenges that women farmers face in crop cultivation, animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries. The aim is to work towards an action plan using better access to credit, skill development and entrepreneurial opportunities.
Data and reality
Yet, paying lip service to them is not going to alleviate their drudgery and hardships in the fields. According to Oxfam India, women are responsible for about 60-80% of food and 90% of dairy production, respectively. The work by women farmers, in crop cultivation, livestock management or at home, often goes unnoticed. Attempts by the government to impart them training in poultry, apiculture and rural handicrafts is trivial given their large numbers. In order to sustain women’s interest in farming and also their uplift, there must be a vision backed by an appropriate policy and doable action plans.
The Agriculture Census (2010-11) shows that out of an estimated 118.7 million cultivators, 30.3% were females. Similarly, out of an estimated 144.3 million agricultural labourers, 42.6% were females. In terms of ownership of operational holdings, the latest Agriculture Census (2015-16) is startling. Out of a total 146 million operational holdings, the percentage share of female operational holders is 13.87% (20.25 million), a nearly one percentage increase over five years. While the “feminisation of agriculture” is taking place at a fast pace, the government has yet to gear up to address the challenges that women farmers and labourers face.
Issue of land ownership
The biggest challenge is the powerlessness of women in terms of claiming ownership of the land they have been cultivating. In Census 2015, almost 86% of women farmers are devoid of this property right in land perhaps on account of the patriarchal set up in our society. Notably, a lack of ownership of land does not allow women farmers to approach banks for institutional loans as banks usually consider land as collateral.
Research worldwide shows that women with access to secure land, formal credit and access to market have greater propensity in making investments in improving harvest, increasing productivity, and improving household food security and nutrition. Provision of credit without collateral under the micro-finance initiative of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development should be encouraged. Better access to credit, technology, and provision of entrepreneurship abilities will further boost women’s confidence and help them gain recognition as farmers. As of now, women farmers have hardly any representation in society and are nowhere discernible in farmers’ organisations or in occasional protests. They are the invisible workers without which the agricultural economy is hard to grow.
Second, land holdings have doubled over the years with the result that the average size of farms has shrunk. Therefore, a majority of farmers fall under the small and marginal category, having less than 2 ha of land a category that, undisputedly, includes women farmers. A declining size of land holdings may act as a deterrent due to lower net returns earned and technology adoption. The possibility of collective farming can be encouraged to make women self-reliant. Training and skills imparted to women as has been done by some self-help groups and cooperative-based dairy activities (Saras in Rajasthan and Amul in Gujarat). These can be explored further through farmer producer organisations. Moreover, government flagship schemes such as the National Food Security Mission, Sub-mission on Seed and Planting Material and the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana must include women-centric strategies and dedicated expenditure.
Third, female cultivators and labourers generally perform labour-intensive tasks (hoeing, grass cutting, weeding, picking, cotton stick collection, looking after livestock). In addition to working on the farm, they have household and familial responsibilities. Despite more work (paid and unpaid) for longer hours when compared to male farmers, women farmers can neither make any claim on output nor ask for a higher wage rate. An increased work burden with lower compensation is a key factor responsible for their marginalisation. It is important to have gender-friendly tools and machinery for various farm operations. Most farm machinery is difficult for women to operate. Manufacturers should be incentivised to come up with better solutions. Farm machinery banks and custom hiring centres promoted by many State governments can be roped in to provide subsidised rental services to women farmers.
Last, when compared to men, women generally have less access to resources and modern inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides) to make farming more productive. The Food and Agriculture Organisation says that equalising access to productive resources for female and male farmers could increase agricultural output in developing countries by as much as 2.5% to 4%. Krishi Vigyan Kendras in every district can be assigned an additional task to educate and train women farmers about innovative technology along with extension services.
As more women are getting into farming, the foremost task for their sustenance is to assign property rights in land. Once women farmers are listed as primary earners and owners of land assets, acceptance will ensue and their activities will expand to acquiring loans, deciding the crops to be grown using appropriate technology and machines, and disposing of produce to village traders or in wholesale markets, thus elevating their place as real and visible farmers.
Seema Bathla and Ravi Kiran are Professor and research scholar, respectively, at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
October 7 2018
Nun so powerful
By Mini Muringatheri
Sister act: Sr. Lucy Kalappura in Kozhikode; and (top) nuns in Thiruvananthapuram.(S.Ramesh Kurup & S.Gopakumar)
Can the Bishop Mulakkal case force the powerful and patriarchal Catholic church to change its ways?
Nestled between coconut, yam and tapioca groves on one side and a rubber estate on the other, the convent at Karakkamala, in the high ranges of Wayanad, looks straight out of a picture postcard. Emerging from the spartan building, Sr. Lucy Kalappura instantly puts you at ease with her genial mien and smile. But behind the affable exterior is a woman of iron will, which becomes evident the moment she begins to speak about the church and about society.
The seventh of 11 children of a well-to-do farmer family in Karikkottakkari, Sr. Lucy is bold, articulate and does not mince her words; qualities that have put her in direct conflict with the authorities of her church. She became a nun under the Franciscan Clarist Congregation in 1985 and has since waged a battle against congregation and church on various points of principle. “I do what I strongly believe is right,” she says.
Sr. Lucy hit the headlines when she stood in solidarity with the protest held by the Missionaries of Jesus nuns in Kochi, demanding the arrest of Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who was accused of raping a nun from his order. The historic protest has challenged not just the authority of the Catholic church, but also its deep-rooted patriarchal values. At no point in the history of the Syro-Malabar Catholic faith in the country, which claims the apostolic legacy of St. Thomas, have nuns taken to the streets seeking justice, never mind in as disturbing a case as that of an alleged rape committed by a bishop. The office-bearers of the church, the nuns and priests are brought up on the canon of ‘Infallibility of the Church’ - the Church is never wrong.
“I consider my presence in the agitation very important. No one from the 50,000-strong nun community came to support them. They knocked on every door of the church. The powerful patriarchy used every power to silence them. Even their congregation openly stood with Bishop Mulakkal,” says Sr. Lucy.
Sr. Lucy works as a high school teacher at Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School in Dwaraka, Wayanad. When she came home to her convent in Karakkamala, her Mother Superior said she could not be part of the religious services at St. Mary’s Church, to which the convent is attached. “She said there had been an oral direction from the vicar, Fr. Stephan Kottakkal, to bar me from religious service,” says Sr. Lucy. But the ban was lifted when the parishioners, most of them poor settler farmers for whom Sr. Lucy is like a family member, protested. But on social media, Sr. Lucy continues to be trolled. “Each attack only strengthens me,” she says.
Pray and serve
Both Catholic nuns and priests take three vows: poverty, chastity and obedience. In practice, however, these vows are enforced far more strictly on nuns than on priests. Gender discrimination in the Catholic church is extraordinary, and begins right from the training stage. Priests are trained to be administrators, orators and managers, and given full charge of parishes; while nuns are taught to be obedient and service-oriented: ‘pray and serve’ is their motto.
Priests become doctors, lawyers, bishops and professors, while 90% of nuns become either nurses or teachers or serve in organisations under the Church. In the Catholic system, nuns are the “unpaid labourers,” says George Pulikuthiyil, a former Catholic priest, lawyer and founder of the Thrissur-based Jananeethi, an organisation that provides free legal support to the poor.
Most nuns work in hospitals or schools run by the Church, with no formal appointment, salary, pension, retirement age or working hours. “Even the little they earn roughly Rs. 2,000 a month must be given to the superiors. They then have to ask for money even for minor needs,” says Pulikuthiyil.
In a smaller diocese like Missionaries of Jesus, which was founded by the accused Bishop Mulakkal, nuns get Rs. 500 a month. Only those who work in government schools or hospitals can hope to make more money, even though they too have to give their salaries to their superiors. “Nuns are entirely dependent on the church. It’s this that leads to harassment,” says Pulikuthiyil.
In contrast, priests not only get allowances, they are allowed to manage establishments that generate revenue. Priests wear robes during mass but can wear street clothes at other times; nuns must wear their habit at all times. Some convents restrict nuns from television and newspapers. None of this applies to priests.
Sr. Lucy tells the amusing tale of a nun who, persuaded by her family to watch a film, ran into a priest at the theatre. When they returned, the priest complained about the nun, who was punished with two days of rigorous prayer and penance. Nothing happened to the priest.
Sr. Mary Rosarita, a former principal of St. Joseph’s Anglo Indian Girls Higher Secondary School, Kozhikode, strongly refutes these charges. “In the 150-year-old history of our congregation, I have never heard complaints of exploitation,” she says. As for financial freedom, Sr. Rosarita says, “We have taken the vow of poverty. I have never felt the need to accumulate personal assets.”
According to Pulikuthiyil, the three vows are redundant. “Compulsory celibacy has been violated rampantly,” he says. Sexual violence in the Church goes largely unreported “because the patriarchal hegemony is very strong and nuns fear ostracism. They have been trained to be silent and obedient,” he says.
The problem might lie in how nuns and priests are ordained. Earlier, taking orders was strictly voluntary; nobody could be asked to do it. But for some three decades now, the Church has faced a severe shortage of nuns and priests. So, at the awareness classes for Class X and XII students that the Church conducts during vacations, students are strongly motivated to join the church. Any student showing the slightest interest is then chased by practically every congregation. This means that boys and girls aged 16 to 20 enter the order.
“The government must make 21 years the minimum age for ordainment of nuns and priests, so that they can make an informed decision,” says Sr. Lucy. Equally, they must be allowed to give up their robes without any difficulty. Today, it is practically impossible for nuns to leave the order, although it is easier for priests to do so.
Maria, an advocate and women’s rights activist from Wayanad, says nuns are afraid to leave the order despite adversities. “Except for a few in government jobs, nuns don’t have financial security. They don’t have property rights at home. Social stigma against a woman who leaves a convent is high. It forces them to stay.”
A third change should be in the training, suggests Pulikuthiyil. “It needs a total revamp. Outdated concepts like “the world, the flesh and the devil” traditionally described as enemies of the soul and sources of temptation should be changed. The religious training should empower nuns and priests to survive in the contemporary world.”
The Bishop Mulakkal case has opened up a can of worms, but it could be the beginning of change. It has been a long haul to bring charges against a bishop in Kerala, where 18% of the population is Christian, where the Church holds considerable socio-political and economic power, and where the Catholic church is a citadel of patriarchy. But the nuns at the forefront of the agitation believe that this case could initiate reform in the role and dignity of women in the Church as well as in society.
- Priests are trained to be administrators, orators and managers; while nuns are taught to be obedient and service-oriented
- The government must make 21 years the minimum age for ordainment of nuns and priests, says Sr. Lucy
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