Call for Participation: Research project with Trinidadian women – interview participants needed

I’m writing to request your participation in a qualitative research study I’m conducting as part of the requirements of my PhD in Social and Political Thought at York University.

My dissertation project is interested in the lives, experiences, and contexts of Trinidadian
women (including trans* women) who have been or are currently in intimate/romantic
relationships with other women. This study requires interviews with a minimum total of 25
women (approximately 15 in Trinidad and 10 in Toronto).

I am interested in speaking to women of all ages and would particularly be interested in speaking to women above the age of 50. The interviews will be completely confidential, and pseudonyms will be used in any discussions of the content. Interviews will last for approximately an hour and a half.

I am currently in Trinidad and will be here until the 23rd of December. While here I will be based out of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies. Interviews will be held at a location of convenience for anyone participating.

I can be reached at lrpragg[at]yorku[dot]ca or 868 686 2559. Please share this with anyone you think might be interested.

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you soon,
Lauren Pragg
PhD Candidate
York University

Reproductive Shaming: The Remix

Chair of Jamaica’s National Family Planning Board recently repeated the laundry-list of sexist cliched messages which shame women’s reproductive and relationship choices: too many, too few, too old, too young, superwoman doing it alone, Ms. Manipulator tricking men into pregnancy and child support.  Yes, the same old warmed over sexism where women are blamed for the end of society as we know it. *Yawn*

Check out the video below.

Now read Mar the Mongoose’s brilliant breakdown on why this reproductive shaming is hypocrisy:

Growing up in Barbados, getting pregnant was the worst thing you could do. Not just as a teenager, but anytime before you had secured your place as a DoctorLawyerBankmanager. I’m serious. The Worst Thing. Teenage or ‘early’ pregnancy was blamed for all the ills of society, directly or indirectly. [...]

None of this was lost on the generation of women now in our mid-thirties. In the Caribbean, for children of the working class, education – and I’m not talking just high school I’m talking first or advanced degree – is the handful of magic beans. You had better get it and stick with it until you can prove to people that your family is officially out of the working class. So for women, pregnancy is to be avoided at all costs even into your twenties. Of course, people get pregnant in their early twenties and are not made to wear a scarlet A, but it is hoped in general that you get your papers before you get your pickney. And then there’s the whole wedlock business. I noticed growing up that the least Christian of Caribbean people could utter the phrase ‘out of wedlock’ with the highest amount of reverence – for wedlock. The single mother business was nothing to be admired, so there’s another delay. No babies yet. Get your papers, get your husband.

Full article here.

[Video] Groundation Makes Heads Spin at National Consultation on Constitution Reform

redforgender:

brilliant and brave! big up #Grenada #catchafyah #LGBT

Originally posted on Groundation Grenada:

On Wed. 15th October 2014 Groundation Grenada Co-founders &  Co-Directors, Richie Maitland & Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe, presented at the National Consultation on Constitutional Reform in collaboration with GrenCHAP. We proposed an expansion of the bill of rights of Grenada to include protections for vulnerable populations including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People. The forum was held in the National Trade Center, open to the public and broadcast live. Due to time constraints we were unable to complete the full presentation but we will be recording and adding the full audio to the Prezi (aka next generation powerpoint) that we used in the days to come. Below you can find a list of our previous articles/campaigns related to the issue of LGBT rights and a video of Wednesday’s presentation. We would love to hear your thoughts on whether the anti-discrimination section of Grenada’s constitution should be expanded and if so, who…

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Questioning Caribbean media’s response to Ebola

Dear Editors:

Should we not be at the point where editorial and journalistic responses to ebola focus on the provision of useful information so that we the public can make decisions and take actions to safeguard each other and visitors to our shores? I fear a call for political parties not to see this as an occasion for social division, and headlining a caution in respect of Barbados regarding its tourist industry may do more harm than good. Given how human greed and fear operate, both of these approaches are likely to get the opposite of the effect desired.

I suspect that we in Barbados get much of the information we need to live as aware citizens from our local print, electronic and on-line news sources. However, these sources are failing us if the media is caught up in promoting favoured political positions rather than bringing information. And I feel the call for political parties not to take entrenched positions is itself just such a descent into narrow politics

If most Americans and Barbadians are asking for West Africa to be isolated from the rest of the apparently healthy world was that not the guaranteed effect of the way ebola entered our consciousness through the USA media in particular? And if Barbadians are asking that any care facilities for treatment should any visitor from anywhere bring ebola here be isolated to some far corner of our island, is it not because this is the position our media has been feeding? I ask your research departments to make that assessment. Do not take it from me.

In the reporting of the actions taken by St. Vincent, for example, did the journalist ask any question or seek out any information on the efficacy of partitioning a virus? How will those Barbadians who are insistent on the partitioning protect themselves from the Barbadian care givers who may unwittingly and unknowingly expose themselves and re-integrate into our supermarkets and homes with their school-age children? Or do we have a plan for partitioning them too?

Knowledge from world health agencies as far back as the 1950s when our Dame Nita was a young public health nurse leader tells us that people are the best public health defense. Informed intelligent people are even better. Arming people with prejudice, even if the enemy is the rightly feared ebola virus will get many healthy people killed from the same virus.

Is the enemy Africans, West Africans or even visitors? Is the enemy not a viral attack on human beings which we all have to fight to eradicate as it potentially threatens all human beings? Neither ministers of government nor even medical personnel are the best protectors in this situation, if they ever are in any situation.

That disease can get under any radar we erect out of prejudice as the outcome of prejudice is always to drive potential victims underground. It seems to me that is the perfect condition for dispersal of the disease.

If two major risk factors for ebola spread is poverty and inadequate health care structures, we should recall our health system is already disabled by the IMF-type strictures we have imposed on ourselves. If there is possibility of pharmaceutical response that needs to be fast tracked, then Barbados can be part of a UN response to ensure that is safely and effectively undertaken.

Newspapers have to do far more than just take convenient traditional positions that feel fairly cynical anyway. Else, why stop at the need for partisan political solidarity? Why not say the un-sayable and include the need for wealthy people to come into solidarity with poor people, and owners of all newspapers to reject their intrinsic competition and join forces on this? Why not treat us all as though we are all leaders and capable of making decisions to help each other? When one dies, how are we not all diminished?

Guidance,
Margaret D. Gill

image source: Huffington Post

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Getting It Wrong On Rape Or No Sperm, No Rape, Or Why a Two-Year-Old Girl Does Not Need to be Taught Modesty

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After an Indigenous Guyanese woman reported that she was drugged and gang-raped at the hotel where she worked and police had no intention of investigating the rape, women took to the streets in protest and solidarity.

One local newspaper alleges that police are not investigating the rape because the woman admitted to “drinking Red Bull and Hennessey”. It also quoted a police offical as saying, “The woman never said she was raped; she said she had sex with some boyfriend or something like that, and that when he left the room another man come in and he like assault her, bite she up on her body.”

In another case, the family of a partially paralysed woman who was raped in her home have indicated that even though she was taken to the hospital she was neither examined nor treated for sexual assault:

The relatives added that when they checked with the police again yesterday, they were told that “they can’t say she was raped because they have no medical but they can put that she was assaulted.”

And in yet another rape case, a Police Commander is quoted as saying that medical evidence refutes the rape claim of a 30-year-old woman raped and knife point and found naked in a clump of bushes because there was no “sperm” found in her vagina:

G Division Commander Kevin Adonis has reported that medical examinations by doctors have failed to support the claim by a Devonshire Castle woman that she was raped during a brutal attack.
According to the Commander, “no sperm” was found in the victim, but he said that the woman has received treatment for bruises she sustained at the hands of her attacker.

Feminist activist, Sherlina Nageer, responded by clarifying what should be obvious but clearly was not:

Sperm does not need to be found on a victim for a rape claim to be valid. Rapists can use condoms to contain their bodily fluids; rape can be inflicted using objects which would not leave sperm, etc. These basic facts about rape should be common knowledge; the fact that Commander Adonis, a senior officer in the Guyana Police Force exhibits such ignorance is extremely disturbing.

These three recent cases not only suggest a high prevalence of sexual violence against women but demonstrate the lack of state investment in an appropriate response to rape. Health care and justice systems are not just failing women but neither operate nor exist as systems. Women who are raped end up turning to women’s organisations, noted women’s advocates or to the media in search of some sort of justice. Media are often exploitative and traffic in gendered stereotypes and norms which support and legitimize rape.

Gross misunderstandings about just what rape is and how rapists select their victims, sexist expectations that responsibility to prevent rape lies with women who should discipline their bodies and movements as prevention measures detract attention from the fact that in effect “rape of the most vulnerable has been decriminalised“.

Research from the UK has demonstrated that rape of the most vulnerable women has been effectively decriminalised where 2 of every 3 rape allegations are not pursued beyond the investigation stage. In other words two thirds of rape allegations do not make it to trial. Researcher Betsy Stanko identifies the following attributes which result in the likelihood that a reported rape will not make it to trial:

1) The victim has a history of mental illness
2) The victim is or was in a relationship with her attacker
3) The victim has a learning disability
4) The victim consumed drugs or alcohol prior to the attack

She notes that “80 per cent of people reporting rape to the Metropolitan Police are considered vulnerable to sexual attack for one of a range of reasons – including being under 18, having mental health issues or learning disabilities, having drunk alcohol or taken drugs prior to the attack and being in an intimate relationship with the suspect.”

She concludes that rather that seeing these women and girls as unreliable witnesses, police investigators need to take a person’s vulnerability as evidence that they are more likely to be raped and investigate whether that vulnerability was exploited by the suspect.

In parts of the Caribbean where there is a lack of access to healthcare and forensic facilities due to state racism, ineffective and sexist justice systems and where women may be expected to consume alcohol as part of their jobs, these too must be viewed as factors which make women more vulnerable to rape and as vulnerabilities that rapists exploit.

Rapists also exploit the sexist ideologies which persist in the region. Such sexist ideologies are frequently presented in our newspapers. For example, A young Barbadian columnist wrote about teaching his two-year-old daughter about “modesty and decency”, noting that “My heart burned and my eyes filled with tears as I saw the pictures and videos on Facebook of girls and women exposing their bodies and sexually gyrating on strangers in the name of fun, revelry and freedom. I am still lost for words and can’t find one single person to convince me that this is acceptable behaviour.” He then compared the thousands of women who participate in this year’s Crop Over festival to “prostitutes”. Ironically, believing that a two-year-old needs to be taught “modesty” suggests a sexualization of infant girls’ bodies. It suggests that it were possible for a two-year-old to even be “immodest”. We need to push back against the sexualization of girls’ bodies and recognise that this supports sexual violence against them.

A two-year-old girl does not need to be taught to discipline and police her own body. Women don’t need an anti-rape nail polish. (Let the rapists wear the anti-rape nail polish so we can recognise them!) Our bodily integrity needs to be respected, whether we are two years old or ninety-two years old. Whether we work work in a bar or the boardroom. Whether or not we fight back with our fists or are too scared or intoxicated to do so. Whether or not we’ve had sex with you in the past. Or were wearing a short skirt. Or out alone at night.

And when our bodily integrity is violated the healthcare systems, legal systems and victim support systems need to be working at optimum. For women everywhere. On the coast and in the interior. For those who turn up naked at police stations and those who arrive months after the attack.

What’s the excuse really?

Why are police officers sharing sensitive information with the media and in such callous and ignorant ways? Why are they not investigating rape when it is reported? Why are rape survivors unable to access the required healthcare? Why is sexism given space in our national newspapers?

Do we really care so little for women?

image source: Red Thread Guyana: Crossroads Women’s Resource Centre

powerprinciple

Calling for Justice – In Solidarity with Trinidad’s Highway Re-Route Movement

Guest post by Angelique V. Nixon

solidarity gathering

On Thursday 2 October, people from across Trinidad came together in solidarity to support the women of the Highway Re-Route Movement (HRM), outside the Office of the Prime Minister. We joined with representatives from women’s organisations and other civil society organisations to make our voices heard about social justice, environmental degradation, and government accountability.

At high noon, armed with banners, signs, and our voices, we gathered on the street facing the PM’s office and offered up our presence in solidarity with the goals and principles of the HRM. We called out for justice and sang together in support of the HRM and in particular the women of the movement, who bear the brunt of so much of the issues at hand.

We were blessed with the powerful performance of Cecilia Salazar evoking the spirit of Trinidad’s own rebel, public servant, and whistle blower Gene Miles, who fought against corruption in the 1960s. This served as a much needed reminder that all the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago have a right to expect and demand government accountability, transparency, and responsibility. The warrior woman Gene Miles brought alive through Salazar encouraged us to be as fierce and defiant as she was, and I believe helped us to stand taller, be braver, and shout even louder.

Social Justice. The Power of Principle. Highway Re-Route. We chanted. We sang. We shouted.

The tone was a mixture of reflection, somber defiance, and passionate response. Some of us prayed. Some of us shared in quiet moments. Some of us spoke. Some of us were just learning about the movement. Some of us had been involved for a long time. Elders. Youth. And all the ages in between. Students. Activists. Artists. Teachers. Leaders. Concerned People. We were all there to show our solidarity with the movement, to support all those who have been working on this for years.

As the press release for the gathering explains:

“For eight years, the women of the HRM have petitioned and protested peacefully against the proposed destruction of an entire community, which has been living in harmony with the land going back three generations. Despite the tremendous odds stacked against them, these women continue to ask that the recommendations of the Armstrong Report, commissioned and paid for by the Government, be considered. The report concluded that work should be halted on the disputed Debe-Mon Desir section of the San Fernando-Point Fortin highway until the proper social, economic and environmental assessments are done, and the correct procedures followed, including the cost-benefit analysis of alternative routes.”

Environmental activist and leader of the HRM, Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh is on his second hunger strike calling for the PM to do what she promised two years ago – to abide by the Armstrong Report – and to stop the construction of the proposed highway immediately. Thursday was Day 16 of his hunger strike, and he was surrounded by supporters and members of the movement. His determination is incredible, and the power of his principle feels boundless.

Activist and main organiser of the gathering Gabrielle Hosein offered these important reflections in her column on Thursday: “Does it really take this much time and sacrifice to successfully secure accountable government? People are critical of Kublalsingh’s choice of strategy, but the alternative is lifelong commitment to disallowing corruption or lack of transparency in whatever form. None of us may choose to die, but how many of us make this other choice instead?”

Coinciding with the gathering, the HRM delivered a letter with 29 civil society organisations’ signatures to the Office of the Prime Minister. This letter supports the HRM and calls on the PM to seriously address the concerns laid out in the Armstrong Report and consider the HRM’s new proposal – the optimum connectivity proposal.

This new proposal will be way more cost effective, will utilise existing roads, and prevent the destruction of the environment and communities along the proposed route. This new proposal reflects the concerns of the people, the environment, and needed development. As Gabrielle Hosein argues: “We want development, but development that is more than concretization. Development includes a right to information, truth and the best plan possible for future generations, not just the partial truths and wasteful plans that governments choose. After all, who bears the costs? We do.”

Since the demonstration, good media coverage of the event and some international press has raised even more awareness about the seriousness and urgency of the issue. The latest press release from HRM indicates that there has been a response from the governement, and the new initiatives are being organised by leaders and civil society organisations who have signed on to the petition calling for support of the new proposal. The situation is dire and the stakes remain high. The calls for social and environment justice, accountability, and respect continue. Let us all maintain the vigil and be even more defiant in our demands.

Empowering the Young Women of Jamaica: Eve for Life (and Save the Date!)

Originally posted on Petchary's Blog:

Saturday, October 11, 2014 is the UN International Day of the Girl Child. This special day aims to “recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world,” says the United Nations.

International Day of the Girl Child

International Day of the Girl Child

What is it like to be a 21st century girl? In many parts of the world, girls face discrimination. In some countries, they are forced into early marriages(46% of girls in India, for example) –  which they are physically and psychologically unprepared for. In many countries, girls are subject to physical and sexual abuse. Millions of girls up to fifteen years of age endure and suffer from female genital mutilation (circumcision). Many are deprived of a proper education. Many are forced into child labor, sexual exploitation and human trafficking. The International Day of the Girl Child focuses on the need to address these difficulties, to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment…

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