Diary of a mothering worker. July 7, 2015.

Originally posted on grrlscene:

Post 199.

Stereotype has long defined public talk about Indian women’s sexuality, and panic that Hindu women’s immorality can undermine a whole political-economic order isn’t new.

150 years ago, authorities were pressuring recruiters to find the ‘right’ kind of Indian woman whose obedience could be assured. At that time, across the British empire, indentured women were hysterically cast as hyper-aware of their sexual and labour power, and as aligning themselves strategically with men to maneuver the colonial system. This was considered a sign of their dangerousness and untrustworthiness, facilitated by the fracturing of familial and religious rules, and capable of undermining the plantation system itself.

Later, to weaken Indian women’s gendered negotiations, they were redefined as unpaid housewives in village life off the plantation, fulfilling a colonial ideal of women as dependent nurturers, and Indian men’s wish for partners who couldn’t simply leave for better love or sex, more respect…

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Caribbean Feminist Activists Face Threats, Intimidation & Misogynist Bullying

On Monday, April 21, 2015 an audio recording captured Guyana’s Minister of Health, Dr. Bheri Ramsarran calling feminist activist Sherlina Nageer “an idiot”,  “a little piece of shit”, threatening to “slap her ass…just for the fun of it”, and to have her stripped by “some of my women”.

A statement sent to the press by the Minister of Health subsequently claims that he was provoked to such misogynist violence after Sherlina Nageer interrupted a press interview. Sherlina can be heard demanding state accountability for Guyana’s high maternal mortality rate, which is the highest in the English-speaking Caribbean.

The Minister invoked the language of “provocation” to justify his act of violence.  The invocation of “provocation” is frequently used to justify and rationalise men’s fatal violence against women and has crept into state and activist responses to violence. The language of provocation, just like the denigrating language and threats the Minister directed at Sherlina, is the language of misogyny.

Women’s human rights defenders from across the region have attempted for decades to hold Caribbean governments accountable to women. This is not the first time that their efforts, are met with violence, threats and intimidation. Last month,  in St. Vincent and the Grenadines a communications official working in the Prime Minister’s Office sought to shame a rape survivor on live radio for sharing her testimony  at a women’s conference. In Barbados last year, a long-standing feminist activist and government employee walked out of a meeting in response to sexist comments. She and was condescendingly and threateningly offered “a word to the wise” from the floor of Parliament by the Minister with responsibility for the Bureau of Gender Affairs and accused of publicly displaying “bias for one gender over the other”. These examples are symptomatic of institutionalized and systematic sexism, patriarchy, and misogyny in the region, and they promote marginalization and intimidation of women at all levels.

Women are 51% of the population and our governments must be accountable to us.

We will not be intimidated into silence as silence means death.  Literally.

Sherlina Nageer was called a “piece of shit” for insisting that women’s lives and health matter. She was threatened with the misogynist and violent acts of public stripping and beating for insisting that governments have a responsibility to ensure women have access to quality sexual and reproductive health services.

We recognise such abuses of state power as a reflection of hatred of women, an unwillingness to recognise us as fully human and a refusal to treat us as equals. They also reflect the callous disregard elected officials show for the people — boys and girls, women and men — they are meant to serve.

We call on our state managers to denounce acts of violence wherever they occur. We caution our politicians throughout the region that their silence on these offences against its citizens speaks volumes to their commitment to gender justice and the rights of women. If they will not speak out due to a lack of political will, we will speak out in the knowledge of what is right.

Join us in holding regional state managers accountable by submitting accounts of their abuse of power and office to any of the following email addresses:

redforgender [at] gmail [dot] com

catchafyahnetwork redforgender [at] gmail [dot] com

womantratt [at] gmail [dot] com

We invite you to sign below in solidarity with Sherlina Nageer and all women human rights defenders who face violence, threats, intimidation and loss of employment for the work they do on behalf of all of us.

Tonya Haynes

Fatimah Jackson-Best

Stephanie Leitch

Sign on to the solidarity statement here.

Read Sherlina’s response here.

Press Statement by Dr. Bheri Ramsaran

On Monday, April 21, 2015, at around 09:30 hours, I joined a group of peaceful persons at Whim Magistrate’s Court to give solidarity to former President Bharrat Jagdeo.

As I was about to depart two journalists sought an interview with me on the matter at hand to which I readily agreed. During the interview I was rudely interrupted by a woman who kept shouting and interrupting me throughout.

I shifted away on several occasions in an attempt to avoid her but she persisted in interrupting the interview.

It was unfortunate that I was provoked into anger and uttered harsh words at her for which I now regret.

I therefore wish to apologize for uttering those words.

April 21, 2015

Recordings have surfaced that suggest that one day after the Health Minister Dr. Bheri Ramsarran apologised he told a health forum that “so we have these miscreants who are sometimes supported by the international community because they are rights activists, right to spit in my face but not collect two slap, you understand me, or one of my ladies who love me wreck her up, you understand me?” Full transcript of comments available here and below:

“So we have these miscreants who are sometimes supported by the international community because they are rights activists, right to spit in my face but not collect two slap, you understand me, or one of my ladies who love me wreck her up, you understand me? Well you know I’m Bheri best, all the ladies like me. Suppose one of my big strong women seh “wuh yuh do we doctor, wuh yuh do dis innocent lil man? Wacks! Wacks! (imitates the sounds of blows). Then she’s going to become a hero, some of us will mek sure we give her a medal. Right, spit in my face, I don’t know if she got rabies or what, I know she was rabid. That woman need psychiatric help.”

This Stabroek News editorial provides the best reporting of the events and the best commentary and analysis on the Minister’s behaviour. It ends with a call for him to resign or be fired.

Top 10 hetero/sexist moments in Caribbean Politics REDUX: 2015 edition

Sexism refers to prejudice, stereotyping or discrimination, usually against women, on the basis of sex.

Heterosexism refers to the assumed primacy, supremacy and normalization of heterosexuality and the resulting attitudes, bias and discrimination. 

Hetero/sexism is often used to represent the extent to which heterosexism simultaneously encodes binary gender, unequal relations of gender, naturalised notions of male superiority and female inferiority as well as homophobia.  It calls attention to the interconnections between and among a binary and unequal understanding of gender, heteronormativity, misogyny and homo- and transphobia. 

Since we first published our Top 10 Sexist and Heterosexist moments in Caribbean politics there has been no end to the misogyny, rape shaming, rape jokes, homophobia and support for patriarchal privilege by both women and men in positions of state power.

Number 1

St. Vincent and the Grenadines communications official working in the Prime Minister’s office shames a rape survivor on live radio, reveals her date of birth, new legal name and passport number and suggests she is a liar. Such an egregious abuse of state power seemingly in retaliation for her testimony, at the opposition’s women’s conference, of a lifetime of physical and sexual abuse, chronic homelessness and a failed application for asylum in Canada. Her testimony is available here.

Numbers 2 and 3

via Freedom by any means:

Minster of Human Services and Social Security, Jennifer Webster recently told the women of Guyana that they needed to ‘forgive and forget’ Attorney General Anil Nandlall for his derogatory language towards a young female reporter. Nandlall was heard on tape calling the journalist a ‘thing’ and trying to convince another man to procure her for his uncle to have sex with (what the young woman might have thought or wanted was never considered by the Attorney General). Although there were multiple and sustained calls for his resignation, Nandlall received no sanction from his superiors in government and continues to hold the top post in the judiciary of Guyana. In her most recent defense of Mr. Nandlall, Minister Webster stated that- “In life, many of us do things,” and “If you are a Christian, you have to forgive and forget.

Number 4

Portia Simpson Miller’s doublespeak:

Nobody never hears the Government of Jamaica beating up gays; not one. Let me tell you something; you want to disturb, you can disturb, but this woman come here with the blood of Nanny of the Maroons and the spirit of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, and this woman is not afraid of no man, nowhere, anywhere, and I will speak the truth everywhere.

It is reported that she insisted that she would not be bullied by those who told lies about the existence of homophobia in Jamaica.

Emboldened by the PM’s words the Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Society, using similar homophobic doublespeak, has issued a statement rejecting “attempts to restrict or stigmatise social discrimination against unwholesome behaviours. We reject efforts to encourage or legitimise behaviours that are high risk for HIV/AIDS and other STDs. Behaviours that are socially dysfunctional and have a demonstrably high statistical association with diseases cannot be endorsed.”

Number 5

Trinidad and Tobago parliamentarian Vernella Toppin-Alleyne seeks to shame opposition leader Dr. Keith Rowley by calling him a product of rape who is now arrogant and aggressive as a result.

Let’s hope we make it to December without cause to complete this list! Leave us a comment if there are any other incidents we neglected to mention. 

Diary of a mothering worker. February 10, 2015.

redforgender:

“Being experts in crossings is what Caribbean people do. It’s how we learned to exist. We have crossed waters, crossed authorities, crossed junctions and junctures, and crossed everything from spiritualities to pleasures.”

Originally posted on grrlscene:

Post 180.

Zi is at the left of the photo, last in the line Zi is at the left of the photo, last in the line (Photo: Roba Ofili)

Two hours waiting. Two minutes of playing mas. Thus went four year-old Ziya’s first time crossing the big stage.

Practice starts from young, which is clearly how committed masqueraders develop patience with long waits, and know to make the most of their few moments to put their all into display.

In a spectrum of stunning costumes, like inhabitants of a surreal alter-dimension, dozens of children somehow managed the heat, and began such early socialization to a ritual that determines the ultimate success of local music, shapes national conversation about selfhood and freedom, and establishes the most revered secular space in the country.

For us to be visible, to be seen like this, is to exist, writes scholar Gordon Rohlehr. That’s why the crescendo of the stage continues to rule the rhythm of the…

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Gender-based Violence at Mona: #SpeakUpUWI

Originally posted on Active Voice:

frontgat

The University of the West Indies’ repeated claims that it was clueless about the level of gender-based violence (GBV), or any violence on its campus for that matter, because it “cannot admit to a phenomenon that is not supported by data collected by UWI” are damaging the institution. They are an embarrassment because they lead to the inevitable conclusion that there are fundamental problems with UWI’S methods of data collection. Either that or the methods are designed to evade collection of data that would indicate beyond any shadow of a doubt the enormity of the problem.

Because of course the University’s claims that GBV is not a major issue at the university flies in the face of the experience of students who have to live and work on its campus. For the first time in a long time students mobilized social media to make their views known using the hashtag…

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Sexual Harrassment and UWI: Can we talk?

Originally posted on Active Voice:

campusregoffice

Everyone agrees that in order to deal with a problem you first have to acknowledge it exists. I thought of this when listening to Camille Bell-Hutchinson, University Registrar, energetically refuting the charge that gender-based violence is out of control on the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies. Today the Letter of the Day in the Daily Gleaner is from the University’s Director of Marketing, Recruitment & Communications, Carroll Edwards. Like the Registrar she denies allegations of rampant attacks on campus women made in a Sunday Gleaner article dated February 1, 2015, ‘Halls of horror: gender-based attacks haunt UWI, Mona’.

The denials come in response to a study cited in that article quoting Taitu Heron, currently National Programme Coordinator at UN Women Jamaica, who chronicled some of the reported cases of violence against women on the campus in her 2013 study Whose Business Is It? Violence Against Women…

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