PHOTOS: CODE RED Women’s Circles

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The members of CODE RED for Gender Justice at the UWI Cave Hill Campus have been hosting weekly women’s circles (on and off campus) from October 2013. The circles provide a safe space for women [of all sexual orientations] to have heart to heart discussions on intimate topics such as relationships, love, and family, as well as current gender issues. The members also use tools, such as the peace line activity, to encourage introspection at the circles.

Women have shared tears, laughter, fears, secrets, and love at these circles. Guided by rules to ensure everyone feels respected and receives a chance to be heard, all members that attend enjoy the moments shared in the spaces. Members have used the following words to describe the circles: “Enlightening, empowering, safe, inclusive, comforting and important.”

If you are a woman attending UWI Cave Hill Campus or residing in Barbados and would feel comfortable sharing a space with women of all different sexual orientations, we encourage you to join our circles. Contact damarlieantoine [at] gmail [dot] com, or m.hutchinson1988 [at] @gmail [dot] com to be added to the mailing list. 

Below are some photos from our activities:Image

 

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Best of the 2013 Caribbean Feminist Blogosphere

Travel across the islands and territories of the Caribbean and its diaspora and sample some of the best feminist blogging out there. 

What have Caribbean feminist women and men written about in 2013? Love, fashion, motherhood, being mixed-race, surviving child sexual abuse, healing from sexual assault, racist anti-Haitian citizenship policies in the Dominican Republic and so much more… Have a look!

Allow me to introduce myself. I am Elmer, 22 year old Belizean youth that comes from a humble yet hard working family. Today it is important for me to share my story with you.

Young Caribbean man breaks the silence on sexual abuse of boys in the region. (Belize)

So, when a man sets his girlfriend on fire, rapes his niece, or gouges out his ex-wife genitals, it is not simply because he cannot control his emotions or resolve conflict well. There are deeply embedded ideas about who owns and who is to be owned, who is in control and who is to be controlled, what makes a ‘real man’, and a woman’s rightful role to shape these encounters. To ignore this is to miss the mark.

Patrice Daniel is back again with more fyah! This time she writes about why the Caribbean is getting it wrong on violence against women. (Barbados)

“Can you live with knowing that you will never have answers about what happened? Is that something you can manage?”

Healing through words: Part one in a series on surviving sexual assault. (Diaspora)

So like my feminism, my politics of adornment are a critical part of how my race, class, gender and sexuality intersect. My feminism is about having the personal freedom to choose how I represent myself. My ability to express myself on my own terms is my attempt to return ‘the gaze,’ to push back, to style myself for myself. As I seek to own and affirmatively claim my identity, my body, my creativity… and ultimately my ‘self’, I feel incredibly powerful and beautiful and free.

Feminism, Fashion and the Politics of Adornment by Amina Doherty. (Nigeria/Antigua & Barbuda)

It’s possible to let your energy, love and time be wasted by those who are not clear what they want for you or those who are trapped in their own games. Such lost investment will only distract you from giving all to what you can most achieve in your path, your heart and your life’s work. Focus on those who most matter and know well why they do.

Forget new year’s resolutions.  What’s on your heart list, life list, fantasy list & balance list? (Trinidad & Tobago)

But it is also true that Caribbean women are not at equal risk of being made to strip, squat, bend over, finger-raped and humiliated at regional border points. We have seen little critical examination of the class and gender dimensions of this case. We might well ask whether there is an unspoken investment in gendered respectability in our rush to celebrate Shanique Myrie as a Caribbean Rosa Parks. As a not insignificant aside, consider the difference between the dominant idea of Rosa Parks we are familiar with, as the diminutive mother of the Civil Rights movement, and the Rosa Parks who was a highly active member of the NAACP and attended meetings of the Communist Party. And fewer of us have heard of Claudette Colvin, told to give up her seat on a bus nine months before Rosa Parks. We should pause to consider whether the fact that Colvin was an unmarried pregnant teenager has anything to do with her story not being widely told.

Alissa Trotz’s Inescapable Entanglements: Notes on Caribbean Feminist Engagement delivered at the 20th anniversary conference of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies. (Guyana)

In her pain, she was not allowed to belong anywhere. How could she belong when the halves of her were at war? When she was attacked by both sides? It is one thing to be condemned to a particular side because of your skin colour, but it is an entirely different thing to be a refugee in your own country because you do not truly belong to any side.

Sarah Bharrat of Guyana writes about what she calls “The Dougla Defect“, being mixed race in a racially polarised society. (Guyana)

“You said I remind you of the best parts of home. Like a lot of guys, you want to be nurtured but can’t nurture anyone because you barely know how.”

Writing about love from Creative Commess (Trinidad & Tobago)

“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.”

Mar the Mongoose blogs about the politics of motherhood. (Barbados)

Similar to the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas also deports Haitian migrants regularly and grants very few work permits and rarely (if ever) asylum status, while depending upon the everyday labour of Haitian undocumented migrants. The Bahamas — somewhat like the DR’s new ruling — also denies rights to the children of migrants, the difference being that children of migrants do have access to birth citizenship rights, which they have to apply for at 18. However, this process can take years, especially if one does not have access to legal assistance.

Angelique Nixon, writing for Groundation Grenada, looks at human rights, migration and the future of Dominican@s of Haitian descent. (The Bahamas)

Happy New Year!

Leave us a comment with your fav feminist blogs! Let’s grow this list!

See also “Top 10 Must-read Caribbean Feminist Blog posts“, “Caribbean Digital Feminist Activism in a Post-Feminist Age“, “Social Media Strategies for Caribbean Activists“,  and “We’re excited about Online Caribbean Feminist Media.”

Good News: Young Feminist Activism, Sex Workers Mobilise, Crowdfunding Agriculture

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1. Four Caribbean organisations have won grants from the FRIDA Young Feminist Fund

  • CatchAFyah Caribbean Feminist Network will use its funding for Eye2Eye an anti-violence campaign focused on visualizing data on violence against women and girls in the region for use by the entire Caribbean community.
  • WOMANTRA of Trinidad & Tobago has launched Sister Sister, a mentoring programme for girls about to enter secondary school.
  • Association of Young Women for Culture and Development of Haiti will see their funding renewed in their fight against commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls.
  • I’m Glad I’m A Girl Summer Camp (Jamaica) will also receive renewed funding.

You can learn more about the FRIDA Young Feminist Fund here.

2. Malaika of Groundation Grenada used Kickstarter to raise £36,000 for the Goat Dairy Project:

Like many other nations positioned outside of the economic centres of the world, Grenada is exploited for its nutrient-rich raw materials while production takes place elsewhere. This means we import the majority of our food after it has been processed and pumped full of preservatives, dyes and other chemicals. The Goat Dairy (TGD) seeks to break this cycle of dependence, which impacts the environment, and health of our people and costs the country millions of dollars each year.

According to the annual agriculture review conducted by Grenada’s agriculture ministry, with assistance from the FAO and EU in 2009, the existing agro-processing and livestock sectors have major weaknesses: inconsistent quality, insufficient data collection and no long-term plan. The TGD aims to address some of these.

3.  Caribbean Sex Workers Call for End to Discrimination:

The Caribbean Sex Workers Coalition (CSWC), a regional collective of sex worker-led civil society organisations and sex worker advocates, is calling on Caribbean states to end discrimination against sex workers, recognise transgender people and create laws to protect them from stigma and discrimination.

This is according to the “Montego Bay Declaration” issued by the CSWC following the conclusion of its annual general meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica from August 28 to August 30. The declaration calls for the respect and protection of both human and constitutional rights and the creation of legislation, policies and practices which protect these human rights.

Original story here.

Got more good news for us? Please share in the comments.

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CARICOM can do it! We can end transphobia, homophobia & all forms of violence!

CatchAFyah Caribbean Feminist Network recently launched a Call to Action against homophobia & transphobia.  We called on our communities to recognise everyone’s right to be, to condemn violence and celebrate life collectively on August 19.

CODE RED for gender justice! and Groundation Grenada used their social media platforms to distribute the call.

Here’s a report of some of the activities that took place:

Jamaica: Immediately after the murder of transgender teen, Dwayne “Gully Queen” Jones, Quality of Citizenship Jamaica held a popular action themed Everyone Has The RIght to Be in Emancipation Park (click for photos).  They followed up that action with a a social media breakout entitled: “Action, Not Words”.  In their press release, they had this to say about the event:

Our hope is that this event will instigate action on the part of our Governments with respect to acknowledging the human rights of this marginalized population and implementing further measures to protect them. We look forward to your active participation and implore you to engage others so that we might have a successful event with comprehensive commentary, which includes the voices and opinions of us all.

Grenada: The launch of the Gender Issue of Complexed Magazine coincided with the Call to Action.  Groundation Grenada and Youth Advocacy Movement hosted a film screening of “Gun Hill Road”, featuring a Caribbean family living in the Bronx, New York. In the film, a hardened ex-con returns to his family and struggles to stay on the right side of the law as his overburdened wife guards a sensitive secret about their 16-year-old son, Michael. The film centers on Michael’s story as a transgender youth.

Guyana: Activists hosted a speak out/action event. Read reflections from Vidyaratha Kissoon and Sherlina Nageer. The event was also widely covered in the press with reports on the testimonies of persons living with disabilities, LGBT rights activists and families who had lost loved ones to violence:

Colleen Mc Ewan of the GuyBow organisation opened with a plea for personal action against violence of all forms. She made specific reference to the recent deaths of transgender individuals. Dellon Melville, whose body was discovered earlier this month in Mocha Village, three days after he went missing, was the most recent of such deaths.

Trinidad & Tobago:  CARICOM Can Do It is a social media project started by Stephanie Leitch of WOMANTRA.  It features photos of diverse Caribbean people showing off their national colours and using “the tagline “We Can Do It.” It is an attempt to lobby CARICOM governments to take a clear position on homophobic and transphobic violence. Contributors are asked to wear their flags as a head tie and pump their muscles for peace.” Check out this high impact popular action here and be sure to contribute!

CAISO also hosted a Dwayne Jones movie night which was well-attended.

Want to participate? It’s not too late.  Organise a local event wherever you are, share the Call to Action, email us with details of your event and upload photos to the CatchAFyah Flickr pool.

Stay with us for details of other events in the region. A Belize event is upcoming. We’re still planning the Barbados event, email us at redforgender [at] gmail [dot] com if you want to be involved.

The Double Injustice of Buggery Laws

In Barbados, a scout leader is charged with rape of a 12-year-old boy.  Legally speaking, he is charged with buggery* under laws which criminalise anal sex regardless of consent or lack thereof or age of the victim.

Following reports of the case the Chief Scout Commissioner has publicly spoken out against…wait  for it…not child sexual abuse…not all forms of abuse against children…but against homosexuality.

Most of the comments posted  to the Nation’s facebook page clearly recognise what the Chief Scout Commissioner does not, that this case is about the sexual abuse of a child not yet another opportunity for public expression of homophobia. Using the buggery laws to prosecute cases of child sexual abuse contributes to a lack of access to justice for children who are victims of sexual abuse.

One commenter wrote:

so had been it a girl would that have been okay!!! rather than look at it as being homosexual in nature..Look at it as a sexual assault on a minor and deal with accordingly..Rape is not a homosexual dis-eases!!

Another wrote:

This should not be about homosexuality. What consenting adults choose to do in their private lives, is their business, no on else’s. The Boys’ Scout issue is a criminal matter, it is sexual abuse of a minor. There is no such thing as “leader to boy” sexual contact and Dr Taylor should be ashamed to make such asinine comments. The accused should feel the full weight of the law and punished accordingly. Barbadians need to stop conveniently confusing homosexuality with child sexuality abuse.

This case, however, is but one example that points to a much larger problem. Most Caribbean countries prosecute instances of rape of boys by adult men using the laws against buggery. What this does is conflate rape with consensual relations and conflate the sexual abuse of a child with sex between adults. Ultimately it sends the message that it is the homosexual nature of the act that is offensive/egregious/illegal rather than the rape of a child.

The way in which Caribbean children (especially girls) suffer sexual harassment on the street and public transportation, the fact that girls who are victims of sexual abuse often end up themselves being criminalised by being removed from their homes and placed in dangerous state facilities (let us not forget Armadale) or are charged with wandering, demonstrate an overall inadequate and unjust response to child sexual abuse.

When the Scout Commissioner chooses to condemn homosexuality but not child sexual abuse it speaks volumes of the extent to which the severity of child sexual abuse as an infringement on the human rights of children and a denial of their bodily integrity is often diminished. To give but one of countless examples from the Caribbean, in Belize recently an adult man was charged with having sex with a child (girl). He was allowed to walk free when the girls’ father claimed he could not remember his daughter’s age. If as a region we took the sexual abuse of children seriously such a conclusion would be unthinkable.

In Caribbean feminist online community WOMANTRA I raised the following questions:

has any legal analysis been done on why the buggery laws are used in cases of male rape of boys and not child sexual abuse laws? Do these laws [against child sexual abuse] not cover abuse of boys? Do they carry lighter sentences? Are the statutory rape laws gendered and exclude boys?

Young lawyer, Richie Maitland, responded:

Suffice it to say that the buggery law is used because its the easiest to prosecute. They don’t have to prove anything beyond the fact of anal sex; they don’t have to prove non consent. There are other laws they could be prosecuted pursuant to, but it requires the prosecution to prove other elements.

Lawyer-in-traning and Children’s Rights Advocate, Rashad Brathwaite had this to contribute as we sought to write the post collectively:

The Sexual Offences Act in Barbados, unlike much of the Caribbean, sufficiently provides legal recourse for Child Sexual Abuse meted out against boys under 14 to be dealt with under the statutory rape provision without the additional hurdles of proof of non-consent. That is to say, there is no ostensible need to prosecute the abuse  of a 12 year-old boy under the buggery laws in Barbados.

The current state of the law throughout much of the region and the practice in Barbados require urgent reform to treat the abuse of ALL children, as a class of criminality that deserves its own treatment as an act against our collective humanity and deserving the highest levels of opprobium.

In so doing however, the law ought to treat to the sexual abuse of children, in the instant case the abuse of boys as conceptually distinct from the consensual sexual relations between adults.

Ultimately the buggery laws perform a double injustice. They criminalise sexual relations between adults and support a culture of homophobia and stigma.  They also reflect and support an inadequate response to child sexual abuse, leaving many children who are victimised without access to justice and normalising many forms of child sexual abuse.

Edited to add: conflating and confusing rape of boys with homosexuality also serves to silence boys who are raped or sexually abused. Because they fear being stigmatized and labeled, they suffer in silence, do not report the abuse and may even blame themselves for having been abused.

*based on the reports in the Nation News we assume that he has indeed been charged with buggery.

Check out this post entitled Everyday Rape for an earlier discussion on rape and sexual abuse in the region.

 Thanks to Rashad Brathwaite of CODE RED for gender justice! and Grenadian attorney-at-law Richie Maitland, for their contributions to this article.

Caribbean Feminist Digital Activism in a Post-Feminist Age

Trinidad & Tobago’s College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of T&T will be offering daycare facilities to it’s students soon. YAY!  At the time of making this announcement, one of the College’s administrators insisted that they did not want to be seen as “the one championing everything for the woman in the classroom.” They insisted that the daycare facilities would be to the benefit of both women and men.  And of course they should be.  I highlight that comment, however, because it demonstrates how difficult articulating anything that would be to the benefit of women is in the region.  The strategy around the pervasive anti-feminist backlash has been to couch all gender in/equality issues in gender neutral, post-feminist language.

The purpose of this post is to highlight the Caribbean online spaces where feminism is not a dirty word:

Online Groups & Pages

WOMANTRA: This group has been created for all womyn who are interested in sharing experiences, links, ideas … ANYTHING. We hope that this space is utilized not only as a networking tool but also to share, spread and gain from the knowledge that sisters have taken time and initiative to put forward. WE hope that posts will create discussion among members around the issues that affect us.

WomenSpeak Project: The WomenSpeak Project encourages women in Trinidad and Tobago and throughout the Caribbean Region to tell their stories of discrimination – in the home, in the workplace and in the public domain.

Speak Up & Out: The facebook page of a Poster/Photography Exhibition on intimate partner violence running from 24th Oct – 10th Dec in Grenada.  The page provides daily updates on domestic violence and gender equality issues in the region.

Walking into Walls is for every Caribbean woman who had to explain her beatings and bruises by claiming that she walked into a wall. This social media campaign has its roots in a 2012 regional meeting organised by the Caribbean Institute for Women in Leadership (CIWiL). It was developed by four passionate, committed Caribbean women who are tired of the walls that are routinely hit in the struggle to end violence against women. There are awesome and super active, updating the page constantly!

Guyanese Sisters is a closed facebook group for women only.

On-the-Ground Feminist Orgs 

Many other Caribbean feminist organisations with long histories of hard work on the ground also have online spaces, usually facebook pages.  I am concerned about the survival of these Caribbean feminist online spaces as facebook’s ever-changing policies seek to monetise every aspect of the facebook experience.  These organisations cannot afford to pay to promote their content.

Here are the facebook pages of notable Caribbean women’s/feminist organisations:

Women’s Media Watch of Jamaica

Haiti’s KOFAVIV which was selected as a top 10 CNN Hero.

Sistren Theatre Collective of Jamaica

Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (Trinidad & Tobago)

Feminist Blogs

There are also feminist blogs from the region like Add Fyah and Stir (Antigua & Barbuda, St. Kitts, T&T), Paula Lindo’s blog and Creative Commess (T&T) and And Still I Rise (St. Vincent & the Grenadines). Diary of a Mothering Worker by T&T feminist-mommy-worker-academic, Gabrielle Hosein, is now also published in the mainstream press.  Carolyn Cooper’s Jamaica Woman Tongue tackles race, language and everyday life in Jamaica and beyond.

Feminism in the Mainstream

Of course, Caribbean feminist voices are also found in mainstream digital spaces such as newspapers and magazines. Outlish magazine has been doing an excellent job of opening up spaces for both young women and men to discuss gender issues.  Stabroek News’ In the Diaspora Column edited by Toronto-based Guyanese scholar-activist, Alissa Trotz, gives a wide, mainstream audience to a range of social, political and development issues including state violence, violence against women, homophobia, masculinity and feminism in the region.

Feminist Twitterati 

You can also follow feminists from the region on twitter: @kennibay is Head of St. Lucia’s only LGBT rights organisation, United and Strong, and was recently profiled as one of St. Lucia’s top 10 women in the public eye.  There’s the wildly popular @mooremayhem who brings her critical eye and comedic wit to a range of issues (she’s on youtube, facebook and blogs on wordpress as well, just google Carla Moore). @fridafund is a young feminist fund coordinated by a twentysomething activist with roots in many places including the Caribbean.

LGBT Rights Activism
Trinidad and Tobago’s Coalition for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO) and Jamaica’s Forum for Lesbian’s All Sexuals and Gays are both very active online and off. Barbados GLAD is a very recent LGBT online space and of course, there are many other private groups.

Theorising Homophobias in the Caribbean is a multimedia collection offering up everything from art, activist reports and academic articles.

And there’s us!
A team of five (women and men) keeps our facebook page updated and diverse in its range of issues covered. Sometimes we wonder if anybody’s listening and if we will survive facebook policies which threaten zero-budget organisations like ours.  Nonetheless, we’re still active and growing on twitter. Earlier this year we held our first regional feminist meet-up and intend to follow up with on-the-ground in country activities. You can sign on to the CatchAFyah Caribbean feminist network here.

Please drop us a line in the comments and tell us about other digital Caribbean feminist and LGBT spaces we should know about!  (We want to know about men’s groups too!) We’ll update this page with all your suggestions!  Let’s grow this digital feminist archive!