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.