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A post which appeared on Scotland Indymedia entitled “Open letter from Glasgow Women’s Activist Forum to Occupy Glasgow” is the latest addition to an increasing number of articles which draw attention to incidences of sexual assault and harassment experienced by women participating in the Occupy protests around the world.

In the letter, Glasgow Women Activist’s Forum state that “We, the undersigned, are writing to those involved in the Occupy Glasgow protest because our voices have hitherto been marginalised and our concerns systematically ignored in the days following the rape that occurred at the protest on Tuesday.”

This is a message that is being echoed on blogs and websites across the world in response to an alarming number of attacks on women. To date there have been at least four reports of rape at Occupying protests. In Glasgow, Scotland, a woman was raped in her tent as she was spending the night at an occupy protest taking place George Square. In the U.S.A women in Cleveland, Dallas, Kansas and Portland have also been raped while participating in occupy protests. On the 10th of October a man was arrested at Occupy Wall Street for groping a woman, while at the Occupy Denver protest, a man was arrested for groping a reporter.

Equally disturbing have been the misogynist responses to these attacks from supposed activists involved in the protests. As Danielle Binks writes “What really makes a mockery of the Occupy movement is the response to these claims of sexual abuse amongst the protestors. When news broke of the Cleveland rape claim, one protestor even queried whether the abused woman was a ‘plant’, attempting to discredit the rally.”

“Occupy Baltimore released a ‘security statement’ pamphlet to their protestors which discouraged police involvement if any such crimes were committed. The Baltimore occupiers were heavily criticized for this ‘speak no evil’ stance, and have since revised their policies.”
The recurring description of the women who have been attacked as “transient, run-aways, or homeless women” (in drawing attention to their social status, is the suggestion being made that lower class women are less deserving of justice?) as well as the distancing of occupy protesters from them (claims that these women “were not part of the protest”)  serves only to perpetuate inequality, the very thing the movement claims to be fighting against.

Online and on the street women are asking the question “Are Women Safe at Occupy Protests?” In her blog, Lola-at-large comments “It’s a fair question to ask, considering the continuous reports of rape and sexual assault, as well as sexual harassment coming from the Occupy protests. Rapes and sexual assaults are happening, 12 by my latest count, with the movement barely six weeks old. That’s a pretty abysmal track record”

In an article from People of Colour Organise the comment is made that: “A lot of women, queers, and trans people—along with many people of color and undocumented immigrants—do not feel comfortable sleeping in an open space with a lot of men, surrounded by police. Police presence ensures that protestors could, at any time, be risking arrest; and a racist police system ensures that people of color will be targeted. Unrestricted male presence in all sleeping areas ensures that protestors could, at any time, be exposing themselves to molestation and/or rape; and patriarchy ensures that women, queers, and trans people will be targeted.”

The presence of Julian Assange, a man facing allegations of rape and sexual violence, at an Occupy London rally, further reinforces that age old tendency to put women’s issues to one side in the name of so-called social justice “When will we start to understand that any movement which asks women to put up with sexism as a sacrifice for the group, as if sexism isn’t part of the problem, is doomed to fail? It’s no accident – or secret – that women make up the majority of the world’s poor and that women are being hardest hit by the financial crisis” laments Philippa Wilitts on the F-word blog.

Perhaps the misogynist attitudes seemingly dominating the Occupy protests is best summed up by the YouTube video ‘Hot Chicks on Wall Street” an amateur documentary that the maker claims is “Pics of hot chicks being all protesty.” While many within the movement, including the maker himself have defended the film, Rebecca Traister sums up the crux of the argument “This video is sexist. It’s an example of women participating in public life — political, professional, social — and having their participation reduced to sexual objectification. That’s what happened here, nothing more, nothing less.”

In response to this full spectrum of attacks on women, websites like “Occupy Patriarchy” have sprung up. The aim being to “provide a supportive, global space for feminist analysis, response and organizing and networking within the world-wide Occupy movement.”

“It is our observation that institutions such as Wall Street are manifestations of the far deeper and greater problem of patriarchy which depends in large measure on the exploitation, disempowerment, and subjugation of women, yet (as is all too often the case in progressive movements) the analysis of issues presented so far has shown little effort in looking at the various issues discussed from a feminist vantage point, including but not limited to the following:

*Women make up the overwhelming majority of people living in poverty and do the overwhelming majority of unpaid work on which everyone’s lives depend.

*Our reproductive rights and agency are continually under siege.

*The overwhelming number of victims of sexual exploitation and violence are women and this exploitation intensifies under conditions of economic devastation.

*While these issues impact all women, women of color are far more likely to suffer the consequences of patriarchal domination.”

It is sad, but perhaps not unusual, that a movement which is supposed to stand for egalitarian aims has in fact perpetuated many of the inequalities which exist in society. Real social change can only occur when those that are most marginalized and oppressed, the real 99% of society, are empowered by a movement. However in the case of occupy it seems that once again the status quo is being maintained and it is still the privileged few whose voices are being heard. Until this is seriously addressed, no radical system change can occur as a product of this movement.

“Every organization, every movement, struggles with acknowledging systematic oppression. Movements that deny racism, movements that deny sexism; movements that are completely unaccountable to the very people they claim to be liberating; these movements will fail. Again and again, we have witnessed their failure.”

Links

Occupy Patriarchy

http://occupypatriarchy.org/

Are Women Safe at Occupy Protests?

http://crayfisher.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/are-women-safe-at-occupy-protests/

Dichotomy of Ideals

http://www.spinifexpress.com.au/Blog/display/id=56/comments=show/

The F-Word – We are the 49%?

http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2011/10/we_are_the_49

Feministe

http://www.feministe.us

The 28th of May saw Reclaim the Night return to Edinburgh after a two year absence of this important event from our streets. Feminist groups from all over Edinburgh came together to collaborate on the event, including, Ladyfest, Edinburgh University Reclaim the Night, and the local Anarcha-Feminist collective. As a result, a variety of different activities took place over the course of the day and night, attended by a wide range of people.

The day began at 1pm with a “Free-School” at the Forest Cafe organised by the Edinburgh Anarcha-Feminist Collective. The Free-School took place upstairs in the main hall and was a space for discussion, film projection, and arts and craft. Most importantly, it was a place were people could meet others who planned to go on the march later that evening. There was a chill out space with cushions, sofas, tea and cake, and zines on topics about consent, domestic violence, self defence, and challenging privilege. People made banners together with friends they had just met and engaged in spontaneous group discussions about issues relating to gender violence. Over the course of the day, people also submitted stories to an anonymous art and writing project, currently being created by Anarcha-Feminists and Ladyfest. The aim of the project is to document some of the motivations, feelings, emotions, reasons, desires and visions that people have for Reclaim the Night, to find out what it means to them and share this (1).

As one contributor said “Reclaim The Night, for me, is an amazing opportunity to meet strong, empowered and motivated people who stand for what they believe in: the radical notion that women are entitled to human rights. It’s also heartening to feel the understanding and belonging that comes with people who are aware of all the obstacles that I and other women experience while trying to live the best lives we can. That means everything.”

The Free-School ended at 5:00pm with just enough time for banners to dry before assembling at Festival Square for the Reclaim the Night march at 7:30pm. Despite problems with the council in gaining permission for the march earlier in the month, it was able to go ahead on the condition that the march take place an hour earlier than planned, 7:30pm instead of the original 8:30pm. Apparently the reason for this was so as not to clash with men coming out of pubs after the champions league finals, who would threaten our health and safety (2).

Undaunted by these obstacles, around 200 people arrived at the set meeting place bringing banners, placards, megaphones, whistles, energy and attitude. Chanting and singing ensued, and the familiar “Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no!” chant was taken up by the crowd. People came along for a variety of reasons, but all were united under the common idea that gender violence in all its forms, is unacceptable.

One banner, which summed up the vast array of issues that people march for, read:

“Gender Violence is: War, Domestic Violence, Sexual Harassment, Female Infanticide, Rape, Intimidation, Lower (or no) Pay, Cuts to Services, Poverty, Genital Mutilation, Forced Marriage, Child Marriage, Forced Prostitution and Trafficking, Economic Dependency, Homophobia, Transphobia, The Gender Binary, No Access to Education/Contraception/Health Care, Racist Immigration Controls, Sexual Objectification, Beauty Norms, Gender Stereotypes, Discrimination, Patriarchy: Smash it!”

The march wound through Bread Street, West Port, Grassmarket, Candlemaker Row, George IV Bridge, The Royal Mile, North Bridge, West Nicolson Street, Chapel Street, Crichton Street, and finished up in Bristo Square. All events over the course of Reclaim the Night were open to people of any gender to attend, and it was great to see feminist allies from all walks of life, gender and sexual orientation marching together for a common cause. The police on the other hand, did not express any particular affinity with Reclaiming the Night, but decided to attend to entirety of the march regardless, for reasons best known to themselves.

The march culminated with a few speeches emphasising the low rape conviction rate in Scotland, the blame culture associated with rape cases, and the need for safer streets that everyone can feel confident to walk on at night. After this, protesters were encouraged to make their way to St Lenoards Police Station, where two women had been taken after being brutally arrested at British Home Stores during an Edinburgh Uncut demonstration earlier in the day (3). This in itself, serving as a poignant and timely example of how the police serve to enforce violence by maintaining the status quo; defending patriarchy, the bosses, and corporate interests above the rights of the people.

While some did go on to show active solidarity with the women behind bars, the rest of the march made its way into Teviot, where an evening of entertainment organised by Ladyfest commenced. Artists and musicians featured included, Gudrun Hirt, Hanna Wurdmuller, Jeanne Dark, and Scragfight. The rest of the evening was spent in celebration of a day which was successful in drawing attention to the very real threat of violence that people live with all the time. It was a day where gender issues were brought back to the streets of Edinburgh once again, but not for the last time. See you on the streets next year!

References

(1) If you have photos, accounts of Reclaim the Night, or anything else to share, The Edinburgh Anarcha-Feminist collective will be accepting contributions to our zine project until the 1st of July 2011 so please email/post/send us anything you would like to add to it and we will release a compilation of everyone’s work in September 2011.

(2) See full story: “Edinburgh City Council Advocates Violence Against Women”

(3) See full story: “Police defend corporate criminals: arrests at Edinburgh Uncut action.”

Contact the Edinburgh Anarcha-Feminist Collective on      edinburghanarchafeminist[at]noflag.org.uk

Public services are under attack. Nurseries and libraries are closing. Jobs are being lost.

Women will be hit the hardest with recent reports estimating that women will suffer 72% of the tax and benefit cuts.

We don’t need any cuts. The annual deficit is £70 billion but £120bn in tax goes uncollected, avoided or evaded by the rich. Cuts will only make unemployment worse and reduce tax revenues.

Women bear the brunt of cuts. Especially lone mothers and lone pensioners. Over two thirds of the £8.5bn cuts in the June budget came from women.

Cuts in social services and benefits hit women hardest. Women and children rely heavily on local services and on child benefit, tax credits, housing benefit and maternity pay.

Cutting public sector jobs means axing women’s jobs. We are two thirds of the public sector workforce, often part time. Job cuts will increase the deficit, damage the economy and increase social inequality.

Women’s progress towards equality is under attack. This government’s “Big Society” means more unpaid caring and community work for women who will be expected to fill the gaps.

For more information:

http://womenagainstthecuts.org/

For Resources:

Feminist Fightback have created some great resources on the cuts, including a powerpoint presentation complete with discussion points and handout for running your own workshop on why the cuts are a feminist issue.

Contact feminist fightback or us if you would like to use these resources.

For action:

Join the Women’s Bloc

National Demo Against the Cuts

Saturday 26 March, London

Meet at Royal Courts of Justice 10am

Strand east of Aldwych, moving off 10:30am

Today, the occasion is 100 years old. Yet, women around the world still face a phalanx of abuses ranging from wage inequality to femicide. The most urgent cases are those of women in war zones; seventy-five percent of people killed in war are women and children, and places like the Democratic Republic of Congo where tens of thousands of females have been terrorized by the widespread application of rape as a weapon, are downright horrific.

To help women living in the most blighted and war-torn countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sudan, Women for Women International have started the “Join Women on the Bridge” campaign, which will bring women from Rwanda and Congo together in peace on a bridge between their countries to demand an end to war and to demonstrate that women can build the bridges to peace and development.

In Guatemala, women also have it rough; more than 4,000 women and girls have been raped and murdered in the past decade. In response, Guatemalan-based Women Worker’s Committee, a sister organization of the international women’s human rights group Madre has organized neighborhood watch groups. Flashlights and whistles — inexpensive asks — are essential for this project.

In Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, although no accurate statistics are available, almost 500 women have been said to have been tortured, raped, murdered, and dumped onto the streets since 1993. Groups of women have been demanding justice, yet despite international support, the majority of the cases are still “unresolved.” The “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” project, part of the civil organization Las Hormigas, is trying to raise awareness about gender violence and discrimination by supporting a female cooperative that promotes women’s rights while providing a safe space serving hot food.

The plight of women in Afghanistan has been well documented, as has the role of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) in fighting for gender rights since 1977. Yet the group still faces many obstacles, compounded by a lack of international support. Despite a struggle with finances, RAWA is helping female Afghan refugees in Pakistan by running schools, mobile health teams, and handicrafts workshops among other things.

And though conditions are infinitely better for women in the United States than the aforementioned nations, 1,181 women were murdered by their intimate partner last year; reproductive rights are still practically restricted through both state and federal legislation, and women earn just 78 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Annually on March 8 and throughout the month, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women’s craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more. Find an event near you and help spread the word.

Prosecutors have abandoned more than 1,000 sex-crime charges in the north and north-east of Scotland in recent years new figures have revealed

Fiscals in Grampian and the Highlands and islands have dropped proceedings for 1,030 sex charges, including rape, since 2005, before a sheriff or jury has had the chance to rule on them.

Of these, 644 were referred to prosecutors by police but then not taken further, according to statistics released under freedom of information legislation.

As well as rape charges, the figures also include allegations of sexual assaults, underage sex and lewd and libidinous behaviour.

Rape Crisis Scotland said last night that the number of abandoned cases was “a matter of real concern”.

Richard Baker, Labour justice spokesman and north-east MSP, described the number as “alarmingly high”.

“The concern must be that there are victims of these crimes that are not seeing the offenders being properly punished,” he said.

“For these charges to have been brought forward in the first place there would have been a great deal of work done, and brave victims would have had to come forward to report them.

“We cannot assume every charge will be proven in court if they got that far, but with the sheer quantity of these dropped charges it is difficult to comprehend that each and every one was invalid or was not a truthful allegation.”

Mr Baker added that he hoped the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act, introduced on December 1, would bring more cases to court.

The new law includes the first definition of consent to sex and protective measures to safeguard those with limited or no capacity to consent due to their young age or mental disorder.

A spokeswoman for Rape Crisis Scotland said: “It takes a huge amount of courage to report a sexual offence such as rape, and it can be devastating to find out your case is not getting to court.

“What we know from Scottish figures is the vast majority of reported rapes do not make it to court, and that is backed up by these figures.”

Tory MSP Bill Aitken, the party’s justice spokesman, said: “I find it surprising that so many police reports do not result in prosecution, but the Crown must be satisfied that the case is sufficiently robust before they take it to court.

“Perhaps some additional police training may be necessary.”

The Crown Office said the latest figures showed that 80% of people prosecuted for crimes of indecency are convicted, and that convictions for lewd behaviour rose by 34% last year.

“The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service takes all crimes of violence, rape and other sexual crimes extremely seriously,” a spokeswoman said.

“We are committed to ensuring that all such cases are investigated thoroughly, sensitively and prosecuted appropriately, where there is sufficient credible and reliable evidence and it is in the public interest.”

She said fiscals have a duty to consider each case on its specific facts, including whether there is enough evidence to prove the charge, the attitude of the victim and whether a prosecution would be in the public interest.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Sexual Offences Act, which came into effect earlier this month, improves public safety and helps the victims of sexual crimes by bringing clarity and increased certainty to prosecutions. But the act is simply one part of a wider package of measures that government is taking forward to improve public safety and help victims.”

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