Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Afghan President Legalizes Rape

Critics claim that Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai, helped rush a bill through parliament which legalizes rape in a bid to appease Islamic fundamentalists ahead of elections in August.

In a massive blow for women's rights, the new Shia Family Law negates the need for sexual consent between married couples, tacitly approves child marriage and restricts a woman's right to leave the home, according to UN papers seen by The Independent.

The bill lay dormant for more than a year, but in February it was rushed through parliament as President Karzai sought allies in a constitutional row over the upcoming election.

The most controversial parts of the law deal explicitly with sexual relations. Article 132 requires women to obey their husband's sexual demands and stipulates that a man can expect to have sex with his wife at least "once every four nights" when travelling, unless they are ill. The law also gives men preferential inheritance rights, easier access to divorce, and priority in court.

A report by the United Nations Development Fund for Women, Unifem, warned: "Article 132 legalises the rape of a wife by her husband".

The final document has not been published, but the law is believed to also contain articles that rule women cannot leave the house without their husbands' permission and that they can only seek work, education or visit the doctor with their husbands' permission.

A briefing document prepared by the United Nations Development Fund for Women also warns that the law grants custody of children to fathers and grandfathers only.

Update: About 300 Afghan women, facing an angry throng three times larger than their own, walked the streets of the capital on Wednesday to demand that Parliament repeal the law. Counter protests hurled stones and yelled insults and threats while female Afghan police officers joined hands to form a human chain around the women to try to protect them.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Letter from a Black Male Feminist

In place of a post from us this week, please click through to this open letter to Chris Brown from the blog Diary of a Black Male Feminist.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Teens Blame Rihanna

Nearly half of the 200 Boston teenagers interviewed for an informal poll said that Chris Brown's assault on his girlfriend Rihanna was, in fact, Rihanna's fault.

Of the teens questioned, more than half said both Brown, 19, and Rihanna, 21, were equally responsible for the assault. More than half said the media were treating Brown unfairly, and 46 percent said Rihanna was responsible for the incident.
Now, this was not a scientific poll, but I guarantee that if we went next door to Decatur High School we'd hear the same thing. Oprah did, on her Thursday program on dating violence.

Unfortunately, we almost expect that attitude from the boys, but the vehemence with which teenage girls and grown women defended Chris Brown caught us by surprise. It shouldn't have, and Melissa from Shakesville calls us on it (warning, linked post contains adult language).

As if boys and girls grow up in a different culture. As if girls who are told they are less than over and over and over, in myriad ways, throughout their entire lives, who see rape and violence against women served up as the butt of jokes and consumable entertainment, are just going to spontaneously reject all of that and create an alternative viewpoint for themselves in which abuse against women is wrong. As if, in a culture that communicates to girls from birth that their worth is largely determined on their ability to "get a man," girls will spontaneously reject the narratives that excuse men's behavior and demonize their female victims. As if girls will spontaneously be self-reflective enough to identify they blame victims because they deeply fear being one, and because society defines victims as "weak," and we tell girls to be "strong." As if girls can just be brought up in a patriarchy and expected to spontaneously free themselves from its stranglehold.

Why do we expect that of girls, but not of boys? If you're arguing that it's perfectly logical that boys should condone violence against women, then you're essentially just arguing that boys are socialized by their culture. And if you're arguing that it's consternatingly inexplicable that girls should condone violence against women, then you're essentially arguing that girls should be magically resistant to their socialization. That's fair.

Where have we gone wrong with girls? The same place we've gone wrong with boys: Not providing them alternative narratives, that's where.
That's where the real anti-violence work lies, folks. That's how violence against women ends. Providing our children, male and female, with an alternative narrative, an alternative way to live their relationships than through violence, unequal power, and tactics of control.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Five Mistakes We Make

Props to Newsweek for a remarkably good article about Chris Brown's assault on Rhianna (by the way, notice how we put the blame on the abuser by framing him as the actor).

We've copied the article here in its entirety:

Last week, R&B singer Chris Brown was formally charged with two felonies, assault and making criminal threats, in connection with the alleged beating of his pop-star girlfriend Rihanna on Feb. 8. Though we will never know exactly what happened that night, many of us have seen Rihanna's bruised and bloodied face on the front pages and read horrific details of the alleged attack from the affidavit of a LAPD detective in which he describes contusions on the singer's body. At same time, rumors are that the 21-year-old singer is back in a relationship with Brown, whom she has accused, according to the affidavit, of biting, choking and punching her until her mouth filled with blood.

While we can argue about how much of all that is true, it really doesn't matter. This sad story doesn't have to be verifiable for it to potentially warp how Rihanna's hundreds of thousands of tween fans think about intimate relationships. We've all heard that this should be a "teachable moment"—a chance to talk about domestic violence with our kids. But children and teens aren't just listening to your lectures, they're listening to the way you speculate about the case with other adults; they're absorbing how the media describes it; they're reading gossip Web sites. When you tune into to all the talk about Rihanna and Chris Brown, it's scary how the same persistent domestic-violence myths continue to be perpetuated. Celebrity scandals may have a short shelf life, but what we teach kids about domestic violence will last forever. So rather than "raise awareness," here are five myths that anyone with a child should take time to debunk:

Myth No. 1: It was a domestic argument, and she provoked him
We need to remember that any discussion of domestic violence should not revolve around what the couple may have been arguing about, or as one CNN anchor put it: "the incident that sparked the fight." Nor should we be using the word "provoked" when describing this case, as in the Associated Press account that said the "argument" was "provoked" by Rihanna's "discovery of a text message from another woman." Domestic violence has to do with, well, physical violence, not arguments. There isn't a verbal argument that should "spark" or "provoke" an attack of the kind that leaves one person with wounds that require medical attention.

Cable news has to stop referring to this incident as a "violent fight." A "fight" involves two people hitting each other, not—as is alleged in this case—a woman cowering in a car while a man punches and bites her. If Rihanna had called the police beaten and bloodied and alleging an attack of this nature by a stranger, no one would be calling it a "fight." They'd say that a man was being accused of severely beating and choking a young woman half his size.

Myth No. 2: Evolution makes us do it
Steven Stosny, a counselor and founder of an organization that treats anger-management issues believes that the tragic tendency of women to return to the men who hurt them (battered-woman syndrome) is a product of evolution. Stosny was quoted on CNN.com as saying "To leave an attachment relationship—a relationship where there's an emotional bond—meant certain death by starvation or saber-tooth tiger."

Apologies to Mr. Stosny, but that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. This is the kind of argument that really boils my blood because it seems to naturalize the torture of women. Very little is known about the emotional attachments of early humans. And trust me, after 50,000 years, our fear of saber-tooth tigers has abated. In most domestic-abuse cases, we're talking about a situation where one person is wielding power over an individual through pain, fear and domination. It's not about being scared to leave because of the dangers that await you in the world, it's about being too scared of what's at home to leave.

Myth No. 3: People make mistakes. Give the guy a break
When singer Kanye West talked about the Rihanna-Brown case with his VH1 audience recently, he asked: "Can't we give Chris a break? ... I know I make mistakes in life." Kanye's not the only one saying this kind of thing, so let's get something straight: People leave the oven on or fry turkeys in the garage and burn their house down. One may even accidentally step on the gas instead of the brake and run over the family cat. Mistakes resulting in tragic consequences happen all the time. But one cannot mistakenly beat someone up. You do not accidentally give someone black eyes, a broken nose and a split lip.

Myth No. 4: Brown said he was sorry and they're working it out
Experts will tell you that domestic violence is an escalating series of attacks (not fights) designed to increase a victim's dependence on her abuser. According to the police documents released last week, Rihanna told police that Brown had hit her before and it was getting worse. Sorry means you don't do it again. In discussions about abuse, we need to make it clear that sorry is not enough.

Myth No. 5: She's young, rich and beautiful. If it was really as bad as the media says, she'd leave
The secret to the abuser's power is not only making his victim dependent on him, but convincing her that she is to blame for the attack. No amount of money or fame can protect someone from the terrible cycle of emotional dependence, shame and fear that keeps them with abusive partners. Women who are abused look for ways they may have "provoked" an attack, finding fault with their own behavior to explain the unexplainable—why would someone they love hurt them? And it doesn't help when people outside the relationship blame the victim. In this case, Phylicia Thompson, a cousin of Brown's, told "Extra TV" that, "Chris was not brought up to beat on a woman. So it had to be something to provoke him for Chris to do it." As the rumors swirl about whether Rihanna is back with Brown, understand that those who are abused do not stay with their abusers because they want to be beaten again, or because they are really at fault; it's usually because they feel trapped and guilty.

You may have noticed that the words power, control and domination running through my rant. That was purposeful. What we need to remember, and what we need to teach our children, is that yes, you should never hit anybody and you should never let anybody hit you. But, we also need to tell them that love does not guarantee respect and that any relationship they find themselves involved in should be based on both equally.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Many Think Women Should Be Hit

That's what a new survey released in Britain found this week. One in seven people believe it is acceptable in some circumstances for a man to hit his wife or girlfriend if she is dressed in “sexy or revealing clothes in public”.
A similar number believed that it was all right for a man to slap his wife or girlfriend if she is “nagging or constantly moaning at him”.

The findings of the poll, conducted for the Home Office, also disclosed about a quarter of people believe that wearing sexy or revealing clothing should lead to a woman being held partly responsible for being raped or sexually assaulted.

Although a majority of 1,065 people over 18 questioned last month believe that it is never acceptable to hit or slap a woman, the poll found that those aged 25-39 were more likely to consider that there were circumstances in which it was acceptable to hit or slap a woman.

Men and women over 65 and those in the lower social class groups D and E are more likely to believe that woman should be held partly responsible for being raped or sexually assaulted, Ipsos Mori telephone poll found.
Though the study was conducted in the UK, if you've followed public and/or media reaction to Christ Brown's assault on Rhianna, you know these feelings are espoused in the US as well.

It seems that the domestic violence movement has entered into the backlash stage, going from general acknowledgement, at least in public, that violence against women is bad, to resistance to that notion.

According to Wikipedia, "backlash can also refer to 'blaming the victim', which occurs when people in the surrounding environment shift blame, from the criminals, to their victims; and/or, further, blame those victims for subsequent controversies and conflicts, sometimes long after the initial crime is reported or discovered. Backlash, under these circumstances, is often a result of speculation and jumping to conclusions; such as that the victim must have been at fault, in order for the crime to have been committed. The victim may also be accused of attention-seeking, covering for incompetence, or lying (among other things) when reporting a crime. Various 'old-school' attitudes pressurize victims into either 'keeping their mouths shut' about certain crimes, or suffering further consequences."

Sound like anything we've seen recently?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Cobb County Man Kills His Wife

Last night, a Cobb County man killed his wife and then turned himself in to police.

Cobb County authorities told Channel 2 Action News a husband has been charged with murder after he allegedly shot and killed his wife.

Police said the man, identified as Robert Caldwell, 62, shot and killed his wife, Sylvia Caldwell, 50, Thursday night in their home.

Neighbors heard several gunshots just after 6 p.m. and called police.

Officers said when they arrived at the home on Glenellen Court, Robert Caldwell walked out and gave himself up.

Officers found the man's wife shot to death in a bedroom.

The Georgia Domestic Violence Media Watch, of which we are a part, issued the following statement:

Georgia’s 2007 Domestic Violence Fatality Review Project reports that domestic violence has taken nearly 600 lives in Georgia in the last five years. In 2008, 110 people died in Georgia as a result of family violence, also called domestic violence. This number includes not only those killed by their intimate partner, but also the children, family members, bystanders, and perpetrators. Although our society has traditionally regarded domestic violence as a private, family matter, the sheer number of homicides in Georgia shows how public this issue truly is. These fatalities illustrate how pervasive and serious domestic violence is in our communities.

The recent death of Sylvia Caldwell is a loss to her family as well as to our community. Domestic violence, which can be defined as one person’s abuse of power and control over his or her intimate partner, happens every day in Georgia. No community or family is immune to it. Domestic violence abusers use a range of abusive tactics to terrorize their partner, from threats, intimidation, and isolation to verbal, physical, and sexual assault. Furthermore, every community must recognize that any domestic violence situation has the potential to end in murder.

We all have a role to play in ending domestic violence in our communities, workplaces, and families. Domestic violence deaths are preventable, if we commit ourselves as a community to making sure that tragedies like this stop happening. A group of us are working towards this goal – if you wait to be part of the solution, join your local Task Force or volunteer with a local shelter.

Your local domestic violence shelter can be contacted 24 hours a day through the 24-hour, statewide domestic violence hotline, 1-800-33-HAVEN (voice/TTY). This confidential and anonymous hotline can provide information to victims, as well as to family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers who are witnessing, experiencing, or have questions about domestic violence.

We give our deepest condolences to the family and friends of this woman.