Women’s Issues

1_interWomenD_val_thumb

Bishop Accuses Spanish Women of Holocaust

, , Comment Closed

I joined the International Women’s Day march in Valencia on Saturday night. Sources estimate between 10,000 and 20,000 people turned out for the event, from my perspective about 40 percent of those marching were men. Valencia is Spain’s third largest city, after Marid and Barcelona, where marches also took place. This day is usually a day of celebration of women in history and society as well as a chance to draw some attention back to the gender inequalities still present in work and pay. However, yesterday’s event also provided an opportunity to demonstrate the anger and exasperation building up around the new anti-abortion law being carried through the Spanish parliament by the conservative Partido Popular.

The proposal would overturn a very recent law (2010) that legalises abortion on demand in the first trimester, meaning that rape or a serious threat to the woman’s health – currently the conditions for abortion in the second trimester – would have to be proven by anyone seeking an abortion. I have read that somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of the Spanish people oppose this bill. I’m not sure how accurate that is but the big turnout across Spanish cities for what is normally a fun family event was telling. The day before the protests I attended an assembly of women from the trade union Comisiones Obreras. The hall was filled with about 200 women and was brimming with anger. In one of the opening speeches tribute was paid to a lady called Concha Carretero who died on January 1st this year at the age of 95. Carretero’s story, as I grasped it in my broken Spanish, reminds me of the potency behind the word often used at Spanish protests – indignada.

Carretero, born in 1918, was first imprisoned when Franco’s army entered Madrid in 1939. Arrested after attending a meeting of the Juventudes Socialistas Unificadas (United Socialist Youth) on her first night in prison, she was beaten and electrocuted and made to clean up the blood of her fellow captives. Lying unconscious after a beating on the night of August 4th, 1939 her cellmates, thirteen women, were taken and executed by firing squad. Almost a year later, Carretero was released only to be quickly re-arrested. This time she avoided freezing to death when stripped naked and doused in buckets of cold water by exercising all night in her cell. By then Carretero’s father, an anarchist, had been found dead on the street, and her mother, who had suffered a serious injury when a lift fell on top of her while cleaning in the dark shaft, slept unbeknownst to her daughter under the archways of the prison where she was held. Not long after her release Carretero’s husband and father of her first child was arrested and shot by firing squad. Carretero’s crime had been her involvement and work with the Republican army, making clothes and minding the children of men and women on the front during the Civil War. But more than that it had been to dare challenge the might and divine authority of fascist Spain. Going on to re-marry and have five more children, Carretero attended the Almudena cemetery in Madrid every year to mark the anniversary of the execution of her thirteen cell mates, the Thirteen Roses, and every year she called for the “Third Republic”. (Further info here: Fallece Concha Carretero, compañera de las trece rosas rojas, by Gustavo Vidal Manzanares, nuevatribuna.es).

Read Post →

rt8_thumb

The Eighth Amendment Must be Repealed

, , Comment Closed

This week Fine Gael will host the European People’s Party (EPP) Congress in Dublin. Among the expected attendees is Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who is currently leading an attack on reproductive rights with legislation that, if passed, would drastically restrict access to abortion in Spain. This would be an extremely regressive move at a time when most European countries are moving in entirely the opposite direction. In France, for example, MPs voted at the end of January to reword the law to state that it is a woman’s right to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy. Late last year the French Government also introduced changes so that the cost of abortions will now be 100% reimbursed by the State.

At the same time that the EPP will be meeting, the GUE/NGL grouping in the European Parliament will hold hearings on defending sexual and reproductive health and rights. The Abortion Rights Campaign has been invited to present on reproductive rights in Ireland, and we will use the opportunity to highlight at a European level the grave consequences the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution has had for reproductive rights and maternity services in Ireland.

Introduced by referendum in 1983, the Eighth Amendment equates a pregnant woman’s life with that of an embryo or foetus. Until it is removed, there can be no progressive legislation on abortion beyond the narrow terms of the X case and, arguably, in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities. Even after the passing of last year’s Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, Ireland still has, along with Malta, the most restrictive and punitive abortion laws in Europe. But the reality of abortion in Ireland is that the Eighth Amendment is simply not fit for purpose. It does not stop women from terminating pregnancies; it only serves to make the journey much more difficult. Every single day women travel abroad to access abortion. Others self-administer abortions at home with pills ordered from reputable websites such as Women on Web. If caught, these women could face up to 14 years in prison under last year’s abortion legislation.

Opinion polls have consistently indicated that public attitudes to abortion do not support the imposition of such onerous penalties on women who end pregnancies. Since 1980 over 150,000 women have left the country in order to access abortion, while unknown numbers have found the means to end their pregnancies in Ireland. Do citizens really believe these women should be imprisoned? As much as anti-abortion organisations try to perpetuate shame and stigma around abortion, most reasonable people do not want to see their friends, sisters or partners behind bars because they terminated a pregnancy.

Read Post →

AS_thumb

Uterus Strike

, , Comment Closed

This is a translation of an article by Beatriz Preciado, originally published in Público on 29th January 2013, regarding the Partido Popular’s anti-abortion legislation.

Locked within individualistic neoliberal fiction, we live with the naive sensation that our body belongs to us, that it is our most intimate property. However, the management of the greater part of our organs is under the aegis of various governmental and economic entities. Of all the bodily organs, it has been undoubtedly the uterus that has been the object of the greatest political and economic expropriation. As a cavity that potentially allows for gestation,the uterus is not a private organ, but a biopolitical space of exception, to which the norms that regulate the rest of our anatomical cavities do not apply. As a space of exception, the uterus resembles the refugee camp or the prison more than it does the liver or the lung.

The body of women contains within it a public space, whose jurisdiction is fought over not only by religious and political powers, but also medical, pharmaceutical and agri-food industries.Hence, as historian Joan Scott points out, women have spent a long time in a situation of “paradoxical citizenship”: if as human bodies they belong to the democratic community of free citizens, as bodies with potentially gestating uteruses, they lose their autonomy and become objects of intense surveillance and political control. Every woman carries within her a laboratory of the Nation-State upon whose management depends the purity of the national ethnos. For the past forty years, feminism has carried out, in the West, a process of decolonisation of the uterus. But the contemporary situation in Spain shows us that not only is this process unfinished, but it is fragile and can be easily revoked.

Read Post →

th2

ICTU: Denying Sex Workers a Workers’ Identity

, , 5 Comments

Wendy Lyon of Feminist Ire on a move by ICTU to deny sex workers a “worker” identity.

Earlier this month, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions did something even its critics may not have anticipated. It took part in a meeting aimed at advancing a campaign to deny certain workers – among the most marginalised in Irish society – the right to a “worker” identity. The meeting was announced in a tweet by the Turn Off the Red Light campaign, accompanied by a pronouncement that “Prostitution is not work”.

This position should concern anyone who looks to trade union bodies to defend access to labour rights. For if sex work is not work, then sex workers are not workers, and are not entitled to the rights that that status conveys. Surely the role of trade unions is to promote greater access to those rights, not to decide who is eligible for them?

ICTU’s stance puts it at odds with the International Labour Organisation, to which it is affiliated. While the ILO is officially neutral with regard to the legal status of sex work, it has explicitly stated that labour rights should apply to that industry. An example is its confirmation last year that sex workers are covered by its Recommendation concerning HIV and AIDS and the World of Work, 2010 (No. 200). This Recommendation, like many of the ILO’s, is stated to apply to “all workers working under all forms or arrangements, and at all workplaces, including persons in any employment or occupation”, and “all sectors of economic activity, including … the formal and informal economies”.

New Zealand, which decriminalised its sex industry in 2003, shows what labour rights for sex workers might look like in practice. Its Prostitution Reform Act explicitly protects sex workers in a number of ways:

  • The right to insist on condom use (Section 9)
  • The rights applying to workers under the Health and Safety in Employment Act (Section 10)
  • The right to refuse any client or service, at any stage of the transaction (Sections 16 and 17)

The Act was drawn up with the input of sex workers, and the research into its impacts has reached remarkably positive conclusions. Most striking are these figures in a 2007 study by the Department of Health and General Practice at the University of Otago (Christchurch) :

SW_WL

Why wouldn’t any trade union see it as positive that so many people who earn their living in a traditionally unprotected sector would now feel that they have rights too? Why wouldn’t any trade union want them to have these rights?

Read Post →

12-07-201309-46-52

Statement from Galway Pro-Choice

, , Comment Closed

Statement from Galway Pro-Choice

21 years since the X Case Ruling, the Irish Government has finally introduced legislation to provide for life-saving terminations. However, instead of protecting women, it has made the route to their constitutional right to be so arduous that it effectively encourages them to continue to travel abroad even when legally entitled to a termination in this country.

For the first time in Irish law, this Act defines ‘unborn human life’ which was given an equal right to life to that of the woman, as a fertilised ovum from the moment of implantation. Consequently this bill does not offer the right to choose a termination to women in Ireland who are pregnant with a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality. It makes no provision for abortion in cases of rape or incest, during an inevitable miscarriage while there is still a foetal heartbeat, nor indeed does it serve the needs of women whose health is at risk if a pregnancy is continued.

Orlaith Reidy of Galway Pro-Choice stated:

“Forcing women who are suicidal to face panels of between 3 to 7 medical professionals is such an ordeal in itself that women entitled to a legal abortion here will continue to travel abroad, rendering the legislation ineffective. There is also no provision to ensure those against terminations in all circumstances cannot sit on these decision making panels raising the possibility of a woman not being granted a termination regardless of her case including if there is a genuine risk to her life.”

Savita Halappanavar died in Galway University Hospital after being denied a termination of an inevitable miscarriage. The inquest into her death found that had she been granted it when she made the request, she would most likely still be alive today. T.D’s, including five from Galway voted against this legislation as they believe it is too broad and will equate to ‘abortion on demand’. Yet this legislation is so incredibly narrow it would not have saved Savita’s life.

Dette Mc Loughlin of Galway Pro-Choice said:

“Under the bill ‘illegal’ abortion continues to be a criminal offense, carrying a 14 year prison sentence for the woman, and also for a doctor that performs such a termination, putting undue pressure on medics. This will affect only the most vulnerable women; mostly the thousands who order abortion pills online and take them without medical supervision. This will have potentially devastating consequences as women will be afraid to seek the medical care they require.”

Galway Pro-Choice concludes that we now must move towards repealing the 8th amendment (Article 40.3.3 of the constitution) to deliver what women in Ireland need and deserve, and the majority of people in Ireland support. We, along with other groups in Ireland, are calling for a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment and will be launching our campaign with a public meeting at the end of the month.

Read Post →

11-07-201315-29-12

An Irish Prayer

, , 2 Comments

An Irish Prayer
After Charles Cotton’s 17th Century Poem “The Litany”
 ssss
From soft-bodied, suited snails who smile
and slither through shining corridors,
through the slick paw of justice,
through the smudged subtext
of the daily papers, through
the precious pennies of our savings accounts -
from their slippery, silvery trail
Deliver us.
 sssss
From the public Punch and Judy show
starring Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael
and only You, God, know what role Labour plays
(but we can imagine them all backstage
after the shouting's done for the day,
cosying up for pints for which we've paid)
but please Deliver us.
dddd 
From the couches of our apathy, from
our conditioned inferiority, from
our muttering religiosity, from
our slack-jawed gullibility, from
our yawning inequality, from
our paralysing futility, from
our grotesque lack of accountability -
Deliver our country, Lord
Deliver us!
ssss

Read Post →

10-07-2013_1_thumb

Repression in the Name of Rescue: The Oireachtas Justice Committee’s Sex Work Proposals

, , Comment Closed

Wendy Lyon of Feminist Ire on the barely noticed draconian measures recommended by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality to be included in the forthcoming legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex.

Last month, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality announced its support for legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex. While this received some media coverage, little notice was taken of the related recommendations put forward simultaneously by the Committee – some of which are frankly draconian. These include the following: 

  • “An offence of recklessly permitting a premises to be used for the purposes of prostitution”. Although a sex worker who operates alone out of a premise is committing no crime under either the present or proposed legislation, this would effectively criminalise indoor commercial sex by penalising a landlord who fails to act against it. According to a report commissioned by the City of Oslo, a similar provision in Norway’s penal code (enforced under the ominously-named “Operation Homeless”) has led to the eviction of sex workers from their flats, and makes them less likely to contact police about crimes committed against them lest the police then threaten their landlords. It has also led to the racial profiling by landlords of “nationality groups associated with prostitution”, who now find it difficult to rent premises and must depend on third parties to secure accommodation for them. 
  • “power for An Garda Síochána to have disabled or vested in them any telephone number in use in the State that is suspected on reasonable grounds of being used for the purposes of prostitution”. This provision could cut off sex workers’ access to communication by phone – which would affect them in all aspects of their life, not merely their sex work activity. (While many sex workers use one phone for personal calls and one phone for business, it’s unlikely the Gardaí could easily distinguish between the two unless they were prepared to listen in to all calls made or received by a suspected sex worker – a civil liberties breach reminiscent of the Snowden revelations.) Denying sex workers the right to use telephones could also have adverse effects for their safety, by making it impossible for them to use “ugly mugs” schemes that alert them to dangerous clients, or preventing them calling for help if attacked. 
  • “that the accessing of web sites – whether located in the State or abroad – that advertise prostitution in the State should be treated in the same way as accessing sites that advertise or distribute child pornography”. Leaving aside the question of whether it is appropriate to treat seeking out sex from an at least potentially consenting adult as comparable to seeking out abuse of a child, this proposal makes no distinction between those who seek out sex and those who advertise it. Thus, sex workers themselves could be liable to prosecution (and presumably placement on the sex offenders’ registry) by accessing these sites for the purpose of advertising. Outreach health and social service workers who engage with sex workers through these sites, as well as sex industry researchers, would also be affected. It goes without saying that this proposal would require a significant expansion of the apparatus already in place to monitor Irish internet usage. 

Read Post →

Rotun_6

Alternative Proposals

, , Comment Closed

Alternative Proposals

the Fine Gael health minister proposes a panel of two obstetricians

and four psychiatrists – one of whom must be a perinatal psychiatrist –

to assess a woman who is seeking an abortion on the grounds of suicide

ideation…there are only three perinatal psychiatrists in the country

The Sunday Times, April 21st, 2013

 

Any woman of child bearing hips,

unfortunate enough to find herself

alive on the patch of weeds between Muff

and Kilmuckridge, or Skibbereen

and Hackballs Cross, must,

to have her baby/babies

legally abhorted, obtain, before she kills her

self, without bribery or offer of

sexual favours, the signatures

of six former members

of the Irish National Liberation Army;

six personal friends of Shane Ross;

six random guys shouting

obscenities in the street;

six women from Barna

who thought Michael D’s speech

last week to the European Parliament

was absolutely marvellous;

six Sean Nós dancers in residence

at accredited universities,

six plumbers who’ll definitely be there

first thing Tuesday morning,

six Dutch guys from Doolin

who make their own clogs, or

six ex-members of the pop group

Six.

 

KEVIN HIGGINS

Read Post →

1A_1_THUMB

Margaret Thatcher’s Death is No Loss to the Greater Part of Humanity

, , 2 Comments

Margaret Thatcher has left a deep legacy not only for the people of the neighbouring island but also for the Irish people and for the oppressed and suffering peoples of the world.

Thatcher epitomised the arrogance of the long imperialist traditions of the British ruling class. Her policy in regard to the H-block hunger strikes exposed her deep contempt and hatred for those who opposed British imperialist interests. Under her rule the British army gained greater freedom to develop and perpetrate its dirty war in the North of Ireland, when selective assassinations and the management of loyalist paramilitaries became more central to the British war machine.

Thatcher was one in a long line of British rulers who had a deep hatred of working people, such as her great hero, Churchill, another person who carried as a badge of honour his hatred of Ireland and the Irish people’s struggle for independence as well as for the British working class. Thatcher saw workers as mere cannon-fodder in imperialist wars, whether in Ireland or the Malvinas, or simply strategic pawns in her anti-communist crusades, as with “Solidarity” in Poland.

Her name has become a byword for aggression, selfishness, and rampant individualism. She has left a legacy of destroyed lives, shattered communities, rampant militarism and chauvinism and the destruction of what was left of British manufacturing and raised the adoration of the “market” beyond all previous levels.

Read Post →

Ladies_Know_Your_Limits

Leo Varadkar’s World: Where men are men and women are grateful

, , 4 Comments

Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar, in a shining example of how to make friends and influence people, excelled himself with his comments indicating that some women may have to give up their jobs in order to avail of the new personal insolvency service. The TD’s comments were picked up in The Irish Examiner;

I know one or two women who probably don’t make very much money at all from working, but they do it to keep their position on the career ladder, if you like, and that is a legitimate thing to do.

“But if you can’t pay your mortgage as a result, or buy your groceries as a result, then that is something that needs to be taken into account in any insolvency arrangement.

“Nobody is asking anybody to give up their jobs. What is going to happen is that people are going to come forward, they are going to say ‘I can’t pay my debts, I can’t pay my mortgage’, and in that case, the insolvency practitioner will go through with them why they can’t pay their bills, and obviously a creditor is not going to agree to a writedown unless that has been gone through and they can work out what is the most they can pay.”

We all know two income families where there are women working, and realistically they might be just about breaking even due to the cost of childcare. The outrageous cost of childcare is due to the fact that the Government have failed utterly in ensuring a state childcare system that is affordable and accessible for women or dare I say it, state-funded through an equitable taxation system and free to avail of.

Parents do not enjoy paying out the price of a mortgage to have someone mind their children, but they do it because they have to. They think “My child will be in school when they’re 4 or 5, this is hard but it’s only for a few years.” Working mothers will often add on a bit to the end of that sentence, “…this is hard but it’s only for a few years, and at least I’ll still have my job at the end.” The implication of Varadkar’s comments are clearly that women in those situations where it may be a short-term cost to work should give up their jobs in order to avail of the personal insolvency arrangements. There is no other way of interpreting it.

Read Post →

SelmaJames

Audio: “How can women defeat austerity?” Selma James’ Talk at Maynooth, 13 March 2013

, , Comment Closed

“How can women defeat austerity?” – Selma James at Maynooth, 13 March 2013

An MA Community Education, Equality and Social Activism podcast, available on the Community Education, Equality and Social Activism (CEESA) website here.

Founder of the Wages for Housework campaign and coordinator of the Global Women's Strike, Selma James brought a lifetime of movement experience to bear in this electrifying talk. Asked to speak to organisers' needs in the current crisis, she spoke to a roomful of 30 activists and researchers passionately, clearly and incisively for an hour without notes.

To understand austerity, we have to understand the struggles which gave birth to the welfare state, the poverty which went before it and the attacks it has been under since the 1970s, and the first part of her talk tackled these themes. In the second part she discussed the weaknesses of movements since that time in responding to the attacks: how NGOisation has demobilised movements and left them dependent on funders, far-left parties try to substitute themselves for popular action while social-democratic parties simply represent a slower attack on people's basic needs. In the third and final part she discussed the urgency of building a broader movement which does not see class and gender, anti-racism or environmental survival, as separate and opposed issues. A lively and engaged discussion followed.

Read Post →

SelmaJames

DEFENDING CARING AND WELFARE IN CARELESS TIMES – Selma James at UCD

, , 1 Comment

PRAXIS and Equality Studies are proud to announce that a Communiversity event will take place on Tuesday March 12th 2013 2.30 – 4.30pm E114, UCD Newman (Arts) Building where renowned activist and author Selma James will address the theme DEFENDING CARING AND WELFARE IN CARELESS TIMES. The event comes at a time when austerity policies, triggered by the global economic meltdown, are devastating already-burdened communities. In particular, the rights and entitlements hard-won over the years by carers, overwhelmingly women, are being senselessly eroded. Despite all of this, care work and other work that women must do for the survival of families and communities continues, unabated and uncelebrated.

Selma James is known for coining the phrase “unwaged” in the 1970s to describe the unremunerated care work done almost universally by women. She continues to address these and other inequalities in her work, and information on her new book Sex, Race and Class, The Perspective of Winning: A Selection of Writings 1952-2011, is available at the end of this press release. She is co-author of the women's movement classic The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community. James founded the International Wages for Housework Campaign and is coordinator of the Global Women's Strike. She is also the widow and former colleague of influential historian CLR James.

Read Post →