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Femme skaters, a new form of feminist expression

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I love to skate it has become my passions in life, but I feel as if I don’t do enough of it. I sometimes lack the motivation to go to the skate park alone and practice, because I feel like I’m often judged by the guys in the park. I have attempted a couple of times to go to the skate park near where I live, but I often find myself on the side practicing and hiding from the gaze. Before I even attempted to get on a board I had this horrible idea stuck in my mind that I couldn’t skate. This idea all changed when I met this wonderful soul, Clementine in one of my classes. Clementine was carrying her board and when I saw that, my eyes lit up and I was so fascinated by the way she would ride her board. I thought to myself, I want to do that. She had told me that she started learning to skate when she was in her twenties, and right then and there it sparked a motivation to learn to skate. Clementine came out with me and helped pick a store to build my first skateboard. Ever since, we have been invading the skate parks with our femme ways. We are both very conscious that we do not fit the skater grrrls scene considering we dress very femme and we scream and laugh like femmes.  As a skater femme, I’m consciously resisting the emphasized femininity that my body produces by acting on the board rather then passively sitting on the bench as an observer. Usually when you see girls in the skate park they are often sitting on the benches watching as fans or girl friends. Clementine and I defy these rules when we are on our boards trying to land tricks or skate the half pipe. With that being said there are some bad ass female skaters in the park.

At times I feel empowered by the fact that we’re two femmes skateboarding, yet at times I feel disempowered when I become the subject of male criticism as to how I should ride the half pipe or get comments like “oh you actually skate”. As Clementine and I enter the skate park the guys check us out and I always wonder what they think and how they are reading our bodies. Do these men see us as femme or defeminized considering we are on boards, and can they read our feminist expression or is that something that they are oblivious to.

There are times when I’m on the half pipe and the guys just get on the pipe with power and force, as if telling me to watch what their about to do. The guys that come up to us are usually interested in knowing how long we’ve been skating. Some of the guys that actually approach us usually try to give us a couple of tips, which actually help. It usually doesn’t end at a friendly tip, but rather leading onto getting a number. We are very clear with them that we are not interested and that usually ends there. The most interesting observation is the fact that once a guy approached us, the other guys seem less reluctant at ignoring us and actually approach us and give us tips without the hassle of giving our numbers in return. Its as if we earn a legitimate skater status. When we are given tips it becomes a form of acceptance and this allows us to get more comfortable in that environment.

Skater culture can be sexist and oppressive, but our bodies situated in these spaces dismantle and disrupts ideas about skateboarding as a male dominated sport. Walking around the streets with our boards in hand we get alarming looks, as if they’ve looked at something that doesn’t belong.  People’s behaviour in itself is empowering, because our feminism is consistently in motion, considering we are exposing the people to new ideology about femmes and suggesting our bodies are capable of moving in non-traditional ways. Our bodies are not fragile and we are not afraid of sustaining  scaring injuries. Nyja Huston is a professional skateboarder who in an interview this summer claimed “girls can’t skate”. How can he say that when there are skater grrrls out there that are better skaters then he is.  When Nyja put forward this claim, he failed to recognize the conditions and circumstances girls experience in accessing skateparks.  The girls in the skate park skate harder and experience a lot of sexism yet they continue to skate with all these disempowering circumstances.

Traditionally women hangout around the skate park and they are often perceived as posers, flirting, or trying to find a boyfriend. One day I had just arrived to the skate park and as I was settling down to start skating, a guy with a book in his hand approached me. The guy came up to me and asked me if I was skating or posing. I was shocked at first and replied to him with frustration “skate”. He responded with astonishment and said, “oh that’s cool”. There is always a consistent demand of showing the guys that we can skate rather then just pose. One of the first things they demand when they interact with us is to show them what we can do. There are guys who are posers, where they come to the park with their boards and weed. Their code of acceptance among the guys is the fact that they are male and they have weed. Our way of showing them that we skate and not get ridiculed is by actually skating with their surveillance.

The presence of two femmes skateboarding challenges the skater boys, because it contests ideas about male dominance in skate parks. This also confronts ideas about femininity in the skate parks, because traditionally women are observers rather then skaters. This is a challenge to gender roles in the park as well as empowerment to women who are in the skate park as non-skaters, because they earn legitimize to skate if they wished.


Female Genital Mutilation/ circumcision in Egypt

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      When I was six, the daya (midwife) came along holding a razor in her hands, pulled out my clitoris from between my thighs, and cut it off. She said it was the will of God and she had done his will. (Nawal El Saadawi 11)

 

Nawal El Saadawi, a world-renowned Egyptian feminist shares her experience with FGM when she was six years old.  Her encounter seems violent, yet it is justified through a religious statement that it was God’s will. Female Genital Mutilation continues to be practiced in Egypt because it is considered a traditional and religious practice that has been passed down for generations. FGM can be seen as a form of control over female bodies and their sexuality. It is assumed that the practice of female circumcision would preserve the female’s chastity, simultaneously one has to recognize it is a form of human rights violation. The women who have been circumcised had no choice because in most cases it was conducted when the women were at a young age.  In this aspect one can not recognize this act other then violation against women, because it does not allow women to practice a choice, as it is done with social and religious pressures. The preconceived notion is that FGM reduces a woman’s sexual desire, but the research conducted suggests otherwise. Scholarly work suggests that women who have been circumcised do experience sexual pleasure, but in some insistences they do not experience sexual desire as this has psychosexual implications rather then physical ones. The women that were interviewed in some of the studies suggest that the FGM procedure was painful yet some consider it as a right of passage to their femininity. (Seif El Dawla 129) There is a false perception that the clitoris of the women would grow larger as she gets older, therefore the remedy for it is the circumcision of it. This idea was contracted through old medical ideologies that were produced for Egyptians by the Greek and Romans. These medical ideologies were produced in Alexandria where most of the ancient medical research was conducted by gynecologists. This ideology was then taken up as a religious ideal, that female circumcision most be conducted to fulfill the women and the families religious obligation. The procedure is conducted usually based on the parents consent rather then the actual person that is undergoing the procedure.  The Feminist movements along with NGOs in Egypt showed resilience towards the practice and fought until the law was amended to protect women from FGM. The social change is an ongoing project in Egypt around FGM, because it is difficult to break a tradition that has kept the practice alive for centuries. The social change must be done with a political and social motive for change in the ideology around this practice. It is necessary to educate society around women’s sexual reproductive and the negative effects of FGM on women, because these overlooked conceptions. One has to recognize that FGM is a patriarchal act that oppresses women by controlling their sexual agency, and correspondingly taking control over women’s bodies in the social sphere. The motive of this essay is to explore the historical context of the practice, the control of women’s sexual pleasure, the legal and political struggle that are embedded in FGM, in addition the forms of resistance and resolutions that are occupied. The text that will be utilized in this paper is, Curing Cut or Ritual Mutilation by Mary Knight, where she describes the historical aspect of FGM. Another text is, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting and Issues of Sexuality in Egypt by Amel Fehmy, Mawaheb El-Mouelhy, and Ahmed Ragab, where they conducted a study in regards to how Egyptians understood sexual pleasure in accordance to FGM. The third text is, Female Genital Mutilation and its Psychosexual Impact by Mohammed El-Defrawi, Galal Lotfy, Khadiga Dandash, Amany Refaat, and Moustafa Eyada, where the purpose of their study is to distinguish the psychological trauma that is associated with FGM. The Fourth text is, The Political and Legal Struggle over Female Genital Mutilation in Egypt Five Years since the ICPD by Aida Seif El Dawla, where the text mainly looks at the political agenda behind FGM. The fifth text is Female Genital Mutilation: have we made progress?, where it suggests that there are ways one can adopt social change to the practice of FGM. Also a short documentary called Youth Documentary on FGM, is used to understand how social movements utilize the internet to send in important message about FGM.  The texted used for this paper is all produced by Egyptians about FGM in Egypt. The main idea is to gain an intersectional perspective of FGM in Egypt, as it is a complex and difficult position for women who have encountered the practice.

The History of FGM

            One must acknowledge that the practice of FGM is utterly violent in practice, as it requires the removal of flesh from a sensitive part of the body and that is the genital area. There are three stages the first is the pricking of the clitoris with a needle and it is claimed not to cause damage or disfigurement, when the procedure is conducted correctly.  (Knight 320,321) It is considered the mildest form of FGM usually recognized as the removal of the hood of the clitoris, the labia minora, or at times both the hood of the clitoris and the labia minora. (Knight 321) The second degree entails the removal of the entire clitoris and usually portions of the labia minora, this is more radical than the first. (Knight 321) In the most radical form of FGM, called infibulation, where the clitoris, labia minora, and portions of the labia majora are all removed. In these cases the genital area is sutured shut with thread and only leaving a tiny orifice for urinary and menstrual flows. (Knight 321,322) This historical practice can be seen as a violation to a young women’s body, because it is amputating a part of her body without any legitimate medical reasons.

The oldest writings on the clitoris were in the sixth century by Soranus who was a Greek gynecologist conducting his studies in Alexandria, Egypt. He dedicated an entire chapter to the circumcision of a large clitoris, apparently it was considered to masculinize a woman. (Knight 322)

On the excessively large clitoris, which the Greeks call the “masculinized” [reading “yos” as a latinized, the god of fertailizing moisture] nymphe [clitoris]. The presenting feature of the deformity is a large masculinized clitoris. In need, some assert that its flesh becomes erect just as in men and as if in search of frequent sexual intercourse. (Knight 322)

 

It is then advised to cure the large clitoris by taking a hold of it and cutting the tip with a scalpel and after operation it is to be cared for just like any wound one contracts. (Knight 322) One can see that women’s sexual appetite is associated with an enlarged clitoris, as if women are not allowed such appetite. It is perceived that only men who can be active agents in a sexual relationship. It is also perceived that a large clitoris makes women unattractive as sexual partners. Also there was this notion that a large clitoris would make a women active agent in finding a sexual partner and that was undesirable and frown med upon.

A dreadful size attends to certain clitorides and it upsets the women with the ugliness of the parts, and, as many relate, when it is affected by immoderate tumescene, these women acquire an appetite like men, and when [the clitoris] is so driven, they come into venery. (knight 324)

 

This was written by a fifth century C.E. physician from modern Tunisia. As this was predicted that this is where Soranus gained his knowledge about the circumcision of a clitoris. The issue at hand is the fact that these men were gaining knowledge from one another and taken these findings are grounded knowledge about female bodies. These medical studies suggest ambivalence because they take information and interpret it in their own ways to make generalized knowledge about women’s autonomy that is false. A seventh century physician from Alexandria by the name of Paul of Aegina also perceived a large clitoris would make women have eager sexual desires and he presumed that was as shameful. He gives instructions as to the procedure of the circumcision of the “shameful clitoris”. (Knight 325)

Thus with the women in a supine position, we take hold of the excess of the clitoris with a small forceps and cut it off with a surgeon’s knife, while guarding against cutting too deeply do that a rhyaikos [urinary fistula] does not develop from it.” (Knight 325)

 

One will not know whether these procedures were conducted on females or intersexed individuals because the clitoris has be described with one dimensional aspect. It is also suggested in the text that the clitoris would lead to a disease described similar to cancer. (Knight 326) These ideas are not far from reality but the accuracy of their studies is questionable, yet traditions are built on this false knowledge. Paul’s work does not state whether FGM was being practiced in Egypt but further studies show that it was being practiced outside of Egypt. A Lydian king who would castrate women instead of men, was the first to report FGM practices as a way to keep women youthful, but the true reason was to make them infertile. (Knight 326) The king would have intercourse with these women and he thought the exercise of FGM would make them infertile, even though that did not prevent the women from pregnancy. (Knight 326) These were discovered to be the early practice of FGM without the medical measurements attached to it, but projecting the patriarchal motives behind the practice. Another Greek Physician studied medicine during the ruling of the Emperor Justinian I, was Aetois. (Knight 327) This was conducted during 527-565 C.E., where the focus of his operation was on the female clitoris as it was presumed to be a form of deformity and case for sexual stimulus. (Knight 327) Aetois acknowledges that the rubbing of the clitoris creates stimulation, also the motive behind Egyptians preforming the surgery on the young women was because they fearful that the clitoris would get enlarged with the women’s age. (Knight 328) There was this fear that the women’s autonomy was mirroring a man’s sexual autonomy and as a result they were producing studies that distinguished difference between men and women’s sexual organs.  

            It is also suggested that the practice of FGM was not being conducted until the Greeks and the Romans arrival to Egypt, as the tools that were used for the practice were not accessible to the Egyptians. Also the mummies also reaffirm this notion because their bodies did not show any scars in the genital areas. The report by Knight shows that, “30,000 mummies had been investigated without a single surgical scar being reported.” (Knight 329) This indicates that FGM was rare before the Greeks ruled Egypt circumcision was not practiced on women but research shows that it might have been practice in temples for spiritual connection after the Roman have came to Egypt. (Knight 333) One can see that the practice of FGM is to eradicate sexual desire in women as a way to preserve their chastity. Yet one can see that the long history shows a more oppressive aspect behind controlling women’s sexual pleasure. It is unfortunate that these ideologies have lead to ongoing traditional practice of FGM and circumcision to control women sexual pleasure.

FGM Controls Women’s Sexual Agency and Desire 

            In current context the practice of FGM is mainly traditional rather then medical and as a result it is embedded in the culture. The medical motivations may have intersect with social and moral ideas and as a result empowered FGM to continue its practice all throughout Egypt. Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab, conducted a research around how FGM is used is a way to control female sexual pleasure and found that the practice of FGM continues to be prominent in their culture as it is highly supported by men. In 2008 Demographic and Health Survey conducted in Egypt suggests that 91% of reproductive age women have undergone genital mutilation or cutting. (Fahmy, El-Mouelhy, Ragab 181)  The women under go the procedure before they reach the age of puberty. (Fahmy, El-Mouelhy, Ragab 181) The most common procedures that are currently practiced are Type I and Type II FGM. Type I entails the removal of the clitoris. Type II would be the removal of the labia minora and part of the clitoris; also sometimes the entire clitoris gets removed in this practice. (Fahmy, El-Mouelhy, Ragab 181) The survey shows that 84% of the women have undergone type I and type II FGM, meanwhile 9% have gone type III which is the most severe type of genital mutilation. (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 181) The survey also shows that only 7% of the women have not undergone the procedure. (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 181) The survey indicates that a high number of women have undergone FGM in Egypt, which suggests that the traditional and cultural rules prevail the legal rules in the country.

 

“ … According to the 2008 DHS, doctors in Egypt carry out a large majority (72%) of circumcisions in girls under 17 years of age, and dayas (traditional birth attendants) 21%, as reported by girls’ mothers.” (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 181)

 

One can see that the procedures are being conducted by doctors more so then by the traditional midwife, thus making a claim that it is socially motivated practice. The socially motivated practice suggest that there are routed meanings in the practice of FGM, which reminds one of ideas about chastity that are constructed dependent on moral rather then tradition. In the study conducted by Fahmy, El-Mouelhy, Ragab, suggested that the husbands preferred circumcised wives as a way to ensure that the women do not engage in premarital or extra-marital sex. (Fahmy, El-Mouelhy, Ragab 182) This is a way to ensure female passivity in the bedroom because the men do not desire a sexually empowered woman, but rather one that lacks knowledge and power.

 

Prominent Muslim religious leaders including the late Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, have spoken out strongly against FGM/C on several occasions, defining it as socio-cultural belief rather than a religious requirement.” (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 182)

 

            It is very interesting that religious leaders are speaking against the practice of FGM yet there are men and women who are embedded in the believe that it is a religious fulfillment that they commit themselves to as well as their daughters. One can see that having religious leaders speak publicly against it can influence highly religious people not to participate in the deadly practice of FGM.

Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab recruited men and women to translate their understanding around female sexuality and reasons behind the practice of FGM/C. They conducted a focus group discussion in three sites with thirteen women and twelve men, also another one with ninety-four women and ninety-three men. (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 183) It was divided into the following age group; “six groups were with women over 35 years of age, seven with women under 35, six with men over 35 and six with men under 35.” (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 183) The study had a variety of men and women who were educated. Also the participant’s religious affiliations were either Muslim or Christian. The majority of the women identified them selves as being circumcised. (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 183)   They also had in-depth interviews with eight women, six men, four community leaders, six with religious leaders, and seven with circumcisers and health providers. (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 183)

Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab in their interview with the religious members like the priests and Sheikh (Muslim religious figure) suggest their overwhelming disagreement with the practice. One of the priests interviewed states that, “The holy book gives the right to enjoy sex to both the man and the woman. … A women has the right to desire her husband.” (Priest, interview) (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 186) This quote gives women sexual agency, and also makes women equal to men. This informed thought suggests that religion can operate to voice women’s agency in a society that is very religious. A sheikh and a priest both agreed on the fact that female circumcision does not lead to reduction in sexual pleasure but it may cause lack of sexual desire. (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 186) The interview also enticed medical practitioners who talk about their patients who had been circumcised and their marriage experience.

A woman came to me a month after marriage with depression saying they had circumcised her six or seven months before; she felt insulted (her pride was insulted by cutting a piece of her flesh). Another comes complaining that her sexual life with her husband is cold, she is afraid he might take another wife. Another asks me for medicines to increase her sexual feeling. This causes problems between the couple. (physician, interview).” (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 186)

 

This response is both shocking and disturbing because one thinks that it is down to women when they are at a vulnerable stage in their life, which is when they are young. Yet this shows that FGM is down to women anytime in their lifetime to claim control over their sexual agency by their male counter part. Another aspect of the information provided by the physician about the women fearing her husband marrying another women because she did not fulfill his sexual desire, implicates that women lack agency as wives and they are devalued.

            During the study it was illustrated that there was this conception by men and women over the age of 35 year, that women who were not circumcised had ridiculous sexual urges that would lead them to having orgasms while they were walking. (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Raga 184)  Also the reoccurring notion among the participants that suggested that “clitoris is the seat of sexual desire” and as a result the women would be engaged in sexual activity which leads them to losing their virginity. (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Raga 184)  In the focus group the men feared the fact that they could not tame or fulfill their wives sexual demands if the women were not circumcised. Ideas about female sexual appetite constructed based on Western pornographic movies. The men in this situation are exposed to porn without the understanding that it is the women’s job to engage in these practices, as well as the fact that not all uncircumcised are promiscuous. (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Raga 184)  The men as result showed support toward circumcision and forms of genital mutilation because that was perceived to keep women in “good behavior”, as this is expected for all the women they choose to marry. (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Raga 185) 

            The focus group also suggested that the women did not initiate sex but rather the man is given this power and it is highly celebrated, meanwhile a women would raise suspicion to her husband. (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Raga 185) This also reaffirms the active male role and the passive or non-existent role of the female, as these are a result of socially constructed ideas about gender norms based on female chastity.  Yet, women are expected to show desire in having sex with their husbands by taking a shower, preparing a good meal, dressing in special clothes, or walking in a special way, as these signal out to a man their availability. (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 185) When women are given power to initiate sexual desire, they must conduct it in a settle way where it preserves their image as a “good wife” and not forgetting her role in the domestic sphere. Women at the same time do not have sexual agency, because in the focus group men ages 35 and over, referred to beating their wives if they refused sex without any physical reasons.  (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 185) This was considered to be in line with Islamic teaching about sex as a duty for a woman has to service her husband. (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 185) These ideas about religion are clearly constructed based on the male’s own interpretations. As one notes that religious figures teaching about Islam give agency over sexual desire to both the male and female, but these teachings are empowering to women and as a result are not followed.

            Fehmy, El-Mouelhy and Regab in their focus group showed the gendered understanding of sexual pleasure among younger men and women. The men understood sexual pleasure as the act of intercourse and this is an important element to a happy marriage life. (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 185) Meanwhile, the women perceived sexual pleasure in a more conservative matter where they were contempt with a caring and kind husband, along with happy children and financial fulfillment. (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 185) When the women opened up about their sexual relationship in the focus group and the interviews conducted, they noted the following; “felt cold during sexual relations”, “had no satisfaction out of sex” or “had pain during sex”. (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 185) The women were not distressed about these feelings instead they perceived it a marital duty and religious obligation to engage in sexual relationship with their husbands. (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 185) It makes it clear that the women’s ideas are a product of social constructed views about female sexuality, as this suggest that women are constrained in the private sphere making them lack self agency also in public.

The Psychosexual impact of FGM

It is evident from the women’s response in the study conducted by Fehmy, El-Mouelhy and Ragab, that the lack of sexual desire is more likely to occur than sexual pleasure. This indicates that it might be a consequence of trauma that was experienced during the FGM procedure. In the study conducted by El-Defrawi, Lotfy, Dandash, Refaat, and Eyada, suggests that lack of sexual desire is due to trauma that had occurred during the circumcision procedure. The study was conducted in Ismailia, Egypt, where 250 women participated in the study as they were selected from the patients of Maternal and Childhood Centers. They were each interviewed for their psychosexual activity. (El-Defeawi, 465) The results show that 200 women out of 250, were circumcised, where 76% of the women underwent the procedure when they were between the ages of 8 to 12 years old. (El-Defeawi, 467)  Also 58% of the circumcision were performed at home, also 48.5% had the Daya (midwife) conduct the procedure. (El-Defeawi, 467) The study shows that the women experienced complications during the procedure; where 50.5% of the women experienced injury to the clitoris, and 53.5% of the women claimed complications after the procedure was conducted. (El-Defeawi, 468) The study shows that 83% of the circumcised women showed lack of sexual desire. (El-Defeawi, 467) Also they lacked pleasure during sex, and they are less likely to initiate sexual activity with their husbands, as they also experience lack of pleasure by sex and lack of orgasms. (El-Defeawi, 467) One can note that women are not to initiate sex due to reasons for female moral. The study also shows that circumcised women experienced more symptoms of dysmenorrhea and dryness during intercourse then the uncircumcised women. (El-Defeawi, 469) The study indicates that the physical practice of the study results also in a psychological trauma to the women, as they understand their sexual organs. “The assault on the female sex organs by circumcision, excision, or infibulation has a profound effect on sexual behavior.” (El-Defeawi, 470) One can recognize the practice of FGM/ circumcision is done for the purpose to keep women’s moral in line with social expectations in a patriarchal society. It is suggested that partial removal of the clitoris causes psychological disturbances and impaired sexual performance. (El-Defeawi, 470)  One can see that the encounter of the act leads women to be suppressed not only sexually but also in a social context, because these understandings of the practice are highly reliant on social and traditional ideals.

The studies findings suggest that the psychological implications of FGM can lead to sexual phobia that later on appear in the a women’s life as a lack of sexual desire and satisfaction (El-Defewi 471)

… The majority of circumcised females (69%) reported that they considered circumcision to be a harmful procedure, about two thirds (61.5%) reported having circumcised their daughters or intending to do so. (El-Defeawi, 472)     

 

Although the women have experienced the horrifying experience of circumcision they would continue to consider it for their daughters. This shows that the social pressure is much more dominated in these women’s lives than the value of sexual agency. One has to see sexual agency as beyond the mere sexual pleasure out of sex but rather empowering women in the political and social sphere. One can see that this is not only a sexual struggle but also a political one.

The Political and Legal Struggle

 

            The practice of FGM suggests that it does not control a women’ sexuality but rather it is a practice that is conducted to make a women feminine, yet at the same time it is used to control and suppress women’s sexual pleasure. To understand the motive behind this ancient practice that is misunderstood one needs to understand the political motive that drives this.

From the time period between 1950 onto early 1970’s the focus was mainly the neoliberal support where women’s sexuality was something that is dealt with in the private sphere and there is no room for political reason. (Seif El Dawla 130)

 

One can see that the government undermines women as subjects because they do not want to be responsible for voicing women’s opinion, considering that may cost them financially. Women’s issues are prominent in Egypt yet the government perceives it as a private issue, but when it comes to women’s reproduction choice it becomes a political one, because they would like to control ones bodies. The International Confrence on Population and Development that was held in Egypt in 1994, enlightened the world to the FGM practices that were being conducted in Egypt as they were negatively criticized. (Seif El Dawla 130) This conference ignited a debate that was supported by NGOs, feminists, and health practitioners, as they collectively raised concern about the violent behviour conducted against Egyptian women. (Seif El Dawla 130)

 

Issues like reproductive rights, abortion and FGM were the subjects of heated discussion, and sometimes violent confrontation, during the conference. For every session that had the word ‘reproductive’ in its title on the programme, a dozen people, men and women, would appear and attack the immorality of the organisers and the speakers. (Seif El Dawla 131)

 

The backlash towards ending FGM, shows that it becomes much more political because they opposition parties may be holding there position due to the fact that it was a Western conference. There is this negative connotations associated with Western liberation, maybe due to the colonial history that was experienced in Egypt. The movement towards ending FGM becomes political, because it is perceived that the Westerners, even though those who were at the conference were Egyptian, are precieved to amend their traditions with Western values. While the heated debates in the ICPD were igniting, CNN produced a film about FGM in Egypt to depict how backward Egypt was, as a respond to the video the Egyptian government took matters into their own hands fear of the US cutting financial funds. (Seif El Dawla 131) The government made a public announced to promised that they would produce laws that would make FGM illegal. (Seif El Dawla 131) one is saddened that a women’s body becomes a threat that the US holds against the Egyptian government. One can see that the female in this amendment is not the subject but rather the fear of financial suspension is.  

A year later came the sobering results of the Egyptian Demographic and Health Survey (1995) showing for the first time that 97 per cent of ever married Egyptian women aged 15-49 were circumcised.” (Seif El Dawla 132)

 

The survey results suggest that that reason behind the staggering number is a form of resisting the government decision because it is perceived to be influenced by Western ideology. This shows that the opposing parties have high influence on the population and this can be done through imbedded social and traditional beliefs. There is a long battle between the Egyptian government and the Islamic reforms over the attainment of power in the nation. It is evident through FGM that the Islamic reforms are powerful in the country because they were able to make the population resist through religious ideals that are socially constructed for the benefit of diplomatic power. One can see that female bodies continue to be devalued because it is presumed that any loses from either party are not major, therefore the lives of the women who die as a result of FGM are not even considered. (Seif El Dawla 132) The women continues to be oppressed through these values and traditions that are there to show who is more powerful the government or the Islamic reformers.

            The Islamic reformers counter act to the government position to FGM, created a threat to their power and in response the government decided to issue a creed. The Minister of Health issued a decree that allowed only medical practitioners to conduct female circumcision. (Seif El Dawla 132) His belief was that the medicalization of FGM would end the practice, but this idea is very questionable and makes one suspicious as to the true reasons behind this decree. The doctors that were conducting the procedure were under paid and as a result making them unmotivated, thus they are not devoted to the practice as much. (Seif El Dawla 132) Yet again the women’s bodies are stuck in a political struggle between two groups that want to establish their power in Egypt. The same Minister that issued the decree was lobbied by NGO community and as a result passed another decree banning the practice of FGM by doctors. (Seif El Dawla 133) It becomes a state of power and financial advancement that control how women are protected in this patriarchal society. It becomes questionable whether the banning of FGM by medical practitioners is going to help the situation, considering that even with the government’s resistance towards FGM it does not end the practice.

The Current Situation and Progress

 

            The current situation in Egypt after the ongoing debates and political struggles women continue to be supported by NGOs and feminist groups in Egypt. There are individuals and NGOs who place forward campaigns that educate women about religious interpretations to FGM that reject the practice, as well as education women around the concept of FGM as it violates women’s rights. (Seif El Dawla 133)

Marie Assaad, a committed and militant fighter for the eradication of FGM in Egypt for many years, chairs the Task Force, which is active in research, advocacy, campaigning, networking and training on how to address FGM. It has created a resource centre on FGM and violence against women which is open to anyone interested in gathering information or contacting others active in this work. (Seif El Dawla 133)

 

It makes one contempt to see feminist who use reistence as a fro of empowerment to conduct institutions for women to help educate and empower them. One can see this as a from of liberation that these women take a part in regardless of the political battle about their bodies. The resistance against FGM was also being supported by women, which makes one acknowledge that patriarchal hegemony is very powerful in Egypt and these women fail to see the negative consequences it has on them as humans. (Seif El Dawla 133) One has to recognize that the fight over FGM is a matter of giving women a status in Egypt, because those who are effected are young women who would always have controlled by these social disempowering ideals. “Some Egyptian women’s organizations have remained silent on this issue, claiming that there are other, more important political fronts to fight on.” (Seif El Dawla 133) These women’s movements have to recognize the importance of the fight towards FGM as an important one as well, because it is a political struggle as well for these women.

In Egypt a DHS survey was conducted in 2000 showed that girls are 10% less likely to be circumcised than their mothers as this was due to the activities that had occurred during the ICPD conference that was in 1994 in Cairo, Egypt. (Toubia, Sharief 254) This shows that the debates  by the women’s movement, NGOs and medical practioners did a minor change in the way people precieved the information. The percentage is very low of women who less likely to be circumcised, considering the amount of education that was put forward by women’s organization. Thus one can see that the progress is slow in the social and traditional practice of FGM, because it is also about confining and suppressing women.

This shift in emphasis has helped redefine the issues from a clinical disease model (hence the terminology of eradication prevalent in the literature) to a problem resulting from the use of culture to protect social dominance over women’s bodies by the patriarchal hierarchy. (Toubia, Sharief 254)

 

Although there is a shift in the way people in Egypt precieve FGM as a violation against young women but rather the medical awereness had changed. Egyptian “health risk” messages sent the message to the people not to conduct the procedure at home but rather have it done by a medical practitioners. (Toubia, Sharief 255) The 2000 Egyptian Demographic and Health Survey demonstrates that 97% of girls and women continue to be circumcised. (Toubia, Sharief 255) One can acknowledge that issues around women’s sexual agency and the practice of FGM as a human rights violation is not even considered. The true consideration is evident, which is the control of women’s sexuality and chastity are the primary concern.

A successful social change was being implemented in Deir El Barsha in Egypt where the villagers showed that they did not support the practice of FGM in their community and those who are interested in FGM had to go to another village to conduct the procedure. (Toubia, Sharief 257) The community conducts the social change as a collective movement in this case to put an end to the practice of FGM.

Resolutions

 

FGM needs to be changed socially because as one can see that the implication behind the belief are purely social and traditional attachments. Toubia and Izzett produced a practical theory around adjusting a community for bevioural change.

Behavioral change at the individuals level is a non-linear process. It follows a set of six, vaguely distinict and overlapping, milestones: (1) pre-contemplation; (2) contemplation; (3) preparation; (4) action; (5) maintenance; (6) sustained new behavior [18]. … it is a decision taken on behalf of a minor that may involve server individuals including father, mother, grandmother, aunts, and potential in-laws. (Toubia, Sharief 257)

 

The end of the step implies that for a behavior to change it needs to adapt a new behiour, which indicates that the community need to replace the practice of FGM with educational lessons around the practice and how to empower young women.

The public declaration of the community being against the practice voices the social change and it creates a stronger resistance against the social practice and raising collective awareness to the practice. (Toubia, Sharief 257) As people consider female genital mutilation/ cutting to be key to women’s sexual morality, educational measures will also be needed. Experience from interventions in both Egypt and other countries suggest that political commitment must be combined by strong advocacy and education programs at both national and community levels, within a package of education and training to eliminate other harmful traditional practices such as early marriage and domestic violence. (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 187) Thus, the Developmental approach is also needed within this, in which women are empowered and as result it would improve their position in the family. (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 187) Also it was suggested that Egyptions are large consumers of popular media, thus it would be effective if awareness about FGM and Circumcision would be incorporated in the forms of media like movies, radio, soap operas and newspapers. (Fehmy, El-Mouelhy, and Ragab 187) There is a Youtube Video called Youth Documentary on FGM in Egypt, where they went to a small town called Minya, where they had multiple interviews about the issue of female circumsicion. The short documentary that women in their own families as a collective are able to take a stand against FGM where they refuse the practice. In the video a father speaks about how his wife had changed his prospective around the issue of female circumcision and he had respected her decision because he stated that the mother of his daughter had more knowledge about the practice. (Youth Documentary on FGM, Youtube) One can see how youth are also involved in this phenomena to raise awareness on a social media that reaches millions of people world wide. The education process has become a collective project by Egyptians.

Conclusion

People need to speak publicly against FGM and circumcision because traditional ideology behind the practice is misconceived notion around the practice. FGM should be criminalized globally because its an act of violation against young women who have no choice permission to conduct the procedure. The association between the clitoris, sexual desire and “immoral” behavior in women”, should not be used to mutilate women’s bodies. One can see that FGM was cornered into a political battle between the Egyptian government and Islamic reform groups, as this battle served to establish who had more political power then the other. The banning of FGM in Egypt was effected by the fear that Egypt would lose Western financial funds, thus women’s bodies were not a priority in banning this practice. The medical and religious justification of the practice made it a tradition but the true is neither field legitimizes the practice as an obligation.  The practice of FGM is purely social constructed, thus makes it clearer for people to see the troubles of the practice. One can acknowledge that the practice of FGM does not have a future in Egypt because more women and villages are taking a stand against this deadly practice. The education of Egyptians around the practice is necessary for the end of this practice.

 


Violence Against Aboriginal Women in Canada

If one goes back to pre-colonial time in Canada Native women were well-respected figures in their society and as a result, violence against women was nonexistent. Aboriginal women were respected in society for their roles as caregivers, gatherers and chieftains. With colonization, the rise of violence against Aboriginal people was on the rise and they were stripped of their culture and tradition. Their culture was taken away by the colonizers to construct a feeling of inferiority amongst the colonized and resulted in a hierarchal divide between the genders. This inferiority has escalated into violence targeted towards Aboriginal women from both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal men. Violence against Aboriginal women in Canada is a relevant topic because the number of women who have been abused, are missing, or  have been murdered continues to be prevalent in the current context. Aboriginal women are more likely to experience abuse from their partners or strangers then non-Aboriginal women. (Brownridge 355) One can presume that colonization plays a key role is constructing this type of violence against Aboriginal women. The violence has been perpetuated by the ignorance of Aboriginal culture as well as the stereotypical lens that is constructed through colonization. Patriarchy is operating in full force and this is evident in the startling number of Aboriginal women who experience some form of violence on a daily basis. One can see that colonization has left a mark on the Aboriginal women; they have become the easy prey for dominance as their bodies have been devalued. There is a presumption is that Aboriginal women who do go missing are women who have taken to the streets, this ideology has been proven false by studies that show that women who are murdered or go missing are not always involved in the sex trade. The stigma that they are deviant has been perpetuated by law enforcement and is used as an excuse for the lack of investigation in some reports of violence against Aboriginal women. Unfortunately the research conducted cannot provide a definite answer as to how patriarchy should be held accountable but has illustrated a link between violence and loss of male dominance in the social world. The use of stories of experiences with domestic violence and the loss experienced by the family as result of this form of violence will demonstrate the multifaceted nature of violence against Aboriginal women. Statistics will be used to indicate the rate of violence against aboriginal women in Canada. This paper seeks to explore the violence and the accountability of the legal system for excusing violence against Aboriginal women. It is important that the legal system begins to acknowledge the glaring reality of uninhibited violence that is rampant among the Aboriginal community in Canada, and as a result they become prompt to fund programs that rehabilitate victims of abuse.

Violence Against Aboriginal women and the theorization of the type of violence

 

It is occasionally presumed that men are biologically more violent then women and these ideologies are supported by the psychological institution. Yet these studies reproduce the idea that violence against women would place the onus on the mentally inadequate male rather then society as a whole, who perpetuates this violence through the legal system and cultural norms. “Consequently, these discourses negate both societal responsibility for violence against women and ignore that such violence is an incredibly complex social problem.” (Garcia Del Moral 39) Violence targeted against Aboriginal women by men is accepted on the basis that the aggressors are psychologically troubled and this excuses the cultural and legal system from intervening to change the behavior of the men towards the women. This has been seen with recent cases of violence against Aboriginal women in Canada which is now at an all time high. (Brownride 354) The reason to why violence against Aboriginal women has been so high is a direct result to the general assumption that the perpetuators of this violence are Aboriginal men. However, studies show that even non-Aboriginal men have a hand in these increasing numbers. The stereotypical presumption is that the missing or murdered women are involved in sex work. This stereotype is completely false as a recent study was conducted by Native Women’s Association of Canada to determine the co-relation between missing and murdered women and the sex trade; the results indicated that only fifty-one out of the five hundred and eighty-two cases of missing or murdered showed any links to the sex trade. (Native Women’s Association of Canada 31) This emphases not all those women who are missing or murdered are involved in sex work and the lives of the fifty one who were active in the sex trade must not be devalued based on their occupation. Occupation has commonly used by the legal system to devalue women and dismiss cases of violence against them. The Aboriginal Affairs Working Group states that the number of cases of domestic violence in the aboriginal community far exceeds that of any non-aboriginal group. The study shows that out of all the reported cases of domestic violence, Aboriginal women make up fifty-four per cent and the  most common forms of aggression are; beating, choking, threatening with use of a weapon, and sexual assaults (Aboriginal Affairs Working Group 49) These measurements illustrate the gap and makes it obvious that Aboriginal women are more likely then non-Aboriginal women to experience some form of sever violence. A survey in which less than two percent of the population identified themselves as Aboriginal  women indicated that Aboriginal women are three times more likely to suffer spousal abuse than non-aboriginal women.(Knott 15). Given that these women constitute on a very small fraction of the total population of women, it shows that violence plays a very prominent role in society. Violence of this nature seems to be more common in the rural areas.

Northern Aboriginal women experience some of the highest rates of sexual and domestic violence in Canada. … with about 51 per cent of the population being either Inuit, First Nations or Metis (Yukon 24 per cent; NWT 50 per cent; Nunavut 85 per cent). (Aboriginal Affairs Working Group 49) 

 

One can begin to perceive how rural areas, where the reserves are usually located, are designed as hubs where the bodies of Aboriginal women are violated. The degree of isolation of the area seems to have high correlation with the number of recurring cases of violence or sexual abuse. This may be a consequence of the fact that rural areas are less likely to have shelters or programs for women, as they are less populated than urban areas. A study conducted by Native Women’s Association Canada showed that fifty-nine percent of Aboriginal females died in a residential dwelling, an indication of the high rate of violence experienced by the native women in the domestic sphere. (Native Women’s Association Canada 29)

 One can presume that violence against Aboriginal women is on going and it is perhaps patriarchal, considering it is the dominant value of masculinity within post colonial context. Aboriginal people are survivors of the harsh and brutal treatment by the colonizers and this has been reproduced through male violence. Male violence has replaced respect to the Aboriginal culture and the women, as these acts have been propagated by pressures on Aboriginal men to adhere to the dominant patriarchal structure of society. 

European patriarchy was introduced to Aboriginal Peoples through the colonization (LaRocque 1994; McEachern et al. 1998). It has been argued that the oppression experienced by Aboriginal men within a dominant patriarchal society can result in these men directing their frustrations towards Aboriginal women (McEachern et al. 1998). One indicator of patriarchal domination used in past research concers male control over family finances, with a number of studies finding an association between this variable and violence (e.g., Biesenthal et al. 2000; Brownridge 2002; Levinson 1989). (Brownridge 356)

 

Patriarchy plays a role in constructing the interaction between the Aboriginal men and women. Colonialism left its mark on the Aboriginal culture by promoting the idea of a patriarchal hierarchy both at home and in the work place. Aboriginal men feel the need to exercise their full power within the domestic sphere, as they are not always able to exert their masculine powers in the public sphere. Thus loss of power in a public space can make the male insecure and open to exerting their power over women who are oppressed or marginalized, because they are under represented and silenced. Patriarchy plays a big role within the family because it is presumed that the male is the breadwinner and the female participates in care giving and domestic work. When there is a shift in these roles the male often rejects this through the exercise of his patriarchal power in the form of violence towards the female. The Douglas Brownridge 2004 survey provides a link between unemployment and accounts of domestic violence amongst Aboriginal women (Brownridge 364). This further reinforces the conclusion that when gender roles are shifted, patriarchy unveils itself through violence against women to verify its powers.

Patriarchy is also to blame in the cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, when the accusers are non-Aboriginal men. Aboriginal women’s bodies are devalued which is evident from the John Crawford case where the accused murdered four Aboriginal women; Mary Jane Serloin, Shelly Napope, Eva Taysup and Calinda Waterhen. (Garcia Del Moral 11) Crawford would hire these women for sex work and would refuse to pay them their fees and ends up murdering them through violent attacks, resulting in their death. (Garcia Del Moral 11) Crawford recalls how the murder toke place, “I became angry and said ‘fuck that’ … I choked her (but) after she was dead, I remember thinking ‘fuck, here goes another one …’” (Garcia Del Moral 11). One can see that violence against Aboriginal women is perpetuated by society as a whole rather then by the abuser or the murder, as it is not merely an act of violence but rather a hate crime against Aboriginal women as their bodies become devalued in Canadian society. An extensive amount of research has been done to study the pattern of abuse against aboriginal women but little has been done to diminish the number of recurring abuse, missing and murder cases. It is unfortunate that in a developed country like Canada violence against women is on the rise. It is however, the staggering number of reports of violence against Aboriginal women, which is the cause for concern.

When identifying root causes of domestic violence, the literature demonstrates that this problem has been negatively impacted by the shifting (and unbalanced) gender regimes, linked to colonization and rapid social change and / or the impacts of colonization on First Nations, Metis and Inuit cultures and identity (Rexe, 2010). (Aboriginal Affairs Working Group 50)

 

Domestic violence against Aboriginal women is theorized to be caused by the gender hierarchal system as well as colonization. Aboriginal women were valued members of the community before colonization. The shift came with the spread of colonization over Canada. Colonial regulation identified the aboriginal community as an inferior commodity, which could endure oppression and be easily subjugated. The same regulation also created differences between men and women identifying the latter as an oppressed group at a level even lower than that of aboriginal men. The link between colonialism and violence against Aboriginal women is crucial as it constructed a hierarchal system between the sexes. The oppression continues to affect Aboriginal women in the current day.  

For her research, Crystal Knott conducted interviews with women who were victims of domestic violence. One of her interviewee’s, Crystal was retelling her story about her domestic violence experienced and she mentions how colonization perpetuates violence against Aboriginal women. She states, “The reserve men are kind of bad … a lot of it has to do with a loss of our identity and the residential, its just a ripple effect … its never going to end … and it’s affecting our kids today.” (Knott 70) The effects of colonization will continue to effect the children of Aboriginal women, because the ramification of colonization policies are accountable for the violence that is being reflected on the women as they become the target for violence. Aboriginal women’s experience with violence is stemming from a violent historical time that has carried its self to modern day domestic violence. Colonial policies can not be held accountable because the argument can go on to state that abuse is conducted in the domestic sphere as the policies have little control on that jurisdiction. This begs the question of missing and murdered Aboriginal women that is on the rise.

Paulina Garcia Del Moral adapts the concept of Femicide to theorize why Aboriginal women and marginalized women in Mexico are devalued individuals, thus more preceptive to violence. Garcia Del Moral presumes from a feminist stand point to introduce a complex concept and utilize to recognize how Canadian culture reinforces violence against Aboriginal women. 

Femicide unveils the power dynamics of discursive and material institutional practices that have been inscribed upon their bodies, and which rendered them disposable. Ultimately, their marginality materialized in their bodies through rape, torture, mutilation, and indifference. (Del Moral 45)

 

The Aboriginal women experience violence based on how the Canadian culture categorizes them as racialized subjects, implying them as susceptible to violence and eradication. Del Moral theorizes violence against Aboriginal women as not the mere cause of male physical ability to abuse women, but rather institutional and discursive appropriation of violence against marginalized bodies. As they are deemed as disposable. (Del Moral 45) The intersectionality of Aboriginal women places them in disposition in the Canadian society making them more vulnerable to violence. Del Moral also adapts Foucault’s concept of bio-power to explain how marginalized women’s bodies play as a political field where history and power relations are forced ideologies that further repress women in society. (Del Moral 50) She also explains how Foucault understood rape as “a crime against ‘humanity’,” that is to say rape plays as a crime that reestablishes power. (Del Moral 50) One can not find themselves but agreeing with Foucault’s controversial statement. Women are the creators of life and that is the reason why they were once upon a time highly respected within the Aboriginal culture. (Monture-Okanee 200) Women hold immense power in regards to creating life and humanity, thus when a crime is done against a women it results in further dehumanizing women. Women hold a powerful tool and in consequence they are repressed due to fear of domination and the collapse of a patriarchal structure. One can acknowledge that violence against Aboriginal women is highly reliant on the discourse of race and class, that has been established by the neocolonial strategies to establish a white privileged Canadian society. Neocolonial technologies gave power to the conceptualization of discourse around the ideal race and class, as those who deviate are disposed off. Aboriginal women’s bodies have embodied this discursive analogy and as a result they are the highest group of marginalized women who experience a variation of violence. 

The impact of Violence against Aboriginal women and children

 

The lack of a better solution forces the aboriginal woman to stay in the abusive household, because the only alternate is fleeing the community, province or territory. These are tough life altering decisions that require strong presence of mind and willpower. There are no safe houses available and this makes most women reluctant to leave the shelter of their homes.

Poor housing options mean limited choices for Aboriginal women in terms of leaving violent relationships or escaping unsafe situations. In such a context, women living on-reserve may be forced to choose between remaining in a violent home or leaving their community. Aboriginal women residing in towns or urban centers often live in marginalized areas of these communities where housing fails to meet the criteria of being safe, secure, affordable or appropriate (NWAC 2008, 10).( Native Women’s Association of Canada 12). 

 

As this position states, the choice for the aboriginal woman are limited to remaining in a violent and hostile environment or starting afresh in a situation where their bodies may become vulnerable to exploitation. The challenge for these women is to decide which scenario is the lesser of two evils.  The idea of leaving their community is threatening, considering some women have lived their entire lives confined within the rigid boundaries of these communities and they may not be able to imagine a life outside these boundaries. However, the circumstances of residing in a violent home can cost  Aboriginal women’s their lives and impact the children. When children witness their fathers hitting the mothers it can result in a learned behaviour where domestic abuse is normalized.  The internalization of patriarchal assumptions regarding what it means to be masculine is learned through cultural values around power, dominance, and control. These learned values replace more traditional teachings which emphasize respect for  women and value for women’s roles in society. (Native Women’s Association of Canada 33) Crystal Knott conducted an interview with a domestic abuse victim Sarah, who recalls being raised in a home where the father routinely abused the mother. Sarah recalls that the pattern of abuse generally followed periods of excessive drinking, and at one point she began to consider this as normal behavior. What is more insightful from this telling is that, the mother was prepared for abuse and came to expect it if the father arrived home drunk. (Knott 73)

Growing up with violence around the house only normalizes it as a way of life for the children who witness it and consequently endure this type of violence with their partners. The internalization of violence in children is lethal because they are no longer able to disassociate their bodies from these forms of violence. Abuse also shows a pattern of escalation, Knott interviews Ruby, a survivor of domestic violence, who recalls witnessing her mother and other women in her community being abused. Ruby’s first encounter with abuse was a slap on the face by her then partner, but she was neither shocked nor surprised by it. (Knott 73) She believed this to be the natural course to resolve any dispute in a relationship. (Knott 73) Ruby also remembers when her father would come home drunk and assault her mother, as she would spend the night in the hallway of her home waiting to intervene in case the assault would escalates. (Knott 73) One can then begin to see how this pattern of  violence can be passed on as knowledge through generationations, resulting in the normalizing of this type of behaviour. Victims of abuse often reflect their trauma in their behaviour with others. Another Interviewee by Knott discusses how she has passed on her violent attributes to her children and grandchildren.  

I know that I passed down some of the mental and physical and emotional abuse too, you know, with the talking, the threats, you know things like that. And I think I’ve passed that down to my children because I see it now with the grandchildren, you know, if they say something mean and nasty. (Knott 112)

 

Violence is not only perpetuated physically but also through the use of language which is often just as harmful as physical violence. Those who endure violence are most likely to have low self esteem, because the reoccurring violence makes the abused see themselves in a negative light. Crystal, one of the individuals Knott had interviewed shares her experience with multiple partner abuse and how it altered her self esteem in a negative way. She recalls having her ex-partners question her intelligence through the use of abusive language like “stupid” or “dump”, which caused her to question her self and ability to interact with the other women in the healing circle. (Knott 111) Self esteem plays a key role in allowing women to open up and talk about their experiences to heal from the emotional pain, and to allow women to recognize that domestic violence or any form of abuse can not be justified because it is harmful to the women and future generations. 

The violence against women takes its toll on children, parents and friends. Over eighty eight percent of the cases involving missing or murdered women are mothers, and this means that over a four hundred and forty children have lost their caregiver to domestic violence. (Native Women’s Association Canada 24) One of the stories shared by the Native Women’s Association of Canada was about Shelley.

A year and a half after she was murdered, Shelley’s oldest son committed suicide. Ivan was an iron worker and very handsome. He had a long ponytail and loved his red Oakley sunglasses. Family members say he never recovered from the loss of his mother. (Native Women’s Association of Canada 14) 

 

Violence against women hurts the whole family and destroys the bond between the mother and children, leading the children to often take very drastic steps to deal with their grief.  

The law on violence against Aboriginal women 

 

In certain circumstances women find it hard to report and charge their partners with assault and oftentimes are pressured to drop the charges. Recent modifications to the law allow the police officer to press charges against the abuser as a way to take the onus from the victim. This places the victim in a safer position where she is no longer threatened by the abuser to drop the charges. (Knott 9) The law mitigates violence against women when it is physical, however the law is more ambiguous when it comes to other forms of abuse such as verbal, psychological or financial. (Knott 9) The law is unclear on what constitutes a violent domestic relationship. This means that violence is recognized by-law only if it is physical, and it is left to the  the discretion of the police officer to determine if an act was violent enough to charge the abuser. The police officers hold a position of power in these cases and this position of power is threatening for women who are involved in the sex trade industry. It is astonishing when law enforcement officers are the ones perpetuating violence against Aboriginal women. Aboriginal women who are involved in the sex trade industry report violence not only from their clients and strangers but also from the police. (Native women’s association of Canada 13) Aboriginal women can no longer seek protection from the police because those who protect are also the perpetuators. The police force is oblivious to the reports of missing Aboriginal women who have been involved in the sex trade, because they disregard them as individuals who also need protection. 

Vancouver authorities refused to take the disappearance of sex workers in the neighbourhood seriously, until Robert Pickton’s pig farm was excavated in Port Coquitlam and the remains and DNA of at least 15 women were found. Robert Pickton was tried this year on the murder of 27 women and the RCMP is still investigating 60 more cases (Amnesty International, 2004) (Garcia Del Moral 11) 

 

The number of dead bodies found shows glaringly the recklessness and unprofessional attitude of the police officers towards the missing aboriginal women. The police dehumanized these women by virtue of firstly their occupation and race.  The police officers are also slow to respond to cases of  missing Aboriginal women who are not sex workers. Native Women’s Association shares the story of Danita who went missing for more then two weeks and her mother was overwhelmed by the police inaction, and as a result physically went to the police station to file the missing person report. The  response of the police officers  was to ask her to wait a little longer because Danita could be out with her friends “partying”. (Native Women’s Association of Canada 7) The response of police officers  to the mother’s report demonstrates how stereotyping plays a big role in the investigation of missing women. 

… research on the disappearance and death of Aboriginal women suggests that victims are not targeted because of Aboriginal identity but because of the lack of responsiveness of the police to reports of missing Aboriginal women (Rexe 2010; Whiteduck, 2010; Amnesty International, 2007; Pauktuutit Inuit Women’s Association, 1993; Ontario Domestic Violence Death Review Committee, 2009)”. (Aboriginal Affairs Working Group 51)

 

The lack of an active response by the police officers in these matters is causing an escalation in the number of cases of missing or murdered aboriginal women. The response of the police officers to the Aboriginal women’s cases reinforces the idea that the legal system is ignorant towards marginalized groups, because they are perceived to be a burden on the state. This is legitimized by the stereotypical affiliations with the Aboriginal women’s identities. The preconceived notion that if an Aboriginal woman has gone missing she must be involved in some form of activity that accounts her as deviant, therefore she is disposable as it prevents her case from being properly investigated. The Native Women’s association shares the story of Debbie, a missing aboriginal woman, whose case was largely ignored by law enforcement, because the police officers were unable to separate Debbie’s individuality from the stereotype of Aboriginal women. Law enforcement wrongly assumed that Debbie was missing because she was engaging in deviant behavior. (Native Women’s Association of Canada 8) These stereotypes are very harmful and it is unfortunate that they are used by law enforcement officers to pass judgements on the victims. Patricia Monture-Okanee describes the legal system as a structure that is based on force and coercion. (Monture-Okanee 199) This is evident in the cases of the Aboriginal women who have lost their lives due to the inability of the legal system to operate with an unbiased approach to these investigations. 

Strategies for change and effectiveness in mitigating violence against Aboriginal women

 

There needs to be a re-structuring of the legal system in order to mitigate violence that is against Aboriginal women. There is also a need for improved investigation techniques and prosecutions of crimes committed against Aboriginal women by the justice system and the police. (Aboriginal Affairs Working Group 51) The need for a legal system that will protect the well being and safety of Aboriginal women is paramount. The police force needs to be helpful to the families of the missing persons and give them the right procedural information. (Aboriginal Affairs Working Group 51) The Aboriginal Affairs Working Group recognized three distinct issues that must be acknowledged by the police force to mitigate violence against Aboriginal women. (Aboriginal Affairs Working Group 52) The high co-relation between rates of violence and the number of missing or murdered Aboriginal women must be considered when creating policies, programs and services to help victims and families. (Aboriginal Affairs Working Group 52) The Aboriginal Affairs Working Group seeks to hold society, as well as, the legal system accountable for the violence experienced by Aboriginal women. (Aboriginal Affairs Working Group 52) The issues must be pointed out and acknowledged by  the legal system and society in order to seek policy change. There is a great need for shelters,  social services and public education in remote areas. These places have been neglected due to jurisdictional issues and that leaves the onus on fiduciary community as their duty to fairly deal with and solve any abuse cases. (Aboriginal Affairs Working Group 50) The research has shown that Aboriginal women residing in rural areas have a higher chance of experiencing abuse in their homes, due to the lack of knowledge and access to shelters. The Stolen Sisters report was produced by Amnesty International in collaboration with Sisters in Spirt Campaign and their work resulted in raising awareness on violence that Aboriginal women were experiencing in Canada. As a result the report of the Native Women’s Association was granted a five year funding for The Sisters in Spirit research to develop policies and educational programs, that would allow for an acknowledgement of the number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. (Aboriginal Affairs Working Group 52) The  report proposes safety, access to justice, awareness of risks, educating the law enforcement and cultural healing for the families of the victims. (Aboriginal Affairs Working Group 52) The Native Women’s Association suggests that it is necessary to integrate educational strategies to engage young adults in discussions around healthy relationships, self-esteem, and personal safety. Also to remind the young Aboriginal women of the services that are available to them if they do find themselves in a predicament. (Native Women’s Association of Canada 32) 

It is necessary to reclaim the balance inherent in traditional gender roles and to take responsibility for the transmission of pride, cultural awareness and traditional knowledge to future generations … The roles and guidance of Elders and culturally-relevant teachings around traditional roles and responsibilities must be understood as integral to this process.” (Native Women’s Association of Canada 32)  

 

The Native Women’s Association of Canada also calls on the need for Native cultural and traditional teachings of respecting women, as this reaffirms the longing for Aboriginal identity to be recognized by young Aboriginal men and women. This will refrain the men from adhering to patriarchal norms and  allow for a shifting towards more traditional values of respect and honour.

The Indigenous People and Civil Society Organization suggests the need to establish a Joint House of Commons/ Senate committee in the Parliament where they will sit on the International Affairs of Indigenous Peoples. (Aboriginal Affairs Working Group 53) This will establish the accuracy of educational programs that will be implemented to guide not only the Aboriginal community but also the policy makers.  This will lead to  more cooperation and support from the federal government to develop ways of addressing violence against Aboriginal women. (Aboriginal Affairs Working group 56) The acknowledgement of violence against Aboriginal women in a higher position of legal power will aid in mitigating this type of violence, because stereotypes cannot be not utilized to investigate these cases. 

There have been many strategies that have been adapted by different organizations to distinguish the cause of violence and to eradicate it, but not all strategies have been effective to mitigate violence against Aboriginal women. These organizations enjoy the support and confidence of the aboriginal groups. The Nuluaq project is based on research thats was compiled with the Inuit database for abuse prevention and they used these strategies to educate the public. (Aboriginal Affairs Working Group 53) This form of education is only available to women who have access to these reports and Inuit women, but lacks universal use by other Aboriginal communities. Yet this project has enabled Pauktuutit to be funded by individuals, agencies and groups to support the prevention of abuse among Inuit communities. (Aboriginal Affairs Working Group 53) This support produces ongoing research and methods around finding solutions to mitigate violence against Aboriginal women. The Public Health Agency of Canada directed the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Family Violence Initiative Working Group, which is made up of eleven members from the federal, provincial, and territorial department. Each member represent’s and apply’s a certain aspect of Aboriginal women’s experiences around domestic violence. (Aboriginal Affairs Working Group 53) The program demonstrates the government involvement in mitigating violence against Aboriginal women, yet from statistics studied, one can see that domestic violence against Aboriginal women is not receding.  There have been strategies disclosed but little has been done on the part of the legal and societal system to mitigate violence against Aboriginal women. 

Violence against Aboriginal women have been long endured by first colonization and now by male violence that has been perpetuated by non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal men. Colonization informed Aboriginal men’s position as the leaders and dominate the gender class through patriarchal presumptions. Colonization is reflected on non-aboriginal men as they presume Aboriginal women’s bodies as devalued and unrecognized legal. The violation of Aboriginal women’s bodies is not troubling to Canadian society, because stereotypes aid the criminal from fleeing prosecution. As one can see that colonization assesses in the marginalization of Aboriginal women and leading to the violence that is being committed against them. The impact of violence on Aboriginal women and the children is devastating, because violence against a women effects an entire community. The employment of law to violence against Aboriginal women has not been effective considering that it neglects to view aspects of abuse that is other then physical. Also instances when Aboriginal women were denied an equal opportunity for their cases to be investigated with unbiased or non-stereotypical lens, demonstrates authoritative powers operate from preconceived notions when it comes to Aboriginal women. The police officers are also individuals who take part in committing violence against Aboriginal women, as this is evident from cases reported by sex workers and the police inaction regarding missing Aboriginal women. The education of a whole nation in respect to violence against Aboriginal women needs to be conducted. As well as, policy changes in regards to reporting missing persons and access to victim services to the families. Society and the legal system need to acknowledge accountability for this type of violence against aboriginal women, because they have a hand in excusing violence. Violence against Aboriginal women is multifaceted and it illustrates how all forms of violence is fatal on the women as well as the families. One must seal this paper with the a Hopi prophecy statement: “A Nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground.” (Monture-Okanee 200) This foreshadowed Aboriginal women’s experiences with post colonization that perpetuated violence against their bodies to demolish the Aboriginal Nation.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

“Aboriginal Affairs Working Group Reports to Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Aboriginal Affairs and National Aboriginal Organization Leader: A Framework for Action in Education, Economic Development and Violence against Aboriginal Women and Girls.” Aboriginal Affairs Working Group. 2010. Web. 3 November 2012. 

Brownridge, Douglas. “Understanding the Elevated Risk of Partner Violence Against Aboriginal Women: A Comparison of Two Nationally Representative Surveys of Canada.” Springer Science + Business Media. Published online. 21 February 2008. 

Garcia Del Moral, Paulina. “Bio-power and Death by Culture: The Em-Bodiment of Disability.” ProQuest Dissertations and Thess. (2007) Sociological Abstract. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (2007). Sociological Abstracts. 

Knott, Crystal. “Battered but not Broken: Exploring Aboriginal Women & Intimate Partner Abuse. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (2007). Sociological Abstract. 

Monture-Okanee, Patricia. “The violence We Women Do: A First Nations View.” Challenging Times: The Women’s Movement in Canada and the United States. Constance Backhouse & David H. Flaherty, ed(s). McGill – Queen’s University Press. (1992). 193-200. 

“What Their Stories Tell Us: Research Findings from the Sisters in Spirits initiative.” Native Women’s Association of Canada. 2010. Web. 1 November 2012.


The privilege of writing

Writing is historically shifting
Writing is being aware of its own history
The history that demystifies standard practices
The history that opens any restrictions on the psyche
Writing is both constructed and deconstructed
Writing can silence or voice
Writing can hold the key to our freedom
But writing you can get very complicated
My writing opens doors and shuts others
Reflects the dominant culture
Reflects the Western context
Reflects privilege
Will my writing reach the unprivileged?
Will my writing be understood by everyone?
Writing is a privilege


Moksha Yoga the practice of self love

Moksha Yoga the practice of self love

I would like to thank Moksha Yoga Richmond Hill for having me today. I had an amazing experience taking pictures of some amazing Yogis. Thea and Todd helped me understand how each pose in yoga benefits certain parts of the body. I learned that practice builds and evolves over time, where one can start from basic poses and eventually develop into deeper poses. (Todd) I have learned so much from Thea about the most common poses in yoga. They are beneficial for the entire body because each pose leads to the next and in a way at the end of the practice you have tapped on each and ever inch of your body, as a result awakened or revived certain parts of your body. I am coming closer to my analysis about Yoga. I have to admit that I love yoga because it has helped me so much. I have struggled with anxiety, depression and bad eating habits. When I walk into the studio I leave all my worries behind and everything is off my mind. Its very much me and my yoga mat. My mat connects me to the ground, it connects me to the earth, it connects me to my mind, it connects me to my body. My mat allows me to reach an abstract level of my practice. I love yoga for getting me through life and coming to terms with issues in my life. Thank you for reading this if you did. Namaste


She truly fits into the homonormative lens, because she only decided to come out in public upon her success. what does that say about coming out. you can only come out if you’re a successful person, because “it gets better” only if you’ve achieved something in your life?

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“I’m not sure I would go as far as to say that gay celebrities have a social or moral duty to be open about their sexuality. But I am prepared to argue that by refusing to acknowledge that they are gay – or that once, not that long ago, they were scared to admit it in public – they’re perpetuating an inhibiting and heteronormative status quo.”

Josef Church-Woods

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In case you somehow managed to miss it, Jodie Foster used her acceptance speech at the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday night, to plant her feet firmly outside of her admittedly already rather flimsy glass closet.

It was an emotional speech, in which she talked about a whole life lived in the public eye and the value of privacy, as well…

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