Mar 252009


The UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in Gaza, local Palestinian NGOs and mental health professionals are reporting increased incidents of domestic violence and sexual assault against women in Gaza since the beginning of 2009.

An unpublished UNIFEM survey of male and female heads of 1,100 Gaza households conducted between 28 February and 3 March indicates there was an increase in violence against women during and after the 23-day war which ended on 18 January.

“According to our staff, and through clinical observation, there was increased violence against women and children during and after the war,” said public relations coordinator for the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, Husam al-Nounou.

“We can attribute this to the fact that most people were exposed to traumatic incidents during the war, and one way people react to stress is to become violent.”

GCMHP, which runs six clinics and treats an estimated 2,000 mental health patients a year, carried out a post-war assessment, interviewing about 3,500 Gaza residents, said al-Nounou.

“This war was extremely harsh, people felt insecure, vulnerable and unable to protect themselves, their children and their families; when people were trapped at home this increased the stress and anxiety,” said al-Nounou.

“Before the war the centre was facilitating supervised visits for 30 families, but now it is doing this for 60 families,” said Bakr Turkmani, an attorney at the PCDCR.

“The number of divorce and separation cases has increased significantly since the war, and domestic violence played a role in the increase,” he said.

Director of the women’s unit at the leading Palestinian human rights organisation, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), Muna As-Shawa, said the centre had received reports of increased domestic violence and sexual assault during and after the hostilities. The unit had counselled over 600 women.

“During and after the war women struggled to fulfil their roles as mothers, and care for their children without electricity and water, while under attack,” said As-Shawa, “and if the husband died, sometimes the father-in-law took the inheritance and tried to take custody of the children.”

PCHR is providing legal advice to widows.

The Women’s Affairs Centre (WAC) in Gaza said it had organised meetings with 200 women across Gaza after the war.

“Many women who never experienced violence at home, were beaten during the war,” WAC director Amal Siam told IRIN.

Scores of women who lost their husbands came to WAC seeking assistance after their fathers-in-law tried to take custody of their children, said Siam, adding that there had been an increased number of divorce cases during the hostilities.

According to UNIFEM, the results of the first UN inter-agency gender needs assessment are due in May.

 March 25, 2009  Posted by on March 25, 2009 Comments Off on UNIFEM: Increased Incidences Of Sexual And Domestic Violence Reported In Gaza
Mar 242009

In a blog post last week, I wrote that  sexual assault in the U.S. military was effectively an intractable problem because rape and sexual assault have always been de-facto weapons of war.  This isn’t just true in our military of course, in recent times the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the Balkans provide gruesome examples that this is so.

It is in that context that the recent report of violently misogynist and genocidal t-shirts being commissioned by Israeli soldiers, horrendous as it is, is hardly surprising.  According to Haaretz,

Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children’s graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques – these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty. The slogans accompanying the drawings are not exactly anemic either: A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription “Better use Durex,” next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter’s T-shirt from the Givati Brigade’s Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull’s-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, “1 shot, 2 kills.” A “graduation” shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, “No matter how it begins, we’ll put an end to it.”

There are also plenty of shirts with blatant sexual messages. For example, the Lavi battalion produced a shirt featuring a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises, and the slogan, “Bet you got raped!” A few of the images underscore actions whose existence the army officially denies – such as “confirming the kill” (shooting a bullet into an enemy victim’s head from close range, to ensure he is dead), or harming religious sites, or female or child non-combatants. 

The slogan “Let every Arab mother know that her son’s fate is in my hands!” had previously been banned for use on another infantry unit’s shirt. A Givati soldier said this week, however, that at the end of last year, his platoon printed up dozens of shirts, fleece jackets and pants bearing this slogan.

“It has a drawing depicting a soldier as the Angel of Death, next to a gun and an Arab town,” he explains. “The text was very powerful. The funniest part was that when our soldier came to get the shirts, the man who printed them was an Arab, and the soldier felt so bad that he told the girl at the counter to bring them to him.”

Funny?  Not perhaps the word most of us would choose. And while the article specifically quotes the IDF as condemning the t-shirts and promising to take action to discourage them, as one soldier who was interviewed makes clear, the t-shirts are being approved by officers, not just enlisted personnel:

Does the design go to the commanders for approval?

The Givati soldier: “Usually the shirts undergo a selection process by some officer, but in this case, they were approved at the level of platoon sergeant. 

And what do the t-shirts mean to the soldiers:

G., a soldier in an elite unit who has done a snipers course, explained that, “it’s a type of bonding process, and also it’s well known that anyone who is a sniper is messed up in the head. Our shirts have a lot of double entendres, for example: ‘Bad people with good aims.’ Every group that finishes a course puts out stuff like that.”

Of the shirt depicting a bull’s-eye on a pregnant woman, he said: “There are people who think it’s not right, and I think so as well, but it doesn’t really mean anything. I mean it’s not like someone is gonna go and shoot a pregnant woman.”

Oh really?

Israeli troops at a checkpoint shot and wounded a pregnant Palestinian woman in labor and killed her husband today as the couple tried to reach a hospital – a day after another pregnant woman was shot in an almost identical case at the same West Bank roadblock, Palestinians said.

Sociologist Dr. Orna Sasson-Levy, of Bar-Ilan University, author of “Identities in Uniform: Masculinities and Femininities in the Israeli Military, puts it this way,

There is a perception that the Palestinian is not a person, a human being entitled to basic rights, and therefore anything may be done to him.”

Could the printing of clothing be viewed also as a means of venting aggression?

Sasson-Levy: “No. I think it strengthens and stimulates aggression and legitimizes it. What disturbs me is that a shirt is something that has permanence. The soldiers later wear it in civilian life; their girlfriends wear it afterward. It is not a statement, but rather something physical that remains, that is out there in the world. Beyond that, I think the link made between sexist views and nationalist views, as in the ‘Screw Haniyeh’ shirt, is interesting. National chauvinism and gender chauvinism combine and strengthen one another. It establishes a masculinity shaped by violent aggression toward women and Arabs; a masculinity that considers it legitimate to speak in a crude and violent manner toward women and Arabs.”  

 March 24, 2009  Posted by on March 24, 2009 2 Responses »
Mar 232009

Why are we not surprised that corporate misogyny is alive and well during the economic downturn:

Rosario Buendia, a former managing director in Standard & Poor’s structured-finance ratings group, says in a lawsuit that McGraw-Hill Cos. discriminated against women in reorganizing the bond-rating subsidiary’s leadership.

Since credit markets collapsed in August 2007, S&P has replaced at least five female executives with men, according to the complaint filed on March 6 in New York State Supreme Court. The dismissals allegedly came as the parent company announced four rounds of job cuts at S&P eliminating 512 positions.

McGraw-Hill “favored male employees and discriminated against women,” according to Buendia’s complaint, which says she was paid “considerably less than her male counterparts, despite her exemplary performance.” Buendia seeks $5 million in compensatory damages and a $15 million punitive award.

The female executive team that once led S&P’s ratings business was an exception in an industry where women occupy about 8 percent of the best-paid jobs at financial companies with more than $1 billion in assets, according to a study for Bloomberg by Inc., a Redwood Shores, California-based pay consultant. Equilar prepared the analysis, based on the 2008 proxy filings of publicly held corporations, for this story.

The median annual compensation for the best-paid women was 30 percent less than the $797,774 for men, Equilar reported.

According to  New York attorney Douglas Wigdor. a similar situation exists at Citigroup:

Women formerly held about 10 percent of the managerial jobs in Citigroup’s public finance business and have borne about 45 percent of the unit’s job cuts since November,  Wigdor says.

Citigroup spokeswoman Danielle Romero-Apsilos says the reduction “was done fairly and lawfully and was based on legitimate business reasons unrelated to gender.” Citigroup doesn’t disclose the gender makeup of its workforce and hasn’t quantified the job cuts publicly, Romero-Apsilos says.

Many thanks to Women’s Space for drawing our attention to this story.

 March 23, 2009  Posted by on March 23, 2009 1 Response »
Mar 232009

As we near the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, it is worth examining the implications of how the media reports  sexual violence, a topic that will be covered in several posts over the next few weeks.  According to researchers at the University of Granada, “the media may unknowingly induce some people to justify cases of violence against women which appear in the press.”

“The researchers claimed that the media often looked for the assumed “reasons or causes” that provoked the crime, “which leads people to look for a reason for a fact that should be unjustifiable in any case”.

The researchers said that in the treatment of news related to violence against women, they had found frequently “justifications or reasons” (alcohol, jealousy, arguments, situations of prolonged unemployment, etc) “presented by the media to the audience as possible causes of the described situation”.”

The following is an unfortunate illustration of exactly that point.  The Dallas News reports that,

“At SafeHaven Tarrant County, the phone lines are jumping with calls these days. Most are queries about the domestic abuse agency’s services. Others are hysterical calls from battered spouses in fear for their lives.

SafeHaven received 23,080 calls in 2007. That figure jumped to 41,774 in 2008.

The faltering economy, said agency officials, is a big reason for the bump. Increased job losses, bankruptcies and foreclosures all contribute to higher domestic violence.”

So far so good and an important topic that we have covered several times on this blog.   But then further down, after interviewing various domestic violence experts, there is this from a local homicide detective,

“Fort Worth homicide detective Mike Carroll said society has yet to express outrage about the escalating violence against women. And, he said, the victims can help, too.

“Women need to recognize who these men are before they become emotionally involved,” he said.”

Does he maybe think abusers come with some special form of identification?  The reality is that all too often abusers are the most charming people on the face of the earth until they’ve emotionally hooked their victim.  Yes we should all do what we can to avoid dangerous situations, but it simply isn’t always possible to know that something is dangerous in advance, and even when we know it isn’t always possible to avoid it, and never mind all that IT  IS NOT EVER ACCEPTABLE TO IMPLY THAT THE VICTIM IS TO BLAME!  Yes I’m shouting, and I don’t do that all that often, but when the media offers a comment like that without analysis of why it is problematic, it does harm.  

 March 23, 2009  Posted by on March 23, 2009 2 Responses »
Mar 202009

From RAWA:

There are indications that some Taliban groups fervently oppose the use of contraceptives and may start using the issue as a pretext to launch further attacks on health centres, experts say.A meeting in February – attended by IRIN – between Taliban insurgents and dozens of local elders and young men in Balabolok District, Farah Province, southwestern Afghanistan, was devoted to the issue of contraceptives.

A pro-Taliban religious leader spoke for almost an hour against the use of contraceptive drugs, calling them “illicit and non-Islamic”.

“Those people who use anti-pregnancy drugs are actually murdering children,” said Mawlawi Abdul Baqi, adding that the use of such drugs was against Islamic principles and should be avoided.

Continue reading »

 March 20, 2009  Posted by on March 20, 2009 Comments Off on Taliban Warns Against Use Of Contraception In Afghanistan