Saturday, December 18, 2010
The World Health Organization has what I hope you will find to be alarming statistics on the frequency and nature of violence committed against women globally. As we prepare to close out 2010 and begin a new year let us commit to eliminating violence in the world beginning with that committed against women, children and the elderly.
Q What can you do to learn more about this issue and to cast your lot with those who are most vulnerable?
Q How can you educate your family and friends about the unacceptability of violence?
Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah
Violence against women is a major public health problem and a violation of human rights.
Lack of access to education and opportunity, and low social status in communities are linked to violence against women.
Violence by an intimate partner is one of the most common forms of violence against women.
A wide range of physical, mental, sexual and reproductive, and maternal health problems can result from violence against women.
Many women do not seek help or report violence when it occurs.
The United Nations defines violence against women as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
There are many forms of violence against women, including sexual, physical, or emotional abuse by an intimate partner; physical or sexual abuse by family members or others; sexual harassment and abuse by authority figures (such as teachers, police officers or employers); trafficking for forced labour or sex; and such traditional practices as forced or child marriages, dowry-related violence; and honour killings, when women are murdered in the name of family honour. Systematic sexual abuse in conflict situations is another form of violence against women.
Scope of the problem
In a 10-country study on women's health and domestic violence conducted by WHO,
Between 15% and 71% of women reported physical or sexual violence by a husband or partner.
Many women said that their first sexual experience was not consensual. (24% in rural Peru, 28% in Tanzania, 30% in rural Bangladesh, and 40% in South Africa).
Between 4% and 12% of women reported being physically abused during pregnancy. More about the study
Every year, about 5,000 women are murdered by family members in the name of honour each year worldwide.
Trafficking of women and girls for forced labour and sex is widespread and often affects the most vulnerable.
Forced marriages and child marriages violate the human rights of women and girls, yet they are widely practiced in many countries in Asia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.
Worldwide, up to one in five women and one in 10 men report experiencing sexual abuse as children. Children subjected to sexual abuse are much more likely to encounter other forms of abuse later in life.
Health consequences can result directly from violent acts or from the long-term effects of violence.
Injuries: Physical and sexual abuse by a partner is closely associated with injuries. Violence by an intimate partner is the leading cause of non-fatal injuries to women in the USA.
Death: Deaths from violence against women include honour killings (by families for cultural reasons); suicide; female infanticide (murder of infant girls); and maternal death from unsafe abortion.
Sexual and reproductive health: Violence against women is associated with sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS, unintended pregnancies, gynaecological problems, induced abortions, and adverse pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriage, low birth weight and fetal death.
Risky behaviours: Sexual abuse as a child is associated with higher rates of sexual risk-taking (such as first sex at an early age, multiple partners and unprotected sex), substance use, and additional victimization. Each of these behaviours increases risks of health problems.
Mental health: Violence and abuse increase risk of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep difficulties, eating disorders and emotional distress.
Physical health: Abuse can result in many health problems, including headaches, back pain, abdominal pain, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal disorders, limited mobility, and poor overall health.
Social and economic costs
The social and economic costs of violence against women are enormous and have ripple effects throughout society. Women may suffer isolation, inability to work, loss of wages, lack of participation in regular activities, and limited ability to care for themselves and their children.
Who is at risk?
Though risk factors vary, some characteristics seem to increase the likelihood of violence. The potential risk factors can be grouped into the following subsets.
Individual: Personal attributes associated with higher risk of violence include: limited education, a young age, lower socio-economic status, limited education, a history of abuse and substance use, and, for partner violence, the choice of partner. Partner traits that put women at risk include alcohol or drug use, low educational level, negative attitudes about women, and witnessing domestic violence against women or being abused as a child.
Family and relationship: Within families, risk of violence increases with marital conflicts, male dominance, economic stress and poor family functioning.
Community: Within communities, the risk is higher where there is gender inequality, and a lack of community cohesion or resources.
Societal: On a broader level, higher risk is found in societies with traditional gender norms or a lack of autonomy for women, and where there are restrictive laws on divorce and ownership and inheritance of property, or when there is social breakdown due to conflicts or disasters.
Prevention and response
Further evaluation is needed to assess the effectiveness of violence prevention measures. Interventions with promising results include increasing education and opportunities for women and girls, improving their self-esteem and negotiating skills, and reducing gender inequities in communities.
Other efforts with positive outcomes include: work with teenagers to reduce dating violence; programmes that support children who have witnessed intimate partner violence; mass public education campaigns; and work with men and boys to change attitudes towards gender inequities and the acceptability of violence.
Advocacy for victims, better awareness of violence and its consequences among health workers, and wider knowledge of available resources for abused women (including legal assistance, housing and child care), can lessen the consequences of violence.
"Prison is the everyday reality lived by a huge swath of the population (roughly one in one hundred, according to recent surveys) The impact of prison labor, however, leaves a hidden imprint on our economy as well."
Years ago I worked to reform prisons and to raise the awareness of the conditions of Georgia prisoners. Ironically, I am visiting family in Georgia this week during one of the largest organized and peaceful prison protests in this country. And yet there appears to be a media "black out" around the country concerning this historic action. Below you can read about the development of the strike and in coverage by an "alternative media" source.
Q when was the last time you opened your heart up to those behind bars?
Q Are you one of the millions of individuals in this country who has a loved one behind bars?
Q How can we reform our prison system while also sending a clear message that we are in this together and that the safety of our communities and the well being of all citizens is a priority.
Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah
Published on Friday, December 17, 2010 by In These Times
Georgia Prison Strike: A Hidden Labor Force Resists
by Michelle Chen
Last week a diverse group of nonviolent protesters across Georgia stood up for their rights, calling for decent wages, better social services and respect for their civil liberties. It didn't take long for the government to crack down on the demonstrations, however: the protesters were already in prison.
Prison is the everyday reality lived by a huge swath of the population (roughly one in one hundred, according to recent surveys) The impact of prison labor, however, leaves a hidden imprint on our economy as well.The uprising of Georgia inmates on December 9 defied the stereotype of the chaotic "prison riot" in the public imagination. Yet neither did "Lockdown for Liberty" fit within the conventional model of civil disobedience or industrial action. But when the inmates in at least six different prisons refused to leave their cells to report to work and other activities that day, a strike began. And it effectively paralyzed a small chunk of the bureaucratic monstrosity of America's prison system.
The incarcerated have historically filled the dregs of the American workforce, an emblem of racial subjugation often invisible in the politics of labor and social policy. It was against this hidden legacy of exploitation that the Georgia inmates, with the support of the NAACP and other civil rights advocates, raised issues common to incarcerated people nationwide: abusive treatment, degrading living conditions, a lack of accountability in the administration and parole authorities, and a lack of basic educational and social services (see below).
Pointedly invoking the term "slave" to describe the circumstances under which they toiled, the strikers showed how historically entrenched racial divisions play out today in the black-white disparities throughout the criminal justice system. Still, Georgia protesters included Latinos and whites as well as blacks, in a joint effort to resist and challenge structural injustices.
Their demands were hardly radical, but rather, embodied mainstream standards for reasonable and humane treatment: protection from cruel and unusual punishment by officers, affordable medicine when they're sick, and above all, fair pay for their labor. According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, "state law forbids paying inmates except for one limited program."
Final Call quoted reports trickling out from inmates earlier this week:
One brother told me, ‘We will ride until the wheels fall off,' and that's been the sentiment amongst the men when they started this," said Elaine Brown, a spokesperson for the strike... Part of our purpose for doing this is that
Georgia is the only state that does not pay it's inmates at all. Some guys in here work seven days a week and they don't get a dime," said Dondito, one of the strikers, who requested anonymity.
You can almost hear the zero-tolerance conservatives in Washington now: how dare these criminals demand better treatment from the state? The official reaction was to immediately curtail what few resources the inmates possess. According to news reports, prison staff locked down four facilities, attempted to transfer out the leading troublemakers, cut off the hot water, and revoked cell phone privileges (yes, according to Facing South, "Cell phones are contraband in Georgia's prisons, but widely available for sale from correctional officers.")
The strike was called off after six days, following reports of violent crackdowns and rising fears that the situation would escalate. But by then, the inmates had made their mark with one of the largest prison protests in U.S. history. The decision to end the strike, moreover, seems like the beginning of another phase in the inmates' collective action, now that they've caught national political attention. The AJC reported:
an inmate at Smith State Prison in Glenville said in a telephone interview prisoners had agreed to end their "non-violent" protest to allow administrators time to focus on their concerns rather than operating the institutions without inmate labor.
"We've ended the protest," said Mike, a convicted armed robber who was one of the inmates who planned and coordinated the work stoppage. "We needed to come off lock down so we can go to the law library and start ... the paperwork for a [prison conditions] lawsuit.
The proactive militancy of the strike organizers underscores the the fact that the entire action not only proceeded largely without violence, but also spread rapidly through several institutions thanks to careful planning and clandestine technology--messages spread via cell, expanding the traditional jailhouse grapevine.
It may be a while before we see another prisoner strike going viral, as the potential for prison-based activism remains constrained by the criminal-justice power structure. But the Georgia inmates helped change the public face of Americans who've been caught up in the country's incarceration industry. Under the most oppressive of conditions, they used disciplined strike tactics to align their grievances with broader struggles for human rights.
It makes sense. Prison is the everyday reality lived by a huge swath of the population (roughly one in one hundred, according to recent surveys) Meanwhile, the impact of prison labor leaves a hidden imprint on our economy as well. Noah Zatz of UCLA Law School has estimated that:
well over 600,000, and probably close to a million, inmates are working full time in jails and prisons throughout the United States. Perhaps some of them built your desk chair: office furniture, especially in state universities and the federal government, is a major prison labor product. Inmates also take hotel reservations at corporate call centers, make body armor for the U.S. military, and manufacture prison chic fashion accessories, in addition to the iconic task of stamping license plates.
As a captive workforce and disenfranchised populace, the prison system reaches deep into American society, and the distance between the people on the inside and those on the outside is increasingly a matter of luck--whether you're unfortuate enough to have been born the wrong color or in the wrong neighborhood. If the movement launched by the Georgia inmates, and their demands for dignity, look surprisingly familiar, there's a good reason for that: they are us.
For more information, follow the Black Agenda Report's ongoing coverage of the Georgia prison activists.
Prisoner DemandsThe nine specific demands made by Georgia's striking prisoners in two press releases pointedly reflect many of the systemic failures of the U.S. regime of mass incarceration, and the utter disconnection of U.S. prisons from any notions of protecting or serving the public interest. The strikers' demands, which they continue to press with state officials, are as follows:
A LIVING WAGE FOR WORK: In violation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude, the DOC demands prisoners work for free.
EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES: For the great majority of prisoners, the DOC denies all opportunities for education beyond the GED, despite the benefit to both prisoners and society.
DECENT HEALTH CARE: In violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments, the DOC denies adequate medical care to prisoners, charges excessive fees for the most minimal care and is responsible for extraordinary pain and suffering. AN END TO CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS: In further violation of the Eighth Amendment, the DOC is responsible for cruel prisoner punishments for minor infractions of rules.
DECENT LIVING CONDITIONS: Georgia prisoners are confined in over-crowded, substandard conditions, with little heat in winter and oppressive heat in summer.
NUTRITIONAL MEALS: Vegetables and fruit are in short supply in DOC facilities while starches and fatty foods are plentiful.
VOCATIONAL AND SELF-IMPROVEMENT OPPORTUNITIES: The DOC has stripped its facilities of all opportunities for skills training, self-improvement and proper exercise.
ACCESS TO FAMILIES: The DOC has disconnected thousands of prisoners from their families by imposing excessive telephone charges and innumerable barriers to visitation.
JUST PAROLE DECISIONS: The Parole Board capriciously and regularly denies parole to the majority of prisoners despite evidence of eligibility.