Monday 7 March 2016

One Billion Rising

Every February through March 8th, thousands of Risings take place in hundreds of countries across the world and within local communities. The 'billion' refers to the UN statistic that one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime, or about one billion. In 2016 the theme of the campaign is Rise for Revolution.

On Saturday 5th of March, women demonstrated in central London.

Despite suffrage for women being won almost a century ago, gender inequality remains stubbornly entrenched. At its very sharpest end is violence against women, which kills two women a week in the UK. Austerity has brought on an abrupt reversal in the progress of gender equality as women's services begin to run out of funding and get shut down. Average numbers suggest that 150 women are turned away from domestic violence refuges each day. Furthermore, domestic violence and violence against women have increased since 2009, researchers have found, pushing up overall levels of violent crime.

Official statisticians in the UK cap the number in a series of crimes that a single person can report to the survey at five. This method excludes the experiences of 'high frequency' victims - particularly victims of domestic violence - who often make up more than 5% of respondents. Survivors of domestic abuse most often report not just one incident of violence and intimidation, or even several, but a systematic and sustained campaign of repression that can last years.

'How can you possibly put a cap on something and say that after five times it does not count?', said one victim of domestic violence who spent 27 years with her abusive husband. 'I remember all the incidents, I remember all the things that were done to me, and to say we are only going to count five times makes me feel worthless. It's like somehow this is your fault, it's like if this had happened more than five times then you must have been asking for it'.

The outrageous devaluing of women's lives has been allowed to persist because our society lacks the courage to name the problem - that the ideas we teach men and women to have about one another creates a culture in which gendered violence can thrive. There are so many men who believe they have the right to own and control the women in their lives, and that they are justified in using physical violence and emotional abuse in order to do it. The World Health Organisation argues that sexual violence against women is to an extent rooted in 'ideologies of male sexual entitlement'. In other words, men are not naturally more violent than women, but are taught to have certain expectations of relationships that can lead some men to assault, and in many cases, kill, their partners.

According to Catherine McKinnon, we need to adopt a gender-inclusive approach to the meaning of torture itself.  In certain circumstances, domestic violence should be considered a form of torture: when women are tortured because they are women through domestic violence, battering, rape, sexual abuse, by being prostituted and made into pornography - coercive circumstances and the politics of female subordination which may render consent meaningless and simply an alibi for abuse.

The destruction of women as women, because they are women, what we call femicide,  is largely ignored in international law. If things are going to change, crimes against women need to be recognised as such, so that women can begin to get the protection from the law that is necessary.


The Guardian
One Billion Rising website
The writings of Catherine McKinnon

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