Category Archives: (Dis)ability

Day 15 of 16 Days of Activism: The Bahamas

#Day15 of #16Days focuses on another Caribbean country, the islands of The Bahamas. Shockingly 45% of all homicides in the 20 years leading up to 2012 could be attributed to domestic violence in the islands. The government, under the Ministry of Social Services, does operate the Bureau of Women’s Affairs which presumably handles the Assistance for Persons Experiencing Domestic Violence where assistance is free to those who are willing to comply with the eligibility requirements: willingness to attend and participate in counseling and “willingness to share information.”

The government also offers community development like support groups and classes for the disabled in Braille and sign language, counseling, rehab and welfare services including rent assistance and discounted daycare. A two-day Symposium on Gender Equality and the Law in The Bahamas was held in September of this year, yet a constitutional referendum has been ongoing since 2002 to try to make citizenship laws and gender equality in The Bahamas more in line with the 21st Century. You can find a document outlining laws in The Bahamas regarding sexual assault and domestic violence here.

Men too

Of note is the legal definition of spousal rape: “Any person who has sexual intercourse with his spouse without the consent of the spouse —
(a) where there is in existence in relation to them — (i) a decree nisi of divorce; (ii) a decree of judicial separation; (iii) a separation agreement; or (iv) an order of a court for the person not to molest or co-habit with his spouse, or any other order made under Part II; or
(b) where the person has notice that a petition for judicial separation, divorce or nullity of marriage has been presented to a court, is guilty of the offence of sexual assault by spouse and liable to imprisonment for a term of fifteen years.” Yet the sentence for “unnatural connection with any animal” is twenty years….

According to the US Department of State 2013 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in The Bahamas “The law does not provide women with the same right as men to transmit citizenship to their foreign-born spouses. The law also makes it easier for men with foreign spouses than for women with foreign spouses to transmit citizenship to their children but more difficult for unmarried men (even if able to prove paternity). The law does not include gender as a basis for protection from discrimination. Women were generally free of economic discrimination, and the law provides for equal pay for equal work.” Additionally, pregnant girls in state-run schools are removed and put into special programs until after they give birth, and “The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, although girls may marry at 16 and boys at 17 with parental permission.”

There is no specific law protecting persons with physical or mental disabilities from discrimination in employment, education, access to health care, or the provision of other state services. Provisions in other legislation address the rights of persons with disabilities, including a prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability. Although the law mandates access for persons with physical disabilities in new public buildings, authorities rarely enforced this requirement, and very few buildings and public facilities were accessible to persons with disabilities. Advocates for persons with disabilities complained of widespread job discrimination and general apathy on the part of private employers and political leaders toward the need for training and equal opportunity. In one case authorities denied access to public educational facilities for a mentally sound child with only physical limitations confining him to a wheelchair.

Societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals occurred, with some persons reporting job and housing discrimination based upon sexual orientation. Although same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults is legal, the law defines the age of consent for same-sex couples as 18, compared with 16 for heterosexual couples. No domestic legislation addresses the human rights concerns of LGBT persons. LGBT NGOs can openly operate in the country. The 2006 Constitutional Review Commission found that sexual orientation did not deserve protection against discrimination. LGBT NGOs reported that LGBT persons faced some discrimination in employment, and victims were frustrated at the lack of legal recourse.

Stigma and employment discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS were high, but there were no reports of violence against persons with HIV/AIDS. Children with HIV/AIDS also faced discrimination, and authorities often did not tell teachers that a child was HIV-positive for fear of verbal abuse from both educators and peers. The government maintained a home for orphaned children infected with HIV/AIDS.

All Saints Camp claims to be a refuge for those affected by HIV/AIDS in The Bahamas but the US Human Rights Report cited deplorable conditions and extremely substandard care. Their Facebook page argues that they do not have access to government funding but through the generosity of donors “the daily life at ASC has become worth living on a very very basic level – to maintain this goal is a constant and revolving challenge for all involved.”

Bahamas Crisis Centre

The Bahamas Crisis Centre is not easy to find online, and their Facebook page doesn’t offer a lot of insight either, but they do operate a 24/7 hotline at 242-328-0922. It’s difficult to gauge how active they are currently but it looks like they have participated in a number of community events from toy drives for children at Christmas, to their Silent Witness Campaign to Take Back the Night. They and others throughout the Caribbean are listed here under Caribbean Crisis Centres and Women’s NGOs. Similarly elusive is the Bahamas LGBT Equality Advocates, or BLEA, but it is unclear what their role is or how they go about advancing equality.

Silent Witness

Unfortunately for a country facing incredible amounts of gender-based violence and general inequality there are few organizations or resources there to help. Let’s hope the situation in Nigeria–for the last day of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence–is less bleak.


Day 13 of 16 Days of Activism: Singapore

As one of two places in Asia where English is the primary language, Singapore takes center stage on #Day13 of #16Days of Activism. Arguable one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world with a population nearing 5.5 million, the government of Singapore encourages multiculturalism, and recognizes English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese and Tamil as official languages. Singapore shines in some areas–like boasting the lowest infant mortality rate in the world and being the world’s most religiously diverse nation–and lacks in others–there is no minimum wage in the country and all public gatherings of five or more require police permits.

While reporting of domestic violence and the collection of statistical data related to gender-based or interpersonal violence has been difficult to assemble in Singapore, estimates currently state that nearly one in 10 women in Singapore were victimized at some point in their adult lives, and more than one-third of the survivors surveyed were afraid for their lives during the most recent incidence of violence. There are a handful or organizations on the 277 square mile island nation dedicated to helping everyone live free from fear and violence.

we can

We Can! Singapore “uses interactive theatre, intimate workshops, and collaborative projects to reach out to individual Change Makers as well as community groups, provoking thought and discussion on the less obvious forms of violence against women…. [and] builds on the belief that change can be achieved when people recognise the problem of violence against women as their own, know that there is a better alternative, and feel empowered to make that change happen.”

A number of organizations exist that specialize in aiding folks with disabilities. The Asian Women’s Welfare Association “strives to empower caregivers and caregiving families of the disabled, the elderly as well as the chronically and terminally-ill through the provision of information, training and support programmes. We also work with caregivers to advocate for more caregiver-friendly policies, support and services for caregivers and their loved ones.” Care Corner operates Project START- Stop Abusive Relationships Together which aims to “provide community-based services for mentally incapacitated persons of family violence, and/or vulnerable persons with disability, etc. Care Corner Project StART handles various types of complex family violence cases that comprise of high risk. Care Corner Project StART provides family protection intervention work in the west and south region of Singapore.”

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The National Council of Social Services “with the goal of enhancing the quality of social services for the disadvantaged, works closely with VWOs [Voluntary Welfare Organizations] to build their organisational capabilities for better management and delivery of social service programmes.” NCSS operates:

  • Family Service Centres
    Family Service Centres (FSCs) are a key community-based focal point and social service provider for families in need. The objectives of FSCs are to promote and improve the social well-being of every individual in the family, at every stage of life. FSCs are staffed with social workers and other professionals to provide a helping hand.
  • Single-Parent Family Support Services
    The objectives of a Single-Parent Programme are to support and promote the psycho-emotional well-being of single-parent families towards stability, growth and acceptance of the new family unit. The services provided include family casework and counselling, support groups, programmes for children, and public education.
  • Services for Remarriages and Step-families
    The holistic programme helps remarried couples and their families cope with their new roles and adjust in their reconstituted families. The services provided include family casework and counselling, support groups, programmes for children, and public education.
  • Family Violence Prevention and Intervention Programme
    The Family Violence Prevention and Intervention Programme aims to help victims, perpetrators and witnesses of family violence. It also aims to create greater awareness in the community about issues on family violence through public education and outreach. The programme involves services ranging from remedial services to preventive and developmental programmes. These include casework and counselling, group work, and workshops.
  • Counselling Services
    Counselling services aim to help those suffering from psychological issues, anxiety, and behavioural difficulties arising from relationship problems, addictions, bereavement and lifestyle pressures. Counselling helpline services are also available to provide a listening ear to anyone who needs to talk about their concerns. Information and referral are also available for those with specific needs.
  • Suicide Prevention Service
    Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) provides confidential 24-hour emotional support by trained volunteers to people in crisis, thinking of suicide or affected by suicide.
  • Aftercare Case Management Service
    The objective of the aftercare case management service is to facilitate the reintegration of ex-offenders into families and the society. Such service also aims to harness greater community resources in efforts to reintegrate ex-offenders.
    The aftercare case management service assists ex-offenders in attaining employment/job training, securing accommodation, developing social support and coping skills, and attaining a positive lifestyle.

scwo

The Singapore Council of Women’s Organizations is the umbrella over 57 organizations in the country. Their aims and objectives include:

  1. To co-ordinate and act as a federation for women’s organisations, and to bring together all women leaders of Singapore;
  2. To create opportunities for member organisations to share information and collaborate with each other;
  3. To identify areas of common interest , and purpose, and furthering these through unified effort;
  4. To foster friendly relationships, goodwill and understanding amongst women, irrespective of origin, race, or religion;
  5. To provide leadership and work positively towards peace and understanding throughout the world by actively participating regionally and internationally with other like-minded organisations which subscribe to similar aims and objects;
  6. To promote and improve the status of women in Singapore in all fields, and where necessary, seek legislative and policy changes to ensure justice and equal opportunity for women as embodied in the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  7. To serve as a resource centre for information about women in Singapore and carry out research and training programmes that will benefit women;
  8. To provide direct and support services that address the needs of women in Singapore, with special focus on the needs of vulnerable women.

PAVE–the first family violence specialist centre in Singapore– was created with the goal “to promote a healthy community, free from violence through improvement, collaboration and advocacy.” They provide counseling services, support groups, referrals, safety planning, help with obtaining protective orders, public education, research and training. They can be reached at 6555 0390.

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AWARE- the Association of Women for Action and Research- is “Singapore’s leading gender equality advocacy group” whose aim is to “remove all gender-based barriers so as to allow individuals in Singapore to develop their potential to the fullest and realise their personal visions and hopes.” They do this through research and advocacy, education and training and by providing direct support services. AWARE operates the Sexual Assault Care Center Monday through Friday from 10am-midnight, the Helpline for survivors of domestic violence Monday through Friday from 3pm-9:30pm at 1800-774-5935 and a Free Legal Clinic. They also have a ton of great information on their website, including safety planning, getting a restraining order and contact information for a number of other organizations in Singapore dedicated to ending violence against women and promoting gender equality.

With all these great resources available for survivors of abuse and domestic violence in Singapore hopefully soon their human rights record will be on par with their education and healthcare system. If anyone knows of organizations within Singapore that are working directly on the justice system there please share them in the comments! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the remaining few days of #16DaysofActivism!


Day 7 of 16 Days of Activism: Jamaica

#Day7 of #16Days falls on World AIDS Day. According to UNAIDS Jamaica’s current strategy to combat HIV/AIDS is “Making Human Rights Real” but despite huge successes from the program–“Since 2004, with the introduction of antiretroviral treatment, AIDS-related deaths in Jamaica have dropped by 41% and mother-to-child transmission of HIV has fallen from 25% in 2004 to below 5% in 2011”–budget cuts from the government could hinder that progress. And despite being slightly out-of-date the Ministry of Health does advertise free HIV & Syphilis testing at mobile clinics and is working to empower women to be “smart women” and have condoms at hand.

youth theatre

The smart women of Jamaica are banding together in many ways. Jamaica Youth Theatre has crafted a two-minute video in the hopes of helping to Stop Violence Against Women to add to their repertoire of socially conscious flicks on everything from unintended pregnancy to sexual assault to HIV. Do Good Jamaica is a network of non-governmental and community based organizations (like Women’s Media Watch Jamaica and the Association of Women’s Organizations in Jamaica) that help in all kinds of ways.

In March Jamaica had the honor of hosting the second annual Caribbean Conference on Domestic Violence and Gender Equality. The conference looks like it was a fantastic learning and networking opportunity as it had clinical training for healthcare providers, training for activists using social media, a workshop on “Gender and human rights-based programming to address gender-based violence (GBV) and HIV in LGBT communities,” and discussions on the historical roots of gender-based violence in the Caribbean, disaster and violence against women, best practices in gender mainstreaming, the challenges of dealing with police officers who are abusive to their partners, the role of male engagement in ending gender-based violence, and much more.

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Popular Jamaican dancehall artist Ishawna made headlines in October when she disclosed to the public that her well-known ex-fiancé had been physically abusive, and to the surprise of many the country rallied around her, empowering other men and women to speak out against domestic violence. The unfortunate level of violence in Jamaica is not limited to intimate partner violence but violence against children and other community violence is rampant as well. Jamaica’s domestic violence law can be found on the Ministry of Justice website but the Bureau of Women’s Affairs seems to be much more 21st Century as it “is mandated to mobilize the Government to address the problems that confront women, given the impact of patriarchy and sexism.”

wi-logoOne group fighting ferociously to update Jamaica’s laws regarding domestic and sexual violence is the 30-year-old Woman Incorporated. They also operate the country’s national Crisis Center Hotline at 929-2997 for survivors of domestic or sexual violence, and participate in advocacy and public awareness campaigns. This article explains how the laws surrounding rape within marriage have changed over the years, but at the time of publication marital rape is still not criminal in Jamaica. Other laws they are working to change include the definition of rape/sexual abuse of a child, as well as laws regarding parental rights when accusations of child abuse are at hand. 

current jamaica laws

 

Women’s Resource and Outreach Center is another organization in Jamaica promoting gender equality and combating violence against women; one way they do this is by advocating for quotas through the 51% Coalition. They also organize trainings to empower women in leadership roles:

Under a programme funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), WROC executed a training programme ‘Strengthening Women’s Leadership in Jamaica (SWLJ)’, which was designed to address concerns highlighted in a Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) funded gender research project that showed that little progress has been made in the last decade for women serving on boards and commissions in Jamaica. Training sessions were conducted with ninety three ladies for appointment to public and private sector boards and commissions as well as school boards. A database with the profiles of the 103 ladies trained was later developed and a printed publication was presented to key public and private sector organizations/leaders.

Though there aren’t a huge number of organizations or resources in Jamaica dedicated to ending gender-based violence, it looks like the ones who are there are doing great work. Let’s hope many more future leaders get a head start soon too!


Day 2 of 16 Days of Activism: USA

#Day2 of #16Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence showcases resources available in the United States to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. We are fortunate in the US to have many, many local programs dedicated to helping survivors of these human rights atrocities, and these national organizations can help you locate them if needed.

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The National Domestic Violence Hotline has been highlighted here many times before. From their website:

Operating around the clock, seven days a week, confidential and free of cost, the National Domestic Violence Hotline provides lifesaving tools and immediate support to enable victims to find safety and live lives free of abuse. Callers to the Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) can expect highly trained experienced advocates to offer compassionate support, crisis intervention information and referral services in over 170 languages.  Visitors to this site can find information about domestic violence, safety planning, local resources and ways to support the organization.

The Hotline is part of the largest nationwide network of programs and expert resources and regularly shares insight about domestic violence with government officials, law enforcement agencies, media and the general public. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a non-profit organization established in 1996 as a component of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

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The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network has been highlighted here as well. They describe themselves as:

the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization and was named one of “America’s 100 Best Charities” by Worth magazine. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org) in partnership with more than 1,100 local rape crisis centers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice.

and

Polaris Project

The Polaris Project which I have not had the pleasure of writing about before.

Polaris, named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom in the U.S., disrupts the conditions that allow human trafficking to thrive in our society. From working with government leaders to protect victims’ rights, to building partnerships with the world’s leading technology corporations, we spark long-term change that focuses communities on identifying, reporting and eliminating trafficking networks. Our comprehensive model puts victims at the center of all that we do — helping survivors restore their freedom, preventing more victims, and gathering the data to pursue traffickers wherever they operate.

Unparalleled expertise. Relentlessness. And an innovative spirit. This is how Polaris eradicates the slavery networks that rob human beings of their lives and their independence.

Freedom happens now.

DV in the US

The United States is also privileged to host such amazing organizations as ADWAS- The Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Project, The Shalom Task Force, The National Human Trafficking Resource Center and Love Is Respect, plus hotlines for every state in the nation, plus many territories like Puerto Rico. While we still have a long way to go before we’re rid of this scourge, the ever-growing number of resources available to help survivors live free from violence is definitely something to be thankful for.


Day 1 of 16 Days of Activism: The Pixel Project

Today kicks off #Day1 of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence! Everyday I’ll be showcasing resources in different countries that help people live lives free from violence. The Pixel Project has a fantastic running library of Tweets with the contact information for various domestic violence and sexual assault hotlines around the world. Follow them @PixelProject, use #16DaysofActivism or just #16Days, get ready to #OrangeUrHood, and like them on Facebook.

Pixel Project

They have some awesome posts about ways you can participate in stopping the epidemic that is domestic violence, like:
16 Ways to Stop Domestic Violence in Your Community
16 Ways You Can Support a Survivor of Domestic Violence
16 Films About Violence Against Women
16 Ways Men Can Help Stop Online Violence Against Women
16 Ways to Help Your Local Domestic Violence Shelter
and
16 Tech Innovations That Help the Movement to Prevent and Stop Violence Against Women.


Earning a Living Making a Life

do-what-you-love

As longtime readers will know, for the past two years I have worked for two different causes I am equally passionate about. People who aren’t my co-workers are often surprised by how much I love the work I do. I believe everyone should have the opportunity to pour themselves into doing what they love, and fighting for something they believe in, so with that in mind I’ve compiled a list of not-for-profit organizations, both in Austin and elsewhere, so that any of you, dear readers, who want to commit yourselves to working for change, can have a starting block from which to do so. Keep in mind a lot of non-profits or non-governmental organizations may only have volunteer positions or internships, but it’s a great way to gain experience and get your proverbial “foot in the door.” Don’t forget to check your local Craigslist and Idealist listings too. In no particular order, here’s a partial list (come back soon for more!) of organizations I have bookmarked on my computer to get you started:

Survival International- The global movement for tribal peoples’ rights

Native Planet- Preserving Cultures, Empowering People.

Minority Rights Group International- Working to secure the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples.

International Women’s Tribune Center- Connecting women globally for social change

Population Action International- Healthy Families, Healthy Planet

PeopleFund- Creating economic opportunity and financial stability for underserved people

Equality Texas- Envisioning a state where all Texans are treated equally, with dignity and respect

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation- Transforming the lives of urban children living in poverty through better health and education

Foundation Communities- Creating housing where families succeed in Austin and North Texas

Guttmacher Institute- Advancing sexual and reproductive health worldwide through research, policy analysis and public education

Fellowship of Reconciliation- Working for peace, justice and nonviolence since 1915

CARE- A leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Travis County- Speaking up for children who have been abused or neglected

Open Democracy- Free thinking for the world

Transcending Boundaries- Providing education, activism and support for persons whose sexuality, gender, sex, or relationship style do not fit within conventional categories

National Network to End Domestic Violence- Dedicated to creating a social, political and economic environment in which violence against women no longer exists

Colorlines- News for action

Women’s Information Network- Democratic. Pro-choice. Women.

World Pulse- Connecting women’s voices to transform our world

Mama Cash- Giving grants to women’s girls’ and trans rights groups that are working to change the world

The Peace & Collaborative Development Job Board- one of the premier sites in the world focused on international development, peacebuilding, humanitarian relief, social entrepreneurship, international affairs and more

The Center for Health and Gender Equality (CHANGE)

The Association for Women’s Rights in Development- an international, multi-generational, feminist, creative, future-orientated membership organization committed to achieving gender equality, sustainable development and women’s human rights

The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault- to create a Texas free from sexual violence

The National Domestic Violence Hotline- Over 17 years of advocacy, safety planning, resources, and hope

national-domestic-violence-hotline-logo


Love Your Body Day

October 19 is Love Your Body Day, something I’ve been celebrating since I was introduced to the concept in college at San Diego State University by the courageous members of the National Organization for Women. Erin Matson, NOW’s Action VP had this to say about body image and loving yourself. And while I very much appreciate Meghan McCain’s courage in posing for the NOH8 Campaign and openly discussing body image issues, the photo chosen by Hollywood NOW to showcase their Celebrity Host could not possibly fit any tighter into the media box of what women in America are supposed to look like. Welcome to the 2011 Love Your Body Day Blog Carnival.

Many issues arise when talking about body image, especially for women; and for all we (especially feminists) talk about personality and intelligence and inner-strength being more important than outer-beauty… the truth is, in every society, women are judged on outward appearance.

From men in America and the UK navigating body image standards set up by advertising and the porn industry to transsexuals in Iran fighting stigmas of “abnormality” to young girls in Cameroon being subjected to breast ironing to the more than 100 million girls and women worldwide suffering the effects of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), unfortunately our bodies are battlegrounds.

Eating disorders affect more than 10 million people a year in the US alone, so think twice before you praise someone for loosing weight. Eating disorders affect women, girls, boys and men around the world, with silverchair’s frontman Australia-native Daniel Johns being one of the most recognized male celebrities suffering from anorexia anywhere. Because of the incredibly unhealthy body images fed to us by the media cosmetics is a multi-BILLION dollar industry and rates of plastic surgery to “beautify” everything from earlobes to vaginal labia are skyrocketing.

So, as always, I want to give suggestions for you to improve the world around you. How can we fight the Ariel complex of altering our bodies and loosing our voices to be attractive?What can you do to promote realistic body images of real people? Speak up! Learn to accept that hundreds of body types exist and are natural; don’t give in to media standards fueled by capitalist greed designed to make you spend money; demand that stores carry your size clothes and shoes whether you’re a naturally tiny size 0 or a naturally curvy size 20; look up to real people around you for inspiration, your teachers, parents, and mentors, not airbrushed and nip/tucked celebrities; if someone tells you you’re ugly/fat/unloveable/don’t-fit-neatly-into-the-claustrophobic-boxes-built-by-the-media, tell them to fuck off; and send sexist ads into Ms. Magazine’s No Comment section. Understand that differences, especially body differences like sex, (dis)ability and race, are beautiful!

Finally, what’s the most important thing you can do? Love your body! “The moment we choose to love, we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love, we begin to move toward freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others.”- bell hooks


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