Tag Archives: Clothesline Project

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 15- The Clothesline Project

Today starts a week of discussion surrounding organizations and actions that aim to combat violence against women. Gender-based violence takes many forms including emotional, psychological, financial, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.

Women all around the world are at risk for violence.

Violence is often inflicted on women by men they are close to such as fathers, husbands, brothers, uncles, or boyfriends, but lesbians and transgendered people around the world are at risk of assault and sexual violence everyday, just because they exist. And while violence within LGBTQAI relationships is often overlooked and covered up, lesbians are not exempt from domestic violence.

Another vulnerable group of adult women are elderly women, both in retirement homes and out. Elder abuse can take many forms, from neglect to homelessness and widows in many countries are even more vulnerable. This week we will not tackle child abuse as a separate topic but look at the various ways in which girl children are specifically targeted for abuse and victimized by incest.

The Clothesline Project: I had witnessed the power of the Clothesline Project as an undergraduate student at San Diego State University. The personal messages written on old shirts at first are overwhelming and bring a sense of sadness and dismay, then you see the messages of hope and triumph written by women who have learned to overcome their own personal tragedies.

The first (and to-date only) Clothesline Project I have personally taken part in was last year at the University for Peace. All of the photos in this post are from that event. I cannot explain how empowering it was to share my own stories of abuse and support other women in their own healing processes.

Many groups that arrange Clothesline Projects do not allow men to write shirts but when asked by a classmate’s father if he could create a shirt to honor his sister who had been murdered by her boyfriend in front of her eight-year-old son, there was no way I could exclude men from our project.

Men and boys are also deeply affected by violence against women, and this project is a good cathartic opportunity for them to realize they have a community of people with whom they can share their stories and show their support to others who have faced similar challenges.

If you are interested in creating a Clothesline Project in your neighborhood to send a message of support to victims of violence, and defiance to perpetrators, see the original creator’s website.

For our project, we first raised money to buy shirts from a second-hand store. Because our student community was very international and would only be in Costa Rica for a year, most of us could not afford to part with the few articles of clothing we had brought with us.

At the store I purchased roughly 70 shirts of various solid colors. We used black permanent markers to share our stories and so some materials are better than others.

The color scheme of CP is broken down this way: Grey for verbal abuse, yellow and orange for physical violence, red and pink for rape and sexual assault, blue and green for child abuse, purple for violence against the LGBTQAI community, and white for murder.

From there we set up a quiet table, put pieces of cardboard in between the fronts and backs of the shirts so the markers wouldn’t bleed through, and started sharing our stories. We wrote the year on the hems of the shirts to keep track of them. We encouraged everyone to write in their native languages (our students came from 60 countries) and then we taped a typed translation onto the front of the shirts.

Because we were in a Spanish-speaking country, Spanish speakers were encouraged to write in Spanish on the front and English on the back. The idea was to eventually display the whole collection, with everything translated into Spanish, for the people of the town nearest our campus. While our class was never able to arrange this, we left the shirts our class made with the Gender & Peacebuilding department in hopes that this year’s class will add their stories, and continue our work.

The shirts were displayed for a week around the covered outdoor cafeteria area so that people could not ignore our message. The first day, during lunch, the display was accompanied by a soundtrack to make sure people were aware of how pervasive violence against women is. I created a soundtrack of a low-flying jet, a car alarm, and an air raid siren, which sounded every 13 seconds, every 2 minutes, and every 15 minutes, respectively. The jet symbolizes how often a woman is subjected to physical violence, the car alarm shows how often a woman is raped, and the siren alerts people to how often a woman is murdered in the US.

The event is emotional so if you are taking this on, be prepared for tears, confusion, and some very uncomfortable moments as people who think they don’t know anyone who has been victimized come to realize that no one’s safety is guaranteed.

Any event that raises awareness and gets people talking about such a taboo subject is a worthwhile nonviolent action. Together, we can overcome violence against women. 

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