Rabble

Is the TPP Falling Apart? Let's Take a Look at Where the 12 Nations Are At

As the ratification fight intensifies, we're watching closely as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) winds its way through national legislatures across the globe. So grab your popcorn, and let's take a look at where the TPP stands in each country yet to ratify.

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Election Day in South Africa

April 14 was election day in South Africa. In less than two weeks, the international community will be fed images and narratives from massive ANC (African National Congress) sponsored "10 years of democracy" celebrations. The twinning of these celebrations with the federal election results will obscure an international visibility of on-the-ground mobilizations against the ANC by South Africa's most marginalized people.

It will also serve to legitimize the South African neoliberal project and reinforce the ANC government's international reputation as a government that is truly loved by its people. What must be made visible is that from underneath the continued reign of the ANC government, community groups across the country are encouraging election boycotts and non-participation in the electoral process.

At the same time as the national and international propaganda machine of the ANC remains seemingly invincible, a strong resistance to their politics is building. Due to the inflated and highly undemocratic R200,000 ($40,000 CDN) fee to run for office, this opposition is being forced to organize outside of the electoral framework. It is from community-based social movements within South Africa that resistance to the ANC is being generated, even though these groups are separate from union, NGO or institutional structures and thus lack basic financial support and resources in order to fund even a basic public awareness campaign.

The reasons for organizing a campaign against voting for the ANC become clear when the "transition" that has occurred since 1994 is viewed through the lens of the nation's poor majority. University of Kwa Zulu Natal research fellow Ashwin Desai explains that after 1994, "although the black elite became rapidly richer and the white poor became rapidly poorer... in general terms whites got richer and blacks got poorer." This phenomenon has been labeled "economic apartheid" and has been reinforced by the ANC government through their economic policies.

People on the ground, and especially the poor, are fed up with the false promises the ANC has made since 1994. Because although the ANC promised free basic services, and the right to water is enshrined in the constitution, privatization of municipal water services has resulted in the implementation of pre-paid water meters in poor communities. Although they were promised free education, youth are still expelled from schools for not paying their school fees. And although average life expectancy has fallen from 64 years in 1996 to 50.7 years in 2002 and the national AIDS rate sits at 20.1 per cent, last September, President Thabo Mbeki told a reporter from the New York Times that "Personally, [he doesn't] know anybody who has died of AIDS."

In interaction with community groups in struggles today, one realizes that the ANC government has not only left large sections of the population with the status quo in regards to substandard housing and access to basic services, but that they have actively persecuted the poor in order to meet neoliberal ideals. Desai calls the ANC's policies an "armed assault on the poor," by which the ANC uses cost recovery as a measure of success and reserves the right to use force and arms, as well as the justice system, against communities who resist water and electricity cutoffs and evictions that occur in the name of "economic development."

One of the better known of South Africa's social movements resisting the continued reign of the ANC is the Gauteng Province based Anti-Privatization Forum, whose platform on the elections calls for "no vote for the ANC under any circumstances." Instead, the APF advocates that citizens "vote with [their] feet through mass action," positioning grassroots organizing as the alternative to the process of voting. In Soweto, APF affiliated Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee has asked its members to register to vote, but on election day to spoil their ballots and write their demands from the government on the reverse. There are plans for street activities to take place throughout Soweto on elections day.

Other community based organizations have taken more radical positions of non-participation. The Mandelaville Crisis Committee (MCC) represents a community 40 minutes from Johannesburg whose residents were forcibly removed from the Mandelaville informal settlement in Soweto by security forces known as the "Red Ants" in 2002. According to MCC member Thulani Skhosana, their forced removal was part of the ANC government's plan to "clean up Soweto for the World Summit on Sustainable Development [held in Johannesburg in 2002], and hide what it couldn't clean up."

Today the community is in an area known as Durban Roodeport Deep, where people live five or more to a room in abandoned miners' hostels and shacks without electricity or a proper sewage system. Graffiti in the area reads "NO HOUSING, NO VOTE!" calling on community members to boycott elections until they receive the housing they were promised by the government before their removal. In the words of Skhosana, "We voted the first time and the second time with hopes that we will have a better life... The ANC's lack of respect for the people of Mandelaville makes it impossible for us to go to the polls again."

As community-based organizations and new social movements in South Africa struggle to respond to what Desai calls "a permanent state of emergency" for the poor, election day and celebrations of democracy will be just two more days of repression and resistance. Let us, looking in from the outside, remember that the struggles continue in South Africa, even as the world media encourages us to believe that the ANC has brought happiness and freedom to its people.

Dawn Paley is an intern with Alternatives currently living in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The New Face of European Feminism

The first-ever gathering of women within the context of the World Social Forum movement was the most exciting event of the European Social Forum held in and around Paris last week.

About 2500 women gathered on November 12, the day before the official opening of the ESF in a day long European Assembly of Women's Rights. There appears to be a resurgence of feminism across Europe in the face of the neo-liberal assault on social programs. The slogan of the forum was With Women for Another Europe.

A major issue debated at the forum was that the proposed European Constitution has no provision for the legal equality between men and women; re-introduces the Christian heritage which threatens gains women have made in freedom of choice, the right to divorce and the right to work; and carves in stone neo-liberal policies that will lead to the disappearance of the welfare state. The discussion reminded this Canadian feminist of the constitutional battles of ten and 20 years ago in Canada.

The status of women is quite different across Europe. Women in Portugal, for example, have no right to abortion. Women in Eastern Europe are going backward instead of forward. One speaker explained that where women under Communism had equality in work, today 55 per cent of women couldn't find work after school compared to 24 per cent of men. She also talked about a new form of slavery in the form of trafficking of women for prostitution.

Immigrant women face greater barriers everywhere. The women's assembly, like most of the European Social Forum, was very white compared to the streets of Paris. There seemed to be little discussion of the racial homogeneity of the movement. One of the big debates in France has been over the right of Muslim women to wear the chador (veil). Most French feminists take the position that this is a symbol of oppression that must be struggled against. There are huge debates in France about whether the veil should be banned in schools. This was a major debate at the women's forum with British women arguing that Muslim women must have the right to wear whatever they want to wear and that it is wrong for the feminist movement to impose a monocultural standard.

The other major debate came from a group of young women who come from a mixed feminist group called Genderation. When the workshop on violence reported to the plenary they protested the report by opening pink umbrellas and shouting at the speaker. In an interview they said that they had been silenced in the workshop, which the organizers denied. The group opposes the discourse of Zero Tolerance of violence as a right-wing idea. They criticized the Assembly organizers for talking about prostitution only in terms of violence and not in terms of work and immigration. And finally they were concerned that the only talk about sexuality was about violence against women and not about women's pleasure.

It seems that since 1995 in France and other countries of Europe young feminists have organized mixed feminist groups that include men. In an interview, Cecilia Baeza explained, "One stage of feminism was for women to struggle alone but now we should work together. All the issues that remain require men to change. For example, how can we talk about prostitution without dealing with male sexuality?" Baeza told me that one-fifth of her group are male and that all the members are between 20 and 26 years old.

Her group also thinks that women and men have to reflect on how we use power. "When women get power it is disastrous. They use it like men. We have to enlarge power through direct and participatory democracy rather than accepting to participate in patriarchal power," she told me. "We must insist on parity in our movements." She added that she was very critical of the male domination of the Social Forum.

There were numerous plenaries and workshops on women's rights as well during the official European Social Forum. One of the most interesting talks was by Antonella Picchion, an Italian economist, who explained that much of the conflict caused by neo-liberal attacks is "discharged into the family," with women having the responsibility to deal with the results.

She explained, "It is not only because men don't look after the children, because they are doing that more, or that men don't do the housework because they are doing that more, but the deeper problem is that men don't take care of themselves. They separate the struggle at work and at home. Women are oppressed by men's weakness -- not their strength," she added.

The European Assembly on Women's Rights seemed to further the European-wide solidarity of women begun through the World March of Women in 2001 at the same time as pushing further on the importance of women's role in the World Social Forum movement.

Judy Rebick is the publisher of rabble.ca.

The Most Dangerous Occupation

Which is more dangerous in Canada: being a cop, or being a wife? The answer is: wife. By a long shot.

The myth that policing is the most dangerous occupation is a pervasive one. We hear often how the men and women of law enforcement put themselves in mortal danger every time they put on a uniform. Certainly, police put themselves in harm's way, and it is undeniable that they are injured and killed on the job far too often. When an officer is murdered on the job, public outrage is justified. But the often-repeated claim that policing is the most dangerous job just doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

Far more women are killed by an intimate partner in a single year in this country than are officers killed in the line of duty. It has always been so.

In Ontario, the most-populous province, 176 police officers were killed in the line of duty over the course of more than 100 years. Between 1893 and 2002, those provincial, city and regional officers were most often the victims of traffic and other accidents, according to information compiled by the Police Association of Ontario. That's fewer than the number of women killed by a current or former partner in the province every five years, with an average rate of 40 each and every year.

It's a figure that, despite a high-profile coroner's inquest into the June, 2000 murder of young Pickering, Ont. mother Gillian Hadley, is on the rise. Statistics Canada notes that the 2001 spousal homicide rate rose for the first time in six years. Thanks in part to a spate of Ontario murders, 69 Canadian women were killed by an intimate partner that year, while the national homicide rate overall remained stable, at just over two per 100,000 population.

That frightening summer that Gillian Hadley's estranged, disturbed husband shot her and then himself, at least seven Ontario women were victims of murderous current or former intimate partners. It was called a crisis by people who work with victims of domestic violence, compared to an "open season" on women, and came just two years after an earlier coroner's inquest had made more than 200 recommendations intended to keep men from killing their wives and girlfriends.

Two years after the Hadley inquest, fewer than a dozen of that jury's 58 recommendations had been followed-up by the provincial government. Three years after her death, governments are still vowing to address the problem of woman abuse and prevent more homicides. This June, Ontario announced $3-million in funding for a McMaster University research project to screen women for abuse, an issue the government says costs the country $1.5 billion a year in health-care costs.

According to Statistics Canada, 51 women were killed by a current or ex-spouse in 2000, the same year that proved so deadly for women in southern Ontario. That year, nine law enforcement officers were killed on the job -- by all causes, including falls, training accidents and heart attacks. The following year, seven law enforcement officers were killed on the job; in 2002 there were 11 "line of duty" deaths, and so far in 2003, three officers have died -- in car and plane crashes.

Those officers had, in the terminology of people who study occupational health, taken a "voluntary risk" by joining a police force, correctional service or other enforcement unit. They were trained in how to deal with violence, instructed on how to protect themselves, had back-up from other armed officers, and given protective gear as well as night sticks and service revolvers.

In contrast few, if any, of the murdered women had weapons on hand to defend themselves. Rather than a squad of comrades to answer a cry for help, women can seek court orders, and hope they are enforced. They can go to a crisis shelter and hope it is not full, and that their husband doesn't break in and kill them, as happened in Quebec in 2001.

Short of isolating themselves, women in this country have much less ability to protect themselves than do law enforcement officers, because most female homicide victims are killed by someone with whom they have had an intimate relationship. They are shot, stabbed, burned, thrown from balconies and bludgeoned by husbands and boyfriends --- people who likely did not pose an obvious threat when they first met. More often, they began a relationship with the simple intent of forming a couple and starting a family.

That simple desire for a domestic relationship places younger women at particular risk. Women under 25 were killed in 2000 at a rate of 21.3 per million couples. And assaults on pregnant women are deemed to be so common in this country -- - at an estimated rate of 5.5 per cent of all pregnancies -- that the College of Family Physicians of Canada recommends that all pregnant women be screened for past or current abuse. A task force established to curtail the "epidemic" of abuse against women, in London, Ont., recommends that screening for domestic abuse be part of the routine medical check-ups of all women, starting at age 12.

In contrast to merely being a woman who is, or has been, in an intimate relationship, policing is much safer. It is no more dangerous than any other job in which workers must deal with the public. It's no riskier than being a retail worker. Police officers are injured no more often than motel clerks or service station attendants. Occupational Health and Safety statistics, based on claims for workers' compensation, show that farmers, miners, loggers, nurses, taxi drivers, commercial fishers and construction workers are injured and killed much more often than police.

And yet, when a worker in another occupation dies on the job, there seldom follows the media attention, or the public outcry, that is so justified when a police officer dies on duty. Across Canada, memorials have been built to honour those who died on the job in such fields as mining, sailing, firefighting and other hazardous jobs. But a memorial to women killed by an intimate partner? Not yet.

Parks, streets, schools, even boats, have been named for fallen police officers. Monuments are constructed in their memory. Scholarships are handed out in their names. Their sudden violent ends are announced in Parliament. Their funerals are international news. A 1998 funeral for a slain Toronto officer -- stabbed while on plainclothes duty by two drug-addicted and homeless women who didn't know he was a police officer -- was attended by some 12,000 people. Up to 160,000 people watched the funeral on the internet and thousands more saw it live on television.

But for women who die at the hands of an intimate, their legacy is too often little more than a mention in the legislature, when an Opposition member asks what has been done to address the latest coroner's inquest recommendations.

Elizabeth LeReverend is a freelance writer, editor and researcher whose full-time police-beat reportage at a daily newspaper earned several awards.

Unholy Alliance

On January 15, 2003, field missions around the world for the United States' international aid agency (USAID) quietly received notice that, henceforth, no more funding for projects against trafficking in people would go to "organizations advocating prostitution as an employment choice or which advocate or support the legalization of prostitution."

On a small scale, the policy shift stands to affect the funding given to groups like Empower, a sex workers' group in Thailand that has vocally supported legalization and the political organizing of sex workers. Though the money they receive for anti-trafficking programs is small, it covers the cost of literacy classes. What remains to be seen, is how much else is at stake.

The provision was part of a now well-known cable sent out by Colin Powell that set out USAID's new foreign policy under the Bush administration. It announced that funding would be cut to projects perceived as supporting "trafficking of women and girls, legalization of drugs, injecting drug use, and abortion." The attack on abortion and the tying of HIV-prevention funding to abstinence-based programs stirred up a firestorm of protest from women's groups and health activists in the U.S.

Though touted as a grave set-back for the feminist movement's advances around reproductive rights, in an interesting twist, some feminist groups found a diamond in the rough: The provision on prostitution, at least, could be counted as a victory. "The challenge now is to implement these landmark [anti-prostitution] policies in order to free women and children from enslavement," said a celebratory Donna Hughes of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) last month.

For groups like hers, the change was the fruit of hard work, since USAID's new stance comes as a result of the combined lobbying efforts of the seemingly-strange bedfellows of anti-prostitution feminist groups and the Christian Right. Despite their disparate constituencies, the current incarnation of the feminist-rightwing alliance was crystallized a few years ago in 2000 around the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in the United States. A successful joint campaign was mounted to ensure that the TVPA would not only condemn forced labor and forced prostitution but condemn sex work as a whole -- forced or not.

Conservative pundit Charles Horowitz jubilantly crowed to conservative Christian magazine World: "You've got soccer moms and Southern Baptists, the National Organization for Women and the National Association of Evangelicals on the same side of the issue. Pro-family issues are usually controversial, but on this one, you've got everyone in agreement. Gloria Steinem and Chuck Colson together."

Laura Lederer, editor of the classic feminist anti-pornography anthology "Take Back the Night" and current appointee to the U.S. State Department's anti-trafficking office declared that faith-based groups had brought "a fresh perspective and a biblical mandate to the women's movement. Women's groups don't understand that the partnership on this issue has strengthened them, because they would not be getting attention internationally otherwise."

Despite the content of the bi-partisan bill concentrating mostly on labor abuses across all industries such as debt-bondage and force, the bill was packaged as part of an act against violence against women. This allowed conservatives to support the bill without threatening their business constituencies and the feminist lobby to inextricably link prostitution with trafficking and violence in the law. This early slippage between "trafficking" (and all its attendant connotations) and prostitution has further been cemented in the Powell cable -- he uses the two synonymously.

It's a dangerous conflation, says Melissa Ditmore of the Network of Sex Work Projects, not least of all because it eclipses abuse of migrant workers in all other industries. "The majority of trafficking cases that I know of in the U.S. are [debt-bondage of] migrant construction workers. The bill was not a labor bill, nor a women's rights bill, despite how it was packaged. It was a law-and-order bill."

The push to single-mindedly put anti-trafficking policies -- and funding -- into the hands of police and border guards, often with appalling human rights records against migrants and sex workers, is one of the things that scares many sex worker advocates about the new USAID policy. Gary Hanger of International Justice Mission (IJM) a Christian anti-prostitution organization, foreshadowed this eventuality in an April presentation to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "IJM is very pleased that recent legislation has cleared the way for funding by USAID and other agencies of targeted programs that strengthen counter-trafficking activities of specialized police and prosecution units," he said. Donna Hughes, of CATW, the other committee presenter, remained open to a combination of police and religious group interventions when she demanded aid workers "be obligated to catalyze a rescue" of people in the sex trade by "notification of the appropriate authorities or an NGO or faith-based group that specializes in rescuing women and children enslaved in prostitution." Although, in a small caveat she admitted that "police and officials are sometimes complicit in trafficking."

According to Ditmore, "They will end up funding only raids or 'reverse trafficking raids', in which the state kidnaps, transports and imprisons sex workers and forces them to 'reform' through unpaid sewing or basket-making." She points to the case of the violent police raids of the Tanzabar and Nimtoli brothels in Bangladesh in 1999 where four hundred sex workers were evicted by police and imprisoned in vagrant homes where each was given a sewing machine. Human rights groups exposed the widespread beatings and sexual abuse that the women were subjected to as well as the the kidnapping and beating of Saathi, leader of the sex workers' movement against forced rehabilitation, until public pressure forced her release. The raids were orchestrated as a "rehabilitation effort" by the Department of Social Services in Bangladesh who had received 2 million dollars (U.S.) from the UNDP to implement "rehabilitation" projects.

In response, sex worker groups in Bangladesh, India and Cambodia have agitated, sometimes by the thousands, under the banner of "Workers' Rights Not Sewing Machines."

However, the times are less than friendly for such a position. In a recent open call for help, Josephine Ho of ZiTeng, a sex workers' rights group in Hong Kong, wrote that Asian prostitutes' rights groups were coming under increasing pressures from "those first-world feminists and women's NGOs who have now joined with UN workers and other international organizations in characterizing Asian sex work as nothing but the trafficking in women and thus is to be outlawed and banned completely." Now, says Ho, "the immense power of Western aid, coupled with the third-world states' desire for modernization (that is, putting up fronts of democracy and equality so as to gain aid funds without moving toward social justice)" have led to the introduction of new laws criminalizing sex work, possession of condoms being held as evidence by which to prosecute women for prostitution, and the harassment and extortion of sex workers by police. According to Ho, it has also led to the dangerous precedent of "interpreting all forms of women's migration toward economic betterment and sex work as mere trafficking."

The prospect of USAID putting their funding squarely behind projects with an anti-migration agenda, is another one of the possible outcomes of the policy change. Already in 2001, the Population Council and Asia Foundation jointly released a study that found that in Nepal, a country that receives a bulk of the anti-trafficking money from USAID, "a common approach to controlling trafficking is to limit women's migration." NGOs were found to use frightening messages to discourage women from leaving their villages while women and girls reported being prevented from crossing the border despite vehement protests of their free will. This echoes anti-trafficking policy initiatives in other U.S. departments. In 1997, the INS assigned forty-five officers overseas to work on "counter-measures in trafficking in migrants" as part of Operation Global Reach "with the particular purpose of deterring people in the source and transit countries."

Sex worker groups across the world, meanwhile, have taken a lesson from the feminist establishment and the Christian Right by creating alliances of their own with labor, migrant and human rights groups. The USAID announcement has also brought support of sex workers from certain feminist groups. "In the U.S., we are now making inroads with reproductive rights groups," says Ditmore with optimism.

But it will take more than the support of a few women's groups to fight this battle in Bush's other war. The challenge of forging an alliance to be reckoned with has sex workers' groups out to prove they know a thing or two about bedfellows themselves.

Anna-Louise Crago is one of the founding members of Montreal`s sex worker political action group since 1996, La Coalition pour les droits des travailleuses et travailleurs du sexe. She is also a writer, activist and artist.




Martha at the Masters

One of golf's most prestigious tournaments -- the Masters -- took place last weekend at one of golf's most prestigious courses, Augusta National.

It was a truly disappointing event.

The disappointment didn't come from Chairman of Augusta National William "Hootie" Johnson's stubborn refusal to allow a female golfer to join the club. That was to be expected.

Nor was disappointment caused by the backlash toward feminist activist Martha Burk whose campaign against good old fashioned sexist discrimination was blamed for putting a damper on the Masters 2003. (How dare she?) The backlash too was expected.

It wasn't even the media falsely reporting that Mike Weir was the first Canadian to win a Major golf tournament (Sandra Post has won three) that got me down. Who could expect better?

What surprised me about the 67th Masters was the lack of support for Burk's campaign.

The "Burk versus Hootie" controversy began about a year ago when Burk wrote a letter encouraging Hootie to invite a woman to join the club's exclusive membership. His response was a flat "no." Augusta is a private club and, as such, can discriminate as it sees fit.

Burk and supporters then targeted PGA Tour sponsors. Hootie responded that he wasn't going to take orders from a woman. Burk gathered about 7000 signatures and was granted a permit to hold an official protest. Hootie called Burk names and stood firmly by the club's men-only policy.

As the controversy grew in the days leading up to the tournament, expectations for a large protest frightened organizers and encouraged supporters.

Am I the only one who envisioned the streets of Augusta, Georgia, being trampled by thousands of women with big signs and loud voices united by the fight for equality?

All I got was a lousy National Post article that reported a "paltry two dozen women" showed up.

That's it?

Rather than uniting women, Burk's effort on behalf of female golfers exaggerated a sharp division between them: the one that lies between women who want to challenge the status quo and those who don't want to rock the boat.

Do we need to be reminded that without women's fights for rights we wouldn't be able to vote or go to university or own property or to be full persons under the law?

Aparently some do. One woman there to disrupt the protest called Burk "ridiculous." Others were furious that this "feminist" was ruining the event.

Perhaps the pathetic turnout was because few women actually want to join Augusta or because the right to golf at a fancy course is not women's top priority. But here's the thing: it does matter. The fight, while seemingly trivial, is powerful symbolically. It's a case of elite men telling us what we can and can't do. Now where have I heard that one before?

This dispute goes deeper than just a boys' club locking its doors to some people based on what's between their legs. (Or, rather, what isn't.) One man attended Burk's protest holding a sign that read: "MAKE ME DINNER!" The other side demanded that Burk iron his shirts.

The fact that a hootie-tootie -- or, er, a hoity-toity -- golf course, whose membership list is a who's-who of corporate America, is using its power to exclude women shows that this battle is about who has control and hanging on to power.

Canadian journalist Laura Robinson wrote in Black Tights: Women, Sport and Sexuality that "boys will never become well-rounded men if they don't learn to play together with girls in a fair, equitable, and inclusive fashion." How true. She asks: "How can [boys] be expected to become men who treat women as equals if they are constantly being encouraged to participate in activities that exclude females as inferior?" Good question.

If Hootie's elite men can't play a friendly game of golf with a female co-member, chances are they can't include women in much else.

It's about time women started supporting one another in the struggle for equality, because, frankly my dear, no one else will. The Hooties of this world will never give up power willingly and as long as women stand divided, we'll all continue to play together on men's turf, both on and off the course.

Jenn Ruddy is a freelance writer from Saskatchewan. She is a feminist and an avid golfer -- proof that the two can go hand-in-hand.

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