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BY CATHERINE FAVORITE
Last weekend The Times of India reported that the number of cases of rape, molestation and harassment registered with the Madhya Pradesh State Women’s Commission more than doubled last year, compared to previous years.
The number of rape cases registered with the Commission jumped from 62 between 2009-2010, to 141 between 2010-2011. Workplace harassment cases grew as well from 115 in 2009, to 268 between 2010-2011.
While this sharp increase in gender-based crimes is indeed alarming, Rashmi Sarawat, chief executive officer, Mahila Chetna Manch, offered some perspective and a slight silver lining to these statistics:
“At the same time, growing awareness levels helped more women shed their social stigma and come out in the open. More women are now aware of the Domestic Violence Act and Vishakha guidelines issued by the Supreme Court for workplace harassment. This may be the prime reason for more number of cases related to violence against women coming to light.”
It may not be easy to confront the real numbers of rape, domestic abuse and harassment survivors (in the United States, a recently revealed figure that one in four women will be raped in their lifetime has caused some commotion). Yet, the large figures not only mean that more survivors are beginning to feel safe enough to come forward, but that the public must pay attention to the crimes that all too often go unaddressed or are swept aside. With more attention paid to these numbers, comes more public outrage. This is the first step to stronger laws (or better enforcement of these laws) protecting women as human beings in both the public and private sphere.
I live in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, a city I love. The people here are incredibly helpful, hospitable and kind, especially to foreigners like me. I’m very independent, and have always felt safe here.
But earlier this week I saw a woman nearly have her purse stolen. The would-be mugger jumped into a taxi before I, or anyone else, could take action.
So I was a little on edge when, entering a covered pedestrian overpass, I noticed a young man walking a little too closely, and too directly, behind me.
I slid my arms through both my backpack straps, thinking he might try to grab it off my shoulder. But that’s not what he had in mind.
I was wearing a skirt and tights, and before I knew it he had his fingers between my legs.
I spun around to face a surprisingly clean-cut, well-dressed young man. He was turning away from me, but I grabbed him, furious.
I started shouting horrible things at him in English, having forgotten all my Georgian curses in the heat of the moment. “You f**king piece of shit!” I screamed as I started beating his head and chest. “What the f**k do you think you’re doing, you waste of f**king space!” I punched his ear, slapped his face, pounded on his arms and shoulders.
He started to walk away, in the direction I needed to go. This only made me angrier. I grabbed him again, inflicting more verbal and physical abuse.
What struck me now, in hindsight, is how shocked and confused he looked. He didn’t fight back, didn’t say anything – he was frozen. What did he expect to happen? What would a Georgian woman have done?
When he finally started moving in the opposite direction, I screamed, “Get the f**k out! Get the f**k away from here!” and finished crossing the underpass.
That’s when I started crying.
As I walked home from school 2 years ago when I was in the 9th-10th grade, I would be harassed by men who were old enough to be my grandfather and some of them were in their 20s passing by in cars saying things to me and even slowing down and screaming things to me from their cars and followed me as I walked along the side walk; I turned to say nothing to these men I ignored them yet they kept on.
My experiences were so horrific and disturbing that when I told my parents,they stopped me from walking home and made it a point to pick me up from school and drop me off to make sure nothing like it ever happened again.We also found out that there are a number of registered sex offenders in the area in which I had to walk to and from school;a lot were for rape…
At first, I was too scared and shaken up to even tell them about it. It felt like a part of me was being taken every time these old men would say such disgusting things to me even though they clearly knew I was a minor and not interested because I had on my school uniform and I looked my age.
No one should ever have to go through this sort of thing..
I was waiting at a local bus stop close to my apartment building, around 9pm, when this guy who was up the block a bit saw me and followed me to the bus stop. He asked for the time, and I thought he would be on his way, but then he stood very close to me, facing me, and would not move. I didn’t want to run or make a sudden move, so I just stood , my phone in my hand, ready to turn and walk when I looked down and he had taken his pants off and was completely exposing himself. It was horrific and disgusting, and I just turned and calmly walked away. I looked over my shoulder, and the creep had already run off somewhere and was out of sight. I’m not sure why anyone would think it’s ok to do something like that in public, but if I ever see this individual again, I will call the police and use my pepper spray.
Why do you HOLLA? Porque mi cuerpo necesitaba hablar de este tipo de situaciones como parte de un proceso de sanación y reconciliación. La memoria que mi cuerpo ha ido generando a partir de estas situaciones de acoso ha limitado mi manera de transitar en confianza en la ciudad y para sanar tenia que hablar.
What’s your craft? La investigación cultural con un enfoque de género y violencia. Creo que es urgente pensar la violencia rompiendo con algunos prejuicios y categorías que limitan nuestro alcance ante la complejidad de lo vivido.
What was your first experience with street harassment? Creo que a los 12 años. De hecho una de las cosas que más me impresiona sobre este tipo de situaciones de acoso es la manera tan detallada en que el cuerpo recuerda. Recuerdo la ropa que llevaba yo puesta, la sorpresa al recibir ese tipo de acercamiento y la sensación de miedo e inseguridad al enfrentarlo.
Define your style: Me gusta reflexionar desde la experiencia de mi cuerpo sobre la complejidad de un problema político –ético como éste y enfocar la reflexión a la reconciliación con nuestros cuerpos y las maneras en que queremos llevarlos.
Say you’re Queen for the day. What would you do to end street harassment? Más que tipificarlo como delito, trabajaría con educación ciudadana y violencia de género. Además de generar mayores espacios de encuentro y no aislamiento. No creo que el problema se resuelva a largo plazo dividiendo los lugares en espacios para un género y otros para otro.
If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? Reflexionar sobre la vulnerabilidad como punto de partida ético.
In the year 2020, street harassment … debe ser trabajado desde la gestión publica con mayor seriedad y urgencia.
I was on my way home at 9AM in the morning. I was at the Roosevelt Ave stop. I went inside the R train and sat at the far end of the car. A few seconds later this 50something guy sat across from me. The train car was moderately filled so I didn’t think anything of it. Before the train started moving again this guy was rubbing something down there. I saw him staring at me. I tried playing with my phone. I should have taken a picture or a video to catch the guy but I didn’t think he was really doing anything. But when I looked up his penis was out. I should have yelled and screamed but I don’t know. I was just speechless. I stood up an change my seat. My mistake was sitting where I could see his reflection because obviously he was also using that to his advantage. I wanted to cry at this point but he left at the next stop. I just wanted to go home do I did not report it. And he would have probably gotten away with it. This is so ridiculous. This is the second time that has happened to me on the subway. I just wanted to vent because I have been traumatized by this occurrence. I also feel terrible and guilty for not reporting this to anyone. I am worried he is going to do this again to another woman.
Check out this awesome article published today in the Chennai Times. Reporter Rehna Abdul Kareem investigates Hollaback! Chennai’s bold new venture to stamp out street harassment.
BY EMILY MAY
Greetings Hollaback supporters and revolutionaries!
This is the third installment of our blog series that keeps you up to date on HOLLAnews and our endeavors to stamp out street harassment. Here’s a glimpse of what happened this week in HOLLAworld.
– We held our first site leader training webinar for our new Hollaback! Leaders in Brussels, Belgium; Edmonton, Canada; Halifax, Nova Scotia, San Fransisco, California; and Portsmouth in the UK.
– Hollaback! Boston attracted the attention of the Jamaica Plain Gazette. Click here to read the article.
– International Movement Co-Ordinator Veronica Pinto, visited the Barnard College Careers fair to represent Hollaback! and scout some new blood for the revolution.
– Lastly, we extend a warm and excited HOLLAwelcome to International Movement intern Natalie and Thought Leadership intern Catherine.
Thanks Hollaback! supporters for another fantastic week of fighting street harassment and keeping the revolution alive.
HOLLA and out!
BY VICTORIA TRAVERS
An ambiguity in Queensland law in Australia allows individuals accused of murder to claim a defense known as “gay panic” to avoid prosecution.
Confused? Guffawing slightly because it’s so ridiculous you can’t believe that this is not an elaborate hoax? You are not alone. More infuriating is that the “gay panic” and “trans panic” defense is not an unusual excuse for some of the most horrific crimes in history.
“Gay Panic” is the subject of a recent change.org petition, which relates to a murder that took place two years ago in Queensland. A man was murdered in the grounds of a church and his attackers were acquitted of murder following a “gay panic” plea.
Also referred to as “homosexual panic” and “Kempf’s disease”, the term was first coined by psychiatrist Edward in 1920 to describe a brief psychosis suffered by targets of unwanted gay attention. Luckily and quite rightly, the defense often fails and has been ruled inadmissible in many juristictions because of a complete lack of scientific evidence. Of course there’s a lack of scientific evidence, it’s as ridiculous as dunking a woman in a river to see if she’s a witch.
In a closer look into the history of “gay panic” I was staggered to learn of some of the horrific crimes committed where this defense has lessened prison sentences. In 1995, Jonathan Schmitz was tried for the murdered of friend Scott Amedure, who admitted on “The Jenny Jones Show” that he had romantic feelings for Schmitz. A week after the admission, Schmitz bought a gun, went to Amedure’s home and shot him twice in the chest. Schmitz claimed diminished responsibility citing “gay panic”, claiming that the humiliation and anger provoked by Amedure’s confession drove him to kill. Schmitz was found guilty of second-degree murder. First degree murder is characterized by premeditation, despite taking a week to murder Amedure, Schmitz actions were found to be unplanned.
Then in 2004 “trans panic” was used in the ghastly murder of transgender teenager Gwen Araujo in California. Two of her attackers were convicted of second-degree murder, but not convicted on the requested hate-crime enhancements. The other two men pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. Despite being regarded as a “mostly” irrelevant defense it needs to be made simply a prohibited defense.
So do something awesome today to help your fellow man and sign this petition to urge “Queensland parliament and LNP leader Campbell Newman to eliminate this law as a partial defense for murder, and forbid non-violent homosexual advance being treated as evidence in any murder trial.” So far the petition has 21,874 signatures, but they need 25,000. So get clicking HOLLArevolutionaries, let’s reject these archaic values that condone prejudice and violence against LGBTQ individuals.
BY REBECCA KATHERINE HIRSCH
Confused? Excited? Don’t worry. Dr. Vajayjay can fix that.
The New View Campaign has put together a parody training video as part of its Vulvanomics activist event.
In this video, we see an enterprising, unscrupulous, nominal doctor capitalizing on externally-created insecurities, sexualizing genital mutilation and effectively pathologizing female sexuality. His bumbling assistant Steve sees the truth but is powerless to stop the charlatan, money-hungry Dr. Vajayjay. Meanwhile, nameless female prop character is kept in the dark, the pawn in the doctor’s get-rich-quick scheme.
“Dr. Vajayjay does not solve problems; he makes the most of them.”
What most interests me about labiaplasty and “cosmetogynecology” is how easy our contemporary culture makes it for such corporatized quack medicine to succeed: Our puritanical lack of honest, pleasure-based sex education coupled with the preponderance of sexualized advertisements (which rigidly define attractiveness and sexuality in terms of white, nubile teenage girls) makes it easy to manufacture discontent and stigmatize the ignorant masses into believing they’re deficient.
What is normal anyway? Genital diversity, like all manner of physical, racial and gender diversity is sorely lacking in mainstream media. In a rigid, capitalistic-at-all-costs culture, it’s easy to create unnecessary insecurity about what is deemed “normal,” especially when sexuality, women and female genitalia are so regularly and unremarkably criticized and scapegoated. With the help of female genital surgery, “naughty, nasty” vulvas, Dr. Vajayjay purports, can be turned into generic, prepubescent-looking “normal” vulvas, hence instantly achieving for their owners utter sexual, interpersonal, creative and self-actualized happiness. Right?
But doesn’t genital surgery remove sensitive tissue? Aren’t doctors co-opting scientific and feminist language to assume the mantle of legitimacy, then sexing it all up as “what women want”?
Sure they are. Welcome to America!
New View Campaign is a grassroots network that challenges the medicalization of sexuality through song, dance, and— well, mostly the written word and various activist/art projects. Founder Leonore Tiefer was featured widely in the muckraking documentary Orgasm, Inc.