A Tribute to Womanhood

Welcome to "I Am Woman"...a tribute to all those women who had the courage and perseverance to stand up and fight for their rights. Thanks to those who came before us we enjoy a freedom unknown to women not too long ago. But, sadly, in many parts of the world, women continue to be repressed. In fact, even in this country there are women living today under the threat of violence...completely controlled by a violent spouse. Some may make it; others won't. Hopefully, one day ALL women will be free. May that day come soon.


Study Shows Women Still Excluded from Peacemaking Processes

According to a recent report, women still have not been fully included in the peacemaking and peace-building processes in many countries. The study was released the day before the tenth anniversary of the enactment of United Nations Resolution 1325, which calls on nations to ensure women's "full involvement" in peacemaking and national security decision-makin. a

The report based on research by  the MIT Center for International Studies and the International Civil Society Action Network, focuses on six nations and regions affected by conflict... including the Indonesian province Aceh, as well as Colombia, Israel,   Liberia,  Sri Lanka, and Uganda. The Associated Press reports that although legislation was passed in some of the countries to increase women's participation, it was either never implemented or was basically ineffective. The report identifies three main problems in the implementation of Resolution 1325
  • the UN's failure to create an education campaign about its goals; 
  • the failure of governments and international conflict resolution bodies to actually integrate women;
  • and aid donors' failure to support female participation in peace processes.
Nevertheless, the study does indicate that in some countries women have begun to break into the peacemaking process, but there is still a long way to go.  For instance, in Sri Lanka and Uganda, women participated in peace negotiations   even though the negotiations eventually  failed. The report also asserts that the peace in Liberia, although quite unstable at the present time , is "largely thanks to the mass action of its women literally sitting outside the negotiations, and not giving up on peace," as quoted by the Associated Press. In addition, women's groups have led peace movements in Colombia and have  been at the forefront of peace advocacy in the Middle East, although they have been excluded from all peacemaking efforts in that region.

UN Resolution 1325 was passed unanimously on October 31, 2000.  In addition to its call for women's participation, the resolution asserts that women and children are most adversely affected by armed conflict and calls for special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence and other forms of violence in situations of armed conflict. The Associated Press reports that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated, "Resolution 1325 will never be implemented successfully until we end sexual violence in conflict," while US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called women's participation in peacemaking "a necessary global security imperative."


Court Rules Spousal Abuse Permitted in UAE

Unbelievable!!! Never ceases to amaze   me when I hear things like this. It seems that one of the top courts in the United Arab Emirates ruled on the 19th that under Islamic law, a man has the right to beat his wife and children as long as no marks are left, and he has tried other forms of discipline, such as verbal reprimands or abstaining from sexual intercourse. Discipline? Hey, this is the 21st century or didn't anyone bother to clue them in? 

According to CNN, the ruling was a result of a case in which a man had slapped his wife and 23 year old daughter, resulting in marks and bruises on their bodies. Though the court maintained the man's right under Shari'a law to beat his wife and children, it ruled that in this case the man exceeded his authority by beating his wife too severely. Now, had he not left a bruise, it would have been okay.  That doesn't sit too well with me.

After news of the ruling, the Human Rights Watch called upon the government to repeal all discriminatory laws, including those that sanction domestic violence. Several experts said it is against Islamic law to permit wife-beating; however, Shari'a Law is complex and lends itself to multiple and competing interpretations.

The word sharia means "the path to a watering hole". It denotes an Islamic way of life that is more than a system of criminal justice. Sharia is a religious code for living, in the same way that the Bible offers a moral system for Christians. It is adopted by most Muslims to a greater or lesser degree as a matter of personal conscience, but it can also be formally instituted as law by certain states and enforced by the courts.


Congolese Women March Against Mass Rape

Thousands of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo marched against mass rapes on Sunday , which have become increasingly prevalent in the country as a weapon of war. According to CNN, many of the marchers were rape survivors. The march took place in Bukavu, located in eastern Congo and followed a peace and development forum.

World March of Women, together with several local women's groups, organized the march which aimed to use the event to fight the societal stigma often faced by rape victims and draw global attention to the use of rape as a tactic of war.  Many women left hospital beds to join in the march. 

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been named the "rape capital of the world" by the United Nations. According to CNN, there were 15,000 women raped by armed rebel groups in eastern Congo in 2009. Between July 30 and August 2 of this year alone, more than 300 people, mostly women, were raped in the country's North Kivu province. The United Nations has condemned the lack of civilian protection provided by Congolese police, military, and UN stabilization forces in the area. Since the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo began in 1998, tens of thousands of civilians have been raped.


Why Do Some Women Continue to Get Involved With Abusive Men?

You don't have to say a word. She already knows he is bad news, but she loves him and honestly believes that he loves her. Doesn't he bring her flowers and tells her he loves her, that it will never happen again?  And she believes him because she wants to believe. She wants to be loved, and she has a need TO love.  Women as nurturers often find themselves saving relationships.  He is just misunderstood, she says, no one ever loved him right, so he just doesn't know how.  The list of excuses is endless,and the danger we see them in is very real.

What makes it even worse is that we see them repeating the pattern...over and over again...going from one abuser to the next, and each one worse then the last.  They really believe that if they love him enough, they change him. More than likely you know someone, or suspect that someone, or even you yourself may be that someone who lives in an abusive home.  Why do women choose men abusive men?  There are many reasons. 

Some women with extremely low self-esteem believe that THEY are at fault, that they are the ones to blame for abuse. Many have been brainwashed for so long that when he validates their own feelings of lack, they cling to him, needing that reminder of their lack of worth.  They make every excuse under the sun for their partner and twist the truth around until it does  appear that she is at fault, and when this continues to happen, over and over again, she eventually starts to believe it herself. 
Women who grew up in abusive homes are also susceptible. They women reach adulthood believing that this type behavior is normal and acceptable. They've grown up watching their mother get hit and shoved around by their father...and saw that that they always made up, so she is more inclined to put up with the same kind of abuse. It is simply a matter of not knowing that is abnormal and should not be tolerated. In some of the saddest cases, there are women who deliberately seek out domineering men for there is something about being treated badly that satisfies some need within themselves. Perhaps they feel as if they deserve to be abused.  Some women feel they may never be able to find someone better so they settle.

We can only hope and pray the day will come when they finally realize who they are and recognize their true value. Sometimes we reach out to help, and it backfires on us.  I had a neighbor, a friend, and one day She was screaming and I found her husband with his hands around her throat.  I called the police as she asked. She never spoke to me again after that day.  So, what do we do? In the meantime, we must continue to remind them they are never alone. They are worthy of love, honor, and respect. Let them know that we may not love their choices, but we will always love them. Speak to them in a way that they know that regardless of what they may be feeling, they are loved, and that love should never hurt.


Two Indigenous Mexican Rape Victims Awarded Damages

Last week, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued separate rulings that the Mexican government must pay damages to two indigenous women who were raped by military soldiers in 2002. The court stated that Mexico failed to uphold "the rights to personal integrity, dignity and legal protection of Ines Fernandez and Valentina Rosendo," according to the Latin American News Dispatch.

Rosendo was 17 years old when she was raped. At the time of the incident,she was approached by eight soldiers who asked her if she had seen a masked suspect. Rosendo, unable to answer their question, was then beaten and raped by the soldiers. A month later, eleven soldiers approached Fernandez at her house, and faced with a language barrier, Fernandez was unable to answer their questions and was subsequently raped

The women, both from the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, will each be compensated with judgments upwards of $100,000. Rosendo told the
Associated Press, "If the government has a little bit of dignity, it should accept they were mistaken so I can go on with my life...They didn't want to hear me in my own country." Additionally, the court ordered Mexico to take public action to acknowledge its international responsibility to victims of sexual violence and modernize their legislation so that violations of human rights will not fall under military jurisdiction in investigations.


Mary Harris

"Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living! "- Mother Jones 

Mary Harris was born on May 1, 1830 in a small town near County Cork, Ireland.  She was  the daughter of a Roman Catholic tenant farmer who got himself into trouble for his political activities and in 1838, made the decision  to move the family to Toronto, Canada. 
Mary graduated high school and became a school teacher and a dress maker in Michigan before settling down in Memphis, Tennessee.  In 1861 she married George Jones, an iron molder and union organizer. . Like her father, Jones held left-wing political views and was an active member of the Iron Molders' Union.  The couple had four children.

Then, in 1867 an epidemic of yellow fever swept through Memphis,  killing Mary's husband and her four children. She returned to Chicago where she worked as a dressmaker until her shop was destroy in the Chicago Fire of 1871.  Destitute and alone, Mary identified strongly with the working people who had no protection against low wages, long hours, and dangerous working conditions. She now began to see the members of the labor movement as her family and committed herself to the labor struggle for humane wages and working conditions.

She reconstructed herself as “Mother Jones", a radical organizer. Specializing in helping miners in their fight for decent wages and and end to child labor, her work involved making speeches, recruiting members, and organizing soup kitchens. Standing only five-feet tall with snow-white hair, all black dress and confrontational style, she  was indeed a fierce maternal presence, and from the late 1870s through the early 1920s, she participated in hundreds of strikes across the country.  Living by the philosophy, “wherever there is a fight,” she supported workers in the railroad, steel, copper, brewing, textile, and mining industries, and after the formation of the United Mine Workers Union in 1890, she became one of its officials. By now, she was in her sixties.

In 1905 she helped organize the Industrial Workers of the World and traveled across the country helping workers form themselves into unions. In 1912-1913, she played a leading role in the violent mine strike in Paint Creek, West Virginia, and when a company guard was murdered, Jones was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder.  Now aged seventy-eight and suffering from pneumonia, Jones was found guilty  sentenced to twenty years in prison. A senatorial investigation discovered she was innocent of the charges and the sentence was overturned.

In 1925 Jones published her autobiography, defiantly writing: "In spite of oppressors, in spite of false leaders the cause of the workers continues onward. Slowly his hours are shortened, slowly his standards of living rise to include some of the good and beautiful things in life. Slowly, those who create the wealth of the world are permitted to share it. The future is in labor's strong, rough hands." 

Soon after celebrating her 100th birthday, Mary Harris Jones
died on November 30, 1930. After being celebrated in a mass attended by over 20,000 peopleshe was buried in the United Mine Union Cemetery in Mount Olive, Illinois. 

According to a West Virginia District Attorney named Reese Blizzard, Mother Jones was "the most dangerous woman in America", and according to Clarence Darrow, she was "one of the most forceful and picturesque figures of the American labor movement". Sixty-five years after her death, her name is still part of current culture, as the title of a magazine.


Leader of Mass Rapists Arrested in Congo

Self-proclaimed Lieutenant Colonel Mayele was arrested by the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo  for his leadership of an armed group that allegedly raped up to 500 people in late July. Mayele was taken into custody yesterday in a military operation carried out by the Congolese military and the UN Mission for the Stabilization of the DR Congo.

The arrest was welcomed by UN Special Representative Margot Wallstrom, the top UN official dealing with sexual violence and armed conflict,reports the United Nations Radio. Wallstrom arrived in the DRC last Tuesday to investigate the mass rape of civilians that occurred in late July and early August of this year. While in the DRC, Ms. Wallstrom has met with UN agencies and Congolese officials to develop a a strategy to reduce sexual violence.

Al Jazeera reports that the use of rape by groups of fighters in eastern Congo to intimidate and control the population has been increasing...especially in the mining areas. Wallstrom told Al Jazeera that Mayele's arrest "should send out a signal that sexual violence will not go unpunished."


The Law's of Manu

Compiled over the years between 200-400 C.E., the Laws of Manu  are thought India's most famous and earliest legal code.  The text
itself deals with four subjects: 

  • the origin of the world, the sources of dharma, 
  • the rules of the four varnas (social orders) 
  • four asramas (spiritual orders)
  • karma-yoga. 
Mythology  claims that Manu was the first man who ruled justly and wisely over his subjects.  However, some of these laws pertaining to Indian women have been pointed out as paternalistic and chauvinistic arrogance, but a good number of them also reflect the freedom and respect that women in ancient society enjoyed. The laws found therein are obviously not modern. Thus to be fair, they should not be compared to modern laws, but rather to socio-religious rules that pertain to an ancient culture. 

Here then is a selection of some of his more famous laws that touch the lives of women:

*"A girl, a young woman, or even an old woman should not do anything independently, even in her own house. -In childhood a woman should be under her father’s control, in youth under her husband’s and when her husband is dead, under her sons."

*“A husband should be worshiped as a God.”

*“If the female members live in grief, the family is destroyed. If the female members are happy, the family flourishes in all directions.”

*“Women shall receive one-quarter share of the inheritance of their parents. If a man has no sons, his daughter may inherit everything he had.”

*“Brothers should give one-forth of their inheritance to their sisters for their sisters’ dowries.”

*“A father sins unless he marries his daughter off when she reaches puberty.”

*“A man can leave a barren woman after eight years and one who only gives birth to daughters.”
*“Women do not care for beauty, nor is their attention fixed on age; they give themselves to the handsome as well as to the ugly just for the fact that he is a man.”

*“A woman should not go to a meeting place; and they should not dance like the young, but sit at their proper places.”

*“A wife, a son, and a slave, these three are declared to have no property. The wealth which they earn is acquired for him to whom they belong.”
*“Women must particularly be guarded against evil inclinations, however trifling they may appear to be; for, if they are not guarded, they will bring sorrow on both the families. Considering it the highest duty of all castes, even wealthy husbands must strive to guard their wives....lest the seed of others be sown on your soil.”

*“It is the nature of women to seduce men in this world, for that reason the wise never remain unguarded in the company of female.”

*“A virtuous wife who after the death of her husband constantly remains chaste, reaches heaven, though she have no son, just like those chaste men.”

*“If a woman should happen to merely to overhear recitations of Vedic mantras by chance, hot molten glass should be poured into her ears.”


UN Official to Investigate Mass Rape in the Congo

The United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallstroem, arrived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Tuesday; she flew there to investigate the mass rape of civilians that occurred there in June and July of this year. The main objective will be to coordinate an appropriate response to the mass rape by rebels of more than 300 people, mostly women, in the country's North Kivu province when rebels allegedly entered the town of Ruvungi on July 30 and pillaged the town, systematically raping its occupants for several days and blocking the road that connects the town to the UN peace keeping troops.

The United Nations first condemned the use of mass rape as a weapon of war  on August. At that time, Wallstroem told reporters that using rape as a tool of war is no more acceptable nor inevitable than committing mass murder. While in the Congo, Ms. Wallstroem intends to meet with UN agencies and Congolese officials to speed up the enactment of an effective strategy against sexual violence.