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Posts Tagged ‘violence against women’

The Facts:

Guatemala

  • January 17, 2007: Eleven Mayan Q’eqchi’ women were gang-raped by mining company security personnel, police and military during a forced eviction of families in the Lote Ocho community. The evictions were being carried out by Toronto-based HudBay Minerals Inc. and HMI Nickel Inc., based on the Fenix mining project plans. Rosa Elbria Ich Choc, Margarita Caal Caal, and nine other women from the Lote Ocho community are suing HudBay Minerals Inc. and HMI Nickel Inc. for negligence and carelessness causing physical and psychological harm (Caal v. HudBay). Have a listen to the story as told by Rosa Elbria Ich Choc, as she stands on the remains of her home.

  • September 27, 2009: Adolfo Ich Chamán, President of the Community of La Uníon,  a respected Mayan Q’eqchi’ community leader, a school teacher and father, was brutally beaten and shot in the head by private security forces employed by the Fenix mining project. Chaman was an outspoken critic of the harms caused by Canadian mining activities in the Lote Ocho community.

The Big Picture:

There has been an ongoing land conflict between local communities and international mining companies. During Guatemala’s civil war, 200,000 people were killed, 83% of which were Aboriginal Mayan people (clearly these were acts of genocide aimed at eliminating the Maya). Q’eqchi’ people, living in communities such as Lote Ocho, were driven off their land, and upon returning to what was once theirs, discovered the government had negotiated the sale of their land to mining corporations. In 2006, the International Labour Organization of the United Nations, ruled that Guatemala had indeed breached international law when they granted Fenix mining privileges without first consulting the local Mayan people.

The Implications:

Forced evictions. Destruction of property. Violence. Rape. Racism. Murder. Violations of human rights. This situation is highly reminiscent of colonization stories. And yet we remain blind to these facts. It doesn’t help that Toronto-based media does not prioritize reporting on these events. We like to think that colonization is a thing of the past, but it is still very present.

What Can We Do?:

1. Educate Ourselves
Check out the official site for more information on the lawsuits. Post links to your social media pages and spread the word. It is clear from this map, ‘Trouble at Canadian mining sites around the world’, that this is not an isoalted incident, and that international mining corporations need to hold their employees more accountable for their actions.

2. Join + Participate
The Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability welcomes participation of environmental and human rights NGOs, faith groups, labour unions, and research and solidarity groups.

3. Donate
Click here to donate as little as $5 through PayPal.

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Unfortunately I was not able to attend this class (November 9th). I am not sure what policy presentations happened in the class, so I will focus this journal entry on another topic. In Working With Women Surviving Sexual Violence I, we watched a film that looked at the war in Bosnia (1992 – 1995), focussing specifically on the issue of using rape as a weapon of war.

rape as a weapon of war

When people talk about war, they invoke images of men, of guns and explosives, or tanks and armour, and of following a military combat code of honour. And why not? It is portrayed in all the Hollywood war movies. Opposing forces cease fire to allow for a moment of silence over the dead, or to celebrate a holiday, or carry back to base a fallen soldier. What we don’t talk about are the many other people who are affected by war: the women who are sexually assaulted and raped as tactics of war.

A few facts (taken from Rape: Weapon of War):

“In the resolution, passed 19 June, the Security Council noted that ‘women and girls are particularly targeted by the use of sexual violence, including as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group’.”

“In Liberia, which is slowly recovering after a 13-year civil war, a government survey in 10 counties in 2005-2006 showed that 92 per cent of the 1,600 women interviewed had experienced sexual violence, including rape.”

So why is rape used as a weapon of war? Because of the power inherent in the act. Rape is a weapon that carries the power to dehumanize, destroy, humiliate and punish. Women who are raped may experience psychological and physical harm/trauma, torture and dehumanization (among other things). The men who are made to watch as their kins-women are raped, experience punishment, a sense of failure, trauma, and a loss of power. So for groups at war with one another, the tactic of raping women in front of men, serves to destroy the community: the raped women may be ostracized and abandoned for the humiliation they have brought upon their family/community and there is a strong sense of shame and dehumanization within the community, which serves to weaken the community.

Rape is also used as a means of forced pregnancy. In some instances, rape may be used as a means to blur ethnic boundaries, or to engage in ethnic cleansing. It is clear in this case that patriarchy and racism are intersecting in a way that places women in an extremely traumatic and difficult situation. In the film, there was a young woman who was raped by a soldier and became pregnant with his child. This woman’s mother told filmmakers that she was living with her daughter because of her fear that her daughter would kill the newborn out of hatred and fear.

Tomorrow I will be doing my policy presentation on reproductive justice. I will spend a few minutes talking about the issue of choice for women to make decisions about their bodies. In Canada, we have seen how only certain women have been, and still are, afforded certain rights over their reproductive bodies. Canada, like many countries, has a history of denying rights and services to women from marginalized groups, even to the point of coerced sterilizations in an attempt to cleanse the Canadian population (First Nations women). The links between rape as a weapon of war and the lack of choice for women to make decisions about their bodies, their reproductive health, and their sexuality, are clear: we see the intersecting of sexism, racism and classism working to deny women choices, thus denying them power.

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Naomi Rose Ebersol, aged 7
Marian Stoltzfus Fisher, aged 13
Anna Mae Stoltzfus, aged 12
Lena Zook Miller, aged 8
Mary Liz Miller, aged 7

On October 2nd 2006, Charles Carl Roberts entered an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and shot 10 young girls, aged 6-13. This man shot all 10 girls execution style, leaving 5 of the girls dead and the other 5 girls with wounds and memories to last the rest of their lives.

What makes this a feminist issue? We might assume that the schoolhouse was in fact an all-girls school, and hence we have the reason why it was only female students that were shot. But we would be wrong. When Charles Carl Roberts entered the schoolhouse with a 9mm-handgun, he ordered the female students to line up against the chalkboard, and sent the male students (along with a pregnant woman, and three parents with infants) out of the schoolhouse. However, this was not before he instructed the male students to bring inside items from his pick-up truck, which included: a shotgun, a stungun, wires, chains, nails, tools, and a bag which included sexual lubricant and flexible plastic ties.

This was an act of gendered violence. And it does not stand alone. Yesterday was the “Sisters and Brothers in Solidarity – A Walk for Justice, for Missing and Murdered Native Women”. The list of missing and/or murdered Native women across Canada has now reached 582 names. No one paid any attention until bodies began turning up on the farmland of Robert Pickton in 2002. On December 6th 1989, Marc Lepine shot and killed fourteen women at L’École Polytechnique in Montréal. While most people recognize the internalized hatred and sexism within Marc Lepine, others have praised his actions, hailing December 6 as St. Marc Day: “It has been established that it should be a day when we remember the first counter-attack against the feminazi’s war on men. By celebrating Marc Lepine and embracing him as a hero, it was believed that this would disturb the feminists’ plans and enrage them”. To most people, we see these acts for what they are: violence enacted against women based on their sex.

I came upon an article today reflecting on the Amish schoolhouse massacre, whereby the author posed the question: Was this act considered unforgivable? To be quite honest, I do not know how I would react if these acts had been committed against my sister, my relative, my friend. Thinking about it, I feel as though the anger and sadness would consume me, making forgiveness impossible. No amount of justification or explanation could lead me to extend my forgiveness to the now-deceased murderer. To the family, friends, and loved ones of the murderer? Hard to say. But this is exactly what the Amish community did: “though their hearts were filled with grief and shock, they reached out with compassion to the killers’ family”. It seems unfathomable to me at the moment. But we never really know what we are capable of — both in terms of our ability to be compassionate, and our ability to project anger and hatred — until we are faced with a situation of extreme sadness or grief.

Although I find the author of this article spends a little too much time contemplating if ‘the Amish have it right’, he closed his piece with a lovely idea:

“I can get as angry as the next person, and I think that a capacity for healthy and constructive anger is a necessary part of our emotional wholeness. Sometimes injustice needs to be corrected, and there are people in the world from whom we, and our children, need protection… Yes, there is unimaginable anguish and violence in the world. But when all is said and done, love might still have a strength that hate can never defeat.”

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