December 15, 2009
QUID PRO QUO was started on 10 July with a post about the resignation of Richard Worth from the new National government.
The name of the blog is taken from a form of harassment most common in the workplace, wherein advancement is offered in return for sexual favours. The title was inspired by the first post.
From the outset the aim of Quid Pro Quo was to monitor sexual harassment and violence legislation around the world, however in the initial stages of researching this blog it became clear that legislation stories would be overshadowed by wider issues of institutionalised violence and entrenched sexism against women in general.
The focus of the blog was broadened to encompass these issues as background and basis for examining social and political environments in which harassment flourishes or is ignored.
The problem is international. Women in countries as diverse as Mali, Japan and Israel face ignorance and stonewalling from both their governments and wider media.
Closer to home, the situation is more subtle than one African government’s overtly bigoted anti-homosexual laws, but no less damaging.
One of the biggest harassment stories in New Zealand this year centred around the resignation of Richard Worth and accusations about his behaviour from two separate women.
Both accusers came under scrutiny in the press, with images and the criminal record of one’s husband being discussed repeatedly.
In late June, National MP and minister for Internal Affairs, Land Information, Archives New Zealand, and the National Library Richard Worth, tendered his resignation for personal reasons on June 3.
It has since been revealed that Worth resigned due to allegations being investigated by the police which Key said regarded behaviour “not befitting a minister”. It seems he may also have wanted to stand down before further news of his “making a nuisance of himself with women” broke, including allegations that he sent a woman numerous texts and called her repeatedly, and offered her a job in exchange for sexual favours.
Stuff.co.nz and the Herald reported that Phil Goff had gone to John Key two weeks prior to the news breaking with information about the woman’s allegations.
A statement tabled in parliament on June 4 detailed the complaints of one of Worth’s accusers who wished to remain anonymous in the press.
By June 6, the business woman whose allegations against Worth were under investigation by the police was being scrutinised by the media. A Korean businessman claimed that the same woman made accusations of a similar nature about him in the past.
Editing the Herald Blog questioned some of the language used to describe the woman on The Herald’s front page on 5 June.
“Political reporter Patrick Gower wastes no time in informing us of all the ethnic comings-and-goings of the case. I know that, whenever I hear of a political sex scandal, the first question that pops into my head is ‘What race are the people involved? Is there any miscegenation going on?’”
Right-wing blog, Whale Oil, “outed” Neelam Choudary as the woman who received texts and calls from Worth.
Stuff.co.nz published a provocative picture of Mrs Choudary (page now deleted), with a story about her husbands previous conviction of fraud.
Despite the fact that Ms. Choudary chose to withdraw her complaint against Richard Worth, Whale Oil continues to ask questions about Ms Choudary’s relationship with the leader of the Labour Party, Phil Goff.
On July 2 The Herald reported that the Korean Businesswoman whose complaint against Worth began the story was dropped by the police.
TV3 said: “She feels the political fallout around Richard Worth has been sufficient and going through the courts would have been an additional ordeal that would have gained little.”
Internationally, women were the victims of draconian laws many western women came barely imagine.
This probably explains the amount of interest in the Western Press for the story of Lubna Hussein.
Lubna Hussein is a 34-year-old public information assistant and former spokesperson for the office of the United Nations Mission in Sudan. She is also a reporter for Kartoum’s Al Sahafa daily newspaper for which she writes the feminist column, ‘Men’s Talk’.
On the 10th of July 2009, Lubna Hussein and 12 other women were arrested for violating Sudanese Law’s modesty requirements. They were charged with indecency for wearing trousers.
Ms. Hussein, then employed by the UN, decided to use her arrest to ‘test’ what she considers to be an out-moded and oppressive law. She resigned from the UN – giving up her immunity to prosecution – and has taken her case to trial.
Ms Hussein has stated that the enforcement of this part of Sudan’s criminal law is entirely subjective – whether or not a woman is arrested, tried and what kind of punishment she is likely to receive is often dependent on the ‘mood’ and attitudes of the police and presiding judge. Therefore it is possible to see the manner in which this law is enforced as a kind of institutionalised, state sanctioned harassment.
The BBC reported that Ms Hussein says she has done nothing wrong under Sharia law, but could fall foul of a paragraph in Sudanese criminal law which forbids indecent clothing.
“I want to change this law, because hitting is not human, and also it does not match with Sharia law,” she told the BBC.
At her trial violence broke out as Sudanese police fired tear gas and beat women protesting outside the court.
Police used tear gas and batons to disperse a group (reports vary as to the number, The AP has 50, the Times has 100) demonstrators. Some of the women demonstrators wore trousers in solidarity with Hussein.
In response to the unrest, Ms Hussein’s trial was been deferred by the court until 7 September.
A report on the 9th of September said that Lubna was freed after her fine was paid by her employer.
News outlets which covered the Pants story were Timesonline, MSNBC.MSN.com., The Associated Press, BBC, Agence France-Presse, Guardian.co.uk, Sudan Tribune, telegraphonline.co.uk, ITN News, PoliticsDaily.com and World Pulse Magazine.
Much of the commentary focussed on Sharia Law and Lubna’s defiance of it.
The article which broke Ms Hussein’s story however was by a Sudanese citizen journalist called Halima Mohamed Abdel Rahman. It appeared in World Pulse Magazine and included mages of the trousers Ms Hussein was arrested for wearing and a copy of the invitation she sent to journalists inviting them to attend her trial.
In the blogs, support for Lubna was widespread and fierce:
Sudan Watch crowed over Lubna’s vow to dare judges to have her flogged. While The Huffington Post were more subdued, the liberal blog’s support for Lubna’s cause was tangible.
African Press International discussed Lubna’s “defiant” interview to UK paper, the Telegraph and Pickled Politics cut to the chase stating that the arrests were less about principle and more about a need to show the strength of the regime.
Blokey blogger Bock The Robber was even less circumspect calling the situation “More Sharia Bullshit.” Although not all bloke penned blogs were as brutal. Jim Buck said simply that “the world needs more brave souls like her.”
Another woman “punished” for her clothing was Brazillian student, Geisy Arruda, who was expelled from university for wearing not trousers but a mini dress.
Media commented on the fact that her fellow students jeered as she was removed from campus in a lab coat, covering her “indecent” dress.
In the rest of the world, the right of institutions to dictate policy for the way its members interact was also being questioned by regular Men’s Movement video blogger, Bernard Chapin. The misnadry advocate spoke out against the new anti-sexual harassment code of one Indiana university, suggesting that the code’s gender neutral language was aimed at making it hard for guys to talk to girls.
On November 5, Mr Chapin claimed he had “feminists on the ropes” after two online media outlets “misrepresented” his stance on men’s rights.
The first of those, Double X, discussed the growing organisation and power of Men’s Right’s groups, the second, Broadsheet, examined how previously fringe groups such as Chapin’s had become mainstream.
Needless to say there will be no more posts about Chapin on Quid Pro Quo.
It seems difficult to understand the stance of so called Mens Movement groups when the stories of oppression and violence experienced by women all over the world seems to utterly undermine their claims that men are now being oppressed by Feminism.
In Japan the sixth periodic report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women said that penalties had been strengthened in 2004 for rape, forced indecency and other crimes while the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women had been marked with two weeks of awareness programmes.
This was seen as a huge step forward for a country that has had relatively little legislation protecting women in the work place.
In El Salvador, however, Salvadoran Women’s Organization, ORMUSA, reported that 2,645 women were murdered in El Salvador in the past 8 years, with at least one woman killed per day since 2002. ORMUSA called on the government to begin legislating for the protection of women not only in the workplace but in their own homes.
Afghan women who hoped they might fare better now that the Taliban no longer controlled the government were proven wrong when new Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, approved a law which condones marital rape. The law allow husbands to deny their wives food if they will not have sex with them.
Problems discussing the rights of women in different cultures came to the fore when news broke from Mali that thousands of women protested against new legislation giving them equal rights in marriage.
Many of the women felt the new legislation undermined the teaching of the Koran and was irreligious.
While, as Quid Pro Quo notes in the same post, Malian women are slowly turning their back on the practice of female circumcision, it seems other cultural practices are still entrenched.
A release from the Asian Human Rights Commission said women of Pakistan bear the brunt of poor governance, military strife, and the corruption of the social, political and economic systems which surround them.
The same release however singles out advances in legislation protecting women from harassment citing a bill unanimously passed by the National Assembly which provides harsher punishments for those who commit sexual harassment.
In Israel activists in Tel Aviv encouraged the Prime Minister to pledge finances for the country’s battered women. 15 women a year are killed by domestic violence in Israel.
It was not all doom and gloom internationally. Former US president, Jimmy Carter, making a huge personal gesture, left his church in an act of solidarity with the victims of gender specific violence.
Also in the US, media praised President Obama’s support of additions to the Hate crimes Bill. The bill now extends to violence on the basis of sexuality and makes prosecution of crimes of hate easier to pursue.
The victims and survivors of sexual crime in New Zealand, however, became victims of the recession also as financial concerns held sway over the rights of survivors and victims to access free treatment.
Changes to Accident Compensation Corporation’s criteria for funding therapy for the victims of abuse and sexual violence meant that those affected would have to prove they were suffering from a mental illness to qualify for counselling. The number of sessions would also be cut back to 16.
Green Party member’s criticised Associate ACC Minister Pansy Wong’s interpretation of proposed changes to the treatment guidelines for mental injury resulting from sexual abuse. They claim she has misinterpreted details of a report by Massey University which Nat’s say is the basis for the changes.
The Dominion Post reported rape prevention advocate, Louise Nicholas speaking out against proposed changes to ACC’s sensitive claims unit.
The changes will reduce the amount of therapy a survivor can access through the ACC, after the corporation claimed short term therapy is better for survivors than any long term care.
Labour’s Victims Rights Spokesperson Lynne Pillay spoke out saying victims are continuing to be failed by ACC Minister Nick Smith. She called the new scheme the cruellest of all the obstacle courses for victims of horrendous crime so far. Labour also claim the cuts were to cut costs.
Voxy.com reported the changes to the scheme resulting in delays in care for victims.
Also in New Zealand, The Police and lobby group, Safer Homes in New Zealand Every Day, chose to celebrate the silly season with warnings about the increase in Domestic Violence over the holiday period.
Both claim the “extended weekend” means more violence in homes.
Some women in the West seem to feel they have certain freedoms and securities women in other countries do not enjoy, but after recording 6 months worth of information on the subject of sexual violence around the world it is easy to see that all women still live under threat of sexual harassment and violence.
This could be a much longer item, detailing issues of “Rape Culture”, stereotyping and misandry all of which came up repeatedly in the feminist blogs feeding into Quid Pro Quo.
December 10, 2009
Afrique en ligne-Actualités Africaines and Guardian.co.uk, 10 December 2009: Reports of Uganda’s anti gay legislation make it clear the government are not interested in discussing the scope of the bill which will make homosexuality a capital offence.
American commentator, Rachel Maddows, takes on proponents of a “cure” for homosexuality whose deeply flawed work has been used by the Ugandan government to develop the law – the work includes “proof” that homosexuals are responsible for pedophilia and spreading disease. WATCH VIDEO>>
December 6, 2009
Safer Homes in News Zealand Everyday have begun an awareness drive in time for the silly season upswing in domestic violence, TVNZ reports.
Spokesperson for the group says they see the number of cases of spousal abuse rises during weekends, and Christmas is “like an extended weekend” with violence increasing over the statutory holidays.
The herald also carried a plea from police for calm over the holidays – that was before two women were killed in domestic violence cases in one weekend.
November 23, 2009
The Jerusaelm Post, 26 November 2009: “The government plans to spend NIS 3.5 million to renovate battered women’s shelters, and will give a grant of NIS 10,000 to shelter residents who leave to rejoin the workforce, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday” READ MORE>>
Earlier in the day, around a hundred protesters dressed in black marched across Tel Aviv in what organizers called a “funeral procession,” carrying 15 black “coffins” meant to represent the 15 women killed in Israel this past year by domestic violence.
November 10, 2009
A STUDENT who was expelled from her private university on the grounds that her dress was immoral, and who was escorted off campus by security, wearing a coverall, lab coat has been reinstated, according to Stuff.co.nz
A video of the woman, 20-year-old Geisy Arruda, being escorted from the school has been making the rounds on Youtube, too.
Parallels may be drawn between Arruda’s situation and the Lubna Hussein story from earlier in the year: why is what women choose to wear so often the focus of morality issues? Doesn’t it say something terrible about a society that can be so badly corrupted by the mere sight of a pair of pants, or a bit of thigh?
November 8, 2009
Wellington, 6 November, 2009: Labour’s Victims Rights Spokesperson Lynne Pillay says victims are continuing to be failed by ACC Minister Nick Smith
“This has got to be the cruellest of all the obstacle courses for victims of horrendous crime so far and at the heart of it ACC is doing it simply to cut costs.”
More Labour responses:
November 6, 2009
The delightful Mr Chapin, who we know and love as The Sexual Harassment Piglet is on the go again. This time he’s got us nasty feminazi’s on the ropes.
The “drivel” he’s refering to are posts about the power the Men’s movement are generating now that they seem to have a little momentum.
Feminist blog, Broadsheet, notes that Chapin refused to give his interviewer a name, that’s how much above talking to women he is.
Chapin also cites an article on Double X which states that the Mens Movement is getting stronger as justification for continuing his “fight”
My main issue with this utter dickhead is that he genuinely believes his life, and that of his ‘brothers’, have been made harder by securing rights for women. He is a ginormous tool.
November 2, 2009
USA, 2 November 2009: Liberal Online news source, the Huffington Post is celebrating the passing of the US’s new and expanded Anti-Hate Crimes bill: “The provision, called the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is attached to a defense authorization bill. It is named after Matthew Shepard, a gay college student tortured and killed in 1998, and James Byrd Jr., a black man who was chained to a pickup truck and dragged to his death the same year.”
October 9, 2009
Wellington 7 October 2009: New Zealand’s Accident Claims Corporation have made changes to the criteria for assessing sensitive claims – claims made by the victims of sexual abuse. They claim the changes will enhance ACC support for survivors of sexual abuse with a mental injury