Newcastle abuse and the lessons of Rotherham

August 25, 2017 at 3:56 pm (child abuse, crime, culture, Human rights, Islam, misogyny, Murdoch, Racism, religion, women)

 The column by Sarah Champion in the Sun.

Above: the column by Sarah Champion in the Sun

By Charlotte Zalens (this article also appears in the present issue of the AWL paper Solidarity)

On Friday 11 August the Sun newspaper published an article by Labour MP Sarah Champion under the headline ″British Pakistani men ARE raping and exploiting white girls … and it’s time we faced up to it″.

The article is incredibly confused and naive (at one point Champion suggest that despite being the director of a children′s hospice until becoming an MP in 2012, she only heard the abbreviation CSE for Child Sexual Exploitation a few months after becoming an MP). Champion talks of British Pakistani men, but also references recent events in Newcastle where most of the men convicted were not Pakistani. She seems to conflate race, ethnicity, and religion throughout. Champion′s claim that ″Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls″ is crude, inaccurate, and wrong.

Champion has tried to distance herself from the article, saying that it was edited to take the nuance out of her comments. But her choice to publish such an article with the Sun, well known for dog-whistle racism often targeted at Muslims, where her article appeared alongside an editorial which called for MPs to tackle ″the Muslim Problem″, condemns her. Champion is the MP for Rotherham where large scale child sexual exploitation, involving an estimated 1,400 children between 1997 and 2014, was exposed in 2014. That case, unlike Newcastle, did involve British-Pakistani men.

In other respects the Rotherham case bears many similarities to that of Newcastle. There were multiple factors involved there: vulnerable young women, poverty, the use of drugs and alcohol, authorities disbelieving or in some cases blaming victims as well as, the patriarchal attitudes of some men, attitudes which are prevalent in many communities, in different forms, and which make women and girls “fair game” for sexual exploitation.

At the time of the Jay Report into CSE in Rotherham we wrote: ″What happened in Rotherham is happening in other areas of the country; although there will be particular local circumstances, there will be a wide range of abusers and victims. ”

The Jay Report cites the hesitancy of social workers and practitioners over reporting the ethnicity of abusers as Pakistani, for fear or being accused of racism. This is a problem. It points to a dishonest way of dealing with racism.

″For many years Labour-led Rotherham council has relied upon tokenistic ‘multicultural events’ and communicating almost exclusively with self-appointed ‘community leaders’, often religious ones rather than engaging and building strong links with communities.

″This does not deal with racism in an open way; wrongly presumes the opinions of Muslim communities can and should be communicated by ‘community leaders’, and disenfranchises others.″

Unfortunately Corbyn’s response to these events was to flatten out all these complex issues and pose the problem as one of child sexual abuse alone. Our responses must talk about the multiple factors involved in abuse. Anything else makes it possible for “community leaders” and others in positions of power to say “nothing to do with us”. That situation makes it very difficult for women’s groups and others in Muslim communities who are pushing hard for more discussion about attitudes to sex, sexuality and respect for women.

As we said in relation to Rotherham, it also endangers Muslim girls. ″… the council and social services ignored the possibility that abuse may be happening within the Pakistani community. An image was established of Pakistani men abusing white girls. In fact such abuse usually happens to those closest to the abuser. The under-reporting of abuse from minority ethnic victims is a problem.″

It appears some lessons have been learnt from the Jay Report; police did at least actively pursue gangs in Newcastle, but other lessons have not, and many vulnerable young women continue to suffer abuse.

Unheard Voices: Sexual Exploitation of Asian Girls and Young Women

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Sexual abuse of women and children in Newcastle

August 11, 2017 at 2:27 pm (child abuse, Human rights, misogyny, posted by JD, women)

By  (Notes and Comment Blog at Butterflies And Wheels):

Another sex grooming case concludes with multiple convictions.

Seventeen men and one woman have been found guilty of involvement in a sex grooming network in Newcastle upon Tyne that plied vulnerable women and girls with drink and drugs before assaulting them.

In a series of four trials at Newcastle crown court, juries found the men guilty of a catalogue of nearly 100 offences – including rape, human trafficking, conspiracy to incite prostitution and drug supply – between 2011 and 2014.

The men befriended more than 20 victims and invited them to “sessions” at properties, mostly in the west end of the city. The girls were lured by the offer of alcohol and drugs, in particular mephedrone (“Mkat”) and cannabis, and were expected to offer sexual services in return for the substances.

The victims, all females between 13 and 25, were targeted because they were vulnerable and because they were less likely to complain because of their circumstances, the prosecution argued. The court heard accounts of young women who were drugged before waking up to find themselves undressed, having been sexually assaulted.

The police investigation that led to the trials was called Operation Shelter.

Operation Shelter has clear similarities to grooming scandals in Rotherham and Rochdale, which featured gangs of British Asian men abusing white girls. The men in operation Shelter are from a wider range of backgrounds, including Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish.

Geographically wider, but ideologically just as narrow.

The jury was told that the men had no respect for their victims and that they chose them because they were “easy targets”. The court heard that in April 2014, Badrul Hussain – who was found guilty of providing premises for drug supply – was caught traveling on public transport without a ticket. The female ticket inspector claimed that he shouted at her: “All white women are only good for one thing. For men like me to fuck and use like trash. That’s all women like you are worth.”

That ideology. It’s quite widespread.

In a parliamentary report published in November 2014 into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, MPs said they had reached “the alarming conclusion” that Rotherham was not an outlier and that there was a widespread problem of organised child sexual exploitation in England.

A spokesperson for the child exploitation charity Pace said: “Sadly we know that child sexual exploitation has been widespread throughout the country and it can affect any child or family. It is good that the perpetrators have finally been brought to justice. There has been immense trauma inflicted on those young people and their families. There will be lessons to be learned.”

  • Coatesy’s thoughts and links to other comments, here

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Simone Veil, courageous fighter, passes

June 30, 2017 at 5:38 pm (Andrew Coates, anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, Feminism, France, good people, Human rights, women)

Image result for simone veil

Andrew Coates writes:

Simone Veil, the revered French politician who survived the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz and defied institutional sexism to push through a law legalising abortion in France, has died on June 30th 2017. She was 89.

France 24:

A widely respected figure across the political divide, Veil was the first female leader of the European Parliament and the recipient of France’s highest distinctions, including a seat among the “Immortals” of the Académie française, the prestigious state-sponsored body overseeing the French language and usage. She was renowned for her endeavours to advance women’s rights and the gracious but steely resolve with which she overcame male resistance throughout a remarkable life scarred by personal tragedy.

As one of the more than 76,000 Jews deported from France during World War II, Veil appears on the Wall of Names at the Shoah Memorial in Paris, under her maiden name Simone Jacob. So do her father André, her mother Yvonne, her sister Madeleine and her brother Jean. Of the five, only Madeleine and Simone survived the ordeal, though Madeleine would die in a car crash just seven years after the war.

Simone was the youngest of four siblings, born in the French Riviera resort of Nice on July 13, 1927, in a family of non-practising Jews. Her father, an award-winning architect, had insisted her mother abandon her studies in chemistry after they married. Like most other Jews in France, he reluctantly obeyed orders once the Nazi-allied Vichy regime came to power in June 1940, registering his family on the infamous “Jewish file” – which would later help French police and the German Gestapo round up France’s Jews and deport them.

As French nationals living in the Italian occupation zone, the Jacob family avoided the first round-ups, which targeted foreign Jews, mainly in the northern half of France that was occupied by German troops. But they suffered the sting of anti-Semitic laws, which forced André Jacob out of work and led to Simone adopting the name Jacquier to conceal her origins.

The situation worsened after September 1943, when the Nazi occupiers swept all the way down to the Riviera. Simone, then aged 16, had only just passed her baccalaureate when she was arrested by two members of the SS on March 30, 1944. The Gestapo soon rounded up the rest of the family with the exception of Simone’s sister Denise, who had joined the Resistance in Lyon. Denise would later be detained and deported to the Ravensbruck concentration camp, from where she returned after the war.

[…]

Still only 17, Simone returned to France devastated by the loss of her parents and sister, but determined to pursue the career her mother had been denied. She studied law at the University of Paris and the Institut d’études politiques, where she met Antoine Veil (1926-2013), a future company manager and auditor. The couple married in October 1946, and would go on to have three sons, Jean, Nicolas, and Pierre-François.

Simone Veil began work as a lawyer before successfully passing the national examination to become a magistrate in 1956. She then took on a senior position at the National Penitentiary Administration, part of the Ministry of Justice, thereby securing a first platform to pursue a lifelong endeavour of advancing women’s rights. She notably strove to improve women’s conditions in French jails and, during the Algerian War of Independence, obtained the transfer to France of Algerian female prisoners amid reports of widespread abuse and rape.

Switching to the ministry’s department of civil affairs in 1964, Veil continued to push for gender parity in matters of parental control and adoption rights. A decade later, her appointment as health minister in the centre-right administration of President Valéry Giscard D’Estaing paved the way for her biggest political test. She first battled to ease access to contraception, then took on a hostile parliament to argue in favour of a woman’s right to have a legal abortion.

“No woman resorts to an abortion with a light heart. One only has to listen to them: it is always a tragedy,” Veil said in a now-famous opening address on November 26, 1974, before a National Assembly almost entirely composed of men. She added: “We can no longer shut our eyes to the 300,000 abortions that each year mutilate the women of this country, trample on its laws and humiliate or traumatise those who undergo them.”

After her hour-long address, the minister endured a torrent of abuse from members of her own centre-right coalition. One lawmaker claimed her law would “each year kill twice as many people as the Hiroshima bomb”. A second berated the Holocaust survivor for “choosing genocide”. Another still spoke of embryos “thrown into crematorium ovens”.

“I had no idea how much hatred I would stir,” Veil told French journalist Annick Cojean in 2004, reflecting on the vitriolic debate decades earlier. “There was so much hypocrisy in that chamber full of men, some of whom would secretly look for places where their mistresses could have an abortion.”

The bill was eventually passed, thanks to support from the left-wing opposition, though Veil had to withstand the affront of swastikas painted on her car and home. Today, the “loi Veil” enjoys overwhelming support in France, where few mainstream politicians dare to challenge it.

At the end of this fine tribute is written:

…she was elected to the Académie française, becoming only the sixth woman to join the prestigious “Immortals”, who preside over the French language. Her ceremonial sword was engraved with the motto of the French Republic (“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”), that of the European Union (“United in diversity”), and the five digits tattooed on her forearm in the inferno of Auschwitz, which she never removed.

Libération:   Simone Veil, une femme debout.

 The extreme right hated Simone Veil, and still do,

This is a recent blog piece:

Un site d’extrême droite se réjouit de l’état de santé de Simone Veil

The French Communist Party leader Pierre Laurent saluted Simone Veil:

mone Veil fut une femme de courage, de conviction essentielle pr la liberté des femmes. Nous honorons sa mémoire.

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The SNP and the Tory #rapeclause

May 29, 2017 at 5:53 pm (elections, nationalism, populism, scotland, SNP, welfare, women)

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By Dale Street

#Rapeclause was one of the four most popular Twitter hashtags used by SNP MPs and MSPs in the run-up to the Scottish council elections held earlier this month.

SNP MSP Humza Yousaf tweeted about “Tory born-again Brexiters and rape-clause advocates.” Fellow SNP MSP James Dornan explained: “If you’d rather vote for the Tories than SNP, you’re a right-wing Rape Clause supporting enabler.”

(Ex-)MP Paul Monaghan tweeted: “The rape clause is beneath contempt and reveals nothing but a callous disregard for human life.” Fellow (ex-)MP Pete Wishart appealed: “Now more important than ever. Vote till you boak. Make sure the rape clause candidate is absolutely last.”

Following in the footsteps of their parliamentarians, cybernats made #rapeclause and #rapeclauseruth (i.e. Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson) central to their case for voting SNP in the council elections:

“Thursday #council17 election. A great chance to show Ruth Davidson how disgusted you are by the Rape Clause #rapeclauseruth #rapeclause. … Time Tories are punished for Rape Clause at council elections #council17 #rapeclauseruth.”

“Vote SNP for Scotland. Vote Tory for #rapeclauseruth. … Only one party stands up for Scotland and only Scotland. #VoteSNP #council17. Scots Tories controlled by #rapeclauseruth via London.”

“How dare the working poor have children! Kill them! Screeches the darling of the Tories #rapeclauseruth as she rises in the polls. … A huge success for ‘NicolaSturgeon #rapeclause local election campaign. Very well done boss. You should do that again in GE2017.”

With the general election campaign now underway, #rapeclause and #rapeclauseruth remain particularly popular hashtags for cybernats.

#Rapeclause refers to the requirement that as of April of this year victims of rape must complete a lengthy form to obtain child tax benefits for a third or subsequent child born as a result of rape.

This is an exercise in humiliation, one which forces victims of rape to relive the trauma of rape and which could cause damage to their mental health. The fact that the bulk of the eight-page form can be completed by a health professional or social worker is irrelevant.

This bureaucratic imposition on rape victims is the result of broader Tory cuts in welfare spending: As of April of this year, child tax benefits are restricted to the first two children. But exemptions apply to children born from rape (and multiple births, and adopted children).

The solution to the #rapeclause is to scrap the cap on restricting child tax benefits to the first two children. If there is no cap, there is no need for exemptions, and no need to subject rape victims to a process of bureaucratic humiliation.

There are certainly SNP parliamentarians, members, supporters and voters who are genuine in their opposition to the #rapeclause and link their campaigning against it to the demand for scrapping the cap on child tax benefits.

SNP hypocrisy

But the broader Scottish-nationalist campaign around the #rapeclause and the political role which it plays is of an entirely different order. It is steeped in opportunism, cynicism, hypocrisy and an irrational demonization of their political opponents.

Reviving an SNP meme from the period immediately following last year’s EU referendum, #rapeclause is used to equate Tories with Nazis and fascists in general:

“We need silent protests at every Tory meeting with #rapeclause #foodbanks #TryBrexit. Don’t let friends of fascism get elected. … The extremely low calibre of Conservatives promoting fascist policies like #rapeclause in Scotland. Vote for better and fairer.”

“#Rapeclause fans cry foul! The being (i.e. the Tory candidate) standing as a defender of fascist policy (is) scared of the humanity, integrity and decency of @AngusRobertson #SNP. … I am sick of our lying media pushing this fascist agenda. #rapeclause.”

“So it’s now a straight fight for Scotland. The SNP and Greens versus the BNP led by @ruthdavidson #rapeclause. … On the day we hear Spitting Images is making a return, #rapeclauseruth rekindles the ethos of Norman Tebbit’s jackbooted Nazi thugs.”

“France, Holland and Austria rejected far-right Nazi candidates. It’s our turn on June 8th. #ToriesOut #VoteSNP #rapeclauseruth. … #rapeclauseruth and #CantTellTheTruthMay: two of the most vile women in this country today. Hitler would be proud of either.”

Demonisation of the Tories for promoting infanticide (“How dare the working poor have children! Kill them! Screeches the darling of the Tories #rapeclauseruth.”) leads into the demonization of those deemed guilty by association.

If the #rapeclause puts the Tories beyond the pale, anyone who associates with them automatically deserves to be equally condemned and ostracised – even if the supposed ‘association’ is a fiction created by the truest followers of the SNP cult:

“So, Labour, Greens, Lib-Dems didn’t condemn this vile #rapeclause. Your Tory friend #rapeclauseruth is a disgrace. … Labour openly campaigning for the #rapeclause Conservatives in the Borders and the Highlands. This is a conspiracy.”

“With Scottish Labour cheering on #rapeclauseruth from the sidelines, what a wretched embarrassment they are. … Labour/Tory: two cheeks of the same arse. How’s that #rapeclause working out for you?”

“So now we have @kezdugdale in cahoots AGAIN with #rapeclause @ruthdavidsonmsp. Both happy to wear the Orange sash of sectarianism.”

Political critics of the SNP and its record in power can also be tarred with the same #rapeclause brush:

David Torrance, a journalist who has written articles critical of the SNP government (because that’s the kind of thing journalists do) becomes “Tory boy Torrance” who “ticks the predictable boxes to talk up #rapeclauseruth et al.”

A photograph of writer and broadcaster (and SNP critic) Muriel Gray with Tory MP David Blundell turns out to be a photo of “A #rapeclause facilitator hand in glove with a socialist #rapeclause apologist.”

And a nurse who criticised the SNP’s record on health in last weekend’s Scottish Leaders Debate was subjected to a vicious cybernat witch-hunt, including: “Ranting ‘nurse’ on #LeadersDebate is a Tory councillor’s wife – a #rapeclause supporter! How does that square with her ethics?”

#Rapeclause is also invoked in support of that favourite demand of true Scottish nationalists: a targeted consumer boycott of insufficiently patriotic businesses.

A visit by Ruth Davidson to the Express Bakery in Dumfries resulted in: “Bakery to avoid in Dumfries: Express Bakery. Product recall: These #rapeclause apologists have had their fingers in your pies.”

And a visit by Davidson to the Edinburgh Shortbread House also saw the latter added to the boycott list: “Mmmm, shortbread with added #rapeclause. … So your company supports the #rapeclause. No custom from me then.”

(Scotland, 2017: An Edinburgh-based family business which manufactures Scottish shortbread are traitors to the nation.)

For a swathe of Scottish nationalists the #rapeclause is not just yet another example of bad Tory policies. It is the essence of Britishness and the British state, and further evidence of the need for independence:

“The BritNats coalescing around the #rapeclause party. Given the collapse in Labour support, realignment of politics in Scotland almost complete. … All together to help Theresa May rape Scotland. #VoteSNP to save Scotland.”

“’Our precious union. …’ If this and #rapeclause are the best it can offer, I want no part in it. At 63 years of age, I’ve never felt so ‘foreign’! … Straightforward for anyone who doesn’t support the #rapeclause – Independence it is!”

#Rapeclause serves the same role as “Red Tories”. In 2015 the SNP used “Red Tories” to target and undermine support for Labour. In 2017, faced with a resurgence of support for the Tories, the SNP is using #rapeclause to try to stifle that resurgence.

And the SNP’s focus on the #rapeclause stinks of hypocrisy.

Benefits cap

In August of 2013, as the debate about the 2014 referendum began to pick up steam. Alex Salmond committed the SNP to imposing a benefits cap (based on “Scottish values”) in an independent Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon was given the job of working out the details.

(This was not a specific cap on child tax benefits. It was an across-the-board benefits cap. That made it even worse.)

In the 2015 general election campaign, in which the Tories proposed the welfare ‘reforms’ which include the child tax benefit cap, Sturgeon declared that scrapping the benefits cap was not an SNP priority.

When the Tories’ welfare ‘reforms’ subsequently made their way through the Westminster legislative procedures, two SNP MPs (Hannah Bardell and Corri Wilson) sat on the Commons Public Bill Committee which scrutinised the legislation – but did not denounce the #rapeclause.

After the Tories’ legislation had become law, the SNP denied that Holyrood had the powers to not apply the cuts in Scotland. Proven wrong on this, the SNP then promised “real, credible, affordable plans” to mitigate the impact of the cuts. There is still no sign of those plans.

In fact, Holyrood has the powers not just to scrap the #rapeclause but also the two-child cap itself.

The cost of scrapping the cap over the next four years would be £195 millions. This is roughly equal to the money the SNP Holyrood government will be losing – each year, not over a period of four years – from scrapping Airport Passenger Duty.

The #rapeclause was on the statute books for over eighteen months before it came into effect. But only in the run-up to the council elections did the SNP discover that the #rapeclause was the defining feature of the Tories, all opponents of independence, and the British state itself.

And some of the cybernats so incandescent with rage at the #rapeclause clearly have a long way to go in improving their feminist credentials.

Denouncing “#rapeclause Ruthie” as “a despicable, divisive and dangerous wee witch” smacks of Tommy Sheridan’s attitude to his female political opponents. So too does another cybernat’s cultist description of Sturgeon, Davidson and Dugdale:

“Let’s summarise: A fearless leader who loves her country. A harridan who supports the heinous #rapeclause. The next ruler of Narnia.”

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Remains of young children and babies found in sewage chambers at Tuam mother and baby home

March 5, 2017 at 10:59 am (Catholicism, child abuse, children, crime, Human rights, Ireland, posted by JD, religion, tragedy, women)

In a statement, the Commission said it is “shocked by the discovery” and its investigation is continuing.

PastedImage-93754 Source: MBHCOI.ie

  • Human remains found at site of Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam
  • They were discovered in what appears to be some type of sewage container
  • Scientific analysis puts the age of death between 35 foetal weeks and 2 to 3 years
  • Radiocarbon dating confirms the remains are from the time the home was in operation – many are likely to be from the 1950s.

THE COMMISSION OF INVESTIGATION into Mother and Baby Homes has discovered a significant number of human remains in what appears to be a decommissioned sewage chamber in Tuam.

The Commission has completed two test excavations of the Galway site and today confirmed that “significant quantities of human remains have been discovered” in a structure which appears to be “related to the treatment/containment of sewerage and/or wastewater”.

The structure where the remains were found is long and divided into 20 chambers. The Commission is not yet clear if it was ever used for sewerage or wastewater.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

There were remains found in at least 17 of the 20 chambers. A small number of the remains were recovered for testing. A scientific analysis has put the ages of the deceased at between 35 foetal weeks to two to three years old.

Radiocarbon dating suggests that they are from the time the Bon Secours home was in operation between 1925 and 1961. A number of the samples are likely to be from the 1950s.

A second structure discovered during excavations between November 2016 and February this year appeared to be a decommissioned septic tank which had been filled with rubble and debris and then covered with topsoil.

Image uploaded from iOS (1) The excavation area has now been sealed off Source: Christina Finn/TheJournal.ie

In a statement, the Commission said it is “shocked by the discovery” and its investigation is continuing “into who was responsible for the disposal of human remains in this way”.

State authorities have been asked to take responsibility for the appropriate treatment of the remains and the North Galway Coroner has been informed. He will determine if there is to be any garda involvement in further investigations.

Speaking today, Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said the “sad and disturbing news” confirms rumours about the possibility of a mass grave at the site.

“Today is about remembering and respecting the dignity of the children who lived their short lives in this Home. We will honour their memory and make sure that we take the right actions now to treat their remains appropriately,” she added.

Decisions have yet to be taken on whether more excavations will be required at other mother and baby home sites.

The Commission was established following a 2014 report in the Irish Mail on Sunday that 800 children died in the home and were interred in a mass grave.

Local historian Catherine Corless has spent years researching the home, even obtaining death certificates for each child who died there, in the hope of rectifying an injustice.

In a statement today, the Bon Secours order said:

“The Bon Secours sisters are fully committed to the work of the Commission regarding the mother and baby home in Tuam. On the closing of the Home in 1961 all the records for the Home were  returned to Galway County Council who are the owners and occupiers of the lands of the Home. We can therefore make no comment on today’s announcement, other than to confirm our continued cooperation with and support for the work of the Commission in seeking the truth about the home.”

Call for identification

The Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA) and Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR) said that they were saddened by the news.

They said that Tuam “is not an isolated case” and reiterated their call for an expansion of the Commission’s Terms of Reference to include all institutions, agencies and individuals that were involved with Ireland’s unmarried mothers and their children, and to include investigations of burial practices at all of these locations.

They said that they want the government to ensure that all children who died in Tuam,a nd all children and adults who died in institutional care or custody, are identified.

In addition, they urged an Garda Siochána to establish its own investigation, independent of the Commission of Investigation, into abuse, neglect and illegal separations of mothers and children in Mother and Baby Homes, County Homes, maternity hospitals, and through adoption agencies and similar entities.

They added:

We reiterate our concerns that the Commission’s Terms of Reference are not comprehensive enough, and stress that Tuam is but one institution in an ad hoc and almost entirely unregulated, State-funded system which had responsibility for the care of unmarried mothers and their children. Today’s disturbing statement from the Commission underscores that the State failed in its ‘duty of care’ towards these children and their mothers.
In the context of these revelations, and in the public interest, we also reiterate our call on Minister Zappone to publish the Commission’s second interim report without delay.

With reporting by Aoife Barry

Read: She was right: How Catherine Corless uncovered what happened in Tuam>

Read: Nuns who ran Tuam home have ‘no comment’ to make on today’s revelations>

 

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Guilt, race and class politics: “Where are the people of color?”

March 4, 2017 at 5:11 pm (Anti-Racism, campaigning, class, left, political groups, posted by JD, solidarity, Trump, United States, women, workers, youth)

Republished, with permission, from Jacobin; a very important piece, I think, about race, guilt, and class politics (albeit from a US perspective):

Guilt is a sad, passive emotion — and it won’t help us build a more diverse left.

It could be any meeting — an ad hoc general assembly, an emergency gathering for immigrant defense, a planning session for an upcoming strike. The speaker is usually white, but not always — and depending on this, their tone is guilty or accusatory.

On the rare occasion that this query is accompanied by a positive proposal, it is abstract, likely no more than a call for reflection. When the speaker is white, it often functions to absolve them of the need to actually do something about it.

Sometimes, on its face, the question is reasonable. Any political collectivity in the age of Trump which consists only of white people is an example of an abject failure — a failure of outreach, at the simplest level, but also a political failure, a failure to challenge the white supremacy which is threaded through American history.

But sometimes the question reveals nothing more than sanctimonious ignorance. It would be hard for me to count how many times I have sat in a meeting, often right next to several other people of color, and watched as someone righteously declared, “Everyone here is white.”

In the moment, it makes my blood boil. As a Muslim American, I have been detained at airports and verbally abused in public places. When I heard the news of Trump’s Muslim ban, I wondered whether I would be able to see my parents again. And I am one of the lucky ones.

Given the opportunity to cool down, I have to reflect on the strange psychology of these statements. Could it be simply the racist assumption that anyone who attends a political meeting and can speak English well must necessarily be white? It is hard for me to read it otherwise, and it is disturbing to imagine the potential consequences of this white practice of speaking for others. We should hope that this does not become a self-fulfilling prophesy, alienating and driving away people of color whose presence is erased by guilty whites.

The question is itself exclusionary, in its reliance on the empty abstraction of “people of color.” In your city, wherever it is, there is likely a young white male who is addicted to Vicodin, struggles to support his children on fast-food wages, and is on the verge of eviction. Where is he during this political meeting?

Middle-class activists are adept at deluding themselves with complicated explanations. But it is not a difficult question to answer. Like many people of color and many other whites, he is doing what he can to make it to the next day.

As Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor writes, “the privileges of white skin run very thin in a country where nineteen million white people languish in poverty.” Every day in a capitalist society is a struggle for the poor. Attending a meeting called by some unknown organization — and we all know how excruciating these meetings can be — will not put food on the table for your children. It will not help you recover from long hours of monotonous, draining work. It will not compel your landlord to fix your broken toilet. It will not stop the collection agency from calling.

This is not an appeal to holding up some mythical “white working class” as the abandoned core of the American masses. It is a simple recognition of lived reality of the working class, which contains white people and people of color, people of all genders and sexualities, the employed and the unemployed — a multitude of people irreducible to any single description.

Many socialists argue that across these differences, all of these people have a common interest — a point easily skewered by the identitarian liberal who asks how the young woman seeking an abortion and the evangelical protester, the undocumented immigrant and the salaried worker, can possibly have the same interest.

But this challenge is afflicted by the same condition it claims to diagnose. It mistakes the casual description of a shared trait with a claim about identity. We all have numerous interests, which are related to our identities but also where we work and where we live. To say that these different spheres of life interact and intersect is a banal truism which neither explains how our society is structured and reproduced, nor how we might formulate a strategy to change this structure.

A meaningful common interest does not somehow exist by default. We cannot reduce any group of people and the multitudes they contain to a single common interest, as though we were reducing a fraction. A common interest is constituted by the composition of these multitudes into a group. And this is a process of political practice.

White supremacy is the phenomenon whereby the plurality of interests of a group of people is reorganized into the fiction of a white race, whose very existence is predicated on the violent and genocidal history of the oppression of people of color. The self-organized struggles of oppressed people against white supremacy managed to significantly undermine, though not eliminate, this kind of organization. The likes of Trump, Steve Bannon, Richard Spencer, and Milo Yiannopoulos now attempt to restore its earlier strength.

Those of us who seek to change the world will have to fight against this effort, and this will require us to put forward an organization of resistance — one which collectively constitutes a common interest.

This common interest is beginning to take shape as the opposition to Trump. But it must be built further than that, to an opposition to the whole capitalist system. Because it is the structure of the capitalist system which prevents all people who are dispossessed of the means of production, regardless of their identities, from having control over their own lives, and thus from pursuing whatever interests they may have in all their particularity. Monsters like Trump only bring this ongoing tyranny of capital to the surface.

To merely criticize the composition of a political meeting is a defeatist practice. Yes, any anti-capitalist organization must reach out to the most disenfranchised and marginalized of our population. Yes, it is unacceptable if they are unable to speak for themselves.

But what is most important of all is that you are there, whoever you are. What is important is that in a society which steals our free time, leeches our energy, and crushes any hope for an alternative, you have decided to commit yourself to the revolutionary possibility of that alternative.

Guilt is a sad, passive emotion. Its foundation is the wish that the past was different, and the failure to recognize the possibility of acting to change the future.

It is crucial for all socialist organizations, which today find themselves experiencing rapid growth, to formulate means of incorporating the excluded, in all their forms. The current composition of many of our organizations is a result of our lack of a social base — it’s a problem that we must overcome through organizing. But this will mean going beyond guilt and constructing ways to meet the needs unfulfilled in capitalist society, and the means of asserting popular power.

You showed up. You are at a meeting. Your presence is an indication that it is possible to initiate the process of change. Do not allow yourself to be intimidated by guilt. Instead, sharpen your analysis and enhance your organization, until your ranks grow so large as to include everyone.

Jacobin: our next issue, “Journey to the Dark Side,” is out now. Subscribe for the first time at a discount.

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Brenda Sanders RIP

January 13, 2017 at 11:34 am (good people, posted by JD, RIP, Unite the union, women, workers)

Brenda Sanders

Above: Brenda

From Martin Mayer:

It is with great sadness that I have to report the death of Brenda Sanders, our first and only woman Chair of the T&G Executive Council. She died in hospital on Saturday after being poorly for some time.

Brenda was a calm and firm woman with strong convictions and steely determination, very often under-estimated by those who did not know her well. She was at the head of the T&G Executive Council in its final period of existence prior to the historic merger with AMICUS to form UNITE in 2008. This was a tense and difficult time for the Executive members as the merger plans developed. She always ensured that the views and concerns of T&G Executive Council members were heard by both General Secretaries – even when that was unpopular!

Brenda was proud and honoured to be the first woman Chair of the union’s Executive Council. It marked a very important stage in T&G women’s fight for equality in our union. She was certainly a credit to her T&G sisters who helped to create some of the most progressive equalities structures in any union.

Brenda we remember you with immense pride and a great deal of sadness.

Martin Mayer
Chair United Left

The Funeral will take place on the 26th January at 1.30pm, at St Hillary’s Church, Wallasey Village
then 2.30pm at Landican Cemetery

It will only be family flowers. Contributions can be made to a charity – to be confirmed.

Cards and letters of condolence are to be sent to:

10 Primrose Grove
Wallasey
CH44 7AS

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Evans case shows victims still blamed for rape

October 22, 2016 at 9:25 am (celebrity, crime, Feminism, Human rights, law, misogyny, women)

By Elizabeth Butterworth (this article also appears in Solidarity and the Workers Liberty website)

Last week, the footballer Ched Evans was cleared of rape after appealing against his 2012 conviction. This does not mean that he did not rape victim X, or has “proved his innocence”, but that the jury had “reasonable doubt” about whether he had raped X or if she had consented to sex.

Reports of the trial’s proceedings suggest that the events were as such: X was engaged in sexual activity with Clayton McDonald, another professional footballer, who was acquitted of rape in the original trial. Evans then proceeded to have sex with X without having spoken to her, while Evans’s younger brother looked on from a window.

X has testified that she cannot remember any of these events due to being too drunk. Evans’s lawyers claimed that she had “directed” events by saying things like “fuck me harder”. The evidence in this re-trial apparently hinged on the testimony of two men who had had sex with the victim on other occasions, and attested that she had said similar things to them as what Evans had claimed in the original trial.

It is difficult to “prove” rape, in terms of being able to show a jury that the victim was not consenting and the defendant was aware that (s)he could not or did not consent, which is what this case rested upon. However, it is difficult to see why the Court of Appeal deemed that this evidence was compelling enough for a re-trial.

It is worrying that the victim’s sexual history was brought into the trial. The implication is obvious: that, because she’d had casual sex or drunken sex on other occasions and said things that suggested she liked having sex, it was simply a case of her having done that again. Which raises the question, do women need to police themselves to the point of not being able to have casual sex or not being able to drink, in order for men not to rape us? To which the answer is, no, men should know to leave drunk women alone and that each time someone has sex, consent must be sought first.

What I’ve read about the Ched Evans case from the perspective of criminal lawyers does not suggest wide legal implications in terms of setting new precedent. This trial, and other rape trials where there is some level of “victim blaming”, do set a cultural tone, however. In the Daily Star, their columnist Helen Wood rants, “These silly bitches who need a good slap of reality should stop and think…

“We’re all meant to get our violins out because they’ve had to change their names five times, if she’s stuck on a new name for in future, C*** would be a good one…. Hope this case has set a lesson for all the ladies out there trying to scar people for a dollar, if you drop your kecks, deal with the walk of shame, quit trying to frame.”

X has had to change her name five times and is, according to some sources, considering moving abroad due to the harassment and abuse she has suffered both on and off-line. The abuse, like Wood’s disgusting tirade (which, let’s not forget, was published by a newspaper with about 430,000 readers), centres around X being labelled a slut, a bitch, money-hungry and a liar: all classic misogynist tropes.

The simple fact is that pretty much every woman I know has been a victim of sexual assault or rape. And has been sexually harassed countless times.

I’ve reported being assaulted to the police and had to deal with total incompetence, inertia and non-existence of resources. I went to the police after a friend was assaulted with a knife and, after hours of painful interviews, the assailant was slapped with a fifty quid fine and no criminal record. I’ve been raped, twice, by two different boyfriends. I’ve also walked down the street and been grabbed. When I shrank away and asked them to leave me alone, I was followed and called a bitch and a cunt. I’ve changed my mind and not gone through with sex, at which point the man I was seeing got extremely aggressive and I had to literally run away.

In fact, any time I have challenged men — even “nice men” — over their behaviour, they become aggressive and sometimes violent. They believe they are entitled to make lecherous comments, to look up women’s skirts, to stare down our tops and to intimidate us. And despite having had relationships with both men and women, and having been dancing in many gay clubs as well as straight, I’ve only once felt that a woman was going “too far”. The hundreds of other times have all been men.

We have a huge problem of misogyny in society. I mean actual women-hating, not just sexism. What else is it when you don’t think someone has a right to ownership over their own body and what happens to it? This is perpetrated by lots of men, who seek to show their dominance, and exert power.

And it is backed up by the internal misogyny of women like Helen Wood, who try to differentiate their womanhood from that of the “silly bitches”.

Rape is on the books as a crime. And the word and idea of “rape” is sensationalised. Yet, the reality of women’s lives is that rape is pretty “normal” and common. And due to the inertia of the police, the brutality of the courts system and the cultural bias of juries, many of us don’t see the point of reporting, let alone pursuing the case and taking rapists to court.

The victim in the Ched Evans case is my hero for reporting and taking the case to court. In the end, Evans may have been cleared, but at least this has drawn attention to the very real problems we face as a society.

Until the women are free, the people cannot be free. Until men realise that women need to be empowered at every level, we will not be successful as a movement or as a class.

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Why Sara Khan should Inspire us all

September 27, 2016 at 7:18 am (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, child abuse, Feminism, Human rights, Islam, islamism, left, misogyny, posted by JD, religion, Slavery, terror, women)

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LOUISE RAW writes on the lessons to be learnt from the feminist and anti-extremist campaigner’s new book, The Battle for British Islam. This article first appeared in the Morning Star and is republished with Louise’s permission:


SARA Khan is as fascinating a figure as she is polarising. A fiercely intelligent woman, she is glamorous and charismatic but also an “ordinary” overworked thirty-something Mum of two who organises meetings around the school run. Debrett’s last year listed her as one of the 500 most influential people in Britain.

Her work defending women and opposing extremism has — as is depressingly the way of things these days — attracted as much abuse as it has accolades.

You don’t, I hope, need me to tell you that being a woman with a public opinion, always a dangerous business, has become more so with the advent of social media.

Those people who might once have shouted “Bitch!” at the telly and left it at that now can and often do go much further.
Khan is a particular lightning rod, as a Muslim who opposes Islamism — by which she means the politicisation of Islam, which she believes to be directly antipathetic to the religion’s tenets — as well as Islamophobia, and will work with the government on both.

If that wasn’t enough, she is also a feminist who is unafraid to call out abuses against women in her religion and anyone else’s. Cue the sound of a thousand internet trolls rushing to their keyboards, steam pouring from their ears.

Khan has had to involve police in threats against her, and to consider her security arrangements.

What is particularly frustrating and pertinent to Star readers is that she’s been attacked by the left as much as the right, and by other feminists.

Khan talks little about the impact of her work on her life, and complains even less. She is careful not to centre herself, but the suffering of her Muslim sisters, in interviews.

This made certain lines in the introduction of her new book, The Battle for British Islam, stand out for me all the more.

Khan co-founded Inspire, the anti-Islamist charity with a particular focus on women, and for many years ran it as a kitchen table enterprise from her home. She assumed those on the left would be natural allies and supporters.

What she found instead was what she calls a “painful rejection.” She has been called a sell-out and an informant.

And within her own religion, she and her young children have been condemned as apostates. Despite remaining a Muslim, she’s been repeatedly called an Islamophobe.

I can corroborate the latter. Khan was a speaker at the 2014 Matchwomen’s Festival, and was angrily accused of “whipping up Islamaphobia” in the Q and A that followed.

Khan’s defence was spirited, though when I spoke to her afterwards she was unflustered, I suppose because she is so used to it.

Both as a feminist and the person who’d invited her to speak, I found it mortifying.

Criticism is valid, but the intemperate rejection of a Muslim woman’s viewpoint, and by white British women, seemed to me problematic.

I felt that those who intended to support Muslims by challenging her risked, ironically, sounding rather imperial: “The white people have decided you’re not a proper Muslim!”  Disappointingly, it also derailed the discussion between Khan and the majority of audience members who were enthusiastic at the chance to hear from a Muslim woman who was willing to advise on so many issues, including how to engage with Muslim students without pandering to either Islamism or Islamophobia.

That kind of open dialogue is rare, for many reasons.

Even more discombobulatingly, I know and like both of Khan’s critics and respect their views on feminism in general.

The complexities of the experience opened my eyes to the political minefield Khan herself walks through every day of her campaigning life.  She has attracted even more flak for her support for the notorious Prevent programme, established in the wake of 9/11 to tackle radicalisation in the UK.

Again, activists within the NUS and NUT have what seem like valid criticisms of the way the programme operates, both in its original and relaunched forms.

Khan argues in her book, however, that much of the criticism is ill-founded and based on media distortions, or deliberately orchestrated by Islamist groups.

In evidence she breaks down the infamous “terrorist house” incident, in which a schoolboy was supposedly referred to Prevent in December 2015 because he misspelt “terraced” in an essay describing his home and family life.

On the face of it, a great story illustrating laughably out-of-touch and heavy-handed jobsworths doing more harm than good. In fact, the story has been completely debunked — but this scarcely made the press. The boy in question was never referred to Prevent, but to Child Services, because he had written about the violence he experienced at home, including the piteous line: “I hate when my uncle beats me.”

Reading Khan’s book, it’s impossible to feel that determined response to those who would and do radicalise British children isn’t needed. She points out that in some areas, the majority of Prevent referrals are in fact over far-right extremism.

As ever, women are particularly vulnerable, bearing the brunt of anti-Muslim attacks, and targeted by Islamists online.

Khan’s book opens with the story of Muneera, a schoolgirl whose mother became ill when she was 13.

As a result, Muneera spent more time left to her own devices, and found online stories about Isis — she’d never previously heard of the organisation.
She tweeted an interest in them and was astonished by the response.

She was immediately “love-bombed” by waves of seemingly like-minded, supportive new friends, girls and boys her own age, who were either curious too, or eager to tell her more about the wonderful world she could inhabit if she joined Isis.

She later described the lies she was told in words that touchingly evoke the young girl that she was: it would be an “Islamic Disneyland,” where she could “live like a princess.”

One of her new friends was a 14-year-old boy later convicted of inciting others to commit terrorist acts. An extraordinary character apparently obsessed with extreme violence, his own classmates called him “the terrorist,” and didn’t think he was joking when he talked about cutting off their teachers’ heads.

The reality for girls who do join Isis is, of course, not paradise but a hell of brutality and misogyny.

Khan quotes one nauseating line from the handbook given to Isis fighters concerning the slave women and girls given to them to rape —  literally bought and sold in slave auctions: “It is permitted to have intercourse with a female slave who hasn’t reached puberty.”

Had Muneera reached Isis, her passport would have been burned and she would have been married to a fighter.  She didn’t get that far and today believes Channel, the arm of Prevent that works to help children like her before they have committed any offence, saved her.

She is angry about the way she was deceived and the time stolen from her childhood as she worked to get her life back on track.

The great value of Khan’s book is as a guide for the perplexed, taking the reader clearly and in readable fashion through the rise of Islamism and Salafism, and delineating the point at which she feels the left took a wrong term on Islamism.

She cites an influential 1994 pamphlet written by Chris Harman of the SWP urging Marxists to enter a form of scorpion dance with Islamism and not reject it outright as a form of fascism.

In spite of appearances and its hatred of the left, women’s rights and secularism, Islamism (argued Harman) was not akin to nazism but more like Argentinian Peronism.

We all saw this play out as a predictable disaster, not least because it was founded on the risky assumption that the leading partner in the “dance” would be the left and not Islamists: “[In] an almost patronising way, it was assumed that the poor, oppressed Muslims could be steered by degrees from Islamism to socialism,” says Khan.

It didn’t work, it was never going to work, and it should never have been tried given the complete betrayal of women necessary to stomach, let alone support, Islamist extremism.

Khan’s book is an eloquent and necessary exposition of the state we’re currently in, and a plea for understanding and unity in the fight against extremism — whether it’s the far-right or Islamism which is so against our interests, and should be so alien to socialism done properly. It is essential reading for feminists and lefties — who should, of course, always be one and the same.

Sara Khan is the Director of Inspire, http://www.wewillinspire.com, and author of ‘The Battle for British Islam: Reclaiming Muslim Identity from Extremism’ (Saqi Books, 2016)  

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The nasty strain of misogyny running through the obsession with Hillary Clinton’s health

September 13, 2016 at 4:03 pm (Democratic Party, elections, misogyny, United States, women)

Coughin Hillary

By TR Peterson

Though people may not like it being said, there is a nasty strain of misogyny running through the obsession with Hillary’s physical well being. As women we are taught by society to dislike our bodies. We are taught to think our monthly bleeding that makes life itself possible is shameful and not to be spoken of and is generally a bloody mess that is best forgotten. We we taught that our sexuality should be minimized, that our voices are too loud and that our bodies need to be “corrected” through various types of surgery to have worth.

We are taught that we are irrational, uncontrollable creatures at least once every month. We are taught that older women’s bodies have no value in society and are merely used up vessels that once produced another human being but are now to be subject to ridicule because of the scars from that beautiful battle to create life. We are taught that once a woman’s body has passed a certain age her value ceases to exist regardless of her mental prowess or intelligence.

I think this would happen to any woman that was anywhere near the presidency regardless of party, and in fact there was a good deal of it from some pro-Bernie people in the primaries. The contrast in this election is stark though. Trump presents himself as the sexually active older man who has “no problem” in that department whereas Hillary is painted as a sick, weak useless old menopausal “Grandma”. Never mind that he is older than she is.

Many of Trump’s supporters (and Bernie supporters who jumped on calling for his return to replace her) were happy and even gleeful that she got pneumonia because it confirms their view of the inherent weakness of women for the position of the presidency. Virility is strength. Masculinity is strength. Femininity and a woman past her “useful” childbearing years is weakness. And we can’t have weakness in a Commander in Chief now can we?

As a young woman who worked in factory jobs dominated by men I understand another dynamic at work here, and that is “playing through the pain” even if you are in a lot of pain, because you don’t want to give them an excuse to be proven right: that you can’t do the job as well as they can. You may pull a muscle lifting something but you don’t mention it because you know that it will be used against you and any other woman thereafter that has that job. I suspect that like a lot of women I empathized with Hillary going out and doing it anyway despite feeling awful, for fear of projecting supposed weakness when she is going for a job no woman has held before. I am not so sure that in the end her fall and the nasty response will hurt her and may actually have done a better job of humanizing her than any talking point could have.

I don’t expect everyone to like Clinton or vote for her but please at least be aware of the underlying dynamics going on here. Presidential campaigns don’t exist in a vacuum, and neither do presidential candidates.

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