Afghan law to silence victims of domestic violence


The small but significant change to Afghanistan‘s criminal prosecution code bans relatives of an accused person from testifying against them. Most violence against women in Afghanistan is within the family, so the law – passed by parliament but awaiting the signature of the president, Hamid Karzai – will effectively silence victims as well as most potential witnesses to their suffering.


Let’s hope it doesn’t get signed.   (Thanks, R!)

Obama launches White House initiative focused on college sexual assault

Obama gave his task force 90 days to recommend best practices for colleges to prevent or respond to assaults, and to check that they are complying with existing legal obligations. The task force — which includes the attorney general and the secretaries of the Education, Health and Human Services and Interior Departments — was also asked for proposals to raise awareness of colleges’ records regarding assaults and officials’ responses, and to see that federal agencies get involved when officials do not confront problems on their campuses.

Read more about it here.

UK Jury endorses police killing of unarmed black man

The family of Mark Duggan, whose death in Tottenham sparked the 2011 riots across England, were left devastated as an inquest jury decided he was not holding a gun when shot by police, but nevertheless found the marksman’s decision to open fire was lawful…

The lawful killing verdict was a surprise to some even on the police side, and more so as before announcing the decision, the jury had announced by an eight-to-two majority that they were sure Duggan did not have a gun in his hand when shot.

That had seemed to be the issue at the heart of the inquest.

The jury delivered a narrative verdict, answering a series of questions. It had appeared that the six days of deliberations were going to produce a disaster for the Metropolitan police when the jury found law enforcement had not done enough to gather and react to intelligence Duggan may be seeking to acquire a gun.

Instead the jury announced that by an eight-to-two majority they believed the firearms officer had acted lawfully in gunning Duggan down.

December 6, 1989 — letter from a Canadian woman abroad

Today, December 6, Canadians mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action On Violence Against Women.

The date has its origins in the so-called “Montréal Massacre.” On December 6, 1989, a man armed with a Mini-14 rifle and a hunting knife walked into a classroom at Montréal’s l’École Polytechnique, ordered the male students to leave, and then turned his gun on the women. Before he began shooting, the assailant shouted, “You’re all a bunch of feminists, and I hate feminists!” After shooting the women in the classroom, he headed to the corridors, where he continued to shoot women. By the time he turned the gun on himself, he had killed fourteen women and injured ten more. The event galvanized Canadians and became a powerful force in the Canadian gun control movement, ultimately eventuating in the national long-gun registry (since dismantled by the current Conservative government).

I have quite intentionally omitted from the foregoing account the names of both the shooter and his victims. Regarding the former, one criticism that is often raised of accounts of December 6, 1989 is that in these accounts the shooter’s name rings over and over, giving him a fame he does not deserve. I have omitted his victim’s names because over the years many of their families have expressed a wish that their daughters be remembered for their lives, not for their deaths.

Nonetheless, one of the things that will be happening today at campuses across Canada will be solemn vigils at which candles are lit as, one after another, the victim’s names are read. I’m not opposed to this. I attend such an event every year, and, as each name is read, try to imagine the women alive – smart, curious, quirky, stubborn, weak, strong, tawny, freckled. I think to myself, as my friend Michele last year on Facebook reminded us all to do, about what wonderful things they would have done.

Every campus marks this day differently. Most, but not all, campuses have the candlelight vigil I’ve just described. Some campuses have talks and events intended to educate participants about gender-based violence, broadly conceived, and to advocate for change. At other campuses, Engineering programs offer workshops and lectures intended to support women in Engineering.

The day is meaningful not only for universities but for individual Canadians, especially (but not only) Canadian university women. As the day goes on, if previous years are any indication, one by one of my Facebook friends will log on to list the names of the victims, or to change their profile pictures to that of a single candle or a single red rose. We all have different reasons for finding the day meaningful. For me, one reason (but certainly not the only one) is my generation.

I was in the first semester of my undergrad, just finished lectures for the year and in the midst of exams, when the massacre occurred. I cannot think of my first year of university without thinking about this systematic murder of young women for being women. (The shooter called them feminists, but not all of them were. Indeed, one of his victims protested that she wasn’t a feminist. No feminist scholar who has taught at the undergraduate level would be optimistic enough to assume that all of the women in a class were feminists. The killer may have thought that his victims were feminist, but ultimately what put them in his rifle sight wasn’t their feminism but the fact that, feminist or not, they were women.) Imagine what it is like to be a woman unable to recall your undergraduate years without recalling that woman students like you were murdered solely because they were women. This experience — this cloud always casting its shadow — is, alas, one that Canadian university women of my generation have in common.

I am overseas on sabbatical this year, and hence, for the first time in years, will not be able to take part in a December 6 memorial. To those of you on a Canadian campus today, I say, put aside your grading for half an hour and join your colleagues and students as they stand together against gender-based violence. Others, in Canada and elsewhere, may wish to learn more about this year’s UN-sponsored 16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence. This website is a great place to start.

Forum on Women, Drinking, and Rape

Many of you may have read Emily Yoffe’s advice to young women that they should stop binge drinking to prevent rape, for which she was roundly criticized. The New York Times has a ‘Room for Debate‘ forum up on the subject, and it features the ever-brilliant Louise Antony on what’s wrong with telling women not to get drunk as a method of rape prevention:

But the special risk that drunkenness poses to women – that’s due to a social climate that tolerates sexual predation. When we tell young women to stay sober in order to avoid getting raped, we send the message that we do not intend to change that social climate, that we have chosen to regard misogyny as inevitable.

That’s the message that is sent when we tell women to restrain “pleasure-seeking behaviors” in order to avoid life’s dangers. When men get drunk they get sick; when women get drunk they get sick and raped. That’s not because women are less restrained in their “pleasure-seeking” than men are; it’s quite the reverse. And that’s what needs to change.

Read the whole of her contribution here.

Where’s the line on street harassment?

Soraya Chemaly argues that violence is a natural end-result of the same principles which operate in what we ordinarily refer to as street harassment:

Earlier this week a man in a car pulled up next to a 14-year old girl on a street in Florida and offered to pay her $200 to have sex with him.  [. . .] The girl said no. So what does this guy do? He reaches out, drags her, by her hair, into his car, chokes her until she blacks out, tosses her out of the car and then, not done yet, he runs her over several times.  Bystanders watched the entire episode in shock. He almost killed her, but she lived and ID’d him in a line up and he’s been arrested and charged with Attempted Murder, Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon and False Imprisonment.  What was the Deadly Weapon referred to in the charge I wonder? Given our normatively male understanding interpretation of what is threatening, does a man pulling up to a girl like this and talking to her in this way constitute imminent harm?

This was an incident of street harassment taken to extremes.

You’re thinking,  “He’s crazy! You can’t possibly put what he did in the same category as street harassment!”  Yes, I can.

He stopped and talked to a girl he did not know and he told her what he thought and what he wanted her to do.  Clearly, he felt this was okay, or he wouldn’t have done it. This isn’t insanity, it’s entitlement. This is, in principle, the same as men who say, “Smile,” “Want a ride?” “Suck on this” and on and on and on.  And, that’s all before the public groping that might ensue.

OK. No big deal I’ve been told.  But, he went further, as is often the case.  When she said no, he just took her.  He crossed a red line that seriously needs to be moved.  “Taking someone” should not be the “red line” for public incivility and safe access to public space.

You can read the whole piece here on the HuffPo Blog.  About a year ago or so, I went to the store — I pulled into the parking lot, and I noticed that in the space next to me, a man was sitting in his car. When I came out of the store, he was still there — except now, he was masturbating. In his car. In broad daylight. He smiled and waived at me. I called the police about it, but effectively, they do didn’t do anything (when the police came, he wasn’t doing it anymore, and by the time I requested specifically that the police allow me to file a witness report or press charges, they had already let him go without taking his name or any information, so there was no one to press charges against). Certainly this experience is no where near the sorts of extreme cases mentioned in Chemaly’s piece, but I have wondered since, if this is the sort of thing that’s effectively permissible in public space, where is the line? When I voice discomfort over my inability to go to certain gas stations without being cat-called, hit-on, etc., my less fervently feminist acquaintances think I’m being over-sensitive, or give me the usual “You ought to take that as a compliment” (which I think is a ridiculous response for a million reasons that are probably obvious to all of our readers) and yet, my run in with the public-masturbator seemed like it ought to be a predictable escalation of that same sense of entitlement to women’s bodies.

Is physical violence likewise on that same spectrum?

Time to get serious about white culture of violence

They’d like to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that all white children are as sweet and harmless as Taylor Swift. But the reality is that the statistics tell a different story. For instance, according to research from the Department of Justice, 84 percent of white murder victims are killed by other white people [PDF]. Similarly, white rape victims tend to be raped by other whites [PDF]. White-on-white violence is a menace to white communities across the country, and yet you never hear white leaders like Pastor Joel Osteen, Bill O’Reilly, or Hillary Clinton take a firm stance against the scourge.

For more, go here.

More fun news about people you can shoot in the US

From Think Progress:

A Texas jury acquitted a man for the murder of a woman he hired as an escort, after his lawyers claimed he was authorized to use deadly force because she refused sex.

Ezekiel Gilbert shot Lenora Ivie Frago in the neck on Christmas Eve, after she denied his requests for sex and wouldn’t return the $150 he had paid her, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Under Texas law, an individual is authorized to use deadly force to “retrieve stolen property at night,” and Gilbert’s lawyers cited that provision as justification for Gilbert’s action, reasoning that Frago had stolen $150 from him by taking his money without delivering sex. In a police interview played for jurors, Gilbert “never mentioned anything about theft,” a detective told the San Antonio Express-News. Frago, who was 21, was critically injured and died several months later.

That’s it. If anyone needs me I’ll be hiding under my bed with a stack of comic books trying not to read anything on the internet ever again. Because actual news is just too damn depressing.

“Real men objectify women with dignity and decorum”

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a post up about eviction, masculinity, power, class, and violence.  Near the end he throws in a line about objectification, after observing that the men who cat-call women on the streets tend to be those without a certain kind of power:

Real men objectify women with dignity and decorum.

From the comments (which are often worth reading on his column):

Samquilla: “Real men” objectify women by polite head-patting such as deciding not to hire them for certain positions, not paying attention to their thoughts and ideas, etc., not by yelling cat calls in the streets. That is the province of men who don’t have the power to objectify in a less visible and more socially sanctioned way.

Ta-Nehisi Coates: The point I am driving at is that profane exhibitions of power–rioting for instance–are not exhibitions of lower morality. The morality isn’t in the exhibition, it’s in the actual belief. Men who cat-call are not men with less morality then men who don’t, they are–more often–men with the same morality, but with less power. […] My point is we often mistake the display of power for a display of morality.