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Archive for the ‘Violence Against Women’ Category

Hello bloggers,

I thought I’d reproduce for you here the note I sent out to my friends and family to mark International Women’s Day this year.

Things with me are alright. thanks to those of you who have emailed to day hello — it’s always good to hear from you.

Best,

TG

Dear friends and family,

today marks International Women’s Day!  It’s a day of worldwide celebration for the achievements women have made, recognition of the difficulties and challenges women still face daily, and recommitment to fighting gender-based discrimination through the promotion of women’s substantive equality.

I encourage you today to reflect on the sacrifices women have made over the years in order to further women’s political and social equality in the face of much resistance from society at large that believes women should know their place, that women are naturally inferior to men, that women already have enough equality.

Here in Canada, there is still much to be done to further women’s equality.

  • Aboriginal women still don’t have equality in their communities in terms of property rights and representation in the governance of their communities, and are at a highly disproportionate risk of becoming victims of domestic and sexual assault. Before European colonizers arrived in Canada, Aboriginal societies were gender-egalitarian — meaning that our Canadian government has created this gendered hierarchy in Aboriginal communities with such measures as Indian Residential Schools and the Indian Act, which prevented Aboriginal women from holding land, voting in their band’s elections, taking away their status if they married a non-Aboriginal man, and preventing both Aboriginal women and men from learning their cultural traditions and languages to pass on to their children.
  • Access to abortion services in Canada are measly and inadequate. Women often incur travel costs to get from their small rural/isolated Northern communities to larger urban centres to access abortion services, taking time off work and often necessitating child-care services; most often, these expenses are not reimbursed by our health care system (there is a small travel budget for Northern women). Women in Prince Edward Island have to travel outside their province to access abortion services in Halifax; there are 0 abortion providers in PEI. Women in New Brunswick have to obtain letters of referral from 2 separate doctors stating that an abortion is “medically necessary” in order to access abortion services at the 1 hospital in the province that provides them. Women who need timely access to abortion services (which is in their best health interests) often have to pay out of pocket for abortion services at private clinics because the wait time to access services in a hospital setting is too long. Despite that abortion is not illegal in Canada, and that our government’s health care policy holds as one of its 5 pillars “accessibility,” Canadian women still face challenges in accessing abortion services – including vilification by many conservative and religious groups.
  • Women are still being sold into slavery in this country in the form of trafficked persons. 80% of all trafficked persons are women, who are forced into domestic and/or sexual exploitation once they arrive in their destination country. Here in Canada, statistics estimate that about 800 women are trafficked to Canada every year. Canada only took a legislative stand against human trafficking in 2006, after the release of a highly embarrassing report exposing our government’s complete negligence on the issue. Since then, 10 cases of human trafficking have been opened. These women are going largely unnoticed through our borders and in our communities, and they need help.
  • in Canada, the gap is widening between the rich and the poor, despite that Canada’s economy is soaring – our economy is the fastest growing in the G-8. A quarter million people in Canada are homeless, 1.7 million households live on less than $16,400 USD a year, and the majority of these are households run by single women. 5.5 million live on less than $8200 a year (24% of all tax filers), and again, the majority of these are women. As our Employment Insurance program is sitting on a billion dollar surplus, only 3 out of 10 unemployed women are eligible for benefits according to current criteria, which disadvantage workers with part-time or irregular hours, which, again, are mostly women, thanks to society’s expectation that women are the primary care-givers for children and the elderly. Social programs are increasingly out of reach for the poor due to reduced spending in the service of increasing Canada’s GDP – in fact, it appears as though one of the primary reasons for Canada’s economic success (GDP has increased 55% in the last 10 years) is BECAUSE of social program funding cuts, meaning the economic success of this country is dependent on the poverty of women.
  • Lesbian women are still suffering widespread discrimination in Canadian society, and face legal barriers to being able to care for their partners during end-of-life situations and inheriting property from their partners – even homes that they have been living in for decades. these situations are deeply painful, as the families of these women’s life-partners swoop in and take away every evidence that their daughters were gay and had partnerships with other women.
  • Transsexual and transgendered women face unique barriers to equality. Sex reassignment surgery is under or non-funded by the Canadian health care system, and ancillary services to allow for greater integration into their physical gender are completely outside funding. Pre-surgery transsexual women often turn to prostitution in order to fund their surgical and aesthetic interventions, and when in prison are placed in male detention facilities and have difficulty obtaining the hormonal therapy needed to maintain the process of transformation.  In order to have any government funded access to sex reassignment surgery, which costs tens of thousands of dollars, they must go through psychological counselling and live for a year as a woman, despite being considered legally and physically a man.These women face deep misunderstanding by society and are highly vulnerable to homophobic and transphobic male violence.

These are only some of the problems affecting women in Canada. Immigrant and refugee women, sex workers, (dis)abled women, and women of colour all face significant and specific kinds of barriers to equality. Federally, the slashed funding to Status of Women Canada means awareness about women’s issues in Canada is waning, and the cancellation of the Court Challenges Program and the courts’ aversion to allowing equality groups to intervene in cases involving women’s issues means women’s equality is not being adequately advocated in our justice system. Our beloved Charter of Rights and Freedoms is being interpreted and applied by our courts in such a way as to limit rather than protect and enhance women’s equality.

There are different problems affecting women in other parts of the world. Women are raped en masse as part of genocidal wars in Congo. Girl children as young as 8 are married off in India. Girls as young as 4 are subject to female genital cutting in northern Africa. Women are displaced in the Sudan. Women and girls are not permitted to go to school in Afghanistan. Women aren’t even allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. Girl children are abandoned in China. Women are forcibly sterilized in Tibet. Women are being denied access to contraception worldwide through USAID and PEPFAR, and have no way to prevent unwanted pregnancies, even when they know they risk transmitting HIV to their fetuses.

It’s pretty obvious that there is still much work to be done, both at home and abroad, to gain full equality for women. this International Women’s Day, I’m thinking about what I can do to help. I believe women are not second-class citizens. I believe women do not deserve 15, 25, 50, or 65% equality. I believe women deserve 100% equality, no matter where they live or what barriers they face.  Today, I recognize the courage and dedication of women who have been fighting this struggle since before I was born, since before my mother was born, and I am deeply honoured and grateful for the important progress they have made on my behalf. Today, I rededicate myself to continuing this struggle, for myself, for my sisters, for my mother, for my aunts, for my cousins, for my friends, and for all of our daughters.

to the women in my life — I celebrate you today! You are, quite literally, the reason I do what I do. Thank you for your inspiration and courage.

to the men in my life — I look for you to be partners in the fight for women’s equality. This takes some strength, but I know you’re up for the challenge.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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I had the opportunity a couple weeks ago to attend a session held by a local anti-trafficking group, during which I heard the most wonderful speaker, Benjamin Santamaria. He spoke less about what his organization does, and more about the issue overall, and the culture under which this problem has been permitted to flourish.

Human trafficking is a terrible problem; it’s hard to know how many people are trafficked every year, but women and children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking for sex as well as domestic slavery. Victims generally are stolen or sold from less developed nations and taken to wealthy western countries for these purposes, or are held within their own country or a neighbouring country and used by wealthy westerners who come to less developed countries for the purposes of sex tourism. It seems a lot of trafficked persons have family situations that make them vulnerable, from extreme poverty to abuse to orphanism. These are often people that are vulnerable because nobody is looking for them; they are disappeared and nobody knows.

Ben talked a lot about white western culture as a culture of domination. [this particularly incensed the young woman I was attending the talk with, for typical white liberal “white people shouldn’t have to feel guilty for what our ancestors did” reasons, but that’s not really what I want to talk about just yet; please keep it in mind for later, however.] He spoke of “white is right” attitudes, about how white settlers on this continent felt they conquered the indigenous populations who were already here (they didn’t), and that gave them the right to [attempt to] obliterate indigenous culture, language, and spirituality, replacing them with the laws, language, and religion of the white homeland (didn’t do that, either, but not for lack of trying – for the indomitable spirit of indigenous peoples). He spoke about the continuation of those attitudes in the here and now, and the richness that is missed by shutting ourselves off from learning from other cultures. He spoke about a lack of sprituality the dominance of religion can bring. He spoke about the soullessness of capitalism, the attitude that everything can and should be commodified – even human beings, human lives.

but, while this is a large problem that takes place at a societal level, Ben was careful to offer a solution. He expressed that the solution of public policies and international treaties was important, but that the underlying attitudes of individual people are what will really matter most.

hold on.

We spend a lot of time here and on other forums talking about patriarchy, white supremacy, heteronormativity, capitalism as being overarching structures, a “culture not a conspiracy.” We say, “we’re not talking about YOU as an individual; we’re talking about your default position within relations of power that are larger than just you, don’t take it personally, try to see yourself and your position as one within the matrix.”

Well, it hit home to me, listening to Ben speak, that this is true, but it also isn’t the end of the story.

Going back to how the woman I was sitting with was infuriated by Ben’s slam against white culture. She was completely and utterly pissed off by this, ranted on afterward about how white people have a culture too, and it’s just as important as other cultures, and how other cultures can’t be so great really because after all, look at how they treat their women. [yup, seriously. this is a woman who has done a lot of international development work. just goes to show you, I guess…]

I felt none of that righteous anger toward him for saying such things. I was nodding along with him! I wasn’t offended by anything he said about white people at all! Why is that? I thought about it for a while. At first, I just felt like, “well, he’s not talking about ME.” Not in a pin-a-rose-on-my-nose, I’m-not-a-racist way, but more in a culture-not-conspiracy kind of way. but then, that wasn’t quite it, either.

What Ben was talking about was individual responsibility. He was talking about how these attitudes are ingrained in the fabric of our society, but that we are individually responsible to and capable of unravelling ourselves from that fabric. He described a lot of things that we could do, individually, to change how we felt and believed some of the underlying attitudes that make human trafficking possible, that make it possible for people to be bought and sold on a global marketplace and used like they mean nothing.

He spoke about spirituality – not religion, not dogma, but spirituality. Belief that everyone has a soul, a spirit, a spiritual life that needs nourishment, that needs fulfilment. He spoke about sexism, and how men must not force women to do or be what we don’t want to do or be, but allow us to develop into our own beings, support us, get the hell out of our way. He talked about the mistreatment of the animals we use, from labour to entertainment to food. He talked about racism, and the belief held so dear by so many that white culture is dominant because it is superior. He spoke about capitalism, the commodification of everything under the sun – the land, the water, the sun itself – and how screwed up that is, because the earth is for everyone, it can nourish all of us, and yet we scramble to get our little tiny piece of it all for ourselves. He spoke about not buying these things, not buying into the capitalism matrix, not buying goods from countries where humans are trafficked, not watching TV, not watching CNN.

And you know? yeah. I felt myself nodding, moved by this message. YES! We are, individually, responsible for the attitudes and beliefs that we hold. We can only, ourselves, change those attitudes and beliefs. And that is the difference. When we work to achieve attitudes of love for others, of spirituality, of equality, of harmony with the world around us – that is when the guilt fades, that is when the righteous anger dissipates.

I know I’m not perfect. I know that my placement within the social stratification system of this country, this culture, gives me unearned privileges that I can’t exactly back out of. But. I know that I am trying. I know that in my heart, I am moving from those negative, overarching, dominant and dominating atittudes, maybe a little everyday, as an individual person. And so, I know he wasn’t talking about ME.

I say this not to hold myself up as a shining example of light, or for congratulatory backslaps and praise. I say this because it clicked a little deeper for me that day.

We ARE individually responsible, within this culture of domination. We must be HELD individually responsible for atrocities that happen to others, because OUR ATTITUDES OF DOMINATION have led to, have supported, have made possible, those atrocities. It’s not about guilt. It’s about movement. It’s about change. It’s about evolution. It’s about revolution.

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just got in the door from an evening out with some new friends from school. on the way from the streetcar stop to my corner, all of a two minute walk, I experienced some street harassment. guy crossed the street and followed me in the opposite direction to where he was going to do it. fell in step behind me, started calling out to me, “hey, slow down, I’m not going to do anything to you, I just wanna talk to you, you’re so beautiful, hey baby” bullshit. I try to ignore him, but he was persistent. Lucky for me, on my corner is an all-night pizza place. so I walk in there. no way am I going to allow this idiot to see where I live. mama didn’t raise no fool. once I’m in there, of course he follows me in. I decide, no. no more street harassment for this girl.

so I turn on the guy. I tore him a new one for harassing me in the street like some piece of meat, threatening me and following me. he tells me he jsut wanted to compliment me, can’t I take a compliment, why am I so uptight? I tell him no I can’t take a compliment from a strange man calling out to me in the street at 1:30 in the morning when I’m walking by myself, I don’t give a shit what he thinks,  why does he think he has to right to harass me in the street, I’m not public property, and fuck off.  a nice couple from my streetcar asked me did I need help, offered to walk me home, which they did, making sure he was gone by then, and that was the end of that. she was much more understanding of my predicament than he was, no surprise there, he was like, you only live two doors down? and she was like, well, she didn’t want him following her to her door, did she? (with ‘you twit’ just dripping from her voice.)

this reminds me of an argument my friend and I had recently with a friend of her boyfriend. we told him that many women view men as potential rapists in certain contexts, that women were raised with the fear of rape burnt into our brains from an early age as simply the worst thing that could ever happen to you as a woman (not that it is or isn’t, just that this is what women are taught). He was completely offended and pissed off by this statement, and of course took it personally to mean that we both thought he was, as a person, capable of raping someone. He got so mad that he packed up his toys and went home, actually. there was no seeing reason for him that night, that the stats simply add up for women to view men this way, particularly in situations of vulnerability. and of course, no way for him to drop his male privilege for even a second to try to understand where we were coming from.

well, there you go. combine the culture of the fear of rape with general street sexual harassment by men, and this is what you get. was I actually afraid of this guy? well, I was nervous enough to walk into that pizza place rather than walk the twenty more feet to my door.

and I hate that. I hate that I couldn’t walk the literally three and a half minutes to my door from the streetcar stop without being harassed. I hate that I felt afraid of a guy who I probably had 20 pounds and 5 inches on. I hate that I had a couple walk me to my door. I hate that if I had been dressed differently, it probably wouldn’t have happened. I hate that I actually felt bad about using the pizza place as a refuge and bringing that confrontation into their place of business. I hate being viewed as public property by some random asshat in the street. and I hate that this happens every day to billions of women all over the world, to varying degrees of severity. I HATE IT.

when that couple offered to help me, I had my cell phone in my hand to call the police. what would they have told me? would they have done anything to make me feel safer, or would they have laughed at me? if that couple hadn’t been there, would someone else have offered to help me? would I have had to wait until that guy left? would I have had to ask someone to intervene, throw the guy out?

so, what can we do about street harassment? I don’t want to have to make sure that I never go anywhere by myself. I want to have the freedom to walk down the street, by myself, dressed however I want, at any time of day or night, without being harassed. and I want every other woman to be able to have that too. it’s simple really.

how can we make this happen? I think street harassment is just as important a topic to deal with as sexual harassment in the workplace. it’s like blue-collar vs. white-collar crime, you know? so what can be done about it?

[by the way, I remember a discussion about street harassment somewhere not too long ago (someone remind me where and I’ll provide a link) that intimated that more men of colour were street harassers than were white men. This guy was white. the real question is, would I have rounded on him in the same way if he wasn’t? would I have felt more less threatened by a harasser of another shade?]

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well, today is Canada Day, a day to celebrate all things Canadian, fly our flag high and proud, and talk about all the things that are wonderful about our great country. I’ve done this kind of thing before, and I will admit that each year on Canada Day I’ve felt kind of happy and proud to be Canadian.

However, I can’t help but feel this year that, because I love my country, I should talk about what I consider to be the greatest and most serious blight on the face of our nation, and that is the ongoing brutal colonization of Canada’s indigenous peoples.  It’s something that I feel all non-indigenous Canadians should be extremely embarrassed by, and should be actively trying to correct. We have all benefitted from the brutalization, ghettoization, displacement, colonization, and genocide of First Nations people here in Canada, and we should be ashamed.

Indigneous peoples in Canada have had their land stolen, their communities displaced, and limitations put on their way of life as nomadic and communal people. They have had their children stole and put into residential schools where they were beaten for speaking to one another in their own languages, effectively losing indigenous languages for entire generations to come. Indigenous peoples are completely ghettoized and segregated onto reserves, where sometimes very basic municipal services such as clean water and sewage are denied, and every single infrastructural improvement done on a reserve has to be approved by some white male “Indian Affairs” bureaucrat in Ottawa – they can’t even change the fucking name of the department to reflect how indigenous peoples living in Canada self-identify and wish to be called. Poverty among First Nations peoples is epidemic, as is alcohol and drug abuse, incarceration, and lack of education. Native women are the most raped women in our country, and are abused and killed by their domestic partners at a much higher rate than any other racial group of women. Indigenous customs and traditions have been alternatively mocked and co-opted by mainstream Canadian culture. First Nations people who have stood up for their rights are commonly referred to as terrorists.

I’d say probably the majority of white Canadians think they should shut up and stop their whinging because they’ve been “given so much” by the Canadian government, and they should be “realistic” about property claims because it’s not like Canadians are going to cede their deeds at this point in the game ’cause by god we all work SO HARD for every little thing we get and why do those “indians” want to take that away from us when they’ve already been “given so much” – they’re just wasting all those golden opportunities to be under-educated by a system that teaches nothing but lies about indigenous peoples and to live tax-free in an uninsulated house with no running water and no central heating and no sewage on a scrap of land especially “reserved” for them.

To be fair, there are many bands that are well-off and many indigenous people who are well-educated. However, when are we going to acknowledge that these other situations exist? When are we going to do something to change the fact of rampant sexual and domestic violence against indigenous women? about levels of violence among indigenous men? about rampant poverty, alcoholism, and drug abuse? about devestating living conditions? When are we going to start respecting indigenous peoples instead of trying to figure out one more way to screw them over?

It breaks my heart to know that our indigenous populations are suffering in such terrible ways. And sadly, that makes me quite a bit less proud to call myself Canadian today.

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My pal, Rainbow Girl, has an absolutely fabulous genius fundraiser idea. It’s a feminist comic book that she herself wrote, called Rainbow Girl stars in SEXY WAR, and ALL PROCEEDS go to the Umoja Uasa Kenyan Women’s Village, a group of women working to escape and end domestic and sexual violence.

I wanted to let everyone know that this wonderful fundraiser is now available through Team Rainbow. Please, go and check out the details, and order multiple copies for this great cause!

Congratulations RG!!!

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Ghandi

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As I will be working on a paper most of the day and don’t have time to write a post, I recommend reading the FF post at Pandagon about compulsory femininity instead.

And then, read this post about domestic violence [via Pandagon, thanks Amanda].  Here’s an excerpt:

I know this happens to men, too. That in similar circumstances, they feel the same humiliation, the same self-hatred, the same rage at their total loss of control over their lives and fates. But it sure doesn’t happen to one in three of them, and they’ll never get the help they need while abused women are marginalized, are not taken seriously by law enforcement, or are told that it’s all their fault. Men socialized into a macho society will always have a hard time admitting that something that women are blamed and mocked for, something that women are supposed in some bizarre way to ‘deserve,’ has happened to them.

Because that makes them part of the underclass, and the best way to preserve an unfair hierarchy is to convince certain members of the underclass that they have an automatic leg up on others, to turn them into enforcers and tell them that they can be Big Cheeses, too. If they get victimized in the same way as mere, lowly women, then the gig is up. If they admit it, that is. The only way to help those men is to stop treating domestic violence like a punchline.

My story is personal, but as they say, also political. The horror of it for me was long years in fear and constant anxiety. Years of having no meaningful control over my life. Years of being ruled by the whim of someone whose mood I depended on absolutely for my well-being, privileges and favors.

This is the dynamic, also, of the feminist demand in politics.

Women want the right to decide whether or not to have children and equal footing in sexual relationships. Women want the right to pick our own medical care. Women want the right to have a say over how money we have a part in earning is spent, whether that money is part of our household budget or part of the national budget. Women want equal protection under the law from violence perpetrated specifically against us by intimates, just as men can expect protection from the violence that may be perpetrated against them by strangers.

Women want not to be threatened for asking for these things, which should be our right and due as human beings. We want dignity and independence, and we will demand it if it isn’t given. Even though it may take a while before we speak up for it.

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I thought I’d post a paper I recently wrote about the link between environmental protection and population control, and how population control practices and policies are bad for women of colour. I wish I had had more space to really delve into things a bit further, but this was only a 6 page assignment.

 

Population Control & Environmental Protection: Misplaced Coercion

Population control programs in less-developed countries have often been implemented under the guise of environmental protection and to the detriment of indigenous people, as part of a global campaign of environmental racism. I will argue that this practice is unethical and coercive, and that what is really required is for developed countries to reduce their own consumption of global resources.

In 1968, Paul Ehrlich’sbook, The Population Bomb, set off a maelstrom of debate and panic among scholars and the general public alike. Ehrlich argued that the environment was in distress due to unrestricted population growth, and that if left unchecked, the earth’s resources would be exhausted. In a supporting article, Ehrlich urged developed countries to spend resources on programs aimed at family planning (Ehrlich, 1971: 14). Garrett Hardin argued that the population-environment crisis is a “tragedy of the commons” where some are taking more than their fair share of the earth’s resources by having too many children, and that this will lead to environmental destruction. (Hardin, 1971: 67; Hardin 1974) His solution is conceptually simple: “If we want to keep the rest of our freedoms we must restrict the freedom to breed” (Hardin, 1971: 67). While neither explicitly cite less-developed countries as the source of the over-population problem, the implicit meaning is clear: societies where having many children is the norm (not developed countries) are responsible for environmental destruction, and population control programs must be implemented there.

The idea that population growth, if left unrestricted, would cause environmental devastation for the entire world was quite influential during the 1970s and 80s. Indebtedness by less-developed countries to Western “benefactors” was growing, and structural adjustment policies became the main option for continued aid – and came to include population control policies. In 1986, the World Bank reported “The current objective of population control programs is to curb population growth in developing countries” (World Bank, 1986, in Pillai & Wang, 1995: 12, emphasis added). In Senegal, the World Bank required that the government adopt a population control policy as a condition for receiving SAP loans (Banderage, 1999: 65). Population control programs have relied heavily on contraception funded and provided by Western government-sponsored organizations such as USAID, UNFPA, and the World Bank, and the U.S. government has consistently been the largest donor for population control programs in less-developed countries (Pillai & Wang, 1999: 12, 46; Banderage, 1999: 65).

The “disaster ethic” held by Ehrlich and Hardin focuses on ends rather than means. Ehrlich wrote, “[T]he price of personal freedom in making childbearing decisions may be the destruction of the world” (Ehrlich, in Banderage, 1999: 37). This model associates overpopulation with everything from women’s subordination to environmental destruction, and blames the victims: “the primary targets of programs were women’s bodies” (Silliman, 1995: 256). Population control programs have become equated with primarily female fertility reduction policies (Pillai & Wang, 1999: 46), and have historically been implemented only in less-developed countries, poor communities of colour in developed countries, and populations such as the physically and mentally disabled, where poverty is wide-spread and basic needs are not met due to social inequalities. The preferred methods of population control programs are long-term or permanent methods controlled by family planning authorities and clinic personnel, not by the women themselves (Silliman, 1995: 256).  These programs have often been coercive, involving uninformed and non-consensual implementation of sterilization and long-term pregnancy-avoidance products such as Norplant, Depo-Provera, and IUDs, and reproductive technologies considered unsafe, untested, and unapproved or banned in developed countries (Wangari, 2002: 306-307).

Sterilization accounts for 45% of contraception in developing countries, and extraordinarily high sterilization rates exist in some countries: 85.5% in Nepal, 69.7% in India, 66.1% in the Dominican Republic, 49.2% in China, 47.9% in Sri Lanka, 44% in Brazil, 41.3% in Thailand, and 37.7% in Mexico (Banderage, 1999: 68). Furthermore, although vasectomy is a far less complicated procedure, “female sterilization is the most favored method of family planners and the most widely used method of fertility control in the world,” and abuse and coercion is not uncommon (Banderage, 1999: 69). Highly unethical methods such as monetary incentives for sterilization “acceptors” and providers, punitive measures for those refusing sterilization, the requirement of a sterilization certificate for employment, lack of informed consent, and even direct force have been used against women and men in less-developed countries in order to reduce birth rates (Banderage, 1999: 71-80). In some instances, sterilization took place in non-sterile and unsanitary conditions and post-operative care was minimal to non-existent, as in Bangladesh, and India, where “speed doctors” perform some 300-500 female sterilization laparoscopies in mass sterilization camps (Banderage, 1999: 72, 77). In China, whose population policy is to achieve negative population growth, eugenic sterilization of mentally disabled and Tibetan women combines with a coercive set of incentives and disincentives in their infamous one-child policy (Banderage, 1999: 78-79). Non-surgical methods of female contraception, such as oral contraceptives, IUDs, Norplant, and Depo-Provera, have been administered in less-developed countries even when they had been banned or untested in developed countries. Esther Wangari writes, “This is blunt racism against the people of colour. Their bodies and their families become nothing but testing and dumping grounds for the new and banned reproductive technologies of the West” (Wangari, 2002: 308).

Meanwhile, developed countries continue to over-consume, directing their attentions to resources in less-developed countries. Large Western-owned corporations exploit heavy debt burdens experienced by less-developed countries to make resource extraction deals for timber, oil, and mining products in less-developed countries. Less-developed countries desperate to increase exports and repay loans are at the mercy of corporations eager to plunder third-world resources: “In a rush to lay claim to valuable resources, foreign companies destroy the local environment and endanger the cultural and often physical survival of the indigenous people who populate it” (Weissman, 1993: 188).

There is reason to be deeply suspicious of the deployment of reproductive technologies in less-developed countries by Western development organizations, while simultaneously, structural adjustment policies restrict economic development and allow for the depletion of third-world resources by Western corporations (Wangari, 2002: 302).  Social and cultural factors are not considered by population control programs; for example, failure to bear children can lead to ostracization and brutality for women, and for poor families in less-developed countries, children are economic assets and not liabilities (Banderage, 1999: 159-160). Each child adds only marginal cost, but the economic return on the labour they provide for their families is far greater. The environmental problems faced by the world are not caused by the poor in less-developed countries; the poor are as much victims as the environment, and are scapegoats for the real culprit: unequal distribution of power, wealth, control of resources, and overconsumption in the global population (Banderage, 1999: 187; Wangari 2002: 306).

Afffluent lifestyles in developed countries pose a serious threat to the global ecosystem. Developed countries are responsible for consuming the majority of the world’s animal meat – and subsequently 40% of the world’s grain used to feed livestock; own the majority of the world’s automobiles –a major producer of greenhouse gas emissions contributing to global warming; and account for approximately 75% of the world’s raw materials and energy use (Banderage, 1999: 229-232). Furthermore, “although industrialized nations in the North are responsible overwhelmingly for production of greenhouse gases, the effects are global; some of the worst effects are felt in some of the poorest countries” (Banderage, 1999: 233).

The real population problem does not lie with less-developed countries, but in the population of the developed countries who are consuming resources at an alarming rate. Yet, these populations have not been targeted on the same scale for consumption reduction as less-developed countries have been for population control and fertility reduction, which have been justified in the name of environmental and resource protection. This apparent discrepancy comes from the fact that “the rich contribute to market expansion through their profligate consumption, while the poor, who lack purchasing power, are superfluous to capitalist growth” (Banderage, 1999: 234).

In conclusion, less-developed countries are being blamed for environmental destruction and resource consumption, and are being coercively and unethically targeted with contraceptive measures aimed at population/fertility reduction, the subjects of which are overwhelmingly poor women of colour, while the real culprits are overconsumptive populations in developed countries. The solution to the problem of environmental degradation, then, does not lie with population control policies implemented in less-developed countries. The solution to the problem of global environmental degradation must target the source: unequal distribution of power, wealth, control of resources, and overconsumption in the global population. Esther Wangari writes, “It is Western countries, it appears to me, that need ‘family consumption planning clinics’” (Wangari, 2002: 306, 308). I couldn’t agree more.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  1. Bandarage, Asoka (1997). Women, Population, and Global Crisis: A Political- Economic Analysis. London UK: Zed Books.
  2. Ehrlich, Paul (1971). “The Population Crisis: Where We Stand” in Population, Environment & People, ed. Noël Hinrichs. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. 8-16.
  3. Hardin, Garrett (1971). “Population, Pollution, and Political Systems” in Population, Environment & People, ed. Noël Hinrichs. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. 59-68.
  4. Pillai, Vijayan K. and Wang, Guang-zhen (1999). Women’s Reproductive Rights in Developing Countries. Aldershot UK and Brookfield, VE: Ashgate Publishing.
  5. Silliman, Jael M. (1995). “Ethics, Family Planning, Status of Women, and the Environment” in Population, Consumption, and the Environment: Religious and Secular Responses, ed. Harold Coward. Albany NY: State Unniversity of New York Press. 251-261.
  6. Wangari, Esther (2002). “Reproductive Technologies: A Third World Feminist Perspective” in Feminist Post-Development Thought: Rethinking Modernity, Postcolonialism and Representation. London UK: Zed Books. 298-312.
  7. Weissman, Robert (1993). “Corporate Plundering of Third-World Resources” in Toxic Struggles: The Theory and Practice of Environmental Justice, ed. Richard Hofrichter. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers. 186-196.

Thoughts, folks?

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