Saturday, November 26, 2011

State sponsored violence & whose culture?

State sponsored gender violence--often overt & covert--occurs all too often in all of our cultures, especially in response to women's resistance and presence in actions that challenge the state.

Some times women take their actions to their own blogs as in the case of Eypgt's naked blogger, Aliaa Mahdy, who posted her nude photo as protest against the cultural hypocrisy of military, police and/or militia who had forced women activists to remove their headscarves and conducted "hymen" virginity checks.

On 18 Nov 11 Egyptian American journalist noted that

...."others did not receive such attention. Samira Ibrahim, the only one of the women subjected to "virginity tests" who is taking the military to court for sexual assault, has neither a dedicated hashtag nor notoriety. Another woman, Salwa el-Husseini, was the first to reveal what the military did to them, but news reports have said she can't raise a lawsuit because she doesn't have identification papers.

Not only did el-Husseini speak out, she courageously agreed to be filmed at a session of testimonies on military abuses. Again, hardly anyone knows her name, her recorded testimony isn't racking up page views, and she was called a liar and vilified for speaking out. Both women have vehemently maintained they were virgins.

If "good girls" in headscarves who kept their legs together only to be violated by the military speak out and no one listens, what's the message being sent? When the military justified its violations by saying "those girls aren't like your daughter or mine. These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square", what's the message?"

Ironically or in retaliatation for this story?, on this past Wednesday night (23 N0v) Egyptian Central Security Forces arrested journalist Eltahawy on a Cairo street, interrogated and sexually assaulted her resulting in broken left arm/right wrist among other injuries. The military forces have apologized for the CSF's actions although working as journalists remains risky in Egypt and other revolutionary-conflict situations.

See Eltahawy's more recent interview & video with Democracy Now on her experiences, sexual assault on women activists and more. She now has casts on both arms although her voice remains strong. The Women's Media Center describes even more violence against women reporters in Egypt.

Whose culture(s) condone such actions against women who resist, post, and/or report? Those courageous women including journalists who do report through "official" or informal channels often face scorn, retaliation and competing social media site pages. These pages contest their accounts (including their assailants who rationalize their abuse!) even though the women, police, and others have brought cases on their behalf. Or the state fails to follow their own law and prosecute their cases.

Speak up and support these brave women who chose different paths of resisting authority!

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