Posts tagged Female genital mutilation

Voyage of the S.S. St. Louis

Everything old is new again.

Please bear the following facts in mind.

If you and your family are trying to escape the Chinese government’s coercive population control policies — if, for example, you are a man, and your wife has been forced into an abortion by threats or violence from the government, and even if you, yourself, have been threatened with government-forced sterilization; or if you are a woman, and you have been forced into an abortion by the government, but you don’t want to be forced to live apart from your life partner — if, that is, either you or your life partner has been held down, under threat of violence, and had your reproductive organs cut into, against your will, by order of the State, and it’s perfectly likely to happen to you again if you go on living in China — well, then, I’m sorry, but that just isn’t a good enough reason for the United States government to consider you and your family Officially Persecuted by the Chinese government, and thus not enough for them to get out of your way and leave you alone to live your life peacefully within the borders that the U.S. government claims the right to fortify. They are especially unlikely to consider your persecution important enough to merit asylum if the Chinese government, as part of those same population control policies, refuses to write down a legal record of your marriage to the man or woman that you wed years ago and have lived with ever since. In fact a panel of comfortable American judges will sneer down at you, from their politico-moral high ground, that legal marriage reflects a sanctity and long-term commitment that other forms of cohabitation simply do not. Your actual, real-life marriage doesn’t count, because the government that is persecuting you won’t recognize it. Your suffering and the violation of your body, or your spouse’s body, by a violent government, don’t matter to this government, because it won’t count them as real persecution. So instead of leaving you alone, this government will roust you up out of your new home, and march you out at bayonet-point, and ship you out of the country, back to the tormentors in China who you risked everything to escape.

If you are a woman from the Republic of Guinea, and, when you were a child, you were held down and had your clitoris cut out with a knife, without anesthesia, and if, after being forced to suffer this painful and traumatizing mutilation of your body, you make a deliberate decision to get out of the country, perhaps because it hurt you, and perhaps because the effects still hurt you, and perhaps because you didn’t want it and now you just can’t stand to live in the place where it was done to you, and perhaps because you don’t want your daughters to be forced into the same thing — well, I’m sorry, but according to the United States Department of Homeland Security and the United States Department of Justice [sic], that just isn’t a good enough reason to consider you Officially Persecuted in Guinea, and thus not enough reason for them to get out of your way and leave you alone to live your life peacefully within the borders that the U.S. government claims the right to fortify. Because, hey, you’re damaged goods now and you don’t have any clitorises left for them to cut out. Your suffering and the violation of your body, by certain violent members of your community, don’t matter to them, because it won’t count them as real persecution. So instead of leaving you alone, this government will roust you up out of your new home, and march you out at bayonet-point, and ship you out of the country, back to the tormentors in Guinea who you risked everything to escape.

If you and your family are from Iraq, and, because of the crushing poverty and the tremendous danger to your life and limb which you face — due to the United States government’s own war and bombing and occupation in Iraq; or due to threats from the government-backed and freelance ethnic-cleansing death squads, which have flourished under that occupation; or due to the crossfire in the endless battles between the United States government’s occupying forces and Iraqi insurgents — if, because of all that, you are one of the 2.5 million Iraqis who have fled the country in order to try to find a new home (either temporarily or permanently) where you can live your life free of fear and starvation and unspeakable daily violence, and now you find yourself stuck — like 2.4 million of your fellow Iraqis — in some hellhole refugee camp or urban ghetto in neighboring countries like Syria or Jordan, where conditions are awful, where you are surrounded by suffering, where you cannot legally work for pay and have little or nothing to do other than take hand-outs and fill out paperwork for UNHCR, while you watch your life savings drain away in the effort to keep yourself alive for a few more months while you wait, and wait, and wait, and if you don’t happen to be one of the 500 people per year who are eligible for Special Immigration Visas in return for collaborating with the U.S. government’s occupying forces in Iraq, and you don’t happen to be one of the quota of only a few thousand Iraqi refugees that the U.S. government has agreed to accept each year — well, then, I’m sorry, but according the United States government that just isn’t a good enough reason to get out of your way and leave you alone to travel to the United States and live your life peacefully within the borders that the United States government claims the right to fortify. Your suffering, and the danger to your life or the lives of your loved ones, by any one of the countless armies and armed factions rampaging through Iraq, don’t matter enough to them for them to reconsider their immigration quota policy. So this government will keep you penned up in your hellhole ghetto, where you can die for all they care, or, if you somehow get to America, this government will march you out at bayonet-point, and ship you out of the country, back to the ghetto conditions or to the tormentors in Iraq who you risked everything to escape.

This is life, such as it is, under government immigration controls. It is life as it always will be, as long as politicians and bureaucrats have the power to pick and choose whose reasons for wanting to cross an arbitrary line on a map are good enough, and whose are not.

But it is criminal that there is even one single refugee in this world who cannot immediately find asylum and a chance to make a new life and a new home for herself in a new country.

It is inexcusable that, in the name of the ethno-political system of international apartheid, the governments of the world continue to collaborate in violence against women, in forced starvation, and in ethnic cleansing, by forcing peaceful women and men into refugee ghettoes or, worse, by forcing peaceful women and men back into the maws of the very governments or violent factions who intend to devour them.

It is obscene that a bunch of politicians and unaccountable bureaucrats from the United Nations or the U.S. government would be invested with the power to sit in judgment, from their comfortable offices, on the most marginalized, the most exploited, and the most oppressed people in the world, so that they put all their conventional prejudices and political blinders to work in picking and choosing whose suffering should count as real, in the eyes of the governments of the world, or whose suffering, if acknowledged as real by the government, is important enough to let them into a tiny quota that the government will allow to cross an arbitrary line on a map.

The S.S. St. Louis still sails the seas today, a ghost ship with ghost passengers, without rest and without safe harbor. It will haunt the world forever, as long as this system of international apartheid is enforced.

And all for what? To avoid the voluntary co-mingling of people from different countries? To ensure that the people of the world hear only one language, live and work with people of only one nationality, remain segregated, either by penning them up in their government-appointed place or else by making sure you can monitor all their movements according to a government-created system of passbooks and minders? The idea would be laughable if not for all the ghosts–the ghosts of millions upon millions of real, living, irreplaceable and unique individual people, who were turned back, ruined, persecuted, mutilated, tortured, starved, and murdered for the sake of that idea.

There is another way. A way in which the living can finally live, and the dead can finally rest, in peace. But that other can only become a reality when people are free to move from one place to another, and their reasons, their suffering, and their lives cannot be measured and found wanting by entitled strangers with the power to turn them back and force them back to the tormenters that they risked everything to escape. It can, that is to say, only become a reality with the immediate, unconditional, and complete abolition of all government border controls, and with universal amnesty for all currently undocumented immigrants.

There’s no room for compromise or moderation in the politics of immigration when real people’s bodies and real people’s lives are hanging in the balance. As they are all over the world today.

See also:

Fat Tuesday Lazy Linking

Around the web in the past couple weeks. Part of the news that’s fit to link…

  • In honor of Carnival, let’s start with a couple of Carnivals. The Ninth Carnival of Feminists is up at Mind the Gap! and Philosophers’ Carnival #26 is up at Hesperus/Phosphorus. I happen to have a submission featured in each; but if you’re here you’ve probably already read them. Fortunately, like all good Carnivals, they contain multitudes. Prepare to fill out exactly one zillion tabs with excellent reading material.

  • Roderick Long, Austro-Athenian Empire (2006-02-21): Spooner on Rent does his best to sort out just what Lysander Spooner’s views on land ownership and rent are. The evidence suggests that Spooner was more like Murray Rothbard and less like Benjamin Tucker on this one. Interesting mainly as a historical and exegetical question (Spooner didn’t dwell on the issue, so it’s not like a treasure trove is being discovered; and the fact that Spooner thought something hardly makes it so). But, Roderick adds, to the extent that there’s any polemical payoff I suppose it’s this: those anarcho-socialists who grant the title of anarchist to Tucker and Spooner but deny it to Rothbard and other so-called anarcho-capitalists on the grounds inter alia of the latter’s disagreement with Tucker about land will find their position at least somewhat harder to maintain to the extent that the distance between the saved Spooner and the damned anarcho-capitalists is narrowed. Read the whole thing.

  • ginmar, A View from A Broad (2006-01-30): It doesn’t matter what you think we said…: You ever dealt with somebody who uses the word pussy in front of you–I’m speaking as a woman, here–as a synonym for cowardly, disgusting, vile–and then gets up in your face when you call them on it? Well, uh, I didn’t mean it like that. I didn’t intend it like that.Not thinking is no longer proof of innocence. What it just means is that you don’t give enough of a fuck to think about it. (Boldface added.) Read the whole thing.

  • Media Matters (2006-02-14): If It’s Sunday, It’s Conservative: An analysis of the Sunday talk show guests on ABC, CBS, and NBC, 1997 – 2005: In fact, as this study reveals, conservative voices significantly outnumber progressive voices on the Sunday talk shows. Media Matters for America conducted a content analysis of ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, and NBC’s Meet the Press, classifying each one of the nearly 7,000 guest appearances during President Bill Clinton’s second term, President George W. Bush’s first term, and the year 2005 as either Democrat, Republican, conservative, progressive, or neutral. The conclusion is clear: Republicans and conservatives have been offered more opportunities to appear on the Sunday shows – in some cases, dramatically so. The Right had an especially pronounced advantage when you screened out government flunkies and just looked at journalists. Read the whole thing.

  • Natalie Bennett, Philobiblon (2006-02-19): The baby choice, not the baby gap: Well I wanted many things when I was 21 – although I didn’t want children – and I don’t now want many of the same things. I didn’t want many of the same things when I was 25 or 30. At 21 you are still chiefly the product of your conditioning and upbringing – you are only just starting to grow up and construct yourself as an independent individual. No doubt many of those women later changed their minds, or decided that while a baby might be nice, it wasn’t their top priority. Also, no doubt, when they asked those early twenties women the question, they were thinking of having a baby as something that would happen in the far distant future – it is not a serious practical prospect. With, as I’ve reported before, 30 per cent plus of women in Scotland chosing not to have babies, when are the researchers (and the newspaper editors) going to recognise that this is a valid, sensible, entirely normal choice? Sometimes the demographic hand-wringers try to coerce you; other times they just try to hector you and generally treat you like an idiot. In either case, they’re acting like a bunch of bullies and need to drop it already. Anyway, read the whole thing.

  • Andy the Slack Bastard (2006-02-18): Burn-A-Flag-For-Lenin Week!: Andy has sort of an ongoing hilarious documentary on the weird, wild world of Marxist-Leninist splinter sects. It’s kind of like a form of neo-surrealist theatre in which the actors don’t realize that they’re part of a show. The latest? Confronted with a recent and continuing downturn in membership, the youth wing of the neo-Trotskyist Democratic Socialist Perspective appears to have hit upon a brand new (sic) idea to try and reverse the trend (or at least make a few dollars): selling flag-burning kits to University students. Commodification of dissent in the name of Communist dictatorship? The power is yours Australia! Read the whole thing.

  • Lab Kat (2006-02-20): The barefoot and pregnant crowd, Part III takes notice of Ypsilanti’s finest, Tom Monaghan. Now he’s planning to build his own city. No, not on rock and roll; on the mercy of Our Lady. I’m all for this clown building his own city. Get all the religious right nutjobs in the country to move there, away from those of us who don’t buy their dogmatic horseshit. Let them go play in their La-La Land while the rest of us live in the real world. Read the whole thing.

  • Meghan Sapp, Women’s eNews (2006-02-20): Fight to End Mutilation Hits Gritty Juncture looks at the hard work to come in the struggle against female genital mutilation in Africa: moving from international sentiments and governmental resolutions to actual change on the ground. Amid the surge in activities and reports, campaigners against the practice find themselves at a critical juncture. For nearly three years, they have been focused on persuading African Union leaders to ratify the Maputo Protocol. But now that is done, application of the anti-FGM provision at the national and local levels becomes the gritty political challenge. Of the 28 countries where genital mutilation is practiced, 14 countries have passed anti-FGM laws. But only Burkina Faso, Ghana and Kenya actively uphold those laws, according to the London-based Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development. Countries faced international pressure to ratify the Maputo Protocol, but within their own societies they face the opposition of many traditional ruling classes to cultural change. Read the whole thing.

  • Kieran Healy, Crooked Timber (2006-02-11): The Papers Continue Fatuous looks on aghast as Andrew Sullivan happily reprints e-mails from his ever-present Anonymous Liberal Reader explicitly pondering genocide against Muslims in Europe. Here’s the word from Betty Bleedheart: I’m honestly starting to suspect that, before this is over, European nations are going to have exactly four choices in dealing with their entire Moslem populations–for elementary safety’s sake: (1) Capitulate totally to them and become a Moslem continent. (2) Intern all of them. (3) Deport all of them. (4) Throw all of them into the sea. Kieran adds: It’s a hollow joke that Sullivan’s blog is graced by a tag-line taken from Orwell–and one about not being able to see what’s in front of your face, at that. … I certainly hope European countries are not about to capitulate to demands from some radical muslims that civil society be brought to an end for the sake of the prophet’s honor. … Nor, I take it, are they about to round up and dump all of them (for any value of them) into the sea. And if some countries have started down one or other of those roads, it certainly isn’t because some clerical thugs are so awesomely powerful that they are in a position to destroy the institutions of western democracy. You’ll have to look elsewhere to find people with the leverage to do real damage there. Read the whole thing.

  • tiffany at BlackFeminism.org (2006-02-20): SXSW Collective Brainstorming: Are you a gay blogger or a blogger who is gay? and Tensions between being speaking for yourself or for a group looks at identity blogging and asks some hard questions for those who do (or don’t) care to do it. Read the whole thing.

  • Marjorie Rosen, Los Angeles Times (2006-02-19): The lady vanishes — yet again takes an all-too-uncritical but sometimes interesting look at the declining prospects for women in the Hollywood star system. One of the better moments: The studios are nothing if not practical, suggests Michael Seitzman, the screenwriter of North Country. Hollywood would give a role to my dog if it would bring in an audience. The real question is not Why isn’t Hollywood creating roles for women? It’s Why aren’t audiences going to see them? Men aren’t interested in seeing movies about women anymore, but from the response to movies like In Her Shoes, it appears that women aren’t, either. But there may be a perception problem here. Could it be that because Hollywood produces so few movies featuring women’s stories, each one is held up to cold, hard and — dare I say it? — unfair scrutiny? Read the whole thing.

  • moiv, media girl (2006-02-21): If You Can’t Get EC at St. Elsewhere, Call Boston Legal, meanwhile, catches us up on the wit and wisdom of Catholic League president William Donahue, who informs us that the real problem is that Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It’s not a secret, okay? And I’m not afraid to say it. … Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions. I believe in traditional values and restraint. They believe in libertinism. We have nothing in common. But you know what? The culture war has been ongoing for a long time. Their side has lost. Oh it gets better — Donahue’s keeping files, you see. Big fat ones. Read the whole thing.

  • The Guardian NewsBlog (2006-02-20) reports that the occupation may soon be over, troops drawn down, and genuine independence at hand after a tricky political process … in Kosovo. Black Looks (2006-02-19) reports on the violence leading up to putatively open elections in Uganda. (All in the name of counter-terrorism, of course.) Ryan W. McMacken, LewRockwell.com Blog (2006-02-21) finds that red-blooded Iranians aren’t above some good old Liberty Cabbage idiocy.

  • The Guardian NewsBlog (2006-02-21): Milton Keynes: Shia inspiration watches the End of History rising over the ruins of Najaf, with a bit of help from the military-industrial complex. Come watch as the mauling of a holy city by the Warfare State is followed up with the worst that coercive, centralized Urban Renewal has to offer. For those who want to return to the glory days of Soviet-era architecture in Warsaw, I suppose. Read the whole thing.

  • rabble at Anarchogeek (2006-02-22): On the futility of creative commons suggests that the increasingly ubiquitous Creative Commons stickers and tags are useless, because they cater too much to the whims of publishers and don’t take a principled stand in favor of freedom. Looking through the guide, i realize that it’s not possible simply to replace the CC with something else. The problem is not that there aren’t good licenses, rather that the cultural war over ideas is being lost. We need a concept like GPL compatible or maybe even the less radical OSI compliant. I think that this may miss the point of what CC’s out to do in the first place, but it’s an interesting debate. Read the whole thing.

  • Jill, feministe (2006-02-20): Categorizing Race in the Bookstore reflects on the assets and liabilities of the African-American Interest (Women’s Studies, GLBT) bookshelves at your friendly neighborhood bookstore. Ghettoization? Useful classification? Both? Neither? Read the whole thing.

  • Discourse.net (2006-02-25): Florida Cops Intimidate Would-be Complainants picks out an amazing transcript of an attempt to get an official complaint form from the pigs. Via Boing-boing, a link to this absolutely amazing piece of investigative reporting: Police Station Intimidation–Parts 1 and 2 in which CBS4 News found that, in police departments across Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, large and small, it was virtually impossible to walk in the door, and walk out with a complaint form. … The TV station that broke the story reports that Remarkably, of 38 different police stations tested around South Florida, all but three had no police complaint forms yet it nonetheless felt obligated to introduce its report by saying that Most police officers are a credit to the badge, serving the community and the people who pay their salary, getting criminals off the street, making the community safer for everyone. Guess none of those guys happen to work the front desk, eh? Read the whole thing.

  • Echidne of the Snakes (2006-02-18): Virgins Matter More reports on how a man in Italy got a reduction in his sentence for raping his 14 year old stepdaughter because she wasn’t a virgin at the time she was raped. Because, you see, being forced to have sex against your will isn’t so bad if you’ve had sex already. The supreme court, apparently quoting from an amicus brief filed by Humbert Humbert, mused that the victim’s personality, from a sexual point of view, is much more developed than what would be normally expected of a girl of her age. Read the whole thing. But only on an empty stomach.

  • Laurelin in the Rain (2006-02-21): The Patriarchy Phrasebook: Occasionally (actually make that all the damn time), we rad fems find ourselves visited by Ambassadors from Planet Patriarchia, who speak in a language that is hard to understand, mostly because it’s less of a language and more of a code consisting of standard statements and arrogant presumptions. But never fear, for I am here with my dictionary of Commonly Used Phrases of Patriarchal Lackeys. These phrases are found variously in patriarchal literature, common conversation, newspapers, TV programmes, blog comments and shouted slogans when you’re minding your own frickin’ business. Read the whole thing.