January 14, 2011

Reflections of violence against women

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:20 pm by sacetalks

Since 1993, at least 500 women living in and near Ciudad Juárez, Mexico have gone missing, been sexually assaulted and/or have been murdered. They are the poor women, the dark skinned women, the working girls whose bodies have been marked as disposable. They are the invisible labour reserve for a global economy that exploits native workers in countries that were once occupied through military force and are now still colonized through financial might. They live in a patriarchal state where men sit in positions of power and control. They live thousands of kilometers away from me and yet reading about the violence these women experience in the anthology, Color of Violence by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence (2006), I was moved to reflect on the similar experiences of Indigenous women living in my own country, Canada.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) reports that there have been more than 500 missing and murdered Aboriginal women across Canada in the past few decades. They are the natives of Canadian land who disproportionately occupy spaces of poverty compared to other populations. Their lives have been marked by colonialism, the residential school system and the Canadian government’s patriarchal role dictated by the Indian Act of Canada. Many of the missing and murdered Aboriginal women known to NWAC moved to urban centers looking for work only to find their opportunities for employment regulated by their race. They are the stigmatized bodies of a nation that naturalizes the violence they suffer. Their stories reflect those of the women living in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

In reference to both groups, I refer to them as “they” because I am not one of them. I sit in a position of white privilege compared to these women, which must be recognized. They are disproportionately targeted for violence because of where their gender, race, class, religion and cultural context intersect at a point of increased oppression. Still, I do not want to separate myself from “them” in the use of that term.
The tricky dynamics of inclusion and separation, us and them, get played out when women attempt to work together to eliminate oppression. While I cannot say that the oppression I experience as a woman is the same as that of the women living in Ciudad Juárez Mexico, we both suffer systems of power dictated by gender. Our differences and similarities must mutually be recognized.

Likewise, though I can note the similarities between what is happening to Aboriginal women in Canada and women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, one must acknowledge their separate experiences of violence and the differences in their oppression. They live in distinct countries with different forms of government and different histories of colonialism. In Canada, the murders are most often in our geographically expansive Western provinces while in Mexico, the murders I read about are much more concentrated around a particular city, Ciudad Juárez. As outlined in the first two paragraphs though, they share strikingly comparable contexts for violence. The grassroots’ reactions to the violence are also very similar. In both countries, the government either plays a direct role in the violence or enables it through their inaction to prevent further murders and sexual assaults. Thus, in both cases reliance on the government is limiting. Instead, community groups work together to resist the violence by organizing things like walks/marches to raise awareness about the severity of the situation. In their campaigns, the importance of family is crucial – these are our sisters, mothers, daughters, aunts and grandmothers who are being violated and taken away from us.

The notable connections between the two diverse communities lead me to wonder – what does it suggest about cross-national efforts to end violence against women and what does it suggest about the systemic nature of violence against women of color?

by Meagan Simon

References:

Fregoso, Rosa Linda. “The Complexities of ‘Feminicide’ on the Border.” Color of Violence: The INCITE! ANTHOLOGY. INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence ed. Cambridge, Massachusetts: South End Press, 2006.

http://www.nwac.ca/sites/default/files/imce/2010_NWAC_SIS_Report_EN.pdf

http://www.amnesty.ca/campaigns/sisters_overview.php