[News] Femicide Does Not Respect the Quarantine

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Thu Apr 9 11:09:42 EDT 2020


https://www.thetricontinental.org/newsletterissue/15-2020-coronavirus-femicide/
Femicide
Does Not Respect the Quarantine
April 9, 2020
------------------------------

Español
<https://www.thetricontinental.org/es/newsletterissue/15-2020-coronavirus-feminicidio/>

[image: Shehzil Malik, Women in Public Places, 2012.]

Shehzil Malik, Women in Public Places, 2012.

Dear Friends,

Greetings from the desk of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research
<http://thetricontinental.org/>.

Days, weeks, months, an indeterminate amount of time as the world seems
paralysed by the journey of SARS-CoV-2. The lack of certainty increases the
anxiety. This virus, as Arundhati Roy writes
<https://www.ft.com/content/10d8f5e8-74eb-11ea-95fe-fcd274e920ca>, ‘seeks
proliferation, not profit, and has, therefore, inadvertently, to some
extent, reversed the direction of the flow [of capital]. It has mocked
immigration controls, biometrics, digital surveillance and every other kind
of data analytics, and struck hardest – thus far – in the richest, most
powerful nations of the world, bringing the engine of capitalism to a
juddering halt’. Lockdowns have now become almost universal, the planet
more silent, the birdsong richer. Arundhati Roy’s cautionary ‘thus far’ is
significant as the virus makes its circuit deep into zones of extreme
deprivation, into the slumlands of Dharavi (India) and Cidade de Deus
(Brazil).

A major United Nations report
<https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/sg_report_socio-economic_impact_of_covid19.pdf>
with the hopeful title ‘Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity’ says that
the global pandemic ‘is attacking societies at their core’. Social and
state institutions have been so hollowed out in many parts of the world
that they are simply not capable of managing either the health, social, or
economic crisis. The International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director
Kristalina Georgieva said
<https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2020/03/23/pr2098-imf-managing-director-statement-following-a-g20-ministerial-call-on-the-coronavirus-emergency>
that there is no possibility of economic recovery before 2021. We are in
April 2020; it is almost as if the entire calendar year of 2020 has been
cancelled.

[image: Eileen Agar, The Autobiography of an Embryo, 1933-34.]

Eileen Agar, The Autobiography of an Embryo, 1933-34.

One thing seems to have united a range of people: total bewilderment at the
failure of the bourgeois order, and a significant shift in the belief in
the ‘free market’ to properly allocate resources. Even the *Financial Times*
takes <https://www.ft.com/content/7eff769a-74dd-11ea-95fe-fcd274e920ca>
this view:

*Radical reforms — reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last
four decades — will need to be put on the table. Governments will have to
accept a more active role in the economy. They must see public services as
investments rather than liabilities, and look for ways to make labour
markets less insecure. Redistribution will again be on the agenda; the
privileges of the elderly and wealthy in question. Policies until recently
considered eccentric, such as basic income and wealth taxes, will have to
be in the mix.*

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the UN Under-Secretary General and head of UN
Women, wrote
<https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2020/3/statement-ed-phumzile-covid-19-women-front-and-centre>
recently that the global pandemic ‘is a profound shock to our societies and
economies, exposing the deficiencies of public and private arrangements
that currently function only if women play multiple and unpaid roles’. This
is a sharp statement and bears serious reflection.

[image: Shia Yih Ying, Miss Nature, 2016.]

Shia Yih Ying, Miss Nature, 2016.

*Health care workers.*

Almost three in four essential frontline workers – from medical personnel
to medical laundry workers –  are
<https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/311314/WHO-HIS-HWF-Gender-WP1-2019.1-eng.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y>
women. It is one thing to bang pots and pans to celebrate these workers,
and another to accept their long-standing push for unionisation, for higher
wages and better working conditions, and for leadership in their sectors of
work. Almost all administrators in the hospital field globally are men.

In India, the weight of any health care emergency is borne primarily by the
990,000 Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) workers, by the Anganwadi
or childcare workers, and by the Auxiliary Nurse Midwives. These workers –
almost entirely women – are severely underpaid (their low salaries often
held for months on end), undertrained, and are denied even the most basic
worker protections (they are treated as ‘honorary volunteers’, a ludicrous
category deployed by the government). Last year, ASHA workers were involved
in a cycle of struggles to improve their employment conditions; apart from
small victories here and there, they were largely disregarded (for more on
this, see our interview in Dossier no. 18
<https://www.thetricontinental.org/the-only-answer-is-to-mobilise-the-workers-an-interview-with-k-hemalata-president-of-the-centre-of-indian-trade-unions/>
in July 2019 with K. Hemalata, President of the Centre of Indian Trade
Unions). During this pandemic, it is the ASHA and Anganwadi workers who are
going house to house checking on families, doing so without basic
protection (such as masks and hand sanitizer). These are the frontline
public health workers who are now being rhetorically celebrated, but who
are not given the basic protections of unionisation, of job security, and
of adequate wages.

[image: Mónica Mayer, Primero de diciembre, 1977.]

Mónica Mayer, Primero de diciembre, 1977.

*Reinforced gender roles.*

Two years ago, the International Labour Organisation published a study
<https://www.ilo.org/global/publications/books/WCMS_633135/lang--en/index.htm>
that showed that women perform 76.2% of unpaid care work – three times
higher than the rate for men. The ILO found that ‘attitudes towards the
gender division of paid and unpaid care work are changing but the “male
breadwinner” family model remains very much engrained within societies,
along with the women’s caring role in the family continuing to be central’.
This is the undisputed situation during ‘normal’ times; in the time of the
pandemic, this structural inequality and these cultural biases become a
torment.

Aspects of care work that had been lightened by the institutions and
structures of society are now shut down. Schools are closed, so children
are at home with pressure for them to be home-schooled; elders are not able
to meet each other in parks, so they are to be entertained and tended to at
home. Shopping is more onerous, and cleaning is more essential – all tasks
that evidence suggests fall on the shoulders of women.

*Violence against women.*

Before the CoronaShock, on average 137 women across the world were killed
by a family member every day. This is a shocking number. As Rita Segato put
it
<https://www.revistadelauniversidad.mx/articles/9517d5d3-4f92-4790-ad46-81064bf00a62/pedagogias-de-la-crueldad>,
not only have incidences of violence against women increased in frequency
since the CoronaShock; they have also increased in their cruelty, as
neo-fascist ideas of female subordination eclipse more enlightened ideas
about women’s emancipation. In Argentina, the slogan *el femicido no se
toma cuarentena*, or ‘femicide does not quarantine’, clearly points to the
violence that has been inflamed by the global lockdown. In every single
country, reports come in of increased violence against women. Support lines
are overflowing, shelters cannot be reached.

In Trento (Italy), the prosecutor Sandro Raimondi declared that in a case
of violence against women, the abuser should leave the home, not the
victim. The Italian Confederation of Labour said
<http://www.cgil.it/coronavirus-cgil-bene-procura-trento-in-caso-di-violenza-domestica-trasferire-maltrattanti/>,
‘Confinement at home because of the coronavirus is difficult for everyone,
but it becomes a real nightmare for women victims of gender-based
violence’. Such creative approaches against violence against women are
necessary.

The Coordinadora Feminista 8M of Chile has produced a Feminist Emergency
Plan for the Coronavirus Crisis <http://cf8m.cl/>. This plan – which
resembles in some elements the platform
<https://www.thetricontinental.org/declaration-covid19/> created by the
International Assembly of the Peoples and Tricontinental: Institute for
Social Research – has four essential elements:

   1. Develop strategies for collective feminist mutual aid. Build
   solidarity and mutual aid networks that fight against individualism and
   respect social distancing. First, conduct surveys of neighbourhoods.
   Second, build teams to care for children. Third, mobilise health
   professionals to assist the community.
   2. Confront patriarchal violence. Build a mechanism to react
   collectively to cases of violence against women. Produce
   neighbourhood-based emergency plans for women and children to leave
   dangerous situations, such as by the creation of emergency phone hotlines
   and by the opening of shelters.
   3. Call for a general ‘strike for life’. Strike against all productive
   activities that are not oriented around health care; defend the right to
   stay at home during the pandemic and produce a system of remuneration for
   those who are carrying out the various forms of labour – such as essential
   and often invisible care work. Demand safe working conditions for essential
   workers, particularly in the professions of healthcare and transportation.
   4. Demand emergency measures that put our care first, not their profits.
   Life is priceless; therefore demand paid medical leave, free childcare,
   house arrest for those who are in prisons, freezing of prices for basic
   goods and sanitary products, planned production for social needs (rather
   than for profit), compensation for *all* caregivers (formal and
   informal), free quality health care for all, suspension of debts and
   dividends, free access to water and electricity, and a prohibition against
   the firing of workers.

[image: Cecilia Vicuña, El Paro/The Strike, 2018.]

Cecilia Vicuña, El Paro/The Strike, 2018.

Each of these points is utterly intuitive, being useful not only in Latin
America but across the globe. But this Emergency Plan is only – as the
Algerian poet Rabi’a Jalti puts it in *Shizufriniya* (Schizophrenia) – one
street; there is always that other street.

*I have become two streets.*
*One looks over the apricot tree and narcissus,*
*And the morning of poems.*
*It enters the sea of language.*
*And the other*
*Is he whose name is hung on the horizon and the colour of bread,*
*Whose face has fenced in all directions,*
*Whose breaths have sealed all circles.*
*It nearly chokes me.*

It is that street that chokes which has led the local government in Durban
(South Africa) to forcibly evict <http://abahlali.org/node/17059/> shack
dwellers. Because we were thinking of the other street, Arundhati Roy, Noam
Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Yanis Varoufakis, and I wrote this objection
<https://peoplesdispatch.org/2020/04/03/solidarity-with-shack-dwellers-in-south-africa-statement-from-arundhati-roy-naomi-klein-noam-chomsky-vijay-prashad-and-yanis-varoufakis/>.
It is along this other street that people hunger for land, not only to
build their homes but also to farm them. From South Africa to India to
Brazil, hunger drives land hunger.

In our latest publication, Dossier no. 27
<https://www.thetricontinental.org/dossier-27-land/> (April 2020), ‘Popular
Agrarian Reform and the Struggle for Land in Brazil’, we show how this land
hunger motivates a struggle not only for land, but for social
transformation. Our São Paulo office writes that at the core of this
struggle is ‘the refashioning of social relations – including the
reconstruction of gender relations and the confrontation of machismo and
homophobia, for example – and the demand for access to education in rural
areas at all levels’.

We will be sharing more about the struggle for land in next week’s
newsletter, which you can subscribe to on our website
<http://thetricontinental.org/> in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi,
French, Mandarin, Russian, and German.

Before CoronaShock, while you read this newsletter, two femicides would
have occurred somewhere in the world; during CoronaShock, the number is
higher. This *must *end.

Warmly, Vijay.
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