Archive for the 'gender' Category

8 Women Social Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing The World

To coincide with the hundredth anniversary of some women first gaining the right to vote – and the recent release of the eagerly-awaited The Moral Marketplace: How Mission-Driven Millennials and Social Entrepreneurs are changing Our World – author and social entrepreneur Asheem Singh highlights eight women from across the globe, some well known, some flying below the radar, many of whom feature in his book, who are changing the world through fierce leadership and social entrepreneurship.

Betty Makoni was a child rape victim in Zimbabwe whose assault was hushed up. She grew up to become a teacher, advocate and researcher and set up the Girl Child Network, which lets girls share their experiences in classroom settings. GCN has spread across Africa and there is even a chapter in Basildon, Essex. Supermodel Adwoa Aboah recently set up a sassy, online, generation-Z variation on the network called Gurlstalk last year.

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, born 1980, is an Ethiopian social businesswoman and inspirational speaker and the founder of SoleRebels, Africa’s fastest growing footwear company that now supplies 30 countries worldwide, and that is ecologically sustainable and ethical in all its production ‘to boot.’

Lily Cole is already well known as more than a supermodel. With a double first in history of art from Cambridge University, she has also set up the social enterprise platform Impossible. This year, she will help lead the celebrations to mark the bicentenary of Emily Bronte’s birth.

Laura Bates is the British grad who founded the everyday sexism website. A simple blog has become a global brand, the hashtag itself is an icon of our times and a testament to the accessibility and potential of social entrepreneurship in our time.

Talia Frenkel. A former photojournalist, she now makes condoms that women in developing countries are not afraid to carry around. One pack purchased here, sees one given free to a vulnerable person in an AIDs danger zone.

Eden Full. A young woman and an engineering and innovation genius. When she was 19 years old, Full dropped out of Princeton University to turn her high school science fair project, the SunSaluter, into a global juggernaut. It provides both clean water and electricity for poor communities being as it is a solar panel that tracks the movement of the sun across the sky, making it significantly more energy efficient than sedentary flat panels. It can now be found in 15 countries around the world and Full has no plans of stopping there.

Wendy Royskopp. A Princeton grad who realised that quality of teaching was essential to life chances. The social movement she founded, Teach for America, its British counterpart, Teach First and other chapters are revolutionising education.

Malala Yousufzai. She was oppressed, denied an education. She was butchered, she got up, she spoke out, she won the Nobel prize for peace. She now studies law at Oxford. And still she has so much to give. An enduring inspiration.

 

The moral marketplace by Asheem Singh is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for just £10.39.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Understanding the myths that new students hold about sexual violence and domestic abuse is key for prevention

jgbv_cover2_dw-1-smallWe have made Rachel Fenton and Cassandra Jones’ article – An exploratory study on the beliefs about gender-based violence held by incoming undergraduates in England –  from the Journal of Gender-Based Violence free for an extra month, until the end of February.

In the light of #metoo and similar campaigns, myths about sexual violence and domestic abuse must be explored. The following article, based on the above paper and published in The Conversation in December, begins to unravel these myths, why they are held and how they shape our perceptions of sexual violence.

“Sexual violence and domestic abuse are public health problems in society – and they are issues that also affect universities. One 2011 study reported that during their time at university, 25% of women students in the UK had experienced sexual assault, 7% were subject to a serious sexual assault and 68% were subject to physical or verbal sexual harassment on campus.

A new study that I’ve just published found that some students – both male and female – hold myths about sexual violence and domestic abuse when they arrive at university.

These include rape myths such as believing that the victim brought it on herself by her behaviour or her consumption of alcohol, that rape is about sexual desire that men cannot control, and that women lie about being raped when they regret sex or are caught cheating. For domestic abuse, myths include not believing that violence happens in young people’s relationships, and that controlling behaviour is just an expression of “love”.

Myths shape societal perceptions of sexual violence, and can lead to many victims blaming themselves for their own victimisation. They can prevent victims from disclosing their abuse for fear of not being believed or being blamed – leaving the perpetrators free to carry on abusing. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, women may also believe in rape myths because to do so protects them from the potential of being victimised themselves: if they can think that the victim brought it on herself then they can feel safe that it will not happen to them. Previous studies have shown that rape myths are quite widely believed across society.

While there is little evidence about domestic abuse in universities, research shows partner violence is a significant concern in teenage relationships. Young women of university age are also at high risk of becoming victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse. Such sexual violence can lead to unfulfilled academic potential and interruption of studies as well as mental health problems.

By understanding whether new students endorse sexual violence and domestic abuse myths – and which myths – it should be possible to tailor prevention efforts more precisely. This way universities can work with students more effectively in tackling sexual violence and domestic abuse and survivors can be supported to access the help they need.

What myths prevail

In our new research paper, my colleague Cassandra Jones and I looked at the extent to which 381 new undergraduates at one university endorsed different myths about rape. We also looked at how these beliefs were related to domestic abuse myths, and to the students’ readiness to help in tackling the issue. Roughly a third of the students we surveyed were men and two thirds were women.

Participants in our study were asked to mark how much they believe in certain rape myths on a scale of one to five, where one was “strongly disagree” and five “strongly agree”. We found that for some of the questions, a substantial minority of the students supported myths about rape. Overall, men endorsed these myths more than women did.

Around 27% of the students we surveyed agreed or strongly agreed with statements that equated rape with men’s “uncontrollable” desire for sex. Around 20% agreed or strongly agreed with statements that suggested women claim they’ve been raped if they regret sex or desire revenge. The pattern we found is the same as a large study of over 2,300 undergraduates in the US and a general population study of over 3,000 participants.

However, we also found that some myths, which are collectively characterised as “it wasn’t really rape”, were supported by very few people. For example, only 3% supported the statement that “if a girl doesn’t physically resist sex – even if protesting verbally – it really can’t be considered rape” and only 1% believed rape required a weapon.

Consistent with other research, we also found that men endorsed myths about domestic abuse more than women did. We also found the more the students in the study believed in rape myths, the more likely they were to believe in domestic abuse myths.

Prioritising prevention

Work I’ve been doing with my colleague Helen Mott aims to empower bystanders to intervene to prevent sexual violence and domestic abuse, and to create cultural change. One key component of such prevention programmes is tackling and reducing myths about sexual violence and domestic abuse.

We wanted to know whether myths had any bearing on the extent to which the undergraduates would be ready to help with work to prevent sexual violence and domestic abuse. Overall, we found an overwhelming majority of the students felt a responsibility to help. Women felt more responsibility to help than men and a slightly higher proportion of men than women felt sexual violence and domestic abuse was not a problem or not their concern. We also found that the more students held myths about sexual violence and domestic abuse, the more likely they were to think violence is not a problem and not their concern.

There are educational, health and legal reasons why universities should help address these issues. But doing research and prevention work around sexual violence means acknowledging the problem. Some universities fear they will be being singled out as having a problem with sexual violence, and that it might deter prospective students and parents and cause reputational damage. Yet the opposite is true. The more a university engages with tackling sexual violence, the more reason students have to trust that their university is genuinely concerned with their safety and support. I have been fortunate to work with universities and students who understand this.

The ConversationIt is not surprising that some new students will come into university holding preconceptions about some of the causes and responsibility for sexual violence and domestic abuse – students are products of society where such myths are endorsed and are not to be blamed for holding them. Our research shows which myths we must tackle in prevention programmes, and that universities must engage both women and men students in a positive way in their prevention efforts.

Rachel Fenton, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Exeter

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

jgbv_cover2_dw-1-smallAn exploratory study on the beliefs about gender-based violence held by incoming undergraduates in England’ from the Journal of Gender-Based Violence is free until the end of February.

It is part of a ‘Bystander research’ section of the issue that also includes ‘A campus LGBTQ community’s sexual violence and stalking experiences: the contribution of pro-abuse peer support‘ by Amanda Hall-Sanchez et al and ‘Bystander intervention from the victims’ perspective: experiences, impacts and justice needs of street harassment victims‘ by Bianca Fileborn.

 

 

Repealing the 8th: how new legislation on abortion should be designed

Fiona de Londras

Fiona de Londras

Mairead Enright

Mairead Enright

Fiona de Londras and Mairead Enright – authors of ‘Repealing the 8th: Reforming Irish abortion law‘ – respond to the announcement of the Irish Cabinet of its intention to hold a referendum to repeal Article 40.3.3 in May 2018. The book, now publishing on Thursday this week, looks beyond the referendum to what might come next, presenting detailed proposals for new legislation.

Chapter 4 from the book – Accessing abortion care: principles for legislative design – is now available to download free on our website. 

In 1983 the Irish Constitution was amended by the insertion of Article 40.3.3, now known as ‘the 8th Amendment’. This provides that “the State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

At first glance, the 8th Amendment may seem innocuous or merely aspirational. However, over time, this provision has led to a near-absolute prohibition on abortion in Irish law and serious infringement of pregnant people’s rights. Under the current law, abortion is only lawfully available in Ireland when a woman will almost certainly die without it, and even then multiple doctors usually have to agree that this is the case.

“More than three decades of activism have come together in a large, vocal, visible and highly effective campaign for political and legal reform.”

Now, though, there are signs of change. More than three decades of activism have come together in a large, vocal, visible and highly effective campaign for political and legal reform; for the removal of the 8th Amendment and introduction of a law that will enable women to exercise agency in pregnancy and ensure that, for those who want to avail of it, abortion care is available at home in Ireland.

On Monday, the Irish Cabinet announced its intention to hold a referendum to repeal Article 40.3.3 in May 2018. The People will be asked to delete this Article and to insert a provision that expressly says that provision may be made by law for the termination of pregnancy. The Taoiseach said that the referendum will present the People with a choice to enable the Irish parliament to legislate for abortion care at home, or to continue to export abortion to other jurisdictions and to put the lives of women in Ireland at risk.

The Cabinet will publish indicative legislation for a GP-led abortion service ‘on request’ up to 12 weeks, and more limited access to abortion in later pregnancy.

Hamill Aoife - 205kTravelled - Signs - London Irish Arc 2

After the referendum

In the book we look beyond the referendum, to what might come next once the 8th Amendment no longer absolves the Oireachtas of the responsibility to make law to provide for the needs of women in Ireland. We include detailed proposals for how new legislation on abortion might be designed, including draft legislation that gives effect to the proposals that appear to have received Cabinet support this week in a way that respects the rights of pregnant people in Ireland.

“…the rights of pregnant people can be developed in ways that truly respect and protect bodily integrity, privacy, and the right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment.”

In doing this, we argue that repeal of the 8th Amendment would create opportunities for the progressive interpretation of the Constitution, so that the rights of pregnant people—for so long narrowed down to a bare right to life said to be equal in stature to that of an unborn foetus—can be developed in ways that truly respect and protect bodily integrity, privacy, and the right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment. This, we argue, would compel the Irish state to provide for lawful abortion, but would allow it to pursue the socially valuable objective of preserving foetal life provided in doing so it respects the constitutional rights of pregnant people.

This can be done by introducing law that makes abortion available without restriction as to reason up to at least the twelfth week. After that such a law might make lawful abortion available on broadly drawn health grounds so that pregnant people can truly determine the course of their own reproductive lives, and so that victims of sexual violence or those who have received unexpected foetal diagnoses will be able to be supported through a decision to an end a pregnancy, rather than forced through a punitive ‘qualification’ processes. This is what we are calling for now that the Referendum has been announced.

Like the Citizens’ Assembly and Joint Oireachtas Committee on the 8th Amendment, we draw distinctions between the availability of abortion after 12 weeks and after 24 weeks, with later abortion (after 12 weeks) being truly exceptional in law, just as it is in life. Illustrating the feasibility of such an approach, we include in the book draft legislation that gives effect to this approach. This makes our book essential reading for anyone involved in the campaign.

Our objective in writing this book was threefold. First, we wanted to make the constitutional arguments about the 8th Amendment clear and accessible and, in so doing, to show that from a legal perspective there is nothing unusually difficult about legislating for abortion and no reason why, uniquely among medical procedures, it should be regulated within the text of the Constitution. Second, we wanted to show how the Constitution itself could develop after repeal to reinvigorate the personal rights of pregnant people and to strike a balance between protecting these legal rights and pursuing the social objective of preserving foetal life through voluntary, consensual, and well-supported pregnancy. Finally, we wanted to show that, by drawing on experience in other countries and on international human rights law, and by committing to ensuring that pregnant people have sufficient certainty and support to make decisions about their own reproductive lives, a workable, reasonable, and rights-based law on access to abortion can be imagined and designed for Ireland.

Now, with the announcement of the Referendum on the 36th Amendment to the Constitution, we are a step closer to achieving some of these goals, but there is still much work to do. Given this week’s developments, Policy Press has brought forward the publication of the book to 1 February: please circulate information about it to anyone who is involved in the debates around the referendum.

 

Repealing the 8th: Reforming Irish abortion law‘ by Fiona de Londras and Mairead Enright  is publishing on 1 February 2018 and is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Pre-order here for just £10.39.

It will be available Open Access under CC-BY licence.

Find out more about impact, influence and engagement at Policy Press here.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Why does public sexual harassment matter?

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Fiona Vera-Gray

The announcement today that MPs are launching an inquiry into the public sexual harassment of women and girls is a welcome recognition that finally these experiences matter. Fiona Vera-Gray, author of The Right Amount of Panic, looks at how safety and freedom work together in women’s lives.

“Picture this: You’re on a bus and this guy in front of you turns around and starts talking. You think, it can’t be at me, so keep reading, and then he says, “Are you ok? I’m talking to you.” You’re polite, a little unsure, so respond, “Oh sorry I don’t know you.” And then it starts. He says, “I thought we could get to know each other. What’s your name? Have you got a boyfriend? Where have you been? What are you reading? Why are you being so rude? You think you’re better than me? Stuck up bitch.” He follows you when you get off at your stop. You make sure you stay on a main road. You lose him at a busy intersection when you cross the road just before a bus passes, leaving him stuck on the other side.

“Women and girls are routinely having to evaluate what the right amount of panic is, to direct their movements and actions in public space.”

This is just one example of what women have told me about their experiences of public sexual harassment. Parts of this will be familiar to many women in the UK and beyond, the intrusive questioning and interruption, the quick turn to insults and aggression. Women and girls are routinely having to evaluate what the right amount of panic is, to direct their movements and actions in public space. And though usually such encounters, and the work women do to manage them, are commonly dismissed as “all part of growing up”, it looks like the impact they have is about to be taken seriously.

The announcement today by the Women and Equalities Committee that they are launching an inquiry into the public sexual harassment of women and girls is a welcome recognition that finally these experiences matter.

Activists and organisations have been working for many years to try to raise awareness of the routine intrusions women and girls experience from men in public spaces. In the UK, the filmmaker Aleah Scott’s short film LDN GIRLS profiled the work of activist Kafayat Okanlawon, and groups such as Purple Drum, the young women’s project at Imkaan committed to archiving and amplifying the voices of black and minoritised ethnic women, have highlighted the importance of looking at racialised public sexual harassment, and the experiences of queer black and minoritised ethnic women.

I have been researching this since 2012, publishing the first full length study in the UK in 2016. I’ve also been working with young people on the issues, developing a set of Lesson Plans with Rape Crisis South London and Purple Drum that helps young people think through the differences between banter, harassment, and a compliment. What I have found is that far from the ways public sexual harassment is trivialised, it plays a significant role in limiting women’s freedom.

Women are habitually performing safety work, often without thinking. Habits such as restricting where they go, what they wear, choosing particular seats on public transport or certain routes home. The vast majority of this work is pre-emptive, a highly crafted way of evaluating what the right amount of panic is in any given situation.

“… crucial information can be missed when we ask broad questions about crime and safety.”

However, this ability to create a feeling of safety through changing their behaviour creates a problem: it means that crucial information can be missed when we ask broad questions about crime and safety. Questions such as “how safe do you feel?” or “how often have you experienced sexual harassment in public?” are unable to capture the work that women may be doing to feel safe, or the many times where this work has been successful and they have expertly avoided sexual harassment. We become unable to see the full impact of the sexual harassment of women in public because we’ve separated out safety from freedom and are only measuring the former. But in women’s lives, the two work together. The Women and Equalities Inquiry may finally give a space for this connection to be uncovered.

Over the past months, we have seen the ways that the #metoo movement has mobilised women across different sectors. It is not that women are finally speaking about their experiences of harassment – indeed many of the accounts include how disclosures were previously made to people with the power to make changes – it is that women are finally being heard. This movement has shown what happens when we take workplace sexual harassment seriously. The Inquiry over the next few months may at last do the same for our experiences in public.

9781447342298The Right Amount of Panic by Fiona Vera-Gray is publishing in July 2018 and is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Pre-order here for just £11.99.

Find out more about impact, influence and engagement at Policy Press here.

Policy Press newsletter subscribers receive a 35% discount – sign up here.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

#MeToo and the underlying contradictions of patriarchy

jgbv_cover2_dw-1-smallBy Emma Williamson, Co-Editor of the Journal of Gender-Based Violence

Recent weeks have seen a deluge of allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, with the media scrambling to print stories from A-List celebrities: allegations, what they knew (or didn’t), or whether Harvey Weinstein’s behaviour is the tip of a toxic iceberg.

The original story discloses allegations stretching back three decades. What is clear from the subsequent coverage is that people knew: his company, his family, his colleagues and the media. In fact, the New York Times itself, has been accused of suppressing an article written by one of its own journalists, Sharon Waxman, in 2004.

weinstein

The account above is not new. If you replace Harvey Weinstein with Bill Cosby or Jimmy Savile (had he been identified before his death), the sense of entitlement and power is exactly the same. It is also the same in those everyday cases where neither the victim nor perpetrator is famous, and which the media rarely report. What unites all of these perpetrators/abusers is that, as Herman (1992) states, “It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain”. [Herman, Trauma and Recovery, 1992].

Following the allegations, there has been critique and soul searching from a range of sources. Donna Karan was roundly lambasted for suggesting that women in the movie industry who act in a certain way are probably ‘asking for it’.

“You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.” 

We have also seen more subtle forms of victim blaming-shaming. The Daily Mail’s double page spread of female stars being snapped with Weinstein failed to recognise the power he had in the industry, and that it was that power to make or break an individual’s career which protected him.

Following the increasing number of allegations, Alyssa Milano initiated a #MeToo campaign. Her intention was for women who had experienced abuse to show solidarity with those who had come forward, and to show just how widespread such abuse is. The Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow applauded the movement. “The democratization of the spread of information can finally move faster than a powerful media mogul’s attempts to bury it,” she said by email.

It is important to recognise that #MeToo was originally a campaign launched by Tarana Burke, a Black American Women, in response to a lack of services for this group of victims of abuse. Identifying oneself in this way was intended to offer direct support to others in their network when statutory and other support was non-existent . This was framed as ‘empowerment through empathy’.

“It was a catchphrase to be used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible.”

The current #MeToo campaign arose from a desire for victims to show solidarity with those who, for a variety of reasons, didn’t feel able to come forward. The debates about this campaign however, illustrate the debates about misogyny itself. Some accuse the campaign of targeting women as responsible for naming the abuse.

Making the point that for many victims this in itself is harmful and distressing. Others, like Heather Jo Flores have stated that men need to do more .

“It shouldn’t fall to the victims, again, to have to keep speaking out. I’m not saying anybody should stop speaking out, just that I wish more people would start listening, because we are f*cking exhausted…… Until men speak out against men who abuse, this will never stop. How about y’all post “I ignored it and I won’t anymore” instead? Because #hearyou doesn’t cut it. Just hearing us doesn’t cut it. Taking action, speaking out, and showing zero tolerance for abuse is the only way through. Silence enables. Be the change.”

And here we come to the underlying contradictions of patriarchy. Perpetrators seek our silence by manipulation, threat, harm. Yet even when we break our silence, we still make them invisible by turning the focus yet again on the victims. Perhaps the most important thing we can remember, when the new scandal breaks, which it inevitably will, is captured by that sense of exhaustion Flores talks about.

“Men, it’s not our job to keep reminding you. Remind each other, and stop abusing. It’s as simple as that.”

 

jgbv_cover2_dw-1-smallDr Emma Williamson is a Reader in Gender-Based Violence at the University of Bristol and a Co-Editor of the Journal of Gender-Based Violence. The first issue of the Journal is now available online, and the editorial is free to read.

You may also be interested in the special issue of Families Relationships and Societies on Violence Against Women and Children in Diverse Contexts.

 

 

Image: Image credit: “Harvey Weinstein, Chairman, The Weinstein Company” is copyright (c) 2015 Thomas Hawk and made available under a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 license

Violence against women and children in diverse contexts: FRS special issue

FRS 2013 [FC]Nicky Stanley, Ingrid Palmary and Khatidja Chantler, editors of the special issue of Families, Relationships and Societies, detail the content of the issue and explain why examining both differing and shared experience of violence and abuse is essential.

“Violence against women and children is a global phenomenon but experiences of violence and abuse and their impact are shaped by local settings and factors specific to particular societies and communities.

This special issue of Families, Relationships and Societies explores varying forms of violence and abuse in different parts of the world, including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Iran and South East Asia. Bringing these papers together highlights differences but also reveals what is common in the experience of violence and abuse, in the ways we investigate and understand those experiences and in the service response. This recognition of both differing and shared experience of violence and abuse is increasingly important as communities everywhere become more diverse. Any campaign or service aimed at preventing violence for women and children needs to take account of specific and local factors as well as those aspects of violence that are widely shared.

This special issue comes out of a research workshop held at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in March 2015 that was funded by the British Council.

University-of-Witwatersrand-March-2015

Nicky Stanley, Ingrid Palmary and Khatidja Chantler with special issue contributors and workshop participants, March 2015, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Thirty-five researchers from UK and South Africa came together over four days. Their interests covered gender and violence across diverse contexts and explored the connections between gender based violence, migration and political violence. Participants came from social work, public health, psychology, sociology, social policy, health studies and anthropology with both early career researchers and experienced academics contributing. The workshop included mentoring sessions and career development opportunities as well as the papers that formed the basis of this special issue.

Two research centres led the workshop and have edited this special issue: the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS), University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, and the Connect Centre for International Research on Interpersonal Violence and Harm, School of Social Work, Care and Community, University of Central Lancashire, UK. AMCS is an Africa-based centre of excellence dedicated to shaping global discourse on human mobility and social transformation. The Connect Centre works with a wide range of international partners to make connections and to challenge fragmented thinking on violence and abuse and its impact in order to develop new research and services.

The wide variety of forms of sexual and interpersonal violence, and the way in which gender and other positions of marginality, including migration, interacts with these forms are explored in this special issue. Nadia Aghtaie’s paper provides new insights on rape in Iran. Aghtaie’s study illustrates that, within an Iranian context, rape is often sanctioned implicitly and explicitly through culture, laws and policies that provide impunity for perpetrators and normalise violence against women. Similarly, Ingrid Sinclair’s paper explores the ways in which notions of women’s morality, derived from marital status, shape the responses of the South African Police Service to women who experience abuse from their partners.

Rebecca Walker’s paper in this special issue describes how structural violence is experienced by migrant mothers who sell sex in Johannesburg. Walker’s paper reveals the intersection of gender and class as predominantly shaped by the women’s marginal migration status: basic survival for themselves and their children is dependent on mothers selling sex. Women’s status as sex workers shapes public sector workers responses to them. Their often oppressive responses are legitimised by populist notions of who is and is not entitled to services. The paper by Rebecca Dudley’s also draws attention to the intersections of domestic abuse and state structures, specifically the immigration rule of No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) in the UK. Her UK study explores the impact of this rule and the State’s complicity in trapping women in abusive relationships. In common with other contributors, she identifies the hostility that migrant women may experience from service providers as a key factor.

Patricia Hyne’s paper explores processes of trust and mistrust in accounts of displacement and asylum drawing on analysis from different research projects over a 25 year period. She reports practitioners’ experiences working in Thai refugee transit and processing camps and Burmese refugees as well as drawing on research conducted with in the UK refugees, asylum seekers and trafficked children. Hynes provides examples of when it is ‘safe’ to trust someone and where mistrust is essential for survival. Deborah Allnock’s UK based study on childhood disclosure of sexual abuse, examines the relationship between memorable life events (MLEs) and disclosure of sexual abuse in childhood. She provides a framework that illuminates those contexts that can inhibit, alter or reverse decisions to disclose abuse.

In relation to researching ‘hard to reach’ groups, the paper by Lorraine Radford, Nancy Lombard, Franziska Meinck, Emma Katz and Stanford Mahati includes a case-study from each author’s research on children and young people’s experiences of violence and adversity across the different contexts of the UK and South Africa. Each researcher used different methodologies and concepts but shared a common understanding of the social construction of childhood and the centrality of cultural and social contexts for understanding what constitutes violence. They report considerable ethical challenges and dilemmas were experienced in gaining ethical approval and in conducting the studies. This paper highlights the importance of researching with children rather on children. Similarly, the paper by Vearey, Barter, Hynes and McGinn provides rich illustrations of the ethical dilemmas of researching gender based violence. The article draws on diverse examples including: research on the Burmese-Thai border; research in Ireland on intimate partner violence and research with school children in a number of European countries. This paper provides detailed accounts of real life problems encountered during research and the complexity of establishing an ethical response in contexts where the outcome of actions can be difficult to anticipate.

Sharma and Marsh’s Open Space piece offers an analysis of group-work at Safety4Sisters, Manchester, UK, by workers who facilitate a group for women with experiences of abuse with NRPF and insecure immigration status. Their contribution brings to life the harshness of the immigration and asylum process and the fragility of the women’s existence. In their Open Space piece, Elsa Oliveira and Jo Vearey, researchers based at the African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand, discuss creative research approaches with migrant sex workers in South Africa. They are founders of the MoVE:method:visual:explore project, and their paper highlights the importance of doing research differently with marginalised groups. The emphasis is very much on working with marginalised groups through media that allow marginalised voices to be articulated. In achieving this, the boundaries between research and activism are blurred and overlap.

 

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One size does not fit all: the problem of extended working life policy

Áine Ní Léime and Debra Street, co-editors of Gender, ageing and extended working life, launching today at the British Society of Gerontology conference, discuss problematic extended working life policies, and their potential consequences for both women and men in later age. 

Debra Street

Áine Ní Léime

“How can affluent countries “afford” pensions for ageing populations?

Some policymakers prefer one answer—people should simply work longer, thus cost less. Increased longevity makes policies to extend working lives appear logical and seem potentially benign.

Favoured initiatives range from increasing state pension ages, requiring higher/more frequent worker pension contributions, eliminating mandatory retirement, and introducing anti-age discrimination legislation. They run concurrently with the broader neoliberal agenda of pension privatisation, making individuals (rather than employers and governments) more responsible for providing their own pensions or working to much later ages.

“Extended working life policies focus almost exclusively on reducing state pension costs…”

Such policies are highly problematic and reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the complexities of current employment arrangements and future job markets. Extended working life policies focus almost exclusively on reducing state pension costs, with scant attention to existing gendered differences across the life course, whether associated with adequate pay and flexibility to balance work and family responsibilities, working longer, or amassing pensions.

The upshot: women and men, unsurprisingly, would fare quite differently.

 

Back to the future: work ’til we die?

Workers in physically demanding and/or stressful jobs such as construction, cleaning or caregiving are likelier to have chronic health conditions or to be worn out by work as they approach the traditional state pension age, usually 65. Many started work at younger ages than the more advantageously employed, so they may already have spent 45 or more years at work by age 65.

Increasing state pension age requires them to work longer still. This punitive measure ignores their experience of already extended working lives, albeit at the younger end of the adult life course. It is unfair to deprive them of the choice to stop or work longer.

Because gender norms designate women as the primary providers of unpaid care for children and others, many have employment histories punctuated by breaks in paid work or long spells of low- paid, part-time employment to juggle work and family responsibilities.

Demanding work to older ages and greater pension contributions to qualify for minimum and maximum state contributory pensions makes it more difficult for women to get a full state pension and greatly increases their risk of poverty in old age.

Extended working life policies assume demand for older workers. Yet little evidence suggests that is true. Research on age discrimination in employment shows that jobs for older workers are typically scarce and poorly paid, if unemployment happens as it did during the recent recession.

Older women seeking employment face the “double whammy” of ageism and sexism, rendering women ”socially older” than comparably aged men, making re-employment more difficult. Precarious work is growing in all countries and, while women traditionally predominated in the precarity, men are increasingly relegated to non-standard work.

Many women and all precarious workers have episodic pension contribution patterns that make poverty in old age more likely. Finally, privatising pensions is especially detrimental to women’s pension provision, since they are typically in lower paid jobs that make private pension contributions unaffordable.

 

Where do we go from here?

The way forward is not obvious. There is a need for more thoughtful, flexible policies, if women, workers in physically demanding and/or stressful jobs, or those in precarious employment are to be expected to work longer.

To understate, we are not particularly optimistic that such adequately enlightened policies will be enacted.

“An adequate universal citizen’s income is one policy refinement that could offer a genuine choice to people nearing retirement age.”

Working longer offers a welcome option for some workers in rewarding, interesting, physically undemanding occupations, but it should not be a requirement for all workers. Calls for an adequate universal citizen’s income is one policy refinement that could offer a genuine choice to people nearing retirement age.

Since women and precariously employed individuals are more likely to depend on safety-net state pensions, a citizen’s income would benefit them most. Unfortunately, debating the merits of citizens’ incomes does not implement them and evidence of policy appetites for such proposals is disheartening.

It seems obvious that the fragility of labour markets for workers of all ages should give policymakers pause before assuming (as they seem to have done so far) that rising pension costs can be stemmed by unilaterally extending working life for all. Such policies will inevitably fall far short of expectations, given that they ignore real experiences of working lives shaped by gender and other work/life circumstances.

‘One-size-fits-all’ extended working life policies—undifferentiated for women and men, for physically demanding work and white collar occupations, for the precariously and the securely employed—are clearly neither benign, nor logical, nor capable of meeting the varied economic needs of ageing individuals.

Gender, ageing and extended working life edited by Áine Ní Léime et al. is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for £60.00.

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