Domestic Violence: “Why does she not just leave him?”

Have you ever wondered “why doesn’t she leave him?” Domestic violence is indiscriminate and can affect anyone of any race and class. The Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) states 1.2 million women aged 15-59 have experienced domestic violence in the year ending of March 2017, as well as 713,000 men in that same year.

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There are many forms of domestic violence, the obvious being physical and emotional; it can also extend to sexual, psychological, as well as, financial. Women can also suffer from FGM and forced marriages.

Research by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in March 2017, found that 46 out of 100 of reported incidents result in arrests and of that an eye watering 32% are considered to be of a violent nature. It can go without saying these figures are underestimated as many individuals will not come forward.

Looking at the victims of domestic violence demographically, BAMER women are significantly more affected. But why is this? In today’s patriarchal society women are often seen as inferior to men, this includes many cultures. For example in the South Asian community, there is a barrier for women to seek help for the fear of tarnishing the family reputation (sharam). They are threatened with the idea of isolation from their children; loss of possessions and the fear of rejection from extended members of family, possibly even the community. For many women in this community they are responsible for upholding their ‘honour’ and will lose face if they tarnish it.

For many refugee and asylum seeking women who experience domestic abuse, there is a language barrier restricting them from seeking help. Many of these vulnerable women who accompany their partner are financially dependent on them, furthermore they are unaware of their legal rights and the claims they can make. For many of the victims that have fled from oppressive and war torn countries, whereby their immigration status is uncertain, therefore asking local authority for safety becomes less likely.

The effect of domestic violence is detrimental, research shows, 3 women a week commit suicide as a result, and 40% of homeless women state domestic violence is a contributing factor to their homelessness. The World Health Organisation states, those that are subject to domestic violence, are twice as likely to experience depression. The estimated cost of providing services and the lost economic output to victims reach a staggering £15.8 billion annually in the UK.

So what can be done? Prevention and reporting domestic violence is a start to stamping it out for good. One of the key elements to tackling domestic violence is education. Holding English language classes for women can bring an array of benefits, they will become more confident in their day to day lives, they will be able to express their feelings with the wider community as well as understand the British laws that surround domestic violence. Women will find it easier at seeking help and advice and more importantly, feel more comfortable too. Educating young people of the effects and what a healthy relationship is, the concept of abuse and consent, it allows them to know what to look for if they are ever in an abusive situation.

Here at JAN Trust, we provide a warm safe environment for women to gain confidence and come together as a community, where they can seek advice and direction on any issues affecting them, including domestic violence. We offer English language classes, held weekly in our centre, which aim to instil confidence and empowerment to women with the greatest care and support provided. If you are affected by what you have read and/or are going through domestic violence, you can contact JAN Trust for help and advice.

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Posted in JAN Trust, marriage, Uncategorized, Violence, Violence Against Women, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Meghan Markle, the Media and the Monarchy

Following Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s first official visit this month to Nottingham, we at JAN Trust wanted to congratulate the happy couple on their engagement. Furthermore, we have been considering the treatment of Markle by the British media since her and Price Harry’s relationship became public knowledge.

It has been hard to escape the fact that the Markle  has not had an easy time, the media have distributed tasteless articles with sexist and racist undertones at every turn.

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The couple began been dating in 2016 and their engagement was announced on the 27th of November 2017. Their wedding will take place on the 19th of May 2018.

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The ensuing press coverage, following the discovery of their relationship focused on Markle’s mixed heritage. Markle was subject to such harassment and abuse, that Prince Harry released an official statement on the 8th of November 2016 which condemned the hounding of Meghan. In the statement Harry said, “Some of this has been very public – the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments”. It went on to say that the couple had struggled with “nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of the papers.”

It is easy to see why Prince Harry’s out of the norm statement was necessary. Just a few days earlier, on the 4th of November 2016, The Sun had made Markle the focus of an article headlined, “Harry’s Girl on Pornhub,” which featured clips of Meghan from the hit American drama, Suits. The Sun issued an apology that was published over three months later.

In a Daily Mail article, Rachel Johnson saw fit to comment on the future of Meghan and Harry’s relationship, in the article Johnson stated, “the Windsor’s will thicken their watery, thin blue blood and Spencer pale skin and ginger hair with some rich and exotic DNA.” She went onto describe Markle’s mother as “a dreadlocked African-American lady from the wrong side of the tracks”. Johnson, also felt it was appropriate to inform the public that Markle is not, “official Wife Material”, and had failed her, “Mum Test”. Another Daily Mail headline read, “Harry’s girl is (almost) straight outta Compton”, referencing the hit film Straight Outta Compton based in Los Angeles, where Markle is from and where her mother currently lives.

The Mail Online also came under fire when they posted pictures of the couple on a private beach in Jamaica back in July. The images were later removed, after a ruling by Ipso, that branded the publishing of these images as an, “unjustified intrusion”.

The Prince’s disappointment in the vulgarity of the British press’s obsession with Markle’s race appears to be reflected by many, “I feel like racism in the U.K. is pretty insidious,” said Paula Akpan, a co-founder of Black Girl Festival.

Whilst some may believe that their impending matrimony is a big step for women of colour and those of mixed heritage, it is clear that racism and malicious press behaviour are   still very much a part of British society.

Hopefully, the more important aspects of Markle’s life will be of more interest to those intrigued by the humanitarian, and gender equality campaigner. Markle is not only an actress about to wed a British royal but also an entrepreneur, UN women’s advocate and an ambassador for Canada’s World Vision Water campaign, for which she has spent time visiting Rwanda.

A satirical article highlighting the irony of the mainstream media in largely failing to recognise Markle’s achievements outside of getting engaged to Prince Harry was written by NewsThump. This article highlights the irony of many of the articles published about the couple.

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We at JAN Trust work to support and empower marginalised women, particularly BAME women as well as fight against racism and hate crime. We sincerely hope that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have a harassment free future devoid of hurtful and stressful dealings with the media.

Posted in Active citizenship, Advocacy, Campaign, Campaigning, discrimination, Diversity, Ethnic Minorities, JAN Trust, London, marriage, Online abuse, Racism, Representation, Society, The Sun, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Implicit Bias: The insidious nature of discrimination

66% of the British population, who have taken the Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT), were found to have an underlying preference towards white people. What is implicit bias and how can it be combatted?

For the most part, people do not like to think that they judge or stereotype other social groups based on signifiers such as gender, race or religious identity. ‘I don’t see colour’ or ‘I don’t see race’ are popular refrains, which taken at face value seem well intentioned. However, the reality is that we all have internalised prejudices or stereotypes that we may not even realise. So, you may believe you ‘don’t see race’ or ‘don’t see colour’, yet might have been in the large group of people whose first thought when this interview went viral was that this professor’s wife was actually his nanny. This is just one example of collective stereotyping and it should make us stop and think about the effects and roots of these knee-jerk assumptions.

Unconscious or implicit bias refers to underlying attitudes or stereotypes that affect the way we relate or act towards certain social groups as a society. Studies have shown that our biases are formed throughout our lives dependent on society, culture and personal experiences that manifest in quick, reflex-like judgements, of others we form subconsciously. It is important to understand that these biases usually go undetected within the individual, who may otherwise perceive themselves as extremely progressive and forward thinking. Unfortunately, we acquire these thought processes unintentionally and despite what we may want to believe; they are deep-seated, ubiquitous and seep into all aspects of life including our personal relationships and the workplace.

This was highlighted in the recent Channel 4 documentary ‘Is Love Racist? The Dating Game’, where participants were unaware they were taking part in a dating experiment to ascertain whether their sexual ‘preferences’ were actually informed by an internalised racial bias. The documentary, presented by sociologist Emma Dabiri, found that entire racial groups were dismissed based on the individuals’ dating preferences. In fact, 35% of white people said they would never date a black person, compared with only 10% of black people saying the same about white people. One white participant in the documentary even declined swiping right to a man of colour stating ‘his nostrils are too flared’.

Although many people believe that these preferences, such as an inclination towards unflared nostrils, are just arbitrary personal preferences; it is important to ask ourselves how our personal preferences are formed. Once we accept the reality of implicit bias, it is easy to see that although not many people would believe that they are being actively racist, their ‘preferences’ aren’t just innocent and unique to them – they are actually informed by internalised societal biases unbeknownst to the individual.

This also plays out in other aspects of our lives with underlying preferences seeping into the work place. Before applicants can even enter the work force, those with minority ethic-sounding names on their CV are statistically less likely to get an interview. The BBC found that an applicant with a traditionally English name (Adam) was three times more likely to get a job interview than a candidate with a Muslim sounding name (Mohamed).

Unsurprisingly, it is visibly Muslim women wearing hijabs that face the most discrimination. As the most economically disadvantaged group in British society, the type of implicit bias they face is threefold; being Muslim, female and from an ethnic minority. This includes name discrimination in the same vein as the Adam/Mohamed test, but also underlying attitudes towards their religious dress and interview questions containing pre-conceived stereotypes of a Muslim woman’s primary role within the home. In this way, employers are making knee-jerk decisions which are informed by internalised biases that they are completely unaware of. It is important to recognise this in order to put a stop to the detrimental and tangible barriers it builds for minority groups which undermines freedom of opportunity.

Combatting biases you aren’t necessarily aware of is a difficult task, however major organisations are now realising the truth about unconscious bias and are taking steps to educate and lessen its impact. Google and Facebook now include implicit bias workshops into employee training programs to encourage diversity and equal opportunity. Moreover, many universities and work places have started enacting ‘name-blind recruitment’, anonymous hand ins and name-blind UCAS applications to try and eradicate the harmful effects of name discrimination and create a more level playing field.

On an individual basis, awareness of the reality of this issue is an important first step and actively trying to unpick your learned assumptions and stereotypes is a vital and deliberate choice for equality. You can take an Implicit Association Test (IAT) with Harvard’s Project Implicit® and see if you have any biases you don’t know about here.

At JAN Trust we are aware of employment discrimination and the effect it has on women from minority communities. We actively try and lessen the impact of these barriers through our services and programmes including CV and English language support to educate, build confidence and encourage career aspirations and opportunities. We believe in and work towards a society where marginalised women from minority communities have freedom of opportunity and the representation they deserve.

Posted in discrimination, Education, Ethnic Minorities, girls, Islam, islamophobia, Racism, Society, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

An Inhuman Attack: The Crisis of Rohingya Women

The Rohingya Muslims are a minority community within Myanmar who have long been persecuted through the denial of citizenship and basic human rights. In recent months, Myanmar’s military have increased the intensity of their ‘clearance operations’, resulting in hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fleeing their homes. Although all those who have fled are seriously affected, this post will explore the specific challenges faced by the Rohingya women within these communities.

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The Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar into Bangladesh is thought to be the world’s fastest-growing refugee humanitarian crisis, with over 625,000 having crossed the border since August.

Approximately 51 percent of the displaced population are women and girls, and within the rising emergency many face unique challenges because of their gender. They are disproportionately affected by sexual violence and assault, limited access to healthcare, and the underground sex trade.

UN doctors working in refugee camps have reported hundreds of cases of rape and sexual assault since October, with a vast number being perpetrated by members of the Burmese security forces and soldiers from the army. Evidence of particularly aggressive attacks has been found by medical officers during physical examinations of the women, with one officer stating, “We found skin marks, it showed a very forceful attack, an inhuman attack”. Although the Burmese authorities have stated they will investigate any claims of rape, many Myanmar officials have dismissed the allegations of abuse as militant propaganda. Within a crisis such as this the limited resources tend to focus on urgent care in the aftermath: a situation report from aid agencies found that 350 people had required ‘life-saving care’ as the result of gender-based violence, and yet this report made no mention of the perpetrators. The lack of widely-known reporting mechanisms creates an inability to guarantee justice, and combined with the shame associated with rape in the conservative Rohingya society, it creates an environment which magnifies the emotional trauma experienced by these women, in addition to the physical. In April, a UN report said sexual violence was “employed systematically to humiliate and terrorise” the Rohingya people. In short, weaponised rape and sexual assault are used against the women and their community to terrorise them into leaving their homes.

Another factor which disproportionately affects female refugees is access to healthcare, which comes in the form of sparse and overstretched humanitarian relief services. The United Nations Population Fund estimates nearly 150,000 of these women are of reproductive age, and 24,000 are pregnant and lactating. These women have unique healthcare needs and require specific maternal support, which is more often than not unavailable. Some have had no choice but to give birth at the roadside. Furthermore, the continued increase in the number of refugees mean that the camps lack sufficient numbers of latrines and hygiene facilities. As a result, men and women are forced to share toilets without basic measures such as gender segregation. These are often badly lit and unprotected, meaning sexual exploitation can coincide with dangerous levels of hygiene.

Additionally, the scarcity of food and water is forcing many women to turn to desperate measures such as prostitution in order to feed themselves and their families. ‘Recruiters’ target vulnerable women and girls, including newcomers, with the promise of money or support. As a red cross worker stated; “If aid agencies can’t manage to provide people with their basic needs, the risk of trafficking grows”. Although support services for women trapped in such circumstances do exist within some refugee camps, many women are unaware of their existence. This reflects a wider problem in which female refugees, many of whom are heads of households, aren’t informed of how to access health, aid, and support services within their community.

Despite this turmoil, there exists a glimmer of hope and resilience, among women. Women are emerging as front line support, leading other women and connecting one another to aid and support. This support is essential for women, a space where they are able to share stories, care for one and other and receive any assistance they may need. Crises can often highlight the importance of women, having an active role in society. At JAN Trust we hope that the Rohingya stop suffering oppression because of their religion, and they get the help from the international community they need in order to resettle.

Posted in Active citizenship, discrimination, Diversity, Ethnic Minorities, Extremism, Hate Crime, hijab, Inclusion, International, International Affairs, Islam, islamophobia, JAN Trust, Muslim, Muslim dress, Muslim women, Politics, Racism, Society, Terrorism, Uncategorized, Violence, Violence Against Women, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Donald Trump retweets British far-right anti-Muslim videos – ‘abhorrent and a threat to our society’

On Wednesday the 29th of November, the President of the United States Donald Trump retweeted a series of anti-Muslim videos, posted by the deputy leader of the far-right group Britain First, Jayda Fransen. Frasen is currently facing charges for causing religiously aggravated harassment.

Britain First is an Islamophobic group, founded in 2011, by former members of the British National Party (BNP). Regrettably the group has a large presence on social media, despite having made little impact politically, they still regularly uses social media to disseminate anti-Islamic material. Viewers of their content are under no illusion as to the groups and Fransens’s extreme far-right Islamophobic views, as she does little to disguise these.

Before murdering Jo Cox in 2016, extreme right-wing terrorist Tommy Mair shouted “Britain First”. Therefore the President of the United States of America allowing far-right groups a platform to impart their views is a dangerous tactic that normalises far-right extremist views.

Many have called for Trumps’ invitation for a state visit to be withdrawn. Owen Jones, Guardian Columnist, posted on Twitter:

The reaction of many, has rightly been, sheer outrage, with many turning to twitter to share their indignation at this despicable act. In doing this, Trump successfully normalises hatred, and threatens to legitimise his own hateful values in the UK. Brendan Cox, argued in a piece for The Guardian, that Trump’s strategy is to ‘..legitimise those driven by hatred. It makes them think that their views are mainstream,…and makes those already driven by hatred more likely to act on it.’

In the early hours of Thursday, in a public outburst, Trump tweeted May:

This again, fuelled many to take to twitter to condemn Trump’s actions. It has been suggested that given the number of mass shootings that take place on a daily basis in the US that Trump should perhaps concentrate on his own domestic affairs.

Another disturbing impact of Trumps’ retweets is the increased following of Fransen on twitter, according to data shared by, Hope Not Hate, who have been monitoring the following of far-right groups, say that her following has exploded on social media, in March she had 13 000 followers, by November this has reached 54 000, and today it has reach in excess of 80 000. This is truly worrying.

May has responded stating that “retweeting Britain First was the wrong thing to do”. It looks likely that Trump’s state visit will be postponed again over fears of mass, widespread protest. Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, has told MPs to “look at the bigger picture” regarding the relationship between the UK and US, and the potential impacts of a breakdown of that relationship.

Many Labour MPs have disputed this with Labour MP Paul Flynn said Trump should be “charged with inciting racial hatred” if he came to the UK.

Trump’s retweeting of Britain First’s inflammatory tweets brings a vast threat to society and furthers his agenda to create rhetoric of hate and a divided society. As a country we must unite and stand up against such unjust and abhorrent behaviour.

Posted in british, Extremism, Facebook, Far right, Inclusion, International, Islam, islamophobia, JAN Trust, London, Muslim, Online abuse, Online hate, Politics, Prime Minister, Racism, radicalisation, Radicalisaton, Society, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , ,

Covered Up or Not

Islamophobia v Inclusion

You wouldn’t be wrong to think that the UK today, is unquestionably at its most hostile in decades. The political climate is not ‘strong and stable’, with Brexit looming and poverty increasing, anger and scapegoating are rife. The turbulent nature of today’s society, along with more recent terrorist atrocities, has added to the growth in hate crime which is up by 29%. Of these crimes, ethnic minorities and Muslims seem to be the main recipients.

Switzerland is set to hold a referendum next year to prohibit the wearing of full-face veils. If successful they will join the growing list of European countries that over the past 10 years have chosen to exclude, and punish women who choose to wear headscarves or face-coverings from society. Both France and Belgium have introduced blanket bans on the wearing of face-veils in any public place both of which were affirmed by the European Court of Human Rights in 2014 and 2017 respectively. Headscarves haven’t escaped scrutiny either, with schools in the UK, and schools and workplaces in France, being just a couple of examples where veiled women are unwelcome.

In 2016 Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, endorsed a ban on face veils which she claimed are, “…inappropriate and should be banned wherever it is legally possible.” In the same year, France caused controversy when several seaside towns excluded women wearing burkinis from their beaches.

Some have argued that the bans assist social integration and even defend women’s freedom. How exactly excluding women, and policing their clothing can be construed as integration or as an act, to defend their rights is difficult to determine.

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Women are increasingly fighting back with positivity and inclusion. Furthermore, surprisingly Muslim women are seeing support from the fashion industry. An industry once ruled by a painfully white aesthetic, regurgitating and reinforcing the Eurocentric status-quo, whilst simultaneously cashing in on cultural appropriation, in recent years has seen a marked diversification take place. Icon and bona fide business woman, Rihanna launched her massively successful Fenty Beauty campaign in 2017. She’s had us rejoicing in how she has catered to a wide variety of skin tones, particularly women (and men) with darker skin. Her inclusivity did not stop there. Rihanna, went a step further with her video campaign that not only starred darker skinned women slaying on our screens, but also featured a plus sized model, as well as, hijabi model Halima Aden in her video campaign.

 

Halima has also previously starred in New York Fashion Week for Kanye West’s Yeezy season 5 launch in her hijab.

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Rihanna isn’t the only one. Nike has been working on the Nike Pro Hijab for the past year which they hope to launch early next year. Figure skater Zahra Lari and weightlifter Amna Al Haddad have worked with Nike to develop the product and have publicly expressed their support for the brands willingness to help Muslim women overcome barriers to pursuing sports in comfort.

Not one to be left behind, the UK fashion scene has similarly begun to embrace a more diverse idea of beauty. Hijabi models were in high demand, and highly appreciated at the London Modest Fashion Week 2017, set to return in February 2018.

 

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British model, Mariah Idrissi, also starred in the Swedish multinational company H&M’s campaign for recycled clothes back in 2015 as their first hijab-wearing model.

Embracing hijab wearing women has not been restricted to fashion and beauty. Syrian-American Muslim activist and artist, Mona Haydar, released her single “Hijabi” on the 27th of March, Muslim Women’s Day, and we are so here for it! It stars veiled women of different ethnicities, shades and sizes dancing with Mona, herself pregnant in the video. Her biting lyrics include telling the audience “even if you hate it I still wrap my hijab” and “covered up or not don’t ever take us for granted”. She raps to celebrate Muslim women and says that “The way I practice my religion is mine, it’s not someone else’s.”, when some criticised her decision to celebrate religion through music.

We at JAN Trust support the acceptance and empowerment of all women, whatever they choose to wear and hope that Muslim women will continue to be better represented in all areas of society.

Posted in Active citizenship, british, Campaign, Campaigning, discrimination, Diversity, Hate Crime, hijab, Inclusion, Islam, islamophobia, Muslim, Muslim dress, Muslim women, Society, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why is there a culture of shame when it comes to speaking out about harassment?

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Countless women have come forward in the last few weeks accusing the Hollywood producer star, Harvey Weinstein, of sexual assault and rape; Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow being amongst them. The Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson has claimed that these kinds of sexual harassment stories in the Hollywood industry are in fact “endemic” and that Weinstein is simply the top of the ladderof an industry plagued with this issue. The news is a stark reminder of the issues prevalent in the film industry – harassment being at the top of the list, and that we need to have a serious discussion about how society treats both the perpetrators and their victims.

However, the incidents we have heard about in the last week are not exclusive to the Hollywood film industry. A 2015 survey found that one in three women between the ages of 18-34 have encountered some form of sexual harassment at work, with only a mere 29% reporting it.The figures here highlight a continuing culture of shame surrounding speaking out about these issues, which has arguably only allowed it to continue as perpetrators get away with being brought to justice. Many may ask – why don’t women report their experience? They do. A TUC report found that around 80% women thought that reporting the incident was of no benefit, with around 16% claiming the situation actually got worse. So why aren’t women being listened to, and their claims being taken seriously? Feminist activist Beatrix Campbell claims that it’s due to the “knowledge of and tolerance of sexual harassment”, whereby women have come to accept such experiences as a part and parcel of being in the workplace; where their complaints have all too often fallen on deaf ears. But this is the root of the problem. This culture has enabled harassment to go ignored because there have not been any major efforts to tackle the problem. Only recently, after a viral social media campaign, has France’s gender equality minister proposed a bill in the French parliament that would fine street harassment and aggressive catcalls.

The #MeToo campaign which has taken off on social media recently has aimed to tackle the culture of shame surrounding speaking out, encouraging victims of abuse to share their stories in highlighting how prevalent the issue still is in society today.

The campaign has gone a long way in removing the shame and silence that has been normal for those at the receiving end of sexual harassment. Victims of abuse now feel empowered to tell their story and remind others that they are not alone and that their experiences do not define them nor will they determine their future. Subsequently the #ItWasMe campaign started, with men ackonwledging their past sexually inappropriate behaviours and endeavouring to raise awareness about problemtic behaviour, whether it be coming from themselves or witnessing it in the people around them.

A few days ago, more instances of sexual harassment have come to light as a Tory Minister and MP have been accused of “paying women off” in attempting to keep Westminster as far away as possible from the topic of scandal and misdemeanor that it has previously been associated with. It is shocking to learn that around 40 Conservative MP’s have been listed in a ‘dirty dossier’, and it does much to highlight that this is a persistent problem which needs to be effectively addressed if any change is to occur and take place.

Perhaps much of the shame surrounding speaking out about the experinces of harrasment has much to do with the way in which we have dealt with perpetrators, or even our lack of action regarding this. Women are not going to speak up and share their story if it is not going to make their situation better or help them seek justice. Famous Hollywood producers like Weinstein get their name all over the papers and more often than not have to resign due to the bad press they face once the allegations make headlines. But what about those not in the public eye – should they simply be left to accept things as they are and continue to put up with sexism in the workplace? Because if we don’t provide safe spaces for women to talk about their experiences, aren’t we just allowing the problem to get worse? ? In fact, worryingly, Tory MP’s have resisted attempts by David Cameron to make them sign a code of conduct; which would effectively safeguard those in the workplace agaisnt sexual harrasment, indicating that we have a long way to go in creating a culture that prioritises and recognises the importance of create a safe and comfortable environemnt in the workplace. At JAN Trust we believe in the importance of empowering women and ensuring they have the confidence and tools to combat any form of oppression be it in the work place or any other arena that discriminates against them.

Posted in Politics, Prime Minister, Representation, Society, Uncategorized, Violence, Violence Against Women, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My Week Dressed As A Caricature Of A Muslim

The most off the mark show of the year goes to…

When we at JAN Trust saw the advert for, My Week as a Muslim, our first thought was wait, there’s a show with a woman in brownface and fitted with prosthetics to become a Pakistani Muslim woman? OK, well this we have to see.

Katie Freeman is an NHS healthcare assistant who had previously served in the armed forces and continues to hold frighteningly close-minded views. She lives in Winsford, Cheshire, apparently one of the least ethnically-diverse towns in the UK. Katie holds Islamophobic views and previously supported banning the burqa. At the beginning of the hour long programme she says “You see them and you just think they’re gonna blow something up”.

The first problem with this programme, aside from Katie’s blatant prejudice and racism, is that according to Channel 4, in order to believe that Muslim women are ordinary people you need to play dress up, and pretend to be one. Freeman, is ‘transformed’ into a Muslim woman: she is dressed in a hijab, given brown contact lenses, has her skin darkened, and is fitted with a prosthetic nose and teeth to complete the offensive image. It begs the question, why Channel 4 did not consider that some would find this offensive, and why the broadcaster believed that this approach would teach us more than speaking to the Muslim community itself.

During the programme, Katie meets a white woman who converted to Islam several years ago, which prompts us to ask again, not only why couldn’t the show simply ask Muslims about their experience but also why was it important for Katie to be a brown ‘Pakistani’ Muslim.

The programme aired only a couple of weeks after Dove’s racially insensitive advert for a body wash depicting a black woman taking off her brown shirt to reveal a white woman, suggesting that a clean body is a white body. Followed by Nivea’s, ‘Natural Fairness’ cream, which a woman applies to restore her skin to its natural fairness, after which a man compliments her beautiful skin furthering the idea that white, is beautiful.

Given the massive backlash to these two adverts it is shocking that Channel 4 would insensitively ‘BROWNFACE’ a woman in 2017. Whilst yellowface and blackface seem to have thankfully been phased out of popular culture, brownface continues to resurface, such as Gemma Arterton browning up for her role in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time back in 2010. The result is offensive in movies but even more imperceptive for a programme supposedly made to highlight discrimination and encourage dialogue at a time when racial tension and xenophobia in the UK are increasing.

We at JAN Trust, as a charity that empowers marginalised women, believe that My Week As a Muslim is a misguided attempt to show the Muslim experience. Viewers do not need to see a white woman have obscenities yelled at her outside her local pub to believe that Muslim women are subject to Islamophobia. Viewers do not need props, prosthetics and altered skin tone for ‘authenticity’ or to understand discrimination and viewers do not need more misguided cliché stereotypes being portrayed as enlightening.

Visit www.jantrust.org to see the work we do to combat Islamophobia.

Posted in discrimination, Ethnic Minorities, Extremism, hijab, Inclusion, Islam, islamophobia, Muslim, Muslim women, Racism, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Happy United Nations Day! JAN Trust Celebrates Over 70 years Of Global Support Of Women And Girls

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To commemorate this day we’ve compiled some of the UN’s work in supporting women and girls this year.

The United Nations has supported the rights of women since its founding charter.  Among its purposes it pledged to, “Achieve international co-operation…in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.

Since then, the United Nations has made progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment with figures boasting that two thirds of countries in developing regions have achieved gender parity in primary education.

The UN’s HeForShe campaign, launched by everyone’s favourite Brit Emma Watson, also propelled feminism into the mainstream media several years ago where it has remained ever since.

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Yet women and girls continue to suffer discrimination and violence across the globe. So today, as UN turns 72 years old, we celebrate the UN’s continued support for the advancement of women.

International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation

Falling on the 6th of February, the focus for 2017 was; Building a solid and interactive bridge between Africa and the world to accelerate ending FGM by 2030.

FGM is internationally recognised as a violation of women and girls human rights with no medical benefits. Globally, it is estimated that 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut for cultural, religious or social reasons. Progress has been made since 2007 but the UN continues to push forward.

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International Women’s Day

The UN uses the 8th of March to celebrate the social, political and economic achievements of women. It is also a day which focuses on the continuing need for gender parity. It has become a day in which girl power rules and social media comes alive with women sharing their strength and success, motivating one another in a truly inspirational fashion.

The UN’s theme this year focused on, “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”. It emphasised fighting the pay and leadership gaps prevalent in today’s society.

World Day against Trafficking in Persons

This year, on the 30th of July, ‘Act to Protect and Assist Trafficked Persons’ was the focal point of the day. The theme highlights the mass movement of refugees and migrants caused by conflict and natural disasters and the subsequent risk of human trafficking.

Women and girls account for 71% of human trafficking victims. As many are never identified providing aid is problematic and often victims struggle to access it themselves.

VAWG – Violence against Women and Girls

On the 22nd of September the UN and EU launched a global effort to end violence against women. Violence against Women and Girls is one of the most extensive and devastating human rights violations in our world with facts and figures estimating that 35% of women and girls around the world have experienced sexual or physical abuse. Furthermore, in 2012 half of all female victims of homicide were killed by a partner or family member. Therefore, with the intention to leaving no woman or girl behind, the Spotlight Initiative has been launched to end VAWG by 2030.

#SpotlightEndViolence 

The use of sexual violence during conflict as a tactic of war is reprehensible and the day was used to honour the victims and survivors of sexual violence around the world.

#EndRapeinWar

International Day of the Girl Child

Since 2012 the UN has dedicated the 11th of October to the Girl Child. It has inspired activism from superstars such as Beyoncé who lent her voice to the cause in their #FreedomForGirls video. The young girls featured are angry, powerful and they demand change! The UN’s theme this year was EmPOWER Girls: Before, during and after crises.

We at JAN Trust believe that the UN plays a vital role in helping to highlight the struggles that many women and girls face worldwide, including a lack of education, forced marriage, and FGM, issues that we as a charity tackle ourselves.

We work with vulnerable women and young people from marginalised backgrounds to help them overcome barriers to integration. These barriers include a lack of key skills such as English as well as social isolation, low confidence and discriminatory practices such as hate crime. Additionally, some of our service users face restrictive and harmful cultural practices such as forced marriages and FGM. Radicalisation is an additional concern experienced by many, an issue which we work hard to combat with our pioneering Web Guardians™ programme. Please donate here to help us to continue our vital work.

Posted in Active citizenship, Advocacy, Campaign, Campaigning, child marriage, discrimination, Diversity, Education, girls, Inclusion, International, International Affairs, Society, Uncategorized, Violence Against Women, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#NHCAW- Twitter has become a breeding ground for online hate and enough is enough.

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Content Warning: Hate Speech

There have been numerous hashtags springing up across social media in the last few days such as #NHCAW, #NoPlaceForHate and #WeStandTogether. That’s because this week is National Hate Crime Awareness Week – which not only aims to remember those who have tragically lost their lives to vile acts of hatred, but also to spark real momentum in tackling hate crime. This initiative couldn’t have come at a more pressing time with the recent Home Office statistics showing that hate crime has risen by 29% in the last year alone, with the incidents spiking around events such as the Westminster terror attack and Brexit.

Although this campaign has caught wind predominately on social networks, those who commit acts of hate find no better place to thrive than on those same platforms, especially Twitter. The combination of a lack of face to face confrontation, an emboldening mob mentality and for some, the disguise of anonymity, means hate speech has intensified at unprecedented rates.

The most striking example of this is how the Alt Right and those who are ideologically affiliated to the movement utilised this platform to mainstream their prejudices. Nazis and white supremacists involved in this movement such as Richard Spencer and David Duke (Former Grand Wizard of the KKK) use their accounts to spout racist bigotry and amass a legion of followers to spread their views and harass others. These are a few examples of their tweets and retweets that are easily accessible and can currently be viewed on the platform:

In the UK figures such as former EDL leader Tommy Robinson and public commentator Katie Hopkins use Twitter to espouse similar views, especially about Islam. Reports of hate crimes related to Islamophobia are rising dramatically and tweets that discriminate based on religious beliefs only serves to create further division in British Society:

These tweets are the tip of the iceberg in a toxic online culture which normalises and protects hateful speech towards marginalised people as free speech, yet punishes those who defend themselves from it.

In this way, Twitter has recognised white nationalist Richard Spencer as an account of interest and bestowed upon him a verified badge, yet suspended actress Rose McGowan’s account after she recently spoke out against sexual assault.

Twitter has shielded Donald Trump and let him use the platform to personally bully and incite the harassment of members of the black community such as Jemele Hill. The tech giant also remains silent when prominent feminists such as Lindy West are threatened with rape on a daily basis, as neither seemingly violate the site’s terms of service.

We echo Amber Rudd and Theresa May’s recent acknowledgement that social media platforms should do more to stop the spread of inappropriate content.  Although Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has made promises to curb online abuse on the platform, we believe enough is enough and that those who commit or actively incite hate speech must no longer be coddled and turned a blind eye to. More effective filters for inappropriate content must be explored and social media giants like Twitter need a renewed sense of responsibility in dealing with abuse, as opposed to tacit complicity.

Online hate remains under-reported with low prosecution rates. At JAN Trust we take online hate extremely seriously and pioneered the first ever online tool to report hate crime. We believe that freedom of speech does not extend to infringing upon another person’s right to be free from harmful language and abuse. Moreover, the right to free speech does not mean freedom from receiving criticism for the words you speak. Whether those words are said out loud, or typed on a computer – All forms of hate crime should be offenses punishable by law.

If you want to find out more information about hate crime or how to report it please visit our Say No to Hate Crime website at http://saynotohatecrime.org/.

 

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