The war on women: The rise of ‘Smart Abuse’

Since the emergence and evolution of smart home technology many women are finding themselves fighting an invisible war in their own homes. What exactly is Smart abuse? Well, smart abuse is defined as technology facilitated harassment, for example, the Telegraph reported that smart doorbells and TVs were increasingly used ‘as a form of control by abusive partners’. Through these web-connected devices abusive partners can spy on their victims and ‘activate devices remotely in order to cause fear and confusion’ – this could be through altering the temperature or locking doors. In fact there have been stories reported by Refinery and The New York Times of women being locked in their own homes by ex-husbands. This disturbing trend has left women feeling insecure in their own private space.

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This alarming development blurs the lines of public and private space for women, creating no space at all for women to feel comfortable and safe in. In many cases cyber space has also become a daunting place for women with many reporting being locked out of their social media accounts by controlling partners. How do we solve the problem of Tech abuse? Firstly it is crucial to note that Tech abuse is not the only form of abuse women face and is an aspect of the multiple ways that violence against women manifests. Violence against women is a big problem in society that needs to be tackled. However, for now to effectively solve or prevent the issue of tech abuse, this generally necessitates replacing your smart devices, changing your internet and social media passcodes, WIFI passwords after a relationship has ended and reading device guidelines. University College London has partnered with Privacy International to provide a resource list for victims and survivors of tech abuse. This resource list provides links and information to help women prevent any future abuses of their smart home technology and also advocates better digital security by suggesting workshops, online videos and articles which women can look into to better educate themselves about gender imbalance in the digital world and the abuse that they could face.

It is reported that ex-partners usually have access to smart home technology much more easily especially in the case of heterosexual relationships because men are more likely to fix these technologies in the home and take control in this particular arena. Thus, many women are unaware of how these devices function. However, we can see how important it is to be aware of the implications of smart technology in the home. Unfortunately it is harder to detect tech abuse due to many women reporting that they feared they were going ‘crazy’ and did not believe their devices could be compromised. This further adds to the abuse women face as this type of harassment leads to women questioning their sanity which can lead to extreme stress and fear. It is also the case that many women feel too intimidated to seek help or find it difficult to prove that their smart devices are being used to torment them. Furthermore, it is noted by researchers that tech abuse can also take the form of perpetrators convincing abused victims that they are ‘stupid’ and need the other person in order to operate devices leaving the abused person feeling useless and reliant on their partner. This tactic is also described as ‘user-shaming’ and reveals the different pathways in which technology can be used to belittle, control and shame others. This is also another form of coercive control; this is when a person you are personally connected with repeatedly behaves in a way that makes you feel controlled, dependent, isolated or scared. Coercive control results in isolating you from your friends and family, therefore making you reliant on them only.

Tech abuse also highlights that there is a gender imbalance in technology access and usage. For instance Eurostat has reported that women tend to use the internet for social interactions and relationship maintenance whereas men tend to use it for more targeted activities such as obtaining financial information or reading the news. The reasons for such differences are rooted in differing social-cultural backgrounds, including the home environment, cultural capacity and academic orientation. Therefore the best way to tackle the problem of tech abuse is by educating women and tackling the existing gender imbalance in technology access and usage.

JAN Trust is turning 30 this year! At JAN Trust we help vulnerable women develop digital literacy skills and warn them of the dangers of the online world, especially through our Web Guardians™ programme Click here to find out how you can celebrate our anniversary with us and help us to fight against discrimination and gender based violence.

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

The El Paso Shooting was a shocking terrorist attack – what should the US do to stop white supremacy?

Considered to be one of the nation’s safest cities, Texas has been in mourning over the recent mass shooting when a gunman opened fire in the heart of one of the most popular shopping areas. This shocking incident was a targeted hate crime attack on the Hispanics of Texas, with a total of 6 Mexican Nationals murdered. Was this the result of Donald Trump’s rhetoric on anti-immigration which has inspired this not just one but two mass murders in the space of 13 hours?

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Shooter’s Manifesto Influenced by Trump

Published on an online messaging board of 8chan 20 minutes before the shooting, Patrick Crusius had written a manifesto filled with racial hatred towards immigrants and Hispanics, blaming immigrants for “taking away their jobs and blending the cultures in the US.” This is implicative of a targeted hate crime which many believe is fuelled by the ideologies displayed by Trump to ‘Make America Great Again.’

This is no longer a slogan but a symbol of rebellion since the beginning of Trump’s presidency. A powerful statement used in many previous campaigns by former President Ronald Reagan, this has now turned into a movement for a white supremacist future. This has created a culture of fear as Trump promises to restore America to its ‘former glory.’ Former Attorney General Eric Holder commented sarcastically that this ‘former glory’ “certainly it was not when people enslaved… not when segregation was the law of the land… not when women were disenfranchised… not when the LGBT community was routinely stigmatised.” But is it?

With the 2020 re-election campaign looming, Trump has been doubling down on his theme of partition through race as well as his increase in promotion of anti-immigration. Rooted in racism, Trump’s years of presidency is built on anti-immigrant and anti-Latino campaigns where he disparaged Mexicans as “rapists and drug smugglers.” Last October, as many migrants of Central America sought asylum from their own homes in America, Trump tweeted “go back, you will not be admitted into the United States… this is an invasion of our country and our military is waiting for you!”

Effect of Far-Right Extremism on the US Community Today

The growing fear of far-right extremism has spilled over from the internet into the real world. The first instance was seen in Charlottesville of a white nationalist march through the University of Virginia campus. Considered as one of the largest gatherings in the United States as it drew hundreds of neo-Nazis, nationalists as well as Ku Klux Klan members. This was a “Unite the Right” rally organised by Richard Spencer on the 12th August 2017 which was directed against African-Americans and Jews, promoting racism, anti-Semitism and violence. This Alt-Right ideological stance is seen dated back to 2015 since the traumatic massacre led by a white supremacist against 9 African-Americans in Charleston. Trump himself is massively supported by Alt-Right extremists, where his campaign is targeted specifically against minorities. Which brings into question is Trump leading the country back to its historical legacy of slavery, racism and segregation?

Due to the rise of the mainstreaming far-right rhetoric across the United States, fuelled by the election of Trump and his legitimising of an anti-immigration and white supremacist rhetoric, it actually comes as very little surprise that he has been the inspiration to such violence. His lack of sympathy and care for the victims of the shooting can be seen through his response to the publics’ outrage. His refusal to take liability is evidential to his goal for a white supremacist country. These ideas are heavily reflected within the shooter’s manifesto, where he feared that an influential Hispanic population within Texas would increase the likelihood of making the American state a Democratic stronghold.

But why is the Hispanic and Latino community being specifically targeted? This is because of the white supremacist ideology which began in online forums and is now manifesting itself into violent actions.

It is very upsetting to hear that not just one, but two mass shootings took place in the space of 13 hours becoming the ‘norm’ in American society. Similarly to the easy access to knives in the UK, the mass ownership of guns and access to guns in the US is worrying and is something that should be tackled by the US government.

At JAN Trust we have constantly spoken out against extremism, especially the threat of far-right extremism. In the UK, since the EU referendum, hate crimes and extremist sentiment have been on the rise. In the US, this hatred and division in society has been exacerbated by President Trump. As Donald Trump has said, online forums such as 8chan need to be regulated in order to monitor conversations that may lead to harming others.

At JAN Trust we have dedicated time and effort in attempting to prevent extremism with our Web Guardians™ programme. JAN Trust aims to protect society from extremist views by educating mothers on the dangers of extremism online and empowering them with the skills to keep their children safe online. JAN Trust has also collaborated with schools through SAFE that work on far-right extremism and highlight the current threats it poses.

Posted in Ethnic Minorities, Extremism, Far right, Hate Crime, International, International Affairs, islamophobia, Online hate, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

30 Years in the Community: Building a Relationship

JAN Trust has been around since 1989 and that means we’ve been able to build trust with local women, allowing us to tackle some of the most difficult and sensitive issues in society.

30 years ago, our founder Rafaat Mughal OBE recognised a need for a service to help marginalised women. Local women had been approaching her for help because they felt they had nowhere else to turn, had difficulty accessing British services and had no safe space to talk about their issues. Especially for BAME and Muslim women there was, and remains now, a lack of representation and understanding from authorities on the needs and concerns of these women.

Over the last three decades, JAN Trust has been able to build a trusting relationship with vulnerable and marginalised women in the local community. As a familiar face, we are able to broach topics that perhaps political or governmental authorities would have difficulty with, especially in hard to reach communities. Issues such as FGM, forced marriage, and extremism can be talked about openly here, and we focus on educating and engaging with local people to help combat the problems that may affect them. Our work includes working with schools to raise awareness of these problems, and working with young people and with women and mothers to prevent and tackle online extremism via our highly acclaimed pioneering Web Guardians™ programme. Last year we also launched our Another Way Forward project, which teaches young women about the different forms of extremism and how to prevent it. Our active role in the local community allows us to help families to protect themselves and others from extremism.

Our history of working with women from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds means we understand on a personal level the concerns of local women. We provide advice and support in a number of languages, and are sensitive to the religious and traditional requirements of service users. Furthermore, vulnerable women with experience of FGM, domestic violence, or forced marriage situations may feel more comfortable approaching a known, a trustedorganisation for support. Considering the taboos regarding some of these topics, and the difficulty or danger associated with speaking out for some women, our centre is vital to the safety of those who may not feel able to access help elsewhere.

Our 30 years of experience gives us a unique position to be able to help people. This has been recognised by various public figures:

“I was struck by your reference to enabling vulnerable communities to feel part of society rather than apart from it. It is salutary to consider the experiences that must have led the Trust to describe its work in such terms.” – Justine Greening MP, Former Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities.

“Your emphasis on empowerment and citizenship is one that we particularly support and your expertise working with women and communities is extremely valuable.” – Rt Hon. Nick Clegg Former MP and Deputy Prime Minister.

“Your charity has an impressive track record in this field, providing a visible and valuable front in tackling extremism ideology in Britain today.”- Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

We’re proud to have been going for 30 years, and can’t wait for the next 30 – click here to find out how you can support our vital work and celebrate our 30th anniversary with us!

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Posted in Active citizenship, discrimination, Education, JAN Trust, London, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The effect of Brexit on women in the UK

Brexit is on everyone’s lips, but are women’s rights being forgotten?

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The uncertainty surrounding Brexit negotiations is increasingly worrying to those most vulnerable to its effects. For us at JAN Trust, our concern is for the safety and protection of BAME women. While politicians talk strategy, economics, and sovereignty, are the rights and wellbeing of these women being taken into account?

Many are worried that the government does not represent their experience. As of 2017, 29% of MPs went to private schools, 92% of MPs are white, and 68% are men. It can be argued that the needs of ethnic minority women may not be represented or fully understood by the government. In such a time as this, when impactful decisions are being made on behalf of the country, it may be BAME women, like those who use our services at JAN Trust, who are not catered for in negotiations.

Discrimination and Immigration

One reason many people voted for Brexit was fear of immigration, an issue often used as a scapegoat for social unrest and economic difficulties. The aftermath of the referendum has seen a rise in hate crimes and racial assault. In 2018 the Home Office reported that recorded hate crimes had more than doubled over five years. They noted that levels have spiked around recent terrorist attacks and the polarised rhetoric surrounding the Brexit leave campaign. Here at JAN Trust we work hard to tackle the rise of Islamophobia and hate crime, aiming to educate young people and the local community generally.. This rise in hate crime is extremely concerning, and demonstrates just one way in which Brexit has made some groups of people feel unwanted, or even unsafe. We empower many Muslim and BAME women with the skills to include themselves in the community and integrate in society, however their safety is our priority, and the racist rhetoric that often surrounds Brexit can put them at risk.

Another issue with this unwelcoming atmosphere in the UK is the effect on public services. Many EU citizens and other immigrants who contribute to society no longer feel like they can live here without facing discrimination. The NHS depends strongly on EU citizens; in October 2018, 10% of doctors and 7% of nurses were EU nationals. If new laws restricting freedom of movement make it difficult for EU nationals to stay in the country, these services will be under even more pressure. Not only would this increased staff shortage make it more difficult to get appointments and treatment, it would also put more strain on remaining staff- according to NHS Digital, women make up over three quarters of total NHS staff.

Economic Concerns for Women

The Women’s Budget Group’s 2018 report on the potential damage Brexit could cause for women highlights several worrying possibilities. Many economists predict a fall in G.D.P which may hit women the hardest. If the economy gets worse, there could be job losses, especially in areas that depend on EU trade. Included in these sectors are textiles and clothing manufacturing, which have mostly female workers. Furthermore, a poor trade deal could lead to price hikes in everyday items and food. This would hit the poorest households hardest, affecting single-parent families and mothers directly.

The report also emphasises the point that Brexit diverts attention from other pressing issues such as health and social care; as the pressure on the NHS becomes ever more obvious, homelessness levels increase, and access to housing is so limited, it seems much is at stake as the government spends the majority of its time dealing with Brexit.

Human Rights

Finally, the Charter of Fundamental Rights will be lost when we leave the EU. While the European Convention on Human Rights will still apply to us, the Charter provides stricter ways of enforcing human rights. As well as this, the UK will lose the guarantee of equal rights provided by EU law, meaning some rights may be vulnerable to change with future governments.

As an organisation that focuses on the needs and issues of marginalised women, at JAN Trust we are concerned by any loss of human rights. We must work together to demand fair treatment and protection for those who could be badly affected by Brexit and some of the prejudiced attitudes that have accompanied the referendum. It is important to ask for better governmental representation, make ourselves heard, and ensure that women are not forgotten about as we go forward with Brexit.

       To find out more about how you can support women in the UK, visit our website!

Posted in Active citizenship, Advocacy, british, discrimination, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Thirty years of Encouraging, Educating and Empowering: Our Work to Fight Radicalisation

Over the last thirty years we have worked hard to support marginalised communities against the threats that they face. Our method of encouraging, educating and empowering has helped to improve lives, including our work to tackle online radicalisation and extremism with young people in schools. Read about why these sessions are so important and what we have achieved so far.

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This month JAN Trust turns 30 years old. It has been a long and rewarding journey from when we first opened our doors in 1989. What started as a small charity helping marginalised women learn English and access practical support for jobs and housing, has become a leading NGO in radicalisation prevention. The services we provide have continuously expanded and adapted in line with the new challenges marginalised communities in the UK face, one of them being radicalisation of young people online.

Online radicalisation is something very close to our heart here at JAN Trust. Our CEO Sajda Mughal OBE is a survivor of the London 7/7 bombings and has witnessed firsthand the destructive power of extremist ideology.

Not only did Sajda face such a terrifying ordeal, but as the only known Muslim to survive the attack, she then had to face the fallout. Seeing her religion being manipulated to murder and terrorise people, and then experiencing the hostile Islamophobia that spread as a consequence greatly affected her. She saw that radicalisation and extremism was a serious issue, not only for mainstream society, but for the Muslim community too. The communities of women that JAN Trust was set up to help were losing their children, their friends and relatives to radicalisation and they were unfairly facing the consequences of society’s mistrust and prejudice. Sajda and JAN Trust understood the severity of radicalisation and knew more had to be done to help these communities, not vilify them. Over the last 10 years and more we have worked with Muslim women to empower them to protect their own children through our revolutionary Web Guardians™ programme, which successfully reached thousands of people across the UK. Parents are worried about the effect radicalisation can have on their children and feel lost at the lack of support and help, which is why Web Guardians™ is essential.

One parent explained to us that:–

There is a huge lack of education, that’s why work like this is so important.

The training was particularly helpful because it will help me to identify changes in my children.”

Unfortunately, our funding for the Web Guardians™ programme was unceremoniously withdrawn by the Home Office so our local community has been left at risk because of a lack of support from the government. We continue to educate young people on the threats of extremism through our school sessions.

IMG_0450Knowing that empowerment and education are the best ways to tackle this problem we began hosting sessions in schools in 2014 before the Prevent duty 2015. The sessions aimed at raising awareness in young people themselves to spot, question and fight online extremism both Islamic and Far-right, and strengthen resilience to radicalisation. We saw the integral role social media plays in promoting messages of hate and violence online. In our modern society it is impossible, and unhelpful, to keep young people off of social media. This is why it is so important that we as a society endeavour to make these spaces as safe as possible, and make young people as aware of the dangers as we can. Sheltering people from harm does not equip them with the strength and skill needed to protect themselves. We saw that our thirty year old ethos of educate, empower, encourage could be utilised to effectively teach young people to fight radicalisation themselves. One head teacher highlights how our thirty years of expertise positions us to teach these children,

We selected JAN Trust to deliver our training because we know their expertise is rooted in real experience in real communities.

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For the past few years we have been at the forefront of work to fight all kinds of extremism. Our unique position has allowed us to see clearly that extremism comes in many guises, some more easily hidden and insidious than others. For years we have been educating these children to resist extremism from every corner, especially the rapidly multiplying Far-Right. We have seen firsthand how little these young people are taught about this increasingly deadly form of online radicalisation. Our sessions are not just appreciated by teachers and parents, but by the students as well:

I like that you spoke in depth about how extremism can affect anyone and explained that extremism doesn’t just occur in the Muslim community.”

Our sessions have been vital in expanding their definition of ‘extremism’ and in helping to tackle the Islamophobia that feeds and is produced by Far-Right online propaganda. The recent terror attacks in Christchurch show how serious a problem Far-Right radicalisation has become, and how important it is to raise awareness and drive action against it. Our insight and ability to adapt to social change is what has helped JAN Trust to thrive for thirty years. Further recognising the gendering of radicalisation conversations, we have recently began a new project, the ‘Another Way Forward: Empowering Young Women Against Extremism’ programme, which focuses on teaching young women about radicalisation. In the wake of the Shamima Begum case, more young women need to be engaged in conversations about extremism and what threats they face specifically.

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In the last 5 years we have delivered over 500 sessions and reached 40,000 young people across London and the UK, spreading the message to young people that they do not need to become victims of hatred and propaganda, that they should question what they see online and become resilient enough to protect themselves and their families from the destructive power of online extremism. Through our school sessions we have met so many insightful and critically minded young people. Our sessions equip them with the knowledge and understanding of online radicalisation so that they can recognise and resist it. We teach them to encourage each other and support each other in fighting radicalisation,

After this training I would know what to do if someone I know is following the path of extremism.

It is testimonies like these that keep us working hard year after year. Only through empowerment of those most at risk can radicalisation truly be defeated.

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Our work and our charity has come a long way, but there is still a long way to go before our children are safe from radicalisation online. Our schools sessions are very important to us, because we recognise that empowerment is the only true way to protect the communities we serve and society at large. If you want to know more about our school sessions or our other services click here or contact us to arrange a visit.

Posted in Education, Extremism, ISIS, JAN Trust, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Destroyed and displaced: how gentrification is killing minority communities

Gentrification is increasing throughout London and marginalised minority residents are at special risk. The communities they have created, the dynamic culture that London is known for and the social wellbeing of society’s most vulnerable, including women and children, is threatened by rising rents and crowding out. JAN Trust was created from the needs of these communities and if they are destroyed, we will be destroyed too.

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Gentrification, the process of crowding out low income households by increasing high rents in a neighborhood, is damaging for all but the wealthiest of communities. Poorer people, immigrants and refugees are increasingly under threat from being displaced. When rents in their neighbourhood are increased they are forced to find housing elsewhere, in an even worse quality than those they live in now. They are scattered across the city and isolated from their old communities.

The process of gentrification in London is not a new phenomenon, but it is becoming more common. Social improvement in London is always something to aim for, especially in these areas that need it most, but it should be for the people in these communities, not as an excuse to get rid of them. London has undergone massive socio-economic and infrastructural change since the 1980’s, but this has often happened at the expense of the poorest communities.

These communities are inhabited by the most marginalised in our society. They are home to ethnic minority, immigrant and refugee communities who are placed or pushed into the most deprived areas. The Trust For London shows that poverty and deprivation in the capital disproportionately affects those from ethnic minority backgrounds. Here, communities build thriving neighbourhoods, full of solidarity and culture. Women and their children who rely on the community networks for support are particularly at risk.

The process of gentrification in Brixton is a perfect example of how a BAME community is pushed out, and how part of London’s culture dies with it. What was once a thriving enclave of entrepreneurial Windrush migrants, is now a trendy and expensive area. Minority business owners and dwellers have been pushed out by rising rent prices and their community networks scattered to the winds. They are replaced by those with more money seeking to live in the vibrant community these people suffered years of hardship and marginalisation to build. As time passed, authentic business died and were replaced with high street shops and inauthentic replicas of Caribbean culture. The controversial ‘Brixton Pop’, and the redevelopment of the Arches, shows this clash between ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Brixton. The distinctive culture of Brixton is being lost to hipsterism. Not only does gentrification destroy the support networks vulnerable people have tirelessly fought to create, but the whole of London loses an important dimension of its vibrant culture and atmosphere.

In Battersea too, the process is underway and threatens a strong community of Somali, Afghan and Syrian refugees who have called this part of the city their home. Many vulnerable women and children live in this area. Communities and organisations have built up over the years to help support these women, but if people are forced to move out, they will no longer be able to access these much needed networks.

With the sale of the Battersea Power Station to foreign capital investors the council of Wandsworth are complicit, if not actively encouraging this kind of development. Commitments to affordable housing have been betrayed, and those who need the investment are being moved out rather than helped. The Mayor of London himself Sadiq Khan criticized the council for rushing through the sale, and decreasing the development’s commitment to affordable housing in the area by 40%. Battersea is in much need of regeneration, not gentrification. The area surrounding Battersea Power Station is scattered with very deprived communities and has recently been victim to serious issues such as knife crime. Tackling poverty is vital here, but councils seem more interested in vacating the victims rather than helping them.

All low income and BAME communities across London are threatened by this, as council increasingly put financial gain above the safety, social wellbeing of their most marginalised inhabitants. Gentrification is well underway across multiple London boroughs, including our own. Haringey has been threatened with gentrification in recent years, but has faced serious opposition from residents, who see the damage gentrification can do. After much protest by residents, the ‘Haringey Development Vehicle’, a joint venture between the local council and private developers to ‘regenerate’ the area, was stopped. However, in December last year a new proposal for development in Tottenham was passed which will build 131 council homes, but 899 unaffordable ones. This shocking disparity in affordable and unaffordable housing is characteristic of gentrification. A few affordable homes go almost nowhere to addressing the housing needs of residents. As more ‘desirable’ renters move in, rent increases more, and those who needed the houses in the first place, are slowly and silently crowded out. These places are in desperate need of social investment for the benefit of these minority and low income families, not for the rich.

30 years ago JAN Trust was created to support these very minority communities in North London. By working to strengthen and support these communities we keep women and their children safe. We offer them guidance and support from sexual violence, offer them chances to be empowered and educated, and keep the whole community strong in the face of Islamophobia, and resilient from the threats of radicalisation. Our work, and these stable community networks, are absolutely vital for the safety of these women and our society as a whole.

Posted in Campaign, discrimination, Diversity, Ethnic Minorities, JAN Trust, London, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Reacting to rising online harms – what should be done?

Hate crimes happening online and being broadcast on social media is an increasing phenomenon, showing a dark side to the internet that should not be left to grow unchecked.

The internet and social media have been great resources in our society, allowing for connection and innovation on a new scale. However, our increasingly online world comes with risks. Good points have to be weighed against the rising problem of online harms, which includes hate crime, terrorist propaganda and cyber bullying.

The potential for the internet to allow people to broadcast and carry out hate crimes is unfortunately all too clear. Looking at the deadly terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, the world was shocked when a video of the violence circulated online from a Facebook live stream. The internet played a significant role in making this horrific event even worse, when the attack was streamed for 29 minutes with 1.5 million copies made before social media platforms removed it. Facebook said they were considering a one strike policy on Facebook Live, amidst calls to shut Facebook Live down completely due to such harmful content being released. As much as this policy would be a step in a good direction to address hate online, the fact that hate crimes and terrorist attacks could still be streamed before a user is banned may not be enough for those who watched the victims pass away via social media.

Looking closer to home, online harms are on the rise. Hate crime in the UK increased by 17% in 2018 with the Home Office collecting specific statistics on online hate crime for the first time highlighting that there is a significant problem being noticed by the authorities. These statistics revealed that 6% of hate crimes in the category “violence against another person” were carried out online and the most common motivation for online hate was racial prejudice in 2017/18. This is part of wider trends in the UK such as a 53% increase of hate attacks against someone’s faith, religion and belief from 2016-17 to 2017-18. This is unacceptable and this trend needs to be dealt with effectively so that people are not left in danger, especially already vulnerable BAMER communities. These patterns have made MPs aware of the link between hate crime and the internet, publishing the Action Against Hate plan but this was not specific to online harms. Moreover, organisations focusing on hate crime prevention like Stop Hate UK, have fears that recent political issues such as Brexit negotiations will exacerbate hate and harassment. Hate crime of any sort should not be tolerated in the UK and a particular focus on online hate may now be needed as it is a growing problem that will not be solved by a catch-all plan. With hate crime rising and potential triggers looming, can governments still stand back from online regulation?

Due to the increasing awareness of this issue, online harms regulation is now being considered to deal with online hate crime and other serious problems. This has been undoubtedly controversial with fears regarding over-regulation and restricting freedom of speech, however, there have been powerful statements in support. For example, New Zealand’s Prime Minister has argued that freedom of expression and speech are important but these rights do “not include the freedom to broadcast mass murder”, so it is worth considering the good that regulation could do. The JAN Trust welcomes the UK government’s recent Online Harms White Paper, outlining a strategy that will deal with the rising hatred that we have seen online. Threats of any kind, whether it is Islamophobia, cyberbullying or extremism, should not be left unchecked and the opportunity to create balanced, nuanced regulations to protect vulnerable people and communities is positive.

The JAN Trust has already been committed to building a safe online community in the UK and will continue to do so. We believe empowered women are a critical part of dealing with hatred and extremism online. Our pioneering Web Guardians™ project has allowed women to understand the dangers of online harms and to take action in their local communities. Click here to find out how you can support our work in the fight against hate crime and discrimination using online education.

Posted in Facebook, google, JAN Trust, Online abuse, Online hate, Uncategorized, Web Guardians | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why is there an increased risk of maternal death among BAME women?

The risk of death or complications for BAME women in pregnancy and childbirth is much higher than for white women in the UK. But what are the reasons behind the problem?

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For UK-born Asian women, maternity mortality rates are one and a half times higher than they are for white women in the UK. More shockingly still, black British maternity mortality rates are five times higher than for white women, and the babies of black British women are under threat from infant mortality rates which are twice as high as those of white children.

Maternity and infant mortality is tragic. The fact that it disproportionately affects BAME women is highly concerning, and deserves explanation. While the government has commissioned research from Oxford University into the causes and possible solutions, some possible reasons for this inequality have already been suggested, with Brexit and the state of the NHS a key concern.

The standards of care in the NHS are at risk following a drop in the number of EU migrants coming to work for the health services. 3500 midwifery jobs are empty at present; meanwhile last year 3000 midwives quit their jobs, largely due to unhappiness with understaffing and limited time to provide the care they want to be able to give. Last year, only 33 trained midwives moved to the UK from the EU, compared to previous years in which hundreds moved over annually. At a time when BAME women are already at much higher risk of maternity-related injury and mortality, this decrease in staffing and consequently in the standards of care in the NHS will directly hit the most vulnerable women.

There are biological reasons why black women may be more likely to experience complications in pregnancy and childbirth, such as the higher risk of preeclampsia. However, Candice Brathwaite, a black British mother, is one of many who expects racial prejudice could be an important reason for the high rates of maternal mortality for black women. In a blog post about her own experience and thoughts on the topic, she begins by addressing the issue that black women in the UK often only have access to information about what’s happening to African Americans in the US. Generally, the lack of information about black British experience is an obstacle to the understanding of black British experience, an issue also expressed by Reni Eddo-Lodge in her book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. Brathwaite expresses relief that finally, UK statistics are being published for the sake of black women’s health.

Secondly, Brathwaite explains the presence of the myth that black women can somehow withstand more pain than others. She also noted a lack of empathy and meaningful listening from healthcare professionals, compared to the way she saw white mothers being treated. When she went into labour, she was told her verbal reactions to the pain were over the top; most women will recognise this down-playing of very real pain to ‘overreacting’ or being ‘over-emotional.’ In medical situations, this attitude and dismissal of women’s concerns can of course be very dangerous. After a C section, it took 5 days before her feeling that something ‘was not right’ before doctors and nurses actually took action to treat what had become a serious problem.

It was this experience that made Brathwaite want to speak out about the prejudice faced by black women in the healthcare system. She realised she was lucky, and that so many other women had died or suffered severe injuries because their concerns were not taken seriously due to race and gender stereotypes.

Until women of all ethnic origins are taken seriously in their concerns, and until there are enough NHS staff to take the time to really listen to their patients, women and particularly women of colour will be at risk of maternal mortality and complications in childbirth. Tragically, countless women have died avoidable deaths in the healthcare system due to these problems. It’s crucial to talk about these issues and make everyone, including prospective mothers and healthcare professionals themselves, aware of these risks.

The research being funded by the government will be used to inform future strategies, and plans are in place to improve the experience of BAME mothers. For example, by 2024, 75% of women from BAME communities should be getting continuity of care with their midwife. This can help to reduce premature birth and labour complications. This is a step in the right direction, but it is crucial to also take action to spread awareness of risks and change deeply ingrained social prejudices that lead to the different treatment of BAME women, and of women generally compared to men in the health system.

Here at JAN Trust we have been supporting women of all ethnic and religious backgrounds for 30 years now. Listening to women with an understanding of cultural differences and personal perspectives is invaluable, and in the field of medical care it can be lifesaving.

To find out how you can support JAN Trust click here.

Posted in Campaign, Campaigning, discrimination, Education, Ethnic Minorities, Inclusion, International, International Affairs, JAN Trust, mental health, Racism, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comment sections are hotbeds for Islamophobia – Here’s proof.

Earlier this month, our CEO Sajda Mughal OBE wrote a piece for the Independent about the rise of the Far-right and Islamophobia in the UK.

The article shed light on the fact that many politicians, institutions and news outlets have been either consciously or subconsciously reluctant to treat far-right extremism with as much severity as other forms of terror. This includes news outlets and social media companies not addressing this issue fast enough, and hateful comments left unaddressed. Sajda spoke about examples of hate crimes and Islamophobic abuse that Muslim women have shared with us, and even abuse we have received as a BAMER community org. The article served to remind people that these online comments, jokes and/or memes may not be just jokes, but feed into a larger, much more grave story about the rise of Far-right extremism. This rise is well-documented and to suggest that the UK’s awareness of the threat and subsequent response to it has not been adequate isn’t particularly contentious.

However, the comments on this opinion piece from members of the public have served to cement the validity and necessity of the piece itself. A Muslim woman of colour speaks out about the rise of Islamophobia in a mainstream newspaper and the comment section has filled with around 100 comments of people predominantly sympathising with the kind of typical far-right sentiment Sajda warns against. If anyone was unconvinced or thought of this as a fringe-issue before, there can be no denying now. Here are some examples of comments we received:

It’s important to note that Sajda herself is a Survivor of the 2005 London Bombings, a fact which seems to have gone over the heads of many commentators.

The hatred and vitriol speaks for itself, and all these comments are still up on the Independent’s website, seemingly unregulated, for people to see. That includes comments such as ‘Islamic Cancer’ and that Islam is a religion of ‘coercion and violence’.

In the article itself it is mentioned that ‘light-hearted’ jokes, which usually are based in some truth and are thinly-veiled expressions of hate, weave into a larger societal picture. Whether some opinions are explicitly far-right and some not as severe, it is clear how the pieces fit together culminating in a hostile landscape that contributes to harm and where Muslim people are targeted.

A Muslim women of colour speaks out about issues affecting her and her community including stories of being physically assaulted, receiving threats of arson and murder and receives this kind of reaction just for drawing attention to the issues? It’s easy to see how Islamophobia and Misogynoir intersect, working in tandem to laugh at, dismiss and stamp out the voices of Muslim women of colour.

Ironically, the best argument for exactly why this opinion piece was and is so necessary is a quick glance at the comment section. Yes, we have freedom of speech in this country but that does not mean freedom to say whatever you feel like without ramifications, freedom from being responsible for the influence your words have or that your words will not be harmful to individuals and/or communities. Should freedom of speech infringe on another individual’s freedoms so much so that they are fearful of going to work or even walking down the street because of harassment or worse? The hate, the disgust, and the lack of empathy directed at Muslim women, especially non-white Muslim women, and those who follow Islam in general is palpable and undeniably mainstream. We won’t be silenced.

This year is our 30th anniversary! Please support the work we do at JAN Trust empowering BAMER women and celebrate with us!

Posted in discrimination, Ethnic Minorities, Extremism, Facebook, Far right, Hate Crime, hijab, Inclusion, Islam, islamophobia, JAN Trust, Muslim, Muslim dress, Muslim women, Online abuse, Online hate, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Are Women’s Voices Heard?

Two women every single week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales. Women are approximately twice as likely to experience domestic abuse than men, but it is women’s voices that seem to be ignored in media coverage of cases. Furthermore, many feel that the systems in place for protecting women and delivering justice in cases of domestic violence simply aren’t doing enough.

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A lack of empathy for women

The representation of cases of domestic violence and murder in news media often doesn’t allow the victim’s voice to be heard. There are examples of stories published about victims which even attempt to justify or express sympathy for the perpetrator’s situation. Brothers Ryan and Luke Hart have publicised their disappointment with the media representation of their family’s experience. After their father murdered their sister, Charlotte, and their mother, Claire, in 2016, articles in mainstream news media trivialised the story and even included complimentary comments about the perpetrator. The Sun published quotations describing the murderer, Lance Hart, as ‘the nicest guy you could ever meet’ and the parents as ‘the loveliest couple ever.’ Meanwhile, their mother’s abuse and tragic circumstances were largely ignored.

The two survivors, Ryan and Luke, are trying to raise awareness of the poor handling of their mother and sister’s murders. It is clear from the representation of their story that there is a lack of meaningful engagement with women’s stories, the stories behind their abuse and deaths, while newspapers are quick to try and justify such horrific acts of violence. In this particular case, Claire and Charlotte Hart’s murders were explained away with excuses such as ‘money issues’, arguments in the marriage, and prospects of divorce.

This example and many others show that women’s issues are not being taken seriously enough.  Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte recently criticised judges for showing sympathy for men who had murdered women, granting mitigating circumstances based on the ‘hurt feelings’ of the murderers. Meanwhile, women who have killed partners after suffering years of domestic violence and abuse often are not awarded the same luxury of empathy or consideration of their mental states and living conditions. Sally Challen, jailed in 2011 for murdering her husband after enduring coercive and abusive behaviour was released only this year, following a reassessment of her situation. Previously, at the time of her original trial, Challen was presented as a jealous, vengeful wife and there was no mention of her husband’s coercive control.

Systemic problems with handling domestic violence

The approach of the police and law enforcement processes regarding domestic violence have been criticised for not fully understanding the issues facing women in dangerous and abusive relationships. The murder of Linah Kezah in 2013 by her ex-partner is an example of police failure to take domestic violence seriously; Kezah was stabbed to death having made several calls to police. Even in this extreme case, it took six years of protesting until accountability was acknowledged for the police’s failure to protect her. In 2016, Shana Grice was stalked and then murdered by her ex-boyfriend after reporting him to the police five times. The nineteen-year-old was even fined for wasting police time; instead of protecting her, they stereotyped her as an over-dramatic young woman.

There are legal measures in place that are designed to protect women from domestic abuse and sexual violence, however the approach and understanding of police surrounding these issues is proving much more difficult to change. In the past, victims have not been protected from perpetrators who have been released on bail, and harassers have been able to remain in contact with victims as a result.

Why empathy is crucial

With the lack of police understanding for issues of domestic violence and abuse, women may feel less able to seek help when in vulnerable situations. The UK police force is disproportionately male-dominated, with women making up less than 32% of every possible rank, while news stories that do not engage with female points of view offer little encouragement for victims looking for a way out.  The services that are supposed to be helping these women do not always appear to have a friendly and welcoming face, and the media has a role to play in women’s understanding of what will happen if they seek help. When even cases of murder are not taken seriously, women who already have to exert a huge amount of courage to speak out are faced with a seemingly non-sympathetic, victim-blaming system.

What’s being done about this?

While the issues of police and media approaches to domestic violence cases are serious and daunting, there are several moves being made to help protect victims and prevent more serious consequences. Fortunately, a new law has just come into use which criminalises psychological and emotional abuse and coercive behaviour. Moreover, it requires courts to decide whether or not to impose non-harassment orders to protect sufferers from any further abuse. In these cases, women may feel more confident that they are safe from their abuser once arrests have been made.

Various campaigns are being carried out to promote awareness. Academic Karen Ingala Smith’s blog ‘Counting Dead Women’ promotes the remembrance of women who have died due to domestic violence, while she and Caroline Criado-Perez have worked together to campaign for recognition.

As advocates for women’s rights and campaigners against gender discrimination, JAN Trust is hopeful that further improvements will be made to help prevent and tackle domestic violence. Click here to find out more about the work JAN Trust has done over the last 30 years to support women and young people across the UK.

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