Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Assasinated....

It's a sad day for women in politics. Pakistan's opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated today by a suicide bomber. The Middle East's first female leader and one of the leaders on Antigone's current cover page, Bhuto was a powerful force in Pakistanian politics. She had just returned to the country from exile and had already been a target of attacks. Already, there is talk that her death is the result of neglect by the current Pakistanian administration to provide her with proper security to keep her safe. Fox News has a biography of the leader:

Pakistani politician became the first female leader of a Muslim nation in modern history. She served two terms as prime minister of Pakistan, from 1988 to 1990 and from 1993 to 1996.

Bhutto was the daughter of the politician Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was the leader of Pakistan from 1971 until 1977. She was educated at Harvard University (B.A., 1973) and subsequently studied philosophy, political science and economics at the University of Oxford (B.A., 1977).

After her father's execution in 1979 during the rule of the military dictator Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, Bhutto became the titular head of her father's party, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), and endured frequent house arrest from 1979 to 1984.

In exile from 1984 to 1986, she returned to Pakistan after the lifting of martial law and soon became the foremost figure in the political opposition to Zia.
President Zia died in August 1988 in a mysterious plane crash, leaving a power vacuum at the center of Pakistani politics. In the ensuing elections, Bhutto's PPP won the single-largest bloc of seats in the National Assembly. She became prime minister on Dec. 1, 1988, heading a coalition government.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Holiday Vacation...

There I go again taking off and not telling anyone where I have gotten to. Sorry for the lack of recent blog posts but I returned home to Windsor for the holidays and was absolutely delighted to spend time with my 7 month old niece... and the rest of my family. That is until I got the flu and was then quarantined from them all!

I'm on the mend and looking forward to leaving the house again... but I probably won't get a chance to post much here over the holidays. I'll be back as of the 7th of January! I hope you all have a great holiday season!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Olympics could lead to increase in human trafficking

The Epoch Times has a fabulous article about how 2010 will likely translate into an increase in human trafficking in Vancouver. They talk about a recently released report by the Calgary based Future Group which suggests that the Olympics will simply exacerbate the problems that Vancouver is already experiencing relating to human trafficking. The worst part of this story? The fact that, try as I might, I can't find another news outlet that has covered this important story. So, let's do their job for them and pass it on!

Big sporting events such as the Olympics and the World Cup soccer tournament are known to generate an increase in prostitution, which in turn leads to a rise in human trafficking.

A recent report by the Calgary-based The Future Group, an anti-human trafficking NGO, said that during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, authorities implemented a wide range of actions to combat human trafficking during the event, with relative success.

The result was that, while there was an increase in prostitution, authorities did not detect a rise in human trafficking.

However, when Greece hosted the Olympics in 2004, the measures adopted were not as extensive as those in Germany, and a 95 percent increase in human trafficking was recorded for that year.

Human trafficking—the biggest money spinner for organized crime after drugs and firearms—has been steadily increasing in Canada and around the world.

Canada is apparently particularly bad for human trafficking, as is Vancouver:

Sabrina Sullivan, managing director of The Future Group, says the number of people being trafficked to or through Canada each year could be as high as 16,000.
In the international human trafficking trade, Canada serves as a destination country and a transit country. It is a source country as well, with Aboriginal women, mainly from Winnipeg or rural areas, being the most likely victims.

"Women from reserves are even being taken away and trafficked, either within the country or across borders," says Sullivan.

Globally and nationally, the majority of those trafficked are women and children, including boys, and many are forced into the sex trade. It is estimated that up to four million are sold world-wide into prostitution, slavery or marriage.

Vancouver was singled out in the U.S. State Department's 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report as being a destination city for trafficked persons from Asia. The report also stated that a "significant number" of victims, particularly South Korean females, transit Canada before being trafficked into the United States.

So what do we do about it? NOW's NYC chapter is currently tackingly this problem and is doing so with great energy and sophistication. They might make a good model for action in Vancouver:

Launched in the Fall of 2006, NOW-NYC's human trafficking campaign set out to get a state law that recognized trafficking as a crime, increase public education on this modern-day slavery, collect trafficking victims stories, access how state agencies are identifying, tracking and prioritizing this issue, and shed light on how the trafficking industry is a part of the local economy and identify the legitimate businesses that do business with traffickers.

It won’t be easy. Much like the Domestic Violence movement 25 years ago when this phenomenon didn’t have a name, much less cultural understanding, it will take the dedicated work of activists and the NOW-NYC team to raise awareness and convince legislator, law enforcement, prosecutors and the courts, this issue deserves to be a priority for civil rights.

Robert Pickton gets life... but is eligible for parole?

Good news... well, kind of. Robert Pickton, who was convicted on Sunday of the murder of 6 women, has been sentenced to a life sentence without being eligible for parole for 25 years, apparently the mazimum sentence. Now, this is good because he could have been eligible after 10 years. Still, it seems a little odd that after MURDERING and being convicted of murdering six women there isn't an option in Canada for life imprisonment without eligibility for parole.

Of course, for Canada's most notorious serial killer, there are still 20 murder charges yet to be heard against him. Also, let's remember that the jury found him guilty of second-degree murder, believing that the murders were not planned. How do you murder that many people and not plan it?

Anyways, the AP reports on the family's victim impact statements. They're heartbreaking:

The family members had cried and prosecutor Michael Petrie choked up as he read victim-impact statements at Tuesday's hearing. Prosecutors are pushing for a maximum 25 years in prison before Pickton can seek parole.

Staring directly at Pickton, Lynn Frey read a statement from her granddaughter Brittney, whose mother Marnie Frey, was among the victims. Part of Marnie Frey's jaw bone was found on Pickton's farm.

"Mr. Pickton, why did you hurt my real mother and those other women?" the teenager wrote. "I have to go through each day. I ask myself. 'What would it be like if my real mother were here?' Mr. Pickton, why did you do that?"

"When you took her from me, it was like ripping out my heart."

Karin Joesbury wrote that her daughter Andrea was a "lovely, creative girl who wound up in a freezer, cut into parts."

Rick Frey, Marnie's father, smiled as he left the courtroom.

"That's great, that's good, that's what we wanted," said Frey. "We didn't think we'd get that but, yeah, it's perfect."

Prosecutors had sought a first-degree murder conviction, but the jury found Pickton guilty of the lesser second-degree murder charges, finding that the killings were not planned.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Liberals Release New Policy for Women in their Pink Book

The Federal Liberals took last week on Dec. 6th the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, to release the Liberal Women's Caucus' volume two of its Pink Book: A Policy Framework for Canada's future. The Toronto Star looks at the announcements:

Among the new policies announced were:

Amendments to the federal Divorce Act that would make it far more difficult for partners with a record of violence or abuse to have custody or access to their children;

Changes to the work-permit system to give overseas workers more freedom to change employers and still work in the country. At present, permits are granted for these 3,000 to 5,000 workers on the basis of the employers' permission, which "creates an unequal power dynamic." A "national housing strategy" that specifically focuses on women's difficulties in obtaining adequate and affordable housing;

More research into the problems raised by rural poverty, which can leave women more cut off from access to social assistance and proper health care and employment;

More resources for aboriginal women

In another section of the Star, the release of the Pink Book is seen more critically:

It doesn't help that the Liberals themselves don't have all that much credibility on women's poverty, work, security and safety considering their inaction on violence against women and femicide, their dithering throughout the '90s on daycare, their inattention to the concerns of sex workers who require better conditions in which to ply their let's-face-it-it's-always-going-to-have-a-market trade, the wage gap, how women have been penalized by the rules on collecting unemployment insurance, nausea ad nauseum.


Yet it's difficult to disagree with Harper when he accuses Dion of not committing to these Pink Book recommendations, which are, for the moment anyway, "policy proposals.''(Emphasis mine.)

The Liberals, you see, aren't exactly married to them.

So for now, these proposals are very pretty in pink.

But they should be set in stone.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Death of the Glass Ceiling?

In an article on The Globe and Mail website Margarent Wente puts forward what, to me, is an extremely inaccurate agument. Wente claims that the glass ceiling is no longer the problem faced by women--in fact to her it is part of the now fantasy of "the patriarchy."

Wente argues that women's equality and our gradual, but, according to her, current 'equality' of access and success in all the fields where men previously dominated means that the glass ceiling does not adequately explain women's inequality in the work world. I would disagree that women have "penetrated" all the bastions of Wente's imaginary patriarchy, politics being a case in point.

Furthermore, I don't know what kind of experience Wente has had in her own life, but I would disagree with her argument for women's willingness to 'trust' and compromise. In my experience, women, when placed in 'team' environments tend to compete with each other as much if not more than men. To me, this derives from the teachings of a patriarchy that has taught us to compete with each in order to gain their privileges and rewards--as defined by them. Wente's insecurity of Manhood is projected into the female world precisely because the patriarchy is not dead--and may never die...

Thus, it is important women inform themselves because our equality lies in our action. Reaching the top and choosing to leave is one matter, never aspiring to it because of complacency is an entirely different one.

While I can't contest her academic's findings, I find Wente's argument problematic on many counts, and will refrain from summarizing it here because I think it would become an extended analysis. I encourage you to read it. For me, it was highly provocative.

I agree that men do tend to aspire to the Alpha Male position; but, I don't think we can exclude women from aspiring to the same--although perhaps for different reasons. Women's quest for power is most often a quest to legislate their own equality, since more often than not, the other sex will not do it for them.

While Wente attempts to refrain from gender essentialism she does not succeed: indeed, the crux of her argument lies in the fact that, for women, taking chance is "reproductively stupid."
All those who feel like a womb please raise their hands.

It is high time women became the heroes of their own stories...

Friday, December 7, 2007

Women Around the World Beaten and Abused...

Given that yesterday was a Day of Action and Remembrance for Violence Against Women and that we are currently in the middle of a UN world action campaign to end violence against women, I thought I would bring your attention to these articles and statistics about rape and abuse of women around the world, starting with our own country:

From Canada:

In the seven years between 2000 and 2006, the number of women killed by their partners and former partners was 500 -- more than 70 a year and five times as many as the total number of Canadian frontline military and police deaths in the same time.

Dec. 6 still matters because women in Canada still experience violence in appalling numbers. Not only are women killed in shocking numbers but tens of thousands more are battered and beaten, emotionally abused and sexually assaulted -- 100,000 women and their children use battered women's shelters every year in this country.

From Niger:

The news that 70 percent of women in parts of Niger find it normal that their husbands, fathers and brothers regularly beat, rape and humiliate them came as no surprise to human rights experts in Niger.

"Women here have been indoctrinated by their families, by religious officials, by society that this is a normal phenomenon," said Lisette Quesnel, a gender-based violence advisor with Oxfam in Niger, which produced the statistic from a survey of women in the remote Zinder region of eastern Niger in 2006.

The frequency of the crimes and the impunity granted to the attackers partly explain the broad social acceptance of it, activists say.

Rape is not illegal under Nigerien law and according to Oxfam it is "increasingly common" in the capital Niamey.

Beatings and mental and physical abuse are "frequently" part of life in a typical Nigerien polygamous family, Oxfam says.

And women are often made destitute overnight when their polygamous husbands throw them out on the street. Divorces are passed by judges without even hearing "one word" from the women involved.

From Iran's We Change coalition of women working to garner one million signatures to encourage their government to create more equitable laws for women.

Political party members! Parliament members! Artists! Athletes! Keyhan Newspaper! University Professors! Leftists! Conservatives! Government Supporters! Opposition groups! Gather around so I can tell you what happens to your sisters and mothers in the backrooms of their homes because of the law of Obligatory Sexual Obedience (Tamkin). I want to tell you that when your daughter was 9 months pregnant and her husband forcefully slept with her and she had to go to the hospital, she couldn’t tell you and she couldn’t tell the court because she had to be sexually obedient.

From Palestine:

Female victims of domestic violence here have little chance of escaping their situation or bringing the perpetrators to justice as they face a legal system stacked in favour of the accused. Moreover, many women who have been raped are killed by family members in "honour killings" for having "brought shame" to their family.

A Human Rights Watch report released last year said: "Palestinian women in violent or life-threatening marriages have two legal options available to them: pressing charges for spousal abuse or initiating a divorce on the basis of physical harm." However, "neither Jordanian nor Egyptian penal codes in force in the West Bank and Gaza recognise sexual violence within marriage," HRW said. -

From China

Domestic violence is widespread and on the rise in China, where complaints of abuse soared 70% last year, state media says, citing a women's advocacy group.The All China Women's Federation received 50 000 complaints last year, and the "number of cases (has increased) in recent years", the China Daily quoted Jiang Yu'e, head of the group's rights and interests department as saying.

"The increase indicates that domestic violence is widespread in China and women's awareness of safeguarding their rights and interests has been improved with reinforced publicity by relevant institutions," Jiang said. Women in rural areas, especially those who had gone to work in cities, were particularly susceptible.

"Female migrant workers are restricted in accessing legal assistance as they are constantly on the move," Jiang said. Rising domestic abuse had also resulted in more women "fighting violence with violence". A recent study of provincial prisons showed that about 46% of female inmates had been past victims of domestic abuse.

"Police and government agencies have begun to make joint efforts to address the problem," Jiang said. Police needed to do more to encourage women to speak out in China, where traditional ideas about keeping family problems private remained strong.

From Iraq

At least 27 women have died in so-called "honour killings" over the past four months in northern Kurdish Iraq. Aziz Mohammed, human rights minister in the Kurdish regional government, said 97 women had attempted to commit suicide by self-immolation during this time.The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq has regularly highlighted "honour killings" of Kurdish women as among Iraq's most severe human rights abuses.

Most of such crimes are reported as deaths due to accidental fires in the home.Aso Kamal, a 42-year-old British Kurdish Iraqi campaigner, says that from 1991 to 2007, 12 500 women were murdered for reasons of "honour" or committed suicide in the three Kurdish provinces of Iraq.

Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region runs its own affairs and has enjoyed relative peace and growing prosperity since the US invasion of March 2003, while Arab areas of Iraq have been plunged into sectarian warfare.Crimes against women continue despite campaigns by human rights activists and regular denounciation of the oppression by the three women ministers and 28 female MPs in the 111-member autonomous Kurdish parliament. - Sapa-AFP

From the United States

More than 300 000 children are being sexually exploited in the United States, according to a new study.Many of them end up in Atlanta, which authorities say has become a hub for prostitution. Many are lured into prostitution by pimps who exploit the fears and low self-esteem of young girls who often come from dysfunctional families.

Now Atlanta law enforcement intends to spur new efforts to crack down on child predators.Prosecutors have started to bring felony rather than misdemeanour charges against men who use child prostitutes, and a 52-bed centre for sexually exploited girls will open this year to help girls emerging from prostitution. - Reuters

From Singapore

More than half of those queried in Singapore believe family violence is a private affair that will eventually stop by itself. And experts have called for increased public education campaigns.Those interviewed represented 1 015 people of all races in the city-state between 18 and 64.

A third of the respondents still believed that most family violence will stop on its own and that an abused spouse had a duty to stay in a marriage for the sake of a young child. About one in five said physical violence was a part of married life. Ten percent said they would not report an abusive spouse to authorities. Violence against children and the elderly was seen as unacceptable by nine in 10. - Sapa-DPA

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Ottawa Senators (and their wives) Support Pro-Life Charity...

I have a huge problem with so-called 'Crisis Pregnancy Centres'. It's less what they're promoting than the fact that they're terribly deceptive. Young women who are experiencing a 'crisis' pregnancy need real counselling regarding their options and that's what many of them expect from a place that says it deals with 'Crisis pregnancies'... but in fact these organizations are pro-life and often very manipulative.

So, it also bothers me when an organization like the Ottawa Senator's wives organization, called Better Halves, raises money from unsuspecting hockey fans and then gives that money to a crisis pregnancy centre. Given the fact that the money donated is being matched by the Ottawa Senator's foundation as well, I find this even more problematic. Heather Mallick explains on

The Better Halves are giving a third of the proceeds of this year's $50,000 Christmas Tree raffle to First Place Pregnancy Centre, an Ottawa anti-abortion group run by Pentecostal Christians.

Planned Parenthood told me it frequently talks to women who went to these apparently welcoming places for counselling on the three options — abortion, adoption and parenting. The group says women report feeling badly treated.

A Crisis Pregnancy Centre just opened up near where I live and everyday that I drive by it I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. I hate thinking of the young women who get ambushed there. But it is worse that just that. These organizations are often not just anti-abortion, they are anti-birth control.... as Heather Mallick finds out....

I had an initially cheerful phone interview with Sens Foundation president Dave Ready, who said the Better Halves, when asked to choose three charities, chose:
• First Place.• Kids Help Phone.• Harmony House (a women's shelter).

First Place was “in line with our mandate,” he said. “We did due diligence and checked that it's a charity.”

“You went to the website?” I asked.


“Did you check on the links?”


We went through the First Place site links together. There's a standard disclaimer but First Place hopes we'll find them “helpful.” I told Ready that some of the news headlines appeared to be libellous, particularly the ones linking corporations that make birth control drugs to the Jewish Holocaust and one drug itself to Nazi death camps. Others were grotesque: “One baby in 30 left alive after medical abortion” turns out to be an absurd, unsubstantiated anonymous “news story” in a British entertainment magazine.

You're also guided to a donation page for the American Life League, a hardline group based outside Washington. There's a shop, admittedly very funny, that sells “Abortion is mean” T-shirts for two-year-olds.

They offer booklets explaining that abortion is wrong even in the case of incest. They tell members to scare away raped children outside abortion clinics. They call RU-486 “the anti-human pesticide.” They offer sample letters to the editor to send to outlets that employ, I imagine, columnists like me. One begins: “Planned Parenthood is not 'a good guy.'”

Ready gets more and more quiet as we track this. Soon he is desperate to get off the phone. He will not let me talk to a Better Half, who might well explain that she hadn't known that First Place is financed by the Bethel Pentecostal Church in Ottawa and its mission — declared on the Bethel website but nowhere on the First Place site — is not just anti-abortion but anti-birth control.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Carole Taylor is stepping down...

BC Finance Minister Carole Taylor has unfortunately decided not to run for re-election in 2009! As one of the highest profile female members of the BC Liberals it is unfortunate that she will not be running again. But apparently there are rumors that she might be running for Vancouver's mayoral office. Sounds interesting...

VICTORIA - B.C. Finance Minister Carole Taylor, one of the provincial Liberal government's highest-profile members, has decided not to run for re-election in 2009.

Rumours she would make her exit from provincial politics after just one term had been rife for weeks when Taylor formally announced her decision Friday during her quarterly update of the province's books.

Premier Gordon Campbell stole some of the thunder in an telephone interview with The Canadian Press early Friday from Hong Kong, confirming Taylor had given him her decision last week, before he left on a trade mission to Asia.

"Someone of Carole Taylor's talents will be hard to replace," Campbell said of the woman he lured away from her job as chairwoman of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to run in the 2005 election.

Taylor gave no specific reasons for deciding not to run again and deflected rumours she could be a candidate to be mayor of Vancouver, a post once held by her husband, Art Phillips.

"I'm getting calls and letters and meetings from people who wish that I would consider running for mayor," said Taylor, a former journalist and two-term Vancouver city councillor in the late 1980s. "I am saying to them in private what I am saying to you in public, which is at this point my only concentration is in trying to present a good budget."

She felt that she would remain as finance minister at least until that budget is introduced in February.

But Taylor added she would not be surprised to see Campbell do some rearranging to take a new cabinet into the election campaign scheduled for May 2009 under British Columbia's fixed-term regime.

Taylor also made it very clear she is not stepping down for so-called personal reasons.

"I would say it actually has nothing to do with it; I'm in a very good space personally," she revealed.

She said she catches up with her husband as he heads off to tennis or golf and her children are grown up and settled.

"I have time, and energy, to choose what I'd like to do next and I just simply haven't decided what that is yet," she said.

Taylor also played down suggestions her star status as a finance minister who had delivered multibillion-dollar surpluses and settled scores of B.C. public-sector contracts without mishap made her a natural to someday succeed Campbell as provincial Liberal leader.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Cool Feminist Art Project - Dreams for Women

Antigone Magazine is launching a Feminist Postcard art project and fundraiser, inspired by But instead of asking what your secrets are, we want to know what your Dreams for Women are.

What are your own dreams for yourself, your friends, your sisters, your daughters? Paint, draw, write, sketch or decoupage your dreams on a postcard and send it to the address below

Antigone Magazine
Box 61-6138 SUB Boulevard
Vancouver, BC, Canada
V6T 1Z1

With your postcard submission, we ask that you make a donation to Antigone Magazine for anywhere from $1 to $10. You can send your money along with your postcard or donate on our blog: . We will be posting postcards every second Saturday starting in January on the blog!

We want submissions from all over the world - so forward this on! Post it on your blog! Or link to it!