JASS Blog Archives for October 2012

by on October 23, 2012 on 12:00 am

Over two days, more than 140 HIV positive women activists met to celebrate the campaign they built to access to better ARVs and treatment literacy. As a prelude to the Global Race to SAVE Lives Conference, the national dialogue was a great opportunity for women to share and reflect as well as strategise.

Take a look!

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by Rosanna Langara on October 22, 2012 on 12:00 am

Young women activists are posting their comments on the "freedom wall" during  a protest action in Manila.

The women’s movement in the Philippines, along with social movements that have been actively campaigning to repeal the new anti-cybercrime law, has moved one step forward as just a few hours after the Black Tuesday protest last October 9, Supreme Court justices, in an en banc session, unanimously decided to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the implementation of the law. When women unite against injustice, government has no other option but to concede.

JASS women in the Philippines are actively taking part in this series of protests. The Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB), a JASS partner organization, has prepared a petition letter to “delete, undo, retrieve” the new law, particularly its cybersex provision. On the other hand, GABRIELA, Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), and SAMAKANA, together with other community-based organizations, trooped to the Supreme Court (last October 9) to demand for the repeal of the new law, as they believe that the law spells repression. For these organizations, it is the return of martial law, as they cry, “No to CyberMartial Law!”  Martial law, which has been imposed during the dictatorial regime of Marcos in the 1970s till the early 1980s, is being felt by activists as stepping up again through this anti-cybercrime law. Ironically, this repressive law has been signed by the son of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, one of the victims of martial rule, the incumbent President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III.

Even prior to the filing of a court case for online libel, the Department of Justice (DOJ) can declare that there is prima facie evidence of libel in any online information, comment, or video, and can bar access to the site or cause the removal of the offending material...This also makes ordinary Internet users, Facebook users for example, to get slapped with online libel cases just by posting comments or by uploading pictures deemed libelous.

This new law, the Republic Act 10175, is dubbed by feminists and activists as a landmark law that leads to the curtailment of the freedom of expression in the Internet. Women’s issues are being used as excuse to implement this law.

“Women’s rights will be on the line when this anti-cybercrime law’s provisions are enforced. This new law is operating under the guise of curbing cybersex and protecting women victims of cyber crimes such as pornography, but it has dangerous provisions such as the criminalization of libel on the Internet,” cries Rhoda Manglalan of CWR and active in the JASS network in the Philippines, who took part in the protest action.

Dozens of groups, women’s organizations included, have already filed petitions to repeal the new law. An earlier version of the Black Tuesday protest was launched last October 2, wherein many Internet users responded to the campaign by taking down their pictures on Facebook, and using black prints as profile pictures as a sign of cyber protest.

One of the contested provisions of this law is online libel. Even prior to the filing of a court case for online libel, the Department of Justice (DOJ) can declare that there is prima facie evidence of libel in any online information, comment, or video, and can bar access to the site or cause the removal of the offending material. This provision, as one Filipino journalist said, in effect gives the DOJ the power of judge, jury and executioner. This also makes ordinary Internet users, Facebook users for example, to get slapped with online libel cases just by posting comments or by uploading pictures deemed libelous.

The Filipino sense of humor was in full force as dozens of caricature regarding the anti-cybercrime law was circulated. In one picture, a woman was asking three prisoners behind bars, “What are you in for?” To which the prisoners replied: “I just uploaded a picture.”  “I just commented on a picture.”  “I just ‘liked’ a picture.”

Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, threats to Internet freedom are intensifying as cyber crime bills and other restrictive policies are being proposed and enforced. In Vietnam, bloggers are being imprisoned. In Cambodia, a cyber crime bill is being drafted while policies requiring Internet cafés to install surveillance cameras are already being implemented.  In Malaysia, the Section 114A amendment is already in effect which also sparked dissent from various civil society organizations.

Different forms of protests will hound the government until the law is repealed, protesters warn. The coming days will see a growing unrest among netizens, freedom-lovers, women activists and feminists in the region.  And JASS women will be part of these struggles.

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by Anna Davies-van Es on October 21, 2012 on 12:00 am

There’s energy in the air—here in Malawi. It crackles and shimmers, builds and builds, until it feels as though we are riding on a tidal wave of collective power, of women who have come from every corner of the country ready to raise their voices and make change happen.

It’s amazing to sit here and witness women stand up, and talk and talk and talk about the issues that affect them, their bodies and their hearts, their families and communities, their organisations and more. They know their issues because these issues are situated in their own experiences as women and activists living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.

The Malawian government has promised a rollout of a second line regimen of ART (antiretroviral therapy) in 2013—but only has the resources to fund that for a year. As Martha Kwatani put it, with a laugh, “I can promise my daughter a shoe but it doesn’t mean I will get it for her. Or I could get her the wrong shoe, or a second-hand one, or only one shoe that she can keep for a year.”

But this campaign that has been years in the making, the women who have poured their hearts and souls into building it, say that women are not going to wait for the government to deliver on promises in some nebulous and uncertain future. They are going to fight for it now, fight for their bodies, and fight for their lives.

As a practise, we try to resist conformity to typical workshop styles—no sitting in stiff lines or obstructive desks or boring horse-shoe formations—and definitely no “high tables” for guests of honour (whoever they may be). We’re feminists, and we’re fighting to create feminist spaces. Today, we ended in a strange square-circle —squeezing chairs into the room to fit in 120 women isn’t easy. We saw that revolutionary spirit come out (even in an odd arrangement) when Dr. Chimbwandira, Director of the HIV and AIDs Unit at the Ministry of Health was asked by all the women in the room to step off the room’s unused podium and step into the centre of the square, the “hot seat” where women could question him and raise so many of the issues in the campaign. Despite engaging with a high level government representative, the women have no fear, filling their space and asking question after question and sharing their experiences.

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