Faced with the number of death of wives at the hands of husbands since 1 January, 2014, there has been general outrage expressed in Mauritius. But no-one except the Muvman Liberasyon Fam (MLF) has come up with demands that could help prevent these crimes of unbridled patriarchy. LALIT at its Central Committee meeting Saturday, 8 March, adopted the 5-point “Challenge Charter” that the MLF addressed to five main political parties, including LALIT. Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam, who had received a copy as Labour party leader, at a government-organized women’s gathering at the J&J Auditorium said the MLF proposals were interesting, and some could be adopted.
LALIT formally expressed its support of the Charter. While marches against violence or other ceremonies do isolate male perpetrators, LALIT commends MLF for coming up with more than this.
The MLF Challenge Charter has two points that address the long-term economic background causes of male violence settling in and becoming a pattern in some households: There is no housing alternative for women when they are first confronted with a violent partner, and women do not always have jobs or a social security income that would permit them to leave violent males. The MLF is correct to say that these are political issues that political parties must address, in order to show that they are not colluding with male violence.
The third point in the MLF Charter is that the State should de-criminalize men who abandon their families. Coming from the women’s movement, this is interesting. It means women have adopted a non-patriarchal means of resolving the cycle of male violence. The MLF is, in effect, saying “Let these men be”. This is truly thoughtful, as it calls for us in society as a whole to take on the responsibility of caring for abandoned wives and children, instead of hunting down the individual males. The MLF even suggests where to get the tax revenue from for society as a whole to take on this responsibility. At present, what happens is that the police track men who default on payments and slap criminal charges on them, following a 1998 amendment designed to make males become more responsible by force. This patriarchal “solution” instead provokes further male violence.
The fourth point is that the Thea Mendelsohn Report dating from the 1990s be published so that debate on the infra-structure can take up from where this Report left off, when it led to the first Domestic Violence Act.
The fifth point is an interesting one: It puts the relative impunity (in society) of wife-beating, in the context of the more general impunity males benefit from when acting violently towards women in all contexts. As an example, the MLF includes the impunity political leaders have whereby their so-called “private lives” allow them to abuse their wives, mistresses and children, by maintaining webs of lies over years and years. MLF is right to put emphasis on rolling back this generalized misogyny.
LALIT has pleasure in publishing the whole of the MLF one-page Challenge Charter.
ON THE OCCASION OF “INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY” 8 MARCH 2014
MUVMAN LIBERASYON FAM CALLS ON POLITICAL PARTY LEADERSHIPS
5-POINT CHALLENGE CHARTER
PUTTING A STOP TO WIFE BATTERING
The Muvman Liberasyon Fam calls on the leadership of political parties to take a stand, on 8 March 2014, to address the real causes of the increasing violence against women by their partners/ex-partners. Since 1 January, four women have been murdered by violent spouses. Their murders were not sudden. They took place after a pattern of years of violence. One woman was violated even after her death, having her body chopped up into pieces. These murdered women represent the visible tip of an iceberg of male violence that exists in our ordinary social relationships. In memory of these four women, we call on political party leaders to address the long-term causes of this pattern of violence, and to address them politically. The solutions, like the causes, have little to do with the Ministry of Gender Equality. They need a proper political program. Solutions need to undermine patriarchy, the very cause of the misogyny that underpins this male violence. Our “Challenge Charter” will expose the hypocrisy of any political party leaderships that pretend to support women’s rights each year on 8 March.
Male violence against partners is often linked to the fact that individual males are themselves violently trapped. While patriarchy dictates that a man “provides for his wife and children consistently and forever”, capitalism-in-crisis deprives men of the wherewithal to do so. Mauritian society increasingly offers men, at all levels, jobs on short-term contract only while repayments on housing and household expenses have to be paid every single month.
If this general set-up is not enough to engender rage in the men in our society, what is?
So what does the women’s movement propose?
1. Housing for single women at prices we can afford
Is your party in favour of providing housing for women at rents that corroborate with women’s incomes? Yes or no? And do not reply with semi-intellectual statements like “housing must be profit-based”! When Mauritius was a poor country, the State could afford to provide housing in the form of “lakaz vev” and even some whole “site vev” for women with a violent partner or without a partner. Are you and your party in favour of re-instating this kind of social housing, or better still, improving on past best-practices invented under Central Housing Authority (CHA)? If you are not, you are colluding with the patterns of violence that women end up suffering simply because of being unable to escape from the initial violence at its first sign, whatever the cause and whatever the pretext.
Social housing for women simply rescues men from an unfair patriarchal obligation, thus removing a direct cause of the generalized violence. It also, on an “ideas” level, decreases the hold of patriarchy in general.
2. A Regular Income for Women through Paid Work
Is your party in favour of creating jobs for women so that we have a regular income on which we can live? Yes or no? Is your party in favour of social security for women with children too young to leave at home on their own? Yes or No? If you and your party are not in favour of women being able to survive without relying on violent partners, clearly you are colluding with this on-going murderous violence.
Proper jobs for women also spares men an unfair patriarchal obligation, thus removing another direct cause of misogyny while also decreasing the hold of patriarchal ideas.
3. Society as a whole must Pay for Children abandoned by Fathers
When a violent male leaves his wife and children, this is a blessing. He has acted wisely. He has turned away from his violent role. He should not then be called a criminal. The law of 1998, which criminalizes men who abandon their families or don’t pay their alimony, was passed at a time when the State was washing its hands of social responsibilities in the wake of the Thatcher-Reagan counter-revolution which rolled back “caring behavior” by society as a whole, represented by the State. We therefore call for the immediate repeal of the law which criminalizes men who abandon their wife and children. This law perpetuates male violence. Social Security must once again take its responsibility. Income tax on the rich can be increased to cover the cost.
4. Publish the Thea Mendelsohn Report At Once
On an MLF demand, Ms. Sidaya, Minister of Womens’ Rights at the time, commissioned the Thea Mendelsohn Report. It was the basis for the Domestic Violence Act. However, her other proposals have never been made public. We call for your party to take a stand to remove this Report from the “tirwar” and debate its contents.
5. Political Parties Must Stop Colluding with Male Violence at all Levels
Wife-beating is one form of male violence that benefits from constant cover-up. It is related to other more insidious forms of male violence and misogyny that are even more covered up. This impunity must stop. All male violence must be denounced. For example, politicians and other men, who lead double-lives and thus cause wives, mistresses and children untold suffering must be made to resign from office and clean up their acts. Is your party in favour of this? Or will your party continue to mask male violence by referring to “private lives”, as if lies and hypocrisy, on a long term basis, are normal? As if women and children can be hidden away in the shadows like illegal slaves? Just as men still think they can beat women as part of their “private lives”? Take a stand!
This Challenge Charter was addressed to all political party leaders. Here is the covering letter sent by MLF.
Navin Ramgoolam, Labour Party Leader
Paul Bérenger, Leader MMM.
Pravind Jugnauth, Leader MSM
Xavier Duval, Leader PMSD
Central Committee, LALIT.
5-POINT “CHALLENGE CHARTER” AGAINST VIOLENCE BY HUSBANDS
Addressed to Political Parties
At an open women’s meeting organized by Muvman Liberasyon Fam in the context of International Women’s Day on the theme of domestic violence, held at the LPT building on Tuesday 4 March, 2014, we took a resolution to prepare the enclosed “Challenge Charter”. It is being addressed to all main political parties in Mauritius so that their leaders can comment on the 5 demands over the International Women’s Day meetings.