Here is the MLF’s Charter voted at a women’s gathering held in Port Louis on 12 February 2017.
Over the past 30 years or so, there have been, and still are, two distinct currents or political viewpoints in the women’s movement – in Mauritius and worldwide. And we, in the Muvman Liberasyon Fam believe we are in a position to analyze these two currents on International Women’s Day this year, precisely because it was our organization that launched Solidarite Fam the broad front that celebrated International Women’s Day in 1977 for the first time. We consider ourselves part of the continuation of the century-old historical current that first celebrated International Women’s Day on themes like the right to vote, workers’ rights, human development, the right to contraception and abortion, to a job for everyone, food and safe running water, housing, and peace in the world – in public and private spaces. Our current not only calls for, but also struggles collectively for, equality amongst all, that is to say for the end of class inequality as well as the end of patriarchal hierarchies.
Today, 12 February 2017, at a women’s gathering, called by the MLF held at Grand River North West, in order to influence in a positive way the content of the celebration of International Women’s Day 2017, we note that,
* International Women’s Day has begun to lose its old spirit, the life force that comes from inside the struggle for our own emancipation and liberation as women and as human beings,
* The “gender” strategy that is fashionable has contributed to stifling the life force of the women’s movement by its puffing up the “other” political current in the women’s movement, the one that seeks no more than to make a few women rise to positions of power in the existing patriarchal hierarchies, in the inequalities of capitalism. Even the best-seeming demands of the “gender” strategy are erroneous: e.g. the call for equal pay for equal work in the free zone was so erroneous as to allow the bosses to lower men’s wages, bringing division and defeat!
What remains central to our current in the women’s movement are the basic demands –
- Work for everyone!
- Housing for all!
- Collective and democratic control over all the land and sea of the country!
- Nourishing food for all!
And bearing in mind
* That many demands, especially of the “other current” have dangerous negative “unintended consequences”,
* That today we find capitalists, themselves, imposing a direct form of rule, and reverting to barbaric misogyny,
* An increasing tendency for the State to monopolize human organization, including women’s organization,
We today together resolve to:
Re-focus on “the big issues” for women – and to dedicate ourselves to make our current that puts these major issues on the agenda, once again become the main current in the women’s movement:
– Work as a right! With the disappearance of jobs in cane and the free zone for women (and men), the Government must keep statistics based on a true picture, and then, itself, create jobs, and at once put a stop to the permits to sell off the arable land of the country.
– A house for all women, and all people! And this at a price we can pay! Many problems women face – incest, domestic violence, curtailed freedom – are directly linked to the lack of housing, i.e. we are not free to move out of unpleasant, even dangerous, social situations. Government statistics mask the housing problem by calling each individual in a family compound a “home owner”, when they are not. Shelters for battered women are a good thing, but not enough, and they come after violence. We take note that the Housing Minister on Friday announced the construction of 10,000 houses in two years – which means our campaign on the use of the land is beginning to have effect – at least on announcements.
– The Land. Government will have to force the sugar estates to develop their land, plant food crops, organize animal husbandry plants, set up preserving and transforming plants, employ people on the land, in processing plants, in product development, research, marketing abroad, transport -- creating varied jobs on a huge scale, or else return the land to the people – and stop selling it off, cementing it up, and keeping cane to monopolize all good arable land. And if the sugar estates refuse, the Government must co-ordinate this development, itself, and if it doesn’t, we the people will do it. We call for a stop to denying access to part of the land – on the pretext of gated communities, hotels and domains! Colonization is over! And no to re-colonization! No to sale of “permanent residence” and “citizenship” for money! Women will help lead the people to re-appropriate the land of the country.
– Food. Use sugar estate land for food security!
– The sea. Women recognize the immense size of the Republic of Mauritius over which we have collective responsibility, 2.3 million square kilometres, with massive resources which can be harnessed for job creation and for foreign exchange.
– Free Diego Garcia from military occupation by the US and UK! And the whole of Chagos! Re-unify Mauritius, close the base, make a peace zone, and ensure the right of return to all Chagossians.
– Free Tromelin and its economic zone from French occupation.
And all the while,
we will denounce demands that have negative “unintended consequences”, for example,
– On the quintessential crime against women, rape: There are demands that rebound dangerously. Calling for “more sever punishment”, for example, by the “other current” in the women’s movement led in 2007 to a new law giving up to 45-year sentences for rape. The unintended, but perfectly predictable consequence, is that perpetrators, after having raped a woman, will realize they need to get rid of the only witness, the victim herself. So the brandishing of heavy sentences leads to murder, on top of rape. Similarly, the demand for “a police woman in every police station” has the unintended consequence of enlarging the police force, which is already too dominant in patriarchal society. Our current, in the MLF, has a completely different demand. We call for women who have suffered sexual assault or rape to go immediately to the hospital, where a Crisis Unit comes into operation, and takes care of the woman. She may need physical care, psychological care, prevention of infectious disease and unwanted pregnancy. So, she should not have to go to the police station, but to the hospital. We won this demand, but the Ministry and the Police never really popularize the formal, written protocol that now exists. Nor does the “other current” in the women’s movement even see its importance.
– Another real problem women have is taking care of children when a man leaves. There was a demand from the other political current in the women’s movement, for example, to “make men take their responsibility”. Its implementation brought unintended consequences. Once it became an offense for the man not to pay child support or alimony, the police come and arrest him. This often causes him to become violent, or more violent. It also gets him a conviction in Court, and then he cannot get what’s called a “morality certificate”, without which he cannot get a job. So he cannot pay child support. We, in the MLF, call for society as a whole, through the State, to support any woman who finds herself in charge single-handed of children, and to leave the man alone.
We realize that the unintended consequences of erroneous demands and tactics happen all over the world.
World-wide, massive set-backs
Donald Trump the new President of the most heavily armed country in the world, the USA, is overtly misogynist as well as being a billionaire. He represents a kind of direct rule by capitalists. We mean that he and his Cabinet either have by-passed the political establishment (or they pretend to). And it is not just Trump. There was a similar character (billionaire, misogynist) DSK who was so nearly French President. Before him, there was another billionaire misogynist in Italy as head of State, Berlusconi. It is no coincidence that the capitalist class, itself, is misogynist. Capitalism and patriarchy still go hand in glove. And they have rebounded with a vengeance.
But, how does this happen? There are many factors, but remember that before Trump, and before Bush, there was Bill Clinton, the husband of Trump’s adversary, Hillary Clinton. When he was President he relied on his vast power to force sexual favours from a young intern at the White House. Most of the US women’s movement refused to call for him to resign. They argued that he nominated women to positions of power and that he gave money to important programs, like contraception and abortion. In other words, they handed over the struggle to Bill Clinton, the State. They discredited themselves in the process. They were not even in a position, when Trump came along, to prevent his coming to power.
In Mauritius, we have seen other forms of handing away power to the State over time. When women’s organizations were set up, some were registered, others not. Now, the State gives Rs2,000 a year, attempts to force associations to register, and then controls their agenda. That is how associations turned away from emancipation as their aim, and settled for gender equity without even knowing what it means. We must continue to warn against this capitulation. But it is not easy. When our member, Rajni denounced “gender” strategies as a capitulation at a women’s gathering at the University of Mauritius a few years ago, women from Associations harangued our member for leaving it so late to denounce them! But, many women’s ears were not open to our denunciation, and of course, the academics, the press, and all the do-gooders do not like to hear that “our collective destiny depends on us”. They agree with the “gender” strategy so as to advance their career prospects! So now, women’s organizations often do “projects” with CSR money, organize entrepreneurship, exploit fellow women, instead of continuing the noble struggle, the 100-200 year-old struggle for women’s emancipation.
That is the re-calibration that is called for in the women’s movement today. We need to win against the current that composes cozily with patriarchy and capitalist inequality and move back to the big demands, the broad program, the meetings around a common platform, or a new Manifesto!
12 Feb, 2017