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Report parliamentary sexual harassment? What a joke!

Mohammed Aroof sexually harassed women in the local MP’s constituency office by scratching his genitals & demanding oral sex

International Trade Minister Mark Garnier asked his Parliamentary Aide to buy two sex toys while he waited outside.

The fall out from the Harvey Weinstein scandal continues with further claims of harassment and sexual assault being made against him while over 300 women have also come forward to claim director James Toback sexually harassed or assaulted them.

On this side of the Pond, an intriguing story emerged of a group of women using a WhatsApp group to share stories of sexual harassment and bullying they have suffered at the hands of Members of Parliament (MP) and staff while working at the House of Commons (HoC). There was the usual uproar; the Prime Minster Theresa May even intervened and urged all victims of sexual harassment to report such incidents to the police.

Let me tell you Theresa, it won’t work. The police will send you away with a little pat on the head and a ‘it’s a civil/ employment matter, not a criminal one. Speak to a solicitor’ response. How many of us have the spare cash lying around to bring our abusers to justice? And it is precisely this helplessness and hopelessness that keeps our abusers safe and free to strike again and again.

Do the people in power not realise that it is nigh on impossible for anyone working for a MP (or Member as described in Parliamentary parlance) to complain about any harassment they have suffered? It is not just MPs whose inappropriate conduct should be addressed; the same rules should also apply to assembly members, devolved parliament members, MEPs, PCCs and anyone else working in politics.

It’s even harder to complain when you’re a member of a BAME community- the added risk of bringing the family honour into disrepute is a key factor why so many Asian women do not and will not ever speak out.

Even if you do manage to pick up the courage and complain about an MP or staff, who do you complaint to? What structures are in place for such incidents and what protection is available for those who do speak out? None whatsoever. There isn’t even a humble whistle blowing policy in place for staff and Members.

The Code of Conduct in place for MPs does not even make any reference to inappropriate and/ or sexual conduct.

The Code of Conduct in place for MPs does not even make any reference to inappropriate and/ or sexual conduct.

In fact, according to II: Scope of the Code

The Code applies to Members in all aspects of their public life. It does not seek to regulate what Members do in their purely private and personal lives.

So even if a Member is accused or caught out, he or she can claim their conduct falls under their ‘private and personal life’ and therefore not subject to scrutiny from any parliamentary regulations. This clause is grossly unfair because it allows Members a little known loophole to escape accountability for their conduct.

Although Rule 16 of the Code states: ‘Members shall never undertake any action which would cause significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons as a whole, or of its Members generally’ many Members can hide behind the usual ‘high jinks’, ‘banter’, ‘joking’ and ‘no harm intended’ excuses, further depowering their victims.

Victims are accused of being uptight, moody sour pusses who don’t know how to take a joke, adding insult to injury. Sending inappropriate texts and emails is another concern of women working at the HoC. Fear of being branded ‘overly-sensitive’ or a ‘drama queen’ means that it’s often easier to just ignore and delete, rather than kick up a fuss and then risk being outed as ‘difficult’ or ‘lacking a sense of humour’.

While writing this blog, I’ve been sent a link  to an article about International Trade Minister Mark Garnier allegedly calling an aide ‘sugar t*ts’ and asking her to buy him two vibrators while he waited outside the sex shop.

As a parliamentary aide who was asked to purchase underwear and sanitary towels for my former boss, I can tell you without doubt that you feel powerless to say no. It’s as though you’re constantly under obligation to your boss and it’s often easier to grit your teeth and comply. Buying a sex toy (or two) is simply unacceptable. If an accountant or an engineer did this, there would a clear cut case for sexual harassment and sex discrimination. So why are rules so different for MPs?

I don’t believe that anything will change because the structures that exist do not allow any Member to be held to account for their inappropriate actions. Even if you do complain and an investigation is triggered, this can take time and unless you’re suspended, you have to come into work and put up with the questions, the insinuations and the downright lies.

Furthermore, your complaint has to be in writing, with your name and address clearly identifying you. You cannot ask someone else to write it on your behalf so if you struggle to articulate what you’re concerned about, you have very little recourse. Some Parliamentary staff are incredibly loyal to their boss, to the extent that they will take it upon themselves to go after the victim in order to shut them down, malign their character or discredit their testimony. Even if the boss is aware, nothing is done to stop the harassing conduct- after all the Member gets what he wants without getting his hands dirty. In my own case, my former chief of staff Rob Hoveman spent the best part of 4 years harassing and intimidating me, to the extent that he obtained my personal documents including my HoC vetting form and gave them to the Guardian Newspaper. When I tried to complain, I was told to ‘write to my former boss’ to set out my concerns which included ‘a particularly unhealthy preoccupation with my private life, bordering on the fanatical’. Despite repeated emails, I was completely ignored. (*The full letter is reproduced below)

Rob Hoveman, my former chief of staff and senior Respect official, was obsessed with my sex life, and demanded to know how many ex partners I had had and who had fathered my son.

Other incidents I was subjected to also included being harassed for sex persistently by a senior work colleague, being flashed at twice by a Respect Party volunteer, being told to ‘suck on my (penis)’ by Mohammed Aroof, the brother of the main funder to the Party and also being subjected to a sexual assault by the Party’s solicitor Alias Yousaf (which the Metropolitan Police Service ignored despite me reporting it three times) I considered myself a strong, confident and outspoken  person and regularly spoke out and confronted these men; however, working in that toxic environment eroded my self confidence and sense of normality and left me on the edge of a nervous breakdown. It’s even harder to speak out when you simply don’t know how to.

The only option for victims of sexual harassment is to either put up with it, warn others covertly (as in the case of the secret WhatsApp group) or leave altogether. And even after you leave, you can’t speak out about it because of the need for a good reference (this is an issue for many other professions too, not just politics)

Many people don’t realise that working at the HoC is not like working anywhere else; you can’t be transferred to a different department until the matter is solved; you have to either stay in the same office (which is often one huge room with lots of desks), work from home or take paid leave until the matter is resolved. Due to the high profiles of some MPs and by association, their members of staff, there is a real risk of the matter drawing media attention which could result in family and friends finding out. This is a pertinent reason as to why people don’t want to speak out: once their name is in the press they are tainted or scarred for life; any prospective employer can google them and read an account of what happened, which can often be very one sided.

Many parliamentary employment contracts also have confidentiality clauses preventing    victims from speaking out even after they’ve left their employment.

A parliamentary aide who is currently in litigation with her boss found out that her role had been given to someone else via social media when her replacement described herself as the PA to the MP in question. Other people including constituents were also informed that this PA was difficult, lazy and sexually obsessed with her boss. She was further dismayed when she realised that IPSA had authorised monies so that her boss could hire top lawyers to fight her claim. So not only can Members behave inappropriately, they can get public monies from IPSA to fight any legal actions  brought by their victims. The PA has been fighting for justice for over a year and half now, and has no idea when it will end.

Another campaigner told me about a Peer who, while travelling in a taxi with her, insisted on placing his hands on her knee to ‘keep them warm’. His nickname amongst other female staff and campaigners was ‘octo-hands’.

An MP known for his womanising as well as his oratory skills, insisted his Parliamentary Aide keep her hair long, and nails painted a deep red because ‘as long as you look good, I look good’.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove‘s Harvey Weinstein joke of having escaped a good grilling with his ‘dignity intact’ on Saturday further demonstrates the rather blase attitude that MPs have towards sexual harassment. (Although Gove has since apologised, former Labour Leader Neil Kinnock, who was also present and described John Humphrey’s interviewing style as ‘way beyond groping’ still has not)

I expect a tidal wave of claims of inappropriate conduct from MPs and their staff in the coming days and weeks; I really hope that Teresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and other publically elected officials sit up and take note; sexual harassment is no laughing matter.
Maybe MPs can actually begin by changing the Code of Conduct for themselves so that they can be finally held accountable for their conduct?

Tags:

#Sexualharassment #Parliament #HouseofCommons #MPs #TheresaMay #MarkGarnier #MichaelGove #NeilKinnock

*Full letter of complaint re harassment inc the dissemination of my personal  documents by former chief of staff Rob Hoveman:

Official Complaint against Rob Hoveman
Keighley

West Yorkshire

16th July 2014

XXXXXXXX

House of Commons

London

SW1A 0AA
Dear Mr XXXXXXXX MP,

I would like to make an official complaint about the conduct of your Chief of Staff, Rob Hoveman.

It has come to my attention this week that Mr Hoveman has contacted the Guardian newspaper and provided the newspaper with extensive paperwork relating to my personal life. I find this conduct appalling and inexcusable. Over 18 months have passed now since I was last in the employment of Mr XXXXXXXX, yet this constant persecution and harassment by Mr Hoveman has not ended.

Mr Hoveman has also contacted the Sergeant at Arms and requested information from my vetting application form, which he then also passed onto the Guardian Newspaper. Mr Hoveman had no right whatsoever to this information or to request this information. Indeed, the sole aim of this course of action was to use the information to harass and intimidate me further.

Contacting the Sergeant at Arms to request my personal data is a direct breach of Data Protection laws and I have now reported this matter to the police.

Furthermore, Mr Hoveman presented false and highly damaging information to an ongoing employment tribunal matter, in which he made direct references to a Court of Appeal hearing that I attended. I have no idea how Mr Hoveman was able to gain access this private information, merely days after the hearing took place. Although the hearing was a matter of public record, the details are not in the public domain as yet.

Indeed, when I made contact with the Court of Appeal myself, I was told that I would need to quote a unique reference number in order to discuss the hearing. I suspect Mr Hoveman has managed to obtain this unique reference number, which seems to me to be the only logical explanation to explain how he managed to come into possession of such intimate information from the Court of Appeal hearing.

In conclusion, I feel Mr Hoveman is pursuing a personal vendetta against me, using both parliamentary resources and premises. His conduct is causing me to feel extremely harassed and vulnerable.

Mr Hoveman has shown a particularly unhealthy preoccupation with my private life, bordering on the fanatical, which frankly, I find threatening and menacing.
1. I want all my personal documents returned to me immediately and all copies destroyed. Further dissemination of my personal documents is to also stop immediately.

 

2. I want an urgent investigation into Mr Hoveman’s conduct and an immediate end to his continued harassment and persecution of me.

 

Please respond within 14 days.

 

Kind regards

 

Mrs Ali Khan

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UK’s draconian immigration laws mirror Trump Administration’s family separation laws.

At the Women’s March London ‘Bring the Noise protest last month, where 70,000 women, children and men marched against Donald Trump visit to the UK, many of the speakers spoke out against US policy of keeping the children of migrants entering the US. Images that have emerged recently of children in cages were deeply reprehensible and caused an unprecedented furore around the world, with the ensuing backlashes eventually leading to a reversal of the policies. However some young children forcibly separated from their parents could not recognise their own mothers and father when reunited, and cried as though they were being handed back to strangers.

It also led to many activists questioning our own government’s policies towards immigrants and migrant workers. While the UK government does not employ room size cages within which to lock migrant workers in, they do employ similar polices which have seen countless families forcibly separated so that the government can fulfil very strict quotas to slash immigration figures. Yesterday’s article in the Guardian related the first hand testimony of a mother detained after dropping her two year old child off at the nursery. It would be three months before they would be reunited, and now both mother and child suffer anxiety, stress and depression.

Saleem Dadabhoy hasn’t seen his daughter for nearly a year now thanks to a crackdown by government against highly skilled migrant workers

Another one of the victims of the Government’s crackdown on migrants is Saleem Dadabhoy, who came to the UK as a student in 2010, and subsequently settled under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, making the UK a permanent home for himself and his family. However, when Dadabhoy filed an ‘indefinite leave to remain’ application as a Highly Skilled Migrant Worker (HSMW) in April 2017, he was refused under Article 322(5) of the Immigration Act. As a result, his wife and daughter were forced to leave the UK soon after, and could not lodge appeals against the Home Office’s because their ‘right to remain’ in the UK was entirely dependent on Mr Dadabhoy’s visa status. Mr Dadabhoy himself has decided not to leave but to remain in the UK and challenge the decision, which he claims is flawed because the Home Office didn’t take into account the difference between net and gross incomes.

However, this has not been an easy decision for Dadabohy, as he has now been apart from his family for some eight months now. So why doesn’t he leave and resettle back in Pakistan or any other neighbouring country? After all, he is educated and has a reputable background in business. He could easily return and settle into a new career easier than most. However, he has decided to stay in the UK and fight the Home Office, primarily so that others in similar situations as him do not have to go through what he has been going through for the past 18 months now. He concedes that his family’s financial backing has made it easier for him.

Money isn’t important to me,” he said. “My family has enough to enable me to hire the best lawyers and barristers for this fight over whatever period it takes.

“I’m doing this because paragraph 322(5) links me to terrorism, which is the last thing a Muslim would want to be associated with because it not only hijacks and sabotages your identity but also restricts you to travel around the world, which would be especially damaging to me, belonging as I do to a business family who has property interest around the globe,” he said. “Even if I returned to Pakistan tomorrow, this paragraph 322(5) would make it virtually impossible for me to get a business visa, which would be a great hindrance to my family’s business, and my career and personal life.”

But the battle to ‘clear his name’ hasn’t been without casualties; “it is real torture, not being able to be with my family and see my daughter. I don’t know if she will even recognise me now that she hasn’t seen me properly for the past eight months”. Although modern technology such as video calling has helped bridge the physical distance a little, the fact remains that Dadhaboy is on borrowed time. He has many further obstacles to overcome before he can be reunited with his family, including challenging his deportation order, which also prevents him from working or applying for any other type of UK visa. Although the current Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, announced an urgent review into the use of a clause solely intended for those convicted of terrorism offences, this is still not going far enough for the many already caught up in the current quagmire. “Why have people like me been singled out? Because we are an easy target for the Home Office; we comply with the rules and provide our up to date contact and address details. But the Government doesn’t understand that by getting rid of a HSM worker like myself so that they meet their own ridiculous immigration targets, they are depriving the UK of migrants who contribute far more than they take, in terms of paying taxes, and providing professional services. Very soon there will be a great shortage of teachers, lawyers, engineers and IT professionals. It’s a ticking time bomb”.

Indeed, all Saleem Dadabhoy can do now is wait for yet another appeal to be exhausted while the distance, and time spent apart between him and his family grows ever greater. “In the UK, bureaucracy, immigration targets and red tape can be just as effective as keeping families apart as cages”.

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U.K. Court Can Dissolve a Muslim Marriage, Judge Rules

Yesterday, the High Court ruled that a Muslim husband and wife married under Islamic ceremony (Nikah) could divorce under UK laws. This has a huge impact on Muslims living in the UK, particularly women. For many years, campaigners such as myself and many others, have fought to have our Nikah only marriages recognised by the law as valid marriages. However, previously, the only status of such a union was considered ‘co-habitation’ and therefore the ‘wife’ had no rights to make any claims against the ‘husband’s’ assets or claim financial support. All this has now changed because of the yesterday’s ruling.

The court recognised that the relationship between Nasreen Akhtar and Mohammed Shabaz Khan was that of a married couple- although Mr Khan had claimed it wasn’t, primarily to protect his financial assets accumulated during the marriage while also negating the chance of being forced to pay ongoing financial support by the courts. Under the ruling, Mr Khan will now have to disclose the full extent of his assets, as well as pay his former wife ongoing payments in line with the legal rulings on marriages recognised in U.K. civil laws.

Prominent women’s rights campaigners have applauded the judge’s decision. Gina Khan, a campaigner for ‘One Law for All, wrote ‘We need to work towards ending these sharia courts. ‘They (mullahs and imams) allowed the practice of polygamy to be normalised & then charged extortionate amounts for a piece of paper that is not legally recognised and making money out of the plight of Muslim women seeking divorce from controlling men.

One Civil marriage, one nikah- this needs to be law in line with all other religions in the UK.’

Nina, who herself was left penniless after her husband married and divorced her under Islamic law, stated: ‘For too long, men who have wanted to protect their assets have coerced women into Nikah only marriages. It has also been a major loophole for legitimised polygamy in the U.K. In all cases, women & children lose out. I’m over the moon at the outcome of this case, & hope Parliament will now initiate change in the law which must be victim led.’

The actual impact of yesterday’s ruling going forward is yet to be assessed- and perhaps it has thrown up more questions than answers: will UK courts recognise Islamic nikahs during divorce proceedings only and if so, what about the rights of the wife during the course of the marriage? Will this ruling apply retrospectively to the many hundreds of thousands of Muslim couples who have married under sharia law only?

Another case that is currently being considered by the Court of Appeal is Lachaux v Lachaux- and the judgment could again be a game changer for Muslim women married under sharia laws. In the judgement, the judge ruled that the divorce obtained under Dubai’s sharia based laws (where the couple were living at the time of the divorce) was valid and in accordance with internationally recognised good practice despite the fact that Mrs Lachaux had no idea she was being divorced and that proceedings had nearly concluded by the time she found out.

So do these recent landmark rulings in UK’s family court proceedings mean that UK judges are becoming more favourable to recognising sharia rulings? Time will tell.

In the meantime, we are yet to know if an appeal will be lodged in this case, and on what grounds. Until then, we should celebrate the fact that we, as Muslim women, have achieved a very significant milestone towards gender equality in divorce proceedings.

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Muslim women & sexuality: still a touchy subject

The post below, discussing Muslim women and their sexuality appeared on my Facebook timeline this evening:

VIBRATORS FOR MUSLIM WOMEN?

A sister posted a pitiful missive stating she had better get married to anyone who asked for obvious reasons, as we are bid as women to 1) stay chaste when single, 2) not marry anything but a Muslim man (even if there aren’t any to marry, figure that out).   So I said to her, perhaps in a cavalier or even weary way, “Get a vibrator, and stay out of bad marriages that are just for sex.” It only took a few minutes for the ignorant Muslim trolls to start gathering while she demurely stood back and let them spew hatred, and even threats at me for suggesting that she take her life, and pleasure into her own hands so to speak.  The Quran allows for women’s pleasure, though it clearly says in marriage, if you aren’t married, what do you do? In the Prophets time, women were married of at young ages, and sexual dis-satisfaction was reason for divorce, even then women didn’t put up with poorly performing males.  Vibrators and dildoes were widely used throughout the Middle east, they have been found in archeological digs, some museums have collection of them, and it didn’t miss what is now the Muslim majority countries.  Muslim women once again, let me down.  All over the internet male Imam’s talk about what is allowed for women.  Women need to demand they step away from discussions about their needs and let them do it.

The author of the post, herself a Muslim woman, had made a suggestion that a Muslim woman use a vibrator. She was then subjected to a barrage of attacks & criticisms over her stance on the controversial subject, mainly, she says, from Muslim men.

So why do we, as an Ummah, have such entrenched views on Muslim women and their sexuality. It is almost inconceivable for some men to accept that Muslim women not only have a sex drive but can also enjoy sex, and anyone who suggests otherwise is quickly shut down with various choice words.

Take another example I came across on Twitter tonight:

Again, similar language & attitudes employed to make a muslim woman feel unclean and dirty for having or indeed wanting a sex life.

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Irresponsible reporting in abuse case implies rape victim a willing partner

Letter written to the editor of the Bradford based Telegraph and Argus over their reporting on a case involving sexual abuse and rape.

For the attention of the editor of Telegraph and Argus;

Dear Mr Burton,

I write to you with regards to an article that has appeared on your newspaper’s website this evening carrying the following headline: Ashraf Khan, 81, of Lidget Green, jailed after admitting three counts of incest against his own daughter.

After reading the article further, it becomes abundantly clear that Ashraf Khan’s daughter was not a willing or consenting sexual partner. She was a victim of rape, and most likely a child victim of rape. Your headline and subsequent reporting implies otherwise and is deeply misleading and dangerous for victims of sexual abuse. I now urge you to amend the article immediately to reflect the truth in this tragic case.

Let’s be absolutely clear here; whenever there is abuse of any kind, especially of a sexual nature, there will always be a power imbalance in favour of the perpetrator. Do not give these perpetrators further credence by using such irresponsible language and thus allowing the blame to be shared equally between the two parties. There is only one party for whom the burden of shame, dishonour and disgust should exist, and that is Khan. He was the father of the victim, and as such held a position of authority and responsibility towards her. As an adult, possibly after a lifetime of abuse- because believe me, a grown man does not suddenly begin to rape his adult daughter- this would have followed a pattern of abuse stemming from a time when she would have been young, and therefore vulnerable enough to exert power and control over- and only when she knew she was about to die, did the victim confide in her husband, about the burden she had been forced to carry.

Any attempt to divert or share this burden of shame and guilt onto the victim is wrong, and further feeds into the wider narratives that prevent victims of sexual violence from seeking and obtaining justice. This is even more of an issue for victims that hail from the Muslim communities, where the concept of shame and family honour often act as effective silencers for victims and their families.

We need to smash this deeply ingrained but outdated narrative and help victims find their voices.

The rape victim in this case did not live long enough to see justice done for her, and it was down to the selfless actions of her husband, who reported his father in law to the authorities only after he had raised the children born as a result of the rape of his wife, to finally fight for justice on her behalf. It is the duty of newspapers reporting on such sensitive cases to show a level of respect and empathy to victims that is often entirely denied by their abusers. That is the only way we can allow their hidden voices to be finally heard.

I await your response eagerly.

Kind regards

Aisha Ali-Khan

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Prison reform for female inmates grossly overdue

In April this year I spent nearly three and a half weeks at Bronzefield HMP. For a civil prisoner like myself to be incarcerated in a category AA prison, alongside hardened criminals was a real eye opener. However, I found that there were many women, who had, like me, committed offences that were neither violent, nor did they pose a threat to society. And yet, here we all were, rubbing shoulders and indeed sharing cells with women who had killed, had plotted terrorist attacks on British soil, and participated in violent robberies, drugs and guns. Nearly all of us had one thing in common: underlying mental health issues, some of which had gone untreated for many years.

So the recent announcement that the Government had abandoned plans for five community prisons across England and Wales, and instead decided to trial the use of residential centres to help female prisoners adjust to life on the outside with help in finding work, and drugs rehabilitation etc seems to be a positive way forward for prisoners and society alike.

The Justice Secretary Michael Gauke cited figures that ‘70.7% of women and 62.9% of men released from custody between April and June 2016 after a sentence of less than a year went on to re-offend within 12 months’ and that there was persuasive evidence that suggested that the new centres could help in reducing re-offending rates. The new centres could also allow mothers to have their children with them while they re-adjusted back to ‘normal life’.

So could these new plans work in helping to reduce the numbers of female prisoners re-offending? It is hard to say. The emotional, psychological and physical impact of incarceration cannot be easily reversed.

Life on the inside is hard enough, but the sheer lack of provisions for female prisoners with mental health issues was simply astounding. In short, there simply wasn’t enough staff at Bronzefield HMP trained to deal with women who were self-harming, harming others and generally trying to kill themselves.

According to the Prison Reform Trust, 26% of women said they had received treatment for a mental health problem in the year before custody.

25% of women in prison reported symptoms indicative of psychosis. The rate among the general public is about 4%.

The latest figures suggest that 46% of inmates have tried to commit suicide, but the prison system simply does not have the resources or manpower to implement suicide watches for everyone. Once a prisoner has been identified as a suicide risk, they are unable to go anywhere without a prison guard.

I actually believe the figures to be a lot higher. In the space of two weeks, I witnessed three separate suicide attempts, and after each attempt, the prisoner was returned back to her cell with a welfare officer paying a visit a few hours later. The prisoner herself had been sentenced for possession of an offensive weapon after she called the police and told them she had wanted to stab herself. Her subsequent hefty prison sentence disrupted her mental health treatment and set her recovery back many years.

Another prisoner, who had been sentenced for attempting to set alight a man suspected of sexually abusing a family member, had been recalled to complete the rest of her 8 year prison sentence after she was released halfway through her sentence. She had failed to readjust to life “on the outside because no one prepared her for it”. Her three children, all under the age of five when she was imprisoned, will be teens when she is released in two years’ time.

Another prisoner was given 32 month sentence for preventing bailiffs from entering her property over an unpaid council tax fine. Her toddler daughter is being looked after by her now estranged partner.

There are currently no provisions to help mothers cope with the separation from their children, and the guilt they feel at having to leave their children to be raised by family members. Around 40 % of the women I spoke with at Bronzefield HMP told me their mothers had had to step in and take their children. Those who were not fortunate to have their family members look after their children found that the care system was the only other option available to them.

Bronzefield HMP is one of the few women’s prisons in the UK to have its own mother and baby unit- with space for 12 mothers and 13 babies. It is always full and has a very long waiting list. Female prisoners serve their sentences until giving birth in the main part of the prison, and then once they have given birth, they move into the Unit and can keep their baby with them for 18 months. After that, the child is returned to the outside, to live with either family members or to into the care of the social services. It is quite telling about the length of the sentences given that none of the prisoners or guards that I spoke with can remember a child being returned to the outside while the mother stays inside to complete the rest of her sentence.

There were at least four pregnant prisoners in Bronzefield HMP during my short time there; one heavily pregnant prisoner was given a four week sentence for driving without insurance and was worried she would have to give birth while inside. Another, who shared a cell next to mine, had been on remand for 7 months and was also weeks away from giving birth. Her continued usage of drugs meant that her place in the mother and baby unit was under review; if she lost her place, she would have to give her child to either her family or social services immediately after birth and return to the prison.

The justice system is simply failing to recognise the impact that long periods of separation are having on the children of mothers currently serving prison sentences despite numerous research papers being published on the matter. In effect, we are creating further generations of damaged children, who will grow into being damaged teens and adults.

Perhaps these new residential centres could help to stem the tide of re-offending. But, here is a radical thought: why don’t we address the sentencing criteria that has resulted 86% of women being sent to prison for non-violent crimes in the first place? Once we tackle the harsh sentences meted out to first time female offenders, we can surely resolve the issues around their re-offending much more easily.

Tags: #Womeninprison #prisonmentalhealth #femaleprisoners #femaleinmates #suicidefemaleprisoners #pregnantprisoners #womenprisonermothers

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bullying financial control VAWG EVAW, domestic violence, domestic violence coercive control, Uncategorized

Clear Score decidedly short sighted over DV ado

The latest Clear Score advert is simply jaw dropping and not in  a good way either!

Picture the scenario: Man goes through the compost bin and discovers his partner has had a sneaky avocado and immediately begins to berate her. Her frightened and panicked response is to placate him by using the Clear Score app, primarily as a means to divert attention away from her and onto something else. The body language in itself is very telling: unnecessarily aggressive and hostile from the man while the woman is cowering as he leans over her. I simply cannot fathom how an advert like this was sanctioned to appear on our daytime TV screens, during the time when the majority of women are at home having just done the school run etc.

How many of us recognise this scenario, either by having gone through it ourselves or seen a loved one suffer some level of control and abuse? Someone I have worked with in the past was not allowed to eat or drink certain foods such as bread, cow’s milk, chocolate and sweets or anything that would ‘make her fat’. Her partner believed it was his duty to ensure that she lost weight and would often taunt her by calling her a ‘beast’, comment disparagingly on the size of her clothes and proudly claim all of his previous girlfriends and wives had lost weight thanks to him. She would often binge on junk food and then hide the wrappers in other people’s bins in case her partner went through their bins hunting for evidence of her disobeying him, very much like this advert in fact.

On the rare occasions she was allowed to visit me at home, she would make herself slices of buttered toast and wolf them down before even saying hi to me and subsequently nicknamed my home as the ‘House of Sin’ due to the amounts of sugars and carbs I ‘allowed’ her to consume.

This kind of conditioning and psychological control, now illegal under ‘coercive control’ legislation, can take place over a short time or over a longer period of time, and affects everyone regardless of their education or job; this person was a highly educated office manager, managing over 20 people during her day job while being bullied and abused by her partner every evening. Often, victims don’t even recognise that this is what is happening to them until it is too late and by then lack the confidence, emotional and psychological strength to seek help and leave.

This is why we need to ensure that this advert is removed immediately. It normalises dangerous and unaccpetable behaviour such as financial and coercive abuse; while reinforcing the existing stereotypes of men in control of how women should behave, eat and spend money and while women in subservient positions, trying to appease and placate them.

Maybe the ad agencies need to wake up and realise that in 2018, women also have a voice and are not afraid to use it.

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DISCOVER Why are Aboriginal women in Australia hit with racism and sexual threats for sharing their views?

Racial taunts. Body-shaming. Threatened with gang-rape and even death.

Indigenous women in Australia are still being menaced for speaking their views.

What do Lidia Thorpe, Jacinta Price and Tarneen Onus-Williams have in common? These three Aboriginal women share their experiences of being the subject of targeted attacks, by the media and public, after voicing their opinions.

Aboriginal women are facing threats of violence for speaking up about issues that affect their communities

By Nakari Thorpe

Original post

Source: NITV News

Racial taunts. Body-shaming. Threatened with gang-rape and even death.

Indigenous women in Australia are still being menaced for speaking their views.

What do Lidia Thorpe, Jacinta Price and Tarneen Onus-Williams have in common? These three Aboriginal women share their experiences of being the subject of targeted attacks, by the media and public, after voicing their opinions.

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Attacked for speaking out

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It was the deafening banging on the front door of Victorian Greens MP Lidia Thorpe’s electorate office, in Melbourne’s inner-north, that first raised the alarm.

Luckily the door was locked, but it didn’t stop an unidentified man from getting his message across.

“All Abos must die,” the note he slipped under the door read.

The incident was the latest in a string of graphic sexual violence and death threats Ms Thorpe received after calling for Australian flags to be flown at half-mast on January 26.

“I wasn’t shocked. I was more disturbed a little, I think, by the level of degree that they went to,” Ms Thorpe tells NITV News.

As a Gunnai-Gundtjimara woman, Lidia has grown up surrounded by women who’ve dedicated their lives to the Aboriginal cause; women with fire in their bellies.

As a result she’s become accustomed to being attacked for voicing her opinion.

“I’ve grown up in an environment where speaking out about Aboriginal people and our rights, [and] calling for land rights … has always meant that we’re attacked,” she says.

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