Blog - Page 1 of 23
By: Nia Thomas
If you have ever had a conversation about prostitution and tried to question a man's 'right to buy', the following outcomes are likely to be familiar:
1: The subject reverts back to the choices (agency, if you're in academia) of the women working in prostitution.
2: You hear musings about prostitution 'the theory' – what it could be like in an ideal world if we work to improve it.
And, if you persist;
3: Grave warnings that challenging demand will result in endangering women by reinforcing stigma and driving prostitution underground.
That some men will want to use prostitutes is seen as inevitable. Discussion about it is off-limits: punters are invisible.
The Invisible Men is a political art project created to bring the words, attitudes and behaviours of punters into public focus, and to invite people to consider 'what do you think about his choice?' Launched on May 1 and running for one month, the project features a series of images of masks with price tags uploaded onto a Tumblr blog. The masks are overlaid with text, which are extracts from reviews punters have placed on the UK website PunterNet. The price on each tag indicates the amount the reviewer paid for his service.
The graphics represent the projection of demand onto women, but the blog offers no opportunity to deflect the question of choice away from the punter. His words are starkly presented and unavoidable.
I was introduced to PunterNet in 2006 after talking to a friend about the ‘choice’ argument. She sent me a link to the site, saying ‘I doubt these men have had to defend their choices in their lives’. That stayed with me. Reviews, known as ‘Field Reports’, take the following format: length of session, price paid, location, a description of the woman’s physical attributes and details of the ‘punt’. The review concludes by stating whether the woman is recommended. The reports paint a picture very different from the one promoted by advocates of the sex industry.
Conversations about the women’s choices never go into this kind of detail or mention the cold and distorted attitudes of punters who describe women like livestock. There is something disturbingly repetitive and casual about the way the punters discuss their actions. PunterNet is only one of many such sites: there are sites for other countries, for different cities, sites for men travelling overseas. As punters who use the internet to post reviews probably constitute a tiny percentage of punters worldwide, you begin to get a sense of how many men we're talking about and how widespread this is.
We can't talk about prostitution without looking at punters. They need to be visible.
The project has received very strong reactions. As expected, one criticism has been that particularly unpleasant reviews were selected to represent all punters. But such accounts are not rare and don't represent individual men. For example, Punter #2 comments that the woman he saw was Eastern European, exhausted, working long hours seven days a week. The reviewer will have been one of many men who saw exhausted women speaking broken English at the same establishment. The project has also prompted vows by some individuals to show the ‘other side’, that is, blogs with reviews by ‘nice’ punters and positive accounts by women working in prostitution. Considering that the PR machine of an industry worth billions already does this, I'm doubtful they will find a new angle. Positive response to the project has been overwhelming.
The New Statesman published a piece about it in the week it launched, and it has received support from a wide variety of groups tackling violence against women internationally, survivor-led organisations, exited women, and individuals. The most positive reaction to the project has been use of the blog as a resource to challenge demand and it has sparked interest in creating similar projects. One reaction that was doubtlessly well-intentioned was the creation of petitions calling for PunterNet to be shut down; however, such measures would do nothing to curb demand and would make the men invisible again.
By naming the source but not linking to the quote, the project encourages people to read through PunterNet and sites like it themselves. Not just to look for reviews indicating trafficking or violence (though there are many of these) but to see what demand looks like and develop an awareness of what punters do during their visits. I want people to read the casual way punters view and talk about women in prostitution, what the abbreviations that pepper their reviews mean (owo, cim, ro, gfe, pse, ee, etc), what they consider a good service to be, what they feel irritated or 'ripped off' by, how they interpret the women's responses, and also consider how they reflect on their own actions, character and appearance. Reviews express little interest in the factors we hinge our debates on, e.g. is she trafficked? addicted to drugs? in pain? exhausted? scared? repulsed by him? Where these indicators are present and too obvious to ignore, punters express irritation that she is being ‘unprofessional’, concern for their own welfare (demanding a refund, anxiety about getting in trouble with the police), or a suspicion after the booking that they have been conned.
The invisible men who have accumulated a decade's worth of reviews on PunterNet are not the darkest characters in society. They are ordinary men, professionals, husbands, and fathers who believe that sexual consent can be purchased. They are all the ones who make prostitution dangerous, they are the reason it exists, and they have to be accountable.
Nia Thomas is a London-based feminist and political artist
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The Politics of Patriarchy is a timely addition to our Spinifex Press blog as we prepare to launch Invisible Women of Prehistory, a revolutionary book that challenges our preconceptions of the past.
The Women's Liberation Movement in the 1970s led to all sorts of intellectual pursuits, one of which was to ask whether patriarchy had been around for ever. Was it universal and inevitable?
We fairly quickly understood that it hadn't been and lots of women became engaged in reading archeology, world mythology, comparative religion, linguistics and history. I was one of them and in 1979 I decided to enrol in a PhD in Philosophy which I described as a 'study of belief systems in the ancient world'. At the same time I began studying Ancient Greek. The difficulty I faced was that instead of reading relevant material I was sent off to read Saussure (on semiotics – a foundational thinker for postmodernists which deals with the 'science' of symbols) and others. I first heard the word postmodern during this time and that was where I was being pushed. I did not know what destruction postmodernism would wreak on radical feminism. I read some of this material, felt frustrated, angry and more and didn't quite know why. I ditched my PhD and kept going with Greek where eventually I wrote a short thesis on the Homeric Hymns to Demeter and Aphrodite (and in these you can see how the transition to patriarchy was effected). I was duly punished and pushed out of Classics too.
What happened in the early 1980s, along with the push to postmodernism, was another push in archaeology. Based in Cambridge (England) this school became known as the processural school of archaeology. It is set up to counter the ideas of archaeologists who were really getting places in terms of looking at how women in ancient societies lived. Among their key targets were Marija Gimbutas and James Mellaart – and the crowd of radical feminists who were reading this work and drawing our own conclusions (dangerous stuff). The processural archaeologists claim to use 'scientific method'. But what this scientific method does is strip away the context in which archaeological finds were made (which is what Gimbutas and Mellaart and others were doing). 'Processural' sounds almost feminist doesn't it? But it isn't. They have been known to sue scholars who try to publish work that goes against their ideas.
So here are two areas that feminists were doing great work in. Learning to understand symbols; and finding out about women in ancient societies. Each of these areas needs the other. But under patriarchal scholarship they are stripped of context, stripped of meaning and turned into decontextualised 'science' (fake science in fact).
So instead of writing a PhD I went home and wrote my novel, The Falling Woman. Sometimes you just have to get out of academia and find other ways to do things. The scholars like Gimbutas and Mellaart were attacked relentlessly (they are not the only ones but amongst the most attacked).
The other thing that happened is that anything to do with women was turned into a 'cult' (patriarchy is very good at distorting and renaming). When women are in cults they become either 'fertility' goddesses or prostitutes (the crusty old idea of mother or whore). I've recently started learning Latin and am rereading about the Vestal Virgins. These were powerful women and a kind of memory (but watered down) of earlier times. They were Virgins in the Marilyn Frye sense of Wilful Virgin – not the virginal Victorian type. In other societies these Virgins were called temple prostitutes; they were made slaves to the new patriarchal ideology.
So now we have another layer again beginning in the early 80s of no longer talking about prostitutes (other than radical feminists doing so) but 'sex work'. It is no accident that these forces came to bear at around the same time because radical feminist ideas were really taking off. Some were a bit popularised, some were not for the fainthearted, but such success has to be countered.
What we were left with after postmodernism, processural archaeology and sex work advocates had ploughed through was just a few strands. In the one corner, the goddess movement, too much depoliticised but an important repository for the knowledge; in another people like Marija Gimbutas were being accused of being Nazi sympathisers because she writes at times about the swastika that appears on some ancient artefacts (what isn't said is that the swastika is an ancient Indian auspicious symbol meaning luck (in Sanskrit it also means a poet and a cake!) which was appropriated by Hitler, just as Mussolini appropriated the double axe as his symbol. A dehistoricised view of the world can ignore the fact that the latest versions of these symbols (ie the Nazi and Fascist renditions) are not any reflection of ancient symbolic meanings.
Women all around the world have been made to pay under patriarchy, through thousands of years – BUT that does not mean that patriarchy is universal – it has not been around for ever – nor is it inevitable. We can change – and the world can change.
I can't help by finishing with one of best quotes I know from the wonderful Monique Wittig in her novel The Guérillères:
"There was a time when you were not a slave, remember that. You walked alone, full of laughter, you bathed bare-bellied. You say you have lost all recollection of it, remember … You say there are no words to describe this time, you say it does not exist. But remember. Make an effort to remember. Or failing that, invent.''
I take this seriously and try to find the words, to create ways to understand our own words and meanings; and to do whatever I can to remember: in the Dalyesque sense of putting back together the dismembered bodies of women and the dismembered knowledge, languages, memories and stories of women.
First published:Liberation Collective
Susan Hawthorne is a publisher, a poet and a political activist, blogging at http://susanscowblog.blogspot.com and http://susanspoliticalblog.blogspot.com/
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By: Renate Klein This article first appeared May 1st, on Online Opinion
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) recommended on 26 April 2013 that the abortion pill Mifepristone Linepharma (better known as RU 486) and the necessary second drug prostaglandin GyMiso® be included in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
The Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek will now make sure that there is "a cost-effective price" and "a steady, good quality supply" (ABC News, 26 April 2013). Indeed, the first thing we need to know is how much the tax payer will have to contribute to the coffers of MS Health – the subsidiary of the abortion provider Marie Stopes International Australia (MSIA) - who obtained registration of the two drugs in August 2012. A previous amount mentioned by a Department of Health and Ageing spokeswoman for Mifepristone was $300: five times higher than the $60 charged by Exelgyn for the same 200 mg of mifepristone, available to 187 TGA Authorised Prescribers since 2006.
MSIA/MS Health sure need to recoup a lot of money, given that the application and evaluation process of including the two drugs in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) cost them in excess of $335,000 dollars according to the fee schedule on TGA website. At a price of $450 as previously charged by MSIA in one of their Sydney clinics, MSIA clinics would have to perform over 77,000 'medical' abortions at a cost of $450 per termination. This number amounts to the approximated total for all abortions in Australia in one year – suction and chemical abortions combined. If Mifepristone Linepharma (RU 486) is listed on the PBS, it might cost only $36.10. Pill abortions would then have to be considerably cheaper. So more business needs to be raised.
But this is one of the main problems with putting Mifepristone and GyMiso®on the PBS: pill abortions will become cheaper than suction abortions. This will push many more women into using the drugs instead of asking for the much safer suction abortion, preferably with a local anesthetic. I am writing this as a long-term health advocate supportive of women's right to abortion, but I want women to be able to access a safe service, not a second-rate, unpredictable and dangerous drug cocktail. A South Australian woman who had a pill abortion in 2009 commented: "I was *technically * offered the choice of either suction procedure or tablet/RU486. However, I felt I was definitely encouraged towards the latter… Basically, I felt as though I would be causing an annoyance if I were to choose the surgical option."
Contrary to the 'safe, effective and more natural' mantra put forward by the pill abortion promoters, Mifepristone and GyMiso® have a failure rate between 5 and 7 per cent (10 per cent is not unusual), which means that women then need a second suction abortion to ensure complete termination. Instead of spending 15-30 minutes in a safe clinic setting for a suction abortion, the pill abortion takes a minimum of three days as the prostaglandin needs to be taken 24 to 36 hours after the initial mifepristone tablet. In order to exclude an ectopic pregnancy and confirm the time of gestation – only up to 7 weeks since the last period – a (transvaginal) ultrasound should be performed.
So it's a myth that pill abortions are not invasive. It's just easier for doctors to hand out pills rather than doing the abortion themselves. Blood loss can be excessive, sometimes needing blood transfusions; bleeding can last up to 6 weeks. The pain is often severe and is accompanied by chills, fever, nausea and vomiting. Women have died from cardiovascular events and sepsis including a woman in 2010 in Australia in a Marie Stopes Clinic. Difficult also for many women is the fact that they see the small embryo (only about 1 cm but already formed) when it is expelled.
The problem is that no woman will know what adverse effects she will experience and whether she needs emergency treatment – which makes this unpredictable abortion method inherently ill-suited for women living in rural and remote areas. There is a black box warning in the Patient Information for Mifepristone Linepharma:"Even if no adverse events have occurred all patients must receive follow-up 14-21 days after taking mifepristone."
As the South Australian woman remembered:
Overall the worst part of the RU486 was the sheer amount of time it took for me to 'terminate' my baby: with each and every large clot of blood – which I could literally feel passing through my insides and then out of my vagina – was a reminder of the fact I was terminating a baby, for which I felt hugely saddened. More than I realized I would.
It was three days of nausea, high temperature/sweating (I was worried about infection), cramping, lots of blood, distress and swirling emotions, thoughts, etc. I would never ever go through that again.
She also said: "I absolutely support a woman's access to abortion – but I think RU 486 and prostaglandin is the wrong way to go."
Data by the TGA up to 25 June 2012 - with an estimated number of 22,500 women who had undergone a pill abortion in Australia - mentioned a total of 832 adverse events: 132 women ended up with an ongoing pregnancy; 23 required transfusion; 599 had retained products of conception and needed a second abortion (D&C). There were 29 infections and 28 women hemorrhaged (quoted in Australian Public Assessment Reports - AusPAR – for Misoprostol and Mifepristone, 2 October 2012, p. 81 and p. 80).
Not only was MS Health given the right to register Mifepristone and GyMiso® in Australia in 2012, it was also accorded the right – and indeed the mandate - to provide on-line courses to clinics, individual healthcare practitioners and other 'healthcare professionals' who might want to become 'medical' abortion providers. Once these professionals have completed the MS-2 Step™ Program of 11 Training Modules and 5 Case Studies - estimated by MS Health to take 4 hours – as well as the Pre-Course Assessment and Post-Course Assessment – 20 minutes each - they will receive a Certificate and be allowed to register as a bona fide 'medical' abortion provider. And of course, let us not forget, buy the requisite combined blister packs of 1 tablet Mifepristone Linepharma and 4 tablets GyMiso® from MS Health: the only current TGA-endorsed provider. When Tanya Plibersek says she wants to ensure a "steady good-quality supply" she is locked into the TGA registration of Mifepristone Linepharma by MS Health: no other generic (cheaper) mifepristone has been registered.
Is Marie Stopes' monopoly really in the interest of Australian women needing abortions? What about the future of providing low-tech suction abortions? Called, unkindly, an 'abortion chain' by a doctor performing suction abortions at a community clinic, many abortion providers are unhappy about MSIAs increasing power as their names will be included on a Prescriber Registry held by MS Health once they receive their Certification to become a medical abortion provider. This lets MSIA know which locations and clinics are willing to offer 'medical' abortions: a good way, perhaps, to discover untapped markets? In rural areas maybe?
If or most probably when (given we are in an election year and Labor wants to be seen as woman-friendly) Mifepristone Linepharma and GyMiso® will be added to the PBS, it is important to get the message out to women needing abortions that they should think twice before they opt for days of pain, misery and emotional upsets (possibly followed by a second abortion), rather than a 99 per cent effective and safe suction abortion in a controlled clinic environment. This is especially true for women in rural and remote areas for whom this abortion method is especially dangerous.
Renate Klein was one of the authors of 1991 Spinifex book, RU 486: Misconceptions Myths and Morals - look out for an updated version of this book, complete with new intro coming soon to Spinifex!
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Paid For : My Journey Through Prostitution
If you like sex, this is not a letter to you. If you like women, this is not a letter to you. If you’ve somehow put these things together and decided they give you the right to buy what you like, this is a letter to you.
If you’re a misogynistic bastard who gets off on hurting women, this is not a letter to you. Apart from the fact that nothing here would get through, I wouldn’t waste my fucking writing skills on you.
If you’re a man who buys sex and thinks you’re engaged in a mutually beneficial transaction that’s causing no harm, I’m talking to you.
I met many of you. So many. Too many. And I always wondered about you. I wondered, how could you justify this to yourself? How could you tell yourself – and believe it – that I was happy to have strangers’ fingers, penises and tongues shoved into the most private parts of me? How did you convince yourself that I’d be happy about something you’d never, in your wildest nightmares, wish on your own daughter? I wondered, most of all, how could you look at me and not see me?
Let me tell you who you are: you are the ‘good’ punter. You’re the man who has a laugh with the woman you’re buying. You’re the man who strokes her hair. You ask her how her day’s been. How she’s feeling. Why she’s doing this. Did you ever think to ask that of yourself?
You are the ‘good’ punter. If you see a bruise on her you’ll ask if she’s okay. Is anybody treating her violently? Yes. Many men are. Go in the bathroom. You’ll find one above the sink.
The truth, that you’re so desperate to flee from, is that you are just like a gentle rapist. Your attitude and demeanour does not mitigate what you do. The damage you’re causing is incalculable, but you tell yourself you’re doing no harm here, and you use the smiles of the women you buy as some kind of currency; they allow you to buy your own bullshit. I would know; I doled out that currency many times, and we both were that, we both doled out currency in different ways, you and me.
You came along because you wanted to spend what you had to spend, your load, which also meant your money; and you looked at me and you touched me and you fucked me and then you held me. That was always the worst part. I want you to know that. That was always the worst part.
I didn’t want to be held by you. I didn’t want to be cuddled. I didn’t want you close to me, never mind inside me. Your arms around me made me want to puke more than your penis ever did. I shut out that part; it was too horrible. Every moment with you was a lie, and I hated every second of it. And you bought that lie; believe me it was a lie you bought. I know, because I sold it.
In Costa Rica they say: ‘Who is more at fault, the one who sins for the pay or the one who pays for the sin?’ Those words were taken from a book about men like you. Victor Malarek’s ‘The Johns’. Can you see the truth in them?
You can, but you don’t want to acknowledge them. You don’t want to face up to that. It doesn’t fit with your view of what you do. It doesn’t fit with your view of who you are. But I know who you are.
I can see you now. You are the ‘good’ punter. You’ve got your fists shoved in your ears. You are the ‘good’ punter. And you don’t want to hear.
First published: http://theprostitutionexperience.com/
Paid For:My Journey Through Prostitution
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By: Farida Akhter
Rana Plaza, the eight-storey building housing at least four garment factories in the building’s third to eighth floor, collapsed on the morning of April 24, 2013. It was not just an accident. The day before, the inhabitants of the buildings saw large cracks developing in the building and the local engineers advised evacuation. Accordingly, the shops on the first floor and a private bank took measures for evacuation. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Association (BGMEA) warned the garment factory owners of the building and asked not to open the factory till they gave clearance. The workers were asked to leave in the afternoon of 23rdApril.
But next day, April 24th, the factory management (from third to eighth floor) asked the workers to return to work and threatened to sack or not pay the salary to those workers who would not come to work. The garment workers did not want to come. They were afraid that the building might collapse at anytime. Fearing the threat of sacking or losing salary, in the morning, around 8:30 am, more than 70% workers (roughly 3,500), were inside the building. Majority of them were young girls. There was power cut (which is quite normal everyday), so the generators were on. The building trembled and within two minutes the building collapsed leaving no space to get out.
Sohel Rana, the owner of Rana Plaza is a close affiliate of a Member of ParliamentTalukdar Murad Jong of the ruling party Bangladesh Awami League, built the eight storey building obtaining the approval for only 5 storeys from the municipal authorities in 2008. He built the building without following any building code, flouting rules and abusing his political clout. There was none to monitor to see the safety of the thousands of workers working in this building.
Aoshi, a female worker rescued after 36 hours of the colapse said, “Work at the (garment) factory was stopped following discovery of a crack in the building. We were not supposed to come (to work) the following day. But we were asked to come and told that there will be no problem.”
So it was not an accident, it was simply an organised killing. It can be termed a “Rana-made” killing of the readymade garment workers. As the factory is located in Savar, the suburb of Dhaka, the incident is called Savar Tragedy. Till today (April 28th afternoon) the death toll is 354, recorded as missing 1050 and 2507 rescued live victims. Many are still trapped inside the rubble. Many of them are in hospitals. Some have amputated hands and legs. Traumatized and saddened by the death of their colleagues, those who are alive, are not able to talk normally. The dead bodies are collected in Odhor Chandra school building, the injured are receiving treatment in Enam Medical Hospital in Savar and in Dhaka hospitals.
The list of the missing is growing longer. The relatives of the victims are carrying photo identities or holding a paper with information about the workers while they are waiting to see those rescued, alive or dead. They have come from outside Dhaka only to find out their sons, daughters, husband, wife, mother etc are dead. They are demanding at least the “dead body” of their dear ones and running from hospital to hospital. “Give us at least the dead body, please so that we will have a grave” – demanded those who gve up hopes of finding their relatives alive.
The victims are mostly young women (between 25 to 30 years) most of them unmarried, newly married or are those having one or two kids below 5 years of age. Mothers of the victims were there to look for their daughters; some of them were looking after the children of these working women.
The dead body of a young garment worker was found with a small piece of paper in her hand. She wrote, “Mama and papa, please forgive me. I will not be able to buy medicine for you anymore. Brother can you look after mama and papa”?
Another woman was crying for help from inside, “I have an infant baby, I have to breastfeed him. Please get me out for the child!”
These young women and men were all taking responsibilities of their families, so their deaths are a disaster to the family leading the family to poverty.
The Army, Fire Brigade, Red Crescent Volunteers and the local people have been conducting the rescue operation. In fact, the local people comprising of garment workers from other factories, students including students of madrashas, shop owners, day labors, masons, health workers, bricklayers, women and many others joined their hands to rescue the workers by risking their own lives. These ordinary people and firefighters played an extra
-ordinary role by using shovels, handsaws, hammers and other handy tools. They were cutting the walls, grills and floor to pull the victims out of the debris. They did not have any protective gear wearing slippers, T-shirts, pajamas, jeans or trousers. A few had plastic helmets, but no protective tools. These volunteers, mostly young people (25 to 30 years), had to rescue both the dead bodies as well as live victims. Those who were alive could not breathe properly because of the air stinking with stench coming from the dead bodies around that started decomposing. Every minute, the volunteers found out the sound of the cry for help from inside among the debris. With time running out to save those still trapped inside, rescuers dug through mangled metal and concrete finding more corpses.
The survivors were badly dehydrated in stifling humidity and temperatures reaching 35°C in the daytime and about 24°C overnight. Rescuers have been trying hard to make holes in the rubble and send some dry food and water. No one knows whether they could reach them. The ordinary people were coming to help with money, blood donations, food, water, torches for volunteers etc.
Once the victims are rescued, members of other agencies such aa the army took them to hospitals in ambulances. There are, however, complains from the families of the victims that the authorities were not using their maximum effort with equipment needed for such a rescue operation.
Apparel factories in Rana Plaza
The building housed five apparel factories. These are: Ether Tex Limited, New Wave Bottoms Limited, New Wave Style Limited, Phantom Apparels Limited, and Phantom Tac Limited, employing about 5000 workers. Several million shirts, pants and other garments were produced by the Apparel factories in the building per year.
The New Wave companies, according to their website, make clothing for major brands including North American retailers The Children's Place and Dress Barn, Britain's Primark, Spain's Mango and Italy's Benetton. According to Ether Tex, ‘Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, was one of its customers’.
Canadian clothing line Joe Fresh parent company Loblaw and other Western brands had some products made in the building. Loblaw promptly acknowledged its involvement in the plant, and said in the statement that it has vendor standards aimed at ensuring its products are made in a "socially responsible" way, but the company noted there are some gaps when it comes to building safety.
Primark, a major British clothing chain responded promptly in acknowledging that it produced garments in the collapsed factory.
Lack of safety standards
The Savar Tragedy is the worst ever for the country's booming and powerful garment industry, surpassing a fire five months ago that killed 112 and injuringhundreds of workerr which brought widespread pledges to improve worker-safety standards. Since then, very little has changed in Bangladesh, where low wages; $
38.50 a month, have made it a magnet for numerous global brands and propelled the country to no. 2 in the ranks of apparel exporters.
The export-oriented readymade garment factories have been receiving cash incentives from the successive governments of at least 1 billion Taka ($133 million) but failed to make many of the industries comply with the industry safety standards resulting in frequent fire accidents and loss of lives. Besides the cash incentives, the RMG sector is provided with easy loans and waiving their bank interests etc. Due to failure of the safety standards, there have been deaths of 730 workers (excluding that in Rana plaza) in the past 11 years in building collapses, fires and stampedes. None of the RMG owners were seen to be punished for their irresponsible acts, resulting in the tragic deaths of the poor women of Bangladesh. After every incident, the owners declare compensation to the families of the dead workers but hardly any of those are implemented properly. The injured workers have to live a handicapped life, and are not looked after by the factory management anymore. They are just “disposable workers”.
Thousands of Readymade Garment workers from the hundreds of garment factories across the Savar industrial zone and other nearby areas took to the street on 25th April in different parts of Dhaka city to protest the poor safety standards in the workplaces. They demanded arrest of the building owner Sohel Rana and the factory owners who forced the workers to go into the building knowing about the threat of collapse. Workers blocked the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway, Dhaka-Tangail highway and Dhaka-Gazipur Road. Another group of thousands of workers gathered in front of the Garment manufacturer’s Association (BGMEA) building seeking the arrest and punishment of those responsible for the workers’ death in Rana Plaza. They said “It’s a pre-planned killing. Workers were forced to go and work in the building. We demand punishment for the garment manufacturers and building owners”.
Latest news is that the police arrested eight people in connection with Rana Plaza collapse in Savar. They have arrested the 3 owners including the Chairman of Phantom Apparel Limited and Phantom Tac Limited, the director of New Wave Bottom Limited and the chairman of New Wave Bottom Limited; also two engineers of Savar Municipality on charge of playing down the danger from cracks that developed in the building on behalf of the owners. However, Sohel Rana, the owner of the building who is also the local leader of Jubo League, could not be traced.
It is difficult to end the story of Savar tragedy. The garment workers are now scared of the buildings. Earlier, they were scared of the gates being locked as they could not get out in time of fire accidents. But they have to work. They have to earn their living by working and looking after their families. Can’t the workplaces be made safe for them? How much does it cost? How much the owners have to reduce their margin of profit to ensure safety of the workplaces? On the other hand, the international buyers talk about compliances but do not want to pay for ensuring the safety standards. It is not enough to campaign as “blood stained” Bangladeshi garments. We have to hold corporations responsible both at national and international level to ensure safety. Consumers in the western world can come forward to demand safety standards be met, but please do not campaign “stop buying” Bangladeshi clothes. The garment workers need the industry to earn their livelihood. This is the fundamental premise that should not be weakened or shattered. Such campaigns are to the advantage of the multinational corporations who will move from Bangladesh to other countries to repeat the same exploitation of the workers. Earlier campaigns of activists to promote products from least developed countries such as Bangladesh were not wrong, and we should continue the campaign despite this situation. However, we must now move away from the role of creating ‘consumers’ in the west to more politically engaged campaigns such as forcing the corporate world to be responsible for what happened in Bangladesh. The hands of everyone are stained with the blood of the workers. So every stakeholder must take responsibility.
[The information used in this article is from daily NewAGE, The Financial Express and few Bengali dailies. The interpretations are of the author]
The Lace Makers of Narsapur by Maria Mies …' a graphic illustration of how women bear the impact of development processes in countries where poor peasant and tribal societies are being ‘integrated’ into an international division of labor under the dictates of capital accumulation.'
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this tiny crack
in our lives
wind and rain strewn
stranded on the limen
that space between
water and sky
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