Expert on Non-Verbal Autism and Chairperson of the No Means No Group
• 1 in 6 women experience sexual violence as opposed to 1 in 10 men according to stats in the USA and UK.
• 93% of service users that used rape crisis UK were female in 2017.
• 100% of the people that have contacted ‘No means No’ locally are female.
• Most perpetrators are male.
WHAT IS THE LOCAL SCENE?
The scene has been one of silence, fear and victim blaming. We recite the mantra that Gibraltar is a safe place where these hideous crimes do not occur, but they do.
Since we launched ‘No means No’ in September 2017, mainly women have approached us with their stories. Stories from former beauty pageant winners being groped by powerful men at public events. Stories from women who have left work because they are sexually harassed by well-to-do men in our community, which they feel they cannot challenge. Stories of women being attacked whilst purposefully drugged or encouraged to drink by perpetrators are commonplace.
Young teenage women are expressing hopelessness in how sexual violence is perceived locally. They express no faith in the system from reporting the crime to the RGP right through to delivery in court. We need to address this issue of impotence in our young women. Only a third of reported cases in Gibraltar lead to prosecution, and how many of those lead to a conviction we do not know. The recent cases reported by the media leaves a lot to be desired.
HOW CAN WE IMPROVE?
• The judiciary system; laws need reviewing, sentencing needs to be more severe in cases of guilt, we have had very lenient sentencing. Does the jury work? Are people intimidated by who is who is our society and possible repercussions? Why are we not looking at countries like Scotland that have better laws and procedures?
• Support for victims introducing ISVA (Independent sexual violence advisors) which can double up with a domestic abuse support role. Someone impartial that can help steer victims.
• Educate the community with awareness campaigns in schools, youth clubs, awareness days and with a multi- agency approach so women feel safe in our community, heard and able to report and get justice.
• We need to protect women, we must stop the slut shaming! We need to get rid of the myth that ‘a lot of women make false allegations of rape’ or that ‘women have sex then regret it and cry rape’ this is not true, in fact only 3-8 % make false rape allegations in places like UK and USA. We must question as a society these flippant comments founded on nothing but ill-informed rhetoric.
• We all have our part to play and our grain of sand to contribute, be it from challenging a myth, locker room talk and reporting to the authorities when you witness something wrong.
We are recruiting volunteers for a number of roles – please email us at [email protected] or find us on Facebook page No means No if you would like to join us.
Retired Educator, Head of 6th Form at Westside for 12 Years, and Head of The Mental Welfare Society
There has never been a time when the word misogyny has been so often used. Misogyny, we are told, is the reason why men sexually harass women, rape them, kill them; why women in most of the world’s countries are still little more than chattel, to be bought and sold and exploited in a myriad of ways. It is the reason why today there are only six countries in the world – out of 195 – which give women and men equal work rights. In less extreme cases, it explains why men ridicule them and speak to and of them in a patronising way.
Whenever I think of the definition of the word – a person who dislikes, despises or is strongly prejudiced against women, or even one who hates women – I ask myself where this can come from. Why do so many men, all born of women, despise women so much? What is it that makes a boy grow up to be a misogynist? Because ultimately, this is where it starts -infancy – and this is where we have to put in the work so that it doesn’t keep on happening. What messages is a boy getting that makes him think that girls are inferior to him? That they’re silly? That they’re stupid? That they can be told what to do, and can be forced to do what they don’t want to do, if necessary by using physical force?
In the same way, we have to ask ourselves, what messages are we giving to girls that make them feel inferior, that they’re not quite as good as the boys, that they can be pushed about by boys, literally and metaphorically? How do we differ in our upbringing of boys and girls? Do parents, often mothers themselves, have different expectations of their children, as regards housework chores, for example? Do they drum into boys the same messages that are often drummed into girls, that they always have to be clean and pretty, and nicely dressed, and sit in a way which is acceptable, but that it’s ok for boys to be rough, to be assertive, to try to get what they want? How much do we condition children not by what we say to them but by the roles they see their own parents carry out?
We need to change the way we shape our children to fit stereotypical roles, which are often restrictive to both sexes. We must break the patterns which have historically always been there. A crucial step we need to take in this direction is to implement parental leave so both parents – where they are available – can take equal responsibility in bringing up children and have equal roles in the social space. Only then will we take the necessary leap forward which will really put women and men on an equal playing field in all spheres.
MARLENE HASSAN NAHON,
Politician and First Female Party Leader with Representation in Parliament
I used to be of the opinion that to achieve real equality one had to ignore the issue of gender. Because if we are all truly searching for equality, then gender shouldn’t define us or divide us. But that was until I became a Member of Parliament. Becoming a Member of Parliament was my fast track course to the feminist cause. It was there that I learnt the importance of flying the flag for added female representation in Parliament and for equality legislation. With only two women out of 17 Members of Parliament, I realised how vital it is for our democratic hub to be gender balanced. Women have different perspectives to men and considering that we are the 50%, we have to strive for ways and structures to facilitate and encourage more women to get involved in the democratic process so that we can call it truly representative of its people.
According to a study by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, out of 191 nations, we are currently ranking at 154 on the list, with countries like Qatar, Congo, Iran and Nigeria fairing worse than us in their female to male parliamentary ratios. For a country that boasts such a high GDP, sits on mainland Europe and enjoys sophisticated industries to fuel its economy, something doesn’t add up locally.
Why is it that women are not equal brokers in the workspace and in public life? As well as the lack of equality legislation, women still have the lion’s share of ‘the mental load’. In Gibraltar, perhaps because we are a Latin-rooted, Mediterranean society, women are overwhelmingly the primary caregivers, be it with their kids or their own parents. We manage a million things at once. It’s known as ‘the mental load’. It means that whether we work or stay at home, our women are the ones who, in the main, are managing the chores, the tasks, and the household related challenges in their heads; and even if their partners are pitching in, it is largely down to the woman to delegate, and to be ultimately responsible for what needs to be done. It is this ‘mental load’ which causes the drain on the woman and puts her off the idea of extra responsibilities or the prospect of a career in public service which is taxing per se.
Historically speaking, I was looking around for Gibraltar’s women in history, and I was astounded that I couldn’t really find many who had been immortalised. Think about all the housing estates, or roads, or plaques around Gibraltar. Where are our women? A few names here and there, but generally? Barely. How can we expect to inspire our women of the future when our women of the past are barely there?
Only through implementing legislation, educating, and celebrating our women can we really make a difference. Without equality frameworks which are friendly for working dads and mums, we will not have the basis with which to change attitudes and outdated positions.