women's liberation

Step by Step: Women of East Timor, Stories of Resistance and Survival
Edited by Jude Conway
Charles Darwin University Press, 2010
241 pages, $44

Review by Niko Leka

The title of Step by Step refers to how the Timorese gained their independence. The steps are told through the firsthand narratives of 13 women who grew up in East Timor.

When they were born it was a Portuguese colony, which in 1975 was invaded and occupied by Indonesia. It achieved victory in the quarter century-long struggle for independence in 1999.

South Australian independent Bob Such announced on June 28 he would introduce a private member's bill into the state parliament that would, in effect, ban the wearing of the burqa or the niqab in banks and government buildings.

Such claimed his bill would not be discriminatory and would target any face covering where security might be a concern. However, all his public statements have specifically raised the burqa and its possible use in criminal activity.

Multicultural affairs minister Grace Portolesi said SA police have said they have no such concerns about the burqa.

Eighty people gathered at the State School Teachers Union offices in Perth for the Socialist Ideas Conference over the weekend of June 26-27. Speakers included Jeyakumar Devaraj, Socialist Party of Malaysia MP, and Richard Downs, spokesperson for the Alyawarr People's Walk-off in the Northern Territory.

On March 10 Veronnica Baxter, a 34-year-old Aboriginal woman from the Cunnamulla country, south-west Queensland, was arrested by Redfern police and held on remand. She dressed, appeared, and had identified as a woman for 15 years and was known by family and friends as a woman. Yet she was placed at the all-male NSW Silverwater Metropolitan Reception and Remand Centre. Six days later, after a 14-hour break between checking her cell, she was found dead, hanging in her single cell.

Breaking story (last updated June 25): Socialists and progressive trade union and social movement activists have reacted sceptically to the leadership change in the Australian Labor Party (ALP) federal government of Australia. Julia Gillard displaced Kevin Rudd as PM on June 24 after a surprise leadership challenge that came into the open the night before. She became the country's first woman PM. Wayne Swan replaced Gillard as deputy PM.

The Venezuelan National Assembly (NA) is considering a bill to decriminalise abortion, but only in restricted cases, the June 10 Ultimas Noticias reported.

It was one of the proposals of the committee for the rights of women in the NA. It is part of a raft of proposals to be considered in changes to a new penal code, to eliminate gender bias.

The Runaways tells the story of what is considered to be the first all-female instrumental rock band.
With artistic licence, the film provides a good depiction of the crippling stereotypes that women in the music industry and throughout society have to contend with and undermine before they are taken seriously at large.

Tens of thousands rallied around Australia on June 10 in support of the Australian Services Union’s (ASU) pay equity test case for community sector workers.

The ASU has opened a test case with Fair Work Australia under the equal remuneration power of the Fair Work Act. The ASU claim is for pay rises of about 25% for community sector workers. It follows a successful application in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission last year.

Forty years after the first equal pay test case, the gap between male and female wages continues to widen.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released on May 20 put the pay gap (as of February 2010) at 18%. Women on average now earn $239.30 a week less than men.

The pay gap has increased 0.5% over the quarter (from 17.5%) and 1.5% over the year (from 16.5%). The gap is now at its highest level since August 1994.

On May 28, it was reported that the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists was considering allowing a certain form of female circumcision, involving “ritual nicks”. RANZCOG later said it was a misrepresentation, and that “anyone suspected of performing such genital mutilation should be reported to authorities”, the Sydney Morning Herald said the same day.

But if we reject all forms of female circumcision, why is it that male circumcision remains so acceptable?

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