Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the millionaire former president of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and leader of France’s center-left Socialist Party, is charged with raping a west African immigrant housekeeper in a five-star Manhattan hotel. But Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr seems like he wants to make the whole case go away. After initially agreeing to US$1 million bail and house arrest, Vance arranged for Strauss-Kahn to be released without any bail. The press reported prosecutors and Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers met about a deal in which the case would be dropped.
Pro-choice campaigners and activists will assemble outside a fertility control clinic in East Melbourne on July 23 for several reasons. The clinic is under constant harassment from far-right Christian groups, including Right to Life and the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants. These groups rally outside the clinic every fourth Saturday of the month, and sometimes on weekdays too. These groups mobilise their members to harass not only women using the clinic, but also women who just happen to walk past.
Feminism is experiencing a revival in Adelaide with the formation of a new activist group, the South Australian Feminist Collective. The group emerged from a feminist forum jointly hosted by Socialist Alliance and Femment, which followed the recent Adelaide “SlutWalk” march against sexual assault and victim-blaming. The forum explored the politics of this event and the relevance of feminism today. About 30 people attended the collective’s first meeting on June 25. The meeting began discussion about how the group would be run, its aims and values.
The June 10 Sydney Morning Herald said that a study released by the National Union of Students (NUS) that day indicated a “surprisingly high proportion of female university students have been sexually assaulted, stalked or sexually harassed”. The article mentioned an Australian Defence Force Academy student who, after being raped, had experienced attitudes of “just get over it” from fellow students — a culture of silence surrounds such attacks.
Swiss women and a major Swiss union held a national day of action on June 14 for wage equality for women and for a minimum wage of US$4000 a month for all workers. The minimum wage that the union and women are seeking would be the equivalent of $48,000 a year. The minimum wage is now $3000 a month, which was won in the 1980s. Switzerland has one of the highest costs of living in the world.
About 500 people took part in a June 11 march to demand an end to victim blaming in sexual assault. This was followed by a screening of the film War Zone in the Adelaide Activist Centre. About 30 people attended. The film screening was jointly hosted by the Socialist Alliance and the Femment Feminist Collective. It was followed by a discussion on the politics of Slutwalk and the future of feminism. From the discussion the South Australian Feminist Collective (SAFC) was founded. All in attendance joined the contact list.
SlutWalk has become a global phenomenon since Canadian policeman Constable Michael Sanguinett told a campus safety meeting “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised”. Big SlutWalk rallies have retaliated against this victim-blaming that police, courts, and governments perpetuate. People have protested in Canada, Mexico, London, Amsterdam, the US, London and Australia. Homemade placards denouncing sexual violence, supporting consensual sex and rejecting victim blaming were displayed at all the rallies.
As part of a nationwide day of action, more than 1000 people marched on the Victorian parliament on June 8 to fight for state and federal governments to back their claim for increased wages. The Melbourne rally was one of 17 across the country, organised by the Australian Services Union (ASU), which advocates for workers in the female-dominated community services sector. The national day of action comes as a response to Fair Work Australia’s finding that the sector’s workers were not being payed enough, in part, because most of them are women.
Melbourne's largest feminist conference in more than a decade, the Feminist Futures Conference, took place over May 28-29. The conference was organised by the newly-formed Melbourne Feminist Collective (MFC), a group of mainly young activists who were inspired by a similar conference they attended in Sydney last year. In the lead-up to the conference, a debate between the radical feminist supporters of Melbourne lecturer Sheila Jeffreys and the sex worker supporters of Elena Jeffreys broke out on the conference blogsite.
The not-guilty verdict in October for a young woman and her partner put on trial for using the drug RU486 to induce an abortion came as a big relief to many. The Cairns jury took less than an hour to deliver long-awaited justice. Now the campaign has turned to smashing the anti-abortion laws that put the Cairns couple on trial in the first place. The case showed the urgent need to decriminalise abortion and realise that the right of women to control their fertility is a fundamental human right.