The Argument Of Crimes For Women In The 1920s

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The Argument Of Crimes For Women In The 1920s

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One was deemed insane and another, aged seventy-two, had dementia. Two were reprieved on grounds of drunkenness. The same reasoning was applied to two women who knifed their common-law husbands. And two child-killers were reprieved, thanks to a twist of circumstance that surely struck even the sober men of law: they were pregnant. So might a kind of logic be discerned? Throughout this thirty-two-year period a total of men were hanged in England and Wales plus sixteen in Scotland , which shows the rarity of the female murderer, and the straightforward shock value accruing to crimes that subverted the feminine ideal.

Nevertheless there were inconsistencies. Two servants who suffocated an old woman in the course of a robbery were reprieved in As for Fanny Gilligan, another woman who murdered her lover—was it passion or premeditation that caused her to coat the man in paraffin and set him alight? Yet she received the benefit of legal doubt. Perhaps this was to do with the god-awful hopelessness of some of these women, the low class of life that they inhabited; as with those who murdered when drunk, reprieve became a function of patronage foolish creatures, they know no better. If, however, the woman was thought to have dis played agency, rather than passivity, it usually went badly for her. Given this, however: was it an easy thing to judge?

Particularly in the cases of dual enterprise, in which women were accused alongside a man and the challenge was how to apportion blame. To take a familiar example: who is more culpable, Macbeth or his wife? Are they in fact equally guilty, under what would become the legal doctrine of Common Purpose? Possibly, but here is a slightly different question: what would a court have decided, had it tried them both for the murder of Duncan? The evidence of joint action was slim. In two other cases of dual enterprise—in and —the woman was regarded as the more guilty party. One was hanged, the other saved only by pregnancy. Significantly these were child-murders.

Otherwise it was all rather wayward, but then the law is never quite as consistent as it likes to claim; and what truly goes on between two people, high on amorousness and excitation, is well-nigh impossible to know. In Emily Swann was tried for murder after her lover, John Gallagher, killed her husband with a poker. Swann was considered equally guilty. She had been present at the murder and was said to have shouted encouragement. If one person instigates another to commit murder, and that other person does it, the instigator is also guilty of murder.

This was the law. There was deemed to be doubt as to her share in the crime, but the same could have been said of Swann. What may have counted most strongly against Emily Swann was her age: she was some twelve years older than Gallagher, and therefore assumed to be the dominant partner. Conversely—and contentiously—in September the young Elsie Yeldham had lured an ex-boyfriend to a remote place in Epping Forest, where her husband-to-be killed and robbed him. This could only have been an opinion, as the trial was a shambles.

The home secretary, Edward Shortt, a lawyer himself and a man of some compassion, concurred with the legal opinion. It was the state that hanged the criminal, that smooth bureaucratic entity with its painstaking observances, its measuring tape wielded against the rope. The job of the state was to preserve the moral workings of society, and this meant judicial hanging. The trouble was that it was not the state, in the end, that did the deed.

Dry and calm as the workings of the execution were supposed to be, there was nonetheless the physicality of it … One person had to take hold of another, handle them, march them, look them in the eye. These were the moments when the grip of the law became slippery and parlous. Death was instantaneous and there was no delay in carrying out the execution. And yet. There was still the implicit sense of what lay within those words.

And when the executed person was a woman, soft of voice and body, the giver of life and the fireside consoler of men—men who now had to steady her, urge her to her feet, feel her resistance, feel the flesh of her arm still warm and working, touch her in a way that would then have implied erotic intent …. The law knew, perfectly well, that there was no problem about any of this. By stripping the convicted woman of her forename and title she was rendered almost sexless. She was her crime, and the hangman understood as much. One was two pounds less than the other and there was a difference of two inches in the drop which we allowed. One Sachs had a long thin neck and the other Walters a short neck, points which I was bound to observe in the arrangement of the rope. If the war between France and Germany would end, then so would the refugee problem.

Two days later, with a swastika hanging from the Arc de Triomphe and German soldiers goose-stepping down the Champs-Elysees, the last remnants of the Third Republic collapsed. Although those who ran the Vichy regime would later claim that Vichy served to shield the French from the full wrath of the Nazis, most of them had far more in mind than deterring the Nazis when they first took charge. Who were these men who led Vichy? One trait they had in common besides hatred for the Third Republic was a strong sense of conservative nationalism. They were the old Right who fought against Dreyfus forty years before and they were the old Right who had been denied any political say for decades.

Though one would think that people who were so ardently nationalistic would be the first the resist the invading Germans, in fact the opposite was true. Pierre Laval, the man who really ran the Vichy regime, was sure that the Germans would eventually conquer all of Europe and wanted to ensure that France would still be a major power when the Nazis prevailed. Many times the interests of the Vichy regime and of the Nazis coincided. When the Nazis demanded that Vichy France deport its Jews, the Vichy government wholeheartedly complied. The Rightist xenophobes who ran Vichy were overjoyed that the Germans wanted to take the refugees off their hands and ordered the milice, state-sponsored militia units that did the dirty work for the Vichy government and ultimately the Nazis, to begin rounding up the Jews.

Probably no two Vichy leaders had the same reason for supporting the deportation of the Jews, though. Populist leaders answered to the many inhabitants of southern France who wanted the foreign Jews deported because they were fed up with the refugees and the camps de concentration. Besides the popular backlash against the refugee camps, ultra-conservatives associated the Jews with communism and saw the deportations as a sign of the true France reasserting itself. The Alibert Law isolated and alienated Jews by excluding them from all state administration jobs, and forbade them to work in the press, cinema, radio, and theater. This law was applied mercilessly to all Jews, assimilated and non-assimilated, with the exception of war veterans.

Raphael Alibert was only adhering to a policy which found not only its source in a long national tradition, but also its justification in the position taken throughout the centuries by the Church with regard to the Jewish problem. Vallat thus argued that the surfacing of French anti-Semitism during Vichy was part of the popular French Catholic tradition and not something forced upon the French by the Nazis.

Following this logic, even the Vichy decree of forcing Jews to wear yellow stars did not come from the Nazis but rather from Pope Honorius III who introduced the idea in Nor did it forbid mixed marriages or social interaction between Jews and gentiles. When the Germans did not grant Vichy the concessions it demanded in exchange for a given number of Jews or French laborers, or material goods, Laval would withhold all exportation of humans and materials until the Germans complied. When the Germans invaded France, they only occupied the portions of France that provided them with what they thought would be worth the expense and trouble of occupation.

Paris was important because it was a capital and controlling it meant controlling the region. The North and West coasts were the front between the Germans and their main enemy at the time, the British. Not wanting to waste their valuable resources guarding a secure region, the Germans left southern France complete in French hands. The Germans also had bigger plans than just occupying France. In , Hitler was pooling every available resource the Reich had for his main attack, the one against his ideological enemy but then ally, the Soviet Union.

If the French wanted to govern themselves and cooperate too, then why should the Germans waste any of their precious resources that they could be using in their fight to gain Lebensraum in the East. While some Frenchmen were glad to see the foreign refugees get sent back East, many were horrified when Vichy began to deport French Jews. When Frenchmen saw other Frenchmen handing their compatriots over to the Nazis, they became disillusioned then infuriated. For many, the mistreatment of the Jews was the key factor that caused them to join the Resistance but resistance did not always take the form of fighting.

In the film, which is based on a true story, a group of priests hide French-Jewish children in their boarding school, but their generosity ends in tragedy when someone on their own staff informs the Gestapo of their crime. When the Gestapo arrive to haul the Jewish children and the head priest off to their certain deaths, the informant, a young Frenchmen, seems quite proud of his work. By , the Vichy government was in full-swing and at the peak of its power. Under Vichy, order had been restored, the refugee problem solved many of them were deported, never to be heard from again and it looked as if France might be entering a special relationship with her patron and ally, Nazi Germany.

In Germany, was also the year it achieved its greatest power. On January 20, , the Nazis held the Wannsee Conference and worked out all of the details of the Final Solution and decided to put it into action. By choosing to exterminate the Jews, the Nazis had opened their war on three fronts; Russia, Western Europe, and Jewish civilians. In , the Third Reich was at its maximum size: its territories stretched from the Urals in Russia to the Atlas mountains of Morocco, and its enemies either lay in ruins or had yet to assemble their armies. In , it was also clear that Germany would not win its war nearly as quickly as everybody thought it would in In France, the Resistance, most violently carried out by the Communists, was hampering German control of the area and was growing.

The German military planners knew they would soon be on the defensive and wanted to make sure they had complete control over all of Europe before the Allies tried to invade it. Before being sent to Lyon, Barbie had proved himself an able and enthusiastic SS officer in Amsterdam where he earned a well-deserved reputation for being both especially cunning and especially brutal. One time, when he received orders to arrest two German-Jewish ice-cream peddlers, he decided that a mere arrest would not satisfy his Nazi ideology.

Instead of arresting the two men, he decided to kill them on the spot. He killed one man by bludgeoning him with an ashtray and the other he shot. For his zeal, he was awarded the Iron Cross by his superiors. When Barbie arrived in Lyon, he immediately set up shop in the elegant Hotel Terminus, which would serve as his base of operations throughout his stay in Lyon. Although Barbie was comfortable in his posh new headquarters, he had a tough job to do, and Lyon proved to be his biggest challenge yet. During his time in Lyon, Klaus Barbie was responsible for two of the most infamous acts the Nazis committed in France. Immediately after Moulin succeeded in uniting the various factions of the Resistance, he went to meet the leaders of Lyonnaise Resistance.

Moulin was supposed to meet with several of his most important allies but he found himself sharing a park bench with none other than Klaus Barbie. After his final meeting with Barbie, a half-dead Moulin was unceremoniously dumped in the courtyard of Montluc Prison. A horrible blue wound scarred his temple. A rattling sound came out of his swollen lips. The forty-four children, most of whom were immigrants and all of whom were under the age of fourteen, were living in an old boarding house in the tiny village of Izieu which lies in the foothills not too far from Lyon. The camp, where the children were being schooled while they were being hidden was run by the O.

For the time being, the children and their guardians, tucked away in an isolated and friendly village, seemed perfectly safe from the goings on in the outside world. As a witness of the raid later recalled:. As was the case in his capture of Jean Moulin, Barbie was able to locate and conduct a surprise raid on the Izieu house because a Frenchman saw it in his interests to help the Gestapo. Without collaboration, the Gestapo, which had never set foot in Izieu until the day of the raid, would have never known about, let alone found, the house where the Jewish children were staying. Someone, and nobody in the tight-knit community of Izieu wants to say who, had gone out of his or her way to inform the Gestapo that there were Jews staying in Izieu. Most of those whom Barbie deported would never return, and, when Barbie signed the orders to send people to Auschwitz, he knew full well what would happen to them.

Klaus Barbie did not just limit his activities to shootings and deportations. What made Barbie such an effective Gestapo officer, and what made people afraid to try to assassinate him for fear they would miss, was his use of torture. Most people who were tortured by Barbie had similar experiences. As prisoners were being tortured, a normal office operated in the background. Barbie would have stayed in Lyon to the bitter end of the German occupation of the city in September , but just before Lyon fell, Barbie contracted a venereal disease and had to be hospitalized in western Germany.

As Barbie was being driven to the hospital, his men were carrying out his last order, emptying Montluc prison. Among the dead were two priests. When Barbie recovered from his illness a few months later, he was released from the hospital, and that was the last time anyone officially saw him for almost forty years. When the war ended, the Vichy regime was dissolved and its leaders were tried as traitors. By forgetting, the Fourth Republic dismissed the pain of those who suffered at the hands of Vichy and set a precedent for future inconsistencies. Each time it forgot though, the pain built, but more than forty years would pass before that pain would see the light of day. Klaus Barbie was gone for almost forty years and in those forty years France changed a great deal.

France had not only put the ambiguities of the Occupation behind her, but had done the same for the colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria. The transition back to democracy was not smooth, nor was the process of losing the empire, and France decided that the best way to cope with the inconsistencies of the past was to forget about them as quickly as possible. In the name of progress, France forgot and forgave the sins of the Occupation, Indochina, and Algeria. But, for each sin France forgave, there were victims. There were victims of the Occupation, there were victims of Indochina, and there were victims of Algeria.

When the victims cried for justice, France , the land of the tricolor chose to ignore them. This, the victims neither forgave nor forgot. Like France , Klaus Barbie experienced many changes during the forty years between his disappearance and his trial. It turned out that Barbie did not just disappear on his own, but had been smuggled out of Europe by the United States government. See FBI document on U. An investigation by Allan A.

Ryan, Jr. In Bolivia, Barbie used his identity as a former Gestapo officer to his advantage; if the C. With the only people who knew of his identity and whereabouts silent, Barbie was a free man. Aside from his activities in Bolivia, Barbie also had a wife and children in Europe and he visited Europe on a regular basis throughout the Fifties and Sixties to see them. On one visit he even had the nerve to go on a sightseeing tour of Paris, where he had been sentenced to death twice in absentia, in and , by French war crimes tribunals.

As Barbie transformed from a Gestapo agent into an American agent and then into a businessman and henchman in Bolivia, he never gave up his Nazi ideology. Robert S. Taylor, an American intelligence operative who recruited Nazis to work for the C. While Barbie roamed South American and Europe, his numerous victims and enemies began to look for him.

Klarsfeld himself was a survivor of the Holocaust but his survival would not have been possible had it not been for the fatal sacrifice made by his father, Arno Klarsfeld. Arno Klarsfeld, knowing how thoroughly the S. He knew that if the S. When the Gestapo arrived, Arno was waiting for them and surrendered himself while his family hid behind the closet. His gamble paid off and the SS left with their prisoner without bothering to thoroughly search the apartment. He was right that his family would have been killed by the Nazis, and he was right that as an able-bodied man the Nazis would put him to work. He was wrong, however, to think he would survive.

Arno Klarsfeld expected hard work ahead of him, but not even the heartiest of men could survive the notorious Furstengrube mines where he worked until his health was destroyed by hour work shifts and malnutrition. When he was worn down to the point at which he could no longer work, Arno Klarsfeld was sent to Auschwitz, where he disappeared in March The really tricky part was not finding the Nazis or getting the public enraged, but was getting the governments of the counties where the Nazis were hiding to cooperate. What saved Barbie in was the greed of Hugo Banzer, the military dictator who ran the Bolivian government from to In essence, Banzer wanted to sell Barbie to France for increased political leverage, money, and weapons and because Barbie was valuable to both Banzer and France, the price was quite high.

The relatively conservative Pompidou administration had another reason for not purchasing Barbie, they were perfectly content with Barbie staying in Bolivia where he could not dredge up any unwanted memories. Favorable circumstances saved Barbie in , but it was only a matter of time before both France and Bolivia saw it in their best interests to extradite him. The administration figured that if they prosecuted Klaus Barbie, who was guilty beyond the shadow of a doubt of some of the most heinous crimes of the Occupation era, they would surely become more popular among their constituents.

When France brought justice to Klaus Barbie, it would redeem all the wrongs and inconsistencies of the Occupation. Thus, it was not just Barbie who was on trial but France itself. By confronting Barbie, France would be confronting its past and by punishing him, France would be conquering the past. And most importantly, it was a trial the government thought it would certainly win. In , Klaus Barbie was the same man as forty years before.

Never once over the past forty years had Barbie apologized for his crimes, nor did he ever show the slightest bit of remorse for them. Even in the late Seventies, Barbie bragged to a journalist that he was proud of his role in Lyons and he went so far as to claim he prevented France from falling to communism. Even the usually pessimistic French press was caught up in the excitement. The French right-wing was in collaboration with the Germans. Although he did not know it when he was being taken to a Bolivian prison for failing to repay a debt, Klaus Barbie would play a key role in forcing France to confront her inconsistent past and present.

Starting in , when the Klarsfelds found Barbie living under the name of Altmann in Bolivia, there was a considerable push to try Barbie for a different set of crimes, those he conducted against humanity. Although distance and time had saved Barbie from paying for his crimes against the Resistance, the incircumscribability of the Nuremburg laws made it impossible for him to escape being tried for the torture, massacres, and deportation of civilians. From his prison cell in La Paz, Barbie was taken to the airport and flown to French Guiana where was put on a military plane bound for Lyons. He was not forgotten and when he arrived in Lyons on February 6, , the whole world remembered who he was.

By the time Barbie arrived in Lyons, the police were struggling to restrain the angry crowds that awaited Barbie at the airport. The emotions running through the crowd were at a fever pitch and more than one person had come to the airport with plans to kill Barbie. For instance, a woman who had been interned in Drancy for three months bought a caliber rifle just for the occasion. When Barbie arrived back in Lyons, the memories of the Occupation began to return and the general public became nervously euphoric about finally getting the chance to confront one of the darkest, most tragic chapters of their history face on. As was the case with most trials of prominent Nazis, the trial of Klaus Barbie was surrounded by a swarm of misconceptions. Like the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Final Solution, the most prominent and most short-lived misconception was that the trial would be an easy victory for the prosecution.

Repressed agony on a massive scale makes for moral uneasiness and given the number of memories they repressed; it is fair to say that the French liked to avoid such uneasiness. To paraphrase Erna Paris, in order to convict Barbie, France would have to open the door of the closet into which the truth about Vichy had been so hurriedly shoved. Nervous or not, most French thought they were ready to finally confront their past.

The press emphasized two things the most: that Barbie was the murderer of Jean Moulin and that Barbie had been working for the Americans when he was in Bolivia. Instantly the mood changed from nervous glee to just nervousness. Rovan complained that the trial came too late and the only thing that could come from it was pain. In reality, Barbie and his like are the products of your [French] history. It was racism, ironically justified by the principles of the Enlightenment that created the Nazis and that same racism was eternally bound to both the ideals of the Republic and the evils of imperialism.

For a young aspiring lawyer, the Barbie trial could be the chance of a lifetime, but de la Servette had already succeeded and though he stood to gain much respect from his peers for taking such a tough case, what he really wanted was a fair trial. If Barbie was to be convicted under French law, then he must enjoy its benefits as well. If justice were to prevail during the Barbie trial, claimed de la Servette, then that trial must be fair.

Unlike all the others who volunteered to defend Barbie, de la Servette, as head of the Lyons Bar Association, was in charge of picking a lawyer for Barbie, so he picked himself for the job. Keeping with his desire to see Barbie receive a fair judgment, de la Servette brought onto the defense team Robert Boyer, a nationally-renowned priest-turned-lawyer. Unfortunately for de la Servette and Boyer, the Barbie trial had far less to do with justice than it did with memory.

Genoud was convinced that the Jews as a group were trying to use the Barbie trial boost support for Zionism by drawing attention to the Holocaust, something whose existence he denied. From the minute he heard that Barbie had been extradited to France, Genoud was looking for a way to prevent him from being punished for doing his duty. What Genoud really wanted though, was the trial and punishment of those who were trying, judging, and convicting Klaus Barbie. As it turns out, this desire was shared by the least likely of allies. In , even though he was only seventeen, he joined the Resistance but because France was blockaded, he wound up with the Free French in Britain under the command of General Charles de Gaulle. The Algerians counted 40, victims of the repression, but the French admitted to only 1, As the struggle became more intense, his disillusionment turned into same sort of anger he had experienced on Reunion as a child.

He wanted to do something, but he did not want to end like his twin brother Paul, who, in , was facing a lifetime in prison because he had assassinated the man whom his father was competing with for a minor political position. Surely it was no coincidence that the Communists actively supported colonial revolutionaries all around the world in their fight against economic exploitation and racism. In , he became president of the AEC Association for Colonial Students , and quickly turned the group into a militant organization. Of all the post-war powers, it would be France that conducted the grandest struggle against those who were fighting to remove the shackles of colonialism.

The best way to recover from the spectacularly quick defeat by the Germans and from the shameful acts of the Vichy Regime, would be for the Fourth Republic to boost its esteem by reasserting France as a world power. In terms of world power, France, which was no longer an economic or military leader following World War Two, had only its crumbling empire.

Unlike the British, the other big colonial power, the French considered their empire part of France and the colonized peoples potential Frenchmen. Thus, to lose part of that empire was to lose part of France on more the just an economic level. France may have lost World War Two twice, but it was not going to lose its empire. Although the colonies were considered eternally bonded to France by many French, most of the colonized who were fed up with the oppression, exploitation, and racism of imperialism did not see things the same way. When the colonized began to revolt, the French reaction was swift and brutal. In , when Muslims revolted in Algeria, tens of thousands were killed by French colonial authorities and the repression in Madagascar was even more violent.

Ironically, the brutality of the colonial suppressions worked against their intended purpose of strengthening the empire and therefore France. Instead, the native populations became even more alienated from the French and massive reform would be required to save French imperialism. The first war the French would fight to preserve their empire started in in Indochina now Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. From the outset it was apparent that the French were losing their grip on the region but it was not until , when they were defeated by the Communist-nationalist Ho Chi Minh at their stronghold at Dien Bien Phu, that they official let go. While the French were still coping with the loss of Indochina, another, much larger and much more important revolt was taking form.

This time the colony was Algeria, right across the Mediterranean; and this time both colonizer and colonized really had something at stake. Algeria, which was more important to France than the rest of the empire combined, had been a French colony for two hundred years and more than a million Europeans, mostly French, called it home. If losing Indochina was regrettable, then losing Algeria was unthinkable. What Algeria offered in terms of economic reward, it lacked in moral progress. The white regime in Algeria, which had openly sided with Vichy during the war, was a notoriously racist bastion of old French conservancy. To the dismay of most Frenchmen, the Algerian colonial government refused to yield any political or economic concessions to the overwhelming native majority.

Faced with a refusal to give them even the most basic of rights, the natives had a choice, submit to imperialism or fight. When the Algerian Muslims revolted in , the obvious response was to for France to protect the colonial regime in the name of preserving the empire and therefore France itself. Many of those who fought in Indochina and Algeria had also served in the Resistance and saw the colonial wars and the Resistance as part of a larger battle to protect France.

Although many French, especially the generation of the Resistance, supported the colonial wars at first, there was also a large segment of the population, mainly young people, who opposed using violence and economic oppression to maintain an empire. In France, in , where political parties of all kinds flourished, where the men who ran Vichy were running the Fourth Republic, and where the veterans of the Resistance were calling for wars in the colonies, there was no shortage of controversy. He fought passionately and won. By mid, the various factions of the Algerian nationalists who launched guerrilla attacks against the French presence in Algeria were united by the Front de Liberation Nationale FLN. Even though the French had tried to make concessions to appease those responsible for the guerrilla attacks, the FLN was not appeased when it discovered the superficial nature of those concessions.

As the rebel attacks intensified, French troops began to pour into Algeria and by over , French troops had been deployed to protect French interests. What had started as an expedition to protect French interests soon became a war of attrition, and both sides used tactics that can only be described as barbaric. The French, however, were no less brutal in their efforts to stop the guerrilla attacks and many French military commanders used torture to interrogate their prisoners and, more importantly, as a means of intimidation. Soon after the trial, however, several journalists demanded that Bouhired be released on the account of her youth.

The rabble-rousing worked, and by Bouhired was freed. As the war intensified and the losses mounted, an increasingly vocal minority within the National Assembly began to push for negotiations between the French and the FLN. When it became clear that those who favored negotiation were gaining power, extremist Right-wing groups, most notably ones with close ties to pied noirs, hatched a plot to overthrow the Fourth Republic and replace it with a military regime. Like the general public, the government contained groups that both violently opposed and violently supported the French presence in Algeria. In May , the Cabinet openly confronted the National Assembly, and in response, Right-wing extremists took to the streets.

With the approval of the National Assembly, de Gaulle took full powers on June 1, , and in putting an end to the Fourth Republic, he put an end to the threat of a military coup. With the end of the Fourth Republic also came the end to the French empire because de Gaulle believed that stability could only be achieved by ending the war in Algerian and order to end the war, one had to negotiate. When France gave independence to Algeria, de Gaulle faced yet another crisis, recovering from the loss of Algeria. De Gaulle had a simple solution: pardon everybody, both Algerians and French, for what they did in Algeria, and move on. Just as the Fourth Republic forgot the ambiguities of the Occupation to preserve itself, the Fifth Republic quickly forgot the trauma of Algeria for the same reason.

By pardoning everyone, including the torturers, the controversy of what took place in Algeria was ignored and because it was ignored, it could create no instability. Although France could ignore what had happened in Algeria for the sake of French unity just as it pardoned many of those responsible for the Vichy regime, the democratic nature of French society ensured the France would eventually have to face the past. He would have to wait, and as he waited for the right moment to strike, his rage built.

By , the war in Algeria was over. These radicals represented all parts of the political spectrum and came from dozens of ethnic groups, but one thing almost all of them agreed on was that Israel was a growing bastion of imperialism in a world where imperialism was supposed to be collapsing. In short, he had it all. Research, policy and services aiming to improve the health status of a population will have to examine, understand and address these differences. Some of the major questions to be asked include. Women have struggled in every historical epoch and in every part of the world for equal treatment.

In the early part of this century, the right of women to receive an education, to obtain paid employment, to enter professions, to vote and to stand for elections were all highly contested issues. However, women in many parts of the world still face multiple obstacles in enjoying these rights. Discrimination based on gender ideology and patriarchy was not initially considered as part of the human rights agenda. Excluding sex discrimination and violence against women from the human rights agenda also results from a failure to see the oppression of women as political. Female subordination runs so deep that it is still viewed as inevitable or natural rather than as a politically constructed reality maintained by patriarchal interests, ideology, and institutions.

The history of women's rights can in a brutal simplification be described as circular. A very early period of sex equality seems to have been followed by a long period of retrogression, then by efforts to regain some of the lost equality. Descriptions of a general downward trend in societal recognition of women's equality hide their efforts to challenge inequality. Women martyrs are rarely known, but in every society, in every generation, there were women who led the way. For example, Fatimih Umm Salamih lived in Persia in the nineteenth century.

She was born in and became known as Tahirih The Pure One. She challenged the rules of the time, which relegated women to inferiority, and championed equality between men and women. She was murdered in and her body was thrown into a well which was then filled with stones. She was killed but not silenced; her last words were recorded: "You can kill me as soon as you like, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women. The Rice Riots in Japan were triggered off when women port workers refused to load rice and were joined by other workers; this led to a long struggle and a political crisis. In China in many thousands of workers in 70 Shanghai silk factories went on strike, calling for increased wages and a ten hour working day; this was the first important strike by Chinese women workers.

In India and Sri Lanka, in the years after World War I, women workers were active participants in militant industrial agitation and strikes. To give only one example from the region, the most militant activists of the Ceylon Labour Union, which led strikes in Sri Lanka in the s, were women factory workers in Colombo; they used to dress in red, were the most vociferous of the strikers and picketers, and formed a bodyguard for male trade union leaders during demonstrations.

In Iran, Egypt and Turkey women were to join with men in the formation of left-wing political groups and trade unions, in spite of repression and adverse conditions for mobilizing the people. In the so-called private arena, the equal treatment of women remains extremely controversial. See Module 9 for further discussion on this point. Many customary practices, traditions and religious beliefs relegate women to a secondary status and sometimes even deny adult women their legal majority. In a world where conflicts based on differences and identities are rampant, the issue of cultural rights remains one of the most controversial and divisive. See Module 17 for a more in-depth discussion of cultural rights.

The extreme extent to which culture and tradition can be used by those supporting patriarchical interests came to light in the State of Uttar Pradesh in India. A women's group, Vanangana, rescued an year old girl who was being abused by her father. The organization helped the child and her mother seek protection and also took legal action against the father. The accused and his supporters in turn filed several false charges against, and published pamphlets attacking, the members of the women's organization. They charged that the organization was destroying the institution of the family and attacking Indian culture. The experiences of women all over the world point to the impossibility of their enjoying their ESC rights as a result of situations where their freedom and autonomy are constrained.

The handpump mechanics project in Banda in the State of Uttar Pradesh in India is an example of empowering women through ensuring access to ESC entitlements. It is one of the most backward districts in the State, known for its high degree of violence, including violence against women. The project was responding to the problem of water scarcity in the region. It began with teaching non-literate rural women to learn the skills of repairing handpumps.

Acquiring a technical skill in a traditionally male domain was both a psychological and social breakthrough. In becoming handpump mechanics, they had built confidence in their ability to learn, broken stereotypes, and entered into a spiral of learning. Of the 45 women mechanics, Sumitra 35 and Chamela 36 were probably the most technically competent. The derisive laughter, scepticism and even hostility they had first encountered from the community as they performed their new role, had grudgingly turned into respect.

They had gradually become trainers as well. Travelling to different parts of the country as trainers had given them a wider exposure than most women in their villages. These experiences were testimonies of changes in their lives. Change for them was not just a distant possibility, but a concrete reality. The women mechanics' engagement with the issue of water necessitated a move from literacy towards education. They had many questions for which they wanted answers.

For instance, while dealing with acute water shortage in summer, they wanted to understand why the depth of underground water varies in different areas or during different seasons in the year. Also, they became increasingly aware of quality of drinking water and health. They wanted more information on these inter-linkages. The following is a summary from the Preliminary Report by the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women , which provides a useful perspective on the subject.

Violence against women, in particular, has inhibited women as a group from enjoying the full benefits of human rights. Women have been vulnerable to acts of violence in the family, in the community and by States. Among the historical power relations responsible for violence against women are the economic and social forces which exploit female labour and the female body. As migrant workers, they often face innumerable hardships in foreign countries. Economic exploitation is an important aspect of modern female labour. Unless economic relations in a society are more equitable towards women, the problem of violence against women will continue.

In the context of the historical power relations between men and women, women must also confront the problem that men control the knowledge systems of the world.

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