A 2015 advance: Tribal prosecution of non-native abusers

This story is from March 2015, but it just came across my radar today:

Two years after Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, Native American tribes can finally take advantage of one of the law’s most significant updates: a provision that allows tribal courts to investigate and prosecute non-Native men who abuse Native women on reservations.

Starting Saturday, tribes can claim jurisdiction over non-Native men who commit crimes of domestic violence, dating violence or who violate a protection order against a victim who lives on tribal land. Until now, that jurisdiction has fallen to federal or state law enforcement, who are often hours away from reservations and lack the resources to respond. The result has effectively allowed non-Native abusers immunity from punishment.

During the preceding two years, several tribal governments worked through a pilot program with the Federal government to develop the rules and guidelines necessary to handle the complexity of sovereign arrest and prosecution of U.S. citizens by non-U.S. tribal governments and non-U.S. tribal law enforcement.

This new power will be critical to halting rampant non-native abuse and assaults of native women.


Feds announce first list of colleges under investigation for harassment/violence mishandling

Today, for the first time ever, the Feds have released a complete list of schools under investigation for their (mis)handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.

Previously the Department of Education’s policy was to wait until someone asked about a specific school to confirm or deny whether there was any investigation, which obviously isn’t very efficient or transparent. The change is part of the ongoing push by the Obama Administration to combat sexual violence against women in college.

A complete list of the 55 schools nationwide currently under investigation, organized by state, is at the bottom of this post.

The Massachusetts schools under investigation (for our many Bay State readers) are: Amherst College, B.U., Emerson, Harvard (undergrad & law school), & UMass Amherst.

While I should note that these investigations may find the complaints without merit, I would also stress much more strongly that, in light of the notorious track record so many schools (including some of those Massachusetts schools I just mentioned) and the sheer volume of inquiries schools launch every year, it is probably far more likely that this is the tip of the problem iceberg rather than some false witch-hunt, for basically all the schools on this list.

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Cairo University assault illustrates Egypt’s violence against women

As I’ve discussed previously, Egypt has a pretty big violence against women problem, backed by both the society and the power of the state, which has worsened dramatically under military rule (both in 2011 and in 2013-present).

Here’s a noteworthy stat from Egypt News Daily:

According to a UN report issued last year an overwhelming majority of Egyptian women (99.3%) have experienced some sort of sexual harassment, and 96.5% of women had been sexually assaulted in some way.

In the latest high-profile incident — as opposed to the daily struggle for basic safety many of Egypt’s women face quietly — a female Cairo University Law student was sexually assaulted in plain sight by a dozen men on campus, who brazenly filmed their attack. She only escaped worse because some individual members of the campus security had the decency to intervene (something that can’t be said of much of Egypt’s local and national security forces).

The appropriate response would be: “Wait, we have a horrific problem where some of our male students feel secure in sexually assaulting our female students right out in the open on campus in front of security cameras and their own! What are we doing wrong? What can be done to change the culture and behavior of our male students?”

Instead, Cairo University’s president helpfully called her attire a “mistake” that was “out of the ordinary” for the dress code. He added that campus security should have removed her from campus or told her to change her clothes, before she was assaulted, rather than after. Sure he also said they would look into it, or whatever, and maybe think about some prosecutions because they shouldn’t have done it, but really he seemed to feel it was fundamentally attire-related.

Media treatment

Egyptian news media, closely aligned with the military government, extensively blamed the victim and gave her what might here be dubbed the full Rush Limbaugh treatment (with eerie parallels to his Sandra Fluke rant), calling her a “hooker” who should be in the “red light district” instead of at law school. At least one channel also obtained video footage — probably from one of the attackers — showing her walking around campus so the audience could see how she had been dressed. (Perfectly normal or even conservative campus attire, of course, by U.S. standards… not that it in any way matters.)

Egyptian pundits also wrote off the Cairo University assault using the tried-and-true method of rape apologism that dehumanizes everyone involved including fellow men, by suggesting that no man could possibly not try to rape a woman who crossed his field of vision. Below is newscaster Tamer Amin, mid-rant, on that line of attack:
Statements like that always raise more questions than they answer.

Questions like “Tamer Amin, since you clearly believe every man lacks all self-control and is a rapist at heart, is that belief from personal experience?”

Or, “Tamer Amin, how many women have you yourself raped and assaulted? Too many to remember?”
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Have we accomplished anything in Afghanistan?

Proponents of the second escalation of US troops in Afghanistan still insist there’s something tangible we’re fighting there for and that we’re protecting. With every passing day, I find this harder and harder to believe. Recently, for example, I argued that with no viable state funding source, the US could be underwriting the Afghan Army for years and years with no end in sight — unless we just stop. This raises the question of why we should keep doing it right now.

Some surge supporters have specifically cited women’s rights as a reason for the US not to leave Afghanistan now. Well, welcome to 2009 because that argument stopped being legitimate a few years back since the US-backed Afghan government has been doing its damnedest to roll back any ephemeral gains that women made after the fall of the Taliban government in 2001. Most blatantly has been the approval of a bill legalizing marital rape, but it’s just been one drop in the bucket. From Meteor Blades for DailyKos last week:

After the fall of the Taliban everyone wanted to come and work for women’s rights, they were proud to say they were here to help Afghan women. Slowly, slowly this disappeared. Maybe the international community saw that we had two or three women in the cabinet, and thought, it’s ok, now they have their rights. But we have lost everything, from those cabinet positions to the donor attention. Women are not a priority for our own government or the international community. We’ve been forgotten.

   —Shinkai Karokhail, member of parliament, Kabul, June 4, 2009

The international Human Rights Watch has published a devastating 96-page report on the situation for women in Afghanistan. “We Have the Promises of the World”: Women’s Rights in Afghanistan explores the reality of everyday life for Afghan women, somewhat improved since the Taliban was forced out of the government, but still rife with intimidation, forced marriage of young girls, rape, including gang rape, and murder, including assassination of high-level women activists. Police and courts and other government machinery is still quite hostile to women, and not just in back-country areas or those where the Taliban has made a resurgence.

There’s a lot more in his piece on the HRW report and none of it looks good. Yes, it will almost certainly worsen if we leave, but this is a no-win situation. I don’t advocate simply abandoning the women of Afghanistan, but we’re not doing much to help them as it is right now. And the folks at Human Rights Watch don’t expect the US to focus enough attention on women under the new strategy. That means we’re betraying the women even without leaving, as we’ve been doing to the Afghan people at large ever since the invasion. But I don’t think anyone can legitimately make the argument anymore that we shouldn’t leave because we would be abandoning the women of Afghanistan. No, it’s too late to say that. We’ve already abandoned them.

So, have we accomplished anything positive and enduring in Afghanistan since 2001? Because we can cross women’s rights off the list.

This post originally appeared on Starboard Broadside.