March 20, 2021

MGA Hosts a Parallel Event on 'Domestic Violence: Gender-based Violence and Degradation of Earth' at CSW65

On Monday 15th of March, Mercy Global Action (MGA) hosted a parallel event during the United Nations Sixty Fifth Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). As all events were online this year, it was a great opportunity to bring in experts from across the globe. Our event, “Domestic Violence: Gender-based Violence & Degradation of our Common Home,” was held virtually and examined the relationship between gender-based violence and violence against Earth. We were very fortunate to have panellists from Argentina, Australia, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Peru.

Sr Theresia Tina rsm shared her experience of gender based violence and degradation of Earth in PNG, highlighting different types of violence and its implications for women. Sr Theresia spoke of earth’s degradation, citing examples of receding beaches, disappearing trees, nuts and fruits and the destruction brought about by mining and logging, including the pollution of many rivers, seas and creeks. Sr Theresia recognised social and cultural norms in PNG, as drivers of violence against women and Earth.  Her recommendations included; increased support from the government to tackle issues of gender based violence, the provision of health services to survivors of violence, counselling facilities for survivors and the need for safe houses where women can go and get help.

Sr Pat Ryan MM and Yolanda Flores brought perspectives from their work with Derechos Humanos y Medio Ambiente (DHUMA) in Puno, Peru. They highlighted that mining is prioritised over the needs of the people, with drinking water polluted and causing major sickness to the people consuming mining minerals. Two case studies were shared which illustrated the catastrophic nature of extractivism.  The first highlighted the urgent need for remediation in the Choquene lagoon (la Laguna Choquene or the ‘ Mar Rojo’ as it is known).  They discussed how this body of water is contaminated and burns everything it touches. This water kills everything in the wetlands and has detrimental impacts on the livestock. They explained how Alpacas and sheep drink the water causing them to have deformities like twisted hooves, abortions and still births. The second case study focused on the toxic contamination of the River Coata basin, caused by heavy metal pollution from extractive projects. Sr Pat and Yolanda were firm in their conviction that ‘ All mining contaminates’ and that ‘All of the water basins in Puno are contaminated. This impacts women’s lives enormously as they bear the brunt of the pain and suffering caused by extractive industries.  They called for many actions, including; prohibiting mercury and cyanide mining, financial assistance to victims of mining, remediation from the perpetrators of mining, prioritising the Indigenous population, provide free healthcare, listen to the ‘cry of Earth and the cry of the poor’ and be in dialogue with Mother Earth (Pachamama) and her elements.

Sr Ana Siufi rsm shared her wisdom from Argentina. She named extractives, global markets, consumerism and colonialism as the causes of devastation to Earth, and spoke of the killing of biodiversity perpetrated by multinational companies and the governments. She spoke of the priority of mining projects over the protections of people, forests and glaciers in Argentina. Drawing a correlation between the degradation of Earth and gender based violence,  Ana argued that the same mechanism of abuse is perpetrated on women whereby patriarchy and extractives both exploit through violence, ‘utilising Earth and women as merchandise, cutting off the access to rights’. Market systems, she stated, ‘have naturalised the degradation of Earth and women, both violate and make them invisible’. Citing examples of vulnerabilities and diseases, Ana illustrated the impact that environmental degradation has on women, especially in relation to premature births and congenital malformations. She argued that extractive industries degrade the social environment, promoting an environment of alcohol, drugs, gambling and family separation. Ana also presented the startling statistics of 330 Femicides in Argentina in 2020 whereby a woman was killed every 29 hours. Some of her recommendations included; a recognition of Mother Earth, the rights of non-humans to be and exist on Earth, stop the death of nature from blind rationalism, the need to feel and think with the heart, globalised laws that protect the rights of women, respect laws that protect original peoples, initiate a transition process from extractive mining , provide social care for all women and the land. She concluded by saying, ‘We need to dream that another world is possible to encourage our fight for social peace, environmental peace and gender-based peace.’

The final panelist was Jocelyn Bignold from Australia. Jocelyn stated that gender inequity for women is still a reality in Australia where there are many incidents of violence, sexual assault and systemic bullying of female representatives in government. As head of McAuley Community Services for Women, Jocelyn cited some harrowing statistics in relation to violence against women. Arguing that despite lots of media coverage and dialogue about gender based violence, there was an increase in calls for help post COVID -19 lockdowns. She stated that there was a  38% increase in calls to the National Hotline for those experiencing family violence. Jocelyn argues for making homes safe, enabling women and children to stay safely in their homes and not having to flee for protection. She argued that living free from violence is a human right, as is the right to housing. Both these rights need immediate attention in Australia. She recognised in particular the special needs of women in rural areas of Australia who often have less access to resources, less options, longer travel to safe services and less anonymity. Jocelyn called for a multi-prong strategy including;  an increased public awareness of a woman’s right to remain safe in her own home, increased capacity for women to be able to afford to stay in their own home, governments tackling gender based violence as a priority and adopting a strategy and coherent plan, strengthening legislation, coordinated police intervention and better coordination by all actors.

Mercy Global Action extends a special thanks to all panellists who generously shared their wisdom and expertise with a wide audience.

Messages to: Angela Reed rsm - Head of Mercy Global Action

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