Around the world, women – particularly indigenous women and women of color – are consistently excluded and prevented from owning land, controlling land use, or even living safely and comfortably on the land. Time and time again, we see that the effects of pollution, mining, natural disasters and mega projects that hurt the environment tend to fall disproportionately on the shoulders of women. Here are a few happenings that are affecting women in the environmental justice movements throughout the Americas:
My last two posts on Feministing focused on the African diaspora throughout the Americas. Here are a few excerpts:
The violent policing of low-income communities of color speaks closely to what is happening in Ferguson, reminding us that though racism looks different throughout the Americas, the legacies of slavery and white supremacy continue to threaten Black and brown lives in similar ways. In Brazil, about 2,000 people are killed by law enforcement every year, most of them Black or dark-skinned, many of them women. And in the same way that state violence against young men has a color, in Brazil, six in ten women murdered are Black. Last month, Joana Darc Brito was shot in a favela in Rio de Janeiro and died en route to the hospital. Maria de Fátima dos Santos and her daughter Alessandra de Jesus were executed in an ally. Claudia Silva Ferreira was shot by law enforcement back in March, and died after falling out of their car and being dragged for two blocks.
I’m really enjoying Roque Planas’ two part series for Huffington Post on the current growth of – and pushback against – quilombos in Brazil. These communities are said to be the descendants of runaway slaves, and if recognized officially by the Brazilian government are granted protected land. In a country where land ownership dictates class – and women of color own a tiny percentage of land – this is no small offer.
Critics of the government’s new program argue that people are trying to take advantage of it by falsely claiming that they are quilomberos. However, it’s almost impossible to be Black in Brazil and not have ancestors who were slaves. If quilombos are a small form of reparations, as Roque Planas argues, then don’t all those whose families were enslaved in a brutal system of oppression and violence deserve to access them, whether or not their ancestors managed to escape?
By and large, black Brazilians live in the worst housing and attend the poorest schools. They work the lowest-paid jobs, and they disproportionately fill the jail cells of the world’s fourth largest prison system. This lopsided state of affairs, Afro-Brazilian intellectuals and the country’s social scientists largely agree, is a result of racial discrimination with roots in the country’s history of slavery.
Brazil has never experienced anything akin to the U.S. civil rights movement or South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle. But the quilombo movement, while still in its infancy, is challenging Brazil’s deeply ingrained racial inequality. Ratified in 1988 after a two-decade-long military dictatorship, Brazil’s constitution states that residents of quilombos are entitled to a permanent, non-transferable title to the land they occupy — something analogous to the United States’ Native American reservations, minus the self-government.
Now, more than 1 million black Brazilians are calling upon the government to honor their constitutional right to land. Among them are Luiz Pinto and his family, who have fended off decades of eviction attempts and managed to remain ensconced in their quilombo, known as Sacopã, in a neighborhood gentrified long ago by wealthier, whiter Brazilians.
Well would you look at that. A new study conducted by two law professors reaffirms what we’ve been saying all along: that tearing families and communities apart under the guise of crime reduction has “no observable effect” on crime rates.
More specifically, the professors argue that the government program known as Secure Communities is not achieving its central goal. The program was started under the Bush administration to allow the Department of Homeland Security to obtain information about individuals who have been apprehended or come into contact with local law enforcement agencies. The argument was that it would help the federal government to find and deport more violent criminals. Continue Reading →
My post on Feministing this week covers the treatment that migrant women are facing as detainees in my “land of the free,” aka the United States of America.
Last week, civil rights groups filed a lawsuit on behalf of migrant mothers and children being held in a detention center in Artesia, New Mexico, arguing that they were being denied a fair deportation process. According to the complaint, “Plaintiffs have an indisputable right to seek asylum and related relief, and to a fair hearing to present their claims.” They also have the right to legal counsel.
But there a number of barriers standing in the way of that theoretical right. How is it possible to access anything when Artesia is 200 miles from the nearest city? One cannot claim one’s right to legal counsel when there are no legal service providers in New Mexico who are funded to represent people in detention centers. Currently, detainees are being served by volunteer lawyers who fund themselves to travel to Artesia and support these women. When women are forced to recount their horrific experiences with violence and rape in front of her children, or next to strangers she does not know, how accurate can her statements be? After hearing their stories, how can anyone possibly argue that they are a national security threat?
A new report has been released by powerhouse reproductive justice organizations the Center for Reproductive Rights, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, titled “Reproductive Injustice: Racial and Gender Discrimination in U.S. Health Care.” This potentially ground-breaking report targets the U.S. government and United Nations, arguing that U.S. health care is in violation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).
The report highlights the devastating rate of maternal mortality and associated risk factors for Latinas and African-American women in the U.S. Among many horrific statistics, it demonstrates that in areas of the U.S., women of color suffer from maternal mortality rates higher than countries like Rwanda and Kenya. I hope you’ll take a minute to read through Miriam Zoila Pérez’s great analysis of the report, but I’ll highlight a particularly salient quote from it:
With the Latina immigrant women in “Reproductive Injustice,” the major issue was denial of health care based on immigration status, which the report deems a form of discrimination. Recent Texas policies have eliminated funding for women’s reproductive health care that many could receive regardless of immigration status or a lack of insurance. The report states that “immigrant women of reproductive age are approximately 70 percent more likely than their U.S-born peers to lack health insurance.
Even documented immigrants are barred from accessing health care benefits. Federal policy imposes a five-year waiting period for documented immigrants before they can be eligible for Medicaid. Texas goes a step further and refuses to extend Medicaid coverage to legal immigrants even after five years. Recent cuts to family planning funding in Texas have had a significant impact on immigrant women who live there. For example, in the Rio Grande Valley, the Southernmost part of Texas along the U.S.-Mexico border, the funding cuts and resulting closure of clinics has resulted in a 72 percent decrease in women receiving services, according to “Reproductive Injustice.”
Read more over at Colorlines.
Because I can’t get this song off of repeat, I present you with this French Afro-Cubana duo Ibeyi (Yoruba for twins). Their new single “River,” is dedicated to the river Orixá Oshun (or Oxum in Portuguese). Read more about them on NPR.