Femen’s obsession with nudity feeds a racist colonial feminism

This was published in the Guardian on 11th April 2013:

Another week, another heated debate over the tactics and language used by the feminist protest group Femen, which last Thursday launched an International Topless Jihad Day. The group, started in Ukraine, uses topless protest as a way to raise the profile of women’s rights. The day of action was called in response to threats received by a Tunisian Femen activist, Amina Tyler, for posting topless pictures of herself on Facebook.

With slogans such as “nudity is freedom” and statements such as “topless protests are the battle flags of women’s resistance, a symbol of a woman’s acquisition of rights over her own body“, Femen claims the removal of clothes in public as the key indicator of the realisation of women’s rights and the most effective type of activism. Everything else is seen as not radical enough and failing anyway. By these standards, countries in north Africa and the Middle East and communities from those countries living in Europe are seen to be falling far short.

For the rest of the article, please click here.

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putting women’s rights into the Arms Trade Treaty

I wrote this report together with Caroline Green of Oxfam GB in June 2012. The year saw the culmination of over a decade of global activism for an Arms Trade Treaty that regulated the transfer of arms.

We recommended that:

A criterion in the Arms Trade Treaty should require States not to allow an international transfer of conventional arms where there is a substantial risk that the arms under consideration will be used to perpetrate or facilitate acts of gender-based violence, including rape and other forms of sexual violence.

After years of negotiation, the Arms Trade Treaty was passed on 2nd April 2013 by the General Assembly by a 154 – 3 vote with 23 abstentions. The countries abstaining were Iran, North Korea and Syria. The text requires that, prior to authorisation of transfers of arms, States assess whether they could be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian or human rights law. In addition, States shall consider taking feasible measures to avoid the arms being used to commit or facilitate gender based violence or violence against children.