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The impact of racism and general discrimination on my life

Notes on Gender and Racial Discrimination: The combined effects of racism and gender discrimination, in particular on migrant, immigrant, indigenous, minority and marginalised women around the world, has had devastating consequences for their full enjoyment of equality and fundamental human rights in both the public and private spheres.

Intersectional discrimination has only recently been recognised, at least in international forums as a serious obstacle to the achievement of equality for many marginalised women.

Historically, at the international and national levels, racism or racial discrimination on the one hand and gender discrimination on the other, have always proceeded in official thinking and policy along mutually exclusive lines.

  • Thus major initiatives on domestic violence do not acknowledge the fact that not all women experience violence or protection from such violence in the same way;
  • This occurs where policies intersect with underlying structures of inequality to create a compounded burden for particularly vulnerable women;
  • The economic realities of black and white households Trends in key economic and demographic indicators provide some context for the experiences and outlook of blacks today;
  • This presentation will focus particularly on the ways in which the combined effects of racial and gender discrimination place obstacles to black and minority women's struggle for equality and social justice.

However, the notion of intersectional discrimination has now been acknowledged in a series of UN conferences on women. Both documents draw attention to the need to understand the co-existence of multiple forms of discrimination and their impact on women. But neither document has given deeper attention to the complexities and the ways in which such forms of discrimination structure the disadvantaged position that many marginalised women occupy in relation to other groups of men and women in their societies.

Pagination

In the UK, for instance, there is no official policy statement or document which gives any serious attention to the ways in which black or minority women face gender and racial discrimination simultaneously. An in-depth analysis of the combined effects of racial and gender discrimination and the implications for all legislation, policies and strategies on the elimination of racial and gender inequality has yet to take place.

The result is that black and minority women are rendered invisible in official strategies to combat gender inequality and racial discrimination, and they are rendered vulnerable to further discrimination. But there is a more serious consequence of the failure to recognise the existence of intersectional discrimination. Many so called progressive initiatives, policies and strategies aimed at eliminating racial or gender discrimination actually serve only to reinforce the multiple levels of discrimination experienced by minority women, based on the flawed view that discrimination is one-dimensional and affects all women or all minority communities in the same way.

Although a number of NGOs and researchers have devoted considerable time and resources in understanding and addressing the effect of multiple forms of discrimination, much work remains to be done, especially at the national and local government level. There is an urgent need to ensure full recognition and integration of the intersectional perspective in all national programmes, policies, legislation and initiatives on all forms of discrimination. A more holistic approach to discrimination that recognises the simultaneous nature of women's experiences of various forms of discrimination is necessary, if we are to ensure that human rights are a reality for all women.

This presentation will focus particularly on the ways in which the combined effects of racial and gender discrimination place obstacles to black and minority women's struggle for equality and social justice.

More specifically, I will focus on women's experiences of domestic violence, immigration laws, the criminal justice system and the multicultural approach, to show how these sites of intersectional discrimination create and perpetuate the multiple disadvantages that these women face.

More importantly I wish to highlight the fact that gender and racial discrimination intersect simultaneously to the detriment of such women. Whilst this presentation is concerned with the combined effects of racial and gender discrimination on women, it is acknowledged that other factors relating to women's social identities such as ethnicity, class, religion, caste national origin, disability and sexuality can also intersect with and therefore compound gender discrimination.

The paper will therefore end with some broad based suggestions and recommendations made by the Expert Group Meeting in which I was also a participant. Background and Conceptual Aspects of Intersectional Discrimination Globalisation has brought with it an unprecedented flow of unfettered capital and mass migration of labour, especially from the developing countries and the transitional economies of Eastern Europe to Western Europe, North America and Australia.

Such large-scale movement of labour has increased the scope for worldwide racist activity and discrimination based on race, religion and ethnicity.

The operation of restrictive immigration and asylum policies is one manifestation of such racial and related forms of discrimination in the more industrialised nations. But the migration of such women means that they are also vulnerable to multiple forms of discrimination. It is therefore against the backdrop of the global economy that the intersection of racial and gender discrimination must be understood. It specifically addresses the manner in which racism, patriarchy, economic disadvantages and other discriminatory systems contribute to create layers of inequality that structures the relative positions of women and men, races and other groups.

Moreover, it addresses the way that specific acts and policies create burdens that flow along these intersecting axes contributing actively to create a dynamic of disempowerment. The notion of intersectional discrimination is best understood by way of a metaphor relating to a traffic intersection. The metaphor was developed by Professor Kimberle Crenshaw and gives what is considered to be an effective model for the understanding of intersectional or multiple discrimination. It is through these thoroughfares that dynamics of disempowerment travel.

These thoroughfares are sometimes framed as distinctive and mutually exclusive avenues of power. Marginalised groups of women are located at these intersections by virtue of their specific identities and must negotiate the 'traffic' that flows through these intersections to avoid injury and to obtain resources for the normal activities of life. This can be dangerous when the traffic flows simultaneously from many directions.

Injuries are sometimes created when the impact from one direction throws victims into the path of oncoming traffic, while on other occasions, injuries occur from simultaneous collisions. These are the contexts in which intersectional injuries occur - when multiple disadvantages or collisions interact to create a distinct and compound dimension of disempowerment.

But the failure of national governments and the international community to adequately analyse all experiences of intersectional discrimination lies in the fact that in traditional conceptions of race and gender discrimination, certain specific problems or forms of discrimination faced by marginalised women are rendered invisible.

  1. For example in respect of policing issues, the police regularly consult with community leaders on how and on what issues the community is to be policed.
  2. Blacks are also about twice as likely as whites to say too little attention is paid to race and racial issues in the U. The survey finds that black and white adults have widely different perceptions about what life is like for blacks in the U.
  3. However, the experience of South Asian women in particular show that police failure to criminalise domestic violence is more marked.
  4. Black and minority women's experiences of the criminal justice system have received little official attention since they have largely fallen between two stools. Multiculturalism is a site where the intersectionality of race and gender discrimination is perhaps at its most complex but also most insidious.

Crenshaw describes this as the twin problems of 'over-inclusion' and 'under-inclusion'. For example, the notion of over-inclusion refers to situations where the racial dimension of an experience is subsumed within a gender perspective.

The consequence is that only the gender aspect of the discrimination is addressed and the subsumed or racialised aspect of discrimination is ignored. The trafficking of women and young girls is perceived to be an example par excellence of gender subordination. It is commonly held to be only a woman's problem. So in the debates or strategies on the trafficking of women and young girls, little if any attention is paid to the fact that some groups of women and children may actually be selected and targeted for trafficking.

In the UK for example, current news refers to a number of missing young West African girls aged 14 plus years, who have gone missing from care homes following their arrival in this country as asylum seekers.

These girls were brought to the UK en route to Italy where they are coerced by human traffickers to work in the sex industries. It is however notable that the news reports refer to their experiences of forced sexual slavery and prostitution, but little or no attention is paid to the reasons why these women from Africa are particularly selected for trafficking.

The combination of their gender, socio-economic position and their race that renders them vulnerable to economic and sexual exploitation is obvious but it is not addressed.

Also, little or no attention is paid to the unique forms of gendered racial discrimination they experience in the UK as asylum seekers or in Italy as prostitutes and asylum seekers. The notion of under-inclusion refers to situations where a gender analysis is underplayed or ignored altogether in what is perceived to be a problem of racial discrimination. So, for example, the forced non-consensual sterilisation of black and other marginalized women has been perceived to be a problem of racial discrimination rather than one of the impact of racism and general discrimination on my life abuse.

In the UK, in the 1970s and early 80s, the operation of immigration laws and practice sanctioned the practice of virginity testing of South Asian women. Underpinning this test was the assumption that Asian women do not have pre-marital sex before marriage: A public outcry and campaign led to the practice being stopped. Those who were appalled by the practice decried it as racist, but few articulated the way in which it also amounted to a violation of Asian women's bodies.

Apart from the trafficking of women, another well known example of targeted intersectional discrimination is the experiences of rape and sexual abuse of minority women in the context of war and armed conflict in Rwanda and Bosnia.

In these cases abuses were specifically targeted at racialised women.

Here conflicts which are essentially motivated by ethnic and racial hatred also target women in the selected communities for particular types of rape, sexual violence and aggression as a way of humiliating and dehumanising the entire ethnic group in question. Another variation is in the form of structural discrimination. This occurs where policies intersect with underlying structures of inequality to create a compounded burden for particularly vulnerable women.

On the other hand, marginalised women may be subject to specific forms of racial discrimination simply because of their gendered location within their communities. Thus the racism they experience may affect them in ways which are different from that experienced by men in their communities. One example of this is the ways in which vulnerable women within racialised groups may be coerced into non-violent crime in support of the criminal activity by their partners.

But their subordinate gender positions within their community which brings about their ready acceptance of the coercion into crime is ignored by the state who may single out the women for harsher sentences. Such women may also be vulnerable to specific forms of gender discrimination in prisons ranging from 'overpolicing' to sexual abuse.

Yet another manifestation of structural discrimination is where the policy in question interacts with background structures thus creating burdens that disproportionately affect margnialised women. Structural adjustment programmes within developing and transitional economies although not specifically targeted at women can lead to increased poverty for marginalised women. Whatever the type of intersectional discrimination, the consequence is that different forms of discrimination are more often than not experienced simultaneously by marginalised women.

  1. However, the experience of South Asian women in particular show that police failure to criminalise domestic violence is more marked.
  2. Multiculturalism is a site where the intersectionality of race and gender discrimination is perhaps at its most complex but also most insidious.
  3. A public outcry and campaign led to the practice being stopped.
  4. Another variation is in the form of structural discrimination.

But the reality of their lives shaped as it is by disadvantage and social injustice is ignored and lies unaddressed within the traditional framework of understanding gender and racial discrimination because of a lack of a holistic approach to gender and racial discrimination. In particular, I will focus on aspects of violence against women - one of the critical areas of concern raised in the Beijing Platform for Action document. My aim is to show how, despite official rhetoric, debates and strategies to combat domestic violence the government has paid little attention to black and minority women's experience of domestic violence, which is essentially a story of multiple discrimination.

Despite decades of struggles by black and minority women for recognition of their daily experiences of racial and gender discrimination, the sad reality is that at best their experiences are seen through the lens of a mutually exclusive checklist of discrimination.

One danger of this approach lies in the strategies that are adopted to address discrimination, which can and do have the paradoxical effect of reinforcing certain forms of discrimination that remain hidden. Thus many Asian women are denied the right to protection and redress from abuse experienced at the hands of the state or private actors.

Aside from language barriers and cultural constraints that demand their obedience and silence for the impact of racism and general discrimination on my life sake of upholding family honour, many state policies have the effect of compounding the discrimination they face in their homes and their communities. Domestic Violence and Immigration Policy Many Asian and other minority women who arrive in the country as new brides and who find themselves subject to domestic violence are then denied effective protection by the operation of the so called 'one year rule' and other welfare rights legislation.

The combined legislative framework requires that spouses from abroad remain in a marriage for a probationary period of at least a year without recourse to public funds. Following the completion of the probationary period, if they are still married, they are entitled to seek indefinite leave to remain in the country. If the marriage has ended for whatever reason, then the spouse from abroad is subject to deportation. Many women are thus faced with a stark choice: Women who are frightened of returning to their countries of origin for fear of destitution, further violence and social persecution as a result of their changed marital status, choose instead to remain within violent relationships.

In recognition of the impact of the immigration rule on domestic violence experienced by minority women, the rule was modified by the introduction of a concession to the latest immigration and asylum legislation. But the modification still does not give effective protection to those minority women who experience domestic violence.

The rule states that women who can demonstrate that they were the victims of domestic violence within the probationary period will be entitled to remain in the country on an indefinite basis. The problem, however, lies with the much higher standard of proof that is required of minority women in demonstrating domestic violence.

The test which women have to overcome borders on requiring proof beyond all reasonable doubt. Few women are able to meet the level of proof required. The result is that many women are still entrapped within violent relationships.

On Views of Race and Inequality, Blacks and Whites Are Worlds Apart

The operation of such immigration rules means that the autonomy and right of black and minority women to live free from violence is restricted. Moreover, it has the effect of exacerbating the abuse that occurs the impact of racism and general discrimination on my life the family since the existence of the immigration rules gives the settled spouse added power to perpetrate the violence with impunity knowing that there will be no social censure.

Paradoxically the immigration restriction reinforces patriarchal relations and gender discrimination. Yet this aspect of immigration law and policy is not addressed in official rhetoric and national policy and initiatives on domestic violence aimed at increasing social awareness and decreasing social tolerance of domestic violence. Thus major initiatives on domestic violence do not acknowledge the fact that not all women experience violence or protection from such violence in the same way.

The operation of the rule therefore compounds the violence that black and minority women experience and has a racially discriminatory effect in that minority women with no settled immigration status are denied access to protection and other welfare services that are available to battered women in the majority community. Domestic Violence and the Criminal Justice System Many black and minority women are unable to access the criminal justice systems for a number of valid reasons.

Black and minority women's experiences of the criminal justice system have received little official attention since they have largely fallen between two stools. On the one hand, where relations between black and minority communities and the police and other criminal justice agencies have been addressed, including most recently in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence case The McPherson Report 1999the concept of these black communities has never included a gender analysis.

Thus black women's specific experiences of racism have not received appropriate attention. In parallel official studies on women and the criminal justice system over the years, black women's unique experiences of racial discrimination intersecting with gender discrimination have only been given a cursory glance.

Black women may be subject to oppressive policing practices and so share similar experiences of racism to that of men within their communities. For example when reporting domestic or racial violence, black women may instead be criminalised instead.