CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 June 2019

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Shaking the ground against violence

HONG KONG (SE): More than 1,000 people from migrant rights and student groups called for an end to all forms of violence against women at the One Billion Rising campaign held at Edinburgh Place, Central, on February 21.

The campaign aims to have one billion women worldwide dancing in the street on or around Valentine’s Day in a call for fair and just treatment of women.

It is estimated that at least one woman in three will be raped or beaten during her lifetime. That means about one billion people and the organisers of the campaign hope that if one person dances for everyone who is violated, the campaign can make a strong statement.

Launched in 2012, the campaign hopes to inspire the one billion to shake the earth with their dancing in a call for an end to impunity for such crimes and better education for women.

The dancing in Hong Kong was led by renowned playwright, Eve Ensler, and international artist, Monique Wilson. The gathering in Edinburgh Place danced with gusto, in a statement that they everyone can do something to curb violence against women.

Sitting alongside Wilson, representatives of migrant worker communities, local women workers and students, Ensler told the media that the situation of migrant workers in the world is important to her, so she joined the programme to be in solidarity and demonstrate that what happens to them matters to everyone.

Wilson said she is happy that 200 countries have joined the One Billion Rising campaign in the past four years and she hopes that people can pay more attention not only to the physical and sexual violence, but also the economic violence done to women and girls.

Dolores Balladares, a spokesperson for the Asian Migrant Coordinating Body, said her group was joining with women and men all over the world in a call for decisive action to eliminate all forms of violence against women.

She pointed out that Asian women migrants in the domestic sector experience violence in their living and working conditions. 

Balladares quoted figures from the Mission for Migrant Workers in Hong Kong, which show that more than 4,000 requested help in 2014 alone.

This means that every day, 11 Asian women in Hong Kong alone experience physical, sexual, and economic violence, including deprivation of rightful wages or the exploitation of scurrilous practices of recruitment agencies.

She emphasised that these statistics come from just one of the migrant service centres in the city.

Balladares had harsh words for the Hong Kong government for setting the stage for exploitation and abuse through its anti-migrant policies.

She cited the two-weeks-and-you-are-out rule as forcing women to be submissive to ill-treatment, so that they can cling onto their jobs.

In addition, she named the mandatory live-in arrangement which opens the floodgates for abusive working conditions, such as long working hours, imposition of a curfew, provision of substandard sleeping arrangements and denial of privacy.

She added that recruitment agencies extract high profits from migrants through various schemes that enable them to charge much higher fees than allowed by the law of Hong Kong or of the governments of sending countries.

Balladares pointed out that this pushes many migrants into heavy debt.

However, she said that for women migrant workers, the worst violence is the forced displacement and separation from families and loved ones in their home country, due to systemic problems that deny them the opportunity of a decent living.

The website of the campaign invites participants to dance around every Valentine’s Day to show their opposition to violence against women, as dancing is a liberating activity that empowers.

Women who experience gender violence often hate their bodies and the act of public dancing can be part of a healing process to reclaim them. It can be a way of discarding shame and fear and reclaiming their sexuality and self-esteem.

 

It is also a disruptive, joyful and artistic way of resistance.

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