Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Why we need men

It's usually not possible for me to blog about individual casework, because of confidentiality issues. But good news re Dieumerci an asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who is one step closer tonight to being allowed to stay in the UK, having almost been removed back to DRC. My office - by which I primarily mean Lois, my caseworker - has been working with Dieumerci's supporters over recent months to try to get the removal decision overturned. (This is why MPs have staff. I know some people will violently object to 'their money' being spent on paying MPs' staff to help asylum seekers stay in the UK; I am also reassured by the knowledge that many decent people, including Dieumerci's supporters from the church, will be very pleased that we do).

Earlier tonight I was in the Chamber, PPS-ing in an adjournment debate on the DRC which had been requested by Eric Joyce, the chair of the All-Party Great Lakes Group. Sometimes it's a bit of chore for a PPS, sitting through rather lacklustre contributions from tired MPs at the end of the day, but Eric's speech was incredibly good, and very moving. He spoke about sexual violence against women in Eastern Congo, and about the case of a woman who would have died in childbirth, from a simple breech birth, had the visiting MPs not been able to lend her transport to get to the nearest hospital. I'll post the link to it when it appears in Hansard tomorrow. Definitely worth a read.

It's so good to hear a male MP raise such issues - too many men assume that issues such as sexual violence and maternal mortality are "women's issues" (as we saw in yesterday's Africa debate). They shouldn't be. Rape doesn't happen without a man's involvement; childbirth can't happen without someone fathering the child. It goes back to what I said on a recent post. We need to engage men in such debates if we're ever to find solutions.

For some reason Eric's speech, when he talked about the almost epidemic levels of sexual violence in DRC, brought to mind an incident from when I was about 16 or 17. I remember taking the family dog for a walk quite late at night, and seeing at the traffic lights a mini-bus full of drunken men who were obviously on their way back from a rugby match. They had a blow-up doll in the van and were punching her over and over again, in the face. It has always stayed in my mind because of the sheer viciousness and hatred on their faces, and the fact they were all cheering each other on. Obviously it was only an inflatable replica of a naked woman, but you would never for one moment get a group of women behaving in such a way. If they were in possession of a male inflatable, they'd be treating it as an object of ridicule (isn't that what men fear most - women laughing at them?). And yes, I accept women can be violent, but I don't think there's ever that pack mentality, that sheer hatred of someone for no other reason than their gender.

As politicians we can only ever go half-way towards tackling sexual violence if we only look at half the equation, i.e. at the women who are victims. We need to look more closely at men's involvement, at male attitudes and culture and the kind of group mentality which leads to gang rapes or the use of rape as a weapon of war. And to do that, dare I say it - we need men.


Calfy said...

Well said


DO SOMETHING FOR THE VICTIMS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN CONGO: help put pressure on president Kabila, the Congolese government and the Congolese Parliament to take urgent action to compensate victims of sexual violence crimes in East of DR Congo. The petition can be signed at http://www.gopetition.com.au/online/26180.html

spam-me said...

I like the fact that you put quotes around "their money". I've never worked out what the argument was meant to be for public money belonging to taxpayers. It doesn't: it belongs to the government. Some of it comes from taxpayers (although a lot of it doesn't). So what? Does anyone think that the money you give to a shop to pay for something still belongs to you after you've paid and left the shop?

The reason I care about this is that an implication of the whole "taxpayers' money" way of talking is that the taxpayers who pay the most (people rich enough to have a big income but not rich enough to write it all off) should have more say in the way the government's money is spent than the rest of us.

As far as I'm concerned, it's the government's money ... and yes, it's our government, so we should all have a say in how it spends the money, but that's a matter of democracy rather than finance.

Remember Remember said...

So.... what Planet are you from again?

Anonymous said...

they were probably punching it because it's bottom bits had broken.

Don't assume the worst of people!