Editor’s Note: Earlier this year, UN delegates reached an agreement on conservation of marine life on international waters. The agreement, reached after two decades of negotiations, claims it will protect 30 percent of the world’s oceans from biodiversity loss by 2030. It has been hailed as a “breakthrough” by Secretary-General António Guterres. Mainstream environmental organizations have followed suit. These two articles by DGR members question these claims. They explore what the treaty actually says. The article is followed by the invitation to a demonstration against Deep Sea Mining in London on May 3 and 4.
Scrolling through a bright green Facebook page a few weeks ago I saw this headline: “More Than 190 Countries Agree On A Treaty to Protect Marine Life.” Sounds good, but is it really? I wonder if anyone who saw that post actually read and researched the story before reacting to it with likes and hearts and enthusiastic comments.
The article said that The United Nations High Seas Treaty aims to protect 30% of the world’s ocean from biodiversity loss by 2030. My first thought was, why only 30%? My second thought was, There’s got to be something more to this treaty than is being told to us in the article. And there is.
First, let’s look at who is allowed to use ocean resources.
Although the ocean body of water can be used by anyone, the ocean seabed belongs to the coastal state, which is 12 nautical miles from the coast. A nautical mile is a little over a land mile. Each state also has an exclusive economic zone which is 200 nautical miles from its coast. A nation has the right to use the resources in this zone. Beyond the 200 nautical miles is considered international waters — the high seas — which can be used by anyone. The new treaty is supposed to regulate the use of international waters.
Right now, all nations are allowed to lay submarine cables and pipelines along the floor bed of the high seas. That seems destructive enough, but now the UN High Seas Treaty, that is supposed to protect marine life, is going to allow deep sea mining to be exempt from environmental impact assessment (EIA) measures.
Deep sea mining is one of the most destructive activities that can be done to the ocean sea bed. The push for this mining is being driven by an increase in demand for minerals to make so-called renewable energy. More and more of the earth’s land is being mined for these minerals, and the mining industry is now looking to the ocean to continue the destruction.
The land and sea should not be owned by anyone, but as we can see, the most powerful people in this industrial society are just taking what they want. Mining destroys land bases, and now deep sea mining is being added to the destruction of the planet. Whenever governments get together to do something “good,” be very skeptical. It’s usually being done for the good of companies, not the planet.
What they aren’t telling you about the High Seas Treaty
By Julia Barnes
When the High Seas Treaty was announced, conservation groups applauded and social media was abuzz with celebration. The media portrayed it as a long-awaited victory. Commentators claimed that it meant 30% of the ocean would be protected by 2030, that deep sea mining would face strict regulations, and biodiversity would be safeguarded.
The draft text is easily accessible online. It’s a 54-page document, dry and tedious, but clear enough that any lay person should be able to comprehend its meaning.
That is why it is so unforgivable that the treaty has been misrepresented the way it has.
The High Seas Treaty does not guarantee that 30% of the ocean will be protected. It makes no commitment to a percentage, sets no targets. It merely lays out the regulatory framework under which it would be possible to create marine protected areas on the high seas.
When you think of a protected area, you’re likely imagining a place that is off limits to exploitation, where industrial activities are banned.
Under the High Seas Treaty, a protected area is one that is “managed” and “may allow, where appropriate, sustainable use provided it is consistent with the conservation objectives.”
I do not believe that humans possess the wisdom to manage the ocean, nor would we ever be capable of doing a better job than the ocean does itself, with its billions of years of intelligence.
Our track record with managing fisheries should cast serious doubts about our ability to assess sustainability. We must remember that there is no surplus in nature. When something is taken out, even at a rate that is “sustainable,” nutrients are permanently removed from the ecosystem. This cannot happen without consequences.
Even though “protected” might not mean what we expect it to, let’s assume for a moment that an area managed for “sustainable use” is in better shape than one left “unprotected.” Next, we run into the problem of enforcement.
Illegal fishing is rampant, with 40% of fishing boats in the world operating illegally. Marine protected areas are routine victims of poaching. Unless they deploy a navy to patrol the protected areas on the high seas, it is likely these will only be paper parks.
But all this presumes that marine protected areas will, in fact, be created. The process laid out in the treaty makes this quite difficult. With 193 signatory countries, decisions on the creation of marine protected areas are by consensus, and failing that, will require a two-thirds majority vote.
Proposals for new marine protected areas must undergo a review by a scientific and technical body, then consultation with “all relevant stakeholders,” after which the submitting party will be asked to revise the proposal.
Next, there is a 120-day review period. If another party objects to the establishment of a marine protected area within that time frame, the objecting party will be exempted from the marine protected area.
The review period also leaves time for industries to exploit the proposed area before protection is in place. We’ve seen this happen on land when logging companies targeted soon-to-be-protected forests, cutting as many trees as they could before the protection was granted. It’s not hard to imagine something similar taking place on the high seas, with a proposed area being fished intensively during the 120-day period.
What commentators often ignore is that a large portion of the treaty is dedicated to something called “marine genetic resources” and deals with how to share the “benefits” gained from commodifying the genetic material of marine organisms for use in things like pharmaceuticals.
Conservation groups have falsely claimed that the High Seas Treaty puts limits on deep sea mining, when in fact it does not. Deep sea mining is even exempted from environmental impact assessment measures.
The High Seas Treaty may have been a diplomatic feat, but as is often the case when negotiating with so many parties, to achieve agreement, the text ends up watered down and toothless.
This comes as no surprise. What is disheartening is seeing the way news media and NGOs consistently misrepresent the treaty. For a while, the internet exploded with erroneous claims that 30% protection had been achieved, that the ocean had scored a massive victory.
Meanwhile, the deep sea mining industry is gearing up to begin the largest and most destructive project ever imagined on the high seas, and few people have heard of it.
We have an illusion of protection masking a new era of exploitation.
They have been very secretive about the exact location. Which is understandable considering the destructive nature of this profession. But we have found out where it will be held and we need to have an opposition demonstration there. Everyone and anyone in and around London who is against mining the deep sea should come with signs and solidarity. We have set a time and date to show up but feel free to come express your views anytime during the summit. On May 4th at 1pm BST in front of the London Marriott Hotel Canary Wharf 22 Hertsmere Road defend the deep sea!
Species extinction is considered a “likely outcome” of deep sea mining. This new extractive industry threatens not only the fragile seabed, but all levels of the ocean. Mining would produce plumes of sediment wastewater that spread for 100s of kilometers, suffocating the fish who swim throught them.
We have an opportunity to stop this industry before it begins, but we are running out of time. As soon as this July, commercial mining may begin, opening an area of the ocean as wide as North America to exploitation.
We want to show that there is widespread support for a ban on deep sea mining.
We also want to highlight the incredible biodiversity that is threatened, so we are encouraging people to come dressed as their favorite ocean creatures. Don’t let them think your silence means consent.
Editor’s Note: The natural world is dying and time is running out. DGR believes it is necessary to take any action possible to stop the destruction of the natural world. We believe sabotage of key infrastructures are more effective than social movements to bring the industrial civilization (and its death drive) down. In these dire times, we are glad to see increasing adoption of and advocacy for eco-sabotage. Fear that these actions will lead to further hostility from the powerful against the environmental movement are baseless. The powerful (including in UK) are already hostile to the environmental movement and the natural world. Any impact on hostility from the powerful is minimal.However, when it comes to tactics and strategy, context matters. No tactic can be judged as “effective” or “ineffective” in isolation. Goals, assumptions and political circumstances must be considered before selecting methods. As such, we think target selection is critical in evaluating an act of ecosabotage. Pipelines that transport oil are an example of strategic target selection. Windows of organizations linked to fossil fuels are not. Smashing windows or other similar small-scale acts of minor eco-sabotage may be useful for training and propaganda but it does little to challenge the power structure. Minor acts of eco-sabotage may be useful in drawing attention to the issue, by giving media attention to the issue (which is not guaranteed). DGR advocates to move beyond social-political goals and into physical material ones: challenging the power structure that enables destruction of nature through strategic dismantling of global industrial infrastructures.DGR also follows security culture. We maintain a strict firewall between underground action and aboveground organizing. That’s why, as an aboveground organization, we do not engage in any forms of underground action, nor do we know about any underground actions except through information published elsewhere. This article was originally published on opendemocracy.net
By Jack McGovan/Open Democracy UK climate activist group Pipe Busters first broke into the construction site for the Southampton to London Pipeline (SLP) in June. Using an array of carefully selected tools, from bolt cutters to a circular saw, they damaged several sections of uninstalled pipeline and a construction vehicle. This wasn’t a random act: the pipeline’s main function is to supply Heathrow with aviation fuel. “Aviation is a planet killer,” said Pipe Busters in an emailed statement. “Pipe Busters act to halt the expansion of flying that the SLP would make possible.” https://twitter.com/StopTheSLP/status/1539609635002400771 In a year in which heat records were smashed across the globe, a new wave of climate activists seems to have simultaneously begun its own campaign of breaking things. During the summer, Just Stop Oil activists destroyed several petrol pumps on the M25, while This Is Not a Drill smeared black paint on buildings and smashed the windows of organisations linked to fossil fuels. The disruption has continued into the autumn. Last week, Just Stop Oil threw black paint on Altcourse prison in Liverpool, in protest at one of their number being held in custody. On Monday, This Is Not a Drill’s website reported that campaigners had broken the front windows of the Schlumberger Cambridge Research Centre at Cambridge University, to draw attention to the recent disastrous flooding in Pakistan. Outside the UK, the French arm of Extinction Rebellion made the news for filling golf course holes with cement. Another group, the Tyre Extinguishers, have started a crusade against SUVs in urban environments across a number of countries by deflating their tyres. Not that long ago, climate activism made the headlines for school children skipping class to protest, so these more radical tactics seem to mark a turning point.
“I’ve tried all the conventional main means of creating change – I’ve had meetings with my MP, I’ve signed petitions, I’ve participated in public consultations, I’ve organised and taken part in marches,” says Indigo Rumbelow, a Just Stop Oil activist. “The conventional ways of making change are done.” Marion Walker, spokesperson for the Tyre Extinguishers, added: “We want to live in towns and cities with clean air and safe streets. Politely asking and protesting for these things has failed. “The only thing we can do is make it impossible or extremely inconvenient to own [an SUV].” The need for urgent action on the climate is not in doubt. These campaigners are frustrated by what they see as a lack of meaningful steps taken by governments to stem the flow of carbon into the atmosphere. Despite the need to move away from fossil fuels, for instance, the UK government recently opened up a new licensing round for North Sea oil and gas. Andreas Malm, associate professor in human ecology at Lund University in Sweden, made the case for sabotage as a legitimate form of climate activism in his provocative 2021 book ‘How to Blow Up a Pipeline’ – and he seems to have inspired others to follow his lead. Deflating SUV tyres, for example, is something Malm writes about and says he has done in the past. But is breaking stuff – temporarily or otherwise – really an effective form of action for a movement trying to communicate on such a serious issue? “Coordinated, sustained social movements that do destroy property tend to be pretty effective over the long term,” says Benjamin Sovacool, professor in energy policy at Sussex University. Sovacool highlights three global movements – the abolition of slavery, the prohibition of alcohol and the civil rights movement – that used violence, including destroying property, to achieve their goals. “Some work in sociology even suggests that violent social movements are actually more effective than non-violent ones,” he adds. In his own paper, Sovacool cites research from the late 20th century that looked into US social movements, and found that American activists in the 1980s who were willing to use violence were able to reach their objectives more quickly than those who weren’t. He goes on to describe a number of actions that could fall under the umbrella of violence, from destroying property through to assassinations and bombings. Others refer to property destruction as “unarmed violence”, and research suggests movements that adopt this specific style of violent tactic are more successful than others. Movements highlighted as having used unarmed violence include the Chuquisaca Revolution in 1809, and the overthrowing of the military dictatorship in Argentina in 1983. But there isn’t a consensus. Other research looking at similar kinds of movements comes to a different conclusion, indicating that violent tactics are less successful in specific cases, such as those seeking regime change. For any kind of action to have an impact, though, it has to be noticed. German climate movement Letzte Generation, part of the international A22 network that includes Just Stop Oil, sabotaged a number of fuel pipelines across Germany this spring – more than 30 times in total, the group claims. “We asked ourselves, what can we do to really put pressure on the government to give us a reaction towards our demands?” says Lars Werner, who was involved in the action. “We did it publicly – it wasn’t an action that we wanted to hide from.” But despite their enormous logistical efforts, the media coverage was underwhelming. The corporations targeted didn’t react publicly, either. “The government could ignore what we were doing because there wasn’t much attention,” says Werner. Following the action, the group reverted to its old tactics of blocking roads.
Accountability or anonymity?
Indigo Rumbelow is keen to highlight the importance of accountability – showing names and faces – to Just Stop Oil’s activism. Other groups, such as the Tyre Extinguishers, prefer to remain anonymous. “We’re trying to change the narrative around fossil fuels,” says Rumbelow. “We’re not trying to materially stop fossil fuels – we don’t have enough people, resources or power for that. “But by having our face attached to the action and being able to explain, ‘I did this and I believe that I am right because it’s the only right thing to do’ – that’s how we’re going to change the political story,” she says. Choosing to remain anonymous, and not being accountable for your actions, can also be risky. “If you put a mask on, there’s the danger of labelling those people in masks as terrorists,” says Laurence Delina, assistant professor in environment and sustainability at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He adds that this can be taken advantage of by others, such as fossil fuel interests, to demonise activists and undermine their message.
Those on the frontlines of resource extraction, however, don’t have the privilege of being able to decide whether they want to be accountable or not. Many Indigenous communities – such as the Wet’suwet’en, Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, Mapuche and Sioux peoples across the American continent – have used their bodies to obstruct pipelines, as well as logging and mining vehicles, that would otherwise destroy their lands. Some have resorted to arson to protect their way of life. Not only do these communities have fewer options; retaliation is usually more severe too, sometimes deadly. A Guardian investigation revealed in 2019 that Canadian police had discussed using lethal force against Wet’suwet’en activists blocking the construction of a gas pipeline. Last year, Global Witness reported that 277 land and environmental activists were murdered in 2020 for defending their land and the planet. Most of these incidents occurred in the Global South. Despite differences in opinion, there is a consensus among Malm, Walker and Rumbelow that sabotage, if used, would be most successful as part of a broader movement – that it is one tool in a wider arsenal, not the answer in itself. Delina thinks that sabotage is a legitimate tactic, but only in situations where all other avenues of action have been explored, emphasising that he thinks non-violent actions are preferable. Sovacool doesn’t advocate for sabotage, but agrees that a multiplicity of tactics is useful, and that it’s important for us to be able to talk about how successful sabotage has been in the past. “I think each person has to decide on their own threshold for action,” he says.
Featured image: Sabotage of a train in Copenhagen on March 27, 1945 by National Museum of Denmark via Picryl
In November 2019, DGR UK hosted an event in London titled By Any Means Necessary? Diversity of Tactics in the Fight for Life on Earth. The event featured a panel discussion between four long-time environmental and social activists: Lierre Keith, radical feminist activist and writer, co-author of Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet; Simon Be, activist and co-founder of Extinction Rebellionl; Shahidah Janjua, feminist activist, writer and campaigner; and Nikki Clarke, anti-nuclear and anti-fracking activist, co-founder of South West Against Nuclear.
A video of the event is embedded here. Below the video, you can read the written text of the presentation by Shahidah Janjua:
by Shahidah Janjua
I see patriarchy as the overarching system of oppression over all sentient and non-sentient existence on the planet. In every instance any word you can come up with to describe the violence done to women, you can also apply to what is done to the environment, to the planet. The planet is a ‘she’, so you can do what you like to her. ‘Civilisation’ is the name given to a patriarchal, hierarchical and violent system of oppression. It rests on the idea of superiority. It also implies an opposite, ‘uncivilised’. Civilisation divides us on the basis of gender, sexuality, colour, ability, class. The most civilised are male, white, heterosexual, able bodied, and usually rich. The greatest challenge for us all is to become uncivilised. To become idigenised. To become one with our environment and with each other. By which I mean that our knowing, our being, our doing and relating is brought into every aspect of the communities we build. It means building harmonious, respectful, equal and just communities. It involves helping each other to undo the lies Patriarchy has told us. Our languages are filled with falsehoods and reversals.
I learned a great deal from Andrea Dworkin, radical Feminist activist and writer. She saved my life. She named the violence and oppression, male supremacy. She named my constant fear, my hyper vigilance. She broke down the barriers between women. She broke down barriers between women and men. Male violence is not genetic, inherent or inevitable, it is a product of a woman hating society. Misogyny is a blueprint for how power works.
We need a movement which honours everyone, every living entity, a movement which honours women, which acts upon violence done to all humans, to everything. We need a movement which doesn’t tell women to wait our turn, because there are other more pressing concerns. In that waiting too many of us are raped, murdered, disappeared, made slaves, prostituted and dehumanised. This is why women have not made alliances with men, because men have habitually put us last. For there to be a movement of all peoples, men need to look at what ‘civilisation’ has done to you. It has denied you your humanity in every conceivable way, got you to prop up its system of control, violence and oppression. It has terrorised women and made us complicit. We need to dig deep to unlearn these ideas and behaviours.
Mental health is a huge issue for people today. Here we are trying our best to live what are essentially a lot of lies. Is it any wonder we are driven to distraction. Relationships are atomised by patriarchy. The capitalist, patriarchal plan, promotes individualism, keeps us separate from each other, does away with community. Patriarchy makes it very hard for us to name our experiences and make connections with others. It fragments us down to a cellular level. Science, beaks us down, takes each piece of us and creates a specialism out of it. I take a drug to kill lung infection and it destroys my liver. One area of research is severed from another. Big pharma make money out of our illnesses, many of which are caused by them and by other corporations, who pollute and poison us, our environments, our planet.
There is nothing left untouched by patriarchal misnaming and patriarchal violence. Cruelty is manufactured and released into the unsuspecting minds of boys, the men of tomorrow, who have sensitivity, and curiosity. Boys go into porn sites for information on human bodies and sex. They are confronted with images of their future selves as torturers and murderers of women. The women in the pictures, in the videos are real women. Lately boys are shown that choking and strangling are the manly things to do to women, orgasm is their reward. Callous and careless about a being that closely resembles himself, how will a boy respond to any living creature that does not resemble him; the animals, the earth, the forests, the rivers? How will he care about the planet.
Robin Morgan says, and I paraphrase, ‘If I had to name one genius of patriarchy it would be compartmentalisation’. ‘Intellect severed from emotion…. The earth itself divided.
How did we get to this point? We have had little or no history of our own to refer to. We’ve dug out what we can, but we haven’t heard or read it in any systematic, ongoing way. The oppressor writes history. The message patriarchy gives us is that this system, of cruelty, violence, greed, war, money, has always existed, it is natural, it is unchangeable. This is precisely why it disappears or destroys our histories. They would expose the patriarchal lies
I thought democracy meant I had a say in the way society was run, that it was about people making decisions about how we live, that the people we vote for have our interests at heart, our need for shelter, warmth, food, medicine, education. Where everyone is a valued member of the community, cared for and respected. This too is a deeply ingrained patriarchal lie. Democracy was conceived in Greece by people who owned women and slaves. Historically numbers of people have been denied voting rights, because they were the wrong sex, the wrong colour, in prison, without property. Today there are millions of people who are disenfranchised. Voting is a way of co-opting us into an unjust, exploitative, oppressive system. It has harmed us, made us poor, jobless, homeless, cold, hungry and ill. Who has ever voted for that? The liars are powerful and the lie persists.
There had been many waves of women’s activism prior to the so-called first wave. There remain some egalitarian societies in existence today. We are not told about them. There was no mention of the Syrian Kurdish Rojava region, where women and men are striving together to create a just and equal society. This is the community that is being bombed out of existence. The so-called first wave women’s movement started when women protested sexual abuse, violence, rape, prostitution. Men divided that movement, some women were brought into the patriarchal fold and promised the vote, the ability to change laws, to bring women into equal power. Today we have no equal pay, rapists go unpunished, prostitution with all its violence, is seen as a job, women in the UK are murdered at the rate of 3 per week. I see no point in counting the numbers of women in governments, in corporations, in work-places, when these structures are patriarchal. That is not equality, it is co-option.
Some feminists have spent decades trying to change laws, work alongside governments, work in state institutions to bring about change from the inside. We have worked hard and tirelessly. None of it has worked. We have been doing the master’s work. Breaking our backs and our hearts to illustrate how we are hurt in these systems of oppression. We have done the research, named the violence. Created platforms for vulnerable and hurt women to speak out. We have begged and pleaded. We have given the master the language we use, and he has turned it against us. More recently we have witnessed how quickly the laws, the rights, the concessions we have fought so hard for, can be swept away at the stroke of a pen. At the same time there are movements across the world which are using laws to claim what is rightfully theirs. Some are winning. The lessons we have learnt would point to the transitory nature of these gains.
I believe it is absolutely necessary to draw lessons from our past struggles against patriarchy. It is necessary to develop new strategies; to unravel the influence patriarchy has had on our thinking. I believe we need to make connections. Pornography, prostitution, violence against women, rape, are part and parcel of the patriarchal means of control of not only women, but also everything else. Colonialism, capitalism, industrial civilisation are on the same continuum. The subjugation of women is the blueprint for oppression. We cannot continue to fudge this reality, if we are serious about the business of our survival as a species, and if we truly hold to the principles of valuing all life equally.
I believe we need to understand that we cannot ask for justice from a system which is deeply invested in injustice. Our strategies, including civil disobedience, have in time wrought the same long-term realities; that we have been assimilated into the power structures, or had the substance of our challenges subverted in some other way. To quote Audre Lorde, black lesbian, activist, writer, ‘We cannot use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house.’
I believe that we would need to have a multi-pronged strategy of resistance, one arm being the one that informs, educates, promotes understanding, that encourages involvement and activism; that is on the streets, consistently visible. Another arm engaged in developing alternative ways of living, according to local environments and local knowledge. This would mean existing villages, parts of towns, blocks of flats, housing estates, becoming self- managed, with non-hierarchical, non-patriarchal arrangements; working towards taking themselves off the grid. There is one example in the heart of New York. This will be how we build community.
In the process of indigenising, there is everything to be learned from indigenous peoples. From those who have hung on to their histories, language, knowledge, lived in deep connection with their local environments, honouring how it nourishes them and how they can nourish it in return. We need to learn how to live in harmony with our immediate environment, and with the planet.
I have for very many years believed in non-violent action. I have revisited the question from time to time, principally when I thought I could murder traffickers, rapists, pimps, pornographers…. the list goes on. However, I do believe that dismantling the infrastructure ‘industrial civilisation’, is another arm of a necessary strategy towards destroying it. There are many historic and current, mostly hidden, examples of this.
My fear is that unless men look with deep scrutiny at their place in the patriarchal construct of society, how it destroys their humanity, how it fragments them, how it buys them off with the promise of power and control …… these actions become what any other war instigated by the oppressors looks like, a struggle for power, not a struggle to destroy industrial civilisation and to restore balance to the planet.
We are here to find solutions together. There may be many different solutions, depending on where we live, how we live, who we are learning from, who we work with. I do believe that we cannot have a single centre, or centralised power, which tells us what to do and when to do it. At the same time we do all need a shared moral and ethical base, which upholds everything we are fighting for, a genuine deep respect for each other, for the environment, for the planet, a just and fair place, a place of safety.
At this pivotal moment in history, is nonviolent direct action the most effective tactic for bringing about urgent change? Should we continue to expect governments and corporations to listen and act, or has the time for that already passed? What does radical system change actually mean, in the context of the sixth mass extinction? And how can we work together to the same goals even when our tactics differ?
As the climate crisis worsens daily and governments worldwide fail to take meaningful action, it has never been more imperative to discuss all tactics available for resistance. Time is running out and those in power are not listening to mounting calls for radical change.
This panel discussion followed by audience Q&A aims to address the ways in which the environmental movement can rise to the unprecedented challenge facing humanity and all life on earth.
Lierre is a writer, small farmer, and radical feminist activist. She is the author of six books, including The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability, which has been called “the most important ecological book of this generation.” She is coauthor, with Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay, of Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet. She’s also been arrested six times. You can read more about Lierre at www.lierrekeith.com.
Simon describes himself as a gravedigger, celebrant, pagan and a holy troublemaker. He’s committed to breaking the spells that civilisation has built around the myth of human superiority and exploring what it means to do what love requires in the context of dismantling a toxic system that’s devouring our living systems. He co-founded both Rising Up! and Extinction Rebellion and has been active with Earth First and other organisations.
Shahidah has been a feminist activist, writer and campaigner for 35 years, campaigning against pornography, prostitution, violence against women and trafficking in women and children. She has been active with feminist organisations including Justice For Women and the Rape Crisis Federation, and she is a founding member of the Women Into Politics project in the North of Ireland and a Refuge for Asian Women (Ashiana) in Sheffield. A writer and poet, her latest book of poetry, ‘Dimensions’, was published in Ireland in 2015. You can find out more about Shahida at www.sjanjua.net.
Nikki has been an active anti-nuclear activist for nearly 20 years, and she is the co-founder of South West Against Nuclear, a direct-action based campaign that has had a specific focus on Hinkley over the last ten years. She has been arrested for non-violent protests on numerous occasions and has had several court cases for her actions against nuclear weapons, nuclear power and fracking in the UK. She gives talks and workshops across the UK about the impacts of radiation on health, and the health of women in particular, as well as nuclear policy.
After short presentations by all speakers on the panel, the floor will be open to audience questions to generate debate and discuss action-focused outcomes. We hope you can join us and be part of the conversation.
Ticket sales are to cover costs. Prices are set on a sliding scale: Concession, General and Solidarity – use the Eventbrite ticket link below to purchase. A limited number of free tickets are available for those unable to pay. Please message the organiser if you need to request a free ticket.
Sexual harassment is a persistent and dangerous problem on Britain’s streets, women’s charities have warned, as a poll reveals that more than four in 10 young women were sexually harassed in the capital over the last year.
A YouGov survey of 1,047 Londoners commissioned by End Violence Against Women Coalition (Evaw) found that 43% of women aged between 18 and 34 had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces in the last year.
Despite a growing intolerance of unwanted sexual attention, harassment was still very common and made women feel unsafe particularly when travelling alone, said Holly Dustin, director of Evaw.
“Sexual harassment is so ingrained that we barely notice it, but when you start talking to women almost every one has a horrible story to tell: it’s time for society to stand up and put a stop to it.”
Schoolchildren as young as 12 were being targeted, she said, with previous research for the group revealing that one in three girls in UK schools had experienced unwanted sexual contact.
Dismissing sexual harassment – from unwanted comments on the street about appearance to groping – as “harmless fun” or complimentary was dangerous, she added.
“Sexual harassment has a real impact on women’s lives, whether it is changing their behaviour or whether they feel safe on the streets,” she said.
“It feeds into a fear of rape and sexual violence and has a harmful effect on broader issues of equality.”
The poll also found 31% of women aged 18 to 24 experienced unwanted sexual attention on public transport and 21% of 25- to 34-year-olds. Overall, 5% of the women surveyed had experienced unwanted sexual contact on public transport.
Fiona Elvines, of South London Rape Crisis, said it was rare to meet a woman who had not suffered street harassment. “Women manage this harassment every day, in their routines and daily decisions – but it has an impact on their self-esteem and body image,” she said. “Women are saying that there are consequences to this, and it’s time to start listening to them.”
In a recent case, Lee Read, 23, was jailed for 28 months after groping four women and an 11-year-old girl. He put his coat over his lap before grabbing women’s legs. In the most serious attack, he grabbed the leg of a woman in her early 20s on the London underground, before forcibly grabbing her between the legs.
Campaigners say women globally are increasingly challenging unwanted sexual attention, using social media to bring harassers to account. Vicky Simister, the founding director of Ash – the UK Anti Street Harassment Campaign, said the issue was not restricted to London and called for a national survey. Authorities could take steps to make a significant difference to women’s safety, she added.
“Local councils and the police need to convey a strong message that this behaviour will not be tolerated by perpetrators. A good example was the ‘Flirt/Harass: Real Men Know the Difference’ poster campaign by Lambeth council in partnership with the Metropolitan police, which conveyed a no-tolerance message.”
Hollaback – a website where women who have received unwanted sexual attention or harassment can share stories or photographs of their harassers – has activists in 50 cities in 17 countries around the world.
“Whether it is unwanted sleazy comments or violent sexual assault, street harassment is an epidemic in London,” said Byrony Beynon, a co-director of Hollaback London. “But there is definitely a groundswell of people saying this is not on, it is not acceptable. Women are taking back the power they felt was taken away from them in that moment of harassment.”
The organisations are calling for a public awareness campaign on transport networks, similar to signs that discourage passengers from eating smelly food or putting feet on seats. “We are asking for training for transport staff to help them deal with these incidents and serious police intervention when it is needed,” said Dustin of Evaw. “But we are also asking for the wider community to recognise this is not acceptable and speak out against it when they see it happening.”