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Pandemic of violence against women not down to Covid-19

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Moments of crisis, such as this pandemic, are often viewed as periodic interruptions to an otherwise normal landscape. And what occurs during these supposed blips are often attributed a status specific to these disruptive events.

Except we know from other crises that this is not reflective of reality. I have spent many years working in global crises caused by armed conflicts, often viewed as momentary, albeit violently devastating events, after which societies are expected to “go back to normal”.

I have seen first hand that while women experience increased levels of gendered violence as a result of such crises, that violence only appears and has meaningful effect because of the normalised ways women were subjected to violence and discrimination prior to that crisis.

It is becoming more and more clear how our pre-crisis normal endures as well as influences the current crisis we are in, starkly evident when viewed through the lens of gender, racial and wider inequalities: an Ipsos survey found that women are suffering more anxiety and insomnia than men due to increased pressures of work, family and care; in the UK, black women are 4.3 times more likely than white women to die with Covid-19; Sarah Everard is murdered as she makes her way home; murders of women in Northern Ireland and Scotland are reported within days of each other last week; Women’s Aid experiences a 41 per cent increase in calls since lockdown, while their recent research shows that young women are experiencing a surge in image-based and online sexual abuse since March last year.

A virus in and of itself does not discriminate. People, systems and institutions do. The disparities reflect what happens when a contagious virus arrives on to political, economic, social, religious and cultural systems that are built on, infused by and reliant for their sustenance and profit on gender, racial, economic and broader structural inequalities. These inequalities determine how this crisis plays out in the same way that they determine women’s particular susceptibility to men’s violence.

‘Rare’ events?

I have a growing concern that the current heightened visibility of inequalities and of violence towards women, which the UN estimates to have increased globally, will be put down to the “exceptional” circumstances of this pandemic. There has been a common thread among the reporting of the murder of women over the past few weeks: that these events are rare and exceptional. Indeed, this is an important observation. Women’s organisations have worked hard for decades to bring into view a clear-eyed understanding that women most commonly experience violence from men known to them.

However, attribution of exceptionalism here is not just erroneous, but also serves to occlude that which we do not wish to see, admit or do anything about. Putting such events into context matters.

In Ireland, we all know the names of women such as Josephine Dollard, Deirdre Jacobs and many others who have disappeared. We know of Kate Mulhern, who in 2019, aged 17, fought off would-be abductors in Meath. We have also recently read the deluge of social media posts in response to Sarah Everard’s murder, where women have described the multitudes of narrow escapes when followed, harassed on the street or public transport, or locked into taxis. Those incidents don’t get counted in the exceptional “kidnapped and murdered” box, or indeed any other box. Coercive control is increasingly evident as a feature in many women’s relationships, as they are isolated from family members, some locked into their homes all day – held by their captor. We have listened, aghast, to the podcast Where Is George Gibney?, where many girls were held in locker rooms and bathrooms, taken to hotel rooms and driven in cars, for the purposes of sexual abuse. The UN estimates that 137 women are killed by a partner or family member every day.

Taken all together, it paints quite the picture. To present it in any other way, or to frame specific incidents or what we are seeing in this pandemic as existing outside of this very real context, takes away from the reality of the continuum of violence in women’s lives in the home, on the streets, in work and in social places and the spaces in between, such as when simply moving from one place to the next, as Sarah Everard was.

Feeling unsafe

Research by Transport Infrastructure Ireland shows that large numbers of women feel unsafe using public transport, cycling or walking alone, and 55 per cent say they would not use public transport after dark. The research tellingly finds that women themselves feel “heavily responsible” for their own safety.

If before the pandemic this was the context of women’s lives – and according to the UN, one in three women globally experience violence in their relationships – what do we expect to see other than continuing, if not increased levels, of that violence, particularly when response measures do not place the omnipresent violence in women’s lives at their core? And if we are seeing increased reporting of gendered violence during this pandemic, what do we think is going to happen after we emerge from it? That it will simply go away?

In the aftermath of the armed conflicts that I have worked in, many women’s rights activists expose the fallacy that a return to normal post-crisis brings us back to a place of peace. That place that we return to is not after all a peaceful one for women. How can it be, when it will not only reflect the realities of pre-crisis violence outlined but will also now be influenced by the increases in violence that result from the crisis.

Do I want to “go back to normal” – to return to that place before the pandemic? No. In that normal place we live, as women, with an everyday in which we have to think, plan, do the emotional, practical and psychological work of reducing our risk of exposure to men’s violence. I want to move forward to a place where it’s not women’s responsibility to do that.

The real question for us as we sit out the lockdown is how can we recalibrate our normal so that it is transformed to embrace the possibility of real change to the gender, racial and broad-ranging inequalities that create and exacerbate very normalised harms in all of our lives and in some people’s lives in particular ways.

Aisling Swaine is professor of gender studies at University College Dublin. She was named by A-Political as one the world’s 100 most influential people in gender policy 2021


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HSE staff should receive bonus for work during pandemic, says Donnelly

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All Health Service Executive (HSE) staff, including those working in administrative roles, should get a financial bonus for the work done during the Covid-19 pandemic, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said.

“I want to see something done, yes, I absolutely really do. I think our healthcare teams have been incredible. We are still fighting the fight, but I definitely want to see some form of recognition for the extraordinary work that they have all put in,” he said.

Speaking after a visit to the HSE’s Limerick Covid-19 vaccination centre at Limerick Racecourse, Patrickswell, Mr Donnelly said: “We need to listen to the frustrations that they have.

“We do need to acknowledge that for nurses, doctors, allied health professionals, administrators – for everyone who has worked in the HSE over the last year and a half – that they’ve had an incredibly difficult time.

“I think they represent the very best of us and they have stepped up to the plate,” he said. “When the rest of us were told to stay at home to keep ourselves safe, they went into the hospitals, and into the Limerick hospital to keep other people safe, and we need to recognise that.”

The arrival of the Delta variant has been delayed by the use of some of the “strongest” lockdown measures in the European Union, but foreign travel now is adding to case numbers.

“We are seeing spikes in some parts of the country. There are cases linked to [international] travel, we know that. Most of the cases we are tracking are Irish people going abroad and coming home,” he said.

Advice

Some people travelled without a vaccination, or before their vaccinations had time to work. “They shouldn’t have done that. Some of them have come back and they have contracted Covid, but we will take care of them, we’ll make sure they get the care they need,” he said.

In “certain cases”, people have received a second dose of vaccine within 17 days of their first jab, as opposed to the previous advice of four weeks, and this may happen more generally, he said.

A HSE spokeswoman later said “For operational reasons and due to the pace of the rollout we are in a position to offer the second dose after 17 days in some cases. Second doses within this widow are clinically safe and effective.”

On the vaccination programme, the Minister said: “There aren’t that many people who would have thought just a few months ago that, in July, we would be vaccinating 16-year-olds.”

There will be no immediate change to rules around attendance at funerals, Masses, Confirmations or Communions, while the closure of indoor summer camps is being kept under review.

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Covid-19: More than half of Austrians now fully vaccinated

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With 53,386 vaccinations carried out on Thursday, Austria cross the 50 percent mark for total vaccinations. 

This means that 4,479,543 people are completely vaccinated against Covid-19 in Austria as at Thursday evening, July 29th. 

A further nine percent of the population have received one vaccination, bringing the total percentage of people who have had at least one shot to 58.9 percent or (5.2 million people). 

UPDATED: How can I get vaccinated for Covid-19 in Austria?

The Austrian government has welcomed the news. 

“More than half of the total population is now very well protected against the coronavirus and thus the highly contagious Delta variant thanks to the full immunisation,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein said on Thursday afternoon. 

Burgenland has the highest percentage of vaccinated people with 66.1 percent, followed by Carinthia (55.7 percent) and Salzburg (55.2 percent). 

The lowest percentage is in Upper Austria, where 54.9 percent of the population is vaccinated. 

Kleinmürbisch in the Güssing district has the highest percentage of vaccinated people in Austria, with just under 80 percent of people vaccinated. 

The village however only has 230 residents. 

“But we are still a long way from reaching our destination,” warned the minister. 

Around one quarter of the Austrian population has indicated a reluctance to be vaccinated, with around 15 percent saying they will refuse the vaccination. 



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6 Amusing Historic Stereotypes of Major Russian Cities

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About the authorFor lovers of Russian culture, folklore, and history, Kotar’s work is a treasure. The grandson of White Russian immigrants, the 34-year-old is an author of epic fantasy novels inspired by Russian fairy tales. You can see his four books here on Amazon.

He is also a deacon of the Russian Orthodox Church, a professional translator, and choir director at the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, where he lives. Here is his bio from his blog, where he writes about many aspects of Russia. We highly recommend following it and subscribing to his email list to get exclusive material.

He has an excellent Pinterest page, and you can follow him on Facebook. Here is an archive of his work published on Russia Insider.

He is currently running a remarkably successful crowdfunding on Kickstarter to be able to publish his upcoming novels. Please support him if you can!


Stereotypes are a funny thing. On the one hand, they’re often no more than caricatures. On the other hand, there’s a surprising amount of bitter truth to some of them. Like the Russians say with their morbid humor, “In every joke, there’s a bit of a joke.”

This is especially interesting when we consider old Rus. We don’t have much to go on, historically speaking, other than chronicles, treaties, and a few bits of birch bark.

However, Russians have preserved some interesting stereotypes about the inhabitants of old Russian cities. Whether there’s any truth to them or not is almost beside the point. They’re fascinating, revealing a window to a world long gone, yet still persisting in the habits and personalities of today’s Russians. (Here’s the original Russian article that I translated)

EVERYONE IN GREAT NOVGOROD IS A REBEL

Novgorod’s rebelliousness is legendary. The image of a brawling Novgorodian is almost a calling card of the city. The reason this stereotype came about has to do with the old chronicles. They were filled with illustrations of the constant arguments at the Novgorodian Veche, a kind of popular assembly that met in the central square. (See my translation of “Martha the Mayoress” for a vivid fictionalized example).

Of course, there were arguments and even fights during the Veche. However, they did not constantly devolve into fist-fights, as the legends suggest. Naturally, the chroniclers would choose the most vivid and bloody examples from history to illustrate their point. After all, Novgorod was often an opponent of Kiev and, later, Moscow. But in actual fact, the inhabitants of Great Novgorod were fiercely loyal to their government and loved their city. Compromise was the order of the day, not broken heads. Plus, they were more than usually literate.

EVERYONE IN PSKOV IS A THIEF OR A MORON

Even in modern times, Pskovians have had to endure countless jokes about their crudeness, stupidity, and their lack of good manners. This may or may not be true. As for their lack of manners, that is entirely a matter of hats. The inhabitants of Pskov, no matter what their social standing, hardly ever doffed their cap before anyone (which is extremely bad form in old Rus). However, this wasn’t crudity or bad breeding.

It used to be that a hat symbolized one’s personal dignity. In Pskov in particular, to actually take off your hat meant to be shamed. It may be a bastardization of the more generally accepted rule that if someone else took your hat off your headthat was a terrible insult.

EVERYONE IN NIZHNI NOVGOROD IS A DRUNKARD

The painful topic of Russian alcoholism became especially relevant in Nizhni Novgorod at the end of the 17th century. A kind of epidemic of alcoholism rose up, and it was normal to see women as well as men lying in the streets in a drunken stupor. Foreign travelers recounted after their visits to Nizhni Novgorod that “Russians don’t do anything but feast.”

Of course, they did more than feast. But on holidays, Russians have always allowed themselves some excesses. It’s not entirely fair to single out Nizhni Novgorod, when alcoholism still is the gravest problem facing Russia today, as in olden times.

EVERYONE IN VLADIMIR IS A CRIMINAL

This stereotype appeared very early. It’s easy to understand. Vladimir itself had five prisons, including the famous “Vladimir Central Prison.” From the beginning, Vladimirians have been considered con artists who like a dangerous life. It didn’t help that the path to Siberia for exiled convicts went through Vladimir. It was even called the “Vladimirka.”

Exiled convicts stopped in Vladimir to have half their heads shaved (a scene vividly recounted in the excellent Russian film The Siberian Barber). Then they’d be branded as exiles or thieves, clapped in irons, and set upon the road to Siberia. In old times, the path could take as long as two years, and those two years were not counted as part of their allotted time.

Vladimir itself, for all that, was a typical enough provincial town.

EVERYONE IN ROSTOV IS AN ARTISAN

When a Russian hears the word “finift’” (enameling), he immediately thinks of Rostov. Nothing could change the old stereotype that every inhabitant of ancient Rostov worked in the enameling guild. That’s complete nonsense, of course. First of all, the best enamellists in old Rus were as a rule in Kiev, the capital city. There were also some famous artisans in Pskov, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, and Great Novgorod.

The only difference is that Rostov alone has preserved the traditional techniques of enameling since ancient times. Even today, there is a factory producing enameled work. Perhaps for this reason alone, tourists still visit Rostov exclusively to see enameled boxes.

THE INDUSTRIOUS YARSOLAVIAN

The industrious muzhik from Yaroslavl is an image that we even find in Gogol. From the times of Rus, Yaroslavians were known as people who were never apathetic, lazy, or prone to tiredness. Instead, they’re known to be active to a manic degree. This may have something to do with the odd tradition that Yaroslav is a city of buried treasure.

Apparently, wherever you turn, you see someone uncovering a jewelry box or trying to break into an ancient chest of drawers. Perhaps a little more seriously, Yaroslavians have long been known as “chicks of the cuckoo.” In other words, they’re more than usually capable of leaving their homeland without much regret. This quality has a clear historical origin.

Yaroslav was built on the crossroads of ancient roads—a path used by merchants from Scandinavia all the way to the Arab lands. From the middle of the 16th century, Yarsolavl became the most important center for trade in all of Rus. This constant movement often inspired young Yaroslavians to try out their luck in foreign lands.

True or not, such stereotypes make for fascinating stories. For myself, the “myth” of the boisterous Novgorodian comes to life in my third novel, The Heart of the World, in a semi-fictionalized setting of the Veche that goes fabulously wrong for all concerned.


Source: Nicholas Kotar

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