Mar 24, 2013

Remembering the Stateless Women

Writing this post on the International Women’s Day, I thought of speaking about stateless women. I feel obligated to make the disclaimer that those ‘international days’ are indeed problematic to practice as they further ‘other’ all those ‘celebrated’ groups. In other words: Why would we discuss women issues and celebrate their struggle, if we do so every day?

Those days highlight the irony of our realities in relation to gender issues. However, I will use this ‘ritual day’ to speak of stateless women. By stateless women, I do not only mean women I grew up around as a stateless person from Kuwait, but also other stateless women around the world. This includes Kurdish and Palestinian women in the region, and also women in refugee camps around the world.
Around the Arab world, the middle class women leading women rights movements are still obsessed with integrating themselves into the body of citizenhood. Considering how most of women rights movements started with fighting for voting rights, women issues have been centered on the system and regulations.
A couple of days ago, American women celebrated the Violence Against Women Act, but none of them bothered to bring undocumented women into the conversation. Supposedly, this renewed law will help more women of color (note: this is another way to say the US is protecting women of color against their ‘violent’ men, confirming social stereotypes) but the VAWA can help no undocumented women immigrants. After all, immigrants are referred to as ‘aliens’ and the undocumented ones are just ‘illegal aliens.’
This is to say that undocumented women face double-discrimination. Detention centers in the US detain, sexually assault, and deport hundreds of immigrant women on a regular basis. Citizen-Women are not interested in bringing those stateless women in the conversation. Those women are not only ‘not human enough,’ but also ‘not woman enough.’
If white women are the ‘most women’ followed by women of color who are citizens, we can guess where stateless women in non-western countries are placed on this scale. Just as ‘our men’ expect us to wait until they solve our national crises before starting to discuss gender issues, the same logic is forced inside stateless communities.
Stateless women are not welcomed, invited, or given any space to speak up. They are only referred to as those women who suffer for their families in silence. They are continuously placed at the bottom of any scale and objectified either by males or by patriarchal humanitarian logic.
Due to the lack of many factors, stateless women do not know how to orient their voices. Many of them would, with good intentions, think they can belong with other women. In reality, citizen-women can be as much of oppressors to stateless women as the rest of society.
In Kuwait, the women’s movement during the past few decades has been led by the bourgeois. They come from the same class that discriminate against other Kuwaitis, migrant workers, and stateless. Those women hold the same prejudices as their men. None of those women bothered to speak of the issue of stateless women. Once again, I say, to them, we are not ‘women enough.’
Only few Kuwaiti women formed an exception with their awareness of racial discrimination in the country. In other words, they were not the regular bourgeois women sipping tea, shopping in London, and believing that political rights and representation lead to gender equality. The racist ones think of women as some sort of a club to be joined by a selected some.
If this international day can be used wisely, then it should not be about the fake state-celebrations and statistics-sharing. It should be another opportunity to look around and see who the silenced, displaced, violated women are and how they can start their own conversation.

1 comment:

  1. Years gone by and nothing change, just more disappointment and desperation.

    By: hopless stateless