The Cypriot media went wild over the emergence of a video showing the abuse of a domestic worker. Even those news sites with the obscene headlines that tend to normalise violence against women and turn migrants into subhumans, were selling ‘concern’. It is the image and the sound that both sell. Without image and sound, there is no crime committed.
After the spree of murders of seven foreign women, a year and three months later, we were reminded that among us there are women who are highly vulnerable to violence. We were reminded that, perhaps, the lives of migrant women in Cyprus are not so great.
Seven murders of migrant women did not suffice to mobilise the executive and judicial authorities of this state to re-examine the employment regime of domestic workers, a regime that conspires with state-enabled and state-sanctioned trafficking that constitutes a danger to such workers, stripped off of their employment and individual rights and, mostly, without access to justice.
The huge gap in governmental jurisdiction and the absence of public social provisions for all caused by the dismantling of the welfare state and burdened by the absence of social care structures, assigned a new role to the neoliberal state, a flexible supplier of slave women of colour in the market accompanied by a poor legal framework of residence and employment terms, which assures the permanent precarious status of these women as well as the immunity of their employers.
We, as the Network Against Violence Towards Women, were not shocked. We are outraged and angry. We finger-point at those of you who always try to come up with excuses and alibis for every male chauvinist. We finger-point at the state and every department and authority involved in handling violence against women, which develop action plans that remain only on paper.
Proposed legislation remains closeted at the Law Office of the Republic. State budgets are well balanced after the “necessary expenditure” for undersecretaries, special advisors, limousines and business trips has been added up, and after you eliminate, as unnecessary and redundant, the budgeting for victim support structures, awareness campaigns, programmes for reintegration and support of victims. We get it. It’s crystal clear. Implementing the Istanbul Convention costs.
We finger-point at you because you have proved unable to conceive of the problem in its full dimensions and to take effective and radical measures in combating it.
We finger-point at you for preserving the patriarchal structures in each and every department and aspect of governance. The only thing you state employees were trained for is to draft reports.
We finger-point at you for your neoliberal and “rational” approach of social budgeting – funding for social problems and needs is decided on the basis of cost effectiveness and approved or rejected accordingly.
We finger-point at you because we are sick and tired of reading your ‘findings’ on killings and suicides and your so-called investigation reports. It is your attitude and inaction that exacerbates the number of victims. You, the state, abet the crimes.
We finger-point at your courts, at your Judges with their selective “austerity” and their flexible clemency. Those same judges that only need a simple accusation of petty theft to put in jail a female migrant, while they let free on bail those who are well-connected.
As a Network, we are called forth to cover the social abandonment caused by your incompetence. State inadequacy pegs the need for support networks. But we are not going to operate as your risk-containment brigade. We are here to demand that you take up responsibility. We will be the voice of those who cannot utter a voice. Our voice today rises up angry.
Υου call it – like any other social problem – a ‘social scourge’. We call it political incompetence. We will continue to call it so. We call it criminal negligence. We call it neoliberal politics. Violence against women is class-based. It is rooted in poverty. It thrives on economic dependency. We voice it with all the vigour of our souls: violence against women is not a case of perpetrator against victim; it is state against victim.
The victim has to reckon with the state. A system whose structures and regulations support, rationalise and exonerate the perpetrator. The burden of the “law of proof’ lies upon the victim. A victim whose account, through misogynistic framing – and often because of the migrant precarity – is emptied of their reliability. The state as well as society are the punitive guardians of the patriarchy, looming over the one that speaks out.
Network Against Violence Towards Women