Five Chinese feminists have been released from a Beijing prison where they were held for 32 days after being arrested for publicly campaigning against sexual harassment and spousal abuse. They were arrested on the grounds of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles”. The group, dubbed by the Chinese media as the “Beijing Five”, is led by Wu Rongrong, the founder and director of Weizhiming Women’s Centre in Hangzhou.
The feminist group has previously taken part in cities across China, including parading in blood-stained wedding dresses in protest of domestic abuse to occupying men’s public restrooms to demand more women’s facilities in Beijing’s central city. The targeting of these women’s demonstrations by Chinese authorities reflects the Chinese Communist Party’s desire to crack down on various forms of protesting and activism.
The women were detained unlawfully for their last two days after the arresting officers failed to follow a legal deadline which states those held longer than 30 days must be given a formal charge. However, their release may have more to do with the fact that some women’s rights groups vowed to boycott the UN women’s summit, held later this year by Chinese President Xi Jinping, if the women were not released. The women’s release appears to simply be a tactical public relations move. All five women are still being investigated and the initial charges haven’t been dropped. Chinese police have completely limited their movements and each woman must continually check in with a bail officer, effectively preventing them from any more protests or public demonstrations.
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This April is international Red My Lips month, a campaign designed to raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual violence while simultaneously combating victim-blaming attitudes within society. The idea of wearing red lipstick throughout April (also Sexual Assault Awareness Month) to give visibility about the realities of sexual assault simultaneously opens up a dialogue to contradict rape myths still prevalent in society. The idea of sexual assault survivors’ sexuality, sexual identity and sexual expression being the cause of their assault is still widely believed today. This is an extremely harmful idea that has endless consequences—victims’ reluctance to come forward out of fear they will be asked “but what were you wearing?”, the idea that the way a woman dresses or acts should influence her safety, and fear to embrace our femininity in case it will be interpreted as “asking for it”.
Red My Lips founder, Danielle Tansino, experienced sexual assault in her late twenties and was shocked by her friends and family members’ reactions. She experienced a whole lot of victim blaming, not just from her peers but also the female district attorney in charge of her case. Tansino was told that “Jurors don’t like girls that drink”. Her personal experience, along with an understanding of the fundamentally flawed society in which these attitudes are cultivated, caused her to start a non-profit organisation that provides solidarity and support for sexual assault survivors.
Five things to do this Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM):
Check out and share Laci Green’s “Consent 101” vlog on YouTube—basically the essential foundation to consent and very useful if you know anyone a little confused as to what consent actually looks like.
Check in with your girls—take five minutes to remind the ladies in your life that you support them and are around for chats.
Volunteer at your local rape crisis centre—Women’s Refuge is always looking for volunteers for their crisis phone lines.
Take five to look at the relationships in your life (not just romantic) and ensure you feel heard, supported and empowered!
- Educate, educate, educate—even if it’s just sharing something you find interesting on your Facebook or RT something that stirred you up, you never know what will strike a chord with someone else.