Stand with Grace Victory: Supreme Court decision affirms mother’s right to pass family name to children!

For Immediate Release
March 24, 2014
Contact: Ivy Quicho, AF3IRM LA
af3irm@af3irm.org | 951-333-4306

NATIONAL– AF3IRM and supporters of the Stand with Grace Coalition celebrate another win, as Grande’s right to pass her last name to her children is preserved. On March 5, 2014 the Philippine Supreme Court ruled that the, “Respondent’s [Antonio’s] position that the court can order the minors to use his surname […] has no legal basis.” Grande’s two sons are no longer forcibly subjected to take on Congressman Patrick Antonio’s surname.

“This is a historic decision that sets precedent for both mother and child,” said Jollene Levid, National AF3IRM Chairperson, “It reinforces that children are not property to be pawns in quests for profit and power. Most importantly, this decision challenges patriarchal familial lineage and preserves the mother’s right to pass on her family name to her children.”

Antonio never acknowledged the boys, now ages 14 and 16, from birth. The court document explains that, “the children were not expressly recognized by respondent [Antonio] as his own in the Record of Births of the children in the Civil Registry.” Levid stated that, “It was not until after Grande left the country that Antonio attempted to claim his two sons whom he saw only as extensions of his warlord dynasty and a means to dominate their mother.”

The two boys submitted letters expressing their desire not to take the surname of their warlord father. They spoke of his absence from their lives and the hurt he has caused them, even stating that they “don’t want a name of a man who hurts people,” and asked the question, “why would I want my last name to be changed to Antonio if he doesn’t even care about me?” The years of abandonment and denial certainly weighed heavily on the children’s desires to be free of their father’s last name.

Antonio even attempted to argue that Grande was “unfit” to serve as the children’s mother, which was proved invalid in the Supreme Court decision- “the rule regarding the use of a child’s surname is second only to the rule requiring that the child be placed in the best possible situation considering his circumstances.”

“I am overfilled with joy and appreciation. Thank you to AF3IRM and the rest of the coalition for continuing to stand by our side. I hope that this decision can help other women in similar situations,” said the Grace Grande.

“The Stand with Grace Coalition thus far has been able to compel both the U.S. and Philippine government to drop the erroneous extradition charge against Grande, support Grace in obtaining full, sole custody of her children, assert the right of her two children to stay in the U.S. through the DREAM act, win over $1 million in retroactive child support, and preserve the right of a mother to pass on her family name. This is what can be accomplished when a woman is determined and has the support of her community,” said AF3IRM LA Chapter Co-Coordinator Gayle Palma.

Grace Grande, with her two sons, had fled a life as a concubine of Philippine Congressman Patrick Antonio. When she came to the U.S., Antonio was able to stalk Grande and her family across borders and tamper with her immigration status. The congressman attempted to extradite Grande back to the Philippines on the basis of an alleged theft charge by an employee of his, but lost the case as Grande’s lawyers, AF3IRM, and the Stand with Grace Coalition stood firm and resolute against him. Grande’s lawyer in the Philippines will be traveling to the Regional Trial Court in Aparri, Cagayan to finalize the surname of the children’s choosing. Grande continues to fight for asylum so that she and her two sons may live a life free from abuse.

As International Women’s Month comes to a close, AF3IRM calls on all to celebrate this victory for women everywhere who have survived economic, physical, and sexual abuse, and for the rights of their children. Let us continue to organize against the systems that breed such violence and corruption. Onward to true women’s liberation and the liberation of humanity!
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AF3IRM LA’s Statement Supporting the Comfort Women Statue in Glendale, CA

Presented March 8th, 2014 in Glendale, CA  at the International Women’s Day Comfort Women Press Conference organized by the Korean American Forum of America

AF3IRM is an anti-imperialist transnational feminist organization and we stand firmly with you all today in demanding a formal apology from the Japanese Government to the comfort women and to oppose the recent lawsuit against the City of Glendale that seeks removal of the comfort woman statue.

We stand here today on March 8th, especially, for International Women’s Day – which began as International Working Women’s Day, in recognition of the women workers in New York City who marched and picketed to demand better working conditions back in 1857, and of those women garment workers who led protests on the same day in 1908. We stand here today as women, as women of color, as transnational women, and in the same spirit of protest and resistance to combat this deliberate erasure of women’s history, the neglect for women’s lives, and to continue the fight for our collective survival.

For 15 years, we have waged the Purple Rose Campaign against the trafficking of women and children and this past year, we have evolved and expanded the Purple Rose Campaign into a nationally-coordinated campaign against sexual violence towards and the commodification of transnational/women of color. We know that today women of color are the majority of sex trafficking victims in this country. Women of color worldwide are the ones who comprise the majority of those sold in the mail-order-bride system, who are the commodities offered up in brothel houses around US military bases in and out of this country, and who are the goods offered for sexual violation in prostitution.

We continue the fight in the Purple Rose Campaign because we know that the commodification of and sexual violence towards women today are repeats and continuations of the past. Women’s bodies have been used over and over again as the battleground for militarization and imperialism, with rape and forced prostitution constantly emerging in war and in the wake of conflict.  Indeed, the commodification and fetishization of women’s bodies has a long history – and we remember our collective histories and the over 500 years of colonization and imperialism that have oppressed transnational and women of color and claimed their bodies for pleasure, control, and profit.  We remember the women from Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and other countries who were forced to become comfort women and who have been subjected to the colonization of their bodies for the profit of imperialism. We remember these women, their stories and their struggles. The sexual violence and abuse inflicted upon them was and is still unacceptable. For decades the comfort women survivors have asked for recognition, yet have been denied. The violations committed against these women have left scars on their bodies, their souls, and their lives and these attacks by the Japanese government on their experiences and their truths only works to dehumanize, invalidate and violate them once again. These women are relevant in our communities and in the women’s movement and are sheroes in our eyes. They can no longer continue to be marginalized or ignored and we will not let their stories be erased from history.

We stand together in unity and solidarity to honor the victims of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery during the 1930s and WWII. We stand by the remaining survivors and demand full acknowledgement, a formal apology, and just compensation. We reject the Japanese government’s objections to honoring these women. We reject their need to question the validity of these women’s stories – they cannot water down the record of their war crimes! We reject their request for the statue’s removal!

We stand firm with the comfort women and those who work to honor them. This is an attack on not only the comfort women- but on ALL women, our bodies, our lives, and our histories. We women will not be silenced. We will not be erased.

The women united will never be defeated!

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– Gayle Palma, Los Angeles co-Coordinator

 

AF3IRM San Diego’s Statement Against State Sanctioned Sexual Assault

Presented March 7, 2014 at: IV EXPOSICION INTERNACIONAL “MUJERES DE AYER, HOY Y SIEMPRE” 2014 at the  Centro Cultural de la Raza

My name is Cathy Mendonca  and I am speaking to you today as a member of AF3IRM San Diego; a transnational feminist organization,  as a frontline worker in both crisis hotline calls and serving womyn in a safety house, as an advocate against law enforcement terror and also as a survivor of police sexual assault.

Unlike most advocates working in the domestic and sexual violence response field, I see police not as an ally, but as an additional threat to the safety of identified womyn; a uniformed perpetrator committing legalized assault in society.

Recently in San Diego, nearly a dozen womyn came forward from 2011 to today who were preyed upon by these uniformed perpetrators on duty. This year, a series of sexually suggestive posters shaming those very victims hung in the San Diego Police Department’s sex crimes unit since the first former officer, Arevalos, now serving an eight year sentence for molesting female drivers during traffic stops in the Gaslamp quarter from 2009 to 2011. Since then, more victims have come forward testifying other police officers have committed the same misconduct.

The personal is political and my dissenting voice stands before you tonight.

I am speaking here today for the many womyn silenced by the fear of this institutionalized violence of law enforcement sexual assault, VICTIM shaming and all other forms retaliation and misconduct in across every city in the world. We in af3irm, as transnational womyn, are ALL too familiar with police and military sexual violence as it has been integral weapon of genocide and colonialism in the Americas. Militarization of law enforcement has also increased exponentially under globalization. While I, as a womyn, experienced sexual assault at the hands of a West LA police officer, another indigenous womyn in mexico is sexually violated by military personnel. While our sisters here in San Diego are being molested at gaslamp street stops, we must not forget that across the ocean, kuwaiti prison guards are coercing filipino womyn workers with the chance to go home in exchange for virtual sexual slavery. While our sisters here in San Diego are being sexually assaulted by police officers, hundreds of womyn have been raped by US military in Ecuador.

“The central role of any branch of law enforcement in the prison-industrial complex is representing the front lines of the criminal INjustice system.  Their primary responsibility is determining who will be targeted for heightened surveillance and policing, enforcing systemic oppressions based on race, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, class and ability,-feeding people into the prison-industrial complex.

Unfortunately mainstream responses to violence against womyn have relied almost exclusively on the police to protect us from violence, when in fact, police not only often fail to protect womyn of color and trans folks of color from interpersonal and community violence, they often perpetrate further violence against us, including when responding to calls for help.”

An abusive officer’s authority in society bolsters and reinforces his sense of entitlement within his personal relationships and to another person’s own autonomy. His very presence is a symbol of authority with impunity. Sexual misconduct includes sexual harassment as well as acts of sexual assault or molestation. In a 2010 report, police sexual misconduct is the second most common form of misconduct reported, with 517 officers involved in sexual misconduct complaints during that period, 297 of complaints involved non-consensual sexual activity such as sexual assault or sexual battery. Unfortunately, this is only the reported data. Much of the publicly available information about rape and sexual assault of womyn by law enforcement agents concerns cases in which criminal charges were brought against the abusers — creating the false impression that what cases exist are effectively handled through the criminal injustice system. Yet these cases represent merely the tip of the iceberg. Even in cases where they are reported, like here in San Diego, officers are rarely prosecuted, and if they are, they are often acquitted or plead to a lesser charges and stay on the force.

Sexual misconduct presents itself in  abusive and overly intrusive searches – a form systemic state-sanctioned sexual assault masked as procedure. Visual body cavity searches – often performed on womyn and trans people of color profiled or perceived to be concealing drugs. As described by a federal court of appeals, as “demeaning, dehumanizing, undignified, humiliating, terrifying, unpleasant, embarrassing, repulsive, signifying degradation and submission.”

These THREATS are also in the form of entrapment by undercover police officers who are ALLOWED to lie, ALLOWED TO take their clothes off, engage in sexual and illegal activities in an attempt to further incriminate the victim to either face jail or deportation or to invoke the fear of being arrested or deported.

Undercover cops…
do NOT have to tell you the truth if you ask them if they are a cop.
are allowed to do drugs
are allowed to touch you or be touched as part of undercover policing of workers or public sex.

These same examples of abuse in strip searches and stop and frisk procedures also apply to intimate partner violence committed by officers at a rate HIGHER than that of the general public. With technology tools and practices being used within the system for stalking, thus, continuing their power and control cycle, all while under the impunity protected by law enforcement’s blue code of silence; a brotherhood they hold protecting their own perpetrators who serve in the force.

Many survivors of law enforcement rape, sexual assault and misconduct never report to authorities out of shame, fear they would not be believed, be subject to exposure of their sexual orientation, or gender identity, suffer retaliation by police officers, in the form of rape culture posters hung in the San Diego sex crimes unit as a recent example, or that they would be deported because they are undocumented. A primary reason that 64% of undocumented womyn in study did not seek social services is because law enforcement; in particular border patrol, ICE agents and military officers target womyn who are criminalized, marginalized or otherwise vulnerable for sexual abuse on the street, while detained and in detention centers and  jails, thereby further reducing the likelihood that the officer’s conduct will even be reported3   Border Patrol agents also often work in the most desolate terrain along the Mexico-U.S. border; far removed from any supervision, allowing the opportunity for violence of any kind.

Case in point: Two womyn; Luz Lopez and Norma Contreras, both twenty-three, were wading across the Rio Grande near El Paso when the INS’s Operation “Hold the Line” was in effect. They were chased and captured by a border-patrol agent, then handcuffed together and forced into his patrol vehicle.

Once inside the vehicle, the perpetrator instructed Contreras, who was wearing a skirt, to open her legs as he began to fondle her then instructed Lopez to unbutton her overalls, and molested her as well. The two womyn say they just stared at each other, paralyzed by terror. “We feared the worst,” said Lopez “We didn’t know where he was going to take us. . . . Just the sight of him with a badge and a gun was enough to intimidate anyone.”

No womyn is protected from this violence because of status. Violence and abuse inflicted by ANY LAW ENFORCEMENT has no boundaries.

Although law enforcement officers are paid from taxpayers money, the relationship between law enforcement  and community has been perverted by militarist culture, that includes assault on womyn in the form of military rapes. This must change, this must end.

We ALL deserve to be safe. The recurrences of sexual assault committed by officers in every branch, in particular San Diego as well as the investigation of San Diego police department’s facility concludes that we are not safe. Putting a womyn or anyone in a position where they are LEGALLY sexually violated UNDER ANY THREAT should never happen.

No womyn should be subject to police or military sexual misconduct in ANY part of the world.

As a representative of AF3IRM, I stand here today to not only demand, but WARN those in power. you will never break us! I stand here as living proof that your violence only creates more womyn activists. instead of taking our dignity you are only fueling our fire.

– Cathy Mendonca, AF3IRM San Diego

#PoliceSexualAssault  #Uniformedperpetrators #Immigration #Rapeindetention #Statesanctionsexualassault #Militarization #StripSearches #StopandFrisk #Entrapmentbyundercovers  #Impunity  #BlueCodeBotherhood #Institutionalizedsexualviolence #Marginalization #Dissentingvoice

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AF3IRM’s 2014 International Working Women’s Day Statement

For Immediate Release
March 7, 2014
Contact: Barbra Ramos, National Communications Director
af3irm@af3irm.org
(323) 813-4272

On March 8th, more than any day, we, the women of AF3IRM, salute all women, their struggles, and their stories in honor of International Working Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. This day was born from the New York City women garment workers in 1857 and born again in 1908, and from their protests for workers’ rights and better working conditions. This day was born from their purposeful resistance and calls for revolution– so on March 8th, AF3IRM joins with women around the world calling on the same spirit of resistance, justice, and revolution- with Marissa Alexander and her fight within Florida’s unjust system, with the UC Berkeley and other college students speaking out against sexual assault on college campuses, with the Saudi Arabian female activists demanding more rights from the Saudi Arabian Shura Council, with the women in Bolivia, Venezuela and other countries speaking out against violence and imperial interference in their homelands. We salute their strength!

As transnational feminists and women of color, we especially take this year to celebrate our own organizational history, as well as  the personal and collective histories of the women workers and warriors that we know and are. For almost 25 years, the women of AF3IRM and previously of GabNet, have come together to stand up for liberation, justice, and freedom and so we celebrate 25 years of sisterhood, 25 years of knowing that feminism is an action, not a noun, and 25 years of collective resistance and survival. Because yes, for almost 25 years, we will have survived –  against the continuing war on women, rape and rape culture, the attacks on women’s rights, the systematic and state-sanctioned assaults on women’s bodies, every label of “whore” and “slut,” the harassment and discrimination on the streets, in schools, at our jobs, and across these borders.

Within these 25 years, we have struggled and survived together – to win victories, from the Stand With Grace campaign to gaining Jusice for Laya, from #NotYourFetish to the passage of the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) to protect mail order brides. We have advocated on behalf of women workers and immigrants. We have educated high school and college students around issues like trafficking and militarization and welcomed them into our membership ranks. We have mentored, trained, and empowered women and girls to be fierce leaders and political activists.

This year, we renewed the charge on the 15th anniversary of the Purple Rose Campaign against the trafficking of women and children to include the fight against sexual violence and the fetishization and the commodification of transnational women/women of color’s bodies. AF3IRM chapters have also been preparing for and conducting social investigations from coast to coast to identify sex trafficking. We have hosted report-backs on findings from Phase 1 of our sexual violence relief centers project with NAPIESV that took place in the Philippines in areas devastated by Typhoon Haiyan and by armed conflict. We recognize the need for justice, not charity in these areas of disaster and are working to put the control of resources back into the hands of women and their communities so that they can rebuild their lives their way.

Together, we have achieved numerous victories and as an organization, we are striving to reach even more goals and win more campaigns. But we have also struggled together to support the unheralded individual journeys and fights – the ones our members and allies have endured and triumphed over. AF3IRM women have personally dealt with domestic violence and sexual assault, state-sponsored violence and institutionalized harassment, abusive relationships, trafficking and the sex industry, discrimination and poverty. Many of our women have left abusive relationships or faced sexual violence. These struggles have left scars on our bodies and souls and we continue to bear the scars of physical and emotional abuse and trauma everyday.

But we also carry these truths – that scars are signs of healing wounds, that we are survivors and warriors, and that we as women are not alone in our struggle – and it is these truths that have held us up and changed us. We see the scars on each other and recognize the scars on our own bodies and souls.

So we come together and bridge our stories of struggle across our backs – bridges built and welded over the scars that keep us whole. As Rumi said, “the wound is the place where light enters you” and we remember each scar, each wound, each triumph – collectively and individually – and use it as light towards liberation. Our women lead campaigns against trafficking and against sexual assault; we do work as community advocates, social workers, healers, creators. We have become stronger with each story and each woman we take along with us. As transnational feminists and women of color, we celebrate our personal and collective herstories of struggle, survivorship, and triumphs. We celebrate each other.

We know that without our celebration, without our voices rising together, without our collective light, we will be forgotten and even purposefully erased. We have been taught that scars are ugly, unsightly and unwanted –  just like how the histories and experiences of our women and communities of color are considered unnecessary and irrelevant. We have been taught that we do not matter, that we deserve to be hurt, to be raped, to be killed, that we are the scars of human existence, and they have tried to marginalize, silence, and erase our histories and our lives. Media, politics, education, even our own movements have at times tried to cover us up or wash us away, but they underestimate us. They forget that we are fortified by those who came before us and those who struggle alongside us. They forget that we will not get pulled under, that we will survive, and that together we rise.

On October 4th through 5th, we will show them our strength and what it means to survive as a woman, at the AF3IRM Summit: Women on the Wave, which will take place at The Women’s Building in San Francisco.  As transnational feminists, we recognize how we act as bridges between each other and our stories, as well as the bridges from the lands of our roots to the lands where we reside, as we remember our diverse histories and cultures. We are Women on the Wave because we call upon the power of the waves to connect us, with our ancestors, with each other, with future generations. These waves also connect the history and legacies of feminism with our own – yet we are more than the declared waves of feminism, going beyond the fourth wave as we go break through intersections and separations of feminism. As women on the wave, we traverse the boundaries of feminist political theory and connect it to an active and engaged practice. We also resist and refuse to be pulled down and washed away by those who wish to extinguish our light. This isn’t just our resistance – this is our renaissance. We call on all to join us as we come together as women, as feminists, as transnational peoples for Women on the Wave.

As we look forward to October and look back on our 25-year journey, we, the women of AF3IRM, want to remember and recognize all the women who are working towards liberation and freedom.
We salute our sheroes and the women warriors who came before us!
We salute our mothers, grandmothers, and every mother – because every mother is a working mother!
We salute our sister organizations and allies in the struggle for liberation!
We salute all of the sisters who have joined us and all of the sisters who made the conscious decision to stay and continue the fight!
We salute every woman engaged in this every day struggle to survive!

We would not be here without these women and without each other. As women, especially as transnational working class women, we were never meant to survive. But, together, even with these scars, we will continue the fight. Together, we will survive, we will thrive, and we will dismantle these systems and agents of oppression!

Onward to women’s liberation and to the liberation of all humanity!

[Download the PDF of this statement: AF3IRM_IWD2014-final]

IWD2014-state

a transnational feminist organization