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global lockdown

Women all over the world are living under increased surveillance. Women are caught in physical incarceration within prisons and immigration detention centers, as well as trapped under the gaze of increased scrutiny and decreased bodily freedom. While incarceration of all people is on the rise in many counties all over the world, women have been one of the largest growing incarcerated populations worldwide. Much of the legal scrutiny and imprisonment that women face internationally is based in US practices; the physical and ideological spread of western-style prisons is encouraged and immigration and drug laws brokered in the US often have (negative) implications for those abroad. Not only does the US stand to make a lot of money from these dealings, but the perpetuation of ideas around "global terrorism" and related racialized fears supports other US-lead war efforts that take place in the name of safety and security.

Every country and providence has their own issues with their respective justice system. Women fall through the cracks (or rather are pushed through) in many of them because laws and legal systems are designed by those in power--historically wealthy, white, educated men. Most forms of justice we enact within court systems do not serve the needs and safety of women. In the US, we are often reminded that we have one of the most fair and impartial justice systems in the world. It is held up by people here as truly equal, and the line "justice is blind" is taken to heart. However, if one were to take a moment and humanize those incarcerated, it is clear that there are massive class and race disparities in who falls under the gaze of the state in the first place, as well as those who end up incarcerated or deported.

While in the US men make up the majority of prisoners, gender is quickly becoming a factor because women's incarceration is rapidly increasing. Women (and girls) are being arrested and put in cages for what amounts to survival: the vast majority of "crimes" committed by women are things like theft, drug trafficking, prostitution and other means of informal economy that feeds them and their children when other options aren't afforded to them. Most violent crimes perpetrated by women are in self-defense or in response to violence that is happening upon them or their loved ones. Many times women are sentenced especially harshly because not only is their behavior breaking societal laws, but many times is also seen as a transgression of gender roles as well.

I am a prison abolitionist. The issue of incarceration is what brought me to women/gender studies in the first place. Many people and especially feminists, (not exclusive categories) refuse to see prison as a gendered issue. Many of those in my experience whom I thought of as progressive and working towards liberation of people fall to the same rhetoric around "personal responsibility", justice and "those bad people" who "deserve" what they got. Frustratingly, feminists in US recent history have had a big hand in the expansion of prisons and surveillance as a byproduct of anti-violence movements which called for tougher sentences and increased reliance on police (more on this later). It can be a difficult issue to discuss with people because our thoughts and feelings are so enmeshed with what we see as "right/wrong", and discourse around crime plays on and encourages our biggest fears around race, class, gender, order and chaos.

These are just some thoughts, it is a topic I am very interested discussing with other women activists!

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