Thursday, 2 April 2009

A woman imprisoned

A woman who gives birth alone, and then abandons the baby is a woman who is out of options. A woman who does this on a plane, on her way to take up low-paying migrant work, is out of options and resources. Whatever your political analysis of the woman who gave birth in a plane last month, it does not take much empathy to understand that her situation was not one of her own choosing, and that what she did was an act of desperation and powerlessness.

I had wanted to write something, but hadn't known what to write. A polemic seems almost grotesque when you think what she has been through. But then I heard on National Radio, that she had been remanded in custody.*

She has been in prison for ten days now, and was arrested six days after she gave birth. I know I'm a radical when it comes to prison, and so what I have to say about how much people don't belong in prison sounds slightly hollow. But I don't understand what possible good comes from locking this woman up under any logic at all.

I believe that Karolaine Maika's situation, and her incarceration are a feminist issue, and that feminist solidarity is most important when it comes to women who are most marginalised by society. I would encourage feminists to to support Karolaine Maika in jail. The most simple thing you could do is write to her:

Karolaine Maika
C/O Auckland Region Womens Corrections Facility
Private Bag 76908
South Auckland Mail Centre
Manukau 2240

You can send phones cards and money to people in prison with your letter. Money goes into the prison account, and can be used to buy things from the prison shop once a week. Phone cards are useful as a way of contacting people outside of prison, and are sometimes used as trade for other items. If you send either of these things, then mention them in the letter to make sure they get to her (if you want to do more, then leave a comment on the thread - if there's one thing I'm not short on it's information on how to support people in prison).

Mostly when I talk about feminism I talk about collective resistance. But I think support plays an important role in feminism as well. It doesn't take much to write a letter.


Psycho Milt said... does not take much empathy to understand that her situation was not one of her own choosing, and that what she did was an act of desperation and powerlessness.

I recall that when I was young the courts would take into account bollocks like this from defence lawyers when dealing with men who'd killed their wives. Feminists of the time felt that empathy wasn't the feeling that came most easily to hand in such situations. I agree that prison doesn't seem like the most useful place to put this woman, but "empathy" for someone who stuffs a newborn baby into a rubbish bin and leaves it to die just ain't going to happen.

Giarne said...

I'm torn with these sorts of cases. I can't quite find it in my heart to be 100% emapthetic of someone who neglects another being, particularly their own. Yet, how desperate and afraid must someone like this be to do such a thing.

My Dad would argue its everyone's fault, not the woman's (when we argued about the girl who did a similar thing in a Dunedin Uni hostel) for not supporting her, not noticing her dilemma, not helping her face a decision. I see his point.

But I can't completely see how this was "not of her choosing" but perhaps I cannot understand cause I'm in the a more privileged position than this lady in that I could approach family, and if not would feel comfortable going to a doctor/nurse to get advice about my options.

Good post, makes you think hard!

Principessa said...

I just wondered if we know if she can read? Happy to write to her and send stuff, but it won't help if she can't read it.

Anna said...

I feel in two minds like you, Giarne. On one hand, it's hard not to be horrified by what Karolaine did - but on the other, I can imagine the stress and probably terror she felt, to say nothing of the fact that she'd just given birth. It took me a very long time to come back to 'normal brain' after both of my births - it can be an incredibly vulnerable and scary time, even under the best circumstances. If I believed Karolaine had acted maliciously I might think differently, but I suspect she was just scared and alone.

Maia said...

Principessa - I've no idea if she speaks English either. So (since I'm a monoglot) I kept my letter really simple.

To everyone else - I haven't got a particularly coherent response. I'll just say that the expectation society puts on women are huge, and nowhere huger than when pregnant. I agree that in an ideal world this would not happen, but that's becuse in an ideal world there could have been someone she could have left her baby other than an aeroplane toilet. The idea that women are somehow wrong (or criminal) for walking away from a newborn, unless they have the resources to organise an alternative, doesn't acknowledge exactly how much resources that takes in circumstances, or how few resources some women have.

Anonymous said...

"The idea that women are somehow wrong (or criminal) for walking away from a newborn"

Women aren't wrong for walking away from a newborn.

But they are wrong for abusing a newborn, killing a newborn, putting it at risk of death or leaving it somewhere to die. If media reports are correct she left that baby in a bin. There's a big difference to me between handing in a newborn and saying "I can't do this" and leaving a newborn to essentially die on its own in a bin.

Maia said...

Anonymous - Hand her where? That's my point. She was a migrant worker, landing in Auckland and she went into labour on the plane (and some of the farms/companies that hire migrant workers are horrifically controlling). Even handing the baby somewhere takes resources. What you're criticising her for is not having those resources.

Incidentally I'm not sure we have safe haven laws in New Zealand, or designated places to leave babies (and if we do neither is advertised to people who live here, let alone new arrivals). So legally she would have been just as liable if she'd done as you suggest.

libertyscott said...

Whatever her circumstances, and she is clearly seriously disturbed, her resources substantially exceed that of the baby.

Unless she is deemed to be insane, she had a basic responsibility to ensure the child was placed where it could be looked after. Assuming she had the "resources" to make an international flight (not something someone insane does without assistance), she could have taken an alternative path.

Instead she risked the death of a child she carried full term. Of course the father also bears some responsibility, wherever the hell he is! He should be getting chased down.

Julie said...

Ok Anon at 12.43pm today, I've deleted your comment as it breaks our community rules (as no doubt it was written to do, so that you could feel all special that you got a comment deleted on the infamously tightly controlled Hand Mirror). Whatever. Kindly respect our rules in our space and don't do it again.