Feminists for free speech – defend WikiLeaks! Freedom for Assange!

[Below is an abridged version of a speech delivered at the December 9-10 rallies in Brisbane to defend WikiLeaks and for freedom for Julian Assange.]

Julian Assange has not been arrested for rape. He has been arrested because he exposed the lies, dirty deals and warmongering of capitalist governments. He has been arrested because he announced that WikiLeaks will soon expose the lies and dirty deals of the corporate world. WikiLeaks has rocked the system because the capitalists and their governments know that the truth about their rotten system is so damning. They only get away with their murderous wars, occupations, exploitation and manipulation of the people because they can hide away in their boardrooms and their parliaments.

WikiLeaks threatens this. WikiLeaks threatens to arm the people with the knowledge we need to see beyond the blinkered view that the corporate media gives us and to see capitalism as it really is — a system run by cheats, liars and thieves who use murderous violence to get what they want. The rape accusations against Assange are being used in this case because it suits the political agenda of governments and the corporate world. They don’t care about women. They perpetuate policies and a system of misogynist violence against women every single day.

As a survivor of sexual abuse, I know what it is to be not listened to. I know what it is to not be believed. And I am standing here today and I am saying free Julian Assange — not “apply the rule of law” as some people are calling for. We’re calling for his freedom, because he has not been arrested for rape. That is not what this case is about.

The capitalist legal system is stacked against women who seek justice when they have been assaulted. Only a small proportion of the offenses reported to police result in charges being laid - and far less will end in a conviction. The system is stacked against women. But in this case, the system is stacked against Julian Assange. The accusations that have been made against him in a trial by media.

According to some reports, the charges have been brought under a Swedish law which criminalises sexual assault including in cases where consent has initially been given. Some people have said this is not actually rape. But this is a totally sexist, misogynist argument - unwanted sex is rape. End of story. Laws such as these are very positive for women. They should be defended and extended in other countries.

But the argument against the Swedish laws is not only sexist - it misses the point altogether. It misses the point because Assange has not been arrested for rape. That might be what the arrest warrants says - but that is just words on a piece of paper - there is no way that this would have happened at all if he was not the founder and public face of WikiLeaks.

Accusations of sexual assault are ignored every single day by police forces throughout the world. As for Interpol tracking someone down on charges of sexual assault! You’ve got to be kidding! Unless of course it suits their political agenda. Assange was initially refused bail by the English courts despite sureties of more then £120,000. A spokesperson for the English group Women Against Rape, Katrina Axelsson wrote to the Guardian, pointing out that it is routine for bail to be granted following rape allegations. She wrote that “for two years we have been supporting a woman who suffered rape and domestic violence from a man previously convicted after attempting to murder an ex-partner and her children — he was granted bail while police investigated”. Axelsson continued: “There is a long tradition of the use of rape and sexual assault for political agendas that have nothing to do with women’s safety … Women don’t take too kindly to our demand for safety being misused, while rape continues to be neglected at best or protected at worst.”

The only reason Assange has been arrested is because they want to silence him and WikiLeaks. They are using the accusations as a cover for their attack on free speech. We say no! All around the world feminists for free speech are saying loud and clear: they will not use our struggle against sexual assault in their struggle against freedom of speech!

Why do they have to do this, why are they attacking Assange? Because right now he is the most popular person on the planet and they are trying to bring him down. They are in damage control and they think that this attack will have a better chance of succeeding than going for him with the true reason in hand.

They are trying to divide us. They are trying to silence us. They think that by using these charges as a cover that supporters of women’s rights will be quiet because we don’t want to empower perpetrators of violence. But we know that they are the ones empowering the perpetrators. They are doing it right now in much of the misogynist corporate media coverage of the allegations. It is the governments and the corporate media that empower the perpetrators every single day. We are the ones that resist every single day. You can’t fool us that easily. You can’t divide us that easily. We see through the lies and the deceit. Because we face them every single day!

We know the true reason for this attack - to silence WikiLeaks and make an example of Assange. They want to send the message - don’t challenge the system or else. That is also what makes it our struggle. Because our struggle for women’s rights and justice is a struggle against the same system that they are trying to protect — a system that is intensifying the violence; a system that is intensifying the wars and occupations in which women always suffer disproportionately.

Hiding these truths is why they are trying to silence WikiLeaks. And that is why they are trying to silence the women from speaking out. But it won’t work. Women and all the people of the world can see through their lies! And we will stand up for freedom of speech! Free Assange! Hands off WikiLeaks!

[Kathy Newnam is a member of the Revolutionary Socialist Party and a long-time women’s liberation activist].