Winton Pawprints 

Winton (c.1995-2012) was our beloved shop cat and still has the last word every month in her regular column.

From first female prime minister to ...

 - Friday, October 04, 2013
From first female prime minister to a cabinet with one female in one election cycle. Has anyone else noted that the two women our catholic PM has favoured are both Bishops? After a couple of days of cabinet commentary re female representation in parliament it was good to be reminded that backlash doesn't have to play like the original by Rabia Siddique's memoir Equal Justice. A much-needed breath of fresh air, her Journey as a Woman, a Soldier and a Muslim is a call for equal justice for all, and a satisfyingly unembellished detailing of her own personal and political struggles to gain that for herself and for others.
Siddique is the child of an Indian Muslim father and white Australian mother. Her childhood in 70s suburban Perth was often marred by the prejudices that existed in white Australia at the time. She had a great deal of trouble over her unusual name, and around the age of 6 created an alternate identity for herself, the blonde catholic Caroline Jones, which her maternal grandmother was only too happy to call her for the next couple of years! Both her parents worked full time so she and her brother were looked after through the summer holidays by the elderly couple living next door—Nan and Poppa. Poppa started sexually abusing Rabia at the age of 9, using the usual fear tactics to keep her silent. However, when he threatened to do the same to her younger brother she did the extraordinary and told her parents. This being 70s Australia, the police weren't called and Poppa stayed living next door—an unpunished presence that Siddique had to go to great lengths to avoid. This was the beginning of an intense desire for truth and for justice that has driven Siddique throughout her life.
She studied law and moved to Britain looking to pursue a career in international law. Just pre 9/11 Siddique joined the British army Legal Services believing it 'would provide me with the opportunity to work in the field of international humanitarian law and, given the resources of the army, help people on a larger scale than I would have been able to elsewhere.' In 2005 she was sent to Basra as the UK brigade legal adviser. Her role was to advise the brigade commander on legalities of military ops, train troops in rules of engagement, and monitor search, arrest and detention ops and subsequent interrogations. But witnessing the poorly planned British attempts post-invasion to restore order (the creation of an unqualified, corrupt, and insurgent-filled police force its most damaging legacy), she soon found herself in 'a universe parallel to that of her military colleagues' as she immersed herself in the lives of the people she was serving, helping the people of Basra becoming her driving obsession. Then on September 19th she was sent to al-Jamiat, the notorious Basra police station to negotiate for two recently taken British hostages. This was not something she was trained for, and when things went unsurprisingly pear-shaped in this white-hot environment she stood her ground and was instrumental in getting herself, her team and the hostages out unharmed. In the process discovering: 'At 9, I was too young to know it. At 19 I'd begun to test its limits. Now at 33 with an AK47 pointed at my head I knew its name—defiance'. However having survived a room crowded with hostile and armed Muslim fundamentalist men, it was the sexism inherent in the British army that 'disappeared' her. I've run out of room so you'll have to read Equal Justice to find out how she insisted on and regained her visibility.