Global roundup: Abortion Legalized in Argentina, Anti-racist Dutch Political Party, Chinese Comedian

Compiled by Inaara Merani

Pro-choice activists were ecstatic that the bill was passed/ Photo Reuters via BBC

The past few weeks in Argentina have been defined by struggle and success. Pro-choice activists have long been advocating for the Argentinian government to legalize abortion and finally, the government agreed. In a 24-hour session held in December by the Argentine Lower Chamber, legislators voted to make abortions legal and FREE up to 14 weeks into the pregnancy. How amazing for women and people who can become pregnant across Argentina! 

Never again will there be a woman killed in a clandestine abortion - Vilma Ibarra, who drafted the law

In 2018, the same bill was passed in this same chamber, yet was rejected by the Senate two months later. But on December 29, 2020, the majority of the Senate voted in favour of legalizing abortion! Up until this point, abortions were only legal in cases of rape or when the mother’s health was at risk. Historically, the Catholic Church has dominated politics in Argentina, and was opposed to this new bill; President Fernández argued that although he is a Catholic, he must legislate for everyone. 

This new bill is historic in Argentina - just the type of positive news we needed heading into 2021! 

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The bill was finalised by the government after several high-profile incidents concerning women [File: Majid Asgaripour/WANA via Reuters] via Al Jazeera

After 16 years of women’s rights campaigns, the Iranian government has finally approved a bill to combat violence against women. Fuck yes! The draft bill, titled “Protection, Dignity and Security of Women Against Violence”, must now be approved by the Iranian parliament and will then be vetted by the Guardian Council, which consists of jurists and religious experts. 

The new legislation will provide support for victims of violence and will hold educational courses for judges and other judiciary staff, as well as educational courses for students, teachers and parents in order to identify vulnerable students. Violence against women has been normalized and occurs in regions all around the world. In many cultures, the inferiority of women and violence against women are norms. A national study conducted in 2014 found that 66% of married women had experienced domestic violence at least once in their lives, and 30% of participants had experienced physical violence. As such, the bill will also produce more programmes that promote the prevention of violence against women as family values, and not just policies. This bill will reach every individual in Iran and politicians are hopeful that this will help decrease the staggering rates of sexual and domestic violence that women currently experience. 

For decades, Iranian women have been waiting for comprehensive legislation to prevent violence against women and prosecute their abusers…With the growing national attention to this important issue, the law is long overdue, and parliament should not waste any time in adopting it - Tara Sepehri Far, Iran researcher at the organization Human Rights Watch

Although the women’s rights activists behind this legislation should be commended for their hard work and dedication over the last 16 years, many have pointed out that this bill does not currently meet international standards in terms of criminalizing some forms of gender-based violence including marital rape and child marriage. But, this legislation is absolutely monumental, especially in Iran, and it should absolutely be commended! While we can praise those who worked tirelessly to make this change happen, we must not forget that the nation must continue to enact change and protect every woman. 

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Sylvana Simons attends a demonstration against racism and discrimination in Amsterdam, Netherlands in March 2019 SOPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images.via Open Democracy

Sylvana Simons is a Black, Dutch politician who is redefining politics through activism. Simons is the founder of the political party BIJ1 which focuses on fighting racism and discrimination in the Netherlands. Initially, the party was named “Article 1”, as in the first article of the Dutch constitution which prohibits discrimination, however the name was later changed to BIJ1, meaning “together”. Simons noted that the racist and discriminatory systems which exist today cannot become better, the system needs to change, which is why BIJ1 uses a radical approach to enact substantial change. 

We’re an activist party. It’s not that we’re a political party that sometimes joins a demonstration; it’s the other way around. We are activists who have joined forces to become political - Sylvana Simons

The first chapter of BIJ1’s 2021 manifesto promotes anti-racism. Simons pointed out that without anti-racism as the foundation of the party’s work, no other goal can be accomplished. Racism and discrimination are usually at the root of many systemic issues faced by racialized communities around the world, and if those are not tackled first, it is unlikely that change will occur. What is unique about BIJ1 is that the chapters of its manifesto are written by individuals who are actually impacted by varying policies. The manifesto is also available as an audio file in order to increase accessibility - amazing!! 

While the party has received substantial backlash and lost its seat in 2017 as a result, it has also made considerable progress! For example, blackface is no longer used in the national Sinterklaas parade and many other parades have followed suit. Additionally, the word “allochtoon”, meaning foreigner, is no longer used as an official designation for residents. 

Although Sylvana Simons and BIJ1 still have a long way to go, they are hopeful that they will be able to enact important change in the Netherlands. The goal of BIJ1 is not to increase political power, but to bring forth important change for generations to come. 

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Nonhle Mbuthuma at a community meeting in Xolobeni. Photo courtesy of Thabi Myeni via Open Democracy

Nonhle Mbuthuma and many other Indigenous environmental activists from Xolobeni, South Africa (the Wild Coast) have been fighting to stop the construction of a titanium dune mine by the Australian company, Mineral Commodities (MRC) for more than a decade. This mine would be one of the largest in South Africa and it would also be located on ancestral ground. Mbuthuma co-founded the organization Amadiba Community Crisis (ACC) in order to fight against mining and possible displacement of families impacted by the newly constructed mine. 

Since the proposal of the mine in 2007, many activists, especially women, have been threatened, harassed and sometimes killed. Countless activists have lost their lives because of their activism, as well as their gender. Mbuthuma believes such violence is gendered

I think they do target women because they know that women care about the coming generations. Women care about leaving a sustainable legacy for their children and for the community. We have seen some men change their tune after getting individual [financial] promises, but never women - Nonhle Mbuthuma

Mbuthuma hopes that instead of selling the land to mining corporations, the community’s sustainable methods of development will prosper. Locals produce their own food, which is then sold to neighboring cities. During the severe Covid-19 lockdown, communities in Xolobeni did not take government food packages, but instead grew their own food. “Even some people that were pro-mining have become anti-mining because, during lockdown, the land took care of them in ways that the government couldn't.” 

Unfortunately, MRC has the full backing of the state and it is likely that the plan will go ahead regardless of the social, economic and environmental concerns. Colonial legacies and capitalist forces have continued to exploit the resource-rich Indigenous lands in the global south, resulting in pollution and environmental degradation. Mbuthuma, along with every other activist, are fighting to ensure that their land is no longer exploited and that Indigenous peoples reclaim what is rightfully theirs. 

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A screenshot taken from YouTube showing Yang Li, a comedian, during an episode of “Rock & Roast.” Ms. Yang made a joke about overconfident men, setting off an online debate.Credit...via YouTube

Yang Li is a stand-up comedian in China who tackles issues like domestic violence and fear of marriage, but she also tells jokes about men and their ego. One of her most popular jokes is “How can men be so ordinary, yet so full of themselves?” And guess what? She has been criticized for inciting hatred towards men, and was even reported to the National Radio and Television Administration for “man-hating” and promoting “sexist speech”. I’m sorry, but we have to laugh at that, right? How is it that for decades, men have profited off their sexism, homophobia and transphobia, but the second a woman steps in to challenge patriarchy, she is called sexist. The fucking IRONY!! 

Yang Li is making strides and tackling important issues in comedy that were once not addressed. Her work should be commended. It is not often that women make it big in the comedy industry, let alone a woman of colour. We should be celebrating her success, not bringing her down with unfounded accusations. As always, fuck the patriarchy!! 

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Inaara Merani (she/her) is a recent graduate from the University of Ottawa where she studied  International Development and Globalization with a minor in Women’s Studies. She is an Ismaili Muslim Canadian who is deeply passionate about human rights, social justice and feminism, and in turn, dismantling the patriarchy and ensuring that all women have safe and equal access to all their rights. She hopes to pursue a career in law so that she can continue to fight for the rights of women and other marginalized groups everywhere. She also enjoys reading, travelling and spending time with her beautiful cat.